THAT’S THE WAY IT IS: Six in the Summer of ’70 (Playlist Recipes #9)

Elvis Presley performs “Polk Salad Annie” at the August 12, 1970, Midnight Show, in Las Vegas, Nevada, captured for the ELVIS: THAT’S THE WAY IT IS documentary film (MGM)

About seven years ago, I wrote a review of That’s The Way It Is: Deluxe Edition. The 2014 Elvis Presley boxed set included 8 CDs and 2 DVDs, and my review rambled on about them for nearly 10,000 words.

Despite the length of that review, there are some loose ends that I would finally like to begin tying up regarding my all-time favorite Elvis event. I don’t know how many posts this will actually take, and they won’t necessarily run sequential to one another, either. Such is the way of things when you ride The Mystery Train.

By the time of the That’s The Way It Is project, Elvis had already performed two month-long engagements at the International Hotel in Las Vegas. From July 31 to August 28, 1969, he performed 57 concerts, 11 of which RCA recorded in full near the end of the series and compiled into the Elvis In Person half of the From Memphis To Vegas/From Vegas To Memphis double album.

Elvis performed another 57-show engagement from January 26 through February 23, 1970. RCA recorded portions of nine shows from the middle of this engagement, which resulted in the core of the album On Stage.

MGM’s camera crews were rolling for the Elvis: That’s The Way It Is documentary as he began his 3rd engagement on August 10, 1970. Marketed as the “Elvis Summer Festival,” this one ran through September 8 and included 59 shows. RCA recorded the first 6 concerts in full–concluding with the August 13 Dinner Show. Only four of the live songs found their way onto the That’s The Way It Is album, which acted as a tie-in to the film but otherwise featured studio songs Elvis had recorded in June.

These first three engagements at the International Hotel include some of the greatest live performances of Elvis’ career, but the vast majority of the recordings languished away in RCA’s vaults until long after his death. While performances of individual songs were often superior in the two previous engagements, to the extent there was overlap, the overall shows in the third engagement, as captured for That’s The Way It Is, are better than any that preceded or followed them.

All right, if I’m not careful, I’ll be on the way to another unreadable 10,000 word post. I love this topic, but let’s get on with it.

To assist with today’s post, I created the following infochart covering the six concerts RCA recorded for That’s The Way It Is. The numbers in the concert columns represent the sequence he performed those songs in that particular show.

Elvis Presley Summer 1970 Setlists Infochart | Compiled by Tygrrius

Focusing on the 6 shows that RCA recorded in the course of 4 days, Elvis performed only 6 of the songs at every single concert:

  • That’s All Right
  • Love Me Tender
  • You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’
  • Polk Salad Annie
  • Bridge Over Troubled Water
  • Can’t Help Falling In Love

All of these are strong highlights, with only a couple of exceptions in individual shows.

The following songs appeared in 5 of the 6 concerts:

  • Hound Dog
  • I Just Can’t Help Believin’
  • Heartbreak Hotel
  • Suspicious Minds

Of these, the highlights are tremendous versions of “Suspicious Minds” and “I Just Can’t Help Believin'”. While the “Suspicious Minds” live performances are not quite as good as his August 1969 renditions, the August 1970 versions are still stellar and far better than the ones captured in February 1970. Though again inferior to 1969, “Hound Dog” and “Heartbreak Hotel” remain entertaining at this point and are not yet the throwaways they would unfortunately soon become – particularly “Hound Dog.”

Not including snippets, the following songs appeared in only 1 of the 6 concerts:

  • The Next Step Is Love
  • Don’t Cry Daddy/In The Ghetto
  • Stranger In The Crowd
  • Make The World Go Away
  • Twenty Days And Twenty Nights
  • The Wonder Of You
  • Don’t Be Cruel
  • Little Sister/Get Back
  • I Was The One
  • Are You Lonesome Tonight

All of the one-off songs have something to offer. One of the great “misses” of the time period, in my opinion, is “Stranger In The Crowd” not being chosen and promoted as a single for That’s The Way It Is, in lieu of “You Don’t Have To Say You Love Me.” The “Stranger In The Crowd” studio track is amazing, and his subsequent rehearsals with his core rhythm group for the live show prove it could have been dynamite. Unfortunately, the sole live version is marred by the Imperials vocal group. If only the Elvis team had worked out a simpler arrangement without the Imperials that was closer to those early rehearsals.

As it was his most recent hit at the time of these concerts, it is interesting that Elvis performed “The Wonder Of You” only once during the six shows.

Featuring Elvis on electric guitar, “Little Sister/Get Back,” “I Was The One,” “Love Me” (August 12 version only), and “Are You Lonesome Tonight” are all top-notch. Even the non-guitar version of “Love Me” (August 11) is a stand-out and far better than any post-1970 version.

With revised arrangements, “Words” and “I Can’t Stop Loving You” are two songs Elvis improves in Summer 1970 over his Summer 1969 performances.

Other highlights of the overall six-concert span include “Mystery Train/Tiger Man” (of course) and “Just Pretend.”

These are darn-near perfect shows. The only major Elvis categories they are lacking are gospel and the blues. It is unfortunate that Elvis did not perform “Oh Happy Day” at any of these concerts, despite having rehearsed it at the last minute, as he surely would have recorded a superlative version at this time in his career. However, the gospel sound is certainly present on a few of the secular recordings, including showstoppers “I Just Can’t Help Believin'” and “Bridge Over Troubled Water.” As for the blues, some of that influence can certainly be heard in the aforementioned electric guitar segment from the August 12 Midnight Show.

Here is my “August 1970 Ultimate Show” playlist recipe for this concert engagement. As noted, Elvis’ setlist varied widely each night, so no single show actually contained all of these songs. In fact, such a concert would have been longer than any show Elvis actually gave in his entire life, to my knowledge.

  1. Opening Riff/That’s All Right (August 10, 1970, Opening Show [OS])
  2. Mystery Train/Tiger Man (August 12, 1970, Midnight Show [MS])
  3. I Got A Woman (August 13, 1970, Dinner Show [DS]
  4. Hound Dog (August 11, 1970, MS)
  5. Love Me Tender (August 11, 1970, MS)
  6. The Next Step Is Love (August 10, 1970, OS)
  7. Just Pretend (August 11, 1970, MS)
  8. Don’t Cry Daddy/In The Ghetto (August 13, 1970, DS)
  9. Men With Broken Hearts/Walk A Mile In My Shoes (August 11, 1970, MS)
  10. I’ve Lost You (August 11, 1970, DS)
  11. There Goes My Everything (August 11, 1970, MS)
  12. I Just Can’t Help Believin’ (August 12, 1970, DS)
  13. Stranger In The Crowd (August 13, 1970, DS)
  14. Words (August 12, 1970, MS)
  15. Something (August 11, 1970, MS)
  16. Make The World Go Away (August 13, 1970, DS)
  17. Patch It Up (August 10, 1970, OS)
  18. Sweet Caroline (August 12, 1970, MS)
  19. I Can’t Stop Loving You (August 11, 1970, DS)
  20. Twenty Days And Twenty Nights (August 12, 1970, DS)
  21. You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’ (August 12, 1970, MS)
  22. You Don’t Have To Say You Love Me (August 10, 1970, OS)
  23. Polk Salad Annie (August 12, 1970, MS)
  24. The Wonder Of You (August 13, 1970, DS)
  25. Heartbreak Hotel (August 12, 1970, MS)
  26. One Night (August 12, 1970, MS)
  27. Don’t Be Cruel (August 11, 1970, MS)
  28. Blue Suede Shoes (August 12, 1970, MS)
  29. All Shook Up (August 12, 1970, MS)
  30. US Male (August 11, 1970, MS)
  31. Little Sister/Get Back (August 12, 1970, MS)
  32. I Was The One (August 12, 1970, MS)
  33. Love Me (August 12, 1970, MS)
  34. Are You Lonesome Tonight (August 12, 1970, MS)
  35. Bridge Over Troubled Water (August 11, 1970, DS)
  36. Suspicious Minds (August 12, 1970, MS)
  37. Can’t Help Falling In Love (August 12, 1970, MS)

Though I did not structure it this way on purpose, all 6 shows are represented in this “best of” playlist. If you want an even fuller compilation, you could even include “Introductions By Elvis” from the August 12 Midnight Show after “Polk Salad Annie” and before “The Wonder Of You.”

As you can probably predict from the above playlist, my favorite show of the Summer 1970 engagement is the August 12 Midnight Show (disc 6 of 2014’s That’s The Way It Is: Deluxe Edition and disc 2 of 2000’s That’s The Way It Is: Special Edition). In fact, this is my favorite Elvis concert ever. It features an impeccable setlist, Elvis in top form, and the fun electric guitar segment.

Though he still had many stellar recordings and accomplishments ahead of him, Elvis was never quite as awesome again as he was in Summer 1970. I am grateful we have so much material from that time period to enjoy. I wouldn’t be as strong an Elvis fan without the magic of That’s The Way It Is.

Blessings,
TY


“We put our hope in the LORD. He is our help and our shield. In him our hearts rejoice, for we trust in his holy name. Let your unfailing love surround us, LORD, for our hope is in you alone.”
Psalm 33:20-22

Elvis Reconfigured: 1969-1976 (The Edge Of Reality #10/Playlist Recipes #8)

Time sure has slipped away since my last post. In the course of many wonderful blessings currently going on in my life, I have been listening to plenty of Elvis Presley music even if I haven’t been writing.

I enjoy making music playlists, and I created a series of them recently that I call Elvis Reconfigured. The concept for these was, what if The Powers That Be had taken more care when compiling and sequencing albums of Elvis’ non-soundtrack studio work from 1969 to 1976?

I was happy with most of the results, so I thought I’d share the track-listings with you. Incidentally, I attempted something similar for the rest of his master recordings, but it just didn’t work out. So, there won’t be a Part 2 to this post. However, feel free to suggest your own alternates in the comments below!

Blessings,
TY


We’re traveling into an amazing land whose borders are only that of imagination. Look! There’s the station up ahead. Our next stop . . . the edge of reality.

The Edge Of Reality

Through the lens of time, submitted for your consideration are the following albums from the later years of The Memphis Flash.

Back In Memphis (Recorded 1969)
Side A

  1. Stranger In My Own Home Town
  2. Power Of My Love
  3. My Little Friend
  4. I’ll Be There
  5. Any Day Now
  6. Suspicious Minds

Side B

  1. Wearin’ That Loved-On Look
  2. Do You Know Who I Am
  3. After Loving You
  4. Rubberneckin’
  5. In The Ghetto
  6. Hey Jude

Elvis Country: Walking In The Rain (1969)
Side A

  1. Gentle On My Mind
  2. Only The Strong Survive
  3. Kentucky Rain
  4. It Keeps Right On A-Hurtin’
  5. Don’t Cry Daddy
  6. I’m Movin’ On

Side B

  1. Long Black Limousine
  2. You’ll Think Of Me
  3. Inherit The Wind
  4. If I’m A Fool
  5. Mama Liked The Roses
  6. The Fair Is Moving On

Elvis Now: Stranger In The Crowd (1970)
Side A

  1. Stranger In The Crowd
  2. I’ve Lost You
  3. How The Web Was Woven
  4. You Don’t Have To Say You Love Me
  5. Sylvia
  6. The Sound Of Your Cry

Side B

  1. Patch It Up
  2. Twenty Days And Twenty Nights
  3. Just Pretend
  4. The Next Step Is Love
  5. Mary In The Morning
  6. Bridge Over Troubled Water (Heart & Soul mix)

Tomorrow Never Comes: Elvis Country – Volume 2 (1970)
Side A

  1. The Fool
  2. Little Cabin Home On The Hill
  3. Tomorrow Never Comes
  4. Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On
  5. Funny How Time Slips Away
  6. I Really Don’t Want To Know

Side B

  1. It’s Your Baby, You Rock It
  2. Faded Love
  3. Snowbird
  4. There Goes My Everything
  5. I Washed My Hands In Muddy Water
  6. Make The World Go Away

Still Here (1971)
Side A

  1. Early Morning Rain
  2. The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face
  3. It’s Only Love
  4. Help Me Make It Through The Night
  5. Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right
  6. Until It’s Time For You To Go

Side B

  1. I’m Leavin’
  2. For Lovin’ Me
  3. It’s Still Here
  4. I’ll Take You Home Again, Kathleen
  5. I Will Be True
  6. We Can Make The Morning

Home On Christmas Day (1971)
Side A

  1. O Come All Ye Faithful
  2. The First Noel
  3. On A Snowy Christmas Night
  4. If I Get Home On Christmas Day
  5. The Wonderful World Of Christmas
  6. It Won’t Seem Like Christmas

Side B

  1. Silver Bells
  2. Holly Leaves And Christmas Trees
  3. Winter Wonderland
  4. Merry Christmas Baby
  5. I’ll Be Home On Christmas Day (Remake)

Amazing Grace (1970-1971)
Side A

  1. I’ve Got Confidence
  2. Seeing Is Believing
  3. He Touched Me
  4. Put Your Hand In The Hand
  5. Lead Me, Guide Me
  6. Bosom Of Abraham

Side B

  1. Only Believe
  2. I, John
  3. Life
  4. Amazing Grace (Take 2)
  5. I Was Born About Ten Thousand Years Ago
  6. An Evening Prayer

Burning Love (1970-1972)
Side A

  1. Burning Love
  2. Separate Ways
  3. Love Me, Love The Life I Lead
  4. Where Do I Go From Here
  5. Got My Mojo Working/Keep Your Hands Off Of It
  6. Rags To Riches

Side B

  1. It’s A Matter Of Time
  2. Heart Of Rome
  3. Where Did They Go, Lord
  4. I’ll Never Know
  5. Fool
  6. Always On My Mind

Promised Land (1973)
Side A

  1. Promised Land
  2. Lovin’ Arms
  3. I’ve Got A Thing About You, Baby
  4. You Asked Me To
  5. If You Talk In Your Sleep
  6. For Ol’ Times Sake

Side B

  1. Thinking About You
  2. It’s Midnight
  3. Help Me
  4. My Boy
  5. Good Time Charlie’s Got The Blues
  6. Your Love’s Been A Long Time Coming

Bringing It Back (1973, 1975)
Side A

  1. T-R-O-U-B-L-E
  2. Love Song Of The Year
  3. There’s A Honky Tonk Angel
  4. Fairytale
  5. Are You Sincere
  6. Bringing It Back

Side B

  1. And I Love You So
  2. Sweet Angeline
  3. Pieces Of My Life
  4. Mr. Songman
  5. Green, Green Grass Of Home
  6. Shake A Hand

Moody Blue: From Elvis At Graceland (1976)
Side A

  1. For The Heart
  2. Solitaire
  3. Blue Eyes Crying In The Rain
  4. She Thinks I Still Care (Take 2B)
  5. Danny Boy
  6. Way Down

Side B

  1. Hurt
  2. Never Again
  3. It’s Easy For You
  4. Moody Blue
  5. He’ll Have To Go
  6. Pledging My Love

The music never ends on . . . the edge of reality.

[With apologies to Serling.]


“Blessed are those who trust in the LORD and have made the LORD their hope and confidence. They are like trees planted along a riverbank, with roots that reach deep into the water. Such trees are not bothered by the heat or worried by long months of drought. Their leaves stay green, and they never stop producing fruit.”
Jeremiah 17:7-8 NLT

A Squirrel Loose at the Big, Freaky International Hotel (Part 4: The Epic Conclusion) [Playlist Recipes #7]

This is the finale of a 4-part look at Sony’s 2019 Elvis Live 1969 boxed set, which contains all 11 concerts RCA recorded during Elvis Presley’s August 1969 engagement at the International Hotel in Las Vegas.

[Read Part 1 | Read Part 2 | Read Part 3]

To paraphrase Elvis, there ain’t no end to this post, baby! I have committed not to push this review to five parts, however, as to move on to other topics next week.

That said, I still want to delve into some song and show specifics for the 1969 engagement, so today’s post is going to run long, amounting to a double ride. No extra charge. To help with this portion of the discussion, my analytical side provided the following infochart.

Elvis Presley Summer 1969 Setlists Infochart | Click image for larger version | Compiled by Tygrrius

Though not part of the 11-CD Elvis Live 1969 boxed set, which focuses on RCA’s multitrack recordings, I included the informal soundboard recording from the early days of the engagement for reference as well. To date, its only official CD release as a more-or-less “full” show remains FTD’s The Return To Vegas. It would have made a great bonus disc on the Elvis Live 1969 set, as the overall feel of this show is slightly different than a few weeks later, and it even features an extended version of “Mystery Train” and a couple of alternate arrangements. Perhaps it was a cost-saving measure.

Anyway, focusing on the 11 shows that RCA recorded, Elvis performed 13 of the songs every single night – most of which formed the beginning and end of the shows. Of these, the strongest are “Suspicious Minds,” “Can’t Help Falling In Love,” “Runaway,” “In The Ghetto,” “Blue Suede Shoes,” and “All Shook Up.” With the studio version released as a single during this engagement and destined to become Elvis’ last number one hit, “Suspicious Minds” is particularly stunning. The 1969 live version stands as an incredible example of how Elvis reinvented his sound for these shows.

Most disappointing among the core songs are “Jailhouse Rock/Don’t Be Cruel” and “Baby, What You Want Me To Do.” “Jailhouse Rock” pales in comparison to the 1957 studio master as well as the 1968 live master. Both it and “Baby, What You Want Me To Do” notably lack the raw power and punch of the ELVIS television special performances from the previous summer. Understandably, there is a difference between performing 4 shows in 2 nights for a television special versus 57 shows in 29 nights for this Vegas engagement. Elvis no doubt needed to save his voice, but these performances in particular come up short.

Though many others are nearly as good, the one song Elvis improves in 1969 over his 1968 rendition is the “Tiger Man” portion of “Mystery Train/Tiger Man,” fueled by James Burton on lead guitar and Ronnie Tutt on drums. Like “Suspicious Minds,” the powerhouse “Mystery Train/Tiger Man” is a true highlight of this engagement. Unfortunately, Elvis drops it in favor of “Johnny B. Goode” for a couple of the shows. Now, one of those “Johnny B. Goode” performances was quite incredible and made it onto Elvis In Person, but I wish Elvis had dropped something else on those two occasions to make room for it, such as “Runaway.” That is no slam on “Runaway,” which I absolutely love and is among the highlights of the engagement for me.

A better substitution that Elvis provides on four nights is replacing the weak “Memories” with “I Can’t Stop Loving You.” I enjoy the studio versions of “Memories,” as recorded for the 1968 ELVIS special, but it just never worked live.

Additional highlights of the overall 11-concert span include three performances of “My Babe” and several of “Are You Lonesome Tonight.”

Of the one-off songs, the only one that really stands out from a performance perspective is “Reconsider Baby,” the blues song that Elvis returned to time and again over the years. “Rubberneckin’,” “Inherit The Wind,” and the abysmal “This Is The Story” are notable solely because these are the only live versions available. “Rubberneckin'” would have worked better with an arrangement closer to the funky studio master.

Though released as a limited edition 2-record set earlier in 2019, the August 23 Dinner Show makes its CD debut here. Not a single performance had previously been released on CD from this show – the only such concert on the set. The show is also unusual in that the Imperials backing group is not present, leaving full duties to the Sweet Inspirations – my preference, anyway. The show features exceptional versions of “Mystery Train/Tiger Man,” “Are You Lonesome Tonight,” “I Got A Woman,” and “What’d I Say” – the last of which benefits from a shorter rendition than the other shows.


“I had sideburns. Long hair. Fourteen years ago, it was weird. You think it’s weird now? Fourteen years ago, I couldn’t walk around the street: ‘Get him! Get him! […] He’s a squirrel.’ So I was […] shaking. In fact, that’s how I got in this business was shaking. It may be how I get out of it, too.”
–Elvis Presley, 1969

Four weeks ago now, I decided to write a post where I would share what I consider the best version of every song that RCA recorded during the Summer 1969 engagement. “I will kick it off by mentioning the Elvis Live 1969 boxed set from last year,” I thought – not intending to write a review. It would be a couple paragraphs and then the song list. Done. An easy post to warm up the engine of The Mystery Train Blog again.

Well, here we are, 4 weeks, 4 posts, and over 4,500 words later, and I am finally coming to the original intent of that very first post (after, of course, having written a rather haphazard review after all).

Before I backed up these shows to iTunes, I separated out the majority of the talking portions as their own tracks (oh, if only Sony would do this, it would save me so much time). This allows me to create playlists more focused on the music – which improves the 1969 experience to a huge degree. To an extent, you can replicate this by pressing skip at the end of most tracks, as Sony normally places all of the talking at the end of a track (even if that talking introduces the next song, another pet peeve of mine — but that’s why I just save them the way I want them).

Here is my “August 1969 Ultimate Show” playlist recipe for this concert engagement. As we just discussed, Elvis’ setlist varied to some extent each night, so no single show actually contained all of these songs.

Disc references are to the Elvis Live 1969 set, but of course, you could use any available previous release as well. This playlist clocks in at about 71 minutes, keeping in mind my iTunes versions of the tracks have most of the talking trimmed out to separate tracks.

  1. Opening Riff/Blue Suede Shoes (8/25/1969 Dinner Show [DS]) 2:36 (Disc 8)
  2. I Got A Woman (8/23/1969 DS) 3:05 (Disc 4)
  3. All Shook Up (8/26/1969 Midnight Show [MS]) 1:32 (Disc 11)
  4. Love Me Tender (8/26/1969 MS) 2:21 (Disc 11)
  5. Jailhouse Rock/Don’t Be Cruel (8/24/1969 DS) 2:12 (Disc 6)
  6. Heartbreak Hotel (8/24/1969 DS) 1:56 (Disc 6)
  7. Hound Dog (8/22/1969 DS) 1:48 (Disc 2)
  8. Memories (8/25/1969 DS) 2:50 (Disc 8)
  9. I Can’t Stop Loving You (8/25/1969 MS) 2:36 (Disc 9)
  10. My Babe (8/22/1969 MS) 2:00 (Disc 3)
  11. Mystery Train/Tiger Man (8/22/1969 MS) 3:21 (Disc 3)
  12. Johnny B. Goode (8/24/1969 MS) 2:10 (Disc 7)
  13. Baby, What You Want Me To Do (8/25/1969 MS) 1:52 (Disc 9)
  14. Funny How Time Slips Away (8/22/1969 MS) 2:21 (Disc 3)
  15. Surrender (8/21/1969 MS) 0:29 (Disc 1)
  16. Runaway (8/23/1969 MS) 2:16 (Disc 5)
  17. Loving You (8/23/1969 DS) 0:21 (Disc 4)
  18. Are You Laughing Tonight (8/26/1969 MS) 2:53 (Disc 11)
  19. Reconsider Baby (8/23/1969 MS) 3:28 (Disc 5)
  20. Words (8/24/1969 MS) 2:31 (Disc 7)
  21. Yesterday/Hey Jude (8/25/1969 DS) 4:15 (Disc 8)
  22. Inherit The Wind (8/26/1969 DS) 2:52 (Disc 10)
  23. Rubberneckin’ (8/26/1969 MS) 2:21 (Disc 11)
  24. This Is The Story (8/26/1969 MS) 2:46 (Disc 11)
  25. In The Ghetto (8/25/1969 DS) 2:47 (Disc 8)
  26. Suspicious Minds (8/25/1969 MS) 7:14 (Disc 9)
  27. What’d I Say (8/23/1969 DS) 1:57 (Disc 4)
  28. Can’t Help Falling In Love (8/26/1969 DS) 2:10 (Disc 10)

While it was not my intent, nor even a consideration in crafting this list, it turns out that all 11 shows are represented – an indication of Elvis’ strength and consistency during this Vegas engagement (though the August 21 Midnight Show barely squeaks in with a short version of “Surrender”).

For those of you who want to include them (you know who you are), you could slot in the “Monologue” career retrospective from the August 24 Dinner Show before “Baby, What You Want Me To Do” and add “Introductions By Elvis” from the August 21 Midnight Show prior to “In The Ghetto.” This adds less than nine minutes, resulting in a total length of just under 80 minutes for the August 1969 Ultimate Show. That’s right in line with the length of the August 23 Midnight Show, but with nine more songs due to less talking throughout.

After careful analysis, my favorite show of the 1969 engagement is the August 25 Midnight Show, disc 9 of Elvis Live 1969 and previously released on FTD’s excellent Hot August Night. It features top-notch versions of “Mystery Train/Tiger Man,” “Suspicious Minds,” “Runaway,” “My Babe,” “Are You Lonesome Tonight,” “Hound Dog,” “Blue Suede Shoes,” “All Shook Up,” “I Can’t Stop Loving You,” among others. In fact, 7 of the 12 masters that RCA chose for Elvis In Person came from this show. That is probably the only reason it is not better represented in my August 1969 Ultimate Show playlist above, as I was tending to avoid master versions in the event of a tie with another version. Elvis may have put a little extra into this particular show due to the celebrities in attendance, including Tom Jones, Nancy Sinatra, Lightnin’ Hopkins, Buddy Hackett, and Shelley Fabares.


ELVIS LIVE 1969 (Sony, 2019) | Click image for larger, full-color version | Original image credit: Sony

“If I take time out to drink water, just look at me and say, ‘Is that him? I thought he was bigger than that. Squirrelly-looking guy.'”
–Elvis Presley, 1969

If you’re not in for the whole Elvis Live 1969 boxed set, 2010’s On Stage: Legacy Edition (Sony) is probably sufficient for casual or budget-minded fans, as it neatly highlights Elvis’ Summer 1969 and Winter 1970 Vegas engagements on 2 CDs and can still be found for about $12 US. CD 2 features Elvis In Person as well as additional songs recorded live in 1969. Keep in mind that both “Runaway” and “Yesterday” on the On Stage album, featured on CD 1, are from August 1969 as well.

If you are more on the obsessive side like me, but don’t already have most of these shows, I can definitely recommend Elvis Live 1969. Just be sure to shop around, as Elvis Live 1969 can often be found quite reasonably priced – considering the number of included shows. For example, Graceland is charging full list price as of this writing, but you can find it elsewhere for less than 60% of that price.

Among Elvis’ Las Vegas engagements at the International/Hilton Hotel, Summer 1969 ranks second only to Summer 1970 for me. I place Winter 1970 third. While the number of available shows in official releases is significantly less and disallows detailed comparisons, subsequent Vegas seasons in 1971-1976 are nowhere close to the 3 of 1969 & 1970.

To see one of these 1969 shows must have been something really special.

Blessings,
TY


“You can make many plans, but the LORD’s purpose will prevail.”
Proverb 19:21

iTunes Speedway: Race for the Elvis Cup

Elvis Presley is Steve Grayson in SPEEDWAY (1968)

Elvis Presley is Steve Grayson in SPEEDWAY (1968, MGM)

On the iTunes Speedway

Ever since I finished backing up all of my Elvis music to iTunes, I have been wanting to do some number-crunching. I usually rate a song when I first place it on iTunes, using the built-in star ratings of 1-5 (I reserve 0 stars to mean “not yet rated”). I then update the rating, if necessary, whenever the track plays.

For updates, I only allow myself to move the song one star rating in either direction per play. That way, if I am in an extremely bad or good mood, it will not overly influence the rating of a given song.

I now have nearly five years worth of data about how I really feel about the songs within my Elvis collection. This will allow me to determine which individual years and multi-year spans are truly my favorites, at least according to the numbers.

My Picks

Before crunching those numbers, though, I used my heart to answer some basic questions. I thought this would make for an interesting comparison against the iTunes race results.

Favorite Elvis Year: 1970
Top Five Elvis Years: 1970, 1968, 1969, 1957, 1955
Favorite 5-year Elvis Span: 1968-1972
Elvis Decade Ranking: 1970s, 1950s, 1960s

Race for the Elvis Cup: The Rules

For this analysis, I eliminated any years for which I had less than 40 Elvis tracks. This resulted in the removal of 1953 (2 tracks) and 1959 (19 tracks). I also eliminated all non-musical tracks (e.g., “Introductions By Elvis,” “Elvis Talks”).

For each of the remaining 23 years, I determined the average star rating for all applicable tracks. I also determined the percentage of tracks from that year that earned a perfect 5-star rating. For instance, the results for 1956 were:

1956
Total Tracks: 164
Average Rating: 3.91 (out of 5)
Perfect 5-star Tracks: 40.24%

The year with the highest average rating received 23 points on down to the year with the lowest average rating, which received 1 point. I then applied this same logic down the line by year for the percentage rankings for perfect 5-star tracks.

This gave each year a score ranging from a low of 2 to a high of 46. However, there were several ties down the line. The tie-breakers were:

1.) Average Rating (i.e., the tied year with the highest average rating wins the position)
2.) (If necessary) Perfect 5-Star Tracks (i.e., the year with the highest 5-star tracks percentage wins the position)

Victory Lane

The results were interesting. Leading the pack was the year 1968, with a perfect score of 46 points.

Nearly 85% of the Elvis tracks I had from 1968 were connected to the ELVIS television special project in some way, so that definitely helped stack the deck. Among them were “If I Can Dream,” one of my all-time favorite songs, and other tracks from Memories: The ’68 Comeback Special, a stellar album that includes the full June 27, 6 PM “Sit Down” show.

Top Five Elvis Years
#1 1968 (46 points)
#2 1970 (43 points, wins 2nd position over 1969 on Average Rating tie-breaker)
#3 1969 (43 points)
#4 1967 (38 points)
#5 1955 (37 points, wins 5th position over 1957 on Average Rating tie-breaker)

The real surprise for me was 1967 making the Top Five. Highlights for 1967 included the September sessions in Nashville that produced standouts like “Guitar Man,” “You’ll Never Walk Alone,” and “You Don’t Know Me.” In fact, alternate takes from that session, many of which are collected on FTD’s Elvis Sings Guitar Man, helped propel 1967 ahead due to the number of five-star ratings.

1965 came in last place, with a minimal score of 2 points (no surprise there). I was surprised that 1977 (5 points) was not able to overtake 1964 (8 points) and wound up as Elvis’ second-worst year.

5-Year Mission

I was also interested in determining my favorite 5-year span. As noted above, I usually say my favorite Elvis time period is 1968-1972, with 1954-1958 running a close second. How did the numbers match against my picks?

To my surprise, it turned out that my favorite 5-year Elvis span was actually 1966-1970, which came in at a whopping 198 points. 1968-1972 earned a collective 183 points, while 1954-1958 came in at 146 points. In other words, this race was not even close.

I often state that the opening salvos of Elvis’ comeback were actually fired in 1966 during the How Great Thou Art sessions, so perhaps I should have seen this coming. 1969 included the Memphis sessions that produced “Suspicious Minds,” “Kentucky Rain,” and “In The Ghetto,” his return to live performances, and even a strong soundtrack on the Change of Habit film. 1970 featured the That’s The Way It Is project, including the Nashville sessions, the summer rehearsals, and the August live performances.

The five-year span that earned the least points was 1961-1965, with a combined total of only 50, barely more than the single year of 1968.

Elvis Decades

Now, to answer that age-old question, what is your favorite Elvis decade? Though 1964 and 1965 are hard to love, I otherwise enjoy Elvis’ entire career. When pressed, however, I state that my favorite decade is the 1970s. What did the numbers say?

Again, they proved me wrong. The 1950s won out, with an average of 29.2 points. Second place was the 1970s, well behind at an average of 22.88 points. This barely edged out the 1960s, which had an average of 22.3 points.

Elvis professionally recorded during only five years in the 1950s, and the quality of his output was much more consistent in that time than in the 1960s and 1970s. The 1970s were brought way down by outliers like 1977 (5 points) and 1974 (10 points), while the same occurred for the 1960s with 1965 (2 points), 1962 (8 points), and 1964 (8 points). However, even the 1950s had its own outlier of 1958 (10 points).

Awarding the Elvis Cup

The analytical side of my personality loved reviewing these numbers. The emotional side of me, though, still believes that 1970 is my favorite Elvis year, no matter what iTunes says.

For me, feelings always rule out in the end, so the Elvis Cup is hereby awarded to 1970, the reigning champion.

One for Mom, the rock ‘n’ roll rebel (Playlist Recipes #6)

Elvis Aloha Finale

Elvis, 1973

I am a second-generation Elvis fan. My mom first heard Elvis in 1956, during the initial wave of his national success. By the end of that year, after multiple television appearances and a movie role in Love Me Tender, Elvis had earned millions of new fans. Mom was one of them.

Through marriage and kids, good times and bad times, she stuck with Elvis over the years. By the time I came along in the mid-1970s, both my mom and my brother were fans. You could say I was born an Elvis fan.

Many of the first records I ever heard were Mom’s old 45s from the 1950s and 1960s. Though I remember listening to them when I was about two-years-old, I cannot recall specific songs. The earliest ones that I can remember are “My Way” and “America The Beautiful,” two sides of a single that came out in the months after Elvis’ death in 1977.

I have told stories here before about Mom blasting cassette tapes of As Recorded At Madison Square Garden and Elvis In Concert in the car when I was young. Though she has upgraded to CDs and expanded her selection of albums, she still does this.

Though Mom is a first-wave Elvis fan, she does not turn her nose up at his post-Army work like some of her contemporaries. She actually prefers his 1970s music above all.

That being said, she also prefers songs with a beat. This makes my work difficult when trying to buy her a CD, as Elvis had evolved beyond rock ‘n’ roll in her favorite time period.

I will share a couple of recent examples. I was playing a bit of A Boy From Tupelo for her. This is the ultimate boxed set collecting his 1953 to 1955 recordings. I wanted her to hear the “dry” 45-RPM SUN version of “That’s All Right.”

Ty: Listen to this. Isn’t this cool? This is how it sounded back in 1954, before RCA changed it.
Mom: I never did like that song.
Ty: You don’t like “That’s All Right”? That was his first record. The one that started it all!
Mom: I just never liked it.
Ty: You like the 1970s versions, though, right? Like on Madison Square Garden?
Mom: No, not even that one.
Ty: I can’t believe you don’t like it. I never knew that, after all of these years.
Mom: I’m sorry.
Ty: All I can say is… that’s all right, Mom.

I also gave her the FTD compilation Our Memories of Elvis, which contains alternate mixes of various 1970s songs. I had enjoyed the release the first time I heard it, so I thought the unique mixes would be a sure-fire winner.

Ty: What did you think of Our Memories of Elvis?
Mom: Oh, I liked it. I think I played it once.
Ty: Wait. You played it once? Are you sure you liked it?
Mom: It was okay. It just wasn’t fast enough. Too many slow songs.
Ty: I know, it didn’t have “Suspicious Minds” on it. [Any album that has a 1970 or later version of “Suspicious Minds” on it is an instant hit for Mom.]
Mom: I like a beat!
Ty: I know, Mom. I know!

I am actually picking on her a little here, which is not a nice thing to do on Mother’s Day. For one thing, even I did not not enjoy Our Memories of Elvis as much the second time through. I must have been in a fantastic mood the first time I played it. I actually thought it was one of the best releases ever. I am sure glad I did not review it, because then my initial overreaction would be preserved on the Internet for all to see.

For every example like the above, I should point out, there are dozens of examples of Elvis recordings and albums that Mom does love. Her favorite album is Aloha From Hawaii via Satellite. Her favorite song, as you might have guessed, is “Suspicious Minds,” especially the version on The Alternate Aloha, which has the drums more prominent in the mix.

Though she may not enjoy 1950s recordings as much anymore, Mom still has a rebellious streak in her. She likes to do things her way, no matter what anyone says. I have inherited that trait, I must admit.

Another funny thing is, while most moms are after their sons to get haircuts, my mom thinks I get my hair cut too short.

We joke around often. I love talking about Elvis and other topics with her. Elvis music is but one of many gifts she has given me. I am very proud to have such a gentle and loving woman as my mom.

With much love, here is a playlist in her honor.

Elvis: Sweet Rock ‘n’ Roll

  • Burning Love [Burning Love And Hits From His Movies, Volume 2]
  • Johnny B. Goode (Rehearsal) [Elvis On Tour: The Rehearsals]
  • Proud Mary (Live) [Close Up]
  • Suspicious Minds (Live) [Prince From Another Planet (Disc 1)]
  • Polk Salad Annie (Live) [3000 South Paradise Road]
  • One Night (Live) [Memories]
  • Blue Suede Shoes (Live) [Burbank 68]
  • Jailhouse Rock (Live) [Burbank 68]
  • Don’t Be Cruel (Live) [Burbank 68]
  • Stranger In The Crowd (Master, Rough Mix) [That’s The Way It Is (2008 FTD Edition)]
  • Baby, Let’s Play House (Rehearsal) [A Life In Music]
  • A Fool Such As I (Rehearsal) [That’s The Way It Is (2000 Special Edition)]
  • Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On [Walk A Mile In My Shoes]
  • Wearin’ That Loved-On Look (Alternate) [Memphis Sessions]
  • Rubberneckin’ [Almost In Love]
  • Hey Jude [Elvis Now]
  • Power Of My Love (Alternate) [A Life In Music]
  • After Loving You [From Elvis In Memphis]
  • Any Day Now (Alternate) [Memphis Sessions]
  • Runaway (Live) [Elvis: Viva Las Vegas (2007 Limited Edition)]
  • My Babe (Live) [Today, Tomorrow & Forever]
  • Baby, What You Want Me To Do (Live) [Elvis At The International]
  • All Shook Up (Live) [Live In Vegas: August 26, 1969 Dinner Show]
  • Hound Dog (Live) [Live In Vegas: August 26, 1969 Dinner Show]
  • Mystery Train/Tiger Man (Live) [Live In Vegas: August 26, 1969 Dinner Show]
  • A Big Hunk O’ Love (Live) [Aloha From Hawaii via Satellite]
  • Promised Land [Promised Land]
  • Steamroller Blues (Live) [A Life In Music]

Thank you, Mom.

3,510: An Elvis Obsession

In 2008, I obtained my first iPod. I didn’t think much would come of it because I mostly listened to CDs. Once I had that iPod in my hands, though, an obsession slowly took hold. I found that listening to Elvis in shuffled mode gave me a much broader view of his career than simply relying on whatever CD I happened to spin. Over time, it also allowed me to rediscover songs from CDs that I otherwise did not play very often.

I have been collecting Elvis music since 1987 and have purchased hundreds of his CDs. The iPod has allowed me to truly experience the power of that collection, rather than just having it sit on a shelf.

In iTunes, I created a series of smart playlists to make various shuffle themes for my iPod. I think of these as my own private radio stations. They are not completely random, as I build out the smart playlists with certain rules.

For example, one of the rules in my Elvis Mix avoids 1-star songs. I only want to hear those in the context of their original albums.

In my Best Mix, I have Elvis set to play about 10% of the time. Otherwise, he would dominate that list due to how many Elvis songs I have. I also control the percentages of songs in certain genres that play. I tweaked this through the years until I made a Best Mix shuffle that suits my quirky taste.

Over time, I slowly began backing up more of my Elvis collection to iTunes. By May 2010, I had over 1,200 Elvis songs in iTunes for my iPod. This included the 711 masters released during his lifetime. At that point, rather than continuing to pick and choose from my CDs, I decided to go back and back up every unique track from every Elvis CD I owned.

I began on June 1, 2010, and figured I would be finished by the end of that year.

I finished yesterday, March 15, 2013.

This extended time period was not due to lack of diligence on my part. In fact, if anything, I have been too diligent. With only a few breaks, this has consumed more of my spare time over the last few years than I care to admit. Other things that I could have been doing, such as writing, have suffered.

So, why did it take me so long? For one thing, it turns out that I have many more Elvis songs than I realized.

I also did not simply throw in each CD, allow iTunes to look up the track names, and be done with it. If only it had been that easy. The first feature I turned off was the auto-look-up of track names, because I found this often had errors or formatting inconsistencies. Instead, I hand-typed all of that stuff in. If there were going to be errors, at least they would be my errors.

iTunes "Get Info" window

iTunes “Get Info” window

For each song, I researched its first album appearance and other tidbits, such as recording location and take number. For this, I primarily used the comprehensive Elvis Recording Data/Session Notes section of the Elvis In Norway site.

For live songs and other tracks without clean breaks in between, I added fade-ups and fade-downs. I also removed any uninteresting “false starts” and chatter from studio outtake/alternate tracks. When a false start proved to be of interest, I split it out to its own separate track.

Along the way, I also replaced those 711 core masters with new versions in better sound quality.

After all of that, I have 3,510 unique Elvis tracks, representing nearly 160 hours of music.

In an amazing coincidence that I really cannot believe, it turns out that I also have exactly 3,511 non-Elvis tracks backed up to iTunes, representing 208 more hours of music. I have often said Elvis represents about half of the tracks on my iPod, but I had no idea that was so precise. Over time, the non-Elvis tracks will likely grow at a faster rate now than the Elvis ones, though. [However, I am not going to start a similar project for my non-Elvis CDs. Never again.]

To keep my smart playlists working the way I like, I also rated each track. The analytical side of me has all kinds of number-crunching ideas around this, but here is a fun breakdown for starters:

  • 5 Stars: 938 tracks (27%) [example: “Always On My Mind” (1972)]
  • 4 Stars: 909 tracks (26%) [example: “It’s Now Or Never” (1960)]
  • 3 Stars: 853 tracks (24%) [example: “Love Me Tender” (1956)]
  • 2 Stars: 556 tracks (16%) [example: “Wear My Ring Around Your Neck” (1958)]
  • 1 Star: 254 tracks (7%) [example: “A Dog’s Life” (1966)]

It astonishes me that, thanks to my iPod, I can now fit the entirety of my Elvis music collection in the palm of my hand. I can literally take it with me anywhere and listen to any song at any time.

Elvis in iTunes

Elvis in iTunes

With those 3,510 tracks, I could listen to Elvis for six days straight, without sleeping, and never hear a repeated track.

I would never do that, though. I am not that obsessive of a person.

The fact that my next post will be coming out in about six days is a complete coincidence.

Honest.

Top 10 Elvis News Stories of 2012

The Mystery Train BlogLast year (two days ago), Kees wrote a guest post here on The Mystery Train Blog covering what he considers some of 2012’s Elvis news highlights.

To return the favor, I wrote a guest blog today for his site covering my Top 10 Elvis News Stories of 2012. Check it out over at Elvis Day By Day.