Friday, November 30, 2007

"I was experiencing history"

Today at work I sat down with a colleague to talk with him about when he saw Elvis live on stage in Las Vegas. I like to hear about it now and then, but this time I wanted to get all the facts right so I could share them with you. Here goes:

In 1974 my colleague was part of an acrobatic group performing at the Dunes Hotel in Las Vegas. One day he, and all the other artists performing on "The strip" received an inquiry if they wanted to see an Elvis show. My colleague, who has always liked Elvis, accepted and one August night found himself sitting in the showroom of the Las Vegas Hilton.

The time was 2.30 a.m. and this was an extra concert, the third for the evening. (I have never found any information about this show. During the summer of 1973 Elvis did perform a special 3:00 a.m. show, but my colleague is sure this was 1974, and who wouldn't remember the year one saw Elvis!?)

His strongest memory is the feeling he had sitting in the audience right before the show. "I had seen famous artists before but never felt anything like this. The atmosphere was electrifying and it was like everyone knew something special was about to happen," he told me. "Then when they turned the houselights down and 2001 began to sound people started screaming."

As for the show, he can't remember any particular songs, but he does remember Elvis being in total command, working hard on stage, moving around and sweating profusely. "He wiped his sweat off his forehead with his scarves and threw them at the audience," my colleague recollected. "And he walked to the front of the stage when the girls came forward."

Even today, more than 30 years later, my colleague says he's never been to a concert like the one with Elvis. "I've seen Bruce Springsteen, Rolling Stones and so on and they were fine. But that night in Las Vegas I felt like I was experiencing history."

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Rock me lord - more Elvis music in church

Is it just me or has it become more common with Elvis music being performed in church? That thought hit me when the music producer at my work showed me a a new record with artist and actor Håkan Brinck interpreting a collection of Elvis gospels together with a gospel choir.

I went home to listen and actually it was pretty good. There were even a few surprises thrown in like "I Got A Feelin' In My Body" and "Why Me Lord." And as you can see on the cover of the CD he doesn't try to look like Elvis, which is always a big plus, at least in my book.

The very same day I received a clipping my mother had sent me from the city missions paper in Gothenburg. The article described a concert where musician Peter Winsnes performed Elvis songs during Mass in a church packed to the last seat.

All of this made me think of singer Kent Lundberg. A year ago, after the broadcast of a radio program I produced about Elvis religious music, I received an e-mail from him telling me about him and his band performing Elvis gospel music mainly in churches around the country.

He even had the courtesy to send me a CD, and listening to it right know I must say it's even better sounding than Håkan Brincks effort I mentioned earlier (here is an example).

So how about it, is my theory right? Whatever the answer, I bet Elvis music is a safe bet if you want to fill a church!

Monday, November 26, 2007

Oh please release them!

I often find myself wondering why Elvis On Tour still isn't available officially on DVD. I mean, it's been released on VHS several times, the last time 1997.

Therefore, it was interesting reading the answer Todd Morgan of EPE gave Elvis Australia regarding rumors about Warner Brothers' having cancelled plans to release Elvis on Tour on DVD. "There's no truth to the rumor. We should see that come along from them in a couple of years or so," he commented.

Well, I'll believe it when I see it. Until then I'll hang on to my VHS-copy and watch the bootleg DVD version of Elvis On Tour titled Through My Eyes. This is one example of what you'll find on that one:

And then we have the TV Special Elvis In Concert from 1977 that has never been released officially at all. On EPE writes "There just simply is no way to get it only to the real fans (and we've exhausted all kinds of ideas) without also having Elvis served up to the general public and press for ridicule."

Hmm, that's what I thought FTD was all about...

Thursday, November 22, 2007

You gotta stop, you're wrong again

Seems The Official Elvis Presley Fan Club of Great Britain have it all wrong. Again. In the latest issue of their magazine that I received with the mail today, you can order two January 2008 FTD releases, "one studio out-takes title and the other a movie soundtrack, rumoured as being Elvis For Everyone and GI Blues."

Well, thanks to Internet we know by now that there is only one FTD release in January, the Wild In The Country soundtrack. (Besides, how likely is it that Elvis For Everyone is released when two of its tracks, including outtakes, just saw the light of day on Pot Luck?)

A similar mistake was made a couple of months ago when the British fan club announced the next FTD records would be a classic album and a two CD set they believed would consist of "two superior audience recordings of Elvis last two shows recorded 30 years ago". That turned out to be false information. Instead we got I Sing All Kinds, Raised On Rock and Easy Come, Easy Go.

Those weren't bad releases, on the contrary, but that's not the point. The point is that the fan club looses credibility when they get our hopes up with information that isn't correct. What's the point ordering FTD records that don't exist?

This also raises the question why the fan club in England doesn't have a site on the Internet. That way, at least mistakes like these could easily be corrected there.

As regard to Wild In The Country, I think it's a bit strange that Jorgensen and company is releasing it as a classic album, as it never was a LP, in fact not even an EP. And why wasn't the cover from the single used instead of a fictitious one?

But then again, it's nice to have all the songs from this movie, with the outtakes, on one album. And anyway, wasn't the original idea with the FTD gatefold albums to do just that - release the movie soundtracks?

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Pot Luck with Elvis

I've always liked the album Pot Luck more than its predecessor Something For Everybody. I think this is because Something For Everybody always felt to me like kind of an inferior version of Elvis Is Back, while Pot Luck is something different.

And after spending practically a whole afternoon listening to the new FTD release of this classic album (158 minutes of playing time compared to the 29 minutes of the original album), I think I now more clearly understand what that difference is all about.

For starters, I've never realised so many of the songs have a Latin feel, like "Fountain of Love" with a Spanish-sounding strumming guitar and Elvis in total control. The most obvious example of a Latin arrangement is the dramatic "You'll Be Gone" that for some strange reason wasn't used on the album. (Maybe Elvis, for once a co-writer of a song, was nervous about the quality of the performance.)

Also, Elvis takes his ballad singing one step further on Pot Luck. On songs like "I'm Yours" and "I Feel Like I've Known You Forever" he sings smoothly and effortlessly despite the vocal challenges, and the end result is beautiful and haunting at the same time.

And last but not the least, it's like Ernst Jorgensen writes in his Elvis Presley – A Life In Music: "Elvis’s voice never sounded better." That is indeed true, he sings superbly.

But nothing or no one is perfect. The inclusion of the song "Steppin Out Of Line" from Blue Hawaii is a mysterious one that, unlike "I Slipped, I Stumbled, I Fell" on Something For Everybody, isn't presented as a soundtrack recording. In addition, the bonus track "For The Millionth And The Last Time" lacks real spirit and its companion "I Met Her Today" isn't a strong song, in my opinion.

When it comes to the outtakes, nearly all of the material has been spread out over the years on other records from FTD and BMG. Only four of the 44 complete outtakes are unreleased (there are a few false starts as well), the most interesting which is the first take of "Suspicion" that differs some from the released version.

In other words, there are few surprises on the FTD release Pot Luck, but it's a joy hearing the songs in crystal clear sound together with the singles and bonus songs that weren't used on the album. (I guess that rules out a FTD release of Elvis For Everyone, no big loss there!) And it's nice to finally have all of the outtakes collected in one place.

The cover is true to the original and the booklet is what to be expected with In and Outtakes and Behind the Scenes information (I didn’t know there were early plans for including "Just For Old Times Sake" in Change Of Habit). We also get some more publicity shots of Elvis with the same incredible hairstyle as on the cover of Pot Luck (from Follow That Dream). How on earth did he manage to style it that way?

Speaking of the cover, the only real complaint I have is a more general one that has been bothering me on the last couple of FTD releases. The cover always seems to come buckled in places, especially on the spine. I think this have to do with the protective plastic being wrapped too tight, but I’ve grown tired of returning my records and getting a new one with the same problem.

Anyway, I’m now hoping for a FTD version of The Lost Album that was intended to be the follow up studio album to Pot Luck. It too, deserves the attention.

Monday, November 19, 2007

I know three chords, believe it or not

Elvis was around eleven years old when he got his first guitar. I'm a lot older than that but have never played a single chord in my life. Until now.

Maybe it's some kind of midlife crisis thing, but I do want to learn how to play the guitar. So last week a good friend of mine who really knows her way around the instrument, patiently showed me a couple of chords on a guitar I've borrowed from my brother.

And, knowing my musical preferences, she then applied them to the song "Love Me." Because, as she told me, a lot of Elvis songs have only a few chords in them and are suitable for beginners. "It would have been harder had you been a fan of Deep Purple," she kidded.

After that first session my fingertips hurt like crazy. But that hasn't stopped me from playing those chords over and over again these last days and belting out the lyrics: "Treat me like a fool, treat me mean and cruel, but love me."

My wife laughs at me when my fingers slip and it sounds really awful, but I persist. "Beggin' on my knees, all I ask is please, please love me, oh yeah!"

Sunday, November 18, 2007

That one takes the cake

It never ceases to amaze me what products Elvis Presley Enterprises wants us to buy. The latest offering is a singing and talking life-size bust that nearly defies description. And taste.

EPE writes in their ad that "motion captured facial animations and a leather jacket styled from the Elvis Presley '68 Comeback Special complete the most authentic recreation ever of this legendary artist."

The leather jacket do look the part, but that's where all similarities end. The face doesn't resemble Elvis' at all and the hairstyle is all wrong. When the thing moves, it looks like a zombie (check it out for yourself), and when it sings and talks it isn't Elvis voice you hear, just some impersonator.

And here comes the worst part. The price for this really awful product that according to EPE captures the magic of Elvis, but to me fails miserably to do so, sells for $349,99.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

A remix that doesn't mix well

One of my favourite Sun records with Elvis, "Baby Let' Play House", has been remixed and will be released as a single in Europe in December. The guy behind the remix is a DJ who calls himself Spankox. But in this form the song certainly isn't a favourite anymore:

After watching the video on Youtube I have to say that the result is miles behind the remixes of "A Little Less Conversation" and even "Rubberneckin'". I think the reason for this is two-fold.

First, the original song nearly drowns in all the new music. Second, a Sun record just ain't as suitable for a remix as is some of Elvis later work. But, as this clearly isn't a joint effort with Elvis Presley Enterprises, I guess this Spankox guy had to turn to the early unprotected material if he was to avoid being sued by EPEs band of lawyers.

Still, I believe songs such as "Edge Of Reality" and "Let Yourself Go" would make great remixes if treated properly. But for that to happen, maybe we'll have to wait until 2018.

Friday, November 16, 2007

The EP Collection Vol. 3

Two of the Elvis items I treasure the most are The EP Collection and its successor The EP Collection Vol. 2, both from the early 80s. Each set included eleven EPs, the majority of which were re-issues. Three of the records, one from the first package and two from the second, were "new" EPs containing outtakes.

I didn't buy these collections at the time of their releases, as they were way to expensive for me back then. But for some reason a few of the EPs were sold separately, and I managed to get my hands on Such A Night and both volumes of GI Blues - The Alternate Takes.

Earlier this year I did get my act together and bought the two sets from a guy who sold them on the Internet. He turned out to be a big Elvis collector that knew Swedish author Börje Lundberg who'd met Elvis in 1973, but that's another story.

This story is about The EP Collection Vol. 3. Yeah, I know that there isn't such a collection, but there could be. When I studied Ernst Jorgensens and Joe Tunzis recording sessions books a couple of days ago I came to the conclusion that there are enough EPs for a third volume:

1. Any Way You Want Me
2. Elvis Vol. 1
3. Elvis Vol. 2
4. Strictly Elvis
5. Loving You Vol. 2
6. Elvis Sings Christmas Songs
7. Christmas With Elvis
8. Elvis Sails (contains interviews only)
9. Tickle Me
10. Easy Come, Easy Go
11. Aloha From Hawaii Via Satellite (jukebox edition)

There you have it, The EP Collection Vol. 3. One could argue that there should be a GI Blues - The Alternate Takes Vol. 3 included, but I think Aloha From Hawaii would make for a more interesting bonus EP. Surely a release like this would be a winner, don't you think?

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Mama's so nice

I have a very nice mother. As soon as she sees something in her daily newspaper that has anything to do with Elvis she cuts it out and sends it to me. "Maybe you can use it for your blog," she tells me.

Not surprisingly, most of the time these clippings are old news to me. One example is the news-item I received this weekend that Elvis Presley is once more leading the list over top-earning dead celebrities.

But sometimes my mother strikes gold. My favourite clipping is a short paragraph that Elvis in 1960 was appointed society's enemy number one by the East German paper Junge Welt. That one has earned a place of honour on my notice-board.

And I have to admit I didn't know that Elvis is featured together with his bloodhound in The Big Book Of Dogs, by JC Suarès . But now I do, thanks to my mother.

By the way, does anyone know the story of that bloodhound?

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Elvis is number 1 in Sweden

Once more Elvis is topping the charts in Sweden. This time it's the DVD-release The King Of Rock 'n' Roll that is number 1 on the DVD Top 20, followed by Bob Dylans The Other Side Of The Mirror - Live and Plug Me In from AC/DC.

Considering it was only a few months ago that The Essential Elvis Presley was leading the CD chart, I find Elvis success in Sweden this year pretty impressive. Especially since neither product has attracted any attention in the media, at least I haven't spotted a review anywhere. Come to think about it, can't say I've noticed any advertisements for these releases, either.

I remember when the remixed version of "A Little Less Conversation" went on to become a number 1 hit record in Sweden (as well as in many other countries) in 2002. Before that I had given up hope a long time ago that an Elvis single would ever be a hit again, but man was I wrong.

It was a great feeling hearing the song being played on the radio day after day, and realising people suddenly thought Elvis was kind of cool. That's something I'd known for about 25 years, but still I felt damn good.

Finally Elvis had the attention he deserved among the public and at last my friends (at least some of them) understood why I had stuck to Elvis for so long.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

That's the way it should be

The first time I was made aware that there was a lot of previously unseen footage from That's The Way It Is in circulation must have been in Memphis during Elvis Week 2005. A guy at the hotel where I was staying approached me and asked if I would like to buy 11 DVDs with outtakes from the movie.

That amount of material sounded incredible but the price he asked for, US $500, was a little too much for my taste. And anyway, I was going to Graceland for the first time in my life and had my thoughts elsewhere.

Earlier this year, with the news of a forthcoming two-disc special edition of TTWII, my interest in unreleased material was awoken. I thought we were in for a treat, but boy was I wrong. What we got was about 35 minutes of outtakes in poor picture quality with the sound so low you can barely hear what's going on.

Finally realising that official channels weren't going to get me what I was asking for I recently ordered three import DVDs from the Unites States with nearly four hours of outtakes from the movie, containing about 80 songs.

I received these DVDs just a couple of days ago and have been busy viewing them since. The picture quality isn't the best, but the amount of material is overwhelming and the sound quality is great. And the price was nowhere near US $500!

It's great fun watching these outtakes, such as "Patch It Up" that have Elvis lying on the floor at the end of the song. Or seeing him taking a quick smoke from someone in the audience right before "Bridge Over Troubled Water".

Also, the film sequences shot of stage are fascinating stuff. One example of this is footage of Elvis and parts of the Memphis Mafia passing (I think) the canteen in the hotel on their way to the elevator that will take them up to Elvis suite.

But what really hits me when I'm looking at these import DVDs is how much better the official products could have been, both the special edition released in 2001 and the one this year. A lot of the outtakes have been mixed by the movie company obviously intended for commercial release. Why that didn't happen is anybodies guess.

One thing's for sure though. The opening remarks in the 2001 edition that "most of the footage remained lost...until now" is obviously a lie. It still remains lost, at least officially.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Something from Elvis wardrobe

Right now there's an original Elvis jumpsuit on sale on eBay. It's called the Turquoise Suit and was worn by Elvis on stage in the summer of 1973. The starting bid is US $22 000, and the auction stops on the 13th of November.

I've always thought it would be really cool to own something Elvis actually wore, and what would be greater than a jumpsuit? But I for one haven't got the kind of money it takes and even if I did, I guess the suit in question would be better of in a museum.

So what to do? Well, I remember when I was just a kid and a neighbour showed me his 4 LP set Elvis: The Other Sides - Worldwide Gold Award Hits, Volume 2 (that title just takes the cake, doesn't it?).

I was fascinated with the piece of Elvis' clothing that was included as a bonus, as was my brother. "It smells of Elvis," he said and buried his nose in the tiny cloth that was cut from Elvis discarded clothing back in 1971.

Be that as it may, I've never gotten around buying the LP set, only the 25th anniversary 2 CD set. So today I made a search on eBay, found a copy that was sold for a fixed buy-it-now price and bought it. Pretty soon I will own something from Elvis wardrobe. It may not be a jumpsuit, but it will be enough for me.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Halloween, Elvis style

In the United States, Halloween is a major celebration, and of course Elvis Presley Enterprises wants a piece of the action. Using the slogan "Have an Elvis Halloween" the strategy is to have both kids and adults buy jumpsuits and capes that don't come even close to resembling the real thing. Instead those ugly costumes, in a way, help cement the image of Elvis as a clown in ridiculous outfits.

Besides that, the thing I don't understand is what Elvis got to do with Halloween. I thought the idea was to wear scary costumes designed to look like vampires, skeletons, witches, devils and the like. What trick will a kid dressed up as Elvis pull when the neighbour doesn't want to give away candy? Sing the x-rated version of "Hurt"?

Let me make a friendly suggestion to EPE. If they want to connect Elvis with Halloween then at least do it right. Make a copy of the black suede suit and the dark purple velvet cloak Elvis wore when he met president Nixon.

As Marty Lacker pointed out in the Elvis and the Memphis Mafia book: "Jerry said he looked like Dracula. His hair was down over his collar in the back and his eyes looked like he was wearing heavy shadow and mascara." Now how's that for a Halloween costume?