Tuesday, December 30, 2008

From Elvis Today via Elvisnews.com to EIN

I was delighted the other day to see that Elvisnews.com used my blog as a source and wrote about "I'll Be Home On Christmas Day" being voted second best Christmas song in Sweden. And I was even happier when a day later I noticed that the Elvis Information Network mentioned this also. It felt great having helped spread a piece of news related to Elvis, although Elvis Today isn't a news site.

In fact, EIN went one step further, getting in touch with a the writer of the song, Michael Jarrett, who was thrilled hearing the news:

"I was reminded today that sometimes one can reach a milestone even at my age", Jarrett comments. "It was very exciting for me to hear that one of the biggest newspapers in Sweden ranked Elvis' "I'll Be Home On Christmas Day" the second best Christmas song ever! This is truly an honor for me as a songwriter. There are many wonderful Christmas songs that we all enjoy each year, and having my song chosen to be second best is quite a thrill".

Thanks to EIN I also learned that Michael Jarrett, who also wrote "I'm Leavin'" for Elvis, will be touring Europe (and Sweden!) in May 2009 as part of "The Original Elvis Tribute 2009." Jarrett will be playing keyboard and bass player Duke Bardwell will be part of the tour, too.

That's a show I gotta catch. It would be great to have Michael Jarrett autograph the "I'm Leavin'" single and telling him that the song has always been a favourite of mine. Did you know he wrote it in the shower!? Read about that here.

And before I'm leavin' this post, be sure to visit Michael Jarretts blog where he revels a bunch of stuff about "I'll Be Home On Christmas Day" that I'd never heard about. For example that the alternate verse included the names of Michael’s children, and that Jarrett didn't think Elvis had sung that verse until he heard an alternate take nearly 38 years after it was recorded. Just click here and then choose Michael's corner.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

A King In The Making

Sometimes I can't help but feeling jealous of certain people who got to see and meet Elvis during different stages throughout his life and career. One such person is photojournalist Alfred Wertheimer who was asked to photograph RCA's new raising star in 1956.

But, not only am I jealous when it comes to Mr Wertheimer, I'm also grateful to him for telling his story and making hundreds of his photographs available in his book Elvis: A King In The Making. I already owned his earlier effort, Elvis '56 - In The Beginning, but when I found the updated version at a bargain price earlier this month I didn't hesitate.

Turned out it was a good decision. Elvis: A King In The Making is a big book that weighs 2,2 kilos. (At least my copy does, according to my bathroom scales!). It's packed with photographs that document Elvis in a way that was never done again, and it's a joy to browse through.

That's what I did today, at the same time playing the perfect soundtrack, the album Elvis 56, released 1996. In fact, one of Werthheimer's shots graces the cover, and a couple more are included in the accompanying booklet.

Anyway, having listened to more than my fair share of Christmas songs these last couple if days it was a welcomed diversion. And, thanks to Alfred Wertheimer, I could see for myself how it looked in RCA's Studio One in New York the day Elvis recorded "Hound Dog," at the same time as I was listening to the song!

But, not only was Alfred Wertheimer in the studio with Elvis, he also visited his home at Audubon Drive in Memphis and the photos taken there are among my favourites. Maybe because I visited the house in 2005, but mostly, I think, because Wertheimer's work shows Elvis relaxed and feeling safe, together with family and friends.

The photographs of Elvis horsing around in the swimming pool are priceless! Apparently Wertheimer asked Gladys for a bathing suit so he could get in the pool and shoot Elvis at eye-level. Gladys, according to Wertheimer, kindly loaned him one.

Elvis: A King In The Making is a magnificent piece of Elvis history, and the reproduced, high quality prints make Alfred Wertheimer's photographs justice in a way that Elvis '56 - In The Beginning, never did. If I haven't convinced you to get your hands on a copy, then maybe this review will.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

I'll Be Home On Christmas Day

Yesterday I was pleasantly surprised to see that one of the biggest daily newspapers in Sweden ranked Elvis' "I'll Be Home On Christmas Day" as the second best Christmas song ever. The article was published in Aftonbladet, and you'll find it here.

In reality it's an impossible task to choose only one of Elvis' Christmas tracks, the writer of the article points out, and wonders how one can choose between "Blue Christmas" and "Santa Claus Is Back In Town. Or between the beautiful ballads "I'll Be Home For Christmas" and "If Every Day Was Like Christmas."

But, the choice gets to be "I'll Be Home On Christmas Day," the reason being that the song deserves more attention, the writer goes on. And because "Elvis takes the train between country, gospel and soul and creates a song that would have qualified for a place on his best album ever, From Elvis In Memphis."

Well, he seems to know what he's talking about. I think it's a great song, and have a soft spot for the bluesier June remake version, first released on the Memories of Christmas album. And thanks to Ernst Jorgensen there's a couple of more versions available, from both the May and June sessions, most of them featuring the alternate verse:

"Been so long since I've seen little John, Michele, Christine and Kelly; And I almost forgot with all the presents, that I bought a purse for little sister to carry. If I could set aside my pride, I just be on my way. I'd catch that train tomorrow, I'll Be Home On Christmas Day."

By the way, there's a photo montage video, capturing the feeling of the song, on Youtube. I found it thanks to Elvis Information Network's Youtube favourites. Be sure to pay it a visit and get in that Elvis Christmas mood.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

One of the worst albums ever

Only ten tracks on each disc, a very short running time, and no new material whatsoever. Yet I recently bought the two "new" Camden CDs I Got Lucky and Elvis Sings Hits From His Movies Volume 1.

I have written about my reasons earlier, when I added Burning Love And Hits From His Movies and Separate Ways to my collection last year. It all boils down to fond memories and nostalgic reasons, I guess.

But, listening to Elvis Sings Hits From His Movies this week, I couldn't help thinking that this must be one of the worst Elvis album ever. Not only is the title downright misleading (there are no hits on it, just a mishmash of old movie songs), but it also includes some of the weakest material ever recorded by Elvis ("Confidence" and "Old MacDonald").

What's more, the album only has eight movie songs on it, the last two tracks being bonus songs, the studio cuts "Guitar Man" and "Big Boss Man." Granted, these two are the strongest of the bunch, but that didn't help save the day.

The album only reached the 87th chart position in the US back when it was originally released in 1972. Maybe not very surprisingly, the record stores started returning Camden records in huge quantities about the same time.

The Colonel's solution? Another album in the same vein, only this time coupled with Elvis' new hit single "Burning Love"/"It's A Matter Of Time." That one, Burning Love And Hits From His Movies, reached number 22 a couple of months later, selling nearly a million copies. The Colonel must've been pleased. I wonder what Elvis thought about it?

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Elvis In Demand Vol. 2?

I have to admit I haven't been caught up in the Christmas spirit quite yet, having worked long hours the last couple of days. But a Christmas card from The Official Elvis Presley Fan Club of Great Britain is as good start as any.

The fan club sends one each Christmas, and I think it's a nice gesture. This time around, a Yuletide Extra was included with the card, where Todd Slaughter and Victoria Molloy wrote the following:

"In our next Fan Club Magazine, we hope to be in a position to announce a very special CD album release - one which we have been working on for over two years. We are very proud of this project, which we believe to be both unique, and extremely marketable. We are just now awaiting the approval on EPE and Sony USA, so please keep your fingers crossed. This will be an album that will enhance Elvis Presley's standing in the UK, and one which will be applauded by our music industry."

What this is all about, I have no idea, but I gotta admit I'm curious. Here are three wild guesses:

1. The EP Collection Vol. 3. This is a favourite idea of mine, a follow up to the beautiful The EP Collection and its successor The EP Collection Vol. 2, both released in the early 80s. But no, that can't be it, as it would be a vinyl, and not a CD album release.

2. A remix of "Let Yourself Go", done in the same style as "A Little Less Conversation". Surely a winner. But, no album that one, only a single, so that guess can't be right, either.

3. A second volume of the successful LP album Elvis In Demand, which was put together by the British Fan Club and released in 1977. The idea was for the fans to write down five Elvis songs they would like to see on the album, and in that way try to stay away from the mainstream compilations at the time.

My third guess isn't so bad, is it? With songs such as "Hi-Heel Sneakers," "Long Lonely Highway," "Suspicion" and "The Sound Of Your Cry" Elvis In Demand sold well and reached the number 12 spot on the LP charts. And the single drawn from the LP to help promote the album was successfull, as well.

Actually, a guy called Andy Swanson wrote about the idea of an Elvis In Demand Vol. 2 in the latest fan club magazine, stating that "it would be interesting now with such a different fan base if we could find out what tracks would be on there today." I for one agree.

There's only one fault with guess number three. The fan club hasn't asked us which songs should be on it. So it must be something else. Guesses, anyone?

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

"Together they burn up the screen"

Because of a cold I called in sick today, and spent the entire day at home. In the afternoon I was really bored, so I decided to catch an Elvis movie. I picked up my copy of Viva Las Vegas from the shelf, inserted the disc in the DVD-player and threw myself on the couch.

Viva Las Vegas is a fun movie to watch, if for no other reason because of the obvious chemistry between Elvis and Ann-Margret. "Together they burn up the screen," the trailer proclaims, and that's no exaggeration! A couple of good songs, among them the title track, "C'mon Everybody" and the humorous duet "The Lady Loves Me" also plays a part, of course.


Another song I've always enjoyed is the tender ballad "Today, Tomorrow And Forever." But not until today have I realised that Elvis is singing only slightly more than one minute of the song in the movie, and that made me come up with a theory.

Maybe the reason the song is so short is that the whole scene was filmed as a duet, but then edited down, when for some reason it was decided not to let Ann-Margret sing in it. Could it have been the work of the good old Colonel, perhaps? Maybe I'm completely off the mark, what do you think?

I also have to mention a blooper I noticed. When Lucky and Rusty are flying a chopper over the Hoover Dam Elvis wears a basketball cap and headphones one moment, and neither cap nor headphones the next. It kind of reminded me of the beginning in Clambake where Elvis drives his sports car, and wears sunglasses when the camera is far away but no glasses in the close ups.

Finally, did you know there's a connection between the Grand Prix race in Viva Las Vegas and the podracing sequence in Star Wars: Episode I-The Phantom Menace? Be sure to check out Tyggrius' Elvis-Viva Las Star Wars-post over at The Film Frontier blog.

Monday, December 8, 2008

My wish came true - part two

Looking back, I can't say I'm surprised that the Swedish Radio didn't buy my idea about a radio program dedicated to Elvis' Christmas music. After all, the script (and tape!) must have looked and sounded very amateurish to the poor bugger who opened my letter. But I still think he or she could've sent me a "no, thank you" note.

But fate can play some funny tricks, let me tell you. Nearly twenty years later I found myself working as a journalist at, yeah you guessed it, the Swedish Radio! And although my field was news reporting, I felt I had to act when one day there came a request from headquarters to come up with ideas for radio programs to be sent during the Christmas holidays.

Even though it was many years ago, I remembered my idea about an Elvis Christmas program, and came up with a synopsis that I sent to my bosses. A couple of days later I got the green light: yes I could do the programme, and yes, it was to be an one hour show broadcast on Christmas Eve at 19 PM. In other words, prime time!

I got lucky
I couldn't believe my luck and went to work writing a script that in all fairness must have been miles from the one I penned down in the early eighties. No big surprise why, I knew a lot more about Elvis now, and also a lot more about making radio.

This time around I wanted to tell the listeners not only what went on in the recording studio when Elvis cut the Christmas tracks or how the songs were received by fans and critics, but also how Elvis celebrated Christmas and certain episodes that took place during the Holidays.

I also decided to let Elvis talk about his Christmas 1956 (as featured on The Ed Sullivan Show) and getting drafted the Christmas after that (taken from a 1969 monologue from Las Vegas).

Mixed the way it should
I think the thing I was most satisfied with was how I ended the program. I first wanted to use the "Christmas Message From Elvis" followed by "Silent Night" (first issued on the Memories Of Christmas album in 1982).

But listening closely, it suddenly hit me that the intro playing under the Christmas message was the one from "I'll Be Home For Christmas" and not the one from "Silent Night". So what I did was mix it as it should be, ending with "I'll Be Home For Christmas" instead.

No live version available
The one thing that could've made the program even better was a live version of "Blue Christmas." Not a single one was available at the time, at least not officially.

So when I told the listeners about Elvis singing that particular song live during the 70's whether it was Christmas or not, I had to illustrate that with the '68 version of "Blue Christmas" instead. Now, as you all know, FTD has supplied us with quite a few live versions of Elvis' favourite Christmas song.

The track list
To wet your appetite, here is the track list for Merry Christmas Baby – Elvis Presleys julmusik (Elvis Presley's Christmas music):

Peace In The Valley (Ed Sullivan Show version)
White Christmas
Silent Night
Santa Bring My Baby Back
Blue Christmas
Santa Claus Is Back In Town
Santa Lucia (seen as a Christmas song in Sweden)
If Every Day Was Like Christmas
Santa Claus Is Back In Town ('68 version)
Mama Liked The Roses
O Come, All Ye Faithful (alternate version)
Holly Leaves and Christmas Trees
The Wonderful World Of Christmas
Merry Christmas Baby
Winter Wonderland
I’ll Be Home On Christmas Day (alternate version)
Blue Christmas ('68 version)
Christmas Message From Elvis/I'll Be Home For Christmas


I can still remember how happy and proud I felt on Christmas Eve that year when my program aired on nationwide radio (it was recorded a couple of days earlier). It was one of my greatest Elvis moments, and still is!

Sunday, December 7, 2008

My wish came true - part one

Dreams do come true, at least sometimes. I'd like to tell you the true story (in two parts) about how I got to make a program about Elvis on nationwide radio, some twenty years after I first dreamed about it. Here it is:

In my teens, in the mid 80's, the Swedish Radio (SR) broadcast a couple of programs about Elvis. I remember taping them; one dealt with Elvis' career in Hollywood, another was a memorial program that went on the air the day Elvis was supposed to celebrate his 50th birthday.

Listening to these programs, I dreamt of making one of my own. So, with Christmas a few months away, I came up with the idea of a program that would be about Elvis' Christmas music.

Writing about the king
I sat in my room and penned down the songs I thought should be in the program, and then wrote a script. Thinking back, I can't remember exactly what the script was all about.

I guess it centred around which years the songs were recorded, the titles of the albums they were on and which songs were Elvis' favourites. Maybe I also mentioned the musicians who played with Elvis. Yeah, I’m pretty sure I did.

"The recording session"
Then the "session" began. In the living room, where the stereo player was, I recorded the first song that should be on the program, from vinyl to cassette. I then ran to my room where I had a cassette recorder with a built in microphone.

There I put my own voice to tape, then returned to the living room to record the next song, ran to my room again and…well, you get the picture. It was quite an operation!

When it was over, I had a program running about one hour. Listening to it in my headphones (I didn't want anyone in the family to hear it!) I was quite pleased, although looking back the mixing must have left a lot to be desired!

Hard luck
I then made a bold move. In the telephone book I looked up the address to the Swedish Radio, told them about my radio idea and included both the script and the program and hoped for the best.

I waited weeks, maybe months, but never heard a word from the Swedish Radio. Needless to say, I was greatly disappointed.

To be continued…

Thursday, December 4, 2008

The other side of the story

Yesterday I picked up a copy of the Record Collector magazine at the train station in Stockholm. The reason for this was that it featured Elvis on the cover and "the inside story of the King's greatest show," the '68 Comeback Special.

Turned out this was a good day to buy the magazine, as it was exactly 40 years since the show aired. So I felt it a fitting tribute, sitting on the train bound for home, reading the article and listening to Burbank 68 and Let Yourself Go! on my faithful Ipod.

The article was based mainly on an interview with director Steve Binder. In all fairness, there wasn't much in it that I hadn't heard before. More interesting (at least to me) were some short interviews made with people connected with the show, such as guitarist Mike Deasy and Elvis fan Maria Columbus, who was lucky enough too attend both sit down shows.

Reading Steve Binder's words made me think of an article I mentioned briefly in one of my earliest postings, from August last year. The article was published in the April/May issue of the Official Elvis Presley Fan Club magazine and titled "The Other Side of the Story." In it, Alfred di Scipio, the Singer Sewing Executive for the TV-special, was interviewed by Bill Bram (author of Elvis: Frame by Frame).

What's so interesting with the article, is that di Scipio offers a different look at the making of the TV-special than the one Steve Binder does. For example, he says that it was he, and not Binder, that convinced the Colonel that the special should not be a Christmas special.

What makes this believable is the reproduction of a memo dated May 16th, 1868 (prior to Binder's involvement) that summarize a meeting between NBC, Singer and the Colonel. The memo states that "di Scipio was able to convince Parker that the program ought not to be a purely Christmas oriented show but rather a program which would give audiences an opportunity to hear most of Presley's major hits..."

Also, according to the article, di Scipio was the one that laid out the basic format of the show, based on earlier TV specials he had worked on. It included a "live" segment," an "informal" segment," a "gospel" segment and a "Christmas" segment. And there is no mistaking his resentment against Steve Binder:

"Steve Binder, for some reason, each year, has increasingly less memory of the truth... He said he talked Colonel Parker out of doing a Christmas show. Now it was two months after I had gone to see the Colonel before Steve was hired to direct the show. He had nothing to do with that and I have trouble understanding how a very talented person can do that. You know they say if you tell a story and you tell it often enough, it becomes the truth..."

I think it's strange that nothing more has been written about this. Maybe it's because the article was published in the fan club magazine only and not on the Internet or in another, more renowned Elvis publication. But the memo seems proof enough, and the article also features photos of Elvis and Al di Scipio together. Clearly, there's another side to the story...

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Also Sprach Zarathustra (laughing version)

This week was a slow one Elvis wise for me, as my work took me to Stockholm where I spent long days talking to and meeting colleagues who, just like me, work with the Swedish Radio's website. But Elvis wasn't totally absent.

During one of the meetings, which took place in a room located in a corridor where P2, the classical music channel is situated, I spotted some old books on a shelf. So, when my colleagues went to get some coffee, I took a closer look and saw that it was The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, printed in 1980.

A lot of the entries dealt with classic composers and artist (apparently it was first published back in 1878). But for the fun of it I searched for and found, an entry about a certain Presley, Elvis (Aaron), written in a rather technical way. For example, it stated that "His voice covered two and a third octaves, from G to b", with an upward extension to d''' in falsetto."

The entry wasn't long, only eight sentences. The next one, describing the life of Italian violin maker Pressenda , was about three times longer. On the other hand, as I found out before my colleagues returned with their coffee, the entry about John Lennon only consisted of one single sentence...

PS: During another coffee break one of my colleagues played an mp3 file for me on her mobile phone. Turned out it was Elvis related in a way, too. It was a very funny version of Also Sprach Zarathustra, and you can hear it here. I think Elvis would've cried with laughter, I sure did!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Electrifying!

Yesterday I went hunting in a store selling used records. As it's located close to where I live (in fact I pass it daily on my way to work) I'm a regular visitor.

As usual, I looked through the Elvis CD's, and noticed a couple of bootleg releases. One of them caught my attention, a Bilko album titled Electrifying! As the price was a bargain, I laid my hands on it immediately.

The CD contains 16 rehearsals from July 1970 as well as eight tracks from Elvis' February closing show in Las Vegas the same year. When I played it I was pleasantly surprised to discover a couple of numbers from the rehearsals in Culver City that I've never heard before.

The highlight was a long running version of "My Baby Left Me" (4:46 minutes) from July 29, as well as a blues version of "That's All Right" from July 15. I find it interesting that this version isn't listed in either Tunzi's och Jorgensen's recording sessions books.

I also have to mention "Patch It Up," where Elvis after the song exclaims, "OK, that's good. A good feel." And then there's "Stranger In The Crowd," the same version as featured in That's The Way It Is, with some funky drumming by Mr Tutt. A personal favorite of mine!

Listening to these rehearsals tracks made me feel good, as Elvis seems to be enjoying himself and includes some funny lyric changes from time to time. "Let it out and shove it in" as featured on "Hey Jude" is one such example, "I'll be oh so horny" instead of "I'll be oh so lonely" on "Love Me" another.

One thing that hit me, though, is that the tracks that were recorded during rehearsals for the Las Vegas opening in the summer of 1970, are spread out on a lot of albums and box sets, when it comes to official releases:
  • That's The Way It Is (Special Edition 3 CD)

  • The Way It Was (FTD)

  • Walk A Mile In My Shoes (box set)

  • Platinum: A Life In Music (box set)

  • One Night In Vegas (FTD)

  • Elvis Aron Presley (box set)
What's more, a lot of the rehearsals haven't even been released officially, like "My Baby Left Me" and "That's All Right" mentioned above. I for one would love to see a box set dedicated to the TTWII rehearsals, with a great booklet and interesting pictures. How about it, Ernst?

Thursday, November 20, 2008

If I can dream - part two

In my latest posting I wrote about how great it would have been if Elvis toured overseas after the Aloha From Hawaii Via Satellite show. Therefore it was interesting reading an interview with Charles Stone, Elvis' tour manager during the 70's, in the December/January issue of the fan club magazine from Great Britain.

What particularly caught my interest was the following question and answer:

Q: I've heard you speaking in the past about the time you had a flight booked to come to London and book Elvis to play at Wembley. Would you be so kind as to tell the account here for those who have not heard it before?

A: Yes we were coming to England. At the time of his death I had reservations to come to London to book Wembley Arena for a week. The Colonel was not coming but Tom Hulett and myself had always handled the shows and both Elvis and The Colonel were comfortable with us doing the Elvis shows.

Unfortunately the interviewer then moves on to another subject instead of following up this interesting piece of information (a journalistic sin, no less!) so no more facts are available.

Personally, I think it highly unlikely that Elvis was planning to play London in 1977, mainly because of the shape he was in then. But then again, maybe this was the challenge he needed to pull himself together and get well. One thing's for sure, these plans (if they ever existed) would have been better put to use four years earlier, in 1973.

PS: You can read more about Charles Stone here.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

If I can dream

Looks like the upcoming FTD release I'll Remember You hasn't been released before, after all. According to ElvisNews.com the Danish fan club Elvis Unlimited has confirmed with Ernst Jorgensen that the album will contain the midnight show from February 3, 1973 and not the dinner show, that has been bootlegged twice.

Furthermore, as Elvis only sang "I'll Remember You" at the dinner show and not at the midnight show the song is included as a bonus song on the new FTD release. And finally, Ernst also told Elvis Unlimited that not only was Elvis in great spirits for this show, but also that the sound quality is outstanding on this release.

That is certainly good news, as I think Elvis sounds uninspired and tired on the dinner show, keeping his talk to a minimum (altering between "thank you" and "thank you very much" after the songs) and just going through the motions.

This should come as no big surprise, as it must have been a strange experience returning to the routine of Las Vegas after the Aloha From Hawaii success just a few weeks earlier. What if the satellite show had been followed by a World tour instead. One can only dream...

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Fun on a Hollywood Film Set

A while ago Mike Edwards over at the Have A Clambake! blog wrote that it's been a long time since he took a look at an Elvis movie, and was gonna watch Spinout and write about it. As it was a long time since I saw one, too, I asked him to tell me which one I should watch, and then I would write about it.

Turned out he wanted to hear what I think of Fun In Acapulco, so this afternoon I sat down in front of the television, dimmed the lights and watched my DVD copy of the movie. It brought a lot of memories, as this was one of few Elvis movies shown on television when I was a kid.

Actually, I think it was Fun In Acapulco and Paradise, Hawaiian Style that was shown regularly in those days, so I guess the TV company (Sweden only had one back then!) had a deal going where they could screen these two quite often. "You know the one where he dives of that cliff" or "the one where he flies a helicopter full of dogs" were expressions that I remember using when describing what Elvis movie I'd seen.

You all know the story: Elvis plays Mike Windgren, a trapeze artist, who tries to forget a tragic accident where his brother was killed. In Acapulco he's a busy guy: he become friend with an orphaned Mexican kid who becomes his manager, he works as a singer during the night and as a lifeguard at night, and is attracted to two ladies.

In the end he dives from the highest cliff, thereby overcoming his morbid fear of heights. Along the way he also sorts out his love life (he's in love with Margarita (actress Ursula Andress, no less) and decides to move back to Florida where he will become a member of The Flying Windgrens family act again.

I enjoyed watching the movie, and though it's nothing like Jailhouse Rock (Richard Thorpe directed both of 'em) I think it works reasonably well for what it is: a lightweighted film with a lot of music, a lot of romance, and a lot of scenic color.

But, speaking of the scenery, the one thing I've never liked with Fun In Acapulco is the fact that a stand-in for Elvis was used in all the scenes shot in Acapulco. In fact, all of Elvis' scenes took place in Hollywood, while his co-stars seem to have visited Mexico for the film. This is painfully clear if you look at the stand-in who doesn't look at Elvis at all (check out the scene before the "(There's) No Room To Rhumba In A Sports Car" number, for example).

That brings me to the music, that, except for the above song, I've always liked. In fact I think it's one of the best soundtracks around (certainly from the 60's anyway). Or as Ernst Jorgensen puts it in his book A Life In Music:

From the energic opening cut of "Bossa Nova Baby," through the intoxicating Tijuana sweetness of the horn players on "Marguerita," to the Spanish flavor on cuts like "Guadalajara" and "The Bullfighter Was A Lady," the recordings are a triumph of sound and atmosphere.

So there you have it, my thoughts on Fun In Acapulco. If you want to dig deeper, you can read my earlier postings about the songs "Mexico" and "Guadalajara."

Saturday, November 8, 2008

"We are spoiled folks, remember that!"

It seems the upcoming FTD release I'll Remember You from Las Vegas, February 1973 is stirring up a lot of feelings, at least among the readers of ElvisNews.com. The problem seems to be the show is the same one that has already been released on bootleg two times, first as It's A Matter Of Time back in 1993 and then only last year under the title Vegas Rhythms.

One reader, for example, writes that it's an insult to fans who have already bought this concert two times, and that Ernst Jorgensen isn't the right person to lead the FTD label. Another one thinks it's a very stupid move by FTD while a third says that Ernst isn't suitable for the job. Harsh words, indeed.

My thoughts on the subject are these: I think many of those who criticize Ernst are die hard fans who buy every FTD release and also own a lot of bootlegs. Because they collect everything FTD offers, they get upset when it turns out an album has already been released as an import record. But come on, either buy it to maintain a complete collection or just skip it! It's not as there aren't any other releases around.

As for I'll Remember You, my guess is that there are no other soundboards available from this particularly Las Vegas season, and I think that's the reason for it being released instead of another show. Ernst goal (or so I've heard) is to release a show from every tour and season, so not to release this one would be a strange decision, to say the least.

That doesn't mean I don't think everyone has the right to criticize, but let's do it in a constructive way. I for one think the titles are very unimaginative, and I'll Remember You is no exception. I also feel that the layout of the covers often leaves a lot to be desired. And that Ernst is using the same photo for the cover as the one used on Vegas Rhythms isn't something to applaud, either.

But all in all, I think Ernst Jorgensen and Roger Semon are doing a great job. During the 10 years or so that FTD has existed over 70 albums has been released by the label. That's about as many as RCA put out during Elvis' lifetime! It's like someone wrote on ElvisNews.com (a lot of readers are defending Ernst, too): We are spoiled folks, remember that!

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Elvis Country offers few surprises

Finally my copies of the two new FTD releases arrived with the mail! Elvis Country was the first one I played and not very surprisingly the snippets of "I Was Born About Ten Thousand Years Ago" were included between the songs from the original album. As I've stated before, it would have been nice to have them first with the snippets and then without, even if that meant a 3 CD set.

When it comes to the outtakes, most of them have already been released before, on regular RCA records as well as on FTD albums (A Hundred Years From Now and Nashville Marathon come to mind). In fact, "Tomorrow Never Comes" and Where Did They Go, Lord" are the only two songs that offer us a couple of "new" full running unreleased takes.

On the other hand, it's interesting listening to Elvis struggling to master "Tomorrow Never Comes" and the vocal challenges the song offers. "If I broke there, you can imagine how bad it will be later on," he exclaims one time after losing his voice. Actually, his voice breaks at the end of what will be the master (take 13) but according to the booklet a retake of the ending took care of that. (Why isn't the retake included?)

Speaking of the booklet, it's full of interesting pictures, nearly all of them showing Elvis at an early age. My favorite is the one of Vernon and Elvis taken in Tupelo 1948. Another one shows Elvis together with a lot of other children, after he has won fifth place in the talent show singing "Old Shep" at the Tupelo Fair in 1945. And he wears glasses! That's a little mystery all by itself.

On the downside, the booklet offers no "Behind The Scenes" information, as the other 7" FTD do. So if you want to know more you have to look elsewhere. I recommend the excellent linear notes written by Colin Escott for the digitally remastered Elvis Country CD BMG released in 2000.

Returning to the FTD release, I think Ernst Jorgensen and Roger Semon have done well with The Country Jam that brings together "Faded Love," (Country version) "The Fool," "A Hundred Years From Now" and "Little Cabin On The Hill" in the chronological order they were recorded.

It's also interesting listening to the studio banter before "Whole Lot-ta Shakin' Goin On." For some reason, Elvis is irritated after the rehearsal of the song (why isn't the rehearsal included, too?) but maybe it's his irritation that leads to the frantic performance! And I bet he got even angrier after hearing the rough mix with overdubbed horns, I for one am glad he ordered them removed.

So there you have it. Not very many surprises but a welcomed addition to my FTD collection. Finally I can make my own complete Nashville Marathon compilation, putting all the released takes of the songs in the order they were recorded on six 6 CD's.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Elvis on tape - part two

Last night I did something I haven't done in about 20 years. In bed, I put on my headphones, pressed the play button on my old Sony Walkman and listened to one of my 200 live tapes, a cassette containing an audience recording of an Elvis concert.

This brought back a lot of memories, I can tell you that. I remembered looking at the long type written list with concerts, painstakingly picking the ones to buy, and also the excitement when the cassettes finally arrived. But most of all I remembered listening to the tapes, often in bed with my headphones on, imagining I was right there in the auditorium, watching Elvis perform.

Sometimes this called for a lot of concentration as well as imagination, as the sound quality was really bad. But the longer I listened to a tape, the more I got used to the sound and the more I got out of the experience. Thanks to those tapes I learned a lot about Elvis' concert career; after all RCA only released a couple of live albums during his lifetime, and he did over 1 100 shows.

Nowadays it's a different story altogether, with all the soundboards being released, both by FTD and the bootleggers. But just as the live tapes taught me a lot, so have the soundboards. You see, because the sound was so bad at times on the live tapes, I thought Elvis sounded great all the time.

The soundboards paint a different picture. Now I can clearly hear what was going on. One such example is the closing show in Las Vegas on September 3, 1973, released by FTD in 2004 (Closing Night). When I listened to this one on cassette I thought it was a great show with Elvis in fine form vocally.

The soundboard, on the other hand, tells the story about a crazy show, where Elvis changes a lot of the lyrics and where his mode swings from funny to angry and back again. The soundboard also reveals that Elvis' voice seems to have lost some of its power, and that the songs, with a few exceptions, suffer from this.

On the other hand a soundboard can confirm a first impression. Yesterday I listened to Elvis' evening performance in Dallas, November 13, 1971. Although the sound quality was really bad I thought it was an exciting concert with Elvis in fine form and mood. Today, I played the soundboard CD The Power Of Shazam, and though it was recorded in Boston three days earlier it confirmed my belief that this, Elvis' third tour, was a great one.

PS: You can read the first part about my Elvis cassettes here.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

A soundboard collectors label?

Having been away for two days I was a little bit disappointed when I opened the door to my apartment and quickly scanned the mail lying on the floor. Nope, still no sign of the two new FTD releases Elvis Country and Nevada Nights.

Having already read reviews of these albums (somebody obviously has a faster mailman than I do) they seem worth waiting for. Nevertheless, it's becoming more and more clear that Ernst Jorgensen and company put their energy on the classic album series rather than on the original 5" digipacks. Also, it's pretty obvious that the 5" albums are turning into a kind of soundboard label.

This is certainly no surprise, but just for the fun of it I counted the smaller digipacks and these are the statistics:

Of the 40 5" digipacks released so far (I'm not counting The Way It Was re-release) 21 contain live material. That may not seem much, but if you concentrate on the later FTD years (2004-2008) 12 out of 17 are soundboards or professionally recorded concerts.

So why isn't that surprising? Simply because there is no use putting together alternate takes albums like Made In Memphis or Nashville Marathon when all the outtakes sooner or later wind up on on the classic albums.

I'm all for the 5" digipacks becoming a soundboard label, but I would like to see them treated with the same care as the classic albums gets. As the price is the same, it would be nice to have a booklet included with photos from the show and some nicely written linear notes. After all, if the bootleggers can do it, then why not FTD?

PS: Maybe I'm wrong and the next 5" won't be a soundboard. Maybe it will be the re-release of Flashback from the FTD book with the same name. I wouldn't be surprised. Would you?

Sunday, October 26, 2008

"Get on with the next song!"

Waiting for my copy of the FTD Nevada Nights CD to arrive in the mail, I've been spending some time listening to the recently released bootleg Back With A Bang! It contains the Las Vegas Midnight Show from March 22, 1975, that was first released as part of the CD box A Profile, The King On Stage Vol. 2, back in 1996.

This time around, the sound has been digitally restored. Another plus is the 16 page booklet with linear notes as well as a bunch of photos from this Las Vegas season showing Elvis in high spirit.

Vocally, Elvis is in great form, and the show is a joy to listen to. Gone are the long monologues from the engagement in August the year before, replaced by a quick succession of songs. "Quick, get on with the next song," he shouts after a beautiful rendition of "And I Love Her So" and launches himself and the band into "Big Boss Man."

Another proof that this is Elvis concentrating on his work and vocal challenges, is the absence (well, almost) of songs from the 50's done at a fast pace. Instead, most of the material is from Elvis 70's catalogue, including such gems as "Promised Land," "Green Green Grass Of Home," "Fairytale," and "My Boy."

Personally, I've always had a soft spot for "It's Midnight," and the version included on Back With A Bang! is top notch. Only an artist like Elvis can shout, "Good God, I miss you!" with that kind of credibility.

PS: The perfect companion for this release is Big Boss Man that FTD put out in 2005, featuring the Dinner Show on March 30. But if I had to choose, I'd say the show from March 22 is the best of the two. Quick, get on with the next song!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Word for word

Today, on my way home from work, I picked up an Elvis book I hadn't seen before, for a bargain price at a bookstore. The title of the book is Elvis: word for word, and it's written by Jerry Osborne, an avid Elvis collector and author of the Presleyana price guide.

The idea behind the book is to collect all the verifiable things Elvis said in interviews, at press conferences, wrote in letters and spoke at concerts. By presenting everything in chronological order the author feels this is the closest we will ever get an Elvis autobiography.

To me, it's the personal written letters (few as they may be) along with a transcription of the telephone conversation Elvis had with Red West in 1976, that are the most exposing. By reading them it's possibly to get a glimpse of what Elvis thought privately about such things as love and friendship. And, sadly, it's all to evident that he was deeply disturbed at the end of his life.

The interviews are another interesting chapter, especially the early ones. But after a while I realize that they are very much alike, with the same questions about how Elvis started out, what he thinks about the screaming fans, if he's to be married soon and so on. The exception is the revealing interview Lloyd Sharer did with Elvis in 1962, presented in parts on the Elvis Aron Presley box set.

A lot of the last part of the book consists of transcripts from his concerts, but after a while I get tired of reading variations of "Good evening, ladies and gentlemen. My name is Wayne Newton." That doesn't add much in the way of an "autobiography," it only reminds me of Having Fun With Elvis On Stage.

More interesting is the information that Elvis received a boxed 16 mm copy of each of his films, for which he was required to sign an agreement like the one for Fun In Acapulco: "I hereby agree that the film will be for my personal use only at my home and I will not use it in any way commercially or for profit."

Thursday, October 16, 2008

The flowered silk shirt

It's amazing how Elvis Presley keeps turning up when you least expect it. This afternoon I was sitting on a train bound for home after two days work in Stockholm, reading one of my favorite authors, Clive Cussler.

For you not familiar with his work, Mr Cussler is a bestselling American novelist writing action adventures involving lost ships, heroes, megalomaniacs, beautiful women and sunken treasure. I've loved his books since my early teens, and apart from being highly entertaining they've been great textbooks when it comes to me learning English.

Anyway, there I was, reading one of his latest books, The Navigator, when suddenly Elvis makes an appearance in it. Well, almost. The situation is this: The hero of the book, Kurt Austin, has invited Italian beauty Carina Mechadia over for dinner. As she arrives, she compliments his flowered silk shirt. Kurt answers:

"Thanks. Elvis Presley wore the same design in the movie Blue Hawaii."

I thought it was a great line, and a nice detail in the dialogue. Apparently Clive Cussler had done his homework, as he both knew that Elvis made a movie called Blue Hawaii, and that Elvis wore flowered shirts in it.

Unfortunately, that was the only appearance Elvis made during their date, and I was a bit disappointed when:

"Austin put on a recording from his extensive jazz collection..."

In my opinion, the soundtrack from Blue Hawaii would've been a better choice, what with the flowered shirt and all. Still, being both an Elvis Presley and Clive Cussler fan, it was nice to see their paths cross, so to speak.

PS: Turns out Elvis and Clive have at least one thing in common, their love for cars. Actually, there's both a Cussler car museum and an Elvis Presley automobile museum. You can read about Elvis' cars here and Clive's cars here.

Monday, October 13, 2008

3D Elvis

Being a fan of 3D computer animated movies such as Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within and the more recent Beowulf, I was delighted to find this clip on Youtube (thanks to Elvis Information Network):


Apparently the guy who created this animation is a freelance animator named Tim Pope. He writes on YouTube that it was a personal project done with Lightwave animation software, and that it took "2 years of blood, sweat, and tears to complete."

I don't know about you, but I was very impressed with the result and have watched it many times tonight. Granted, the resemblance isn't perfect but still very close. Just imagine what will be possible in the very near future. It'll make Christmas Duets seem like child's play...

Saturday, October 11, 2008

The quotable Elvis movie book

Sometimes I dream about writing a book about Elvis. After all, I've been a fan for over 30 years and like to think I've learned quite a lot about him during that time. Also, as a journalist, I'm used to interviewing people and doing research, so maybe a book project isn't as far fetched as it sounds.

But then again, so much has been written about Elvis that is seems there is nothing more to tell. However, one of the projects I've been fantasising about is a book about his time in Las Vegas, another an in depth look at the making of a certain movie or a certain recording session with the help of, for example, interviews with former musicians, co-stars and crew.

My third, and maybe most realistic project, is to compile a book with quotes from his movies. The idea comes from a little paperback I have, called The Quotable Star Wars. In it, Steve Sansweet, a journalist until he joined Lucasfilm as a promoter of Star Wars, has collected his favourite quotes from the first trilogy made in the 70's and 80's.

"The Star Wars Generation took great delight in the dialogue: the funny lines and the philosophical ones," Sansweet writes in the introduction. And, being a member of that generation, who isn't familiar with quotes like "Use the force, Luke" and "I'll never turn to the dark side!" to name just a few.

There's just one problem with my idea. Despite the fact that Elvis made 33 movies, it's hard to remember dialogue that stands out like in Star Wars. After all, who goes around muttering "You'll be surprised what you can do if you'll only try" (from Clambake) or "You'll scratch my back and I'll scratch yours" (from Paradise, Hawaiian Style).

Nevertheless, there are some quotes that comes to mind that might qualify:

  • "It ain't tactics, honey. It's just the beast in me." (Jailhouse Rock)
  • "Now you'll know what I'll do for an encore" (King Creole)
  • "You go to school. I'm going out to make a buck." (King Creole again)
  • "I don't care if you pilot a jet or a flying carpet." (Kissin' Cousins)
  • "You godda be kiddin'. On second thought, you wouldn't wear your head like that for laughs." (Elvis talking to the bald Lord of the assassins in Harum Scarum)
Hmm, maybe there are two problems with my idea, the second being that no one except the hard core fans will recognize the quotes. But what if I just aim the book at them? Then we're back at problem number one. Maybe you can help me out with some more quotes?

Monday, October 6, 2008

www.elvispresleyfanclubuk.co.uk

Leafing through the latest issue of the magazine from The Official Elvis Presley Fan Club of Great Britain I spotted a small add reading:

"Elvis online: Visit the Website of the Official Elvis Presley Fan Club on www.elvispresleyfanclubuk.co.uk for Elvis news, views, pictures, travel offers and the new on-line shop featuring a wide range of dvds, cds, books, vinyl and miscellaneous merchandise."

I nearly choked on my coffee. Could this be true? As you may know, I've written earlier about how strange it is that the English fan club in this time and age doesn't have a site on the Internet where you can read the latest news and pay your membership fee, amongst other things.

Quickly, I scrambled to my computer, punched in the address and was greeted by this:

Not the most imaginative of layouts, but that isn't the problem. Actually, I prefer simple solutions on the Internet without blinking adds and so much information you don't know where it begins or end. (Would've been nice with a picture of Elvis, though...)

No, the problem with this site is that it isn't updated. Clicking on "News" I noticed the last posting was from August 7 this year, two months ago! Also, on the first page, Todd Slaughter writes:

Like our fan club magazine, this site is your site. You will have the opportunity to contribute, support, and participate in its development. The only "editorial" control, will be my daily utterings, and the reading and vetting of contributions for libel and decency.

Unfortunately, there aren't any "utterings" and how I as a member and reader can "contribute, support and participate" is, to say the least, pretty unclear. I tried to register but nothing happened, and nowhere on the site did I find a messageboard or any other way to contribute to the page.

Under the capture "Galleries" I found two fan photos, dating from the summer of 2007, and no fans pictures whatsoever. I'll gladly contribute with some of my own photos from Memphis, but how?

The one thing that seems to be working on the site is the shop, which have a decent selection of CDs, both from Sony BMG and FTD. Also, the paintings by artist Teresa Winston look cool, although expensive, to say the least. But the range of DVDs and books is unimpressive with only two titles in each category up for sale.

I for one applaud the fan club for finally being online, but if it's gonna work the site must be regularly updated. And if the fans are to play an important part, then the possibility for that must exist. Otherwise, no one will visit www.elvispresleyfanclubuk.co.uk, and it will fall into oblivion.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Who needs duets?

The thing that impressed me the most while listening to the audiosamples from the upcoming Christmas Duets album wasn't the duets themselves. Instead, it was the last three tracks featuring only Elvis with new backing recorded for his vocals.

The biggest surprise is "The First Noel" that almost sounds like a completely different song. Gone is the boring organ, replaced by a much more interesting playing piano and some nice strings. Admittedly, Elvis' voice still sounds a bit strained, but the overall result is much better than the original one.

The same goes for "Winter Wonderland" where I've always thought Elvis sounds bored. But the driven arrangement gives his rendition of this classic Christmas song a push in the right direction, lending it a more fresh and enjoyable sound.

I've always liked "If I Get Home On Christmas Day," with its "bombastic Elvis sound" (strings, horns, heavy drumming and a lot of backing vocals) but judging by the snippet from the Duets CD we're in for a softer version with acoustic guitar and piano. Interesting.

When it comes to the duets, it's hard to form an opinion hearing only 30 second samples. But overall, I think the ones from the 70's work better than those from the 50's. Maybe it's because the songs from 1957 sound more dated, maybe it's something else. I don't know.

What I do know, is that every Christmas the past 30 years I've been listening to Elvis' Christmas songs featuring only Elvis, and that's the way I prefer it to be. It's hard to explain, but after listening to the duet samples I want to hear the originals.

Don't get me wrong, if Christmas Duets makes the public more interested in Elvis, I'm all for it. But on my turntable, Elvis' Christmas Album and The Wonderful World Of Christmas will be spinning.

PS: Remixes such as "The First Noel" are a much more interesting concept to me than the making of duets. As someone commented on ElvisNews.com: "Putting a new "Fresh of paint" on a classic is okay if its done well and staying close to the original."

Sunday, September 28, 2008

"No Teddy Bear, forget that"

Thanks to eBay I'm now the proud owner of Fort Baxter's CD A Hot Winter Night In Dallas, featuring Elvis' concert in Dallas, December 28, 1976. And, after listening through it, I can understand why it is one of the most popular import records around.

I already knew Elvis was in great shape during the five show tour he did in the final month of 1976. After all, what fans haven't heard of or listened to the classic concert in Pittsburgh on New Year's Eve? And, if further proof was needed, we got that with the release of the import CD Burning In Birmingham, recorded on December 29.

Therefore, it is no surprise that Elvis delivers the goods in Dallas, too. That, together with great sound quality, makes A Hot Winter Night In Dallas pure listening pleasure. From the first notes of "See See Rider" where he practically throws himself into the song, to the falsetto ending of "Unchained Melody," it’s Elvis at full blast.

"No Teddy Bear, forget that," he says at one point and delivers an emotional rendition of "My Way" instead. Then it's right into high gear and "Polk Salad Annie." It's that kind of show. You can read some reviews here and here.

When you think about it, it's hard to understand that this is the same guy that eight months earlier stood in front of the crowd in the City Auditorium in Omaha giving an average performance (featured on the recent FTD release America) and that, eight month later, would be dead.

I don't know if new girlfriend Ginger Alden was the reason for Elvis transformation, or if it was the pills speaking (or maybe a combination of both). What I do know is that the tour in December was the last time audiences saw Elvis performing passionately and full of energy.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Inflatable feet in Vegas

This posting was supposed to be about Elvis' concert in Dallas, December 28, 1976. But before I signed in I made my daily visit to ElvisNews.com where the content of the two upcoming FTD releases Nevada Nights and Elvis Country were announced, so I'll write about that instead.

It was already known that the 2 CD Nevada Nights would include the Opening Night Show, which is an interesting concert in itself. Turns out I was right in my guess that the other CD will contain another concert from this engagement: the track listing is for the August 21 Midnight Show.

Just for the fun of it I compared it with the one already released by FTD under the name It's Midnight from the August 24 Midnight performance. Not very surprisingly they are nearly identical: exclusive for Nevada Nights is an incomplete version of "The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face" whereas "Spanish Eyes," "How Great Thou Art" and "Early Morning Rain" are featured only on It's Midnight.

But I don't mind as the concert seems an interesting one. According to both Stein Erik Skar's book The Concert Years and Lee Cotten's Did Elvis Sing In Your Hometown, too? Elvis went over to J.D. Sumner during "Why Me Lord" wearing a pair of huge inflatable feet with black toe-nail polish. As you can probably guess, poor J.D. couldn't continue singing while Elvis doubled over with laughter.

Also, the introduction should be something out of the ordinary. And I for one certainly don't mind hearing Elvis belting out great songs such as "Big Boss Man," "It's Midnight," "I'm Leavin'" and "If You Talk In Your Sleep." Bring 'em on!

As for Elvis Country, no big surprises, with an equal part of outtakes (many of them already released, the majority on A Hundred Years From Now: Essential Elvis Volume 4 and Nashville Marathon) and undubbed masters. Proof that not many "new" unreleased takes exist is the inclusion of three undubbed masters actually belonging on That's The Way It Is and Love Letters ("When I'm Over You," The Next Step Is Love" and "Love Letters").

If we'll get the original album with the parts of "I Was Born About Ten Thousand Years Ago" between the songs or not, is unclear to me. I for one would have preferred to have the songs first with the snippets and then without.

Nevertheless, just like the recenty released TTWII and Love Letters, it will be great to have all what's available collected on 2 CD's. But like someone commented on ElvisNews.com: "What seems to be missing is the long version of Whole Lot-ta Shakin' Goin' On WITHOUT the added horns." Why is that?

PS: My next posting will be about Elvis' concert in Dallas, December 28, 1976. I promise.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Kid Galahad revisited

Thanks to my brother I've been listening a lot to the songs recorded for the movie Kid Galahad on October 26-27, 1961. A couple of weeks ago I helped him paint the walls of his new apartment, and last Friday I found a thank you letter together with the two FTD releases Kid Galahad and Follow That Dream in the mail.

Really, that was too much, but it made my day as those are some of the last FTD releases I haven't gotten around to buying yet. I immediately phoned my brother to thank him, and among the things we talked about was that the FTD Kid Galahad CD is kind of an official Radio Recorders Revisited, a bootleg I bought some 20 years ago that contains 21 alternate takes from the Kid Galahad session.

I've always liked the songs from this session and their happy-go-lucky sound. Admittedly, "Riding The Rainbow" and "I Got Lucky" quality-wise are miles away from "Good Luck Charm" and "Little Sister," but Elvis succeeds into turning them to little gems of listening pleasure.

And of course, there is "King Of The Whole Wide World," great stuff, indeed. It's interesting listening to Elvis and the band developing the song, finally settling on a master (take 31), but having another go at it the very next day, ending up with a perfect take. Why the song was originally released without Boots Randolph's second sax solo remains a mystery.

After listening to Kid Galahad I gave my old bootleg Radio Recorders Revisited a spin on the turntable. I also compared the information on the cover with that of the Kid Galahad release and was surprised to discover the LP contained many alternate takes not included on the FTD CD.

In fact, of the 21 takes presented on the LP, 10 are not found on the FTD release: a complete versions of "King Of The Whole Wide World" (take 29) and another of "Home Is Where The Heart Is" (take 20), amongst others. I also have to mention "Riding The Rainbow" (take 2) where Elvis starts laughing after messing up the lyrics, followed by a fun, fast version of the song (take 8).

It was an interesting discovery. I've always thought Ernst Jorgensen included all the available material from the recording sessions on the classic label, at least when it came to complete takes. But with Kid Galahad, this is clearly not the case.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Elvis the game

A couple of years ago I bought an Elvis board game to one of my brothers. I ordered it from the fan club in Great Britain but it was manufactured in the USA and came with a sticker that said it was a E.P.E. official product.

What it also should have had was a sticker saying it's impossible to play if you're not an Elvis expert and that sometimes even that isn't enough. In other words, this is not a game you play with a couple of friends who's not into Elvis Presley.

The rules are simple enough: "Answer questions in five separate categories as you relive the magical moments from the live and career of Elvis Presley. Correct answers earn players Gold Record Albums. Be the first to return to Graceland with a collection of five different albums and you win the game!"

But the questions are another matter altogether. Here are some examples:

1. In October 1956 Elvis performed at the Cotton Bowl in front of almost 30,000 fans. What did he wear? A) Orange shirt/black pants B) Green Coat/navy blue pants C) Frilly white shirt/green pants

2. Who was the booking agent for The Louisiana Hayride show? A) Charles Feathers B) Mississippi Slim C) Pappy Covington

3. Of the following groups, which did NOT perform with Elvis at the July 4, 1956 benefit concert in Memphis? A) The Confederate Barbershop Quartet B) The Dancing Dixie Dolls C) The Tulsa Troubadores

Not very easy, eh? In all fairness, many of the questions are a lot simpler than that, but there are enough of the tough ones to make only the most fanatic of Elvis fans willing to play this game, that's for sure. Me and my brother played it once together with our third brother who's not an Elvis fan, but we haven't touched it since.

Not until a week ago when my brother gave it back to me. Just like me, he's moving to another town, and asked me if I wanted it. If not, he was going to give it away. So I took it back, but not before we had a quick look at some of the questions again. Turned out it was just as hard this time around...

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

From Down In The Alley to Nevada Nights

Turns out the upcoming release from FTD won't be titled Down In The Alley after all, but Nevada Nights instead. I certainly don't think my recent posting about unimaginative titles has anything to do with it, but I would be thrilled to learn that Ernst Jorgensen is reading my blog. No proof of that, though...

What the soundboard from February 1973 at the Las Vegas Hilton will be titled is anybody's guess. More certain is the fact that this, Elvis 8 season in Las Vegas, was his weakest up till then.

At the time Elvis had problems with his voice and had to cancel 6 of the shows. Another show had him leaving the stage after only 7 songs, with the the Stamps taking over. He did return after a while, and, after singing "Can't Help Falling In Love," sang another four songs.

But this wasn't the only show out of the ordinary. During the midnight show on the 18th February, Elvis got really mad when a couple of guys rushed the stage, sending one of them back into the audience with the help of karate. He then had to be held back, and reminded that he had a show to complete.

I don't know if that's the show that will be released. Probably not, and probably not the one where he is leaving the stage either (the dinner show on the 15th). But it would make for some interesting listening, don't you think?

Saturday, September 6, 2008

The 1961 Memphis charity shows

They say you learn something new every day. Well, I certainly do when I read the excellent Elvis magazine The Man And His Music, and the latest issue is no exception.

Not only do I get to know what fans thought of Elvis' evening performance in Philadelphia on June 23, 1974, after just having witnessed it. I also become acquainted with multi-instrumentalist Charlie McCoy and receive a thorough round-up on what's new on the CD front.

But, best of all, I'm told a lot about the two 1961 Memphis charity shows Elvis gave on February 25 that year. Not much have been documented about these shows, but The Man And His Music gives me 13 pages worth of interviews, pictures, newspapers reviews and repertoire.

It's an interesting read, especially the interviews with electric bass player Brad Suggs and Bob Alexius on double bass, both of whom replaced Bill Black. Turned out there wasn't much of a rehearsal, but that didn't worry them too much as the material was "pretty simple stuff".

It's a little bit funny that they don't remember being on stage together, I guess it was just another gig for them back then. But as Bob Alexius puts it, "I look back at those shows with regret because I didn't understand what I was part of at the time. I wish I'd paid more attention to it... I wish I had realized that it really was a piece of musical history".

With regards to the repertoire, I wasn't aware that Elvis performed "Doin' The Best I Can" from his film G.I. Blues. But that's what I like about The Man And His Music. You always learn something new.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

The alternate FTD titles

Bear with me, I'm not quite finished discussing FTD titles. But I will be short and to the point.

Quite a few of the released FTD 5" CD's have alternate titles. Leafing through some of my older fan club magazines from England I noticed that the order forms for coming releases often list another title than the one that was eventually used.

Here are the ones I found by doing a quick search (followed by their real names in brackets):

  • Tucson Arizona (Tucson '76)
  • American Sound 69 (Memphis Sessions)
  • Summer Festival '74 (It's Midnight)
  • The Last Tours (Spring Tours 77)
  • A Dinner Date With Elvis (Dinner At Eight)
  • Auld Lang Syne 1976 (New Year's Eve)
  • The Bend, Indiana (Dragonheart)
  • Mama Don't Dance (Takin' Tahoe Tonight)
  • Man With The Golden Belt (The Impossible Dream)
  • On Stage Revisited (Polk Salad Annie)
  • Las Vegas 75 April Fool (Big Boss Man)
  • Laughing Tonight (All Shook Up)
  • It Came From Memphis (Made In Memphis)
  • That's The Way It Was (One Night In Vegas)
Now, why is this? My guess is that these are the working titles, included with the information sent out to the fan clubs. Still, it's interesting that some of them differ so much from the final titles. Man With The Golden Belt is my favorite, a great sounding title that should have been used, in my opinion.

And, with reference to my last posting, 5 of the 14 releases mentioned above ended up having the name of a song on the cover. Any idea why?

Saturday, August 30, 2008

"No imagination these people!"

On ElvisNews.com I read that the October FTD release from the August 1974 Las Vegas engagement will be called Down In The Alley. Reactions from some of the readers are that "Big Boss Man would have been my preferred title after the new opening song for this Vegas season, but of course that name has already been used by FTD" and "No imagination these people!"

This got me thinking and after taking a quick look at my FTD collection it seems to me the titles were a bit more imaginative during the earlier FTD years (1999-2003). Examples of this are Out In Hollywood, In A Private Moment, The Jungle Room Sessions and Dixieland Rocks. They all sound like classic bootlegs, don’t they?

Of course there are exceptions. New Year's Eve is hardly as exciting sounding as its bootleg companion Rockin' With Elvis New Years' Eve, but on the other hand I Sing All Kinds, released last year, has a nice ring to it.

Still, the fact is, 9 out of the 16 (I don't count the The Way It Was re-release) FTD titles in the 5" series released between 2004 and 2008 are named after a song, such as Big Boss Man, Unchained Melody and An American Trilogy. On comparison, only four of the first 23 releases (1999-2003) have a song as a title.

So, is it true that "these people" (Jorgensen & co) have no imagination? Well, when one look at the titles that certainly seems to be the case.

But maybe I can be of assistance. How about using a line from a song instead and naming the new FTD Just Rockin' And Reelin' (from Down In The Alley) or I Work Hard In The Evenin' (from Big Boss Man). Those sound just like classic bootlegs, don't they?

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Time to renew my membership

Yesterday I finally got around to renew my membership in The Official Elvis Presley Fan Club of Great Britain. If I count correctly, it was the 26th time I've done so.

I remember how I became a member back in 1982. Me and my family had visited some good friends and my father was at the wheel driving home. I was sitting in the back enjoying a comic when, on the readers letter page, a picture of Elvis from the Aloha show caught my eye. Next to the picture, one of the readers asked if there existed an Elvis Presley fan club.

The editor assured the reader it certainly did, and attached the address to The Official Elvis Presley Fan Club of Great Britain. Don't know how an editor of a Swedish comic magazine managed to pull that one off, but I was quick in sending the fan club a letter telling them I wished to become a member.

That's 26 years ago, and I'm still loyal to the club. I've written about the pros and cons of being a member in the British fan club before (read about it here), but the fact is I continue to pay the membership fee every year. In the beginning I had to send a postal check to do this, then in later years my credit card number.

Nowadays you would expect the possibility to renew the membership on the Internet, via Pay Pal or some other online payment service, but that's not the case. I still have to painstakingly write down my credit card number on a piece of paper and send it with ordinary (snail) mail to the fan club's address in Leicester, England.

Not that this is a insurmountable operation, it's just that in this day and age people do tend to use the Internet for such things, and I wouldn't be surprised if The Official Elvis Presley Fan Club of Great Britain loses members in this way. My renewal form was on my desk for months before I got a grip and sent it in. Same story last year, and the year before that.

When I became a member I remember reading that club had over 30.000 members, which I thought was an pretty impressing number. I have no idea how many there are today, but surely a lot fewer. I also wonder how many have been members for 26 years or more?

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Love Letters through my eyes

After listening quite a lot to the recent FTD release Love Letters From Elvis on my iPod last week while on vacation in Denmark, my lasting impression can be summarized like this:

The original album would without doubt have been stronger, had "The Sound Of Your Cry" and "Sylvia" been included. Even so, it would still be inferior to its two companions That's The Way It Is and Elvis Country.

This is hardly a surprising conclusion. I've always thought "The Sound Of Your Cry" is a great song (I love take 3!) that certainly fits the "love letters theme," as do "Sylvia."

In fact, one could argue that the decision to remove these two songs from the original album in 1971 and include the Easter single "Life"/"Only Believe" instead was a bad one. Not only did it weaken the album quality-wise, it also disrupted the theme of the record. After all, a confusing song about the creation of man can hardly be called a "love letter." Neither can a boring inspirational song, for that matter.

But "The Sound Of Your Cry" and "Sylvia" certainly wouldn't have been enough to lift the album to the heights of That's The Way It Is and Elvis Country. After all, the tracks that ended up on Love Letters had been rejected when TTWII and Country were put together, and many of them are among the weaker efforts from the Nashville Marathon in June 1970.

That said, the FTD release offers great value for money, with two fully packed CD's containing a lot of outtakes and undubbed masters (often running longer than the dubbed ones). It's also great to finally have the undubbed and unedited master of "Got My Mojo Working," complete with the "motherfucker" verse, officially released.

Also, session outtakes on songs such as "It Ain't No Big Thing (But It's Growing)," "If I Were You," "I'll Never Know" and "Sylvia" offers an insight into how Elvis and the band worked during these studio recordings. For example, it's interesting listening to guitarists James Burton and Chip Young discussing arrangements and working out intros.

It's also obvious at times that both the musicians and Elvis think the material they work with is, in fact, not of the best quality. Just listen to "This Is Our Dance" where Elvis first calls out, "C'mon Charlie, we gotta hurry man, we gotta eat" and then, where James Burton after a couple of takes exclaims, "This isn't Lamar's song? If it is, I'm gonna kill him."

One thing I do miss is the informal jam "I Didn't Make It On Playing The Guitar" that was released on the CD A Hundred Years From Now back in 1996. According to Ernst Jorgensen's book The Complete Recording Sessions this jam developed during the recording of "It Ain't No Big Thing" and should have had a place on the FTD release of Love Letters From Elvis. But I guess it will be released on Elvis Country instead.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Funny how time slips away

Exactly one year ago, on August 16, 2007, I started the Elvis Today blog. As I've written earlier, the idea was, and still is, to share my Elvis-related experiences and express my opinions about all things Elvis, such as new releases from the FTD label.

First and foremost I do this because I think it's fun to put my thoughts in writing. But I have to admit, a big bonus is knowing that what I write is read by Elvis fans such as myself.

And, as Elvis Today has been up and running for a year now, I thought it would be interesting to know just how many readers I have and where they come from. Therefore, I accessed a program called Google Analytics that lets you know how much "traffic" there is to a certain site on the Internet, such as a blog.

This is what I found out:

  • So far Elvis Today have had 7 001 visits from 71 countries.

  • Most of the visits come from Sweden, the United States and the United Kingdom, but many also from Canada, the Netherlands and Germany.

  • Maybe a bit more surprisingly are visits from China, Oman, Iran and Iraq.

  • 20 per cent of the visitors access Elvis Today directly, while 27 per cent reach it from referring sites and 53 percent through a search engine such as Google.

To sum it up, I'm happy that Elvis Today is read by fans all over the world. When I started the blog I wasn't sure if I was going to write in Swedish or English. Man, am I glad that I chose the later!

Thursday, August 14, 2008

King Elvis Still Classy

It's pretty interesting reading what the press thought of Elvis' concert at the City Auditorium, Omaha, Nebraska, on April 22, 1976, recently released under the name America on the FTD label. The review of the show is included in Stein Erik Skar's The Concert Years and is titled King Elvis Still Classy. Here are a few excerpts:

"Thursday night in Omaha, the 41 year old singer was as classy, though maybe not as sleek, as all of those Cadillacs he’s been handing out… The King is still the King, despite reports that he has been depressed, debilitated and overweight."

"The pounds only make Elvis more imposing, if slightly less mobile. The charisma may be off a notch but the gestures are grand and Olympian... Presley mixed patriotism, religion, sex and self-parody in a way that's as seductive as ever."

All in all, Elvis received favourable criticism, despite a repertoire that hadn't changed very much since he last played Omaha two years earlier, in 1974. So, did the review give a fair picture of this particular concert? The answer is, after listening to America a couple of times, both yes and no.

No, because Elvis hadn't renewed his repertoire which during this time in his touring schedule was seriously lacking in variety. The only new song he sang was "Hurt" which was performed for the first time during the last tour in March. Also, because Elvis at times on stage sounded bored, uninspired and tired.

Yes, because, as the critic wrote, "Presley has one of the great voices around and when he turned on the power, he was overwhelming." This is especially true on songs like "Trying To Get To You," "America," "Hurt" and "How Great Thou Art."

Thinking about it, it's really incredible that Elvis could muster the energy to do all the tours he did in 1976, when, looking back, it's evident he was in poor shape and had a lot of problems. Of this, the crowd in the City Auditorium in Omaha, knew nothing. They were having a good time that particular night in April, 1976.

PS: A lot of fans have complained about the mixing of the soundboard, and I have to agree. The backing vocals are way to loud and at times completely drown out Elvis' voice. One such example is "If You Love Me (Let Me Know)" where, during the chorus, you wonder if Elvis is singing at all!

PS 2: A small observation. During Jerry Scheff's bass solo it sounds like Elvis is adding a line from "Reconsider Baby," something like, "Why don't you go ahead on baby."

Monday, August 11, 2008

When I recorded at Sun

In Memphis, Elvis Week 2008 is at full swing. I was there three years ago, and while Graceland was the highlight of my visit then, I also treasured my trip to Sun Studio. After all, it was there it all started.

And like Elvis, I paid to make a record. But, unlike Elvis, I had to choose a karaoke track of a song and then record my own voice to it on a CD. I thought "Walk A Mile In My Shoes" was a proper choice and was led into a tiny cubicle at the back of the studio.

In the cubicle there was a TV-screen mounted in one of the upperhand corners showing the lyrics, and in front of me stood a microphone. The girl at Sun who was helping me out told me I had one practice run before doing the actual recording.

Man, it was hot in that cubicle, and sweat was pouring down my back as I started to sing, "If I could be you, if you could be me, for just one hour..." Still, I thought it went pretty well.

So well, in fact, that I asked my "engineer" if I could record a short poem ("Men With Broken Hearts") before she played the actual karaoke track. "No problem," she answered helpfully, "just start when I knock at the door to the cubicle."

So, there I was, not only trying to sing like Elvis, but also to talk like him! Anyway, it went OK the second time around as well, and I got my record. And though it never will be as famous as the one Elvis did there back in 1953, it was, and still is, a great souvenir from my time in Memphis.

Do you want to hear it? Click here to play the song.