Saturday, July 2, 2011

The Handwritten Las Vegas Rehearsal Set List

Sitting behind his desk in his California home at 144 Monovale, in Holmby Hills, Los Angeles, Elvis looks down at the canary yellow lined legal sheet where he so far has scribbled only the words "RCA STUDIO REHEARSALS."

He sighs, leans back in his comfortable, green leather chair, at the same time casting a glance at the photo on the desk showing him proudly shaking hands with Richard Nixon, who only days before, on August 9, 1974, has resigned the office of the presidency.

But Elvis has other things on his mind than the Watergate scandal. The fact is, he's as weary as his critics of the predictability of his own show, and is determined to work up an entirely different repertoire for his August 19 opening in Las Vegas.

Tomorrow is the first of three days of rehearsals at RCA's Sunset Boulevard Studio, and Elvis wants his long time friend and stage director Charlie Hodge to have a list of songs he can show to the musicians. It's the way they always do it before going in the studio. "The 2001 introduction has to go and I ain't gonna use my guitar," he mumbles to himself and starts writing with his gold plated fountain pen.

About fifteen minutes later, Linda Thompson, passes the door to the combined office/TV/living room, and casts a quick glance at Elvis. Things aren't that great between them right now, and she knows he's hitting on other girls, including twenty-one-year-old Sheila Ryan, who was on the cover of Playboy magazine that previous October.

Linda tries to catch Elvis' eye, but he doesn't look up from the paper on which he is writing. She knows better than to disturb him and walks away.

Elvis haven't even noticed her. Truth is, he's invigorated simply to be reinventing the show, introducing recent material such as "Promised Land," "It's Midnight" and "If You Talk In Your Sleep," and omitting the medley of past hits.

He also throws in songs he's never done live before, including, surprisingly, "Down In The Alley" recorded back in May 1966. "Janie, Janie, Janie, Janie, Jane, Jane," he sings out loud as he remembers how fun he was having in the studio with that one, clowning around with Charlie Hodge. Some old favorites, such as "Proud Mary" and "I'm Leavin'" also end up on the sheet.

Finished at last, he puts the fountain pen in its holder and looks with satisfaction at the list in front of him. He notices that he's managed to spill some coffee on it and that "Just Pretend" is written twice. No matter. "OK, anytime you're ready," he says to himself as he gets up from the chair, the set list in his hand.

(This post was inspired by an auction on eBay)


Michael said...

What an incredible piece of memorabilia! And the scenario you presented feels very true.

Mike Hermenet said...

What a story!! It almost feels like you were there writing it as it was happening!! Another OUTSTANDING article my friend!!


Thomas said...

Thank you very much for your kind comments, Michael and Mike! Truth is, I really enjoy writing these kind of posts, trying to get the details right (like his office that I found a picture of on the Internet, showing that the chair behind the desk was, in fact, green).

Thanks again, guys!