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Wednesday, February 17, 2021

The Making Of Frankie & Johnny

Frankie & Johnny and Elvis Now.

In November 1976, Pickwick Records reissued the Frankie and Johnny soundtrack album. Unlike the reissues of the RCA Camden compilations records, which featured the original artwork, it was updated with the same photo of Elvis as the one gracing the cover of the 1972 album Elvis Now. Also, the running order of the tracks were altered and three songs omitted. No one has ever told the story of how and why that happened. Until now.

[September 7, 1976]

The view from the executive office located in a corner of the Pickwick Records headquarters building in San Francisco is an impressive one. On a sunny day the big windows allows for an unobstructed panoramic view of the skyline and out into the Bay.

But the man sitting at the end of the long polished table couldn’t care less. Dressed in a three-piece suit and holding a cigar in his right hand, he has other things on his mind. He relights the cigar and stares at the album on the table in front of him.

“I mean, it’s great that we have an expanded mandate and can reissue this soundtrack album from the movie Frankie and Johnny, but look at the cover. Elvis looks overweight and the head is out of proportions. Almost as if it has been replaced with another shot.”

He glances up at his assistant sitting next to him and frowns.

“You know, my wife and I went to see him when he performed at the Cow Palace back in November 1970. That way something. Very electrifying. And I remember him wearing a cool white suit with a red belt made of snake leather. That’s what he should look like on an album cover.

The assistant, looking pretty cool himself in a brown and blue high collar paisley shirt and black striped pants, nods politely.

“Yes sir, I see what you mean, although I heard that he has gained some weight again. I actually have tickets to one of the two shows he will be doing at the Cow Palace this November, apparently they are already sold out. I guess I will see for myself then.”

“Yeah, well, but have you listened to the songs on this Frankie and Johnny thing? Not at all like the fast beat tunes he gyrated his way through when I saw him in 1970. They just don’t have the same energy or vitality. And three of them are downright horrible. I want them omitted from the album.”

He hands the assistant a handwritten note with three song titles listed: “Chesay”, “Look Out Broadway” and “Everybody Come Aboard”.

His assistant once again nods in agreement and in a moment of inspiration, gets an idea.

“Hey boss, why don’t we edit the album a bit by altering the running order of the remaining tracks?”

The man with the cigar looks at his assistant and sighs.

“That’s something I guess. And even if we can’t make it sound contemporary, we can always give it a more modern look. Remember that compilation album last year, the 2 LP-set Double Dynamite? It was a great idea using the same shot as the one on the Madison Square Garden album. It sold like hotcakes."

Double Dynamite and Elvis As Recorded At Madison Square Garden.
He sweeps the original Frankie and Johnny LP away with a hand, revealing another album beneath it.

The assistant leans forward to get a better look.

Elvis Now,” he reads aloud. "Hey look, the Elvis logo even includes a rainbow, much like the Pickwick one."

“Obviously we can’t use that. But the picture is what I’m talking about. A real 1970s-era image of Elvis that will be perfect.”

He takes a puff on his cigar, looks straight at his assistance and smiles.

“Get on the horn with RCA and ask them if we can use it. And be sure to chop those three songs. They won’t be missed.”

Additional notes
The reissue not only featured a shot of Elvis from the 70’s on the front cover and a couple more on the back, the title was also slightly amended to Frankie & Johnny, replacing the “and” with a “&”. There was no indication anywhere that it was a reissued soundtrack album, and to my understanding, this was the last Elvis release by Pickwick. After Elvis death RCA reclaimed the rights to his Camden releases from Pickwick. And yes, the dialogue above is of course pure fiction, but it was fun to write.

3 comments:

TY - The Mystery Train Blog said...

Fiction? Perhaps, but probably not that far from reality.

I'm glad RCA got the rights back - though they made some dubious decisions of their own over the years, continuing to this day (via Sony & FTD).

Fun piece! Keep them coming!

Thomas said...

Thanks Ty, apparently RCA reclaimed the rights to the Camden releases from Pickwick after Elvis died and his record sales skyrocketed.

It was a fun piece to write, so I'm glad you liked it!

MĂ„rtenbrother said...

Very funny! Maybe that's exactly what happened ...