Friday, April 23, 2021

On Stage On Super 8

Because so few of Elvis' live concerts were professionally filmed, fans have to turn to amateur super 8 footage to get an idea of what it was like to see him on stage during a certain tour or engagement. I was reminded of this a couple of weeks ago when my brother sent me the link to a clip on Youtube from Elvis' January/February 1970 Las Vegas "On Stage" session. 

One of the first times I came in contact with fan footage was when I ordered the VHS Return To Splendour from the British fan club back in 1994 (it was released on DVD 10 years later). It was fascinating to follow Elvin live on stage from 1969 up to 1975, but unfortunately it was silent concert footage. The narrator Anne Nixon did a great job describing the different jumpsuits but I missed the sound of Elvis.

Things have improved since then. Thanks to the availability of soundboards and modern technology, it's possible to sync footage and sound with the help of video editing software. Although I guess it takes a lot of patience to do a really good job.

Elvis launching himself into "That's All Right" at Madison Square Garden.
Notice the man passing, oblivious of this historical moment.

One example that works really well is the 20 minutes of fan-shot footage from the June 10, 1972 afternoon show at Madison Square Garden. Synched with audio, it was released on the 2 CD+DVD set Like A Prince From Another Planet in 2012, including a complete performance of "That's All Right."

Another release worth mentioning is the bootleg Final Countdown To Midnight box set from 2014, featuring the nearly complete Pittsburgh New Year's Eve concert  from December 31, 1976. Apparently quite a few fans in the audience that night brought along a super 8 camera, as the DVD includes a lot of multi-camera angles, with perfect sound synchronization. My brother and I actually watched it together one New Year's Eve, I think for the 50th anniversary of the show. We had a great time.

No less than three super 8 cameras captured Elvis during his "I Got A Woman"/"Amen"
routine on New Year's Eve in Pittsburgh, 1976.

I really wish FTD would to something along the same lines. That is, release a DVD with super 8 footage in great quality synched with sound. 

The 2018 documentary Elvis Presley: The Searcher features super 8 film of Elvis performing "An American Trilogy" from what I guess must be the June/July tour in 1973, and the quality is amazing. So how about releasing more of where that came from, together with a book and a CD? What a great FTD project that could be.

Exceptional quality on this super 8 footage having Elvis singing "An American Trilogy" in 1973, used in the documentary Elvis Presley: The Searcher.

A recent example of fan footage complete with sound (I'm guessing both original and dubbed) is the SOLD OUT! volumes, 2 DVD sets containing rare 8 mm footage from the collector Rex Martin. Apparently there was some controversy surrounding the release of this material, as a lot of the footage has been made available on YouTube as well. 

But back to the clip from Elvis' second Las Vegas engagement, in January/February 1970. "Fun to watch," my brother wrote in the email that included the link to Youtube, and it was. During the 3 minutes and 42 seconds that it played, I got to watch and listen to snippets of no less than 11 songs:

  • All Shook Up
  • I Got A Woman
  • Long Tall Sally
  • Don't Cry Daddy
  • Let It Be Me
  • I Can't Stop Loving You
  • Walk A Mile In My Shoes
  • Sweet Caroline
  • Polk Salad Annie
  • Suspicious Minds
  • Can't Help Falling In Love
Once again, this time with the help of 8mm footage with synched sound, I was reminded of why the On Stage album is one of my favorites, and how incredible it must have been to to see Elvis in person. 

The only thing I can't figure out is what sound source has been used. "All Shook Up" has, to my knowledge, only been officially released on the FTD album The On Stage Session: The Opening And Closing Shows - February, 1970, but "Walk A Mile In My Shoes" is only featured on CD 1 (Opening Show) and "I Got A Woman" on CD 2 (Closing Show), so maybe both were used? Or a bootleg?

A final note: Obviously some of the super 8 fan footage was shot with sound, but the one from February 1970 is not. When the screen goes black between the snippets of footage the sound continues. My theory is that the person behind the camera didn't bring along any spare cassettes of film, just the one in the camera which was enough for 3 minutes and 20 seconds of filming (that explains the short sequences). As the clip clocks at 3 minutes and 42 seconds with sound running all the time, it can't be shot together with the film. And besides, the first super 8 sound on film cassette was not released until 1973. Before that, it was a silent system only.

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