A Squirrel Loose at the Big, Freaky International Hotel (Part 3)

This is Part 3 of a look at Sony’s 2019 Elvis Live 1969 boxed set, which contains all 11 concerts RCA recorded in Elvis Presley’s August 1969 concert engagement at the International Hotel in Las Vegas.

[Read Part 1 | Read Part 2]

International Hotel marquee as displayed on back of a CD holder from Sony Legacy’s ELVIS LIVE 1969 boxed set (2019, from Tygrrius’ collection)

“When I was in the Army, the guys would say […], ‘Watch him, boy, he’s a squirrel, he’s just out of the trees.'”
–Elvis Presley, 1969

I mentioned last week that I prefer Elvis Presley’s overall Summer 1970 Las Vegas shows over the Summer 1969 Vegas shows – even though the 1969 versions of songs performed in both seasons win out in most cases.

One of the reasons I prefer the Summer 1970 engagement is the expanded setlist. Newly added songs like “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin'”, “Just Pretend”, and “I’ve Lost You” expanded the dimensions of the show for his third concert engagement at the International Hotel. Not to mention songs that Elvis retained after first introducing them in his second concert engagement earlier that year, like “Walk A Mile In My Shoes” and the show-stopping “Polk Salad Annie.”

Another reason I prefer the Summer 1970 engagement over the previous year is the amount of talking by Elvis in 1969. Though I prefer a “talkative Elvis” over the “all business Elvis” of, say, June 1972’s Madison Square Garden concerts, where he barely says a word between songs beyond the customary “thank you,” in the 1969 shows Elvis simply talks too much. Way too much.

Don’t believe me? Here are a couple of examples, using the shortest and the longest shows on the 1969 set:

  • The August 23 Midnight Show clocks in at just under 80 minutes (in fact, I wonder if Sony edited any bits out to get it to fit the 80-minute capacity of a CD). The actual musical content on this show is just over 56 minutes. Elvis talks for a whopping 24 minutes during this show – about 30% of the time!
  • The shortest show on the set is actually the very next night, the August 24 Midnight Show. I suspect management complained to Elvis about keeping the audience away from the casino too long the previous night, as he alludes to such conversations a couple days later in the engagement. This show is nearly 63 minutes long and features about 45 minutes of music. Elvis talks for about 18 minutes during this show – about 29% of the time.

The worst offender in driving up the talking times in 1969 is the “monologue” in the middle of each show where Elvis provides a joke-infused retrospective of his career for about ten minutes. While I’m sure it was entertaining to audiences in the showroom, it becomes a tough listen show after show on CD.

I understand he probably needed a cool down after “Tiger Man” or “Johnny B. Goode,” but the energy of the show is completely sapped each time before Elvis finally resumes singing – with an often uninspired version of “Baby, What You Want Me To Do,” completely lacking the raw magic of his versions from the previous year’s ELVIS special. For these Vegas shows, if only Elvis had bought himself a Gibson Super 400 CES like he borrowed from Scotty Moore in the special’s “sit down” shows, as Elvis accompanied himself so well on that electric guitar compared to anything else I have ever heard him play.

Overly long and bizarre introductions to “Hound Dog” and similar bits also detract from the listening experience when heard show after show. Repetitive jokes with the lyrics of “Jailhouse Rock,” “Yesterday,” and others become tiring, too. I imagine poor Felton Jarvis (producer), trying to capture material for the Elvis In Person album, getting his hopes up, thinking, “He’s going to sing it straight this time” and then, “Nope, not this time. Maybe tomorrow night.” Elvis did eventually perform straight versions of each song, probably after being asked to “clean up the act” as he mentions in some of the later shows as well.

Occasional lyrics twists are fun, don’t get me wrong. It is just hearing the same ones over and over that gets old. Of course, Elvis never intended or envisioned that someone like me would be listening to a complete collection of these shows over 50 years after the fact. From Elvis’ perspective, these shows served their purpose at the time in entertaining those audiences (of course) and supplying the 12 songs featured as masters on Elvis In Person. Yet, here I am, blessed to hear them all, so I might as well comment on them.

Anyway, it is actually a lyric twist on “Are You Lonesome Tonight” during the August 26 Midnight Show that results in one of my all-time favorite Elvis recordings – the “laughing version” of the song or, as I like to call it, “Are You Laughing Tonight.” If only movie cameras had been rolling like they were the next summer. Incidentally, the other eight versions of “Are You Lonesome Tonight” on this set are serious. I suspect if he performed a laughing version night after night, it would have lost much of its appeal.

I first heard “Are You Laughing Tonight” on the radio for what would have been Elvis’ 50th birthday in 1985. I recorded a radio special with a little cassette tape player my older sister gave me a Christmas or two before that, so Mom and I must have listened to that tape 500 times in the car before I finally found and bought a proper version of the song in 1991 (Collectors Gold).

I don’t have a tape player anymore, but I still have that cassette (below). It was one of the cheapest tape brands you could buy, yet it has survived all these years. I even played it several years ago so I could write down the song titles (of course, I have lost that list).

1985 cassette tape of “Elvis On The Air” radio special, including “Are You Laughing Tonight”

Mom went to see Jesus over a year ago now, but every time I hear “Are You Laughing Tonight,” I remember her laughing right along with Elvis. I still feel her with me sometimes, and I turn this one up for her.

Next week, (I promise) I’ll wrap up my unintended review of Elvis Live 1969, and we’ll even get to my original idea for this post!

Blessings,
TY

[Read Part 4]


“You have turned my mourning into joyful dancing. You have taken away my clothes of mourning and clothed me with joy, that I might sing praises to you and not be silent. O LORD my God, I will give you thanks forever!”
Psalm 30:11-12

Vinyl Elvis #1: Building Dreams on 1982’s SUSPICIOUS MINDS

Although I have restored about 85% of the posts from the first iteration of The Mystery Train Blog, I still have many Elvis posts that I first published on my pop-culture blogs. Since those blogs are now retired, I will occasionally revisit, brush off, and update one of those Elvis entries as a “Special Edition Bonus Post” here on The Mystery Train Blog. As a Labor Day Special, here is the first such bonus post. I am starting with this one because I want to begin adding new posts in the Vinyl Elvis series soon.


For some modern fans, enjoying the music of Elvis Presley is a family experience. This has certainly been the case with me. Mom became a fan in 1956. She later passed her “Elvis gene” on to both my older brother and me. Some of my best memories involve listening to Elvis music with my family. By the time I was in middle school, my brother allowed me to borrow his Elvis records. I would take albums one at a time from his bedroom and carefully play them.

I heard so many Elvis songs for the first time via my brother’s albums. As much as I enjoy listening to CDs and iTunes, there is nothing quite like hearing Elvis on vinyl. These days, my brother no longer has a turntable. Since he felt they would be in good hands, he gave me all of his Elvis albums. His touching generosity more than doubled my Elvis record collection. It has also inspired this series of posts that will examine a variety of Elvis records – starting today with one I received from my brother.

SUSPICIOUS MINDS (Camden, 1982; from Tygrrius’ collection) | Click image for full-color version

Suspicious Minds
Label: Camden
Catalog Number: CDS 1206 (Label) / CDSV 1206 (Outer Sleeve)
Recorded: 1956-1969 | Nashville, Hollywood, Memphis
Released: 1982

Since the title song is one of my brother’s favorites (mine as well), I have decided to kick off this series with Suspicious Minds, a 1982 compilation album released by the United Kingdom’s Pickwick International on the Camden label.

I remember loving the “in your face” cover of this album when I first played it around 1988.

As far as I have been able to determine, there was not a United States version of this album. This appears to be a German pressing that somehow made its way here to the US.

Side 1 of SUSPICIOUS MINDS (Camden, 1982; from Tygrrius’ collection) | Click image for full-color version

Side 1

  1. Suspicious Minds (1969)
    Though a great choice to open the album, the sound is slightly “muddy.” This is the stereo version, which actually had only first been released a year earlier on Greatest Hits, Volume One. I remember noticing the horns and the double fade-out on this version way back when, as the only studio version I had probably heard to that point was on The Number One Hits and The Top Ten Hits. Rather than use the vintage mono or stereo mixes, those albums used a 1987 mix with an early fade and no horns that was created for The Memphis Record.
  2. Got A Lot O’Livin’ To Do (1957)
    This one sounds great! I cleaned up the record prior to playing it, and I have yet to hear a crackle or static on it at all. Though it was recorded in mono, I suspect this version is electronically processed to simulate stereo. If so, I am surprised to admit that I actually do not mind the effect at all.
  3. Return To Sender (1962)
    Good sound quality continues. Definitely a nice series of opening selections for this album – despite being all over the map in terms of when recorded. That is actually part of the fun of some of these older compilations, though. The only theme here is “Elvis Music,” and that is enough. There seems to be a little edit or something on the sax solo as the song fades that I am not used to hearing.
  4. A Big Hunk O’ Love (1958)
    This one sounds really loud! It also sounds like the treble is turned way up. Welcome to the 1980s, Elvis. Really loving this album, though.
  5. In The Ghetto (1969)
    The pace finally lets up, with the beautiful “In The Ghetto.” The treble still sounds high to me, oddly enough.
  6. One Night (1957)
    One of Elvis’ best songs, and it sounds incredible here. What an extraordinary first side to a record.

Side 2 of SUSPICIOUS MINDS (Camden, 1982; from Tygrrius’ collection) | Click image for full-color version

Side 2

  1. Good Luck Charm (1961)
    Another hit opens this side of the record, though not nearly as perfect as “Suspicious Minds.” This also marks the first time I have heard any popping noises on this record.
  2. U.S. Male (1968)
    This is a fun song. Sound quality slightly lower here than I am used to, though. It is kind of “tinny.” This might be another instance of the treble being increased. I am pretty sure this record was the first time I had ever heard this song. I remember getting a kick out of it back then, and I still do. “You’re talkin’ to the U.S. male. The American U.S. male,” Elvis says in his best country voice.
  3. Party (1957)
    And it is back to 1957 with this rocker from Loving You. This was also “new to me” back when I first played this record. Still sounds great all these years later.
  4. Fever (1960)
    In 1988, I only knew “Fever” from the live Aloha From Hawaii version (1973). I remember not liking the studio version nearly as much, though finding the additional lyrics of interest.
  5. Old Shep (1956)
    This song about a loyal dog can be a difficult listen for dog lovers like me. It does exemplify the variety of songs included on Suspicious Minds.
  6. You’re The Devil In Disguise (1963)
    Though it gets repetitive, it is hard not to like “Devil In Disguise.” It is an odd choice to close this album, though. I was ready for another song!

Back cover of SUSPICIOUS MINDS (Camden, 1982; from Tygrrius’ collection) | Click image for original black & white version

While Suspicious Minds did not contain any previously unreleased material, it is an entertaining album that is well worth picking up if you ever come across it in vinyl format. Thank you to my brother for giving me the Elvis records that inspired this series of posts.


“A friend is always loyal, and a brother is born to help in time of need.”
Proverb 17:17

“Slow versions” support Theory of Relativelvisity

The Theory Of RelativelvisityHow we perceive something is often relative to our starting point. For instance, people who became fans when Elvis first rose to fame in the mid-1950s often view him differently than those who became fans after his comeback of 1968 or his death in 1977.

Many of those earliest fans seem to favor the 1950s recordings. That is, after all, how they first discovered Elvis. Being the rebel that she is, my mom is actually an exception to that generalization. She became an Elvis fan in 1956, but she definitely favors his 1968-1977 recordings – often to the exclusion of anything else.

I’ve mentioned before that the first Elvis record I can remember listening to is “My Way” backed with “America, The Beautiful,” recorded live in 1977 and 1975 respectively. I had definitely heard Elvis music before that record came out, but those are the earliest specific songs I can remember.

After that, the next major Elvis recording in my life was a cassette tape of 1972’s As Recorded At Madison Square Garden. My mom played that tape just about every time we went for a car ride in the early-to-mid-1980s. It may still hold the record as the concert I’ve heard most often.

She would always crank it up when certain songs came on, especially “Suspicious Minds.” She still does that, in fact. If you are ever in my town and a car drives past you blaring Elvis, it is far more likely to be my mom than me behind the wheel.

Eventually, the Madison Square Garden tape began to wear thin. She next switched to a tape copy of the 1977 album Elvis In Concert. Though it lost a few points for not including “Suspicious Minds,” she played that one almost as much as she did Madison Square Garden.

For the longest time, other than the occasional radio song or record album that my family played around the house, those two live concerts tapes were Elvis to me.

Eventually, I started to collect my own albums. One of the first ones I acquired was Elvis’ Golden Records, which compiles some of his hits from 1956 and 1957.

Keeping in mind that my perception of most of them was based almost entirely on As Recorded At Madison Square Garden and Elvis In Concert, I was sure in for a shock when I played the original studio versions of some of the songs from those live albums:

  • Hound Dog
  • All Shook Up
  • Heartbreak Hotel
  • Jailhouse Rock
  • Love Me
  • Don’t Be Cruel
  • Teddy Bear
  • Love Me Tender

Though I loved the overall sound of the record, many of the songs initially seemed “off” to me. I began to think of them as the “slow versions.” It took years for my perception of those songs to change.

While I came to love and appreciate the 1950s material, I am glad that my Elvis journey started like it did. I believe it allowed me to be much more sympathetic towards his later years than I otherwise might have been.

Besides, I wouldn’t trade those memories for anything. Thanks, Mom. Keep cranking it up!

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

* * *

For more information (official sites):

Selected posts about Elvis On Tour from The Mystery Train:

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

* * *

For more information:

“I call it America, and I love it”

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. That whenever any form of government becomes destructive to these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness.” –From The Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson, July 4, 1776

Cover of America The Beautiful, 1977 single

Cover of America The Beautiful, 1977 single

Not long after Elvis Presley died, my family bought the 45 RPM record single “My Way”/”America The Beautiful.” Though I had listened to Elvis records before this one, this is the earliest one for which I can specifically remember the songs.

We played it over and over, and I always sang along. I was only two or three-years-old, so the lyrics to “My Way” were way over my vocabulary at the time. On that one, I made up sound-alike words on the ones I didn’t understand. “America The Beautiful” was a lot easier for me, and I can even remember visualizing parts of the song.

Oh beautiful,
For spacious skies,
For amber waves of grain,
For purple mountains, majesty,
Above the fruited plains,
America, America,
God shed His grace on thee,
And He crowns thy good,
With brotherhood,
From sea to shining sea” –From “America The Beautiful,” Elvis Presley song, 1975 (written by Katharine Lee Bates & Samuel Ward)

I understood most of the words, but being that young, I didn’t really know their meanings in context. I thought all of that “majesty” and “crown thy good” stuff had something to do with Elvis being “the king.”

A few years later, my class was singing the song in elementary school. I was the first one to know all of the words, and I remember thinking it was cool we were singing an Elvis song! It took me a little while to figure out the whole thing.

America The Beautiful, history of Elvis Presley releases

  • December 6, 1975, Live, Las Vegas, Midnight Show: Live In Las Vegas
  • December 13, 1975, Live, Las Vegas, Dinner Show: Dinner At Eight
  • December 13, 1975, Live, Las Vegas, Midnight Show: Single, b/w “My Way”
  • February 8, 1976, Memphis: The Jungle Room Sessions (incomplete)
  • April 22, 1976, Live, Omaha: America
  • July 3, 1976, Live, Fort Worth: Rocking Across Texas
  • July 30, 1976, Live, New Haven: New Haven 76
  • October 18, 1976, Live, Sioux Falls: A Minnesota Moment (bonus song)

[Information source: Elvis In Norway Session Notes]

America The Beautiful, 1977 single

America The Beautiful, 1977 single

* * *

Thanks to Steven over at the Discovering Elvis blog for the scanning tip.

Education, Elvis Style (Part 1)

At this time of year in the United States, high school and university graduations are taking place. It is customary to send friends and family members gifts once they reach this milestone. Particularly for high school grads, these gifts often come in the form of money – intended for use in further education.

I graduated from high school in the early 1990s and sure enough, in the last few months of my senior year, checks from various friends and family members arrived in the mail. At the time, I was still working on obtaining my first summer job. When it came to money, I basically had none.

That had never stopped me from spending time browsing record stores, though. I can remember drooling over two Elvis CD releases in particular that had been out for about a year by that time: ELVIS: The King of Rock ‘n’ Roll – The Complete 50s Masters and Elvis Today.

The King of Rock ‘n’ Roll, of course, was the groundbreaking and critically acclaimed 5-CD boxed set that collected his 1950s material together in a coherent fashion for the first time. I can remember just staring at the track listings on the back of the box, marveling over the song titles.

Cover of 1992 Elvis Today CD

Elvis Today was the CD debut of a 1975 album previously available only on vinyl. Since RCA had inexplicably deleted the original album from its catalog, I had been trying to track it down for years before the CD release. I only had three of the songs on it and wanted desperately to hear the others.

Both releases were part of RCA/BMG’s “Elvis In The 90s” series, which had the mission of bringing all of his master recordings to the CD format.

As I dutifully wrote out thank you notes for the gracious graduation gifts people had sent me, a plan began formulating in my head. Sure, I was starting university classes in a few months, but what did I need for that right now? I had a better idea.

Soon enough, I was at the record store and spent most of my graduation money on The King of Rock ‘n’ Roll and Elvis Today. I had just enough left over to buy a reference book I had also been eyeing up for some time: ELVIS: His Life From A to Z by Fred L. Worth and Steve D. Tamerius.

People had sent money for me to further my education, and that was exactly what I intended to do.

To be continued. . . .