Alex James: The Great Escape

I'm in on the great lost Elvis song
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The Independent Online

At last I've been asked to join a gentlemen's club. The invitation came out of the blue, via the postman. At first I thought it might be a TV show prank so I Googled, and sure enough the institution has been around since 1866. I assumed with great pride that my particular merits had singled me out for membership. The selection committee must have been watching my progress for some time and liked what they'd seen. I lost the piece of paper that told me what time to get there, and arrived in Whitehall way too early. Two gentlemen were eating crisps from a bowl - cheese and onion flavour. They told me that, sadly, a lot of their members had been dying recently. It's hard to believe that such a sense of stillness would be possible in central London. The odd crunch of crisp was the only sound.

Then my old friend George arrived. He'd been asked to join, too. He's a vintage aristocratic sprite. I knew him from a club that was usually empty, apart from myself, him, a minor royal and a couple of Hollywood film directors. That was a good club. It went bust, though.

The next person to arrive was pissed up and fabulous. He reminded me of my neighbour. I asked: "Do you know James and Annabel?" He said: "Know them? They're living in my house in LA!" He was a film director.

We went into huddle, me and him and George, and tried to work out what was going on. Between us we must have belonged to every club in London, except Soho House. It suddenly clicked that everybody there had at some point belonged to the Green Room, a now extinct all-night gin palace underneath the Strand. I spent a summer there in the mid-1990s, sometimes sleeping under the snooker table. The members' names had obviously been passed on following its demise. I was quite disappointed, so was George. We thought they were going to ask us to be spies or diplomats. Turns out it's just another place to run into people you might see somewhere else. Of course, that's all a members' club is. I'm joining, naturally.

I went to EMI in the afternoon to talk to KT Tunstall's label about a possible collaboration. I really like that record. Picking good ones is the principal trick of thriving in the music business, whether you're a record company or an artist. A photographer once told me that the secret of being a good photographer is to never show anyone your bad photos. Songwriting too, is all about picking out the good bits and eliminating the crap.

My father-in-law manages an Elvis impersonator called Gordon. He says Gordon's the best he's ever seen. He's been trying to persuade me to work with Gordon for ages. He went on Stars In Their Eyes and won the series. It was getting more and more tricky to say "absolutely no way" to my dear father-in-law.

He managed to hook Gordon up with a songwriter called Geoff Morrow. It turned out that Geoff had written songs for the real Elvis. There was another song that Elvis was about to record when he died. The Gordon Elvis has recorded it and it's the best thing I've heard all year. It is the great lost Elvis song. I'm in.

alexjames@independent.co.uk

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