Saturday, September 29, 2007

Long distance information

This week I found the latest issue of the magazine from The Official Elvis Presley Fan Club of Great Britain in the mail. And to be perfectly honest, there weren't many things in it that were news to me.

Why is that? Well, nowadays you can read about Elvis news the same day they are made public (and sometimes before that) on the Internet. To give you an example: I already knew three weeks ago that the new FTD-releases were to be "Girls! Girls! Girls!" and "Put Luck".

When I became a member of the fan club back in 1982, the magazine played a much more important role. It was my sole channel for information about what was happening in the Elvis community.

For example, in some of the first issues I received I learned that Graceland was to be open to the general public by August 1982. I also read a review of a book written by Albert Goldman that didn't seem worth buying and found out that the soundtrack from "This Is Elvis" was to be released as a double LP.

Now, 25 years later, it's a completely different matter. Nor does it help that the print in the magazine is so small I can barely make out the text, and that the fan club doesn't have its own site on the Internet.

So why am I still a member? Well, I think the number 25 is the answer to that one. How can I quit after so many years? I'm a sentimental fool.

One thing impresses me, though, and that's the amount of articles Anne E Nixon has written. No matter what issue I pull from the shelf, she's in it. In my book, that's worth a salute!

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Introductions

Tonight there's a lot of Elvis musicians in Sweden. "Elvis 2007 - The Original Cast" is playing in the town of Jönköping and on stage is the TCB Band, the Sweet Inspirations, the Imperials and Joe Guercio with original members from Joe Guercio Orchestra.

Although I'm not in the audience I've had the pleasure of seeing and saying hello to a lot of Elvis old band members in the last few years. The first time was when "Elvis - The Concert" played in Stockholm in 1999 and I shook hands with members of the TCB Band after the show.

But it wasn't until 2005 that I really talked to musicians that once played for Elvis. That year the American Sound Studio Band performed in Uddevalla together with the Sweet Inspirations. I brought my "From Elvis In Memphis" LP with me and all the band members signed it after the show.

I met them again only a couple of months later when they played in Memphis during Elvis Week. This time I had the privilege of interviewing organist Bobby Emmons and pianist Bobby Wood backstage. They were really nice guys who seemed to enjoy talking about their recording days with Elvis.

During my trip to Memphis I also spoke to the Imperials. And in Shreveport one week later I managed to have my photo taken together with James Burton at his international guitar festival. But it was hard work. He was a busy man and didn't have time to chat with a guy from Sweden.

A man who did have time for me was D.J. Fontana when he visited Sweden in 2006 and performed, among other places, in my home town. We met at his hotel before the show and he told me about some of his moments with Elvis. And afterwards, I got his autograph on my "Elvis Presley" LP. Great stuff.

Finally, I met Glen D. Hardin when he played in Uddevalla at an Elvis Christmas concert last year. He seemed like a nice, old man and laughed when my brother asked him about Elvis always throwing water at him on stage.

So there you have it. I think it's fascinating that these old musicians travel around the world to play to fans 30 years after Elvis death. I guess it's like Bobby Wood told me: "It's a good feeling. You know that there is fans out there, people that actually like you."

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Elvis, my brother and me

I'm home after spending two days with my brother in Malmö, in the south of Sweden. It was a pleasant visit, not only because I found some Elvis LPs in a second-hand record store, but mainly because my brother is a big Elvis fan, just like me.

Of course we do other things than talk about Elvis when we meet. But we always end up discussing FTD-records, new DVD-releases or whatever. This time we watched "Tickle Me" on DVD which we both agree is a winner. Even my brothers wife, who isn't into Elvis, likes it, so we must be onto something there.

I don't know about you, but I've always felt that it is great to have someone to discuss Elvis with. There weren't many of those around when I grew up during the 80's, so I was very lucky that my brother started to listen to Elvis, too.

Of course, nowadays you can share your thoughts on the Internet but that doesn't beat talking eye to eye or over the phone. And speaking of phone calls, my wife keeps teasing me about the conversations I have with my brother. "You always talk about Elvis," she says, and she's right.

The funny thing is, I have a second brother, who started the ball rolling when he bought the double LP "Elvis Forever". He didn't become an Elvis fan, though. But I guess two out of three ain't bad!

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Sentimental me

Today I added the two Camden CDs "Burning Love And Hits From His Movies" and "Separate Ways" to my collection. They came in the mail together with the DVD box set "Elvis - The Hollywood Collection".

The box set I can easily justify buying because it contains six Elvis movies never before released on DVD. "No Elvis collection is complete without them!" it says on the box. But can the same be said for the Camden CDs? For me the answer is yes.

They are, after all, part of the original Elvis record catalogue that I try to collect on CD as well. And as farfetched as some of them seem (How on earth can you make the decision to include a hit single like "Burning Love" on a budget album together with a bunch of movie songs, for example?) or maybe because of it, they do represent a part of the Elvis Presley legacy.

But more important, some of the Camden records were the first albums I heard when I started to listen to Elvis in the late 70's. I especially liked "C'mon Everybody" and "I Got Lucky" which included some great songs. So there is a lot of nostalgia involved, as well.

I know a lot of fans feel the same way, and also that many disagree. But when "Elvis Sings Hits From His Movies Vol. 1" is released I will be buying that one as well. What can I say, I'm a sentimental guy.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

A not very special ABC-TV special

Apparently I didn't miss a thing. I'm talking about the "Elvis: Viva Las Vegas" two hour TV program that the American network channel ABC aired the other day.

Judging by the comments on the forum on Elvis-collectors.com it was a great disappointment. And after looking at ABC News own webpage dedicated to the program I can only agree.

Once again we have Priscilla and Jerry Schilling telling their EPE-approved side of the story. Kind of an "Elvis By The Presleys Vol. 2". And instead of Elvis on stage in Las Vegas there are artists like Chris Isaak and Celion Dion doing covers of Elvis songs. Just bits and pieces from "TTWII" are shown and not any "rarely seen footage" as promised in the press release.

The only thing I paid any attention to was the clip where country singer Faith Hill recalls her first Elvis concert when she was eight years old. I looked her up on the Internet and found out that we are the same age.

That made me realise that theoretically I could have been at an Elvis concert and remember it. But I guess living in Sweden kind of lessened the chances of that happening. Didn't help that I wasn't an Elvis fan at the time, either. But still, theoretically...

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

It's that time of year

It seems like about this time every year there is a "new" Christmas album with Elvis being released. This year is no exception. In the USA Sony/BMG are issuing "Elvis Home For The Holidays", with the CD thrown into a tin can together with a couple of postcards and of all things, an Elvis guitar candle.

But it's still the usual bunch of Christmas songs, this time those from 1957 together with "Mama Liked The Roses". In other words the updated version of "Elvis Christmas' Album" released in 1970.

The fact is that Elvis recorded 20 Christmas songs in his career (not counting live takes). And these songs have been re-released so many times now its hard to keep track. Just look at the following list:

"Memories Of Christmas" 1982 (some unreleased versions included)
"I Wish You A Merry Christmas" 1987
"If Every Day Was Like Christmas" 1994 (the best of them all)
"White Christmas" 2000
"Christmas Peace" 2003
"Christmas Peace" 2004 (this time without the religious songs)
"Christmas Wishes" 2005
"Elvis Christmas" 2006
"Elvis Home For The Holidays" 2007

It seems the pace has actually increased in the last couple years, and the question I ask myself is: Why?

When "If Every Day Was Like Christmas" was released in 1994 I thought it was the ultimate Christmas CD, with all the Christmas songs and even some unreleased alternate takes included. I still think it is. (Especially the limited edition with a pop-up of Graceland!)

All the other Christmas albums after that one have been absolutely unnecessary in my opinion. And the only reason I can come up with is the usual one: money.

And let's face it, it isn't just the general public that pick up these records in the store, a lot of fans do too. I'm the first to admit that I was one of those, but during the last few years I have passed. There is a limit for everything and when it comes to re-packed and re-wrapped Christmas albums I have reached mine. How about you?

Monday, September 17, 2007

Being steadfast, loyal and true

This Saturday, the Swedish Film Institute had the decency to screen a 70 mm copy of "That's The Way It Is" in a cinema in Stockholm. As I nowadays live in a smaller city a long way from the capital, I wasn't able to make it.

A shame really, as I have only seen a real Elvis movie on the big screen one time before, (if you don't count "This Is Elvis"). But I find comfort in the fact that it was "King Creole" that I saw.

It must have been in 1985. Since it was 50 years since Elvis was born a cinema in Stockholm showed "King Creole" and "Paradise, Hawaiian Style" for a couple of nights. "Paradise, Hawaiian Style" was one of the few Elvis films I had seen on TV, so I choose "King Creole" instead.

I clearly remember arriving at the cinema only a few minutes before the film was to be shown, and nervously asking if there were any tickets left. Yes, was the reassuring answer and I happily payed for my ticket.

I shouldn't have worried. No more than three or for other persons were in the movie theatre with me. For some reason I thought that a little embarrassing, both for me and Elvis. But those feelings quickly disappeared as the opening credits started to appear on the screen together with that big paddle-steamer. Finally I was watching an Elvis movie in a real cinema. And I found myself thinking about how proud I was over being an Elvis fan.

It sounds silly, but in those days you had to fight for Elvis. In my school it wasn't easy being an Elvis fan and it took guts to wear an Elvis badge. But sitting there in the dark cinema, I knew I was doing the right thing, sticking to Elvis. Here was proof, if needed, that Elvis was the greatest entertainer ever, and that someday, more people around me would realise that.

And they did. Today it's another ballgame all together. It's kind of cool to like Elvis, and certainly nobody thinks it's strange. But that was something I didn't know in that movie theatre 22 years ago.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

By popular demand - colorization part 3

As I was looking through some old fan club magazines the other day I stumbled across the answer to a question I asked a few days ago: Is there a colorized version of the movie "Love Me Tender"? The add from the October/November 2001 issue tells me there is:

My guess is the colorized version originates from some Asian country, judging by the characters below the English title. And that fits with the clip on Youtube that has subtitles in the same language.

The fact that VCDs (Video Compact Discs) are popular in Asia (except in Japan) because they are cheaper to make than regular DVDs also supports my case. What do you think?

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Go for the money and lead the pack

Not since the movie "Speedway" filmed in 1967 has Elvis made an appearance on the race track. But now, 40 years later, he's back. At least his image is, painted on a Chevrolet together with advertisement for Budweiser (see a picture here).

The car is driven by NASCAR driver Dale Earnhardt Jr. who apparently is a big Elvis fan. That's nice, but the problem as I see it, Elvis wasn't a big beer fan. That doesn't stop Elvis Presley Enterprises from making a lot of the usual merchandise, this time with Elvis and Bud side by side on t-shirts, mugs, magnets, key chains and the like.

Speaking of "Speedway", I always thought the race sequence was pretty lame, despite the fact that it was filmed by ten cameras. And I never really understood what the story was with those professional racers who made a brief appearance in the beginning. But today a search on the Internet revealed to me that these are really famous guys, like Buddy Baker and Cale Yarborough.

Then in the 70's, they were challenged by a certain Dale Earnhardt, the father of Dale Earnhardt Jr. who is now driving a Chevrolet with Elvis image on the hood. So I guess the Elvis connection is a bit stronger than I thought at first.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

"Bubba Ho-tep is dead to me"

About a week ago I wrote about the movie "Bubba Ho-tep" from 2002, remember? Well, now the guy who played Elvis, actor Bruce Campbell, has turned down the offer to star in the sequel "Bubba Nosferatu And The Curso Of The She-Vampires".

Evidently, Campbell and director Don Coscarelli couldn't agree about the screenplay, which features Elvis battling a clan of Las Vegas vampires and some robotic versions of his manager, Colonel Tom Parker.

Sure, it sounds a little weird, but what about the first one, where Elvis and JFK were fighting a mummy eating the souls of their fellow residents at a nursing home?

Whatever the reason, Bruce Campbell told the American horror magazine "Fangoria" that the sequel is "dead to me and sleeps with the fishes". Coscarelli the director is considering making the movie anyway but admits that it will be difficult to find a replacement for Campell.

How about asking Kurt Russell, he has donned the jumpsuit two times before ("Elvis The Movie" and "3000 Miles To Graceland"), and he can do it again. Why don’t you give him a call, Mr Coscarelli?

Monday, September 10, 2007

Tickle Me - an exception to the rule

I finally got around to ordering the DVD box set "Elvis - The Hollywood Collection" this evening. The six Elvis films it contains are the last ones I don't own on DVD (except "On Tour" which has not been officially released yet) so it really was just a matter of time.

The one of the bunch I'm looking forward to the most is "Tickle Me" which I think is really amusing and certainly stands out among Elvis mid 60's motion pictures. Though certainly low-budget like the rest of them, it has some great comedy, especially the final scenes in the haunted hotel.

It is ironical that because of budget reasons, the soundtrack is one of the strongest from this period as well. The explanation is, of course, that it's made up of previously released songs dating as far back as from the 1960 "Elvis Is Back"-sessions.

You just have to compare songs like "Dirty, Dirty Feeling" and "I'm Yours" with "Wolf Call" and "Fort Lauderdale Chamber Of Commerce" from Elvis previous movie "Girl Happy" (by the way included in the DVD box set as well) to understand how that worked out for the better.

"Tickle Me" helped save the movie company Allied Artists from financial ruin, at least for another year. I'm looking forward to seeing it in perfect picture quality for the first time, that will certainly help save my day!

Saturday, September 8, 2007

More colorized Elvis

The colorized version of "Jailhouse Rock" that I wrote about yesterday has been released on bootleg DVD, ElvisNews.com is reporting today. Judging by the opinions expressed in connection with that piece of news, not many seem to be in favour of colorized versions of Elvis black and white films.

I guess a lot of fans feel the same way about the remixes of "A Little Less Conversation" and "Rubberneckin'". I agree, to a certain extent. But if the remixes are done with care I see no harm in it. And if it helps keeping the interest in Elvis alive and gets him new fans, I'm all for it.

The same goes for the colorization of his movies, I guess. That's why I thought it was interesting watching two colorized clips of "Love Me Tender" on Youtube, that to me look like they are professionally done. One is of Elvis singing the title song (view it here), the other is the closing scene of the movie:



Does this mean there exists a colorized version of "Love Me Tender", like it does of "Jailhouse Rock"? Anyone out there who can shed some light on this?

Friday, September 7, 2007

Jailhouse Rock - colorized version

I recently retired my collection of Elvis-movies on VHS. The reason, obviously, is that most of them are now available in better quality on DVD. But three VHS-cassettes avoided the destiny of the others and didn't wind up in the attic. These are "Elvis on Tour", "The Lost Performances" and a colorized version of "Jailhouse Rock".

The last two I bought in a double video box set in 1992. "The Lost Performances" I watched many times, but "Jailhouse Rock" I think, only once. So I gave it a chance today, and it was fun to look at. Especially the colors on the cool jackets and shirts that Elvis wear in the movie.



But then I got the idea to put "Loving You" (which was filmed in color) in the DVD-player for comparison. And at once I realised how crude the colorization was on "Jailhouse Rock", kind of like the colors in a cartoon and not at all like in reality.

Apparently there was a lot of controversy when Turner Entertainment started to colorize old movies, such as "Jailhouse Rock" in the late 80's, but it died when the colorization stopped in the mid 90's due to the high costs involved.

But now colorization seems to be profitable again, because on a DVD you can include both a b/w and a color version (even though it wasn't done on the new deluxe edition of "Jailhouse Rock"). And certainly, the technique must have developed a lot in recent years.

For me, "Jailhouse Rock" will always be coolest to watch in black and white. But I admit it would be interesting to see what a colorized version of "King Creole" would look like. How about next year, 50 years after its original release?

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

You gotta follow that dream

The summer of 1999 saw the launch of the collectors label "Follow That Dream" with the title "Burbank 68". In the eight years since then the label has produced 66 releases (61 CD's and five books with CD's). That's an average of over eight releases a year. That's an incredibly release schedule when you think about it.

Compare it with the really "dry" years 1978 to 1986 when only about 25 Elvis-releases from RCA saw the light of the day (that's three albums a year). And many were compilations with mostly old material, like "The Rocker" and "Always On My Mind".

In those days it was a long wait for a new Elvis record, and an album like "Elvis: The First Live Recordings" or "Elvis - A Golden Celebration" was a big happening, indeed. Nowadays it's a totally different story, only last year ten new FTD-titles were made available to the fans.

Still, it's not easy to please everyone. Ernst Jorgensen and Roger Semon, the men who put together the FTD-releases, have constantly been criticized for not releasing the right material, bad mixes, poor artwork on the covers and so on.

And certainly, I don't agree with everything they do either. But the amount of unreleased material that they have made available is really awesome, and I for one only have to think back to the 80's to realize how lucky the fans are to have them.

But I do admit that I’m curious as to why the FTD-titles are being released so close behind each other. My bet is Ernst Jorgensen is afraid the financial backing can disappear any second and that it's therefore best to put the records out as fast as possible. Keep a-movin, move along…

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Viva Las Vegas - Dinner or Midnight Show?

My copy of the new Elvis 2 CD "Viva Las Vegas" arrived yesterday and right now I'm listening to the second disc one more time, which is a Las Vegas show from August 21, 1969.

Apparently many others have been doing the same since it was released. Because on the forum on Elvis-collectors.com, there has been a long discussion among its members if this is the Dinner or Midnight Show (Nearly 390 comments that have been read over 14000 times have been made on this subject!).

Recording lists have been scrutinized, comparisons been made to the bootleg "The Legend Lives On" and conclusion been drawn. But there seems to be no consensus and some members put forward the theory that it's a splice of both the Dinner and Midnight Show.

Sometimes it amazes me the time and effort fans make to find out about a certain take, date or release. But I guess I'm no better, I sat part of yesterday evening listening to the record and at the same time scrutinizing Joe Tunzis "Elvis Sessions III" but sharing the fate of my fellow fans and finding no definite answer to the question either.

But I did find out that "What'd I Say" is the best version of the song I've ever heard, Ronnie Tutts drumming is amazing. "Fantastic," Elvis exclaims after the ending, and I agree 100 percent!

Sunday, September 2, 2007

"Can't tell if it's comedy or drama"

This Sunday afternoon I watched a picture called "Bubba Ho-tep" from 2002 on DVD. The plot, in short, is that Elvis and John F Kennedy are alive and in a nursing home, where they fight an ancient Egyptian mummy who eats the souls of the residents (view the trailer here).

I guess you could call it both a comedy and a horror movie. I think it's hilarious. And the best thing is, you can watch it with an audio commentary by the king. You hear Elvis (actor Bruce Campbell who is playing Elvis in the movie) telling you that he's been asked by the producer to sit in and tell him what he thinks of the picture, this "Ho-tep thing".

But he has a hard time concentrating on the movie and talks about everything from his own movie career ("I did 33 pictures, never any horror pictures though") to how to make the perfect peanut butter banana sandwich. He also mentions his meeting with Nixon, and on several occasions is interrupted when his cell phone starts ringing. One of the callers, I think, is Lisa Marie.

From time to time he does manage to make a comment about the movie ("This doesn't look like anything a dignified actor would do" and "I wish the director would do a movie that was a little more mature", for example).

A funny detail is that he two times mentions that the jumpsuits in the picture "look really familiar, they look good", but for an Elvis-fan it's pretty obvious they don't look like the real thing.

Enough said, rent "Bubba Ho-tep" as soon as possible and see it yourself. I highly recommend it!

Saturday, September 1, 2007

No put luck with Girls! Girls! Girls!

I read today that the next two Follow That Dream releases will be "Girls! Girls! Girls" and "Pot Luck". That made me think of when I heard the songs on "Girls! Girls! Girls!" for the first time.

It must have been in the early 80's. Me and my brother (who also is an Elvisfan) took the train from the suburb where we lived to the big record store in town where they had pretty much all of the LPs from Elvis catalogue. This time my brother bought the double LP "From Memphis To Vegas/From Vegas To Memphis" and I picked "Girls! Girls! Girls!".

In those days we still hadn't heard all of Elvis songs. So every LP we bought was "new" to us, and it was always very exiting to come home and put it on the record-player.

This time, I think we started with my brothers’ record, and man, it blew us away! This, we agreed, was a great double album, especially the first LP recorded live on stage in Las Vegas in 1969.

Then it was my turn with "Girls! Girls! Girls!" and I remember that I thought the title track was pretty much ok (after all it was a Leiber/Stoller number) and "I Don’t Wanna Be Tied" bumped along pretty good. But then my disappointment grew as we listened to "Where Do You Come From", "A Boy Like Me, A Girl Like You" and the terrible "Song Of The Shrimp". Even "Return To Sender" couldn't cheer me up.

Funny, I can still recall how jealous I was. I wish that I had bought "From Memphis To Vegas/From Vegas To Memphis" and that my brother had chosen "Girls! Girls! Girls!" instead. Fortunately, that feeling has long since passed but "Girls! Girls! Girls!", I have to admit, hasn’t been one of my most played Elvis albums through the years.

Maybe I would have been happier that day with my brother if I had picked “Put Luck” instead. Though Elvis recorded the majority of the songs for that album only about a week before the soundtrack session for the movie “Girls! Girls! Girls!”, the two albums are miles apart. That's why I'm happy the FTD release of “Pot Luck” is a double CD and “Girls! Girls! Girls!” only a single disc.