Pages

Sunday, October 10, 2021

Elvis Sings For Children And Grownups Too! Volume 2

In an alternative universe: Elvis Sings For Children And Grownups Too! Volume 2

FTD has announced three new releases for next month: The Pot Luck Sessions 5 CD set, a 2 CD soundboard titled South Bound Tampa/Atlanta '75 and the double vinyl Raised On Rock: I've Got Rhythm In My Soul

In an alternative universe a fourth album was added for a December release with the following announcement:

43 years after its original release FTD is pleased to announce the Classic Album version of Elvis Sings For Children And Grownups Too! Packaged in 7" format with a full color 16-page memorabilia booklet, this 1-CD set also includes a previously unknown master tape featuring the second volume in the series. 

Newly found documentation (included in the booklet) reveals that a planned Elvis Sings For Children And Grownups Too! Volume 2 was scrapped due to the first volume's poor sales figures and weak #130 on Billboard's Top LPs chart during its 11 weeks on the chart (although it fared much better on the Country LPs chart with #5 and 16 weeks). 

Of special interest is the inclusion of an alternate take of "Your Time Hasn't Come Yet, Baby," which suggests that producer Joan Deary had access to the Speedway session tapes which has never been found since. 

Elvis Sings For Children And Grownups Too!

The Original Album
01. Teddy Bear 02. Wooden Heart 03. Five Sleepyheads 04. Puppet On A String 05. Angel 06. Old MacDonald 07. How Would You Like To Be 08. Cotton Candy Land 09. Old Shep 10. Big Boots (MO-04, alternate take) 11. Have A Happy

Volume 2
12. Lover Doll 13. Datin´14. Queenie Wahine's Papaya 15. Mexico 16. Earth Boy 17. Confidence 18. Your Time Hasn't Come Yet, Baby (take 4, previously unreleased) 19. Take Me To The Fair 20. It's Carnival Time 21. Don't Cry Daddy 22. House Of Sand 23. Sing You Children

Bonus Songs (considered for Volume 2 but dropped in favor of "Don't Cry Daddy" and "House Of Sand")
24. Carny Town 25. A Dog's Life 

Duet versions
26. Datin' (duet with Donna Butterworth) 27. Queenie Wahine's Papaya (duet with  Donna Butterworth) 28. Mexico (duet with Larry Domasin)

Back in this reality, of course no second volume of Elvis Sings For Children And Grownups Too! was ever planned by Colonel Tom Parker who schemed to put out the original album as early as 1975. Or who could really tell? One thing is for sure though: there were certainly enough songs for a sequel. 

PS: I originally thought of posting this on April 1 next year but couldn't wait that long. 

Additional reading:

Saturday, October 2, 2021

Amazing Grace: Elvis Back In Nashville

The bluesy take 2 of "Amazing Grace" is the third digital single promoting the Elvis: Back in Nashville set due for release on November 12.
Barely had I written about the second promo/preview/digital single from the upcoming 4 CD set Elvis: Back In Nashville when the third one was released yesterday. This time the spotlight is put on the first (incomplete) and second take of "Amazing Grace." Take 2 was first made available on the Walk A Mile In My Shoes – The Essential 70's Masters back in 1995, while the whole sequence containing both takes found its way onto the FTD version of He Touched Me (2011).  

I actually reviewed the latter in a post here on my blog back in November 2011 (was it really that long time ago?!), so I revisited that and read what I had written about the two first takes of "Amazing Grace." Apparently I focused a lot on the studio banter: 

Another example is the banter before the second take of "Amazing Grace" (following the first abandoned one) which has Elvis saying "I hit the wrong words, I was singing 'Love Me Tender'," and one of the musicians answering, "You was singing the hell out of it, whatever it was." I think he's right. I actually prefer the bluesy take 2 over the more conservative master.

Listening to the audio promo today made me realize this still holds true. Ernst Jorgensen puts it well in his excellent book Elvis Presley: A Life In Music (1998):

For this voice piece the rhythm section set a slow, solid, unobtrusive beat, while Chip Young added some bluesy acoustic slide guitar and David Briggs contributed flashy piano runs straight out of the showy gospel music tradition. 

But for some reason, after the second take producer Felton Jarvis told Chip Young to run a straighter course, resulting in a more traditional master of the song (take 5). For the first time this can now be heard on the promo (it wasn't included on FTD's version of He Touched Me). The dialogue runs something like this:

Felton Jarvis: Chip, don't play that funky stuff there man, really just straight.

Chip Young:  Alright.

Felton Jarvis: Simplicity you know.

Then another person says: Jerry, you're not gonna play on your kick drum, are you?

Jerry Carrigan: Ah, not much, no.

The other person: OK. 

So there went the bluesy version out of the window in favor of the master that we know from the He Touched Me album. I like that one too, but take 2 has the edge. In my book, yet another excellent choice to help promote Elvis: Back In Nashville.

Additional reading:

Wednesday, September 29, 2021

Until It's Time For You To Go: Elvis Back In Nashville

"Until It's Time For You To Go" (take 5) has been released as an offical lyric video.

So far I have been pleased with the the audio promos/digital singles RCA have chosen to promote the upcoming Elvis: Back In Nashville 4 CD set. In August the first attempt of the stunning "I'm Leavin'" was released (including a new rehearsal part), and a month later we were treated with take 5 of the beautiful "Until It's Time For You To Go." 

I thought it would be interesting to see what some of my favorite Elvis books have to say about "Until It's Time For You To Go" that was originally released as a single in January 1972, coupled with "We Can Make The Morning." First out is Robert Matthew-Walker and his book Elvis Presley: Studies in Modern Music (1979):

"Until It's Time For You To Go" became a classic hit for Presley and this performance is one of his best. He infuses each word with an added meaning.

In 1982 a book called The Complete Elvis edited by Martin Torgoff came out. Among other things, it included an A-Z section, that my brother and I loved to study. Today he sent me a mobile photo of what was written about "Until It's Time For You To Go":

Elvis turned Buffy's 1970 version of her own folksy composition into a ballad with piano and strings nicely complemented by the Imperials. The lyrics are stretched and phrased beautifully. 

Moving on to my well thumbed copy of Elvis Presley: A Life In Music from 1998 (if I could keep only one of my Elvis' books this would be the one) Ernst Jorgensen paints this picture of the recording of "Until It's Time For You To Go" on May 17, 1971:

Buffy Sainte-Marie's "Until It's Time For You To Go" was the next folk number to which Elvis gave his full attention. This kind of material might have been suitable for a pop album, less so for a single – but Elvis was throwing himself into his performances with abandon now, and all anyone could do was stand back and watch.

It's obvious Elvis cared for "Until It's Time For You To Go." Not only did he try to better his May version with a remake of the song at the June sessions (although it was the May recording that was eventually chosen for release as a single), he also included it in his live repertoire. 

I have to confess I like it too. It's a tender song that always strikes a chord when I listen to it. That leaves you, dear reader. What do you think of Elvis' version(s) of "It's Time For You To Go"? 

Additional reading:

Saturday, September 18, 2021

Ralph Strobel Signed Harum Scarum Album

Close up of Ralph Strobel's autograph on my Harum Scarum LP. 
Last week I received two packages from Ralph Strobel, who played the oboe on the Harum Scarum sessions on February 24–26, 1965. A couple of months back I found out that he is an assistant professor emeritus at Ball State University, so I contacted him and asked if he would like to answer some questions about those sessions. He graciously accepted, and reading his story I almost felt like I was there in the studio with him.

Some time after publishing the interview on my blog, I got another idea. Would Ralph Strobel agree to sign my copy of the Harum Scarum album? He thought it was a great idea, so I sent the cover across the Atlantic at the beginning of the summer. As I was going to Denmark on my vacation, Ralph Strobel wisely decided to send the cover back to me after I had returned. It took about a month to reach me, but it was well worth the wait. 

Opening the package, and pulling out the album cover, I saw that it was signed Ralph Strobel "OBOE" on the front cover in the lower right hand corner. It looked great. Harum Scarum is now one of those records in my collection I value the most – those signed by musicians I've met in real life or through e-mail conversation who once played or sang with Elvis. 

My signed copy of the Harum Scarum soundtrack.
In the smaller package I found an Elvis souvenir in the form of a very nice toothpick holder as well as a letter from Ralph Strobel where he told the story behind it. He also explained that he was happy that I had encouraged him into writing about the Elvis recording sessions, something he had wanted to do for years. That made me feel good.

I am happy to call Ralph Strobel my friend and I'd like to take this opportunity to thank him again for writing about his time recording with Elvis, signing my Harum Scarum album and sending me the Elvis toothpick holder. It meant a lot.

Additional reading:

Saturday, August 28, 2021

I'm Leavin': Elvis Back In Nashville

The first take of "I'm Leavin'" is included in the upcoming set Elvis: Back In Nashville.

During Elvis Week I was pleased to see the announcement for the 4 CD set Elvis: Back In Nashville covering his 1971 Nashville sessions. Like last year's From Elvis In Nashville it showcases Elvis Presley and his band as they sounded during the actual session without orchestral and vocal overdubs. 

But, unlike the 1970 Nashville recordings, many of the 1971 tracks included backing singers. One such example is "I'm Leavin'" that has been released as the first official audio promo/digital single for the set. Featuring take 1, you get to hear Elvis, the musicians and the Imperials rehearse the song (this was not included when take 1 was originally released on the Elvis Now FTD back in 2010) and then deliver a beautiful first attempt. 

I decided to email Michael Jarrett who wrote the song, sending him the link to the audio promo and asking him what his reaction was, listening to the take. This is what he wrote back:  

I just listened to Cut #1. Amazing! Truly amazing for this older songwriter to be like a fly on the wall in the studio listening to these great players 'carving out' my song. Actually, it's not very often that songwriters get a peak behind the curtains at the making of a song they've labored over to get just right in presenting to an artist or producer for recording consideration. Too Cool! ..So wonderful to hear them talking ..it's like being right there.

Thinking back fifty years, oh my! ..

When I first ventured into Hollywood back in the Spring of 1970, I hit the streets running with a pocket full of songs and a pocket full of dreams. With the help of a friend, I was fortunate to get a few meetings with some music producers right away. This was very lucky for a 'newcomer' to Crazyland, L.A. ...but I digress :)

Some of these music producers let me know right away that my songs were 'esoteric' and certainly not "commercial". Others just played a few seconds on the tape of each song and would then turn to me and say, "I just didn't hear anything that caught my ear" ..and I'm thinking after hearing this person say that to me, ... Certainly You Didn't Hear Anything Because You Didn't Even Listen!!

This producer then said to me, "let me suggest that you go back home and listen to the songs they play on "Top 40 music stations" and write songs like that. I will be happy in the future to listen to them. ...good day ..

Good day, INDEED!

I just told this story to encourage songwriters out there that might be reading this to follow your heart when you write and don't be swayed by what others say about your writing! It's the doing of it that is the most important thing.

Boy did Michael Jarrett prove those music producers wrong. Not only is "I'm Leavin'" a firm favorite among many fans (me included), Elvis obviously liked it too and sang it live many times. 

I'm really looking forward to Elvis: Back In Nashville that is to be released on November 12. Until then, be sure to listen to take 1 of "I'm Leavin'." Mixing engineer Matt Ross-Spang has done a great job and if the rest of the sessions sound like this we will have us another winner. 

Additional reading:

Monday, August 16, 2021

Welcome To My World

Elvis grave at Graceland photographed during Elvis Week 2005.

This post is a loose translation of a radio program I did in Sweden after having returned from Elvis Week in Memphis 2005 - 16 years ago.

Intro music: Beginning of "Welcome To My World"

The song "Welcome To My World" is playing in the visitors' headphones on their way up to Elvis Presley's home in Memphis - Graceland. And even though the song was not originally sung by Elvis to greet tourists, I think it feels quite appropriate. 

Because Graceland, and a large part of Memphis for that matter, is truly a world that revolves around Elvis. And this is especially true during the days around August 16, which is the date Elvis died. This is when the annual Elvis Week takes place, when fans from all over the world and of all ages gather in Memphis to pay tribute to their idol.

Music: Ending of "Welcome To My World"

A huge sign in Memphis stating the obvious.

On the way from the airport, I see huge billboards by the roadside with the slogan "Elvis lives." And once at the hotel, this feels like the place to be if you, like me, have liked Elvis since childhood.

Music: Beginning of "Heartbreak Hotel"

In the foyer, Elvis music blasts out from the head speakers by the bar, everywhere are people wearing Elvis t-shirts, and at the reception there is an Elvis impersonator wearing a blue jumpsuit and obligatory sunglasses.

And as if that wasn't enough, I see Elvis' old friend Sonny West sitting at a table signing autographs. It turns out that he performs at the hotel every night, talking about his time with the King. After saying hello, I ask him to comment the fact that Elvis, 28 years after his death, seems to be more famous than ever.

"Well, if you would have asked me at the end of the fifth year, at the fifth anniversary of his death, if he would continue to be so big, I would have said 'No i don't think so.' Would I have been wrong, right."

But since new fans are constantly discovering his music, he continues to be at least as famous now as then, is Sonny's explanation.

Music: Beginning of "Memphis, Tennessee"

In front of Graceland - a dream come true.

Just a few minutes bus ride from the hotel is Graceland, the destination of my journey. The house is located on Elvis Presley Boulevard, opposite Graceland Plaza, where the bus stops. Here, tourists flock around the souvenir shops that have grown up like mushrooms out of the ground, and the wealth of invention when it comes to what to buy with Elvis motifs knows no bounds.

In addition to sweaters, caps, key chains and fridge magnets, there are, for example, baby clothes, slippers, wallpaper, rubber ducks, the Elvis wine Jailhouse Red, bowling balls and Graceland in the form of a soft toy.

But I'm here to see the real Graceland. The trip costs 28 dollars, but in addition to the house I get a look at Elvis' cars, motorcycles and his private jet Lisa Marie, christened after his daughter.

The house itself turns out to be a bit smaller than I thought. But it's fascinating to see the different rooms, especially the Jungle Room where Elvis recorded his last studio songs among gods statues, a small waterfall and armchairs with armrests shaped like dragons.

Studio banter: "It's Easy For You"

The Trophy Room - mindblowing.

Another highlight is the Trophy Room, Elvis' old squash hall where the walls are covered with gold plates from floor to ceiling and some of the most famous jumpsuits are on display. I just stare with my mouth open like all the other tourists. Then, after the tour has ended at Elvis' grave, I meet two lyrical Danes, Kirsten and J├Ârgen.

"This is a dream come true, I have seen pictures of Graceland and know it meant a lot to Elvis, so it was fantastic to see it."

"It has always been a dream to see it, since I became a fan at twelve, and now I had the means to do it."

As Elvis, for obvious reasons, can't perform for us, we who are in Memphis have to make do with the next best thing. During Elvis Week, a number of concerts are arranged with his old musicians. Among them are the guys who accompanied Elvis in 1969 on songs such as "Suspicious Minds" and "In the Ghetto."

Music from the actual concert

And pianist Bobby Wood and organist Bobby Emmons, who are usually anonymous studio musicians, think it's fun to be in the spotlight for once.

"Its a good feeling, you know, that there are fans out there, people that actually like you."

"They consider that what we did had some bearing of the records that they love so much, it just makes you feel great.

Together with two of my musical heroes: Bobby Emmons and Bobby Wood.

During one of the last nights in Memphis, I am part of a somewhat different experience - the Candlelight Vigil.

Traditionally, the night before the anniversary of Elvis' death on August 16, the celebration during Elvis Week reaches its peak as thousands of fans gather outside Graceland to honor the King. Together with all the other fans, I receive a candle, and then stand in the queue that slowly winds through the gates to Graceland, past Elvis' grave and out again. It feels a bit like a marathon, there are fluid checks everywhere and it takes three and a half hours.

TV is there and the next day I read in the newspaper that we were 10,000 people who attended.

Music: The beginning of "Talk About The Good Times"

Elvis Week is over and it's time to go home again. I have to agree with my Danish friends that it has been a fantastic experience that I will never forget. For a week, everything has revolved around Elvis and I have met people from all over the world who share my interest.

The only thing I regret is that I didn't buy Graceland as a soft toy.

Outro music: "Talk About The Good Times"

Friday, July 30, 2021

Guarding Elvis In The Summer Of ´61

Toby (Elvis Presley) enters a bank to take out a loan in the movie Follow That Dream. The scene was filmed in Ocala, Florida.

Currently on vacation in Denmark with my family in our summer cottage by the sea, there is little time for blogging. But stumbling across an interesting article on the Internet where Martin Stephens, 82, reminisces about guarding Elvis while he filmed Follow That Dream in 1961, I just had to write a short post about it.

The article is titled "The summer of Elvis" and written by Susan Smiley-Height of the Ocala Gazette. In it, Martin Stephens recalls the story of how he, as a 22 year old police officer, was assigned to provide security for Elvis on the movie set in Ocala, Florida, where they did the bank scenes (most of the movie was shot in Yankeetown).

“We weren’t worried about riots or somebody hurting Elvis. The security was strictly to keep people back,” he explained. “He couldn’t do nothing without a crowd. We would offer to chase people off, and he’d say, ‘No, no, that’s what I’m supposed to do.’ He was very personable and a nice guy. He was interested in people and was easy to work with.”

He tells the reporter that it was unbearably hot in the bank as the film crew turned off the air conditioning because it made too much background noise. Elvis had to change his denim shirt every 15 to 20 minutes. He also remembers how Elvis got hold of a pair of sunglasses worn by a deputy on the security detail. ("I know, though the deputy never admitted it, that he sold his sunglasses.")

According to Martin Stephens, the filming in Ocala took place over two long weekends. ("The building is still there, right before the railroad tracks if you're going into town.") In the article, he describes one of his fondest memories during the time he was assigned to accompany Elvis on the movie set: 

“They had rented the Marion Hotel, and the movie crew went over there to eat. When we went to eat lunch that first day, Elvis told me, ‘Let’s go.’ So I grabbed three guys. We went over there, and I didn’t know exactly what we were supposed to do. Elvis went inside, so I said, ‘Well, I guess we guard the doors,’” he said. “We’re standing there, and in a minute, Elvis comes out and says, ‘Come on boys, you don’t have long to eat.’ We go in, and he’s got a table, and he says, ‘I went ahead and ordered for you.’ They brought us T-bone steaks, and he got a grilled cheese sandwich. ‘I didn’t know what you wanted,’ he said. ‘I just went ahead and ordered for you.’ That’s the guy I remember.”