Covering THAT’S THE WAY IT IS through the years


THAT'S THE WAY IT IS: SPECIAL EDITION Blu-ray cover (concept art)

THAT’S THE WAY IT IS: SPECIAL EDITION Blu-ray cover (concept art)

Warner Home Video has released the cover art for the August 12 Blu-ray release of That’s The Way It Is: Special Edition (above). The documentary captures Elvis in the summer of 1970 in rehearsals and performances for his third concert series at the International Hotel in Las Vegas.

There are also at least two versions of the related press release floating around on the Web. As this version comes directly from Warner Brothers, this is likely the most accurate as far as preliminary product details:

Disc 1 (Blu-ray Disc)
2001 Special Edition
Special Features:
“Patch It Up: The Restoration of ‘Elvis: That’s The Way It Is’”
12 Outtakes – song/nonmusical sequences
1970 Original Theatrical Version

Disc 2 (DVD)
1970 Original Theatrical Version
Special Features:
12 Outtakes – song/nonmusical sequences

That’s The Way It Is represents my personal favorite of all of Elvis Presley’s projects, so I am thrilled it is finally coming to Blu-ray. Based on Warner Home Video’s partial mangling of the 2010 Elvis On Tour Blu-ray release, among other prior Elvis video issues, I am trying to remain cautious, however.

Content-wise, this appears simply to be a Blu-ray version of the 2007 2-DVD reissue of the Special Edition. However, the potential for dramatic improvement in video and audio quality that Blu-ray offers should be a strong selling point. I suspect that only the 2001 Special Edition, which represents a completely different edit of the film than the original theatrical version, is garnering the full upgrade treatment. I hope I am wrong, however, as both versions deserve it.

I hope that Warner spent more time on the films than it did the cover art, for something about it looks slightly familiar. Join me for a trip down Memories Lane for a look at previous home video cover art related to That’s The Way It Is.

Original Home Video Releases (Circa. 1987)

THAT'S THE WAY IT IS home video covers (circa. 1987)

Note the error on the left cover promoting “The Wonder of You” as being included in the movie. Though Elvis name-checks the song, it did not appear in the actual film. A performance of “The Wonder of You” from that engagement did not appear on video for another five years. It was also added to the Special Edition version in 2001.

1988 VHS Re-release

THAT'S THE WAY IT IS home video cover (1988)

Lest there be any doubt, Elvis did not wear a pink jumpsuit in That’s The Way It Is. As a child of the 1980s, I have to love the vintage cover art style, though.

1992 VHS Release of The Lost Performances

THE LOST PERFORMANCES home video cover (1992)

The original photo of the same Elvis pose made an appearance on the cover of Elvis: The Lost Performances, a release that helped define my Elvis fanhood. It featured outtakes from That’s The Way It Is and Elvis On Tour. While the main Elvis photo is unfortunately a reverse image, this is still one of my all-time favorite covers. Maybe it is because I loved that video so much, though. Looking back, I do have to wonder if using similar cover art caused consumer confusion. Many that already had the 1988 video release of That’s The Way It Is may very well have believed this was the same content under new packaging – despite the “lost” title.

 1997 VHS Re-releases and First DVD Release


As The Lost Performances had (temporarily) taken over the Elvis pose first used for That’s The Way It Is on VHS in 1988, striking new cover art for That’s The Way It Is made its debut for the 1997 VHS and DVD editions of the film. The Lost Performances VHS cover also received a slight redesign for 1997, though, sadly, it did not receive a DVD issue.

2001 Special Edition VHS and DVD Releases


A new edit of That’s The Way It Is, marketed as That’s The Way It Is: Special Edition, made its debut in limited theatrical runs in 2000. In 2001, it hit home video with VHS and DVD releases. Unfortunately, Warner had to excise bonus features at the last moment due to not obtaining proper clearances. A performance of “Are You Lonesome Tonight” over the closing credits also had to be replaced. The original version of the film was not included. For the cover art, Warner went back to the tried and true Elvis pose first used in 1988 – despite the fact that this was a different version of the film from the original. Again, fans who already had previous versions with similar covers probably did not bother to buy this one. The “special edition” also featured only a few of the songs from The Lost Performances.

2007 DVD Re-release


By 2007, the original theatrical version of That’s The Way It Is was out-of-print on DVD. A 2-DVD re-release of That’s The Way It Is: Special Edition included the original film and some of the excised bonus features from 2001 on the second disc. Bonus features were in embarrassing video quality for a mainstream release. While definitely watchable, the 1970 theatrical cut was also in lesser condition relative to the 2001 edit.

2014 First Blu-ray Release (and beyond?)

2014 Blu-ray edition of THAT'S THE WAY IT IS: SPECIAL EDITION

Hundreds of incredible photos are available of Elvis during the filming of That’s The Way It Is, but the Warner Home Video art department remains firmly fixated on the same image featuring Elvis after audience members have ripped his jumpsuit and mussed up his hair during an impulsive walk through the crowd.

Return of the Rocker Starts an Obsession

Close-up of Return of the Rocker (1986)

Close-up of Return of the Rocker (1986)

In my childhood, I mostly listened to Elvis through borrowing records from my Mom and brother.

That all changed in 1987. Back then, you could still hear music on AM radio, and Oldies stations still played more than the same 200 songs they recycle today.

A local AM radio station was playing the live version of “I’ve Lost You” by Elvis that very morning as I waited anxiously on the phone. I was 11-years-old and on a strange winning streak. It seemed just about any contest I entered at that time, I won.

This radio call-in contest was for the prize to end all prizes, though. The winner of this contest would receive an Elvis LP record album, Return of the Rocker.

I had been trying for a week or two to win this one. To win, you simply had to be the tenth caller once they announced the contest each weekday morning. They had been giving away the album for some time, as my brother had won it over a month before. I was determined to win as well.

Usually such call-in contests went like this for me:

  1. Dial the number.
  2. Hear busy signal.
  3. Hang up.
  4. Hit re-dial.
  5. Hear busy signal.
  6. Go back to 3 until it finally rings, someone answers, states there has already been a winner, and hangs up.

The phone was ringing, and sooner than normal this time. The DJ, “Large” Larry, answered by simply saying the name of the station. I paused, as this had never happened before. “Am I a winner?” I asked sheepishly.

“Yes, you are!” He said. Realizing (and, looking back, probably surprised by) my age, the DJ asked me a few questions about what grade I was in and whether or not I thought my teacher was good-looking.

I didn’t care about the DJ’s shenanigans, though. I had just won my first-ever Elvis album! A week or two later, a certificate arrived in the mail that could be redeemed at the now defunct Peaches Music for a free copy of Return of the Rocker.

I would eventually spend a lot of time browsing the Elvis Presley section in Peaches, but I believe this was my first time in the store. I didn’t browse too long that day, just grabbed Return of the Rocker, checked out without problems, and hurried my Mom on the car ride home so I could finally play this record.

The record player I had back then was a hand-me-down from my older sister. It was vintage 1970s, I think, and kind of folded up to be carried around – though it was really too heavy to do that since it had a couple of bookshelf speakers as well.

I gently placed the needle on Side A of Return of the Rocker and was instantly rewarded with a rousing saxophone intro to an Elvis song I had never heard before, “King of the Whole Wide World.”

“The poor man wants the oyster,” Elvis sang, “The rich man wants the pearl, but the man who can sing but he hasn’t got a thing, he’s the king . . . of the whole wide world. Come on and sing! Sing, brother, sing!”

I was blown away. My life was never the same after that moment. Over the next few weeks, while pondering the incredible front and back cover art by Mark Chickinelli (I would love to find a print of his full cover art painting someday), I must have played the record dozens and dozens of times.

The rest of it was just as good as the opener, and it was full of songs that were new to me.

Side A
King of the Whole Wide World (1961)
(Marie’s The Name) His Latest Flame (1961)
Little Sister (1961)
A Mess Of Blues (1960)
Like A Baby (1960)
I Want You With Me (1961)

Side B
Stuck On You (1960)
Return To Sender (1962)
Make Me Know It (1960)
Witchcraft (1963)
I’m Comin’ Home (1961)
Follow That Dream (1961)

Return of the Rocker may have just been a compilation record of previously released songs, but that record was everything to me.