Saturday, January 14, 2017

Aloha From Copenhagen

Terry Blackwood of The Imperials signing my copy of Aloha From Hawaii Via Satellite.
On this date, 44 years ago, Elvis performed his historical Aloha From Hawaii Via Satellite concert. Last year, on nearly the same date, January 7, three musicians who shared the stage with Elvis when he made his global telecast played another show, this time in Denmark.

Some 1 700 fans then celebrated Elvis´ 81st birthday with James Burton, Glen D. Hardin and Ronnie Tutt. Also present on stage during this Aloha From Copenhagen show was Terry Blackwood from the Imperials and Austrian singer Dennis Jale.

Poster for the Aloha from Copenhagen concert.
Living in Sweden means Denmark isn't that far away, especially when you are traveling from the southern part of the country. So when me and my brother, who is also a huge Elvis fan, heard about the upcoming event in Copenhagen, we decided it was something we couldn't afford to miss.

I remember it was raining pretty hard when we left the train station and headed towards the Falconer Centre where the show was to take place. I also recall we had trouble finding the place and practically stumbled across the back of the building, from where we could hear the band rehearsing inside.

Quickly locating the entrance and walking inside we found ourselves in the company of hundreds of fellow Elvis fans. And there was excitement in the air, maybe a bit like the real thing in the 70's, when people who shared the love for Elvis and his music went to see him in concert.

As for the show itself, it was an enjoyable evening. Having had the privilege to see the TCB Band on stage during a couple of "live on screen" concerts from 1999 to 2012, it's obvious the band members are getting older, but there was no mistaking the fun they had playing for the fans. This was especially evident watching Glen D. Hardin, who was hammering away on his keyboard with a smile on his face during the whole show. And James Burton got to play a lot of solos in songs such as "See See Rider," "That's All Right," and Johnny B. Goode," to the delight of the audience.

Terry Blackwood of the Imperials also brought a lot to the show together with the other two members of The Imperials. Looking back, some of the highlights included "An American Trilogy," "Suspicious Minds" and "Polk Salad Annie". A nice surprise was "Change Of Habit" which sounded great.

Tha autographs of James Burton, Glen D. Hardin, Ronnie Tutt and Terry Blackwood.
But the best part of the evening was after the show, when the musicians and singers signed autographs. A lot of fans had brought with them records for this occasion, and I was no exception. I thought my choice was perfect, an original copy of the double LP Aloha From Hawaii Via Satelllite with a separate insert listening the songs of the concert. James Burton, Glen D. Hardin, Ronnie Tutt and Terry Blackwood signed the back of the cover as well as the insert, and I also had the chance to change a few words with each of them.

Carefully protecting the album against the rain, me and my brother headed for the station and the train home to Sweden. Granted, Aloha From Copenhagen wasn't as historical a moment as Aloha From Hawaii, but in a way it was for us. It was probably to be the last time we attended a concert with the TCB Band.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

A Little Thing Called Confidence

"Confidence" was sung to and with a group of children in the movie Clambake.
Today would have been Elvis 82nd birthday, and as I always do on January 8, I try to listen a little bit extra to his music, watch one of his movies or remember him in some other way. With a newborn baby boy to take care of it´s been a bit of a challenge this time around.

But as I was about to turn the children's program off I asked my six year old daughter if she wanted to watch an Elvis clip on YouTube before going to bed. "Yes, the scene with the playground," she answered. So today we honored Elvis Presley by looking at him singing "Confidence" in the movie Clambake.

To be honest, my daughter prefers more moderns stars like Justin Timberlake, Shakira, Katy Perry and Justin Bieber plus a bunch of Swedish artists I wont bother you with. But for some reason she likes "Confidence," both on record and on film. Maybe it's because it reminds her of her own world with playgrounds and children her own age, maybe she just thinks it's a funny song.

"Look daddy, she is really cute, she looks like a princess with those blue hair ribbons," she commented the girl who is afraid to go down a slide. And she watched intently as the girl finally slides down and Elvis sets the sling going while the camera turns the whole scene upside down. She also read out loud the words "ice cream" on Red West's ice cream wagon, so Elvis has taught her some English words, also.

The scene with Elvis singing "Confidence" certainly isn't the most memorable one in his acting career, on the contrary. But watching it with my daughter and seeing it through her eyes always puts a smile on my face. For an exhausted daddy, it was a welcoming moment tonight. So, one again, thank you Elvis, and happy birthday!

Thursday, December 29, 2016

The World of FTD

My review of the FTD classic album release He Touched Me as featured in Keith Flynn's The World Of Follow That Dream book.
Since my latest post nearly two years ago, on January 8, 2015, some 25 new albums and books have been released by Follow That Dream (FTD), the official Elvis Presley collectors label. Now, Elvis recordings specialist Keith Flynn has completed a 1,200 pages, hardbound three book set, chronicling every release by FTD from the start in July 1999 up until September this year. A total of 189 releases. And I’m proud to have been a small part of the project.

Earlier this year I received an e-mail from Keith Flynn, asking me if he could use five of the FTD reviews I had written on my blog for an upcoming project. Being familiar with Keith´s impressive Elvis Presley website and his part in the Ultimate Elvis – The Complete And Definite Recording Sessions three volume book, I was delighted to say yes. With a new job around the corner and another baby on its way, I then kind of forgot about it.

Until this October, when I read on the Elvis Files Facebook group about a three book set titled The World Of Follow That Dream chronicling ever release by FTD, by Keith Flynn & friends. I then remembered him asking permission to use a couple of my reviews and asked him if any of them was included in the book. When he answered that he had indeed used them I was thrilled, especially since it looked like a really beautiful package.

Keith then did a nice thing, sending me the pages from the book featuring my reviews as pdf:s. I thought the layout was neat and it was pretty cool to see my reviews getting new life this way. I also imagined them being read by fellow fans from around the globe, and that was a good feeling.

Listed below are the reviews from my blog that were used in the book:
Before signing off, I’d like to recommend an interview with Keith Flynn about his book on The Elvis Information Network website.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Thank you Elvis, and happy birthday!

A day like this it hits me how lucky I am to be an Elvis fan. Not only because of the great legacy Elvis left behind, like his songs and movies, but also because the interest in Elvis is as high as ever. It's certainly as big as when I became an Elvis fan some 35 years ago.

And being a fan is as fun today as it was then. So thank you Elvis, for providing the soundtrack to my life!

Sunday, August 17, 2014

“On Stage” drummer Bob Lanning To Europe

Elvis introducing drummer Bob Lanning at the Houston Astrodome, February 1970.
Yesterday, on August 16 no less, the website announced that drummer Bob Lanning will be a part of the 2015 edition of ‘An Evening with Elvis’ Friends and Original Musicians’ tour (which also includes among others bass player Duke Bardwell). As you might know, Bob Lanning replaced Ronnie Tutt during Elvis´ second Las Vegas engagement in January-February 1970. The then 22-year old drummer also played with Elvis at the Houston Astrodome during six concerts following the shows in Vegas.

It’s Bob Lanning that you can hear on classic Presley recordings like ‘The Wonder of You’, ‘Polk Salad Annie’ and ‘Walk A Mile In My Shoes’, and on albums like ‘On Stage – February 1970’, FTD releases like ‘Polk Salad Annie’ and ‘The On Stage Season’, as well as imports like the ‘Rebooked At The International’ box-set.

After reading this exciting news, I decided to ask the producer of the tour, Arjan Deelen, some questions about Bob Lannings participation in the show, and I didn’t have to wait long before he answered my mail.

How did you come up with the idea to get Bob Lanning on the show? 

Arjan Deelen: I have always been fascinated by Bob Lanning. I mean, he did these 63 shows with Elvis, played the hell out of those drums, and then he completely vanished, almost Houdini-like! There was no information about Bob or his whereabouts at all… just bizarre. Various researchers have tried to locate him over the years, but none succeeded. I like a good challenge, so a few years ago I started my quest to find him. I believe that the discovery of Bob Lanning and him agreeing to do the tour in May 2015 is one of the coolest news stories in the Elvis scene at present. Remember, he played the drums during a very important Las Vegas engagement, where Elvis successfully made the transformation from an oldies act to a contemporary artist with many cool new songs, both his own fresh hits and interesting covers. And of course Lanning also played on those six amazing shows at the Houston Astrodome. Those shows are also important from a historical perspective.

How did you find him? 

Arjan Deelen: I don’t want to toot my own horn, but I’m a persistent guy. Just ask my wife! When doing research, or in this case you could call it a plain manhunt, it’s important that you stay focused, also when you run into obstacles. Over the years I have found and brought over various people who played an interesting part in the Elvis story: Duke Bardwell, Mary and Ginger Holladay, Carol Montgomery, Michael Jarrett, etc. Without me, European audiences would have never seen these people on a stage or heard their stories. Sad but true. Most fan clubs play it safe and bring the same people over, year in, year out. Personally I find it interesting to track these people down that also contributed to Elvis’ music in a significant way, and it gives me a great deal of satisfaction to let them have their moment in the sun, so to speak. They deserve it.

How did he react when you asked him to join the tour? 

Arjan Deelen: I think that initially he was a bit cautious. Like me, he is not too impressed with the impersonators, or the European singers that are often used for shows of this nature. But when we discussed the show in detail, and my philosophy about the show, it seems that he got really excited. Then I sent him some clips from this year’s show, and that sort of sealed the deal. He loved the fact that we did songs like ‘Long Black Limousine’ and ‘Anyway You Want Me’. I mean, what other Elvis show is doing songs like this? I think he sensed that this was done with integrity and great respect for Elvis, so he gave me a very firm YES when I asked him.

What has he been doing since playing for Elvis in 1970? 

Arjan Deelen: In recent years, he has lived a quiet life. He lives in a beautiful area, loves nature and enjoys bicycling every day for two hours. He also drums for about two hours every day, for the fun of it mostly. He says he has never been tempted to participate in an Elvis tribute show, in fact, he has never even done an interview about him. But you can read his story in the December issue of “Elvis – The Man And His Music”, the best Elvis magazine around. You can order it here.

What are his recollections of playing with Elvis? 

Arjan Deelen: He has nothing but fond memories of his time with Elvis. He remembers Elvis as a kind, fun loving guy who was also a tremendous singer and a great showman. Of course, Bob played with him during that brief period where Elvis was on top of the world. He was excited about his comeback, thrilled to be performing again in front of live audiences, he was just feeling good about life. You can hear it in the recordings that were made. ‘On Stage – February 1970’ is definitely one of his best live albums, perhaps his best. These recordings just ooze excitement and joy… ‘Polk Salad Annie’, ‘The Wonder Of You’, ‘Long Tall Sally’, ‘Walk A Mile In My Shoes’… It doesn’t get better than that. Some people still think that it’s Ronnie on those recordings, but no, it’s Bob Lanning. If you listen closely, it’s quite obvious. Ronnie is perhaps a more elaborate and nuanced drummer, while Bob is a no-nonsense rock drummer with a harder and groovier sound. Just compare ‘Polk Salad Annie’ from February and August of that year… BIG difference.

What do you think his contribution will mean to ‘An Evening with Elvis’ Friends and Original Musicians’ when it tours Europe next year? 

Arjan Deelen: Oh, the whole show will be rejuvenated. Bob is in great shape, and he is really excited about this. I think his excitement and great playing will inspire the band, and I think we are going to see some great shows. Plus, for audiences it’s going to be a real thrill to finally see and hear the drummer who originally played on songs like ‘The Wonder Of You’ and ‘Polk Salad Annie’ perform these songs for the first time since 1970! If that’s not a real scoop, then I don’t know what is. This is going to be a LOT of fun!

I really appreciate you taking the time to answer these questions Arjan! 

Arjan Deelen: Thank you, Thomas, I enjoyed it!

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!