Monday, May 30, 2011

"A Book About Elvis And About Us"

As you who follow my blog know, I wrote a press release when my The Elvis Today Blog book was finished a few months ago and sent it to all the big Elvis websites. What I didn't expect was how difficult it was going to be to get the majority of them to include that piece of news.

I was especially disappointed to learn that one of my favorite sites, didn't want to mention my book in their news section as "It’s just not about Elvis, but about an Elvis-site."

Fortunately, the Elvis Information Network thought otherwise, "looks great, have added it as front page news," as did fellow Elvis blogger Troy Y, who has posted a review of the book on his Mystery Train Elvis blog. It begins like this:
Don’t let the title of this book fool you. The Elvis Today Blog is not a book about an Elvis site. Without a doubt, The Elvis Today Blog is a book about Elvis. However, it turns out that The Elvis Today Blog is also a book about us - modern Elvis fans. By relating his personal experiences, author Thomas Melin crafts a unique volume that follows the triumphs and trials of being an Elvis fan in the post-1977 era.
It really made my day reading that (as well as the rest of the review). After all, it's not every day someone tells you that you've written "not only a great book about Elvis but also an essential examination of contemporary Elvis fandom." Like Elvis used to say, "It makes it all worthwhile."

Read the whole review (Pieces of our lives: A look at modern Elvis fans)

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Stage Rehearsal

I was pleased to notice that one of the upcoming releases from the FTD collectors label will be a CD titled Stage Rehearsal. Dealing mainly with Elvis' show rehearsal at the International Hotel in Las Vegas on August 10, 1970, it offers a couple of bonus rehearsal tracks recorded on the same stage during other engagements as well.

Basically, the album is an upgraded version of the bootleg CD Hang Loose, released in 1991 by the Bilko label. Studying the complete track list for the rehearsal, published in FTD's first audiovisual documentary The Way It Was (page 21), I noticed that "You Lost That Lovin' Feelin'" (released back in 1980 on the Elvis Aron Presley box set together with "Sweet Caroline" from the same rehearsal) was not included on the bootleg.

Then, comparing the list with the Stage Rehearsal CD, I was a bit surprised to discover that not only is one take of "Polk Salad Annie" missing on the upcoming FTD album, but also a take of "I''ve Lost You" (two takes of each song are featured on the bootleg Hang Loose).

Here's for hoping the track list presented by FTD is incorrect and that the two songs will be included. I know I'm not alone in looking forward to this release, and if the sound quality is anything like it is on the Elvis Aron Presley box set (a vast improvement over the one offered by Hang Loose) we should have a winner.

A final thought. I wonder why the August 10 rehearsal wasn't recorded in its entirety? As it is, all the tracks are labeled "Incomplete - Late Start." Strange, isn't it?

Friday, May 20, 2011

An Album That Would Have Never Been

A great looking cover, a nice booklet and above all Elvis in excellent voice. Yet I have some reservations when it comes to FTD's latest release Elvis Sings Guitar Man featuring songs recorded in Nashville 1966-67. My reasons are threefold:

1. Only two complete unreleased takes are found on the album, and to make matters worse, both of them are versions of "Singing Tree," the one song that differs a lot in quality from the rest. 2. No alternate takes of "Mine" are included, only the master, although outtakes exist and have been released. 3. I do miss the January 1968 recordings, especially "U.S. Male" and "Too Much Monkey Business" that I feel share a connection with the September 1967 sessions (mainly due to Jerry Reed's guitar acoustic guitar picking).

Don't get me wrong, the songs contained on Elvis Sings Guitar Man are among some of the best that Elvis recorded during the 60's. I just feel that the two disc classic album format in this case limits the value of the release. At least, if you like me, already have all the outtakes (except the two takes of "Singing Tree") on other FTD and BMG releases. Why not go for a three disc release instead, including alternate takes of "Mine" as well as ones from January 1968? That would've made more sense to me.

That said, I have to mention the making of "Guitar Man" from the September 1967 session. Listening to Jerry Reed taking command of the recordings is fascinating stuff, as is the studio banter between him and producer Felton Jarvis. "I haven't played all all weekend," Jerry mutters as he and the musicians works out the intro of "Guitar Man." I actually found myself jumping to the second disc after the first takes on disc 1 to be able to follow the progression of the song.

Another highlight is the recording of "Big Boss Man" that in all fairness features a couple of incomplete, unreleased takes, showing Elvis having some trouble with song. "Elvis, you're jumping just a hair early," Felton cautions. "Alright, which hair is it?" Elvis deadpans.

So, am I being too critical? Maybe. But imagine a three disc version of Elvis Sings Guitar Man, with a couple of more unreleased takes, the January 1968 material (including outtakes) and as a special bonus Red West's recordings of "Indescribably Blue" and "I'll Remember You" from June 1966 (he filled in for Elvis as the musicians laid down backing tracks). That would've made an ever greater "album that would have never been."

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

A Life With Elvis

About two months ago I was interviewed by the editor of the official news magazine for the University of Gothenburg where I'm currently holding a position as a public relations officer. Today the magazine was published, featuring an article spread over two pages titled A Life With Elvis under the heading In My Spare Time. This is how it begins:

Few artists have such dedicated fans as Elvis Presley. Thomas Melin, who is a public relations officer at the Faculty of Arts, has lived with his idol for over 30 years and not a day goes by when he doesn't think of him.
"Yes, Elvis is a big part of my life," says Thomas
, when we meet in his apartment, while the sun sets over the harbor entrance.
All in all, I was pretty pleased with the end result, including the layout. From personal experience working as a journalist, I know how writing about someone with a keen interest in something, like an Elvis fan, can be a delicate balance. One the one hand, you don't want the one you interview to stand out as a lunatic, on the other you want to be able to explain why that person is so fascinated by his or her hobby.

I'm happy to report that I come across as a pretty normal guy, the article explaining why I got into Elvis in the first place and how I try to learn more and more about him, both as an artist and as a human being. Also, my Elvis blog was mentioned, as well as my trip to Memphis in 2005. The article ends like this:

When I ask Thomas to make a top-five-song list, he says that's really an impossible task, but then still comes up with a list that applies for the day. On it is "Walk a Mile in My Shoes," that Thomas himself made ​​a CD recording of when he visited the legendary Sun Studio in Memphis. Outside, the darkness has settled, the volume is turned up:

"If I could be you, if you could be me
For just one hour, if we could find a way
To get inside each other's mind"

Ett liv med Elvis (full article, page 22-23)

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Three Princesses And A King

It's amazing how Elvis pops up when you least expect him to. I recently experienced another example of this leafing through a magazine at my parents published by the Swedish Aviation Historical Society (my father's an aviation buff and a member).

Among all the photos of Swedish aircraft, there was the well known shot of Elvis kneeling in front of Princess Margrethe of Denmark, Princess Astrid of Norway, and Princess Margaretha of Sweden on the set of G.I. Blues. What on earth was it doing in an aviation magazine?

Studying the accompanying article, it told the story of how the Scandinavian airline company SAS acquired a couple of DC-8 aircraft and started operations flying to New York and Los Angeles in 1960. Here's the episode mentioning Elvis:
The line to Los Angeles opened on June 3, 1960, and in connection with this SAS invited the three Scandinavian princesses Margrethe of Denmark, Astrid from Norway and Margaretha of Sweden on the maiden flight. The American press was beside itself with joy, and a meeting between the princesses and Elvis Presley during the visit was the crowning glory. Better PR for a company could not be achieved in the USA!
The caption stated that Elvis sang "Are You Lonesome Tonight" in front of the princesses, but I'm sceptical about that. Nevertheless, thanks to my father and his magazine I learned of the background to why the three Scandinavian princesses met Elvis in June, 1960.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

The King In Ten Episodes

For ten years I worked as a journalist at a radio station called P4 Halland, one of Swedish Radio's 25 local channels around the country. I specialized in news reporting, but soon found myself making programs about Elvis as well.

On of my first efforts (in 2001) was a series of ten short episodes dealing with different parts of Elvis' career, both familiar and more unknown. With a running time of five to eight minutes each, I soon found the series broadcast on most of the other local channels as well. Although ten years ago I still remember how proud I felt.

Therefore I was glad to notice that my old place of work, P4 Halland, is repeating the series right now, broadcasting one episode each Tuesday. So far seven episodes have been made available on the station's website, among them one about Elvis' movie songs during the 60's, another telling the story of his first recordings and a third describing the making of the NBC TV Special in 1968.

So if you understand Swedish or just want to listen to some Elvis music, you're more than welcome to aquaint yourself with P4 Halland's "exclusive series in ten episodes about Elvis and his life," as it says on the their website.

"The King" i tio delar (P4 Halland)