Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Such an easy session

While eagerly awaiting the arrival of the next FTD-release Pot Luck I've been playing its predecessor Something For Everybody quite a lot lately, to kind of get in the mood. The album was recorded during only one day (or rather, night) and listening to the outtakes it's obvious the session was a smooth ride.

Elvis nails the arrangements real quick and the result is twelve masters in under twelve hours. His voice on the ballads is soft and unforced and the fast numbers work well, too. But the album is not as strong as Elvis Is Back, despite highlights such as "There's Always Me", "Gently" and "Put The Blame On Me".

The singles recorded a couple of months later, which are included on the FTD-release, are more classic Presley recordings. I especially enjoy listening to the different ways Elvis and the band approaches "(Marie's The Name) His Latest Flame".

Something For Everybody makes for easy listening and I enjoy it. But I've always liked Pot Luck better. Maybe this is because, unlike Something For Everybody, it's not a kind of inferior version of Elvis Is Back, but rather something different, as my brother so wisely put it the other day.

By the way, yesterday I suddenly realised I had four versions of Something For Everybody (the first CD release, the one with bonus tracks, the FTD-release and the one on vinyl). I showed them all to my wife who just shook her head. Need I point out she's not an Elvis fan?

Monday, October 29, 2007

A house that has Elvis-things

This weekend an old friend of my wife together with her son, who is four years old, paid us a visit. And as is often the case when it comes to young kids, they do tend to notice some of the Elvis stuff I have laying around.

I concentrate on records, DVDs and books when it comes to Elvis. But being an Elvis fan makes me an easy target for receiving Elvis merchandise as gifts. Most of it I wouldn't dream of buying myself, but some of it I have become quite attached to over the years.

One of those things is an Elvis clock that I have in the kitchen, you know the kind where the legs are swinging back and forth. This was a gift from my sister maybe fifteen years ago, and whenever there is a child in our home they zoom in on it. Some of them start to do a little dance, clearly inspired by Elvis shaking his legs, while others stare at it in fascination.

This time, my wife's friends kid looked at it and asked what my brother was doing on the wall. He does know I have a brother, but not what he looks like, so either I'm looking as Elvis (yeah, right!) or the face on the clock is a really lousy image of the King.

Another Elvis toy that I like is my own Hound Dog. This gift my parents got me and after the first chock I now think it's really cool. Apparently, so do kids, because when one of my brothers visited me, his nearly one year old child stared hypnotized at it when it performed. And every time she was carried in the room her eyes fell on it. This is what she experienced:

video

In all fairness I have received some other Elvis gifts over the years that are not on public display in my home. One of them is a giant clock in black and gold that plays "Don't Be Cruel" and "Hound Dog" alternately every hour. That one is in the closet. It's an ugly thing, I can tell you that!

Friday, October 26, 2007

Elvis, Jerry and Jerry

Two Elvis books are awaiting my attention at the moment. The first one is an updated version of the two classic bestselling books Elvis and Elvis The Final Years by Jerry Hopkins, simply called Elvis The Biography. The second is Jerry Schillings story Me And A Guy Named Elvis.

So far I've just skimmed through the two volumes. An interesting piece of information that I didn't know is that it was Jim Morrison who gave Jerry Hopkins the idea of writing about Elvis. This happened when Hopkins was interviewing Morrison for the music magazine Rolling Stone. "I'd like to read a book about Elvis," Jim Morrison said.

Also worth noticing is that Jerry Hopkins first book about Elvis, published back in 1971, still was the only biography in print when Elvis died. Now some 500 books about Elvis have been published, Hopkins writes in his introduction.

One of the newer ones is Jerry Schillings story about his friendship with Elvis. It was published last year and is now available in paperback. As you probably know Jerry is one of the members from the Memphis Mafia that has the support of Elvis Presley Enterprises, Priscilla and Lisa Marie.

The connection is pretty obvious, because every time there's a documentary sanctioned by EPE or the Presley family Jerry is one of the persons speaking about Elvis. Still, his story is part of the complex puzzle that is Elvis Presley and I need all the pieces I can get. So I'll give it a shot.

Finally a kind of funny observation. I ordered the books at the same time but it didn't strike me until I saw them together side by side: The author in both cases is named Jerry and both books have a picture of Elvis obviously taken at the same occasion.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Elvis in Huntsville

Being in the news business myself I'm a bit envious of local reporter Dick Curtis. In the early morning hours of May 30, 1975, he and his colleague were able to film Elvis arriving in Huntsville, Alabama for his five concerts in the newly built von Braun Civic Center.

And not only that, the reporter also had a chance to welcome Elvis and hear the King answer (yeah, you guessed it) "thank you very much." You can watch this fascinating footage and also hear the reporter tell the story on WHNT NewsChannel 19's video sharing site.

By the way, Elvis seemed to be in great spirit during those days in Huntsville. You can get some idea by listening to the FTD-release Southern Nights where about half of the songs originate from the shows in the von Braun Civic Center. Guess I'm pretty jealous of those who were in the audience too...

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Ku-u-i-pod

On Elvisnews.com you can read some pretty aggressive comments regarding iPods and mp3 players. The bottom line seems to be that bootleg labels such as Southern Comfort will be forced to shut down their business because of the competition from the "file-swapping movement" and "downloading craze."

I don't agree. I think there will always be a demand for bootlegs, especially for strong releases such as The American Way series. Just look at the Follow That Dream label. One of the reasons it started back in 1999 was because of all the bootlegs. But did it stop them? Nope.

Let me tell you straight away that I don't support illegal downloading from the Internet. No way. But I have a hard time understanding how you can blame one illegal thing and defend the other. I mean, bootlegs are illegal, right?

Another thing I don't understand is the reasoning that "iPods are why I still buy CDs." Why must one thing exclude the other? I too like buying and collecting CDs, reading the liner notes and listening to the tracks on my stereo. But that doesn't stop me from downloading the music into my iPod and taking it with me whenever I'm travelling somewhere.

To me, that's the real benefit of owning an iPod, that I always have access to the Elvis Presley catalogue, wherever I happen to be. (Right now I have about 1 200 Elvis songs on my iPod and it's only half full.)

And don't forget the younger generation. There are, after all, legal ways of buying songs on the Internet, and if the kids discover Elvis by downloading him, then what's the problem? And who knows? After a while maybe they'll want to buy real CDs as well!

Saturday, October 20, 2007

"Play it James!"

As you probably have read elsewhere, guitarist James Burton was slightly injured in a car crash in Shreveport, Louisiana the other day. Didn't look too bad judging by this news report and apparently he's doing fine and can continue to work.

I've only met James Burton once, in 2005 at his international guitar festival in Shreveport. Man, it was a hot summer day! I remember standing in the sun outside the Municipal Auditorium, home of the famous radio program The Louisiana Hayride, together with a bunch of other people. This is what we were waiting for:

video

I agreed with a lot of my fellow travellers that the statue didn't really look like the guy I'd watched countless times on That's The Way It Is, On Tour and Aloha From Hawaii. But James himself seemed pleased and praised the likeness. What do you think?

Friday, October 19, 2007

Elvis Web 2.0

Have you heard about Web 2.0? Well, you're looking at a small part of it right now. I learned today that it's the name for all the new communities and services on the Internet where the users themselves generate and distribute content, such as blogs, Facebook and Youtube.

Elvis is alive and well on Web 2.0. Take Youtube, for example. Search for "Elvis Presley" and you get over 27 000 hits! Pick a video, and when you've watched it you can post a comment and share your thoughts with others (another definition of the term Web 2.0).

The one Elvis video that has been viewed most times on Youtube is Unchained Melody from June 21, 1977. Since it was posted a year ago it has been played more than 2 million times and 3 600 comments have been made!

A quick search reveals that videos from Elvis CBS TV Special are popular on Youtube. Elvis Presley Enterprises should take notice of this and releases Elvis In Concert on DVD together with the complete shows from June 19 and 21 as a nice bonus. Maybe someone should tell them about Web 2.0?

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Priest and impersonator

The news agency Reuters had a piece today about a guy in Italy that believes you can worship God and Elvis at the same time. Would you believe he's a Catholic priest as well as an Elvis Presley impersonator?

According to the article, he finds his spiritual inspiration in the late rock legend. He also feels his responsibility as a priest is to "walk this Earth in love for Jesus Christ", a task in which he is inspired by Elvis "search for spirituality in his own life".

Check out his web site which have two separate entries: one for the priest, and one for the artist. Click on "L'artista" and see for yourself. One thing's for sure, he seems serious about his jumpsuits!

Monday, October 15, 2007

I love it a lot!

It's a more adult Elvis film, no question about it. Elvis shares a bed with a woman, gets to say both "dammit" and "sonofab...", shaves and showers and in one scene stands in front of the camera dressed in underpants.

I'm talking, of course, about Live A Little, Love A Little that I watched for the first time on DVD the other night. Breaking the formula of most of his previous films makes it well worth seeing, together with the fact that it's actually quite good (view the trailer here).

The tempo is high, Elvis is credible in his role as a photographer and there's plenty of comedy. "Nuts, absolutely nuts," as Elvis himself points out a couple of times. Also, three of the four songs are excellent, I especially like Edge Of Reality that was used in the dream sequence.

Speaking of the soundtrack, the actress Elvis picks up at a party when he sings A Little Less Conversations appeared as a guest during Elvis Week in 2005 in Memphis. I saw her at a tribute concert where she got up and danced to the same song when the band performed it. I clocked her appearance in Live A Little, Love a Little to little over five minutes but apparently that was enough to make her famous in the Elvis world.

Another plus with the movie is Elvis himself. He is extremely good looking with his jet black hair combed straight back and wearing all sorts of cool clothes. Finally, lets not forget the dog in the movie, the Great Dane named Albert. I read somewhere that he was nominated for the equivalent to an Oscar for trained animals.

The only complaint I have is the fight that Elvis has with Red and Sonny West in a newspapers printing office. It's far too long and why it actually starts is a bit unclear. OK, Elvis gets fired but why would his boss have two workers beating the crap out of him because of that? Maybe this was a remnant from his earlier films where a fight was obligatory.

But this is a minor point. To me Live A Little, Love A Little shows that Elvis at 33 could do a pretty decent job as an adult actor and make really watchable movies. Add to this that the new DVD release has great picture and sound quality and you're in for a treat in front of the television!

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Welcome to my blog

A version of my latest posting was published as an article on ElvisNews.com, and I was happy to see that it brought some reactions. I'm also glad that the link to my blog has given me new readers. You're all very welcome!

It's like I write in the header on top of the page: not a day goes by without Elvis taking part in my life in some way or the other. That's why I started this blog. Here I can tell other fans about my Elvis experiences and express my opinions about things dealing with Elvis.

Hopefully, you can relate to some of the things I write. Maybe you've had similar experiences when it comes to Elvis or maybe you don't agree at all. You're always welcome to leave a comment on the blog and tell me what you think. In fact, I hope you do.

So far, it's been great fun and my goal is to write a couple of times a week. I hope you continue to visit Elvis Today and enjoy reading it. Once again, welcome!

Friday, October 12, 2007

This is not the story

Today my work took me to Stockholm, and on my way home I picked up the new issue of the British music magazine Q on the train station. The magazine celebrates 21 years, and in this particularly issue you can read about "the 21 people that changed music."

Among those listed are John Lennon & Paul McCartney, Bob Dylan, Kurt Cobain, David Bowie, Madonna and yes, Elvis Presley. But the article about Elvis, written by singer, songwriter and guitarist Richard Hawley was, at least to me, a great disappointment.

The reason for this is that it's written very much along the lines of "Elvis died when he went into the army." After describing his love for the early Elvis, "My favourite song is probably Blue Moon Of Kentucky" I know where this is leading, when Hawley one third into the text writes that Elvis "shot himself in the foot...and started believing his own myth around the time he was in the army."

Therefore, it's no surprise when, a little further into the article, I'm told that "the majority of his career he was either really fat and bloated or he was lost in those shitty films". What confirmation I need I get with the sentence: "You saw a brief flash of the old Elvis again in '68 and then it all went back to business as usual, the Las Vegas horseshit."

This is to be expected in an article about Elvis written in the '80s, but c'mon! Nowadays I thought we were well past that, and that Elvis, thanks to the '60s and '70s box sets and Peter Guralnicks books among others, had the recognition he rightly deserves, especially in the music press. Apparently I was wrong, and that makes me sad.

To make matters worse, the magazine also writes about "the 21 albums that changed the world." And yeah, you guessed right, among the 21 there is not a single one recorded by a certain Elvis Presley. Sigh!

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

A fly on the wall

I recently read that the famous "Million Dollar Quartet" has been turned into a musical that is playing at a theatre in the USA. According to the synopsis, Sam Phillips knows his recording stars are on the move and makes plans for a one-of-a-kind recording session that kicks off with "Blue Suede Shoes". Pure fiction, in other words.

Better to experience the real thing, and that's what I did this afternoon. For the first time I played the 50th anniversary CD edition of this jam session where Elvis Presley, Carl Perkins, Jerry Lee Lewis and Johnny Cash got together that December afternoon, 1956.

At least they are all on the photograph that was taken, but the question has always been if Johnny Cash actually sang on any of the songs. In his autobiography Cash states that his voice is on the tape. "It's not obvious, because I was farthest away from the mike and singing a lot higher than I usually did in order to stay in key with Elvis, but I guarantee you, I'm there," he writes.

I don't know, The Man In Black must've been a really long way from the mike, because I can't detect him in any of the songs. My bet is there's only a trio singing and playing. And the one who's in command is obviously Elvis.

He sings lead most of the time, with Carl Perkins playing the guitar and Jerry Lee hammering on the piano and doing a lot of background singing. The Killer wasn't famous at the time, and I don't think he would've let Elvis dominate so much if the jam had taken place a few years later.

One of the highlights is Elvis impersonating Jackie Wilson impersonating Elvis on "Don't Be Cruel". It's also interesting to hear Elvis telling the guys that he still thinks that "That's When Your Heartaches Begin" could be a hit: "If somebody could sing it right I'd think it sell." (The following month he did record it).

On a final note, "The Million Dollar Quartet" is not something that works well as background music. But if you put on your headphones, close your eyes and really listen, you do become a fly on the wall in the Sun Records studio that legendary day, over 50 years ago.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Elvis-spotting

When I travel abroad, I always look for signs of Elvis. And this past week, during my vacation in Helsinki, was no exception.

After spotting the "Kismet" chocolate bar and passing a restaurant called "Memphis" I found my first real trace of Elvis at a newsstand. Although I don't understand a word of Finnish, a picture of Elvis from his '68 Comeback Special on the cover of a music magazine called "Rytmi" caught my eye.

Inside was a total of 16 pages devoted to Elvis, apparently in connection with the 30th anniversary. The articles seemed to be about the Las Vegas years, Elvis sights in Memphis, the fan club in Finland and collecting Elvis. There was also some other stuff I really couldn't figure out (for example, an article titled "Elvis Suomessa"), but the magazine made for a fine souvenir.

In the record shops I visited there were the usual CDs and DVDs with Elvis, together with a Finnish effort, a double CD with Elvis songs from the 50's. Not very interesting, but nice to see that our man was well represented.

By the way, one record store had the American edition of the "Walk A Mile in my Shoes" box set, which includes the sheet of stamps depicting Elvis record covers from the 70's. Why this sheet wasn't included in the European edition, as was the case with the 50's and 60's box sets, is one of those little Elvis mysteries I probably never will be able to figure out.

I was tempted to buy it, but 82 euros for those stamps seemed a little to much. I had the same dilemma in Santiago in Chile a few years ago, but that time I choose to spend my money on another box set instead, the "Behind Closed Doors" 4 LP bootleg. But that's another story...

Friday, October 5, 2007

Round and around it goes

The last couple of days I've been humming the song "Kismet" to myself over and over. Would you believe the reason for that is a Finnish chocolate bar?

You see, this week I went to Helsinki for a vacation. My first day in the capital I visited the supermarket and that's where I spotted it, near the check-out counter. A chocolate bar that the manufacturer had named - yeah, you guessed it - "Kismet".

I didn't buy it, but that didn't help. On my way back I started singing to myself: "When two hearts stand still, it's destiny's will, it's kismet" and the other lines I remembered from this "Harum Scarum" number.

It's funny how a certain song can get stuck in your memory. This one certainly did in mine and I've found myself humming it from time to time for days now. I just can't seem to get it out of my mind.

Can't blame the company behind the chocolate bar, though. The fact that an Elvis Presley movie song could be associated with one of their products must be something that never entered their mind.

And I guess it could have been worse. What if they'd named the chocolate bar "Confidence", for example?


Monday, October 1, 2007

I'll be home for silent night

Seems I was wrong when I wrote last month that there's a "new" Christmas album with Elvis being released every year (read that posting here).

This time around the greedy record company has surpassed itself by issuing not only "Elvis Home For The Holidays" but also "Christmas Peace" (this time in a eco-slip case version) and "Christmas With Elvis" (released through Hallmark).

The funny thing is, at the same time the far superior "If Everyday Was Like Christmas" from 1994 is still available. This CD includes all the Christmas songs, has good sound quality and fine liner notes and makes all the other Christmas compilations obsolete even before they hit the market.

I can only find one tiny fault with it. Listen closely to "Christmas Message From Elvis" followed by "Silent Night" and you'll realise the intro is from "I'll Be Home From Christmas" and not from "Silent Night".

Why RCA didn't use the real intro I've never been able to figure out. I haven't found an explanation for it anywhere so I hand over the question to you. And if you don't have "If Everyday Was Like Christmas" my Christmas message is: Buy it!