Guest Blog #7: A Trip Down 2012 (Part 2)

The Best News Stories 2012 (A) by Kees

Halfway through the year, as part of a “double post” with Ty, I compiled an article listing what I considered the Elvis news highlights of 2012 through that point. Now, on the verge of 2013, it is time for me to finish with what I consider the most important Elvis news stories from the last six months. Let’s pick it up where we left off.

A Boy From Tupelo

July 28: The Holy Grail

One of the best news stories of 2012 was, of course, the announcement of the release of A Boy From Tupelo by Ernst Jorgensen. July gave us the tracklisting, confirmation of a previously unreleased song entitled “Little Mama,” and several live performances of songs we only knew from studio recordings.  Three days later, the box was released. Funny to see how all details were kept secret, especially in this day and age when nothing appears to be safe.

Wire Machine

July 13: A Miracle

Miracles do exist. On July 13, news broke that YouTube user “amberola1b” posted a previously unreleased recording of Elvis singing “I Forgot To Remember To Forget” live at the Louisiana Hayride on October 1, 1955. How ironic it is that after ten years of work, Jorgensen finally announces the release of Elvis’ body of work from that era and then this recording surfaces. News went through the Elvis world like a wildfire.

The song was recorded on an early Silvertone “wire” recording machine. We initially hear Buzz Busby and the Bayou Boys before Horace Logan introduces Elvis, Scotty, and Bill with their “modern-day type” new single, “I Forgot To Remember To Forget.” 
The reaction from Jorgensen was, “Wow – it’s unbelievably beautiful. I’m still trying to recover from the shock.”

The audio quality was very good, especially considering that it was a camcorder capturing the antique machine playing the wire. It almost sounded better than the new concert recordings on the A Boy From Tupelo set. This discovery showed that miracles can still happen. Who knows what is still out there ready to be discovered?

Especially because you could listen to the newly discovered song, this was one of the highlights of the year for me. I enjoyed being an Elvis fan again.

It was sad that Elvis Presley Enterprises did not appear interested in this news. I mailed them several times but got no other answer than, “Thank you for sending your email concerning a new live recording of Elvis. Unfortunately, I don’t know anything about the new recording besides the link that you shared with me in your prior email.” EPE never mentioned the newly discovered recording.

One day after the song hit the Elvis world, the owner discovered the potential value of what he had put online and threatened all those linking to his video with copyright violations. The song was bootlegged by various fan clubs and appeared on a handful of CDs, so fans could still enjoy this recording. An official release still has yet to see the light.

Graceland book

July 6: Graceland Through The Years 1957-1977

Boxcar Enterprises released a book, Graceland Through The Years 1957-1977, on July 6. The first edition of the book, limited to 2000 copies, sold out immediately. I enjoyed reading this book very much. It brought back a lot of memories of walking through the famous mansion in 2001. I still cannot believe that a former bootlegger can produce a book like this, rather than EPE, which is sitting on a wealth of original information and memorabilia. Graceland Through The Years contains 450 pages with over 1000 photos, many never before published.

Bootleg Elvis book

July 3: A Bootleggers Treasure

Speaking of bootleggers, the book Bootleg Elvis was also released in July. With the Graceland and Tupelo books, this release marks another essential book release. It documents all known vinyl bootleg releases, with additional background information from the original bootleggers themselves. It is not the kind of book you sit down and read cover-to-cover, but it is an essential reference and fun book to browse through every now and then. It is always fun to look up the vinyl in your own collection (no I found no hidden treasure …). When will the follow-up on all bootleg CDs appear?

August 1: The Holy Grail From Another Planet

August 1, 2012 marked the release of A Boy From Tupelo book and CD set – an essential release for any fan who wants to know everything from the early years of Elvis Presley’s career in music. I’m still reading it and will be for some time. Thank you, thank you very much, Ernst!

Sony Legacy also spread the news on the Prince From Another Planet double CD/DVD set containing Elvis’ legendary concert performances from Madison Square Garden. Sony simultaneously released three Madison Square Garden products:

1.) A vinyl re-issue of the original 1972 album As Recorded At Madison Square Garden. [Music On Vinyl also re-issued this same title.]

2.) A double CD containing the original mixes of Elvis’ June 10 shows as originally released on As Recorded At Madison Square Garden and 1997’s An Afternoon In The Garden.

3.) The Prince From Another Planet double CD/DVD set containing new mixes of both June 10 shows, with the DVD including audience footage from the afternoon show.

One would expect that the two CD sets would be the same, but Sony instead decided that the sets would contain different mixes and masterings of these concerts. Also, the footage on the DVD does not cover the entire concert, so Sony chose to show a black screen while the audio continues. Why not create a mini concert with only the available footage?

Elvis with Sheila Ryan

Elvis with Sheila Ryan

September 18: Sheila Ryan Died

This year quite a few people from the Elvis world died. Bernard Lansky, who dressed him in the early days, friends like Patti Parry and Lance Legault, people he worked with professionally or admired, like Tony Curtis, musicians, directors, and concert promotors.

One stood out from the rest for me – his one-time girlfriend Sheila Ryan. She passed away at the age of 59 after a battle with cancer. After Elvis and Linda Thompson broke up, he dated Sheila for a while in 1974. They first met in Las Vegas. Elvis performed “And I Love You So” many times during his concerts and dedicated it to Sheila.

October 23: Hits From The Seventies

The Follow That Dream Collectors label released the Hits Of the 70’s compilation in October. Is it a very important release? I guess not, but it does mark a new direction for the collectors label. Could it be the bottom of the barrel is finally in sight after 100+ FTD releases?

The CD itself got mixed reactions and reviews, mainly because it did not contain any previously unreleased material. For me personally, that’s no problem, the music on this compilation is very good and I enjoy listening to it very much. Releases like this bring back memories of discovering Elvis when I was young.

November 28: Elvis Inducted into Memphis Music Hall of Fame

Elvis, among other Memphis music greats, was inducted into the Memphis Music Hall of Fame during a musical tribute held at the Cannon Center for the Performing Arts in downtown Memphis.

Memphis is often known as the cradle for legendary musicians in blues, soul, and rock ‘n’ roll. Until now, there was no Hall Of Fame – which was new to me. Walking around Memphis and enjoying all the different links to many kinds of music, this had escaped me.

The event was sponsored by the Memphis Rock ‘n’ Soul Museum. The ceremony consisted of 25 inductees who maintained strong ties to the Memphis community and were pioneers in the music industry. Other Memphians honoured were Sun Studio founder Sam Phillips, DJ Dewey Phillips, blues legends BB King, Howlin’ Wolf, and Isaac Hayes, among many others.

According to the Memphis Commercial Appeal, Priscilla Presley accepted on behalf of Elvis and noted that Elvis’ musical influences included several of his fellow inductees. “I know he would be humbled and pleased to be included in standing with them tonight at this inaugural event,” she said in a video message presented during the ceremony.

Back In Memphis, 2012 FTD Edition

November 5: Back In Memphis

The Follow That Dream label announced the release of Back In Memphis in their Classic Album” series. This is one of my all-time favourite albums with great recordings like “Inherit the Wind”, “Stranger in My Own Hometown” and, of course, the fan-favorite “Suspicious Minds” – which FTD added as a bonus track. The additional alternate takes of these and other songs from the original album never sounded so good.

November 26: Elvis Files Vol. 1 ’53-’56

Erik Lorentzen shared a preview of the first volume of his Elvis Files anthology. This volume contains the years 1953 through 1956. These years turned the boy into a man and finally the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll. If I think of Elvis, images from this era come to mind. For me, this is what embodies Elvis. Two volumes are still shrink-wrapped and will probably be after I receive this volume. The first volume chronicles Elvis’ rise from his pre-SUN discovery to becoming the world’s biggest new sensation – over more than 500 pages and 1,200 photos. Featuring all Elvis events from 1953-1956, every working moment, the early tours, the first Las Vegas trip, recording sessions, the TV shows, and lots of unseen and unpublished images (according to the press-release). Originally announced for release in December 2012, it will be available early 2013.

December 21: Aloha From Hawaii – 40th Anniversary Edition

The year closes with a bang! Boxcar Enterprises announced that, in association JAT Publishing, it will release a 40th Year Anniversary special book in celebration of Elvis’ iconic Aloha from Hawaii, titled Elvis – Aloha via Satellite, in February 2013.

This massive, comprehensive 450-page volume is packaged and housed the same as Elvis Presley’s Graceland Through The Years. The book comprises hundreds upon hundreds of photographs, many of which have never before been seen.  Also collected exclusively are scores of historical memorabilia and the Colonel’s original internal documents and scripts. According to the press release, this is intended to create a time-travel experience of sorts documenting the most ground breaking event in the annals of television history.

2012 Wrap-up

So this wraps up 2012. Was it a good year? Browsing through the 290 posts I did on my Elvis Day By Day blog I can only say it was. On only 75 days, I did not find anything interesting to post. After years with only a few outstanding releases, 2012 raised the bar on CD and book releases, while vinyl made a comeback.

I did not get much of the 35th anniversary celebrations, but we got A Boy From Tupelo, for many fans a “holy grail”, we got a lot of vinyl, we got the Prince From Another Planet, a newly discovered recording of “I Forgot To Remember to Forget”, many import releases, and a series of great books. A few years ago, we thought the well had run dry, but I believe we may still get a few surprises in the years to come. See you around next year!

/Kees, Elvis Day By Day

The Best News Stories 2012 (B) by Kees

Guest Blog #6: From Hawaii To The Rest Of The World (The Edge Of Reality #7)

What if the previously unreleased cassette recording of Elvis rehearsing the day before his opening show at the Las Vegas Hilton on January 26, 1973, had been a rehearsal for an upcoming world tour instead? In an alternate universe, a review of the recently released From Hawaii To Las Vegas album from FTD would have sounded a bit different…. You’ve just crossed over into… the edge of reality.

The Edge Of Reality

[Read the full post by Thomas Melin over on Elvis Today Blog.]

Guest Blog #5: FTD takes Elvis fans beyond the Promised Land

I have been an Elvis Presley fan since the age of 5, and many times I have told friends my story of how I one day discovered my Mom’s record collection at the bottom of the staircase in our home. As I rifled through her collection, I came across the album Elvis Today and was instantly intrigued.

Long story short, not only did that discovery create a new Elvis fan, but for the last 35 years I have always claimed Today as my favorite Elvis album. However, after listening to the recently released Follow That Dream treatment of the Promised Land album, I am now proud to proclaim Promised Land as my all-time favorite Elvis album.

Promised Land album cover

Promised Land album cover

Since the inception of the Classic Albums concept by the FTD Collectors Label, fans have been clamoring for Ernst Jorgensen & company to deliver the Promised Land album to them in this expanded format. I am happy to say that the wait, while long and seemingly endless at times, was well worth it. What FTD has done with not only the original album, but the session outtakes is simply amazing.

Once I received my copy of Promised Land, I immediately noticed that the format presented to us for this album was a little different. As usual the original album kicks off disc one, but then comes the twist. We fans are treated to “Promised Land – The Alternate Album.” This section contains the original album song lineup using outtakes from the recording sessions.

Referred to as “Session Highlights,” these 10 outtakes presumably are what the FTD team felt were the best alternate versions of each song from the album. Personally, I truly enjoyed this change to the Classic Albums format, and I hope that FTD considers continuing this trend on future Classic Albums releases.

Upon concluding the “Alternate Album,” the rest of disc one contains “More Session Highlights.” The entire contents of disc two are referred to as “Sessions – The Making Of.” Basically these are the remaining session outtakes from that historic recording session at the Stax Studios in Memphis during the final month of 1973.

Herein lie the true gems of this 2-disc package. Hearing Elvis rehearse, record and re-record these songs is a true listening experience. When I first listened to these outtakes, I was captivated by Elvis’ true commitment to the material he was recording – something that, to me, had seemingly been missing since his marathon recording sessions of June 1970.

Listening to the outtakes from the Promised Land sessions, you can hear Elvis really trying to create something special. Just hear the passion in his voice during the recording of “It’s Midnight” or the ache in his voice in “There’s A Honky Tonk Angel (Who’ll Take Me Back In).”

These outtakes, at times, can be viewed by fans as windows into the soul of Elvis Presley, perhaps moreso than any other recordings of his career. Even songs like “Mr. Songman,” which may not be at the top of the list as far as being one of his best, take on a whole new freshness and life as they are presented here by the great folks at FTD.

Another guilty pleasure has to be listening to Elvis getting lost in the lyrics of “Your Love’s Been A Long Time Coming.” When we finally arrive at take 9 (the master take), Elvis can’t bring himself to finish the song and, fortunately for us listeners, we are there as FTD brings us the unedited version of this song.

Then, of course, comes the title track. This song, in my opinion, provides indisputable proof that Elvis could still rock with the best of them when given the right material. We are treated to almost every outtake (take 1 is not present) of “Promised Land,” and we can hear Elvis truly having fun as he molds this Chuck Berry composition into an Elvis Presley song!

There are so many highlights to this new version of the Promised Land album, but undoubtedly the star of the album has to be the sound quality of each song. With crystal clear remastering work by Jean-Marc Juilland and Vic Anesini, each of the 48 tracks presented in this collection sound as though Elvis recorded them in 2012, not 1973. As I listened to this album, it was hard for me to believe that these recordings were almost 40 years old.

Of course, accompanying the Promised Land FTD release is the customary 12-page booklet, giving fans the details behind the recording and release of the album, along with some fantastic artifacts from RCA of notes, reviews, memorandums, and other album-related items.

As always, fans are also treated to some great concert shots spread throughout the booklet. Finally, we are treated to an essay from noted Elvis author Sandi Pichon who recalls her experience when attending one of Elvis’ historic Stax recording sessions.

For all of these reasons, and many more which I could spend all day talking about, it is official: Promised Land is now my all-time favorite Elvis album. It has taken almost 35 years to get here, but it was well worth the wait!

I’d like to take a moment to thank Ty for allowing me the opportunity to guest blog for him. May The Mystery Train Blog continue to roll on down the line…


/Mike Hermenet, Co-Moderator – TCB-World

Guest Blog #4: Elvis 1967 – That Wild Presley Beat (The Edge Of Reality #4)

What if the follow-up to the critically-acclaimed and Grammy-nominated Young Man With The Big Beat box set turned out to be something called That Wild Presley Beat, focusing on 1967? You’ve just crossed over into . . . the edge of reality.


1967 saw the beginning of Elvis Presley’s return to the charts with songs that were once again artistically significant. But it didn’t happen overnight. The once “young man with the big beat” from Memphis was still tied to the formula of making movies and recording soundtrack albums. By the end of that fateful year, though, he’d shown the world that he was still a force to be reckoned with.

That Wild Presley Beat

That Wild Presley Beat puts the focus on Elvis during 12 months, from February 1967 to January 1968. The package includes his RCA studio master recordings in Nashville; his soundtrack master recordings in Nashville and Hollywood; alternate masters, outtakes; home recordings, and much more. Taking its name from the poster for his movie Clambake, the super deluxe 5-CD, 12 inch square box set (with an amazing 80-page book with timeline) will be available on April 31.

The five CD’s comprise the following, all material originating from February 1967-January 1968:

CD One, Soundtrack Master Recordings
19 tracks recorded in Nashville and Hollywood, starting with nine songs from Clambake, (February 21-23, 1967) followed by 10 songs from Speedway, including the previously unreleased movie version of “Your Time Hasn’t Come Yet Baby” (June 20-21, 1967).

CD Two, Studio and Soundtrack Master Recordings
17 tracks recorded in Nashville, starting with 10 songs from the “Guitar Man sessions,” including the unedited masters of “Guitar Man” (with a fade-out jam on “What’d I Say”) and “High Heel Sneakers” (September 10-11, 1967), followed by three songs from Stay Away, Joe (October 1, 1967) and four more songs from the combined studio sessions/soundtrack recordings for Stay Away, Joe (January 15-16, 1968).

CD Three, The Outtakes I
Four outtakes from the Clambake soundtrack recordings (“The Girl I Never Loved,” “How Can You Lose What You Never Had,” “You Don’t Know Me,” “A House That Has Everything”), segueing into the complete session of October 1, 1967 (19 takes of “Stay Away, Joe,” three takes of “All I Needed Was The Rain” and five takes of “Dominick”).

CD Four, The Outtakes II
Nine outtakes from the “Guitar Man sessions” plus another 15 outtakes from the combined studio sessions/soundtrack recordings for Stay Away, Joe, including all 12 takes of “Too Much Monkey Business.”

CD Five, Home Recordings and Interview
Eight home recorded tracks done in early 1967, including “Suppose” that Elvis submitted to his producer Felton Jarvis for overdubbing (done on March 20, 1967) by musicians and backup vocalists. The other seven tracks are previously unreleased, among them “It’s Now Or Never” (with Charlie Hodge) and “Elvis Practicing Organ.” The CD ends with a newly discovered interview with Elvis on the set of Stay Away, Joe. The interview was done and taped by reporter Joseph Lewis, doing a story for the Cosmopolitan.

That Wild Presley Beat will feature an extraordinary book, where the focal point, spread across its 80 pages, will be a unique, meticulously-researched, day-by-day chronology of Elvis during 1967, including every recording date, film schedule, personal events in his life, and much more. A dazzling photo array of memorabilia will illustrate each day and entry. Movie posters, RCA memoranda, letters from fans, postcards from Elvis to his family, personal photos, magazine covers and articles, trade charts, fan club relics, RCA publicity photos, candid photos, and more will be a feast for the eyes and the imagination as 1967 unfolds.

That Wild Presley Beat will also include five rare 8×10 photographs, three original-size movie poster replicas, and a replica of the “specially autographed” wedding photo originally included as a special bonus inside the Clambake album.

Pre-order customers will also receive an exclusive “Stay Away, Joe” vinyl 7″. Sharing the same striking cover art as the movie poster, the EP features “Stay Away, Joe,” “Goin’ Home,” “All I Needed Was The Rain,” “Stay Away” and “Dominick.”

This imaginary box set is available only in . . . the edge of reality.

/Thomas, Elvis Today

Throughout 2011, The Mystery Train Blog has commemorated the 44th anniversary of 1967. Find out why here. This concludes our coverage.

Guest Blog #3: Elvis epitomizes everything we love about rock ‘n’ roll (Playlist Recipes #3)

I’ve been an “Elvis guy” since I was a kid. His story was a sad one, but what he gave us was amazing. I’ve always felt like I wanted to defend him, like people were all into his “image” but unschooled as to his recorded work.

Speaking of defending, I was planning to write a book, but maybe now instead a website, devoted to his films. They get such a bad rap but are so fun to watch. My wife and two boys always look forward to Elvis Week in January when we shut it down and watch Elvis movies. We returned to Graceland this summer (we’re just north of Toronto) and had a great trip. When I came home I found The Mystery Train Blog and have enjoyed reading and joining in.

I’ve got an older brother. He and his friends are fans of blues and blues/rock — guys like Buddy Guy, the Allman Brothers, Led Zeppelin, and other late-Sixties rockers like Pink Floyd and Creedence Clearwater Revivial.

Being the younger guy, I always wanted to turn them on to some “cool” music they weren’t aware of. They all know and respect Elvis Presley, but I always wondered if they really knew him or some of the lesser-known songs and even mini-eras that were cool, recordings that would help prove his place among the iconic “rockers” in history.

And what about the kids of today? Could I show them that yes, Presley had been there first, had done it better than most, and deserved to stand alongside others? Not just in terms of sales and historical significance, but also in that “cool” factor? They put our boy on stage with Celine Dion, trick up his old tunes for remixes, “duets,” and Cirque du Soleil to make him palatable to the masses – but what tracks, taken on their own merits, would prove my point and show the kids of today, or even hippie-type rockers like my brother and his friends, that the man really helped invent “cool”?

It’s like I tell my kids: try to imagine you’ve never heard of “Elvis” before. Try to think of a time when music was not like “Hound Dog,” but more like “Come On-a My House.” Try to imagine that time and then imagine hearing a white Southern boy singing “That’s All Right,” the track that would have to start my Cool Elvis CD. The primitive, raw energy of this recording makes it significant and not just historically – it’s great to hear and great to sing in the car.

“Mystery Train” qualifies for a lot of the same reasons, but this track adds something darker, sort of a Robert Johnson thing.

“My Baby Left Me” is another Arthur Crudup song, which of course ties it to the blues. Another energetic track that must have sounded so different from other offerings in 1956, delivered with sheer joy and exuberance.

“Hound Dog” would be a hard sell because it’s so iconic, but try to focus on his ferocious vocal. Maybe the “coolest” thing about this track is not Presley at all, but Scotty Moore – his two solos on this record are out of this world. More like “hard rock” compared to other recordings of the time. Can we not trace Jimmy Page back to this two minute and sixteen second part of history?

“Mean Woman Blues” – another blues tune with great lyrics and another ballsy vocal.

I’ve always said that “Jailhouse Rock” is maybe his best vocal. I mean, this song “rocks” and his delivery is one of the coolest single things I’ve ever heard.

“Too Much” has that beat, that tempo, that groove. And it has the way he says “take” as in “take me back, baby…”

“Trouble,” particularly the King Creole version, is maybe the best example of Elvis as a danger, as a threat to your physical well-being. On this track, he’s menacing.

I’ve heard a bootleg recording of Led Zeppelin doing “A Mess of Blues” – talk about giving a song cred. The Presley version is solid with some great piano. Again, “blues.”

All movie songs are terrible? Buried in Frankie and Johnny is “Hard Luck.” He sounds so comfortable singing the blues. Again. And the harmonica? That cat is in the pocket.

In the late Sixties, Presley again showed the world how cool he really was. Just look at him in the Comeback Special. The sit-down session should be enough to prove his coolness. “Down in the Alley” and “Guitar Man” from this era are great tunes with a bit of a new sound for him.

Speaking of movie tunes, gotta go with “Spinout.” Fantastic drumming and another great vocal: “prove” in “she’s out to prove.”

The American Sound Studio recordings are like the Comeback Special: proof enough. Specifically: “Suspicious Minds,” a fan favourite. Everybody loves it and it is maybe the first of his recordings to actually be majestic.

“Rubberneckin’” and “A Little Less Conversation.” What can I say? Remixes aside, these recordings stand up in swagger, energy and coolness with ANYTHING in rock history.

“The Power of My Love” is a great one to play for any old blues boy-type guy. This one bumps and grinds.

“I’m Movin’ On” has to be there. This is for the old school C&W fan. But I love this because it may be the song of Presley’s that most exemplifies the blend of country and blues he was famous for. The highway bounce of the verse and the soul-funk work-out of the chorus. “Move on, baby!”

Being a fan of the oldies, when I first heard Elvis sing “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’,” I couldn’t get into it, but now I can hear that he found the heart and soul of the song and ratcheted it up – big time. Never has “Baby!” sounded so cool.

“Polk Salad Annie” benefits from a visual of Elvis performing it on stage. As a recording, though, it’s got energy to burn and humor as well. You listen with a smile. He’s digging it.

Elvis did for “Never Been to Spain” what he did for “Lovin’ Feelin’.” Punched it up and let it blast through the arena.

“Burning Love” works all these years later, like “Suspicious Minds.” Great guitar intro, great “mature Elvis” vocal with a bit of echo. Another easy sell. It rocks and everyone is down with this one.

“Aw, get on it!” And off we go to the “Promised Land.” Talk about energy. The Seventies juggernaut seems to have started here. The scene in Men in Black is actually perfect: driving really fast with “Promised Land” really loud.

A couple of tracks from this era have a great groove that was perfect for the time: “If You Talk in Your Sleep” and “I’ve Got a Feelin’ in My Body.” “If You Talk in Your Sleep” is down and dirty. “I Got a Feelin’ in My Body” brings the funk. Solid.

“T-R-O-U-B-L-E” is another one you play for the C&W fan. Great vocal and a rollicking track. The lyrics really say “country song,” too.

I close my imaginary Cool Elvis CD the way King closed his chart career: “Way Down.” Contemporary sounding for its time, the vocal catches him at the end, lacking a bit of the old fire. But J.D. Sumner, some great piano playing, and a driving, dramatic performance make this one worthy of inclusion.

So this is the CD I’d take to poker night at my brother’s. You have to have some familiar songs or people feel out of it. So, along with the better known tracks, I’ve thrown in some hidden gems and all together they present a pretty good case.

Don’t let history, his status as an icon, the “Elvis Sightings” and the jokes about his weight take away from the fact that the cat was solid. He is that cool. He really does epitomize everything we love about rock ‘n’ roll. It’s borne out not just in the images but in the recordings. It’s amazing to think that someone so visually stunning and entertaining didn’t need the visual at all, really. Just the music.


Elvis, The Cool Album

  1. That’s All Right
  2. Mystery Train
  3. My Baby Left Me
  4. Hound Dog
  5. Mean Woman Blues
  6. Jailhouse Rock
  7. Too Much
  8. Trouble
  9. A Mess of Blues
  10. Hard Luck
  11. Down in the Alley
  12. Guitar Man
  13. Spinout
  14. Suspicious Minds
  15. Rubberneckin’
  16. A Little Less Conversation
  17. The Power of My Love
  18. I’m Movin’ On
  19. You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’
  20. Polk Salad Annie
  21. Never Been to Spain
  22. Burning Love
  23. Promised Land
  24. If You Talk in Your Sleep
  25. I’ve Got a Feelin’ in My Body
  26. T-R-O-U-B-L-E
  27. Way Down

Guest Blog #2: Fashion For A King doesn’t fit diehard fan

Fashion For A King (2011)

Fashion For A King (2011)

Let me just start out by saying that I am not an Elvis book collector. I buy very, very few Elvis books, and the ones I do usually tend to be reference type books, along the lines of Joe Tunzi’s Sessions books. In other words, I am a discerning Elvis book collector and don’t simply pick up every single tome with Elvis’ picture on the cover. Simply put, there has to be a good reason for me to buy one. Being a jumpsuit fanatic, I had always wanted a book that would document the suits Elvis wore in minute detail. Thus, when I heard about Fashion for a King I knew it would have to be one of my rare Elvis book purchases.

When I saw the press release for Fashion for a King, I was thrilled. An entire book (500+ pages) about Elvis’ jumpsuits? What could be better? (For me, anyway. I know some people groan at the thought.) According to the press release, the book promised to be “a full documentary of Elvis’ jumpsuits,” covering “the background story of each and every suit” – a “fully documented story and pictures of Elvis Presley’s stage outfits” and “an encyclopedia for fans…to learn more about these great original stage outfits.”

Needless to say I was excited. An encyclopedia of each and every suit, with documentation? My head filled with visions of unseen photographs and close-ups of each suit, along with documentation about when each suit was worn. Although not explicitly stated, I did get the impression that each concert would be individually documented, if not with a photo, then at least with a date and a listing of which suit was worn. In short, the press release promised a lot, and since the book had been written by fans, who often obsess about such details, I was very much looking forward to a reference that I would look at time and time again, much like I do with my Sessions books.

Unfortunately, upon paging through the book after I got it, it immediately became clear that it was much less than was I was anticipating. The majority of the photos in the book were ones I had seen before, either from well known sources, Follow That Dream releases, or simply from surfing the Internet. Only about 20 or so were new to my eyes, and it seemed as though the rest had been cobbled together from various sources that almost anyone could find. I felt a bit cheated paying over $100 US for a book full of photos that I probably could assemble most of myself given a few days of Internet usage. However, I could forgive the lack of rare photos if the rest of the book (the jumpsuit specifics) made up for it. Unfortunately the book failed in that area as well.

The text was bland and repetitive and followed exactly the same format in each section: Elvis’ tour lasted from this date to this date, he wore XYZ jumpsuits during the tour and he had Y band members with him. While the descriptions of which jumpsuits were worn on what dates were sadly lacking, oddly, the authors saw fit to inject commentary within the descriptions about Elvis’ health, state of mind, girlfriends or spending habits, often in the form of generalizations. I found it hard to distinguish whether or not the authors were trying to sympathize with Elvis or to condemn him. Regardless, in my opinion, a simple list of shows, dates, suits, capacities, grosses, and band members would have been much superior to prose that alternated from factual statements about dates and locations to editorial comments about Elvis’ state of mind. Somehow, in a work billed as an encyclopedia of Elvis’ jumpsuits, I wasn’t expecting to read about Elvis’ love life, or his spending, or the Colonel’s gambling habits. All of these things have been covered elsewhere. As it stands, the text came across to me as a canned, generic version of the stereotypical Elvis timeline that a non-fan might parrot back to you when talking about Elvis. In other words, lots of generalities, few actual facts, and most glaringly, very little relevance to what the book was ostensibly about. Oddly, though, given the lack of actual text concerning the specifics of Elvis’ jumpsuit usage, almost every section has specific details about the types of microphones Elvis used on a given tour, even down to the color of the tape used to secure the microphone windscreen – if only the jumpsuit information was this detailed and orderly!

To be fair, some of Elvis’ jumpsuits are described in detail, although I personally found the descriptions hard to follow, as often the authors would mention that Elvis wore ‘X’ jumpsuit with ‘Y’ belt during a specific Vegas engagement while not having a photo of said jumpsuit (and particularly said belt) to accompany the text. This was especially confusing when describing jumpsuits and belts that were originally created in previous years (say, when talking about jumpsuits and belts worn in both 1973 and 1974, for example). The text more often than not wound up reading like “Elvis wore jumpsuit X with original belt 1, although sometimes with non-original belt 2, along with jumpsuit Y” – I found myself having to page backwards through the book to remind myself if I actually saw a photo of “original belt 1” at some point. Given that I am a lifelong Elvis fan and a jumpsuit aficionado, I can only imagine how confused an average Elvis fan, or a new Elvis fan, might be with the descriptions. Having some photos of the jumpsuits as displayed at Graceland when talking about minutiae like how many buttons were on the sleeves of the given jumpsuit or how belt X had two chains per loop while belt Y had only one would have provided some excellent visual counterpoints to the printed details. Again, I am approaching this from the standpoint of someone who LOVES reading about things like how the differing versions of the flame suit can be determined by the color of the kick pleat in the legs, and even I found some of the text hard to follow.

Design-wise, the book is laid out well, but I did find that the authors included photos of Elvis wearing a given jumpsuit in a later year placed within the discussions from a previous year (with shots of Elvis from 1972, for example, appearing in sections covering Elvis’ November 1971 tours). While I can understand using shots from different periods when describing a specific jumpsuit, the book is primarily organized about specific tours and engagements, so personally I would have found it more stylistically interesting to include 72 shots with 72 tours where a given suit was worn. Again, including some static shots of the jumpsuits themselves when talking about their design would have been more interesting and appropriate to this reader.

The book is clearly a labor of love on the part of the authors, and one can tell that they enjoyed putting it together, but overall, I can’t really find much in the book that will interest the diehard fan, and in particular the diehard jumpsuit fan. The book has the feel of a project that fans might do in their spare time for their own enjoyment, which is essentially what this sprang from, according to the press release. As mentioned, I could see myself doing something similar just for the fun of it, although if I were to put it in book form for wider consumption I personally would feel an obligation to provide something, even if not necessarily new, at least useful as a reference.

Although this release is not produced by FTD, it was released in conjunction with them, and as with previous FTD book products, some Elvis music is included, this time in the form of Elvis’ Omaha, Nebraska show from July 1, 1974, and a Las Vegas show from December 14, 1975. Both of these have been around on the CD/CDR circuit, with parts of the former also being available in the form of some very good 8mm footage, but neither has appeared on soundboard. Both are a welcome treat, showing Elvis in good form, with the 1975 show providing an excellent set list. I remember hearing this show years ago as an audience recording and really enjoying it and the soundboard version confirms what I thought at the time. Elvis seems relaxed and in a good mood, and gives some very committed and unrushed performances. The oldies are tossed together and dispensed with in the first third of the show, leaving the remaining two-thirds for more powerhouse material, including “How Great Thou Art” (with a reprise of the ending), “Just Pretend,” “You Gave Me A Mountain,” and a rare (for this time period) performance of “Until It’s Time For You To Go.” Even more unusually, the show even features a performance of “It’s Now or Never” with Elvis singing the Italian lyrics. The show is also quite long for Vegas, running about 75 minutes. Overall, this show alone more than makes up for the book in my opinion, and I am very happy that this particular show has finally been released on soundboard.

The Omaha show is also of a good standard, with Elvis’ performance (in my opinion) being more serious and energetic than other releases from this time period, like June 19 in Amarillo or June 29 in Kansas City. Again, a nice bonus and nice compensation after my disappointment with the book.

In short, I was disappointed by Fashion for a King in almost every respect. On a scale of 1 to 10, I’d have to rate it right down the middle, with only the authors’ obvious love for the subject and the two included CDs saving it from a bottom of the barrel rating. Ironically, in thinking about it, this book might actually be more appealing (from a content standpoint) to a casual fan, as it does offer some nice photos in a coffee table book format. But for the diehard jumpsuit lovers like me, there is unfortunately little new on offer.

/Bryan Gruszka, Strange Paradise Online

Bryan Gruszka has been an Elvis fan since he was 6-years-old. A self-confessed jumpsuit afficionado, his favorite period is the 1970s. When not occupied with Elvis, Bryan is developing a book and website about Strange Paradise, an obscure Canadian gothic soap opera. Feel free to drop him a line or check out his website.

Guest Blog #1: Elvis 1967 – Clambake!

When Ty announced that The Mystery Train Elvis Blog would honor the 44th anniversary of 1967 with special features on that Elvis year all throughout 2011, I couldn’t keep my fingers away from the keyboard. Not only does 1967 mark the year I was born, it also saw the release of the soundtrack album Clambake, and I’d like to talk a little bit about the latter.

Clambake (1967)

Clambake (1967)

Actually, Clambake isn’t strictly a soundtrack album as it includes no less than five bonus songs, four of them recorded in Nashville on September 10-11, 1967. No doubt this is a big part of the explanation why I like it. And although one of the worst soundtrack songs Elvis ever recorded is featured on it as well, a lot of the movie material works surprisingly well.

Clambake is the only soundtrack album to kick off with a bonus song, and what a start it is. For starving fans back in 1967 it must have been a joy to listen to Elvis belting out “Guitar Man.” This is one of the songs that revealed that Elvis was again showing signs of musical creativity and a newly found interest in his career.

Although the same thing can’t be said about the next song, I actually enjoy the title track “Clambake.” It’s a fun number and I love it when Elvis sings “Aaaaaaaallrigh” at the beginning of the instrumental break.

The duet “Who Needs Money?” is a dreary song, but what follows is the pretty little ballad “A House That Has Everything.” Unfortunately, it’s then time for “Confidence,” a song I would list among the five worst numbers Elvis ever recorded. A children’s song that is unlikely to appeal to any child, or grownup too, for that matter.

The last song on side 1 of the original LP is “Hey, Hey, Hey,” a number many fans think is crap. I agree that the lyrics are silly and that the scene in the movie where it’s sung is an awful one. But I think it works well on record, it’s a funky, enjoyable number.

Side two is actually better than the first one, no doubt because the rest of the bonus songs can be found on it, together with the beautiful “You Don’t Know Me,” certainly one of Elvis’ best soundtrack ballads. When I bought the LP I never understood why it was labeled “Specially recorded for records.” It was years later that I learned that Elvis wasn’t satisfied with the version recorded during the Clambake session, on February 21, 1967.

“The Girl I Never Loved” is another beauty, I love it when Elvis sighs while singing “The kiss I never got, somebody else will make…” A sensitive ballad.

Why is is that some of the best songs are always cut from the movies? “Animal Instinct” from Harum Scarum and “Sand Castles” from Paradise, Hawaiian Style are two such examples, the bonus song “How Can You Lose What You Never Had” from Clambake another.

The three excellent bonus songs “Big Boss Man,” “Singing Tree,” and “Just Call Me Lonesome” round off the original Clambake album, released in October 1967, four months after I was born. I first listened to it maybe fifteen years later, and still do now and then. Clambake, gonna have a clambake!

/Thomas, Elvis Today

Throughout 2011, The Mystery Train Elvis Blog is commemorating the 44th anniversary of 1967. Why? Riders of this train love exploring Elvis’ entire career, not just the 1950s. Find out more here.