Thursday, April 1, 2021

Elvis Las Vegas 1975: April Fool's Dinner

Today I punched the date April 1, 1975 into my time machine and attended Elvis' dinner show at the Las Vegas Hilton showroom. Actually, I went there twice.


The first time around I found myself seated at the end of one of the tables located perpendicular to the stage. In front of me was an Elvis souvenir menu. I absentmindedly ordered a "Seafood Cocktail Supreme" that was promptly delivered before the lights dimmed to the sound of "Also Sprach Zarathustra" blasting through the room.

Glancing at the guy sitting opposite me, I saw him fiddling with something under the table. Leaning over and taking a closer look, I realized he was pressing the play and recording buttons on a portable cassette recorder. Looking up at me, he smiled and made a "shusing" gesture, holding his index finger in front of his mouth. I smiled back and handed him the menu. Gratefully, he placed it over the cassette recorder so only the part featuring the microphone was visible.

When Elvis entered the stage he looked a little heavy, but the voice was stronger than ever. As for the show, it was a no nonsense, contemporary affair, with highlights like "And I Love You So," "Big Boss Man," "My Boy" and "Fairytale." Almost all of the quick renditions of songs from the 50's were gone, except "Hound Dog." Obviously, he took his singing seriously.  

At the same time, Elvis was in good spirit, joking and interacting with the audience, clearly enjoying himself. ("Oh yeah, the second part of the show has been cancelled, so ... April fool!") As for me, I sat so close to the stage that I could clearly make out the pattern of the light blue and silver ornaments on the shoulders of his two-piece suit.

All too soon, though, it was over. "It's been a pleasure working for you, so 'til we see you again, take care, God bless you," Elvis told the audience, before launching himself into "Can't Help Falling In Love." I could be mistaken, but before the curtains came down, I am pretty sure he smiled right at me. 

The last thing I saw before travelling back to 2021 was the guy with the cassette recorder hiding it from security. It would eventually find its way to a bootleg LP released in 1980 with the title Rockin' With Elvis April Fool's Day, and later on with upgraded audio on the bootleg CD April Fool's Dinner from 2009.


The second time I punched the date April 1, 1975, I was aiming for the midnight, closing show that took place a couple of hours later. But somehow I must have messed up the time control, as I was transported to the afternoon show once more. Only, this time, I found myself standing in the back of the showroom, next to sound engineer Bill Porter and his mixing console. 

Wearing a checkered jacket and with a TCB necklace around his neck he was clearly frustrated over something, turning knobs and pressing buttons. But as the lights dimmed and I once more heard the the iconic opening of "Also Sprach Zarathustra," I turned my attention to what was happening on stage instead.

This time, the details of Elvis' two-piece suit weren't as recognizable as before, nor was his face. That didn't stop me from feeling that he sang for me and no one else. By the look of the mesmerized faces around me, I was pretty sure everyone in the audience felt the same way.

At the end of "See See Rider" Elvis said quickly in his microphone, "I can't hear on stage, Bill." As I casted a glance to the side, I noticed Bill Porter adjusting a couple of fader controls. That seemed to satisfy Elvis, who soon found himself busy responding to someone on the balcony shouting several times, "Look up here!" 

But clearly something else was wrong, as Bill Porter muttered to himself, "The soundboard recording has stopped." He continued to press buttons and turning knobs, and just as Elvis ended "I Got A Woman/Amen," I saw relief in his face. Clearly, the recording of the soundboard was back on track.

"Love Me" and "If You Love Me (Let Me Know)" followed, and a couple of songs later it was time for a nice surprise. Dropped two years ago from the set list, "Burning Love" was back again, and Elvis delivered a great, funky version. "I'll Remember You" and "How Great Thou Art" at the end of the show were strong performances, too. 

Before returning to 2021 a second time, I saw Bill Porter pressing down a button on the mixing console as the closing vamp came to an end, stopping the recording of the soundboard. It would take 41 years before it surfaced courtesy of the FTD label in 2016, on the second disc of the double 5" release titled Elvis Las Vegas 1975 (featuring the March 22 midnight show on the first disc). 

You could to worse than pick it up and travel back in time, like I did today. But if you want to experience the balcony dialogue as well as "I Got A Woman/Amen," you will have to find the bootleg version instead.


01. Also Sprach Zarathustra (missing on the audience recording)
02. See See Rider
03. I Got A Woman/Amen (missing on the soundboard)
04. Love Me
05. If You Love Me (Let Me Know)
06. And I Love You So
07. Big Boss Man
08. The Wonder Of You
09. Burning Love
10. Introductions
11. My Boy
12. I'll Remember You
13. Let Me Be There
14. How Great Thou Art
15. Hound Dog
16. Fairytale
17. Can't Help Falling In Love
18. Closing Vamp

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