Friday, July 24, 2009

Guest blog: I forgot all the words

First up, I want to thank Thomas for offering me this guest blog spot on Elvis Today. I'm a frequent visitor, but it'll certainly be strange to see my thoughts above the comments line this time.

When I was trying to think of ideas for my post here, I ran across a rather critical review of the 1970 concert recently released as The Wonder of You by FTD. Referring to the song "Stranger In The Crowd," the reviewer writes: "The rest of the lyrics are a jumble of right and wrong renditions. A lazy performer who again could not be bothered to learn the words to his own songs?"

So, I started wondering, does Elvis forgetting the words to a song in a concert ruin the performance? The odds are you've heard more than a couple of Elvis concerts, so you already know that he forgot the words to songs all the time. I don't think it was due to a lack of caring on his part, though.

In That's The Way It Is, we see him stressing about forgetting the words to "I Just Can't Help Believing." He rehearses it over and over, yet continues to worry about it so much that literally seconds before hitting the stage for the opening night show, he asks that the lyric sheet be placed on a nearby stool. The performance of the song shown in the movie is actually from the next day, but he's still reading the words.

That's The Way It Is, of course, also captures the rehearsals for these shows, and "Stranger In The Crowd" is from that same concert series. Did the presence of the camera crew distract Elvis too much during the rehearsals? It's possible, for he hams it up quite a bit – but he does get down to business at times, too.

Perhaps the real issue is that Elvis never took himself as seriously as a lot of fans seem to today. I find a fun show like The Wonder of You, messed up lyrics and all, to be much better than, say, Aloha From Hawaii – where he is serious most of the time and sings most of the lyrics correctly. He had some help during the technically flawless Aloha, though. Watch carefully during "Burning Love" and you'll see someone holding up cue cards with the words to the song printed out for Elvis to read.

During the rehearsal show a couple days before, as heard on The Alternate Aloha, Elvis flubbed the words to "Burning Love," among others. He covered it well, though, as I suspect most of those present had no idea until he shyly admitted, "I forgot all the words," after the song.

Supposedly, Elvis had to be pressured into recording "Burning Love" the previous year, so could that be why he didn't learn the words? Perhaps, but Elvis was also known to forget the words to songs he liked.

During the second sit-down show for the '68 Comeback Special, released on Tiger Man, Elvis introduces "Santa Claus Is Back In Town" as his favorite Christmas song of those he had recorded (not "Blue Christmas" as an edit back in 1968 made everyone believe for years).

He then proceeds to mess up most of the words to his favorite Christmas tune. His bluesy rendition, wrong words and all, was one of the best songs of that show. Indeed, Elvis' performance transcended the lyrics. The words no longer mattered. No one else could have pulled that off.

If you insist on perfect songs, then stick to the studio versions. Otherwise, just relax and have fun. That's what being an Elvis fan is all about.

By the way, this post was originally going to be a lot better than this. Unfortunately, I forgot all the words that I planned to write. I hope you liked it anyway.

/Tygrrius, The Film Frontier


Thomas said...

Thanks for a great guest blog, Tygrrius, nice having you aboard.

I received my copy of The Wonder Of You yesterday, and it's a fun show, all right. I too enjoy one like that a lot more than Aloha From Hawaii.

Actually, I almost never listen to Aloha. I remember someone writing (I think it was Stein Erik Skar in the book The Concert Years) that the show was "almost too good, too perfect" and that nails it down pretty well I think, at least when it comes to the singing.

I almost never watch it either, it just isn't that exciting, and it doesn't help that Elvis barely moves at all. In TTWII, he's all over the stage. That's fun!

MĂ„rtenbrother said...

Nice blog, Tygrrius! I completely agree with you, and I'd rather have a fun show with Elvis adlibbing and/or forgetting some words than total perfection.

Jeff Schrembs said...

Interesting article.
Keep up the good work.