“Clean Up Your Own Backyard“
is a 1969 song recorded by Elvis Presley and released as a single FIFTY YEARS AGO! The song was featured in the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer film The Trouble with Girls (and How to Get into It). Written by Mac Davis and Billy Strange and published by Gladys Music, Inc., it was released as a 7″ single in 1969 but not featured on any studio album. It was later included on the budget RCA Camden album “Almost In Love”. The single was also released in the UK, Canada, Germany, Australia, New Zealand, and India.
Although The Trouble with Girls is set in the 1920s, several lyrics within this song are anachronistic for the era, such as a reference to “armchair quarterbacks”, a term not coined until the advent of television sports broadcasting decades later. Also the guitars used in the film were not actually manufactured for decades after the 1920’s. More inconstancies in the plots which brought down any artistic validity to his last films.
As a song unto itself, “Yard” was a valid social commentary keeping in line with, what were then, Presley’s current singles “If I Can Dream” & “In The Ghetto”. The song is the only one that Presley recorded featuring slide dobro guitar. Musically it could easily have been included in what was then a “Sub-Genre” known as “Swamp-Rock” that was being pioneered by Tony Joe White & Creedence Clearwater Revival.
Sadly, due to the inclusion of one of Presley’s last films, I feel the song’s charting suffered greatly. Presley’s movie career and the bad songs that went along with bad plots had taken their toll and the poor chart performance is the result. The cross promotion backfired on a very GOOD record. It only reached #35 on the Billboard Hot 100 and #21 on the UK Singles Chart. The single reached #18 on the Record World chart and #29 on the Australian Go-Set chart.
Just for the heck of it, here’s the front cover of that hand out. KFRC, at that time, was featuring a several part radio show on the “History of Rock & Roll”. One of the very first of such radio and/or T.V. shows to cover such a subject.
The ‘Flip’ side of the single “The Fair’s Moving On” is, for me, a very forgettable ballad recorded at the famous Memphis sessions and put on the “Back In Memphis” L.P. that was part of the “From Memphis To Vegas / From Vegas To Memphis” Double L.P. released in October 1969.
One of the tragedy’s about “Clean Up Your Own Backyard” was that it was slated to be recorded and included in the “Singer Presents Elvis” T.V. special. Recordings for the T.V. Special took place in June 1968. It was passed over and later recorded in October 1968 as cannon fader for “The Trouble With Girls” movie.
Another of the tragedy’s is that, the very same week (July 5th, 1969) that “Yard” made it’s debut at No. 90, THIS record appeared for the first time at No. 86. This fact alone is NOT the tragedy however;
ON THE CHARTS yet he NEVER performed this song in concert EVER!
Tony Joe’s record is AWESOME so please don’t get me wrong. However, “Polk Salad Annie” got a gold single that year. The RIAA certified the ”Clean Up Your Own Backyard” Gold in March 1992 for well after Elvis Himselvis had “Transcended”.