Monday, December 27, 2010

A Sweet, Sweet Inspiration

When I told my wife on Christmas Eve that I'd just read that Myrna Smith was very, very sick, she pulled out the CD Estelle, Myrna and Sylvia by the Sweet Inspirations. "To play it now seems appropiate," she said, and I agreed. When I read the sad news on Christmas Day that Myrna had passed away, we listened to the CD again.

I had the privilege to see Myrna Smith on stage five times, four of them when she toured together with the Elvis Presley In Concert show, in 1999, 2000 (two times) and 2010 respectively. But the one occasion I treasure the most took place in 2005 when the American Sound Studio Band performed in the Swedish town Uddevalla together with the Sweet Inspirations.

It was obvious that Myrna Smith, as well as the two other members of the Sweet Inspirations, Estelle Brown and Portia Griffin, had a great time on stage and were enjoying themselves. And that was something that rubbed off on the audience. Elvis knew what he was talking about when he used to say "They sure live up to their name," while introducing the group.

After the show the singers and musicians signed records and photos. In the printed program was a picture from That's The Way It Is showing Elvis rehearsing together with the Sweet Inspirations. The problem with that picture was that only Myrna Smiths' hairstyle was visible, while her face was hidden behind a music stand.

She solved that by writing "(Sorry!)" and drawing an arrow that pointed to her head in the picture. She then penned "Love, Myrna." It's a nice, personal memory of Myrna Smith that I treasure.

For more information about the Sweet Inspirations and their work with Elvis, check out The Mystery Train Elvis Blog and the post Sweet Inspiration Myrna Smith, 1941-2010.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Christmas Message From Elvis Today

Thank you for reading Elvis Today. I’d like to wish you a merry Christmas and a wonderful New Year.

/Thomas, The Elvis Today Blog

Thursday, December 23, 2010

The Alternate World Of Christmas

Unfortunately Elvis Sings The Wonderful World Of Christmas didn't get the FTD treatment this year. My bet is that it will be released in October 2011, when the album celebrates its 40th anniversary.

Until then (or whenever it will be) we'll have to make do with what has already been released when it comes to outtakes from the sessions that gave us Elvis' second Christmas LP. And thanks to iTunes I've been able to create my own “FTD light version” of Elvis Songs The Wonderful World Of Christmas.

THE ORIGINAL ALBUM / SIDE 1
O Come, All Ye Faithful
The First Noel
On A Snowy Christmas Night
Winter Wonderland
The Wonderful World Of Christmas
It Won't Seem Like Christmas (Without You)

THE ORIGINAL ALBUM / SIDE 2
I'll Be Home On Christmas Day
If I Get Home On Christmas Day
Holly Leaves And Christmas Trees
Merry Christmas Baby
Silver Bells

ALTERNATE MASTER
I'll Be Home On Christmas Day (remake)

SESSIONAL OUTTAKES
It Won't Seem Like Christmas (Without You) – take 3
I'll Be Home On Christmas Day – take 3
If I Get Home On Christmas Day – take 1
Holly Leaves And Christmas Trees – take 4
I'll Be Home On Christmas Day (remake) – take 2
O Come, All Ye Faithful – take 2
Silver Bells – take 1
I'll Be Home On Christmas Day – take 4
The Lord's Prayer (Informal Recording)
It Won't Seem Like Christmas (Without You) – take 6
Holly Leaves And Christmas Trees – take 8
I'll Be Home On Christmas Day (remake) – take 9

UNEDITED / UNDUBBED MASTER
Merry Christmas Baby

BONUS SONGS
The First Noel*
If I Get Home On Christmas Day*
Winter Wonderland*

* Bonus tracks from Christmas Duets, featuring additional instrumentation.

The “FTD light version” of Elvis Sings The Wonderful World Of Christmas was done by using all of the alternate takes that have been officially released so far. They can be found on Memories Of Christmas, If Every Day Was Like Christmas, Platinum: A Life In Music, Today, Tomorrow And Forever, I Sing All Kinds and A Hundred Years From Now – Essential Elvis Volume 4.

I really enjoy it, and I'm looking forward to the full version. Please bring it on next year, FTD, it would make for a nice early Christmas present!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Guest Blog: Elvis Is Not Just For Christmas Anymore

Outside of Oldies stations and incidental music, I never hear Elvis on the radio here in the United States anymore - except at Christmas time. This phenomenon is not unique to Elvis, though. The same applies to Frank Sinatra, Nat King Cole, Dean Martin, and many other legends who seemingly turn up in the collective consciousness only during this season. There is something universal about Christmas music that spans across generations and genres.

Non-fans in the general public often seem to enjoy Christmas music by Elvis, even if they listen to little else by him the rest of the year. As an Elvis fan, it's actually hard for me to relate to that point of view. It seems to me, if they enjoy his Christmas music, they could just as easily enjoy his other music all year long, just like we do. The next time one of your friends asks you to recommend some Elvis Christmas music, consider giving her or him both some Christmas and year-round music selections. They might be surprised to learn that Elvis is not just for Christmas anymore.

With that in mind, I started thinking of non-seasonal songs with similar vibes as his Christmas music.

  • Trade "Blue Christmas" (1957) for "One Night" (1957)
  • Trade "White Christmas" (1957) for "Such A Night" (1960)
  • Trade "Here Comes Santa Claus" (1957) for "Treat Me Nice" (1957)
  • Trade "Silent Night" (1957) for "Love Me" (1956)
  • Trade "O Little Town of Bethlehem" (1957) for "Young And Beautiful" (1957)
  • Trade "Santa Bring My Baby Back" (1957) for "Got A Lot O' Livin' To Do" (1957)
  • Trade "Santa Claus Is Back In Town" (1957) for "Reconsider Baby" (1960)
  • Trade "I'll Be Home For Christmas" (1957) for "Don't" (1957)
  • Trade "Santa Lucia" (1963) for "It's Now Or Never" (1960)
  • Trade "If Every Day Was Like Christmas" (1966) for "I'll Remember You" (1966)
  • Trade "Blue Christmas" (Live-1968) for "One Night" (Live-1968)
  • Trade "It Won't Seem Like Christmas" (1971) for "Where Did They Go, Lord" (1970)
  • Trade "If I Get Home On Christmas Day" (1971) for "It's A Matter Of Time" (1972)
  • Trade "Holly Leaves And Christmas Trees" (1971) for "Separate Ways" (1972)
  • Trade "Merry Christmas Baby" (1971) for "Don't Think Twice, It's All Right" (1971)
  • Trade "Silver Bells" (1971) for "Stranger In The Crowd" (1970)
  • Trade "I'll Be Home On Christmas Day" (1971) for "I'm Leavin''" (1971)
  • Trade "On A Snowy Christmas Night" (1971) for "How The Web Was Woven" (1970)
  • Trade "Winter Wonderland" (1971) for "Jailhouse Rock" (Live-1968)
  • Trade "O Come All Ye Faithful" (1971) for "Always On My Mind" (1972)
  • Trade "The First Noel" (1971) for "We Can Make The Morning" (1971)
  • Trade "The Wonderful World Of Christmas" (1971) for "Help Me Make It Through The Night" (1971)

So, there you have it, a non-seasonal playlist designed to feel like Elvis' Christmas music. Maybe next year, Sony can release a double CD Christmas gift set with this kind of theme. It would give them a chance to put a slightly different twist on their annual Elvis Christmas music re-release.

My thanks to Thomas for letting me ramble on here on Elvis Today. Have a wonderful Christmas and a merry New Year, everyone!

/Troy Y., The Mystery Train Elvis Blog

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Memories Of Christmas

Sixteen years after its release, I still think If Every Day Was Like Christmas is the best Christmas compilation with Elvis. Featuring all the 20 Christmas songs Elvis recorded, as well as a couple of alternate versions it's the ultimate Elvis Christmas CD.

But no one or nothing is perfect. That's why I'd like to recommend the album Memories Of Christmas as well. Released on LP back in 1982 and then on CD five years later, it has a running time of only 28 minutes, but it features some great gems not available elsewhere.

I still remember the first time I heard track number one, take 2 of "O Come, All Ye Faithful". Running more than a minute longer than the original version, it has Elvis singing the first verse one more time, to the accompaniment of an organ, lending the song an almost sacred character. And the ending is dynamic, with Elvis raising his voice one octave higher than on the original.

Another highlight on Memories of Christmas is the third track, the (then) unreleased master of the remake of "I'll Be Home On Christmas Day." I recall the feeling of listening to this track for the first time as well, it just blew me away. From then on I've always preferred this bluesier June 71 version over the one recorded a month earlier, and it has of course been released elsewhere.

A track that can't be found anywhere else is the unedited/undubbed master of "Merry Christmas Baby" running for about eight minutes and outlasting the one found on If Every Day Was Like Christmas with over two minutes. Elvis just keeps pushing the band along, and I'm amazed the song hasn't been released in this format since.

Finally, there's the unreleased version of "If Every Day Was Like Christmas," that I always thought was another take. But according to Joe Tunzi and his book Elvis Sessions III it's the master with overdubs done by David Briggs on celest. Comparing the two this evening, I have to say he's probably right. But it sound different nonetheless, more "Christmas like."

To sum it up: No doubt the longer versions of "O Come, All Ye Faithful" and "Merry Christmas Baby" will be made available when Elvis Sings The Wonderful World Of Christmas gets the FTD treatment. Until then Memories Of Christmas is the only place on earth where you'll find them. And David Briggs' celest.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Santa Lucia – The Missing Christmas Song

Did you know there's one particular song missing on every Christmas compilation with Elvis? At least if you're from Sweden like I am, there is.

You see, on December 13, Saint Lucia's Day (or Lucia for short) is celebrated in Sweden. Together with Advent, it marks the beginning of the Christmas celebration, and everyone knows the (Swedish) words to the traditional song "Santa Lucia," which was recorded, among others, by a certain Elvis Presley.

Of course, he sang the original Italian lyrics, in a completely different context, in the movie Viva Las Vegas. But the fact remains that it's a song very much associated with Christmas in Sweden. With that in mind, for Swedish fans it would probably have made more sense to include "Santa Lucia" than "Mama Liked The Roses" on the re-issue of Elvis' Christmas Album in 1970.

So far I haven't seen any "new" Christmas album with Elvis featuring "Santa Lucia" and I guess I never will. But in my Christmas compilation with Elvis it has a given place. (I also included it in the Elvis Christmas program Merry Christmas Baby that I did for the Swedish Radio about ten years ago.)

Sul mare luccica
L'astro d'argento
Placida e' l'onda
Prospero e' il vento

Venite all'agile
Barchetta mia
Santa Lucia
Santa Lucia...

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Christmas In May

Spending a lot of time with Elvis' 1971 Christmas recordings in December always helps me get into the Holiday mood, and this year is no exception. Of course, all the snow we have here in Sweden right now helps, too.

It must have been a lot harder for Elvis to catch the spirit of the season in 1971, arriving at RCA's Studio B on May 15 to record a new Christmas album. Not only was Christmas more than seven months away, I guess the weather was as far from snowy as it could get.

But according to Peter Guralnick Elvis' associates did their best to help Elvis along the way. This is how he describes it in his book Careless Love:

The studio had been transformed by Felton into a Christmas scene with brightly wrapped boxs (all empty) under a gaily decorated Christmas tree. Lamar even dressed up as Santa Claus, and the Colonel sent Elvis a Christmas card with
a picture of himself as Santa standing next to Frosty the Snowman...
I have no idea if this helped or not, but I do know that Elvis' 1971 Christmas recordings are played all around the globe every Christmas. Granted, the best songs are the ones that aren't strictly classic Yuletide music, like "Merry Christmas Baby" and "I'll Be Home On Christmas Day," both blues numbers Elvis obviously enjoyed singing, Christmas or not.

But that doesn't stop me from liking the more traditional Christmas material such as "Holly Leaves And Christmas Trees" and "If I Get Home On Christmas Day" as well. After all, Elvis knew what the wonderful world of Christmas was all about, and his Christmas music is the best.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

The Wonderful World Of Christmas

Listening to Elvis' Christmas music, like I always do on December 1 each year, made me remember the time when I bought Elvis Sings The Wonderful World Of Christmas.

It must have been in the early eighties. Christmas was a couple of months away but in my favorite record store I stumbled upon the album on cassette. I had never seen it on LP before, but the cassette version suited me just fine, as I'd just bought my very own cassette recorder. The problem was, there was just one copy of the cassette, and as I was afraid somebody else was going to buy it, I had to make my move.

Grabbing the cassette, I approached the counter and handed it over to the salesman. "Isn't it a bit early for Christmas music," he asked and smiled at me. I guess he wasn't an Elvis fan, or else he would've understood the importance of that one cassette. After all, it was the only one available in the whole of Stockholm featuring Elvis Sings The Wonderful World Of Christmas. I mumbled something inaudible, paid for my find and and left.

At home, it was my turn to smile. Listening to the cassette, I was mesmerized by Elvis' singing, hearing for the first time the title track as well as the bombastic "If I Get Home On Christmas Day" and the incredible "Merry Christmas Baby."

Since then I've picked up both the LP and the CD version of the album, the latter one featuring "If Every Day Was Like Christmas" and the remake of "I'll Be Home On Christmas Day" as bonus songs. I had been hoping for a FTD release in time for the Holidays this year, but maybe next Christmas my wish will come true.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Viva Elvis!

The reviews from around the world are in general positive about the new Viva Elvis The Album CD release. Unfortunately, my own local newspaper had another opinion. This is what the rewiever wrote about the album, under the caption "Desecration of a corpse":
Time to make some money on Elvis voice again. It was a few weeks ago. Think, think, think. Hmm ... wonder what Elvis would sound like in 2010? "King Creole" as a messy number from West Side Story and "Love Me Tender" as an acoustic duet with somebody called Jane Doe, "Burning Love" in light metal version, and "Heartbreak Hotel" with a bluesy big band, how does that sound? OK, I guess, but something is missing. "Suspicious Minds" driven down in a pair of rock boots? Perfect. But who will listen? Never mind, just make sure to sell the crap.
I bought Viva Elvis – The Album yesterday and, after listening to it from start to finish with my headphones on and the volume turned way up loud, have to say that the reviewer hasn't understood anything what this release is all about. He should read what his collegue over at the Canadian RockStar Weekly has to say about it:
Is the world really in need of a new Elvis Presley album 33 years after the death of the King of Rock N’ Roll? After only one listen to Viva Elvis: The Album, that answer is a resounding YES.

Unlike other post-mortem recordings, Viva Elvis is something truly unique. It’s not a rehash of old material, nor is it some obscure second rate "lost track". Viva Elvis is an honest reworking of Elvis’ greatest hits using original master samples of the King’s voice worked into modern riffs and beats.

There’s no attempt to make the tracks into dance remixes like A Little Less Conversation; they come cross with dignity, respect and care – and that’s what makes Viva Elvis unique and magical.
Or, if that isn't enough to make him change his mind, he could do worse than visit The Mystery Train Elvis Blog and check out Troy's excellent review of the album. Viva Elvis!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Elvis (Fool) – A Review

I sometimes "cheat" when I receive a classic album from FTD, playing the second disc with the outtakes first. Elvis (Fool) was no exception.

I love the feeling of "being thrown" into the studio, and this time around the first thing I heard was James Burton and Chip Young picking out the intro to "(That's What You Get) For Lovin' Me" and Felton Jarvis asking drummer Jerry Carrigan something about which cymbal he'll use. Then there's Elvis inquiring about the intro and Felton cautioning him about the tempo of the song, "It seemed too fast, it hadn't got a feel' to it. Maybe you should slow it down some." Then follows the first take, which has a rehearsal feeling to it.

As I've always liked this Gordon Lightfoot number, it's interesting following the development of the song. Elvis is having problems with the tempo and messes up the lyrics, "Who wrote this son of a bitch, I'll break his leg. I might kick your ass again," he jokingly sings as he breaks down halfway through a later take.

The remake of "Until It's Time For You To Go" is another interesting listening experience. Recorded on June 8, Elvis wanted to redo his May 17 effort, taking the song in a faster tempo. "It's one step away from boogie woogie, just a little more and we'll get that," he laughs after listening to the piano and loosing it one minute into the first take. Elvis is obviously in good spirits, clowning around before a beautiful take 6, singing portions of “Farther Along,” “Mean Woman Blues" and “Oh Happy Day.”

Another highlight is a powerful rendition of "Love Me, Love The Life I Lead" (take 6) where Elvis sings with much more passion than on the original version. His voice is straining at places, but this only helps to heighten the emotion of the song.

Of the three "Elvis at the piano" songs, my favorite has always been "It's Still Here." And although most of takes has already been released, take 4 hasn't. Only one minute long, it made me smile, as Elvis hits the wrong key and exclaims, "God damn!Once I look at this damn piano it'll be alright, man," before launching himself into the version found in edited form on the original album.

Two incomplete takes of "My Way" are also included, together with the master found on the Walk A Mile In My Shoes box set. Seems the tempo is just a little bit faster on the first take, which to me sounds better than on the later ones. A pity it just runs for 1 minute and 40 seconds.

The second disc ends sensationally, with a previously unreleased take of "Don't Think Twice, It's All Right." When the track listing was announced a couple of months ago I thought we were going to get the real unedited version of the original take, but boy was I wrong! It's listed as take 2 of a version recorded on March 17, whereas the already released jam was recorded on May 16, 1971. I think this is a spelling error, as Elvis didn't record anything at all on March 17 due to illness. My guess it's from May 16 as well, or the day after.

With a running time of 11 minutes and 20 seconds it must be Elvis' longest recording released to date! It sounds a lot like the version we know, maybe not as driving, but including some great harmonica by Charlie McCoy not found on the original. A great way to end this classic album release.

So how about the first disc? Including the original album as well as some original alternate mixes and the first LP version leftovers it really doesn't offer anything new. What made the biggest impact on me was"Reconsider Baby," sounding incredible in an echo mix I guess was intended for the original Fool album thought up by Joan Deary. "Play the blues James, play the blues!"

I do have an objection, though. With a running time of around 64 minutes for disc 1, the alternate first take of "Fool" as well as the alternate takes of "Where Do I Go From Here" found on FTD's Standing Room Only should've been included. In that way outtakes from all the studio songs on the original album would've been present.

And there's also the question of track duplication on disc 2, where take 11 (track 11) of "Padre" is in fact take two (featured on track 4). Ernst Jorgensen has been receiving a lot of criticism for this on different fan forums. I agree that it's sloppy work, but feels that the anger directed at Jorgensen is way out of proportion. And as FTD will issue replacement discs, I certainly hold no grudge.

Final verdict: In the "Behind the scenes" section of the booklet accompanying Elvis (Fool) it states that the original LP "is in essence an album of leftovers." I guess the same can be said when it comes to Elvis Now, although to a lesser extent. But the FDT treatments of these two albums are essential, as they together include outtakes of all the non gospel and non Christmas songs Elvis recorded during the March–June 1971 Nashville sessions.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Funny Spelling Error On Complete Masters

As our new baby girl takes up a lot of my time nowadays (not that I'm complaining), I haven't really had the time to reflect over the new 30- CD set The Complete Elvis Presley Masters that came out a couple of days ago. And in all fairness, maybe I've chosen not to think too much about it as it was too expensive for me to obtain.

But reading Troy's post Complete Elvis masters collections put focus where it belongs – on the music at his The Mystery Train Elvis Blog, made me realize what an amazing set this is, containing 711 master recordings and 103 rarities (alternates, informal recordings, rehearsals, etc.) Maybe I should've gotten my hands on it, after all.

But nobody or nothing is perfect. I'd like to share a mail I received from Arjan Deelen yesterday, the guy behind "The Original Elvis Tribute 2011".
A few days ago the ’Complete Masters’ came out, and the various message boards have been buzzing with activity ever since. It’s clear that this is the most exciting Elvis release in quite a while. Some fans have been generous in their praise, while others have expressed disappointment with certain elements, i.e. Lene Reidel being used for mastering discs 28 – 30, as well as a few errors, like wrongly captioned photos in the book. On a project of this magnitude, some errors are inevitable. However, there’s a rather unfortunate one on page 208, where Memphis sessions piano player Bobby Wood’s name is misspelled as BOOBY WOOD - Guess the text was written by someone with a one-track mind! Bobby himself laughed about the error, and said: “Oh well, what else is new (laughs)... That’s funny because sometimes I sign my e-mail Booby Woo!”. Bobby will be touring Europe in May ’11 as part of ‘The Original Elvis Tribute 2011’. Please visit www.elvisnews.dk for more details.
And a couple of hours later I received another e-mail from Arjan, featuring a new interview with Ernst Jørgensen about the SONY box, as published on the “Huffington Post”. It's well worth reading.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

For LP Fans Only

I still haven't made up my mind when it comes to the vinyl releases from FTD. On one hand, it's just copies of the albums I've already bought on CD, more expensive at that and not even including all the outtakes.

On the other there is an increasing demand in vinyl nowadays. And for fans like me who started out with LP's it's a great, nostalgic feeling putting a vinyl record on the turntable and then studying the "gigantic" cover while listening to the music.

The LP vinyl sets from FTD that interests me the most are the "lost albums", the ones that could've been but never were realized during Elvis' lifetime. One such example is the Standing Room Only LP, another the Viva Las Vegas vinyl set due for release at the end of this month.

Viva Las Vegas looks impressive enough, but what bothers me a little is the need for 2 LP sets. If I was at the wheel of FTD I would try to compile albums as they were originally intended, that is, as single LP albums with no bonus songs whatsoever. For example, I'd use the original track list and art work intended for Standing Room Only, (as shown on page 565 in Joe Tunzi's Elvis Sessions III).

After all, my guess is that those who buy the LP sets already have them on CD. In this way, the vinyl releases would not only be cheaper, they would also be more interesting (at least to me), in that they would really be serious attempts at recreating the "lost albums". (And if the second LP is deemed so important to FTD, then give it a second sleeve, call it The Outtakes Album and include it as a bonus).

In my way of thinking, it would be possible to release Elvis (Fool) as it was originally intended by Joan Deary, including "Reconsider Baby" from Madison Square Garden and the five extra Hawaiian-interest songs recorded for the American Aloha broadcast. Other lost albums possible for release in this way are Our Memories Of Elvis Vol. 3 and Elvis - A Legendary Performer Vol. 5.

And while I'm at it, how about giving the same treatment to the original lost album from 1963 (released in 1990 as The Lost Album/For The Asking). Finally, maybe a LP with the Nashville recordings made between 1966 and 1968. Now that's an album that could've been and should've been, but wasn't. It's in FTD's power to change that.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

On The Speedway

I was pleasantly surprised to learn (thanks to the Elvis Information Network) that the title track from Elvis' 27th film Speedway is a hit among the listeners of the radio station Sveriges Radio P4 Jönköping. This is one of the 25 local radio stations in Sweden that makes up P4, the most popular radio channel in the country.

Apparently the station's morning show has an item on the program called Morgontoppen (loosely translated to The morning hit list), where the listeners can nominate songs and also vote for the candidates on the Internet. Each week the song with the least votes is kicked out while the best nominated song takes the fifth place.

"Speedway" was nominated a couple of weeks ago and quickly reached the number one spot, a position it has been defending successfully for the last three weeks. This is the score this week:
  1. Speedway - Elvis Presley
  2. Baby Love - Supremes
  3. Fortunate Son - Creedence Clearwater Revival
  4. Don´t eat the yellow snow - Frank Zappa
  5. Should I stay or should I go - Clash

Who would've believed this possible? Well, I for one. You see, a couple of years ago I worked as a journalist at another local radio station, called Sveriges Radio P4 Halland, where a similar hit list was in use.

I remember someone nominating "She Thinks I Still Care" and the pattern was the same as with "Speedway." Every week it got most of the votes and the number one spot. Finally the guys running the morning show decided that a song could only be at the top for ten weeks, then it had to go.

My guess is that it will be the same old story when it comes to "Speedway." If they don't decide to change the rules it will be occupying the number one spot for ever. Such is the power of Elvis, that even his lesser known songs can hold their own against more classic songs by other artists.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Guest Blog: "They Couldn't Put Diapers On Me"

In honor of Thomas and his wife having their first child, I've compiled a ranking of baby Elvis songs. Admittedly, not all of these songs refer to an infant baby. Many of them refer to a baby of the grown woman variety. I decided to leave those in because, after all, you can't have an infant baby without the other kind.

Before I get myself in any further trouble with the grown women of the world, on with the ranking . . . .

#1: Reconsider Baby
#2: Baby, Let's Play House
#3: Baby, What You Want Me To Do
#4: Baby, I Don't Care
#5: Like A Baby
#6: I've Got A Thing About You, Baby
#7: My Baby Left Me
#8: Merry Christmas Baby
#9: Bossa Nova Baby
#10: Rock-A-Hula Baby
#11: Santa Bring My Baby Back
#12: It's Your Baby, You Rock It
#13: Ain't That Loving You, Baby
#14: Baby, If You'll Give Me All Of Your Love
#15: I've Got To Find My Baby
#16: Your Time Hasn't Come Yet, Baby

Of course, if we expand this list to songs that include "baby" in the lyrics rather than the title, we'd have a lot more from which to choose. One fantastic song that comes to mind is "Your Love's Been A Long Time Coming" from the Promised Land album. Songwriter Rory Bourke talks about this one in Ken Sharp's Writing For The King (FTD):

"That song was written about my daughter, Allyson. I wrote it days after she was born. I think Elvis thought he was singing about a big grown up girl but in reality he was singing a song about my baby. His version was absolutely awesome. He caught the complete emotion of what I was trying to say about myself in relationship with this small bundle of love."

Elvis cut this song in 1973. By then, he had been a father for over five years. I personally think he knew exactly what kind of baby he was singing about, as he undoubtedly had similar thoughts while holding his own "bundle of love" for the first time. I've not joined the fatherhood club as of yet, but I imagine Thomas can suddenly relate to this song in a whole new way. Congratulations, buddy! All the best!

/Troy Y, The Mystery Train Elvis Blog

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Elvis Sings For My Baby Girl And Me Too!


Elvis Presley hasn't been very much on my mind these last couple of days, the reason being the birth of me and my wife's first child, a beautiful daughter. But he hasn't been totally absent, either.

The first night home from the hospital, I gave my baby girl her first CD, a reissue of the album Elvis Sings For Children And Grownups Too! called Elvis Sings For Kids. It's kind of a tradition, really, as I've given away these titles as presents to my brothers' and sister's children before.

Do you know the history of this album? According to Ernst Jorgensen the Colonel wanted to put out Elvis Sings For Children And Grownups Too! as early as 1975, but it wasn't until Elvis' death that RCA finally agreed to release it due to lack of new material.

Maybe this isn't the best collection to get kids interested in the music of Elvis, but I'm sure it isn't the worst either. As all the songs but one are from his movies and not originally intended for a children's album, it's kind of a mixed bag.

“Five Sleepyheads,” “Cotton Candy Land” and “Big Boots” (an alternate take I guess was released by mistake) are the only ones I would call strictly lullabies, but I'm sure kids can find delight in classic songs such as “(Let Me Be Your) Teddy Bear” (I know I did!) and “Wooden Heart.”

And whatever you think of “Old MacDonald” it has a given place on this record. I'm not sure the same can be said about “Old Shep,” though, with it's emotional lyrics about shooting an old dog. I would've included “Your Time Hasn't Come Yet, Baby” instead. And how about “Confidence”?

I don't know if my daughter will grow up to like Elvis, but only three days old, his music was the first one she listened to. Maybe a bit silly, but that meant a lot to me.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Return Of The Original Elvis Tribute

The other day I received an e-mail from Arjan Deelen, who's the man behind "The Original Elvis Tribute" that has been touring Europe in both 2009 and 2010. Here's some of what he wrote:  
'The Original Elvis Tribute 2011' will be touring again in May '11, and for that tour this topnotch production will include the legendary Bobby Wood on piano, the elusive Johnny Christopher (first time in Europe!) on guitar & vocals, and the charismatic Duke Bardwell on bass. Three men who all played a key role in Elvis' career, brought together for the first time for this remarkable tribute show featuring some of the finest singers and musicians in the music business. This is one of the most authentic touring Elvis shows - and the only one featuring his original musicians.
I couldn't help but notice that this time around songwriter Michael Jarrett, who wrote "I'm Leavin'" and "I'll Be Home On Christmas Day" for Elvis, wasn't part of the band. I sent a reply to Arjan, asking him why.
Arjan Deelen: Michael Jarrett is a remarkable man, and a great songwriter & musician. He has been an inspiration to me on many different levels, especially personally. He adds a great deal to the shows, and that’s why I have brought him over to Europe for 19 shows so far. I have always felt that some  people that played a role in the Elvis story never really received the credit they deserved, and Michael is definitely one of them. Fortunately, the show has corrected that, and he is receiving far more credit now for his tremendous songs than he ever did.

For the next tour, we wanted to highlight more musicians like Michael, who deserve to be better known by the fans. I am very proud of the fact that we will be bringing a.o. Johnny Christopher this time, who played rhythm guitar on the STAX sessions in ’73, and who wrote or co-wrote songs like “Always On My Mind”, “Mama Liked The Roses” and “If You Talk In Your Sleep”. Johnny has never been in Europe before, and he’s never done an Elvis tribute show.  Johnny will be playing guitar on the show, and he will also be singing his own songs, just like he did on the original demos for Elvis.

That’s what our show is really about. We want to bring the fans something fresh, a new angle on the Elvis story. Johnny will also be bringing his old buddy Bobby Wood from American Sound Studios. As you know, Bobby played on Elvis’ arguably finest moment, the FROM ELVIS IN MEMPHIS album. We’re all looking forward to working together with Johnny and Bobby, and we all believe that they will add a great deal to the show. Bobby has even promised me that he will be singing “If I’m A Fool (For Loving You)”, a song that he originally recorded in ’64 that Elvis later covered at the Memphis ’69 sessions.

Elvis Today: I think it's exciting that you combine musicians from different periods of Elvis' career, as well as live/studio musicians. What does this mix of musicians bring to the show, in your opinion?

Arjan Deelen: I think it brings a lot of freshness to the shows. I have been involved in the organization of Elvis meetings for many years, and in my honest opinion many of these shows featuring original musicians are in a bit of a rut, because they want to play the same old songs again and again. It seems to me that they are unwilling to take any chances. I also feel that it’s a pity that many fanclubs book the same acts again and again. I think that’s one of the reasons why the interest in Elvis shows in general is dwindling. I mean, how many times can you present the same show to people before they get sick and tired of it?

My aim is to present original musicians that people haven’t seen, or at least those that haven’t been overexposed, and I try to present them in a different context. Instead of letting them play with the musicians they’re used to, I present them together with top session players that are still eager to impress. Believe me, it makes the original guys work harder too! That’s why the shows that we have done so far have such a tremendous energy to them. To give you an example, just take a look at this clip from a show we did at a castle in Poznan, Poland last May:

"My Babe" (May, 2010)

We want to generate some of the original excitement and energy that Elvis himself created at his concerts, and I think it works. The crowd reaction at the shows has been amazing. It’s very satisfying to see that the show is doing so well all over Europe.
Sounds exciting, doesn't it? If you want to more information, I can recommend a visit to "The Original Elvis Tribute" website. There you'll find, among other things, details about the band, tour dates and rare audio including Bobby Wood's own 1964 recording of "If I'm A Fool (For Loving You)."

Friday, October 8, 2010

Like A Baby

Now I know how Elvis must have felt as the birth of Lisa Marie was approaching. Soon to have our first child ourselves, I've even acted like Elvis, having taken my wife on a couple of practice runs to the hospital just like he did, checking which entrance to drive to.

Being reminded of this Elvis episode, I looked it up in a couple of books. Turns out there are two versions of what happened when Elvis and Priscilla were driven to the hospital when she was having their baby.

According to Jerry Schilling, the plan was to go to Methodist Hospital, with him at the wheel. In his book Me And A Guy Named Elvis, he tells the story of how Charlie rode shotgun and pointed out that they had arrived at the wrong hospital, having forgotten to tell Jerry that they'd switched over to Baptist Hospital.

Alan Fortras (in his book Elvis From Memphis to Hollywood) as well as Lamar Fike (in Elvis And The Mempis Mafia) paints another picture, with a couple of decoy cars leading the press to Methodist Hospital while Jerry or Charlie (here their stories disagree) forgot the game plan and headed to Methodist as well.

It all worked out in the end though, Priscilla giving birth to Lisa Marie at Baptist, on February 1, 1968. She was a beautiful child and Elvis was, of course, both excited and proud. I'm sure I will be too, in a couple of days. And I'm confident we'll find the right hospital, although there are two of them here as well.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Caught In A Mine

As my wife's born in Chile, I've been following the reports about the trapped Chilean miners with interest. I can't even begin to imagine what it must feel like to be trapped 700 meters below ground, waiting for months to be rescued.

But in steps Elvis to lighten the mood. I was thrilled to read on the Elvis Information Network that one of the miners is an Elvis fan who not only insisted on a photograph of Elvis being sent down to him, he also raised the spirits of the other miners by organizing Elvis singalongs.

Hearing about his, EIN contributor Brian Quinn and others contacted Elvis Presley Enterprises, saying it would be a nice gesture if EPE were to arrange a free trip to Graceland for the trapped miner and perhaps, his colleagues, when they were rescued and had time to overcome some of their trauma. This was their answer:

"Yes, we are in touch with CNN Chile and have sent a big package of movies and music to him that they are sending down to him for the rest of the time. We are also talking with them about a visit!"

It's amazing, isn't it? There he is, this miner, a fan just like you and me, trapped deep underground for more than two months, waiting to be freed and finding strength through Elvis' movies and music. Elvis would've been proud, I'm sure.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Elvis The Movie

Kurt Russell bears a striking resemblance to Elvis, and he sounds a lot like him too. That's the first thing thats hits me watching Elvis The Movie from 1979, released on DVD for the first time recently.

Made just two years after Elvis' death, director John Carpenter does a good job recreating Elvis' life and career, choosing to end the movie with his triumphant return to the stage in 1969.

And although there is nothing in it suggesting Elvis took drugs, personal problems like his marriage flling apart is hinted at, in a way signaling the decline that is to follow.

If Kurt Russell looks like the real thing, then singer Ronnie McDowell sounds very much like Elvis. It's uncanny watching the scene where Russell records "My Happiness," lip-syncing to McDowell's version of a song that wasn't released until 1990.

But being an Elvis fan it's easy to spot the mistakes in the movie, some of which are pretty big ones. Elvis performing "Tutti Frutti" while visiting a German beer joint during his army days is a fantasy that made me think of a similar scene in the movie Top Secret, where actor Val Kilmer sings the same song in a restaurant in East Germany.

Another blooper is Elvis doing a concert tour around 1963, performing in his famous gold jacket, singing "A Fool Such As I" and "Crying In The Chapel." Clearly inspired by (or mixed with) the three charity shows he did in 1961 (two in Memphis and one in Hawaii) , it's nevertheless a nice "what if" scene, where Russell looks even more like the original.

As a matter of fact, I found the 60's a much more incorrect exercise than the 50's part of the movie. Right after Elvis wedding in 1967 we see him dressed in his clothes from Paradise, Hawaiian Style, on his way to shot another movie. A couple of sceens later he's at the piano home at Graceland singing "Bosom Of Abraham" (together with the real Charlie Hodge!) wearing the red shirt/black striped pants from That's The Way It Is.

Then there's the comeback in Las Vegas, where he dons a jumpsuit looking very much like one from 1972, and performing "The Wonder Of You" right after "Blue Suede Shoes."

But all mistakes asides (artistic freedom?) I found watching Elvis The Movie an entertaining experience, mainly thanks to Kurt Russell's performance. If I had to pick one scene, it would be the one where he wakes Priscilla up in the middle of the night, quoting The Prophet by Khalil Gibran. Pulling off a scene like that not only takes great acting skills, it also lends a deeper meaning to the film.

PS: If I had to pick two scenes, I would also choose the one with Elvis rehearsing "Suspicious Minds" at his home in Bel Air. Suddenly, there is the real Kathy Westmoreland among the singers.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

In My Spare Time

The fact that I'm an Elvis fan keeps spreading through the walls at the university where I've been working since December last year. I've written about one aspect of this before, in a post called Preseucoila imallshookupis. Here's another:

Being a public relations officer, I'm in frequent contact with the editor of the official news magazine for the staff at the university. Recently he and I became friends on Facebook, and not long after that I got a message from him, telling me he didn't have a clue I was such a dedicated Elvis fan, running a blog and working on a book. Obviously, he'd found the link on Facebook to my blog.

The editor then told me he was deeply impressed with people taking their hobbies seriously, and asked me if I would like to be portrayed in the magazine under the headline In my spare time.

Writing back, I answered that I would very much like to be interviewed. But when he replied if it was OK to take a photo of me at home, in the special room with Elvis stuff he assumed I had ("and maybe a jumpsuit too") I got cold feet. In no uncertain terms I told him it was alright to photograph me in front of my CD records, but that I didn't have a room solely with Elvis things and that I certainly didn't own a jumpsuit!

In the editor's next answer, he told me not to worry, that it would be a serious, well at least "half-serious" article. I guess we'll find out later this autumn when the interview will have taken place and the article has been published. I'll keep you posted.

Monday, September 13, 2010

More News From The Colonel's Office

Leafing through some old copies of the magazine Elvis Monthly from the 90's I stumbled across an interesting issue, no 421 from January 8, 1995. Celebrating Elvis' Diamond Jubilee Year, it featured re-prints of articles written during Elvis' lifetime.

Studying some of the articles gave me an idea of what it must have been like to read about what was happening to Elvis and his career when he was alive. I found the one written by Tom Diskin, titled More News From The Colonel's Office, especially interesting Here are som excerpts:

Excitement ran high at the recent sneak preview of MGM's "STAY AWAY, Joe". The Comments of everyone summed up to: "This is the sort of thing we've really been waiting for." MGM is releasing "STAY AWAY JOE" for the Easter Season so you can check with your theatre manager when it will be showing in your community.

The long awaited ELVIS'S "GOLD RECORDS, VOLUME 4" has been released by RCA Victor–a great addition to the record collections of fans everywhere. In the meantime, DJ's are giving the hit treatment to Elvis' current single "GUITAR MAN/HI HEEL SNEAKERS"

The Christmas Season Radio Shows presented by Elvis and the Colonel drew thousands of letters of thanks and appreciation. The reaction to the sacred album "HOW GREAT THOU ART", has been especially significant and recently this LP has been nominated by the recording industry as one of the outstanding sacred albums of 1967.

Elvis will be making three new motion pictures in 1968 and the studios are all aiming towards new and different stories. The first will be for MGM, presently titled "KISS MY FIRM BUT PLIANT LIPS"; the second for National General Pictures is titled "THE JACK VALENTINE STORY"; and the third, as yet untitled, will also be for MGM.

Imaging reading the above at the beginning of 1968. How exciting it must have been to learn that Elvis' career was once again on the move. But how did The Jack Valentine Story end up becoming Charro!?

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Don't Think Twice, It's All Right

Seems my brother was kind of right when he guessed how the FTD treatment of Elvis (Fool) was going to play out. "I think the track listing for the aborted, original Fool album will also be included," he told me over the phone a while ago. And here are the official details released yesterday:

Originally released in 1973, the track listing was changed substantially before its commercial release. Here for the first time, ALL the proposed recordings are in included for the first time.
In addition it features great unreleased outtakes plus a 12-page booklet with great photographs and wonderful unseen memorabilia. As a treat it features plenty of unreleased Outtakes, Steamroller Blues (45rpm mix) and the longest 'Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right' unedited at over 11 minutes.


So, definitely something to look forward to. I have to admit I was afraid there would be no long version of "Don't Think Twice, It's All Right," as we already got the unedited master (9:16) on Elvis Now. But this time around it seems we'll get the real unedited version, running a little over 11 minutes. Finally!

I also have to comment the cover used for the other upcoming FTD release Elvis As Recorded At Boston Garden '71. It's one of the best I've seen since I Sing All Kinds, and it's a nice tribute to Elvis As Recorded At Madison Square Garden. As for the show itself, recorded on November 10, 1971, this is what FTD has to say:

Still at the height of his power, Elvis received critical acclaim for this show and now this official release finally makes it available for fans around the world. With so few live recordings available from this period, this is a key release for anyone’s collection.

Still not sure if you're going to buy it? Maybe this will help you change your mind.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Movie Outtakes – The Comments

Going through my old posts preparing the “manuscript” for my book The Elvis Today Blog Vol. 1, I sometimes stumble across comments made long after a particular post was written. One such comment, from February 22, 2010, was written in conjunction with a post from February 1, 2008, in other words, two years after the post was published.

The post, titled Lost In The Vaults – Movie Outtakes, referred to an article in Elvis Monthly from September 1994. In it, Ernst Jorgensen writes about the possibilities of movie outtakes, such as the original ending of Love Me Tender as well as “Summer Kisses Winter Tears” from Flaming Star.

The comment, posted by Norton McColl who ran an Elvis fan club in Brazil for many years, goes likes this:

One thing I learnt is that most of Elvis movies presented in Brazilian movie theatres had alternative scenes. Here it goes. KING CREOLE has shown the alternative hotel scene where Elvis and Susan Hart actually got inside the room. GI BLUES had the alternative TONIGHT IS ALL RIGHT FOR LOVE (Vienna Woods) scene which is completely different than the one released later. SPEEDWAY had the FIVE SLEEPY HEADS scene where he actually sings to 5 babies. HARUM SCARUM had two extra scenes included which are ANIMAL INSTINCT with a black panther circulating and WISDOM OF THE AGES where Elvis bows to the King at the end of this latter song.
I do not know for sure whatelse we could see in the movie theatres in the 50´s and 60`s. I wish we had VHS sets at that time. But it looks like they always use South America to show alternative scenes. The same happened with Hammer horror movies productions whose bloody scenes in full colour were later cut from released VHS's and DVD's.


And a couple of days later, editing a post called Unreleased Frames from April 13, 2009 dealing with songs shown in trailers but not in the movies themselves, I noticed a comment written two weeks later by a guy named Rick Norman along the same lines:

Well, I can tell you as much :
"Summer kisses winter tears" certainly was filmed as it was only cut after preview (because of test audience laughing at the scene).
"Steppin' out of line" has a short sequence in European prints.
The same with "Anyone" from "Kissin' Cousins".
Both songs from "Harum Scarum" were seen in prints distributed in the Middle East and "Sand castles" was also present in Europe, following the "House of sand" sequence.
Having worked in the movie and tv-world for 42 years, I strongly suspect all songs will have been filmed. They were probably cut for different reasons and some reappeared in different prints to be distributed in countries that had other copyright laws or interests. FTD and EPE must be unable to clear the rights or retrieve the actual scenes, otherwise they sure would have published them in new versions of the movie DVD's.
I know they have severe problems with copy rights for some of the movie song versions and that they're trying like hell to clear those.


It's interesting that both Norton McColl and Rick Norman mentions the inclusion of “Animal Instinct” and “Wisdom Of The Ages” in prints of Harum Scarum shown in South America and the Middle East, respectively. Maybe one day they'll turn up in on a compilation DVD together with the other songs mentioned above. And wouldn't it be something if it would include “Hard Headed Woman” from King Creole as well as the Clambake number “How Can You Loose What You Never Had?”

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Wild In The Country – The Deleted Scenes

In the September 2010 issue of the Elvis The Man And His Music magazine, there is a very interesting article about Wild In The Country, documenting deleted scenes from the movie. Turns out there are nine of them, described in detail in the article.

In fact, photos from many of the deleted scenes exist, and in the magazine some of them are published, including four film frames from the original ending (where Hope Lange's character Irene had died). These frames show Glenn (Elvis) sitting on a train on his way to college, opening an envelope Phil Macy (John Ireland) had given him on the train platform.

Interestingly enough, it was Elvis himself that initiated the decision to re-shoot the ending, telling the director of the film, Philip Dunne, that he thought "the boy was getting away with an awful lot in the picture."

Dunne, taking this in consideration, wrote in a memo that "He [Elvis] is on top of the world, going to college, all expenses paid, his story is published, owing everything to her, and she is dead, and he [Elvis' character] is the one who started all the trouble by making a pass at her. She is punished for what is essentially his mistake and he gets off scot-free. The trouble isn't Elvis performance – it is in the situation as it is written."

No footage or photos from the original sequence with Elvis on the train has ever before been seen, according to the author of the article, Bill Bram. Unfortunately he doesn't elaborate as to where he's found his "movie files". But the Fox memos he's quoting offers insight into the making of the movie and the confidence the director as well as the producer had in Elvis' acting abilities.

And I agree wholeheartedly with Bill Bram that it would be nice to think that someday there'll be a deluxe DVD version of Wild In The Country with all the deleted scenes included as bonus material.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

From A Blog To A Book

I've always wanted to write a book, especially about Elvis. Having blogged for a couple of years now (August 16 marked the three year anniversary of Elvis Today) I realized I've sort of written one already.

So after some thinking, what I've decided to do, is to collect the 271 posts I've penned from August 16, 2007 to January 8, 2010 in a book, with the working title The Elvis Today Blog Vol. 1. I've already made a deal with a freelance journalist who will do the layout. As it happens, it's one of my brothers, and what he needs to get started, are all the posts included in a Word-document file.

So what I'm doing right now is a lot of “copy and paste,” going through each post and making corrections when necessary. For example, in the beginning I wrote the title of an album inside quotation marks, like “Elvis Is Back” but after a while started to use italics instead, like Elvis Is Back. Another problem is what to do with all the links and a sentence like “You'll find it here.”

Although it's slow work, I'm making steady progress. If all goes according to plan the book will be ready sometime this autumn, as a pdf-file, and then uploaded to Blurb.com, where you can print your own book on demand. As I understand it, Blurb also features a bookstore where you can choose to put your book up for sale.

So in a way, what I'm doing now is fulfilling a dream I've had for a long time. I'm looking forward to holding my very own book in my hands in the near future. And if you're interested in a copy, just let me know!

Monday, August 16, 2010

Elvis On Tour – Now And Then


Today, on August 16, I'm going to commemorate Elvis by watching his last film, Elvis On Tour, recently released on DVD/Blu-ray. But before I do that I'd like to tell you about the first time I saw it.

It must have been in the early or middle 80's. My parents had bought a caravan, and that's how we spent the vacation: on the road visiting different sights and places.

That particular summer the Swedish Television screened “rain movies” during the afternoon. These were feature films usually a bit old, supposedly to be shown if it was raining and one had to stay inside. Thinking about it right now, I'm pretty sure “rain movies” were shown whether it was bad weather or not, because what if it rained in the north and not in the south?

Now, one day I read in the paper that the “rain movie” was going to be Elvis On Tour. Needless to say, I was excited, as was my younger brother, who also digged Elvis. We told our parents in no uncertain terms that we had to park that caravan in good time before the film was to begin, so that we could turn the antenna around and try to get a sharp picture, something that wasn't always an easy task.

My parents, being very understanding folks, even headed for higher ground so that the TV signal would be stronger. An hour or so before the movie was to begin, we were parked outside a monastery, and went to work trying to find a decent picture on the tiny black and white television set.

I'm happy to report that we succeeded, and after all these years I can still recall the excitement when the screen showed a big clock where the hands were approaching three o' clock, together with a text that read: “15:00 - Elvis On Tour.” I also remember the opening “Johnny B. Goode” sequence and how cool I thought the slow-motion effect was. (Maybe that's another reason why I was so disappointed when it was announced that Warner Home Video had replaced it with “Don't Be Cruel” on the DVD/Blu-ray release.)

All in all, it was a fantastic “rain movie” and it will be great to watch it again tonight – with one big difference. This time it will be in color!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

More Lost Footage From The Garden

Today I was excited to learn that there exists more footage from Elvis' Madison Square Garden concert on June 9, 1972.

About a year and a half ago I wrote about footage of Elvis performing "Polk Salad Annie," captured by an NBC camera crew that was filming the show. Thanks to the Elvis Information Network (EIN) I found this on Youtube just moments ago:



Interestingly enough, the footage starts with comedian Jackie Kahane being booed of the stage (though he seems to think the problem is a faulty microphone). Then there's about two minutes worth of film showing the Sweet Inspirations performing a number followed by some great shots of the stage and audience before the main event begins.

And begin it does, with a superb looking Elvis entering the stage and launching himself into "That's All Right" followed by "Proud Mary." There's also footage showing audience reactions, and it all ends with about a minute of "Polk Salad Annie."

It all took my breath away, and I felt the need to write this post immediately after seeing it. It's like EIN puts it: "A must see!"

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Got A Lot O' Livin' To Do

A couple of days ago I was lucky enough to find a copy of Ger Rijff's book Inside Loving You (2003) in a second-hand bookshop. This photo-journal is packed with impressive photographs from the making of Elvis' second picture, most of them in black and white.

Leafing through it, the photos that fascinated me the most were the candid shots, especially those taken of Elvis together with his parents during breaks in the filming. As you may know, Gladys and Vernon visited their son at the movie lot, and it's clear looking at the pictures, just how much Gladys adored and loved her son.

The shots from the grand finale of the movie, where Elvis is performing "Got A Lot O' Livin' To Do" in front of the TV cameras, also caught my attention. "The best rock 'n' roll footage ever captured on the celluloid," the author writes, and he's probably right. This is how Peter Guralnick describes the scene (where Gladys can be seen in the audience, sitting on tha aisle) in Last Train To Memphis:

"It is perhaps the musical high point of Elvis' career in films, yet another reprise of "Got A Lot O' Livin' To Do" which combines illusion and reality in such a way as to heighten the attraction of each. Elvis swivels his leg sharply, then good-naturedly drags it behind him. He stands at the lip of the stage and, along with the Jordanaires, who are dressed in matching cowboy outfits, leads the audience in hand clapping, then jumps down and comes dancing up the aisle. Gladys' gaze never wavers. For a moment he is standing to her left, and as she claps along she never takes her eyes of her son. Then he backs away, climbs back up on the stage, and the number is over, the studio audience is still applauding."

After reading Guralnick's words, I had to watch the scene myself, and it's indeed a great moment for Elvis on the big screen. For his mother, the experience must have been an ever greater one. As Guralnick writes, "For her it is the pinnacle of everything she has ever dreamed or imagined, Her gaze in transformed by love."

Inside Loving You also includes an interview with Hal Kanter, the director of Loving You, where he has this to say about the rumour that Elvis never watched the film again after Gladys died:

"That's what I've read, I don't know whether that's true or not. I would really sort of doubt that, but it's a good story."

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Spinout Soundtrack Revaluated?

I was a bit surprised to see the Spinout soundtrack receive such praise in the Behind The Scenes section in the booklet accompanying the latest FTD classic album release How Great Thou Art.

No less than three times is the soundtrack mentioned, described for example as “nine above-average recordings” and “a major improvement over the previous soundtracks – in song selection, in arrangements, in the playing, but more than anything, in Elvis' performances. However, this would be a secret until the album's release in October 1966.”

Don't get me wrong, I like the Spinout soundtrack recordings (recorded a couple of months before the How Great Thou Art album), but are they really so much better than the other soundtracks around that time? How can “Beach Shack” be an “above-average” soundtrack recording, or “Smorgasbord” for that matter? To me, it's the bonus songs “Down In The Alley,” “Tomorrow Is A Long Time” and “I'll Remember You” that makes the Spinout album a stronger one than for example Girl Happy and Frankie and Johnny.

The following paragraph also made me raise an eyebrow:

“An advance single for the Spinout movie is released combining the title song with the lovely ballad “All That I Am”. With marketing strategy deciding that the title song was the best way to promote the movie, good commercial sense seems to be overruled, as several of the other recording have much more hit potential.”

Now, which recordings would that be? “Never Say Yes” or “Adam And Evil”? Probably not. “Stop, Look And Listen” or “I'll Be Back”? Maybe those two songs are a bit stronger, but enough to be “hit potential”? I certainly don't think so.

I have to admit I was astonished to read about this “revaluation” of the Spinout soundtrack recordings. The reason why I use the term “revaluate” is because never before have I heard Ernst Jorgensen or Roger Semon talk about these recordings in such a positive way. In fact, in Jorgensen's book A Life In Music, about the only thing written is that the recording of the Spinout soundtrack “would follow the established model of production, promotion, publicity, and sales” and that the “difference between the clean, classic and well-crafted gospel album and the dated, pedestrian, poorly recorded soundtrack albums was like night and day.”

Therefore, it would be interesting to hear Ernst Jorgensen and/or Roger Semon elaborate a bit more about this. And while I'm at it, I'd also like to know the answer to why the photographs in the booklet I presume were taken for How Great Thou Art weren't used on the front of the original album cover, only on the back. Why pick a shot that must be at least four years old instead? It doesn't make sense. I missed the answer for that one, or at least a discussion about it, in the booklet.

Finally, I thought it intersting to see that the memorabilia section in the booklet listed two other drafts of the track listing for the How Great Thou Art album. I programmed my stereo with one of them, and have to say I enjoyed the mix of fast and slow numbers that it offered: (Oddly enough, "Crying In The Chapel” was missing on both of the two drafts.)

Side 1

  1. How Great Thou Art
  2. Run on
  3. Stand By Me
  4. By And By
  5. Farther Along
  6. Somebody Bigger Than You And I

Side 2

  1. So High
  2. In The Garden
  3. If The Lord Wasn't Walking By My Side
  4. Without Him
  5. Where Could I Go But To The Lord
  6. Where No One Stands Alone

Friday, July 30, 2010

How Great Thou Art

If you're on the lookout for previously unreleased complete outtakes, you'll probably be disappointed with FTD's recent classic album treatment of How Great Thou Art. But if you, like me, want to "walk into the studio" and listen to Elvis and his group of musicians and singers as they develop the different arrangements, then you're in for a treat.

Most if the full running outtakes (and a couple of the false starts, too) have already been released through the years, the majority of them on the two FTD albums Easter Special (2001) and So High (2004). In fact, I've only discovered four "new" complete takes on How Great Thou Art, three of which are from the actual May 1966 sessions: "If The Lord Wasn't Walking By My Side" (take 1), "Where No One Stands Alone" (takes 1+4 spliced) and "Without Him" (take 14). The last one, "We Call On Him" (take 7) is from the September 1967 sessions. To be fair, there's also two nearly complete takes, where Elvis for some reason or other misses the ending: "Where No One Stands Alone" (take 3) and "You'll Never Walk Alone" (take 8), but that's it.

Not that it matters. Getting a front seat in RCA's Studio B in Nashville and being able to listen to Elvis' new producer Felton Jarvis directing the session with his supportive comments and encouragement, offers a valuable insight into how the recordings took place and how the songs evolved. This is what makes the classic album releases such gems, at least in my book, and How Great Thou Art is no exception.

The album follows the by now well known pattern used on previous releases. On disc 1 there's the original album as well as bonus songs (in this case "You'll Never Walk Alone," "We Call On Him" and "If Every Day Was Like Christmas" ) and the first takes. Disc two is full of more session outtakes.

Among the first takes I have to mention "Without Him" where you at times can hear a squeaking noise that is Elvis shoe sole! Unfortunately the dialog is missing where Elvis notices this and laughingly points out, "That's my shoe sole! That's the wrong soul, man." (The event is described in detail by Ernst Jorgensen in his The Complete Recording Sessions.) Another great first take is "So High" where Felton Jarvis urges Elvis and the band to"swing on!"

But the real fun starts with the second disc where you really get a chance to listen to Elvis at work, thanks to more takes of every song in a row. The five takes on "Stand By Me" (5-7, 9 & 10) is a good example of this. Elvis can't see the lyrics as the lights are turned down in the studio and mutters after an abandoned take, "That's not the right lyrics, I'm singing another song. Give us just a little bit of light." To me it then sounds like someone is rummaging around in a box of matches!

A demanding song for Elvis was "Where No One Stands Alone," proof being the grand finale that Elvis recorded a couple of times as a work part to be spliced to the rest of the song. The ending always sends a shiver up my spine, and apparently Felton Jarvis felt the same way, exclaiming at one point: "It sounded great, Elvis. God, I was scared to death."

The second take of "Farther Along" is a strange on. The first couple of words on the second verse are missing ("When death has come and") and instead it starts with Elvis singing “Taken our loved ones." To me it sounds like the take has been edited. Really odd. Unfortunately neither the booklet nor the cover offer any information about this.

"By And By" is one of the fast numbers, in fact so fast that Elvis mixes up the lyrics. "We try to do our best when we wonder how to test," he laughs. "Sounded like you said what the hell is this," somebody in the studio shoots back as everybody cracks up. (Another question mark here is why take four is listed as a false start on disc 2 while in fact take four is a complete one included on disc 1.)

Hearing Elvis sing "I come to the piano..." after the intro played by Floyd Cramer (or is it David Briggs?) on the first take of "In The Garden" is a funny moment. It's easy to imagine Elvis walking towards the piano while singing this, making the pianist look up and loose his way among the keys.

Elvis did sixteen takes of "Somebody Bigger Than You And I," although not all of them are included here. But there's enough of them to realize that the key of the song is raised after a couple of takes as Elvis has a problem with the lower notes. It's also clear he's commited to the song, proof being a work part being recorded on this song as well for the ending to be perfect.

In fact, it's Elvis commitment during the whole May 1966 sessions that makes How Great Thou Art such a great listening experience. Featuring two CD's packed with inspirational performances, FTD's latest classic album release offers, to use a well worn expression, great value for money.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Graceland Randers

A copy of Graceland is being built in Randers, Denmark. Photo: Elvis Unlimited.

The groundbreaking ceremony for Graceland Randers on June 15 this summer caught medias attention and was quickly picked up by news agencies around the world. That a copy of Elvis' mansion was going to be built in little Denmark was obviously big news.

My curiosity aroused, I recently telephoned Henrik Knudsen, one of the guys who runs the Elvis Unlimited shop and museum in Randers, and asked him a couple of questions about this incredible project.

Elvis Today: How did you get the idea to build a copy of Graceland in Randers, Denmark?

Henrik Knudsen: Five years ago we held a meeting where we talked about how to market our shop and raise it to another level. My American girlfriend came up with the idea, and we all agreed that was the way to do it.

Elvis Today: How true to the original will the building be?

Henrik Knudsen: Standing outside, looking at it, it will be clear to one and all that it's modeled after Graceland. Stepping inside, it will have our own set-up, obviously. That said, there will be elements reminding the visitor of the real thing, like the staircase leading to the upper floor, which will be built in a similar style and color. That also goes for the cinema in the basement, which will have some elements resembling those in Elvis' TV room.

Speaking of the different floors, the basement will include our museum as well as the cinema, where 25 people at the time will be able to watch a documentary about Elvis specially made for Graceland Randers. Moving up to the first floor, it will situate an Elvis shop to the left and an American diner done in Hard Rock style to the right, decorated with memorabilia associated with Elvis as well as other icons like Carl Perkins, Buddy Holly, Dolly Parton and the likes. The second floor, finally, will feature a hall that can seat 200 guests, and be used for weddings, celebrations, conferences, birthdays and so on. It can also serve as room for art exhibitions and small concerts.

Elvis Today: How did you obtain the drawings for the building?

In January last year, architects from the firm we're working with, traveled to Memphis to measure Graceland and get a feel for the place and the kind of attraction it is. While they were busy measuring with a folding rule I heard one tour guide telling another "And I thought I had seen it all." Obviously, that thought us very hard core fans (laughs).

Elvis Today: What have the reactions been from the media so far?

Henrik Knudsen: Overwhelming and exceeding all expectations! We've been in every newspaper in Denmark as well as on national television. The Guardian has done a story about us, as has The New York Times. And we've been interviewed by BBC World. Fans keeps sending us press clippings, the latest ones from The Korea Herald and a paper in Malaysia.

Elvis Today: Speaking of the fans, what do they think about a Graceland in Denmark?

Henrik Knudsen: The support we've received has been enormous and means a lot to us. And fans from Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Germany, all over Europe in fact, have e-mailed and asked how they can obtain tickets for the opening next year.

Elvis Today: Any word from Elvis Presley Enterprises?

Henrik Knudsen: We haven't received any greeting card or anything. But a year ago, when I met Priscilla in Memphis, I told her about the project and asked her if she would sign a photograph that I could hang on the wall in Randers. She agreed and signed it "To Graceland Randers :-)".

Elvis Today: You are building Graceland outside the town of Randers. What do the local authorities have to say about it?

Henrik Knudsen: Actually, they have been enormously positive, and helped us find a suitable building site, located at the corner of two major roads. I hope one of them will be renamed "Elvis Presly Boulevard" but we'll see about that (laughs). Even today, a lot of tourists come hear to visit our shop, 95 per cent of them driving one hour or more. And with a Graceland in Randers we will be hundred times more important for the tourism, would be my guess.

Elvis Today: So when will the building be completed?

Henrik Knudsen: According to plan Graceland Randers will open at Easter next year. Until then it'll be possible to follow the project on our website. And we'll soon have a web camera operating showing the construction taking place.

Elvis Today: Thank you so much for taking the time talking to Elvis Today, it's a fascinating project.

Henrik Knudsen: Yes, the whole project has been and still is a fantastic journey and the challenge of my life. Graceland Randers is our tribute to Elvis with what we hope will amount to approximately 50 000 visitors during the first year of operation. It's going to be a giant attraction in Elvis Europe!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Benefit Concert For Myrna Smith At Elvis Week

Admittedly, I'm on holiday, but when I received the following newsletter from Elvis Unlimited, I decided to help spread the word:

Elvis Unlimited is proud to announce that our Back In Memphis concert will be a benefit concert for Myrna Smith of The Sweet Inspirations. Elvis Unlimited was the first to break the news of Myrna being hospitalized in London and then again in California where she presently is recovering.

We now can share some even more serious news about Myrna. She has suffered a stroke and is on dialysis. She will need long term care. Myrna has many medical bills and many more medical expenses are ahead due to severity of her condition. Therefore, Henrik & I have decided that proceeds from our show will go to Myrna to help relieve some of the stress of the medical bills. Right now, Myrna only needs to focus on getting better.

The show is during Elvis Week on August 12 at 8 PM at the Michael D. Rose Theater at the University Of Memphis. Reserved seats are 45.00 US Dollars and includes admission to the mini -convention and silent auction from 6 to 8 PM with special guests Barbara Hearn,Charles Stone, Sonny West, Sandi Pichon, Roben Jones & more.

We have spent the last month reorganizing this show to make this a complete success for Myrna. We have changed venues to a larger venue right in Memphis to accommodate more fans and lower ticket prices. We also will have a silent auction before the show at our mini convention from 6 to 8 PM for ticket holders only. All items will directly benefit Myrna. Come down to the University of Memphis for THE concert of Elvis Week! We promise you a great show and a chance to lend a helping hand to our Sweet Inspiration, Myrna Smith!

Let's show Myrna how much we love and support her! Let's all pull together and help Myrna just as Elvis would do! Let's show the world what the Elvis Family is all about - friendship and support!

Order your tickets today:
http://www.inticketing.com/evinfo.php?eventid=117072

VIP Tickets are available through us, email us at sales@elvispresley.dk for more information.

Back In Memphis Concert Details

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

On A Harem Holiday



Though I'm not travelling to Lunarkind, the Arab kingdom Elvis' character Johnny Tyronne visited in the movie Harum Scarum, I'm off for a couple of weeks of vacation.

This means I'm taking a break from Elvis Today as well. But it's a temporary one, I assure you. In no time I'll be back writing about Elvis stuff again.

I hope to see you real soon again, until then please enjoy these interesting articles about an Elvis movie and soundtrack you either love or hate.

Monday, July 12, 2010

I'm Leavin' - A Tribute To Elvis

It's always nice when something Elvis-related arrives with the mail, but the other day the postman brought me a packet that really meant a lot to me. It was a CD recorded by Michael Jarrett, who wrote "I'm Leavin'" and "I'll Be Home On Christmas Day," both cut by Elvis at the same sessions in 1971.

Michael Jarrett was one of the key performers in the "Original Elvis Tribute Show" that toured Europe in 2009 and 2010, and the CD was released by the Elvis For Everyone fan club in conjunction with the tour.

What made me so happy was the fact that it was Michael Jarrett who'd sent me the CD, and an autographed copy at that. I've listened to it a lot, and can safely say that it's not your ordinarily run-of-the-mill tribute record.

Two of the eleven tracks on the album are Michael's own compositions mentioned earlier, and in a way you get to understand the meaning of the songs more clearly, hearing them performed so emotionally by the writer himself. This is especially true of "I'll Be Home On Christmas Day."

With one exception, a funky version of "My Baby Left Me," the rest of the songs are heartfelt emotional as well. One of my favorites, "It's Still Here," receives a fine treatment, as does the two lesser known songs "Suppose" and "They Remind Me Too Much Of You." Special mention must also go to "Pledging My Love" and "Let It Be Me."

The album was recorded "live" in Michael Jarrett's studio at home, with just him at the piano playing and singing, and I think that's one of the reasons the result is so moving. Another is, of course, all the experience and skill Jarrett brings with him into the studio. I highly recommend I'm Leavin' – A Tribute To Elvis.

Read a review of the album (Elvis Information Network)

At The Boston Garden

I for one applaud FTD's decision to release Elvis' November 10, 1971 concert at the Boston Garden (scheduled for September 14 this year). It's one of the 14 shows Elvis did during his only tour that year, and just listen to what Stein Erik Skar has to say about it in his book The Concert Years:

"The tours still represented something of a challenge – enough to make Elvis yet again take the audience's breath away with glittering shows. Some karate finishes on "Suspicious Minds" were so fantastic that the audience wouldn't stop clapping, like in Boston. Boston also experienced that the introduction of "Polk Salad Annie" was again filled with humour and improvisation, and "Bridge Over Troubled Water" got such ovations at all of the concerts that Elvis often sang the last verse twice."


The Boston gig has been bootlegged twice, first as The Power Of Zhazam! and then as One Night Only! But as this is the only available show FTD now chooses to release it as "We believe that this is of such historical importance, that it should be available to everyone."

I agree. The concert in Boston shows Elvis at his best in 1971, and it deserves a place in the official Elvis catalog, as do the recently released shows featured on Showtime! from December 1976.

Another move by FTD is to try to announce their schedule for new releases further up front. Like Tygrrius wrote in a post on his The Mystery Train Elvis Blog, that's certainly a huge step in the right direction.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Help Me Make It Through The Night

Kris Kristofferson performing "Help Me Make It Through The Night" in front of a pleased crowd.

The other night I saw Kris Kristofferson perform live in my home town Gothenburg in Sweden. It was a pretty intimate affair, just Kris with his guitar on stage, singing around 30 of his songs during one and a half hour.

I thought he was pretty cool, attacking his old hits with a song-talking style that went well with the audience. Being an Elvis fan, the highlights to me were of course "Help Me Make It Through The Night" (which he ended jokingly singing"Help me make it through tonight") and the last song before the encore, a nice version of "For The Good Times."

Home again I looked up Kris Kristofferson in my copy of the excellent FTD book Writing For The King, to see what Kris had to say about Elvis recording these two songs. Here are some excerpts:

"I was in Bob Beckham's office at Combine Music in Nashville when I first heard Elvis' version of "Help Me Make It Through The Night." We played it and it was just like being at church ... The fact that it was Elvis singing your song was an honor ... I just liked his approach ... I mean, "Help me make it through the night"; I'm sure he could have identified with that emotion."

"I didn't know Elvis had recorded "For The Good Times." I heard him sing it in a documentary; I think he was singing it in the limo or something. (laughs) Elvis made the song his own. I felt he was drawing from his own experience and could really get inside the song ... There were other artists at the time that couldn't fit into the song and make it theirs like he did. I think it was just a natural rhythm he had."

Read more about Kris Kristofferson's impressive career