Elvis On Tour tonight

The legendary Elvis Presley returns to the big screen tonight as Elvis On Tour: 75th Anniversary Celebration debuts in a special presentation at theaters across the United States.

Presented by Warner Home Video, Elvis Presley Enterprises, and Fathom, the event features the newly restored for high definition Elvis On Tour, a special message to fans from Elvis’ ex-wife, and what promoters bill as “never-before-seen” footage of Elvis.

Warner Brothers confirmed earlier this week that Tuesday’s DVD and Blu-ray releases of Elvis On Tour will actually contain a slightly modified edition of the film. A live version of “Don’t Be Cruel” replaces the “Johnny B. Goode” rehearsal that originally opened 1972’s Elvis On Tour.

It is unclear whether the “Cruel Edit” opening will also appear in tonight’s showing of the movie. In 2000, Warner Brothers’ limited release theatrical showing of a new version of Elvis-That’s The Way It Is included a live performance of “Are You Lonesome Tonight” over the closing credits. However, they were unable to obtain rights to the song for use in the 2001 DVD release, replacing it instead with footage of Elvis hosting celebrities backstage after one of the Vegas shows.

We’ll find out soon enough if the Cruel Edit extends to the theatrical presentation or only applies to the home releases. For those of you able to make it, have fun at the show tonight!

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I have to admit that Warner’s handling of the “Johnny B. Goode” debacle has dampened most of my enthusiasm for tonight’s event and next week’s home media releases. I just can’t seem to get pumped up again. I hope that changes by the time the lion roars.

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Elvis On Tour Countdown

  • Tonight: Elvis On Tour: 75th Anniversary Celebration theater event
  • 5 days until Elvis On Tour (2010 Cruel Edit) Blu-ray and DVD releases

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For more information (official sites):

Selected posts about Elvis On Tour from The Mystery Train:

Johnny B. Gone: Warner Brothers confirms replacement of Elvis On Tour’s opening song

I was really hoping this would go the other way, folks, but Warner Brothers has released the following statement in response to an inquiry from a source of mine about the replacement of “Johnny B. Goode” with “Don’t Be Cruel” in the opening of Elvis On Tour.

Regarding the change on the opening song on the ‘ELVIS ON TOUR’ blu-ray and DVD release to Elvis’ ‘Don’t Be Cruel,’ after many months of effort, Warner Home Video was unfortunately not able to obtain the rights to include the song ‘Johnny B. Goode.’ Therefore, there was no choice but to change it so this amazing example of Elvis’ work could be released.  With full approval of Elvis Presley Enterprises, a song was chosen that reflects the essence of Elvis and the nature of his performances during this time. That is the only change on this new release other than the amazing clarity the video now has and the incredible sound of Elvis in concert.” –Warner Brothers statement

I still support the Elvis On Tour release, though I strongly feel this alteration should have been communicated to the fans much sooner. I’m going to save further thoughts and comments about this for my reviews of the theatrical event and Blu-ray release.

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Update July 31, 2010: According to a post I later read on the FECC forum, an EPE associate also placed the above Warner Brothers statement on the Elvis Insiders forum (I’m not a member) on July 26. Three days later, ElvisMatters obtained further clarification from Warner Brothers on this situation:

ElvisMatters contacted Tom Lucas, VP Marketing manager of Warner USA, and asked for an explanation. The moment Warner decided to release a restored version for ‘Elvis On Tour’, they contacted all the composers and publishers for the songs that are included in the movie. In case of ‘Johny B Goode’, they never received any reaction from composer Chuck Berry or his publisher. Warner tried to contact them for a very long time, but never received any reply or contract. It is not the case that Warner did not want to pay enough money to include the song, they simply did not receive an offer to pay for it. Warner had two options left: forget the whole project and put it back in the vault, or release it with another intro. The fact that they choose ‘Don’t Be Cruel’ and the editing that was used on it, is food for another discussion.” –Source: ElvisMatters

Official Warner Home Video site still claims Elvis On Tour Blu-ray and DVD releases contain extra songs; no word on fate of Johnny B. Goode

Elvis On Tour Countdown: 5 days to theater event, 10 days to Blu

There still has not been any official confirmation that “Don’t Be Cruel” has replaced “Johnny B. Goode” in the classic opening credits sequence of Elvis On Tour. Of course, the flip side of that is there has also been no official confirmation that the tune remains in place.

Hoping to find information either way, I’ve been combing through the official Warner Home Video site ElvisTheMovies.com. Though there is nothing there to end the “Johnny B. Goode” controversy, I did find something else of interest.

As of July 24, 2010, with only ten days to go before the Blu-ray and DVD releases of Elvis On Tour, Warner Home Video’s description of both products still includes the following line:

Songs include ‘See See Rider,’ ‘Proud Mary,’ ‘Burning Love,’ ‘Don’t Be Cruel,’ ‘Teddy Bear,’ ‘Hound Dog,’ ‘Can’t Help Falling in Love,’ ‘Love Me Tender,’ ‘All Shook Up,’ ‘Suspicious Minds,’ ‘Heartbreak Hotel,’ ‘Are You Lonesome Tonight’ and more.” –Warner Home Video’s ElvisTheMovies.com (The Movies > Elvis On Tour), accessed on July 24, 2010

As anyone who has actually watched 1972’s Elvis On Tour can tell you, the songs “Teddy Bear,” “Hound Dog,” “All Shook Up,” “Heartbreak Hotel,” and “Are You Lonesome Tonight” are not in the original movie.

I can only draw three possible conclusions from this:

1.) Warner Home Video has altered the original movie and added these songs, OR

2.) Warner Home Video has included these songs as bonus features, OR

3.) Warner Home Video has not included these songs on the Blu-ray and DVD and, either knowingly or unknowingly, is engaged in false advertising only 10 days before the release.

Note that the quote is specifically from the descriptions for the Blu-ray and DVD releases. Though also mentioned there, this is not from the description for July 29’s Fathom Events theatrical showing, which claims to include “never-before-seen” footage.

In 10 days, we’ll know without a doubt the fate of “Johnny B. Goode” and whether Warner Home Video has been truthfully marketing its Blu-ray and DVD releases of Elvis On Tour. I’m hoping for a happy ending on both counts.

Marketing site tells fans to go “Elvis Yourself”

Another official site, this one set up to market the July 29 theatrical release, now includes a new “Elvis Yourself” feature. Over on ElvisOnTourOnTheBigScreen.com, the idea is that you insert a photo of your head in place of Elvis’ and send the result to friends to promote the Elvis On Tour: 75th Anniversary Event.

“Send to friends, and ask them to Elvis themselves too. […] For only one night, you can experience the excitement of what it was like to tour with Elvis. On Thursday July 29, 2010 in select movie theaters nationwide, see the masterpiece Elvis on Tour,” says the site.

Your Elvis photo choices are labeled as “Las Vegas,” “Hawaii,” and “Jailhouse.”

The “Hawaii” Elvis photo is from the 1961 movie Blue Hawaii, and the “Jailhouse” photo is from 1957’s Jailhouse Rock movie. Simple enough.

The “Las Vegas” photo is a famous image from the 1973 Elvis: Aloha From Hawaii TV special. Whoever labeled it obviously made the rookie error of assuming “Elvis in jumpsuit = Las Vegas.” (In case the lei around his neck is not enough of a clue, Aloha From Hawaii was taped in Hawaii, not Las Vegas – lest there be any doubt.)

Outside of the ones he did in Las Vegas, Elvis performed hundreds of concerts across the United States in the 1970s. In fact, that’s the whole point of Elvis On Tour, the very “masterpiece” the site is supposed to be promoting. None of the performance footage in Elvis On Tour is from Las Vegas, either.

Strange that not one of the photos that we fans can go Elvis ourselves in is actually from Elvis On Tour.

Am I being too picky? Maybe, but the point of all of this is to show that these companies should take a couple of hours to learn about who and what it is that they are selling.

Elvis On Tour Countdown

  • 5 days until Elvis On Tour 75th Anniversary Celebration theater event
  • 10 days until Elvis On Tour Blu-ray and DVD releases

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For more information (official sites):

Selected posts about Elvis On Tour from The Mystery Train:

Elvis On Tour meets the wonder of Blu . . . but without Johnny B. Goode?

Elvis On Tour Countdown: 1 week to theater event, 12 days to Blu

Hey folks, we’re only seven days away now from the return of Elvis to movie theaters across the United States. Elvis On Tour: 75th Anniversary Celebration appears in over 460 locations on the night of Thursday, July 29. It primarily features the newly restored for high definition Elvis On Tour, but also includes what is being billed as “never-before-seen” footage of Elvis. Also included will be a message to fans from Elvis’ ex-wife, Priscilla Presley.

The event celebrates not only this 75th anniversary year for Elvis’ birth, but also the August 3 release of 1972’s Elvis On Tour to Blu-ray and DVD. Tickets are still available in many locations, so be sure to check out Fathom Events’ Elvis On Tour page to buy your tickets and support Elvis. Opportunities to see Elvis on the big screen don’t come along very often.

On Blu-ray, the film can be enjoyed at home in its new high definition glory. Some skeptics have stated that Blu-ray is wasted on a 38-year-old movie like Elvis On Tour. This is certainly not the case.

I’ve watched dozens of Blu-rays, including recent hits like 2009’s Star Trek, and I can tell you that two of the best-looking Blu-rays I have are movies that are even older than Elvis On Tour: 1971’s Dirty Harry and 1963’s How The West Was Won. Released by Warner Home Video, both titles have crystal-clear video and take full advantage of the high definition format.

How is that possible? I don’t want to stray too far into technical details here, but the simple explanation is that the film used to make most movies actually stores much more image resolution than even Blu-rays can display. Old-style TVs, VHS tapes, and even DVDs can only show a fraction of most films’ image quality, while Blu-ray, combined with a high definition television or projector, can show much more.

The key in whether older movies take advantage of high definition lies in how much effort is put into the restoration process. Did you take note of which company released the top-notch Dirty Harry and How The West Was Won legacy Blu-ray titles? That’s right, it’s Warner Home Video . . . who just so happen to be on the verge of releasing Elvis On Tour.

We’ll know for certain on July 29 and August 3, but I think we Elvis fans are in good hands and are in for a real treat.

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Or . . . maybe not? There are now strong rumors circulating throughout the web that the “Johnny B. Goode” opening of Elvis On Tour has been replaced by a poorly edited live version of “Don’t Be Cruel,” meaning that this will not be the original theatrical version of Elvis On Tour after all.

If true, this is a huge disappointment, to say the least. I hope that the rest of the film is unchanged, but talk about starting the movie off on the wrong track. A 1972 live version of “Don’t Be Cruel”? Ugh. Whose bright idea was that?

If the “Johnny B. Goode” rehearsal was not available (presumably due to music clearance issues), they should have used a “Burning Love” rehearsal instead, then it wouldn’t seem quite so bad. Even “Burning Love” would still lack the thematic hook of “Johnny B. Goode” that worked so well after Elvis’ opening narration, though. Still, it would be much better than a double-play of “Don’t Be Cruel.”

Oh well. Maybe they’ll get it right next time . . . in another 38 years?

Update: As far as I’m concerned, this is still a rumor, and I’m trying to treat it as such. I’ve requested more information from a source and will update you as soon as I learn anything official.

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Elvis On Tour Countdown

  • 7 days until Elvis On Tour 75th Anniversary Celebration theater event
  • 12 days until Elvis On Tour Blu-ray and DVD releases

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For more information (official sites):

Selected posts about Elvis On Tour from The Mystery Train:

Found and Lost: The official Elvis On Tour video outtake releases

Elvis On Tour Countdown: 2 weeks to theater event, 19 days to Blu

The Graceland/Elvis Presley Enterprises communications department must have loved me back in the early 1990s. I was 15 or 16 years old and somehow got into the habit of sending them letters through the mail with questions about Elvis.

As I started to build my Elvis music collection, I also began reading whatever material I could get my hands on about him. Among these were tribute magazines collected by my brother celebrating Elvis’ 50th birthday in 1985 and commemorating the tenth anniversary of his death in 1987.

In one of those magazines, I read an article titled something like “The Elvis Movies: Have We Really Seen Them All?” It mentioned Bill Randle’s infamous Pied Piper of Cleveland short film (1955), but it also focused on potential outtakes from the documentaries That’s The Way It Is (1970) and Elvis On Tour (1972).

As a huge fan of both of the documentaries, I had to know if there was more footage in the vaults. So, I did what any self-respecting Elvis fan would do – I fired off a letter to Graceland and asked them about it. I had been to Graceland, and I was pretty sure that if anyone would know, it would be the people who worked there.

To his or her credit, and my surprise, someone there actually took the time to write me back. (I was unable to dig up the letter in time for this entry, but I know I still have it somewhere in my archives.) Receiving a letter from Graceland was quite the thrill.

Even more thrilling, though, was their answer. Not only did such footage exist, but Turner Entertainment had even compiled it together for video release. Unfortunately, the release was on hold as to not conflict with the 1990 Elvis: The Great Performances videos.

Not understanding the marketing and contractual issues behind the delay, I quickly resented The Great Performances for holding up the outtake footage. Though it contained two or three newly released numbers, most of The Great Performances was just a slightly modernized re-hash of 1981’s This Is Elvis.

Promotional flyer for Elvis: The Lost Performances (1992)

Promotional flyer for Elvis: The Lost Performances (1992)

It seemed like decades later to me, but 1992 arrived, and there were two big Elvis releases that year – which marked the 15th anniversary of his death. One was ELVIS: The King of Rock ‘n’ Roll – The Complete 50s Masters, the now legendary 5-CD boxed set that chronicled his studio recordings from that era. Until I had a little help the following year, that one was temporarily out of my financial reach.

It did not matter one bit to me, though, for it was the other big release of 1992 about which I was most excited. Released in the same month, possibly even the same day as the CD set, Elvis: The Lost Performances was a one-hour VHS videotape that finally delivered those promised outtakes from That’s The Way It Is and Elvis On Tour.

Watching Elvis: The Lost Performances for the first time was, perhaps, the best hour of my entire Elvis fan experience – including all the way up until the present day. I remember coming to the end of the tape, rewinding it impatiently, and immediately starting it over again. I must have watched it at least three times that first day, maybe even four.

The majority of the video focused on incredible material filmed for That’s The Way It Is, but it also included a few songs filmed for Elvis On Tour:

  • All Shook Up
  • Teddy Bear/Don’t Be Cruel
  • Are You Lonesome Tonight
  • I Can’t Stop Loving You
  • How Great Thou Art
  • Release Me

The Lost Performances was actually not the first time that Elvis On Tour outtakes became available to Elvis fans, though. Back in 1981, a couple of songs were prominently featured in the movie This Is Elvis:

  • Always On My Mind (rehearsal)
  • An American Trilogy

That movie also included some miscellaneous outtake footage, such as the recently separated Elvis boisterously indulging in guy talk with his entourage.

Thursday, July 29, will offer fans another chance to see Elvis outtakes, as previously unreleased footage will be shown as part of a special screening event in US theaters. Elvis On Tour: 75th Anniversary Celebration will also feature the newly restored Elvis On Tour.

Go to Fathom Events to find out if a theater is showing the event near your area. On August 3, Elvis On Tour will make its DVD and Blu-ray debuts. All of us who can need to be there in both cases to support Elvis and encourage future releases of additional Elvis On Tour and That’s The Way It Is footage.

Elvis: The Lost Performances never made it to DVD, so let’s make sure that these and dozens of other hours of Elvis footage from the two films are not lost forever.

Elvis On Tour Countdown

  • 14 days until Elvis On Tour 75th Anniversary Celebration theater event
  • 19 days until Elvis On Tour Blu-ray and DVD releases

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For more information (official sites):

Selected posts about Elvis On Tour from The Mystery Train:

Defending FTD’s Release Strategy (Conductor’s Reflections #4)

As a fan of Elvis Presley and various other pop culture touchstones, one of the things I’ve noticed over the years that ties all of them together is that their various fandoms are never quite satisfied.

Take the recent announcement of upcoming Follow That Dream Records releases, consisting of a half dozen interesting – even exciting – CD and vinyl releases on the horizon for the rest of this year, thirty-three years after Elvis’ death. Among them are a 1971 soundboard recording of a concert at Boston Garden and a Classic Album re-issue of a 1973 album and associated alternates.

Predictably, the reaction on various Elvis message boards and forums across the web is lukewarm at best. FTD’s decision to release the Boston Garden show gets criticized because some fans have already bought that one on bootleg once or twice.

Hey, if you bought bootlegs, that’s your problem!

I don’t want FTD to take bootlegs into account when deciding their releases. I fully support their decision to officially release the Boston Garden show. If FTD has access to great Elvis material that has already hit the bootleg market, then bring it on.

If you have bought the bootleg release and now have to either re-buy it or decide not to buy it when it comes out on FTD, then, again, I say that is your problem.

As for 1973’s Elvis (“Fool”) album, there is the typical whining that this album was not a worthy follow-up to his Aloha From Hawaii success and, thus, is undeserving of the Classic Album treatment. Sometimes, I’m not sure to which Elvis Presley these people are listening. Elvis is a great album, with several performances that are not to be missed – including Elvis at the piano on “It’s Still Here.”

Another argument goes that while Elvis may indeed be worthy of an FTD, there are other albums of higher priority that should have come first – Promised Land, Jailhouse Rock: Volume 2, and Ernst Jorgensen’s mysterious Sun project being the oft-cited examples.

This makes no sense to me. FTD is supposed to structure its releases in order of priority? That would mean that they would front-load all of the best releases. Eventually, you would hit a point where all that was left was stuff like Double Trouble and Roustabout. All the good stuff would be gone, and we’d have nothing left to be excited about.

Instead, they have to vary things up. All-in-all, I think FTD does a fantastic job of that – particularly in the last two or three years.

There are also complaints that a tie-in to this year’s Elvis On Tour Blu-ray/DVD/theatrical event was not announced. FTD is the collectors label. Whether it comes this year or next, any corresponding audio releases for Elvis On Tour will likely debut on the main Sony label, with a related FTD release at some point after that.

So, stop all the whining, will you? You’re starting to sound like a bunch of Trekkies.

Elvis On Tour, VHS Style

Elvis On Tour Countdown: 20 days to theater event, 25 days to Blu

You may find this hard to believe, but I often associate Elvis On Tour with Christmas. That’s because the first time I ever saw the movie was on Christmas Day 1989. I was 14-years-old, and Elvis On Tour on VHS tape was one of the gifts my Mom gave me that day.

Elvis On Tour VHS box, 1988

Elvis On Tour VHS box, 1988

While waiting for my family to finish unwrapping their presents, I studied the box art. I noticed that the box featured images from That’s The Way It Is. As soon as all the presents were done, I placed the VHS tape in the VCR and fired it up.

Elvis On Tour was the first Elvis video I ever owned. The ’68 Comeback Special, One Night With You, That’s The Way It Is, and Aloha From Hawaii videos that I had already so often watched actually belonged to my brother.

Elvis On Tour was different from the others, though. It featured Elvis on the road across the country, performing in sold-out coliseums. While the crowds in the other videos were often reserved, these fans treated Elvis to thunderous applause and cheers. During a montage sequence, we were all shocked to see images of our hometown.

Seeing Elvis On Tour for the first time was special to me. Now that it is going to show in US theaters as well as be released for the first time on Blu-ray and DVD, there are other Elvis fans out there who have never seen it before who will finally get the chance. Christmas or otherwise, they will be in for a real treat.

Elvis On Tour Countdown

  • 20 days until Elvis On Tour 75th Anniversary Celebration theater event
  • 25 days until Elvis On Tour Blu-ray and DVD releases

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For more information: