Saturday, December 29, 2007

You have to own Tupelo's own

If you haven't already seen the DVD Tupelo's Own Elvis Presley it's about time that you do! I have just spent a rainy afternoon watching it once more and it lifted my spirits immediately.

The highlight is 13 minutes and 9 seconds of Elvis performing live at the Mississippi-Alabama Fair and Dairy Show in Tupelo on the 26th of September 1956 - with sound!

When I first heard this performance on A Golden Celebration back in 1985 I certainly thought it interesting, despite the poor quality of the recording. But brought together with the footage it really gives you an idea of what an exciting thing a Presley concert must have been back in the 50's.

There's screaming, there's the band and there's, above all, Elvis Presley moving around and working the crowd. Seeing and hearing Elvis perform such classics as "Heartbreak Hotel", "Long Tall Sally" and "Don't Be Cruel" in this way is highly enjoyable.

Unfortunately, there is only parts of "I Got A Woman" and "Hound Dog", but what there is shows Elvis really going wild in front of the screaming fans.

One thing that I find interesting is that Elvis has his guitar strapped on for the whole show, except on the last song which is "Hound Dog". On the footage from his show in Tupelo a year later, also included on the DVD, Elvis is without his guitar the whole time. This clearly gives him more freedom as he moves and gyrates even more on that show.

Tupelo's Own Elvis Presley is without a doubt one of the most interesting releases in quite some time, and its importance as a historical document is priceless. After watching it, I'm sure you'll agree!

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Elvis Christmas Youtube Special

Christmas is coming to an end but you can still enjoy what's left of it by visiting the Elvis Information Network. There you'll find a great selection of Elvis Christmas clips EIN has brought together on their site.

My favorite is the Blue Christmas edit using the original song together with '68 Comeback Special footage and home movies from Graceland. Great stuff!

Another superb clip that indeed hasn't got anything to do with Christmas but nevertheless is funny to watch is Ain't That Loving You Baby? featuring Laurel & Hardy dancing to Elvis music. Don't miss that one!

Monday, December 24, 2007

Blue Christmas - my very first Elvis record

I'm not big on traditions but I have a few. One is playing, every Christmas, the first record I ever bought with Elvis, and this year is no exception. Right now Blue Christmas, a RCA LP manufactured in Sweden in 1976, is spinning on the turntable of my record-player.

Unfortunately I can't recall what year I purchased it, but it must have been in the late 70's. A couple of months before one of my brothers had bought the double album Elvis Forever, and after that I had borrowed a few Elvis records from a class-mate, amongst others Elvis In Concert and Mahalo From Elvis.

A few days before Christmas that year I tagged along with my family to a department store. As my parents kept themselves busy shopping Christmas dinner I visited the record department. And there, on a rack, was a whole bunch of Elvis Camden (or Pickwick, can't remember) records on display.

I didn't know a thing about these records or the songs on them at the time, but after some serious thinking I picked one of them where I thought Elvis looked cool on the cover. It could have been Elvis Sings Flaming Star, but I'm not sure.

What I do remember is that just as I was going to look for my parents and show them my find I spotted another Elvis LP amongst a bunch of Christmas records. I don't know why, maybe I was caught up in the Christmas spirit, but I exchanged the Camden record for Blue Christmas.

Home again I played it over and over through the Holidays. I especially liked the title track, as well as "O Come All Ye Faithful" and "Santa Claus Is Back In Town." As I listen to it now, I still think it has a pretty good mix of songs from Elvis two Christmas albums.

As you can see the cover was taken from Elvis' Christmas Album from 1957, not a very imaginative move. And speaking of the cover, on all the CD releases (as well as on the latest LP release from 1985) of the first Christmas album the cover is not the original one. You can spot this by comparing the parcels.

I was first made aware of this in an article in the Swedish fan magazine Tidskriften Elvis back in 1987. Entitled "The Christmas When Elvis Gave Us New Christmas presents" it described in extreme detail every parcel and how it differed from the original one in wrapping, size and so on.

At the time I thought the article was pretty corny, and I still do. But the fact remains that it was a new cover made to look like the old one. Why this was the case I have no idea. Anyone?

Sunday, December 23, 2007

From another part of the globe

Yesterday I was at a party together with a couple of friends. One of them had recently been in Jerusalem, and knowing how much I like Elvis, she'd bought a CD there with Elvis on the cover and the title Return To Happiness - Great Hits of the 60's.

She told me she had entered a record store in Jerusalem and asked if they had any Elvis records. The sales clerk had looked slightly offended and then answered, "Of course we do!"

But my friend wanted it to be an Elvis record made in Israel, and that turned out to be more difficult as all Elvis records were imported ones. The second best alternative the sales clerk could come up with was the record I got.

Despite featuring Elvis both on the front and the back of the cover it only includes the Elvis number "Good Luck Charm". The other 23 songs are from such artists as Diana Ross, Paul Anka and Ray Peterson (you can read about his connection to Elvis here).

Still, it's nice to be able to include an album from another part of the globe with Elvis on it in my collection. And this one looks quite different with its Hebrew lettering. So, thank you, my friend!

By the way, the evening ended with some heavy Elvis karaoke, but that's another story...

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Memories of Elvis and Chuck

In the book Me And A Guy Named Elvis that I wrote about a couple of days ago there's one passage where Jerry Schilling describes one of his fondest Vegas memories. This is a night when Elvis is bringing Sammy Davis Jr. back to his suit after a show.

As Elvis, Priscilla, Jerry, Sammy and his wife are making their way through the lobby they hear "some unmistakable guitar riffs" and stroll into a nearly empty lounge where Chuck Berry is performing. Chuck is happy to see them and starts addressing them between songs.

This episode reminded me of a very similar story a colleague at my work told me a few months back that you can read here. In this story, my colleague, who worked in Las Vegas during the 70's, is watching Chuck Berry perform a lounge show at the Las Vegas Hilton in 1974, when Elvis, Sammy Davis Jr. and a couple of girls walk in to see the show.

Was my colleague and Jerry Schilling describing the same thing? To find an answer, I showed the book to my colleague to ask him what he thought. The day after he told me that he wasn't sure about the year anymore, it could have been 1972, and not 1974. One thing he was certain of though, was that the lounge was packed with people and not nearly empty.

But even if it was in 1972, it doesn't fit with Schillings story of Priscilla being there. She could hardly have been in the company of Elvis in 1972 (during his first Las Vegas engagement that year Priscilla told him she was leaving) and much less so in 1974.

So either this is really two different occasions, or Jerry Schillings memory is failing him; maybe Priscilla wasn't there and maybe the place wasn't nearly empty as he describes it. Jerry, if you are reading this, please let me know what you think!

One final thing: To try to solve my little dilemma, I searched the Internet to find out when Chuck Berry was performing in Las Vegas during the 70's, but found zilch. Not very surprisingly, there is a lot less information about Chuck Berry than there is about a certain Elvis Presley.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Have you heard the news

What do you know! A couple of weeks ago I forwarded my post about the FTD release of the album Pot Luck to ElvisNews.com and it's now number five on their "Hot Articles" list. Apparently the post, Pot Luck With Elvis, have had over 1 200 visits. Not bad, eh?!

Speaking of ElvisNews.com, it's one of the best Elvis sites around when it comes to keeping the fans up to date with what's happening in the Elvis world. I turn to it daily, sometimes more than once, and if you haven't payed it a visit be sure to do so.

The ElvisNews.com homepage recently got a new look that, not surprisingly, evoked both positive and negative responses from its readers (you find them here). But, working daily with publishing news on the Internet, I for one must say I like it as it makes it more easy to find your way around the home page.

There are a few other Elvis sites that I also check for the latest information about our man. You can find them under my Elvis links. And if you have other sites about Elvis you would like to share, please let me know.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Me and a guy named Elvis

I guess everybody has their own image of Elvis and yours might differ a lot from mine. Even those who were close to Elvis paint different pictures of him. One of the latest efforts is by Jerry Schillings whose book Me And A Guy Named Elvis I recently bought.

Jerry Schilling should know his subject. He was a friend of Elvis for 23 years and part of the Memphis Mafia.

After finishing the book yesterday, I think it' safe to point out that Jerry Schilling really thought of Elvis as his best friend. When he was young he idolised him, and in 1974 Elvis bought him a house. "How many friends buy you a house?" he asks in the book.

To me it's the first half of the book that is the most interesting. It's fascinating reading about how Jerry at twelve, in the summer of 1954, suddenly finds himself playing football in the same team as a nineteen-year-old quarterback named Elvis Presley.

I also enjoyed the part where Elvis asks him to come work for him in 1964. And also, how he during his first stay in the Bel Air house in California, scares the crap out of a woman who turns out to be Ann-Margret on her way to pay a nightly visit to Elvis.

Jerry Schilling also shares some stories revealing Elvis shrewd sense of humour. In one, Elvis has just returned from the restroom in a restaurant when he suddenly walks to the maƮtre d's station. "Excuse me-are you...," a puzzled woman waiting for a table asks. "I get that all the time," Elvis answers back.

Me And A Guy Named Elvis is well written and a good read. But at the same time I get the feeling it becomes a little too much diplomatic at times.

For example, when Elvis in 1973 fires the Colonel when he doesn't want Elvis to tour overseas, Schilling writes: "I wanted him to tour overseas...but I also knew how hard the Colonel had worked for Elvis."

I also think that Elvis downfall is talked about in too general terms, when there is obviously a lot more to tell to get the reader to understand why it was happening. Maybe this is because Jerry, as a friend, doesn't want to go into any details in that area, or maybe it's because of his close friendship with Priscilla and Lisa-Marie.

Jerry Schilling still lives in the house Elvis gave him. That speaks a lot about how he feels about Elvis. And I guess he has his reasons for telling some things and excluding others.

All in all, the book is well worth reading and gives you some new insights into the life of Elvis Presley. And also, how it was to be Elvis friend.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

The wonder of Elvis

Sometimes it just hits me how much I love Elvis music and what a great feeling I get from listening to it. Today I had such a moment driving to work.

On the highway I put the fourth CD from the Today, Tomorrow & Forever box set in the car stereo and there was "See See Rider" from February 1970 blasting through the speakers. It's hard to explain what I felt, but I remember thinking "Man, I'm gonna listen to Elvis and his music until the very day I die."

I think I played the song three times, and then there was "Polk Salad Annie" followed by "Walk A Mile In My Shoes." It was a very pleasant car ride.

It also reminded me of when I first listened to the On Stage album and heard these songs. I can't have been more than a couple of years into Elvis when someone told me you could borrow LP records in the basement of our local library.

With an image in my head of a lot of Elvis records I hurried off to the library together with my brother, but lost all hope when I realised there was only a single crate with some LP records in it. But faith was kind that day; one of the records was a scratched copy of On Stage.

Back home again, we played the record over and over. What did we care that it was scratchy, it sounded great! And although I can't remember after all these years, I'm pretty sure I was feeling something similar to what I did this morning on the highway.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Sound advice

Right now I'm listening to "Santa Claus Is Back In Town" on the radio. And the reason for it being played is me. You see, at my work I have a colleague who has a daily radio show where the listeners can celebrate friends and family by wishing a song.

Needless to say, Elvis is often requested, and my colleague who knows what my musical preferences are, often asks me for advice. "They want to hear a Christmas song with Elvis, which one should I pick?" was today's question.

I just love the story of how "Santa Claus Is Back In Town" was written by Leiber and Stoller while the recording session for Elvis' Christmas Album was actually going on. It's also a great song and one of the highlights of the album, so it was a simple choice. (Although I first thought of "The First Noel"...not!)

So you see, I have some power over what Elvis music is being played on the radio and I try to use it wisely. It's a great chance of letting people know there is more to Elvis than "Hound Dog", "Love Me Tender" and the laughing version of "Are You Lonesome Tonight".

That's why the listeners have made the acquaintance of "Make Me Know It", "T-R-O-U-B-L-E" and "She Thinks I Still Care", amongst others. Any requests?

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Why can't they get the head right?

The other day I walked past a gift store selling, among other things, Elvis Presley action figures made by McFarlane Toys. I went inside, and looking at the Blue Hawaii Elvis, I was once more reminded that I've never seen a figure of Elvis where the face looks quite right.

The same seems to be true when it comes to statues of Elvis. One example of this is the life-sized Elvis Aloha statue that was revealed this summer on the site where the historic satellite concert was broadcast back in 1973.

I'm the first to admit the bronze statue is an impressing sight and a fitting tribute but once again, I think there is something wrong with the face. Maybe it's the look in the eyes, or rather, the lack of life in the eyes.

Maybe that's the explanation, that it's impossibly to recreate a decent image of Elvis face with his eyes open. Judging by McFarlanes '68 Comeback Special figure (one that I own myself) that just might be true. This figure is, at least in my opinion, the best of the bunch, and Elvis eyes are closed.

Next year McFarlane will release another figure from the comeback, this one from the closing segment of the show where Elvis sings "If I Can Dream". This one looks like a good effort, and Elvis do have his eyes closed here too.

Or is the simple solution that the face of Elvis from his Comeback Special is the one easiest to recreate?

Thursday, December 6, 2007

I really dig this

A while back I ordered the two FTD records Pot Luck and Something For Everybody from Now Dig This. Pretty quick I received the latter as the former wasn't released at the time. Then when I got Pot Luck it came together with another copy of Something For Everybody.

Being a nice guy I returned copy number two and in return was told that I was going to get the next two issues of Elvis - The Man And His Music to cover my postage. Obviously, they were nice guys, too.

Anyway, this week I found my first issue, no 78, waiting for me in the mail, and it was an interesting read. I especially liked the interview with Tickle Me co-star Edward Faulkner who played Brad Bentley in the movie.

I can't recall doing too many takes. We'd rehearse a couple of times, then maybe do one or two takes, and if Mr Taurog liked what he saw he'd print it," Faulkner tells the magazine. (Sounds a bit like Ed Wood to me!)

"But the movie was fun to make," he continues, and reading that makes me wish I could tell him it's fun to watch.

Other interesting stuff is an article where Canadian jazz drummer Arni May shares his memories of when he became part of a local 16 piece band playing behind Elvis own band on stage in the Ottawa Auditorium. "They wanted us to play behind them because they liked the sound of the band."

It's stories like these I like the most with The Man And His Music. That is, stories told about Elvis from those who were there when it happened, who worked with him or knew him.

That's why I'm looking forward to my next issue, and that's why I'm gonna take out a subscription after that.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Something from Elvis wardrobe for me

I'm finally the proud owner of a piece of Elvis clothing. Last week the 4 LP set Elvis: The Other Sides - Worldwide Gold Award Hits, Vol. 2 I ordered a while back finally arrived, and with it the bonus envelope containing a swatch of Elvis wardrobe. This is what it looks like:

Maybe it's a bit silly, but to me the little green piece of cloth is fascinating. Even though there is no guarantee that Elvis wore the thing, it's genuine and once belonged to him.

Is it part of a shirt, a jacket or a pair or trousers? Who knows, but I admit browsing through some of my Elvis books looking for a match, but, not very surprisingly, finding nothing.

Unfortunately there is a downside to Elvis discarded clothing being cut up as souvenirs for the LP set released back in 1971. As a lot of it was from the 50's that means not much of the clothes from the early career is left. You can read about it here.

Despite this, I'm happy for my tiny piece of Elvis wardrobe. I can assure you I will take good care of it.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

A special greeting

One of my brothers and his wife had their first child, a girl, a week ago, and this weekend me and my wife paid them a visit. And what gift could be more perfect to bring the new-born than Elvis Sings For Children And Grownups Too!

I went through some trouble getting a copy of the LP with the A Special Memories of Elvis Greeting Card included on the back of the cover. Not that the baby girl would mind particularly if it was missing, but my brother, who like me is a huge Elvis fan, would understand the importance of the card being there.

I found the LP on the Internet, and through e-mail communication with the seller was told that, yes, the card was on the back and had never been removed. But when I received the album the card wasn't there. What to do?

Well, that's when I remembered that I'd bought an extra copy of the card in question in Tupelo in 2005. When I visited the gift shop next to Elvis birthplace I spotted a stack of, you guessed it, A Special Memories of Elvis Greeting Card selling for $2.00 a piece. As my own card at home was a bit worn I bought one.

So I decided to part with it, and now have only my old worn one. But as I saw my brother's eyes light up as he realised the greeting card was included, I understood it was a small price to pay.

As a final note: Six years ago I bought a CD copy of Elvis Sings For Children And Grownups Too! to my sisters first child. You can read about that and other suitable Elvis presents for children here.