Friday, August 16, 2013

The Stax Trilogy

Each year on August 16 I try in my own way to celebrate the legacy of Elvis Presley, and most of the times it involves listening to some carefully picked Elvis music during the day. This time around, inspired by the recent Elvis At Stax release, I will play songs from the three Follow That Dream classic albums making up what I like to call “The Stax Trilogy,” that is, Raised On Rock, Good Times and Promised Land (the first one recorded in July 1973 and the last two in December that year).
Not only do these three titles represent some of the best releases from the FTD label so far, they also feature a lot of my favorite tracks with Elvis, (both masters and alternate takes) and this is especially true when it comes to the two albums recorded in December 1973.  Also, they are good examples of albums where Elvis’ ability to master all kind of musical styles, such as pop, rock, ballads, country funk and gospel, is clearly evident.

I also like the fact that the outtakes on the FTD classic album version of Raised On Rock present the Elvis’ 1973 July recording session at Stax in a much more positive light than was the case on the original 1973 album. That said, Raised On Rock clearly is the weakest of the bunch, and although not anywhere near Good Times or Promised Land, it would have made for a stronger album had Elvis not insisted on “I’ve Got A Thing About You Baby” and “Take Good Care Of Her” be taken of the album for a future single release instead.

Finally, I’d like to share a comment my brother Mårten made when I posted my review of the FTD classic album version of Good Times in 2009, where he responded to another well written comment (by the signature David) ending with the line “Taking the best from each one of these two albums [Good Times and Promised Land] would have resulted in one of the very greatest albums of his career - in hindsight, if only quality was more important than quantity.”

This is what Mårten wrote: “I've always thought about what a great 12 track album we could have had from the December 1973 sessions. Here is my versions of it (Leaving of Help Me b/w If That Isn't Love for an Easter 1974 single and the rest of the tracks as B-sides for singles):

Side A
Talk About The Good Times
If You Talk In Your Sleep
Loving Arms
You Asked Me To
Thinking About You
It’s Midnight

Side B
Promised Land
There’s A Honky Tonk Angel
I Got A Feeling In My Body
Your Love’s Been A Long Time Coming
My Boy
Good Time Charlie’s Got The Blues

Listening to those 12 tracks will be as good start as any to commemorate Elvis, don’t you think?

Further reading:

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

I'll Remember You

40 years ago today, Elvis was in Los Angeles, quietly celebrating his birthday prior to flying to Honolulu the next day. With the support of Sonny West he had lost about 20 pounds on a stringent diet in preparation for his upcoming Aloha From Hawaii Via Satellite TV special on January 14, 1973.

Elvis arrived in Honolulu looking great and eager to go. This is how Sonny West remembers it in his book Elvis: Still Taking Care Of Business (2007):

When we landed at the airport, so many leis were placed around Elvis’ neck that you could hardly see his face. We went by helicopter to the Hilton Hawaiian Village Hotel, where hundreds of fans welcomed Elvis. It was a thrill just to be part of it. He loved it, of course, but he was also a little tense. He would be performing live before an estimated billion and a half people around the world, and he wanted everything just right.

40 years later, I will celebrate the 78th anniversary of the birth of Elvis Presley by watching this historic event on DVD. 

Happy birthday, Elvis! 

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Talking To The Mystery Train

Last month, Thomas Melin released a new book, The Elvis Today Blog: Volume 2. Available from Blurb, the paperback compiles 230 more Elvis Today Blog posts. It also features a foreword by Michael Jarrett, writer of “I’ll Be Home On Christmas Day” and “I’m Leavin’”, as well as a previously unreleased interview with DJ Fontana, Elvis’ first drummer. Melin recently took the time to chat about Elvis and the 328-page volume.

So begins a post by Troy Y. over at The Mystery Train Blog published a couple of days ago, on December 19. In it, I talk about why I am an Elvis fan, what my favorite post in the book is, the circumstances of my interview with DJ Fontana (featured as a bonus post in the book) and the story behind songwriter Michael Jarrett writing the foreword. Among other things. 

"The Elvis Today Blog Volume 2 author talks to The Mystery Train"

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

“Lots of standing and screaming”

One of the benefits from running an Elvis blog is that you get to hear from people who have their very own Elvis experiences. And sometimes those experiences can blow you away. Just the other week Mrs. Barbara Schoenburg e-mailed me about the FTD book A Moment In Time–4 Days in ’56, telling me she was at the Detroit concert on May 25, 1956, in the second row, middle.

The book includes some fantastic shots of Elvis driving the crowd wild at the Fox Theater in Detroit on that date (one of which was used on the cover of the Young Man With The Big Beat box set). So, firing away an e-mail in return, I asked Barbara if she would like to answer a couple of questions about her experiences that day. Imagine my excitement when I found her answers waiting for me in the mail the very next day. She began by telling me that she was in the picture on page 15 (the one from Young Man With The Big Beat). 

Barbara: I was 12 at the time. If you look at Elvis' right knee cap there is a girl and I am directly behind her, in front of the girl with the black shirt. Sorry to say I started losing interest in Elvis when he went into the army. I still have the early albums though. After that I never really was into his music.

Elvis Today: How come you went to the show?

Barbara: I loved Elvis' sound and thought he was so good looking, I collected magazines and stuff. All of which I threw out along the way to adulthood. Stupid me.

Elvis Today: What do you remember the most about Elvis’ performance?

Barbara: Just that I loved it. I was the only one of my friends that liked him so I went to the show alone. He was so good looking and moved in a way that I had never seen before. I remember screaming and wishing everyone would sit down so we could all see. I was short and it bothered me that people stood so I had trouble seeing some of the show. I do not remember any other acts. I do remember seeing him on the Ed Sullivan show and screaming as I watched and my grandmother demanding that I stop and arguing with her about turning off the TV. I won. I do not remember anything else about it.

Elvis Today: How did the crowd (yourself included) react when Elvis sang and moved?

Barbara: Lots of standing and screaming.

Elvis Today: Do you remember any particular song he sang?

Barbara: I do remember he sang Heartbreak Hotel which had been released just a few months previously. My husband and all his friends are impressed that I got to see him with his original band, Scotty Moore, Bill Black and DJ Fontana. I only had eyes for Elvis.

Elvis Today: Did you ever see Elvis live again?

Barbara: I saw him in April 1973 or November 1976 at the Anaheim CA Convention Center. He was into what I called the Liberace phase with the jump suits, and scarves. He had put on a lot of weight. He sounded good but it was not the same as seeing him for the first time. 

Thank you so much for your answers, Barbara, and for letting me share them with my readers!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Press Release: The Elvis Today Blog Volume 2

The second volume of The Elvis Today Blog is now available, collecting 230 posts from January 8, 2010 to August 16, 2012. A special bonus post features a previously unreleased interview with Elvis’ first drummer D.J. Fontana. The foreword is written by Michael Jarrett, who wrote “I’m Leavin’” and “I’ll Be Home On Christmas Day” for Elvis. 

“When I started the Elvis Today Blog on August 16, 2007, I had no idea it would result in a book. And certainly not in two,” says author Thomas Melin, a public relations officer living in Sweden.

The most common reaction Thomas gets from friends and colleagues when they learn that he runs an Elvis blog is, “What is there to tell?” And it’s a justified question. After all, Elvis has been gone for 35 years now.

“So I start to explain. I tell them about all the albums with unreleased material that the official collectors label Follow That Dream Records keeps pouring out. I also mention the shows touring Europe with former members of Elvis’ band members. And I talk about the books that continue to be written.”

That’s the stuff Thomas writes about. And he tells it from his perspective, what he thinks of a certain album, a concert or a book. He also uses the blog to share some of the many Elvis memories he’s had over the years. And every time he has to explain his reasons for blogging, it hits him how lucky he is to be an Elvis fan, and not only because of the great legacy Elvis left behind.

“The interest in Elvis is as high as ever, certainly as big as when I became an Elvis fan over 30 years ago. And being a fan is as fun today as it was then. So was writing the posts that ended up becoming The Elvis Today Blog Volume 2, running from post number 271 right up to post number 500. I hope that fans have as much fun reading it,” says Thomas Melin.

The Elvis Today Blog Volume 2 (328 pages) is available on for US $14.45

Praise for the first volume of The Elvis Today Blog

“Thomas Melin crafts a unique volume that follows the triumphs and trials of being an Elvis fan in the post-1977 era.”
Troy Y., The Mystery Train Blog 

“Melin ponders issues as diverse as Elvis in the shop window and archival media reports to new bootleg releases, the need for an FTD (Follow That Dream) website and the album that never was. All in all it makes for interesting reading.”
Nigel Patterson, Elvis In Print:
The Definite Reference And Price Guide

Saturday, November 3, 2012

A Fool Such As I

Earlier this fall, my work took me to The University of Manchester, located in Manchester, United Kingdom. The night before my plane left, I browsed my favorite Elvis websites, and was surprised to learn that there was an Elvis festival going on in–yes, you guessed it–Manchester.

Studying the schedule a bit closer I noticed that the festival ended on the very same day we would be arriving, on a Sunday, and that we could probably manage to attend the Midnight Wrap Party, starting at 7:00 PM, as our flight would be landing sometime in the afternoon.

Not knowing how the colleagues that I was traveling with would react, I nevertheless printed out the schedule together with a map of Manchester, showing the location of the festival.

Sometime during the flight I mentioned the Elvis festival to a colleague sitting in the seat next to me, telling him that the wrap party promised a “final opportunity to socialize with the ETAs [Elvis Tribute Artists] and fans while enjoying more karaoke.” His eyes immediately lit up. “That sounds like fun. Let's go there after we have eaten dinner tonight,” he said.

Arriving in Manchester on time, we found our hotel and then went out looking for something to eat. After a meal at an Italian restaurant, two of my colleagues decided to join me when I asked if they were still interested in visiting the Elvis festival. “Of course,” one of them said, “I've been thinking about all those Elvis impersonators all day, let's go.”

So I hailed a cab, and told the driver to take us to the Elvis festival. Receiving a blank look in the rear mirror I handed him the map I had printed the day before. “There it is,” I said helpfully. “On the other side of the river.” Looking at the map and then shaking his head, he mumbled something about not understanding where we wanted to go. “It's at the Radisson Hotel,” I clarified. “Why didn't you say so,” the driver fired back. “Why hand me a map?”

Finally on our way, I calculated that the drive would take at least 10 minutes. Imagine my surprise when the cab stopped after only a couple of hundred meters, not having passed a river at all. “Radisson Hotel,” the driver announced, and looking out the window I could see he was right. But where was the Elvis festival? From where I was looking, the lobby looked pretty much deserted.

“What was the name of that hotel restaurant where the festival was taking place,” one of the colleagues in the cab with me, asked. Glancing at the schedule that I held in my hand together with the map, I answered, “JD's Tavern.” My colleague took out his iPhone, accessed the internet and punched in the name.

“JD's Tavern is located at the Radisson Hotel in Manchester all right,” he said after a while, looking at me with a smug smile on his face. ”Only we're talking about Manchester in the U.S state of New Hampshire.”

Right there, right then, I felt incredible foolish. There I was, in a cab in Manchester, having convinced my colleagues we were going to an Elvis festival to enjoy a drink or two while watching lots of impersonators in action, realizing I was in the wrong country, even on the wrong continent for heaven's sake!

“Ah, well,” the colleague with the iPhone said. “Let's go inside for a drink anyway.” Nodding my head, I started to get out of the cab, handing the driver a bill, but completely forgetting to wait for the change.

A few minutes later, the three of us were sitting in the bar, nursing beers and listening to music that was as far from Elvis as it could get. And although the evening turned out OK in the end, it wasn't exactly what I had imagined the day before, sitting in front of my computer, looking at the schedule for the 2012 New England Elvis Festival. Sigh!

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Treat Me Nice

Ten years ago, on August 16, 2002, an one hour radio program titled
Treat Me Nice was aired on nationwide radio in Sweden. Having produced and recorded the program a couple of days earlier, I remember how excited and proud I felt reading about it in one of the biggest newspapers in the morning (the text was a shortened version of the press release) and it read something like this:

On August 16 it is 25 years since Elvis Presley died. Still, Elvis is more alive today than ever. No one has more organized fans and Graceland is the most visited private home in the USA after the White House. Elvis records are selling like never before and this summer he has been number one in the charts [with the JXL remix of “A Little Less Conversation”]. More about this can be heard in the program Treat Me Nice, where Thomas Melin takes a closer look at the phenomenon of Elvis.

Listening to the program today (I have a copy of it on CD, of course), it hit me how much of what I included in it still holds true. Ernst Jorgensen is still searching for unreleased Elvis material and the demand for alternate takes, home recordings and live versions is as high as ever. Books about Elvis continues to be written and Elvis Week only seems to be getting bigger and bigger every year. And Elvis keeps performing “live on screen” accompanied by his old band members (although it might be for the last time during tonight's Elvis 35th Anniversary Concert in Memphis).

At the end of the program, I asked Ernst Jorgensen how big he thought the interest in Elvis would be in another 25 years. His answer was that Elvis will probably sell fewer albums as the music gets older, but that he will not be forgotten.

Ten years later, it is still great times to be an Elvis fan. The official collectors label Follow That Dream Records continues to serve us with unreleased material and their latest release, the book and 3 cd set A Boy From Tupelo : The Complete 1953-55 Recordings is truly remarkable. And then there is the Sony October release Prince From Another Planet 40th Anniversary Madison Square Garden 2 CD/1 DVD set to look forward to.

On a completely different level, this marks my 500th post since I started the Elvis Today Blog exactly five years ago, on August 16, 2007. Something that would have never been possible without the support of my readers. To all of you I express my gratitude. But most of all, thank you Elvis, for always being there for me with your music. It means the world.

With this post I'm taking an indefinite break from blogging. There is so much going on in my life at the moment, at the top of the list is my two year old daughter, I simply haven't got either the time or energy to write about Elvis. But I will continue to listen to the man who, like Troy Y. over at The Mystery Train Blog puts it so well, provides the soundtrack to my life.