Thursday, April 30, 2009

"It was so crazy to hear Elvis sing about me!"

Yesterday there was another e-mail from Arjan Deelen waiting for me when I turned on my computer. For those of you who follow my blog you know I've written about the shows he's putting together called the Original Elvis Tribute 2009. I'd like to share this e-mail with you as well. It's titled "30 years after The King's death, Michele Jarrett found out that Elvis once sang about her."

Michele Jarrett was barely 10 years old when Elvis died, but nevertheless she's one of the very few people who can rightfully claim that The King really sang about her - a claim that even his ex-wife Priscilla or his daughter Lisa Marie cannot make. It's even more remarkable when you realize that Elvis never met Michele nor even knew about her existence.

So what's the story behind this? Well, Michele is the daughter of songwriter Michael Jarrett, who wrote a.o. 'I'll Be Home On Christmas Day' for Presley. Jarrett often used his personal life as an inspiration for his writing, and he wrote this melancholic song on Christmas Eve 1969, right in the middle of a painful divorce. He was completely alone and missing his family, when the words came to him.

On the original demo that Michael recorded for Elvis, there was a verse about his children: "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".

When Elvis' version of 'I'll Be Home On Christmas Day' was released in late '71 on 'Elvis Sings The Wonderful World Of Christmas', Michael was not surprised to find out that Elvis had skipped that verse. After all, it was a very personal verse about Michael's kids, and he understood that Presley could not relate to it.

Imagine Michael's surprise 30 years after Elvis' death, when he heard an outtake of the song where Elvis did sing the 'missing' verse! The first thing he did was call his daughter Michele, who was completely flabbergasted. "It's so crazy", she says today, "I remember it was shortly after my mom passed away, and my dad sent me a clip of it. Talk about a wild thing! I played it for my family, and we were all just looking at each other like, is that really what I'm hearing!".

Both Michael and Michele Jarrett are part of 'The Original Elvis Tribute 2009' (www.elvisnews.dk), which will be touring Europe in May. "I have always been so proud of my dad", she says, "and I'm so excited for this tour. I know this will be an amazing trip for him, as well as everybody on the tour. I know I'm so thankful to be a part of it!".

Now, is that a great story, or what? Imagine hearing Elvis singing about you and your family. I too, have three brothers and sisters, but as my dad didn't write any songs I guess it's highly unlikely I will ever hear the King singing about me. Michele, I envy you!

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Memphis Recording Service: What happened?


Whatever happened to the Memphis Recording Service? I'm talking about the UK based company headed by Elvis collector Joseph Pirzada.

MRS put out some excellent releases during 2004-2007. My personal favourites are the two SUN volumes The Beginning Of Elvis 1953-1954 and The Rise of Elvis Presley 1955, as well as the sensational Tupelo's Own, which included footage of Elvis performing live 1956 - with sound!

Then, in the beginning of 2008, Memphis Recording Service announced that their next release would be a dance remix of "That's All Right" with Elvis Presley and Lucy Clark. Many fans thought that a bad move on MRS's part. After that, I've heard nothing from the label.

The MRS site still exists, but the strange thing is, all the material about the dance remix of "That's All Right" has been removed. In fact, the first thing that meets the eye is an announcement for the New York RCA Studio 1 – The Complete Session release, which was the second to last release.

Also, there is no mentioning about future projects or information about why no new releases have seen the light of the day. Maybe it has something to do with this. There is an e-mail address, though. I'm gonna send Memphis Recording Service a letter right now and ask them what happened.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

An FTD website would be a delight

Just the day after I wrote about the Follow That Dream label needing an official website, the fans got word on the Internet about the next FTD release being Dixieland Delight, featuring concert performances from May 31st 1975 and June 1st 1975 in Huntsville, Alabama.

Also, according to the Essential Elvis blog, the album would be released with a colour booklet and in cooperation with a forthcoming multimedia box set from another label.

All at once, the speculations began on different fan forums and message boards: "This sounds like a April fools joke, a bit late though. FTD already has Southern Nights and Dixieland Rocks. Since when do they do booklets with these. And they are cooperating with someone else!!! I'll wait for an official announcement," Iray commented on Elvisnews.com, to name but one example.

Now, imagine if FTD had a website up and running. Then all the fans could visit it and read that, yes, this is the next release and no April fools joke. Come to think of it, there wouldn't be any speculations in the first place because the information about the upcoming double CD would've already been posted on the official site.

Such a website would also be the perfect platform for Ernst or Roger where they could elaborate in more detail on why the set is "released in cooperation with the forthcoming multimedia box set release by Bud Glass and Pray To Me Publishing."

As for the release itself, the pros and cons have already been thoroughly discussed among the fans the last couple of days. I have only this to add:
  • FTD seems to have finally understood the need for a booklet together with a soundboard.
  • The 5" digipack series is becoming more and more of a soundboard label.
  • The cover is exactly the same as the one used on the bootleg Across The Country Vol. 2 (featuring the Huntsville May 31 Evening Show).
  • Only one of the shows has been released by Madison, the June 1 Evening Show has not.
  • Why not a box set with all the shows, or at least the four that definitely exist?
  • Am I imagining things, or is FTD looking (and thinking) more and more like Madison?

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Duke Bardwell is ready for Europe

Today I received an e-mail from Arjan Deelen who's putting together the Original Elvis Tribute 2009 shows I've written about earlier. I'd like to share it with you:

A tired but happy Duke Bardwell arrived back home yesterday, after the first few shows as a part of “The Original Elvis Tribute 2009” in Texas. He was particularly pleased with the band’s performance at Threadgill’s in Austin, TX last Saturday.

“We really came together as a band, and played a very good show”, he says, adding that he was very impressed with the chemistry within this remarkable band: “Individually, all players are pros, and are very kind and big-hearted people....no attitudes of any kind. I absolutely love Michael Jarrett - we all do... He is one of the sweetest guys I have met in a long time, and he is much loved and respected by all. He really played his “old” ass off!”, Duke says laughingly. “We all had a good time and left there very much encouraged and looking forward to the trip. I think we will all travel and play very well together”.

The band will be travelling to Europe in May for shows in Finland, Poland, Norway, Sweden, Belgium and Holland (see also: www.elvisnews.dk ), and Duke tells us that he is very happy with the fact that “there will be many, many songs from the early years. The band is designed to rock and roll. Ted Roddy is a rocker, and he has put together a hot rhythm-section....and that boy can SING. I’m really looking forward to playing the show and meeting the fans… but when I see all these Scandinavian blondes, I'm likely to "drop dead"!”.

Arjan also included the photo above, showing Michael Jarrett and Duke Bardwell on stage at Threadgills in Austin, Texas on April 18th, 2009. They sure look like they are having a good time!

Earlier postings about the Original Elvis Tribute 2009 shows:

Sunday, April 19, 2009

www.followthatdream.com

Isn't it strange that the Follow That Dream label has no website? After all, FTD has been pouring out albums for ten years now, so I think it's long overdue.

But maybe something is about to happen. On the For Elvis CD Collectors forum a guy from the Netherlands shared the following address: www.followthatdream.com.

I immediately visited the site and found some nice pictures, many obviously taken from FTD covers, followed by the message "new site currently under construction."

The administrator is no other than a certain Roger Semon, so maybe the site is soon up and running. On the other hand, maybe not, as it was created in 2002 and last updated on 8 January, 2008 (according to this).

Be that as it may, here are the advantages of an official FTD website as I see it:
  • The newsletters from FTD could be posted here and not only sent to fan clubs and Elvis sites.
  • Fans could ask questions.
  • FTD would have a way to reach all fans and at times set the record straight.
  • Information, such as documents shown in booklets, could be published in full.

To sum up, the FTD website would be the first place fans visited to find out about releases, read about decisions being made and why, and contributed with questions and thoughts.

But I don't hold my breath. I realise there would be a lot of unkind words (if FTD would allow comments to be made on the site) and that there's no way Ernst or Roger could muster the time or energy to handle that. A Follow That Dream website would be a one way affair, but if interesting documentation was published as well as newsletters, that would be a lot better than nothing. What do you think?

PS: This is the 200th posting on Elvis Today. I think I'm gonna celebrate by listening to the album that the blog is named after. After all, "T-R-O-U-B-L-E" has always been a favourite of mine!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

"Ice cream for everybody!"

I think it's pretty cool that Red West, at 72, finally has his first leading role, and also that the movie he stars in, Goodbye Solo, is getting praise from film critics.

According to an article in the Boston Herald titled Elvis pal Red West discovers ‘Solo’ stardom at age 72 "West plays a man ready to end it all. He hires Sengalese taxi driver Solo to drive him to a local mountain spot in two weeks. Solo can't accept what William intends and moves in with him to change his mind."

The first thought that came to mind when I viewed the trailer, was that this is miles from the role he played in Clambake as an ice cream vendor (in the awful "Confidence" scene). Goodbye Solo and West's acting in it seems like serious stuff.

I for one think Red West is entitled to some acting fame after 40 years in the business. Not only because of his uncredited bit parts in 17 of Elvis' movies, where he often fell on his ass after being knocked by Elvis in the obligatory fighting scene. But also because he has appeared in films such as Roadhouse (1989), Natural Born Killers (1994) and Glory Road (2006).

I'm looking forward to seing Goodbye Solo, which from what I understand is his most critically acclaimed role so far. I bet Elvis would've been proud of his old friend.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Unreleased frames

Over a year ago I wrote a post called The trailer outtakes which dealt with the trailer for Jailhouse Rock and a couple of scenes in it that didn't make it to the movie itself. Thanks to FTD I've recently learned of two soundtrack songs that were cut from films but heard in the movie trailers.

The first song I found out about is a production number from Girls! Girls! Girls! In the "Behind The Scenes" section of the booklet accompanying the classic album release it says that even though "I Don't Want To" didn't make it into the movie, the movie trailer included a portion of the song. And true enough, when I viewed the trailer on YouTube yesterday, there was Elvis on his beloved sailboat, poring his heart out:



The second song is "Lonely Man" from Wild In The Country. Both that one and "Forget Me Never" never made it into the final print of the movie, but according to the "Behind The Scenes" section "a scene showing Elvis singing "Lonely Man" in the garage sequence was used in a trailer for the film." Not finding that particular trailer on YouTube, I dug out my DVD copy of the film, took a close look at the trailer and found out that FTD had their facts right, again.

I gotta admit these two songs being filmed made me curious and I would love to find out the answers to the following questions:

1. The two trailers only shows portions of the songs being sung by Elvis. Does the complete footage exist?

2. Were any of the other songs that were recorded by Elvis but then cut from the movies also filmed? Here are those that comes to mind:

King Creole: "Hard Headed Woman" and "Danny"
Flaming Star: "Britches" and "Summer Kisses, Winter Tears"
Blue Hawaii: "Steppin' Out Of Line"
Kissin' Cousins: "Anyone (Could Fall In Love With You)"
Harum Scarum: "Animal Instinct" and "Wisdom Of The Ages"
Paradise, Hawaiian Style: "Sand Castles"
Clambake: "How Can You Loose What You Never Had"

Now, where am I going with all this? I really don't know. Maybe I'm just fascinated with the thought that there are probably a lot of treasures left in the movie vaults. After all, when it comes to unreleased recorded studio material, the search has been going on for decades. But when it comes to the pictures, well, that search hasn't even begun.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Standing Room Only - a review

"The album that could and should have been," Ernst Jorgensen writes in the booklet accompanying FTD's latest effort Standing Room Only. And he's right. The decision to release Burning Love And Hits From His Movies Vol. 2 instead was both dumb and inexcusable.

But 37 years later FTD aim to put things right. The label's version of Standing Room Only combines the Las Vegas masters from February 1972 with the studio masters recorded the following month. The second CD consists of outtakes from the March studio session.

I for one like the idea of recreating albums that never came out, like Elvis Sings Memphis Tennessee and Standing Room Only. The packaging is first class, with a nicely written text that gives us the story behind the abandoned project (where the reasoning is very similar to my speculations nearly three months ago).

What irritates me is that the content of the original album file recently found isn't shown properly in the booklet, but all over the place on pages 6 and 7. Unfortunately, this is often the case when it comes to documents being reproduced in booklets from FTD, and it's annoying. "The original album file reveals many treasures," says the photo legend on page 14. Well then, show us these treasures in their complete form; fully displayed and readable.

Another strange thing with the booklet is that nearly all of the pictures are live shots from April 1972. Why wasn't more photos from March 1972 used as well as stills from February? Strange, indeed.

When it comes to the contents on disc 1, we've heard the live material on many releases over the last 15 years. First they were issued on The Essential 70's Masters, then on Burning Love and finally on the Live In Las Vegas box set. Still, combining them with the studio material makes for great listening, and I agree with the liner notes that states that the album, if released in 1972, would've provided "a current statement of Elvis and his music" and that it "reminds us where Elvis was at musically in the spring of 1972."

That feeling, unfortunately, vanishes when you reach the bonus songs also recorded live February 1972. Most of them are throwaways, like a sloppy "All Shook Up" and an uninspired "Teddy Bear"/"Don't Be Cruel" medley. The exception being "A Big Hunk O' Love," that I thought was intended for the original album, so why it's listed as a bonus song is anybodies guess.

And returning to strange things, why are so many of the live tracks on disc 1 being faded out so quickly after the ending? "Hound Dog" even starts to fade out during the last notes of the song!

Moving on to the studio outtakes on the second disc, I found them enjoyable to listen to and it's nice to have them all in one place. As you might know, a lot of the outtakes have already been released, the majority on the box set Platinum: A Life In Music and the FTD album 6363 Sunset. Actually, I count only two "new" complete outtakes, they being "Where Do I Go From Here" (take 2) and "Always On My Mind" (take 4).

All the rest of the "previously unreleased" outtakes are incomplete, but at times interesting, nevertheless. My favorite part of the disc is all the takes Elvis spends on "Separate Ways," looking for the right phrasing and tempo of the song. It's obvious the song holds an emotional meaning to Elvis, but at the same time he seems to be in a good mood, lauging along with the band when mistakes are made, for example when he mispronounces the word "realise" in "And it's not to late to realise our mistake."

Conclusion: If you're looking for a lot of unreleased material, you should probably leave Standing Room Only alone. On the other hand, if you've always been curious about "the album that could and should have been" this is an essential buy. Your choice.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Elvis Today goes Twitter

I've been thinking for some time now about letting Elvis Today become a micro-blog also. As you probably know, micro-blogging enables you to write updates in the form of posts that can't be more than 140 characters in length. The updates are then displayed on the user's profile page and also delivered to other users who have signed up to receive them.

One such micro-blog service (and also the biggest) is Twitter.com, where I've created an account. Luckily, the name Elvis Today was available, and I've spent some time customizing the design and learning what Twitter is all about.

So why do I want to micro-blog? It's simple, really. Sometimes I haven't got the time to write on my "real" blog, but a short update on Twitter can't be that time consuming. Also, although not a day goes by without Elvis taking part in my life in some way or the other, maybe some days a short message tells it all.

This doesn't mean I will be abandoning my blog Elvis Today. I see micro-blogging as a complement, and also as an experiment. Maybe I quit soon. Maybe I don't. I for one hope you choose to follow Elvis Today on Twitter as well.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Sweet memories

The other day I read that Stockholm's last well-assorted record shop, Mega Store, closed for good on March 31. The reason being, of course, that more and more records are sold on the Internet as well as being downloaded.

Not living in Stockholm anymore I can't say I'm all that saddened by the news. Still, thinking about Mega Store and what it used to mean to me brings back some nostalgic memories.

The strongest memory I have is from the day when Walk A Mile In My Shoes - The Essential 70's Masters was released in 1994. I can still see that table on the first floor of the store, stacked full with copies of the box set and nothing else. What a great feeling it was, having waited for the set for months, finally holding it in my hands.

I also remember Mega Store's predecessor Skivakademin that was located on the other side of the famous Sergels Torg (a big square in the center of Stocholm). That was the place where I spent my hard earned pocket money on Elvis LP's, before CD's were invented or the Internet existed!

It was there I paid 67 Swedish crowns for Raised On Rock (the price tag is still there on the cover). Isn't it funny that I have a distinct memory of sitting on the buss on my way back home looking at the LP wondering what it would sound like?

And how come I still remember the moment I bought Speedway, showing one side of the cover to the sales cashier where the price tag said 39 crowns, as opposed to the other side where another tag stated that the price was 45 crowns? (Those tags are still there as well!)

My one sad memory is that I didn't buy the sampler LP for the Golden Celebration box set. Why I didn't, I don't remember!