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.

Double Post: A Trip Down 2012/Top Ten Elvis News Stories of 2012 (So Far…)

Welcome to a special, super-sized edition of The Mystery Train Blog. This double post features a guest piece by Kees of the Elvis Day By Day blog, as well as an entry by me. This is also going out simultaneously on the Elvis Day By Day blog, marking the first formal collaboration between our two sites. Kees, take it away. –Ty

A Trip Down 2012

by Kees, Elvis Day By Day blog

One of the big pros of the world wide web is that it brings people together. Through our blogs, Ty and I met and decided to look back at some of the highlights of the 35th anniversary year. This year, I blogged over 150 posts, often with multiple news items in each one. That means the Elvis world is very much alive. Picking a top 10 wasn’t easy, so I picked ten items that stuck with me as a fan and listed them chronologically.

January 08 – Cool

Elvis Chante CDSome highlights are very simple, on this day the French Elvis My Happiness fan club announced the release of the book Le Jour Ou Elvis Chante A Paris. Although my French isn’t good enough to read the book, I was stunned by the cool image on the promotional CD that came with it. That’s one cool dude.

January 26 – For God And Country

For God And Country set3764 Blvd. Publishing announced the release of the deluxe book, CD, and later vinyl set For God And Country. I really like this ‘last’ concert Elvis Presley performed as a ‘rocker’ and blame the Colonel for not professionally recording it.

The label met stiff competition when the UK-based Memphis Recording Service released the same 1961 Hawaiian concert a few months later. Fan reactions were both positive and negative (beautiful book, mixed on the remastering of the sound). The 3764 Blvd. edition is still set for release this summer, this time facing competition from plans of the official Follow That Dream collectors label.

February 06 – #1

Elvis Presley albumSpeaking of cool covers, the cover of Elvis Presley’s debut album topped Shortlist.com‘s 50 Coolest Albums of All Time list. Besides calling the cover ‘iconic’ and taking note of classic hits such as “Blue Suede Shoes,” the Shortlist refers to John Lennon’s quote, “Before Elvis there was nothing,” and describes “the boy from Tupelo, MS” as a catalyst for rock ‘n’ roll. I can’t agree more with the website. I have this album hanging on my wall, and it never bores me. It is very energetic.

March 27 – Welcome Home Elvis

Welcome Home Elvis bookThe Follow That Dream collectors label has recently branched out with other parties for their releases. The first one with the Behind The Image team didn’t work out, and neither did the Fashion For A King book with the Norwegian Flaming Star fan club, as it was filled with grammatical errors. However, with the Welcome Home Elvis book, the Danish / Norwegian team came back with a bang presenting a really cool King in a very cool book. With these books, I always have to think back on Ger Riff’s book. Wouldn’t it be great if the Follow that Dream label teamed with the master himself?

April 02 – Almost April Fool

Blue Suede FakesI kind of felt like a fool for not noticing that the previous announcement of the auction of a pair of blue suede shoes, said to be signed by Elvis Presley in 1956, were not the right ones. The two pairs of shoes on the images that I posted with the article were not the same type of shoes. It would have been a great April Fools’ Day joke if it had been planned just one day earlier.

April 16 – Bootleg Elvis

Bootleg Elvis bookThe book Bootleg Elvis was first mentioned on the For Elvis CD Collectors forum in 2011. In April of this year, the five collectors behind the book sent out the first official press release. Besides Ernst Jorgensen’s SUN book, this is the #2 book on my really-need-to-buy-this-year list. I know there are a lot of Elvis Presley bootlegs around, for I’ve collected quite a few of them. Being from the younger generation, though, my collection consists mainly of CDs. This book will hopefully give me a look into Elvis bootlegging history on vinyl. I’ll probably find some nice items to look for.

April 23 – Finally FTD Information

FTD World bookOne of the things the Follow That Dream label lacked from day one is information: on releases, planning, ship dates, and, most important of all, background in accompanying booklets. The label bought the official Follow That Dream URL and has the foremost Elvis Presley expert, Ernst Jorgensen, as the producer heading the team, so what is holding them up?

A lot of fans volunteered to step in, and the Japanese Elvis For Sound Fans Only fan club actually did. I don’t have their book on the first 111 FTD releases, but it deserves a spot on this list for their initiative! I’ll have to find a copy to see what the book covers. For now, I can do with the review from The Elvis Information Network.

May 06 – A Trip Down Memory Lane

Graceland bookThe Boxcar release Graceland Through The Years: 1957–1977 was first announced four years ago in an interview on the Elvis Information Network website. On this day, the label showed the result of four years of work.

I must say, I’m really looking forward to this one. I have the official EPE book, and I walked the grounds of Graceland in person over ten years ago. I expect this book to be a well-documented trip down memory lane.

May 16 – The Work Of A Man From Denmark

May 15, 2012 marks the day of the first real glimpse into the actual FTD SUN release. The Official UK Elvis Presley fan club beat the official announcement of the release of A Boy From Tupelo by one day. Speaking of days, I’m counting the days until I hold this five-kilo Holy Grail of the Elvis world in my hands. I’ve always had a real soft spot for the birth of rock ‘n’ roll, and now I can experience it as complete as it will probably ever get.

May 26 – Volume Five

The fifth volume in The Elvis Files book series from the Norwegian Flaming Star fan club was released. The series documents Elvis Presley’s life and achievements in a very informative and well illustrated manner. It is a bit overhyped, has some flaws, and seems to simply collect some of the material from the internet. Still, there is nothing Elvis that compares to this body of work, so it stands out as the “Illustrated Biography” of Elvis Presley. The fifth volume documents the years 1969 and 1970, when Elvis became king of the whole wide world again. Besides the first six years of his public life, these years are the most iconic.

Back to you Ty!

Top Ten Elvis News Stories of 2012 (So Far…)

by Ty, The Mystery Train Blog

This year marks the 35th anniversary of the death of Elvis Presley. With almost half of 2012 already in the record books, this seems like a good time to look back at the ten best stories so far this year.

#10 A revitalized dream
In 2012, noted Elvis soundboard expert Ciscoking began consulting with Sony’s Follow That Dream collectors label for Elvis fans. The first result of that collaboration was April’s Another Saturday Night, capturing a previously unreleased 1975 concert in Shreveport, Louisiana. Involving an extremely knowledgeable fan is a huge step forward for FTD’s sometimes dubious soundboard series. Earlier this month, Elvis Presley Enterprises’ official Elvis.com site showed some love for the label by rolling out a rejuvenated FTD section – complete with audio clips, posters, and movie trailers. Ciscoking has hinted that a dedicated FTD site may finally be on the way, but the Elvis.com section at least provides a temporary destination for those wanting to learn more about the various releases.

#09 Celebrating Elvis, the father
Lisa Marie Presley in February launched a new exhibit at Graceland, “Elvis… Through His Daughter’s Eyes.” Nine-years-old when her father passed away, Lisa Marie presents memories of her time with him. The exhibit includes home movies, toys, and even Lisa Marie’s crib. All too often, Elvis today is seen only as an image or trademark – like Mickey Mouse. Lisa Marie’s very personal exhibit instead places a much-needed focus on the real man behind that image.

#08 Tour Graceland without leaving home
In March, Elvis.com rolled out 360-degree, panoramic tours of Graceland’s exterior, foyer, den, and racquetball building/trophy room. What better way to entice fans to visit in person than to allow a virtual preview? The real question is, will the forthcoming virtual Elvis live in virtual Graceland? While I love the virtual Graceland concept, I have to admit, the thought of a virtual Elvis (in 2D “hologram” form) creeps me out. Virtual Graceland Trophy Room

#07 I Am An Elvis By Request Fan
In May, Sony Music solicited online votes from fans on which Elvis songs should appear on a new CD, I Am An Elvis Fan. Unfortunately, Sony restricted the voting choices to less than a hundred of the 700-plus Elvis masters – not to mention thousands of alternate and live cuts released since his death. Sony Music Australia took this concept one step further in June. For Sony Music Australia’s Elvis By Request 2-CD set, fans can vote for any Elvis master, as well as many tracks released since 1977. I’ve pre-ordered both CDs, but I’m most looking forward to the Australian edition.

#06 Sweetening through the ages
The most interesting Elvis releases these days tend to be not from the main Sony label, but from the FTD label. In March, FTD released Our Memories Of Elvis Volumes 1, 2, & 3. The 2-CD set contains the original 1979 and 1980 albums, as well as a third volume and additional tracks prepared but never released. The concept is simple, the recordings have been remixed to remove certain instruments and background vocalists to strip them down to a “pure” sound. While the results may still be artificial compared to truly undubbed versions, it is still an intriguing concept and a welcome release.

#05 Grace through the storm
Lisa Marie Presley released her third album in May, Storm & Grace. Her best release yet, the album is consistent, well-written, well-performed, and well-produced. My favorite songs on the album are “Over Me,” “You Ain’t Seen Nothin’ Yet,” “So Long” and “Un-break.” The other tracks are solid as well.

#04 “Some of y’all never been down South too much”
In its top-notch Classic Album series, FTD released its version of On Stage in March. I consider On Stage second only to That’s The Way It Is as the best album of Elvis’ career. By my count, this marks the fourth different configuration of this album (the original 1970 version, the 1999 special edition, the 2010 Legacy edition, and now the 2012 FTD edition). Why, then, is this latest reissue even worth mentioning? In addition to the original album, this 2-CD set contains additional tracks from his February 1970 Las Vegas engagement, many of them previously unreleased.

#03 Practice, practice, practice
Scheduled for release this month from FTD is From Hawaii To Las Vegas, which presents a January 25, 1973, rehearsal at the Las Vegas Hilton. One song from this rehearsal, “I’m Leavin’ It All Up To You,” was first issued as a bonus track last year on FTD’s uneven Stage Rehearsal CD. Originally recorded on cassette tape, From Hawaii To Las Vegas probably will not be the kind of CD you would want to throw on at a party – but it should provide valuable insight to fellow Elvis historians. Included are two runthroughs of “Separate Ways” – a song that, as far as anyone knows, Elvis never actually performed in concert.

#02 Not a typical compilation
With I Am An Elvis Fan and Elvis By Request on the way, 2012 may be seen as the year of the fan compilation. However, many fans have been making Elvis compilations for their own personal use for years – whether on cassette tape, CD-R, or iPod playlists. In May, one particular Elvis playlist made the news. Lisa Marie’s Favourite Elvis Songs features his daughter’s selections. Her 12 picks range from 1960-1972, with a full two-thirds coming from the 1970s. With selections like “Just Pretend” and “I’m Leavin’,” Lisa Marie’s list proved to be both unique and terrific. Sony should hire her to advise on future Elvis compilations.

#01 From Alabama Street to Union Avenue
After years of rumors and speculation, the announcement of a release date and early details for FTD’s seemingly mythical “SUN project” has to take the number one spot. No contest. One of the most anticipated Elvis Presley releases ever, A Boy From Tupelo: The Complete 1953-1955 Recordings will include a 512-page book detailing the activities of Elvis in that time period as well as three CDs worth of material. The set gathers every known Elvis SUN master and outtake, plus demos and live performances. It includes ten previously unreleased tracks. The SUN project has been FTD chief Ernst Jorgensen’s baby for the past several years. A Boy From Tupelo reportedly tips the scales at 5 kilograms (11 pounds), meaning it weighs more than most newborns! Delivery is currently expected for August 16. A Boy From Tupelo (concept cover art)

What will the rest of 2012 bring to the Elvis world? Will A Boy From Tupelo live up to expectations? What other surprises are in store? Find out by keeping it tuned to the Elvis Day By Day blog.

I Am An Elvis Fan (So Why Can’t I Choose My Own Songs?) [Conductor’s Reflections #12/Playlist Recipes #5]

In case you haven’t noticed, I am an Elvis fan. Maybe you are, too.

Of late, marketing campaigns by Elvis Presley Enterprises and Sony Music Entertainment have centered around the phrase “I Am An Elvis Fan.” You can buy an “I Am An Elvis Fan” t-shirt or even an “I Am An Elvis Fan” poster – an image of Elvis formed by a mosaic of fan photos.

The centerpiece of this campaign, though, is a new CD that Sony will release on July 31. As you have probably guessed, the title of the album is I Am An Elvis Fan.I Am An Elvis Fan

This one is different than most albums because an online vote last month determined the contents. Next week, Sony unveils the winning tracks.

Elvis released over 700 different recordings in his lifetime. Since then, thousands more have escaped the vaults. Rather than being able to vote for any Elvis song, fans were unfortunately constrained to choosing from pre-determined lists of songs in seven different categories. For each category, a fan had to choose three out of thirteen songs. Some of the songs even showed up in multiple categories.

While a few rarities made the process, most songs were of the typical “Heartbreak Hotel,” “Hound Dog,” and “All Shook Up” variety. I’m sure those will be the types of songs to make the CD as well. In any event, it was still fun to choose songs. For the record, here is how I voted (bold), given the available choices:

’50s
1. That’s All Right
2. Good Rockin’ Tonight
3. Baby Let’s Play House
4. I Got A Woman
5. Hound Dog
6. Don’t Be Cruel
7. Mystery Train [naturally!]
8. Blue Suede Shoes
9. Money Honey
10. Heartbreak Hotel
11. Shake, Rattle & Roll
12. All Shook Up
13. Lawdy, Miss Clawdy

’60s
1. In The Ghetto
2. Suspicious Minds
3. Gentle On My Mind
4. Don’t Cry Daddy
5. Surrender
6. Good Luck Charm
7. Devil In Disguise
8. She’s Not You
9. Suspicion
10. The Girl Of My Best Friend
11. His Latest Flame
12. Love Letters
13. Memories

GOSPEL
1. Peace in the Valley
2. Crying in the Chapel
3. How Great Thou Art
4. If I Can Dream [gospel?]
5. Amazing Grace
6. Swing Down Sweet Chariot
7. Joshua Fit The Battle
8. Take My Hand Precious Lord
9. Lead Me, Guide Me
10. He Touched Me
11. Milky White Way
12. You’ll Never Walk Alone
13. Where Could I Go But To The Lord

LOVE SONGS
1. I Want You, I Need You, I Love You
2. Any Way You Want Me
3. You Don’t Have To Say You Love Me
4. One Night
5. Can’t Help Falling In Love
6. Love Me Tender
7. Always On My Mind [actually, a love lost song]
8. Are You Lonesome Tonight?
9. Unchained Melody
10. Loving You
11. You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling [again, a love lost song]
12. It’s Now Or Never
13. The Wonder Of You

MOVIES
1. King Creole
2. Jailhouse Rock
3. Trouble
4. Return To Sender
5. A Little Less Conversation
6. Viva Las Vegas
7. G.I Blues
8. Follow That Dream
9. Bossa Nova Baby
10. Rubberneckin’
11. Blue Hawaii
12. Loving You
13. Teddy Bear

COUNTRY
1. I Washed My Hands In Muddy Water
2. Kentucky Rain
3. For The Good Times
4. Guitar Man
5. Blue Moon of Kentucky
6. Just Because
7. Long Black Limousine
8. I’ll Hold You In My Heart (Until I Can Hold You in My Arms)
9. She Thinks I Still Care
10. I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry
11. Welcome to My World
12. Funny How Time Slips Away
13. There Goes My Everything

IN CONCERT
1. Polk Salad Annie
2. Suspicious Minds
3. Just Pretend
4. You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling [to help ease the split vote, since it is in two categories]
5. Bridge Over Troubled Water
6. See See Rider
7. Walk A Mile In My Shoes
8. I Can’t Stop Loving You
9. You Gave Me A Mountain
10. An American Trilogy
11. Burning Love
12. My Way
13. A Big Hunk of Love

You will notice that even I chose some “typical” songs. Certain Elvis songs have personal, sentimental associations for me, and I just couldn’t skip them when they were on the list.

Even if you buy into this whole select by category business, they left out a couple of important categories. Where is the ’70s category for songs like “Promised Land,” “Stranger In The Crowd,” and “I’ve Lost You”? Where is the Blues category for songs like “Reconsider Baby” and “Baby, What You Want Me To Do”?

In a sense, Sony loaded the deck. The opportunity to present a truly unique Elvis CD will probably just devolve into releasing yet another typical compilation. Even casual Elvis fans will already have the majority of the winning songs. Is the intent of this disc to attract new fans, then? If so, maybe they should have called it I Might Be An Elvis Fan instead.

While the rest of us cannot be trusted to choose our own songs, Australian Elvis fans, on the other hand, will get to do an Elvis CD up right. The content for Sony Music Australia’s Elvis By Request album will also be determined by online fan voting (still in progress through July 13). Except this time, there is just one vote, and it is from the full list of recordings released during his lifetime, as well as many tracks released since then.

Australian fans who pre-order the CD by July 13 will even have their names included on a poster. While you have to live in Australia to get your name on the poster, you don’t have to live there to vote or buy the CD. In fact, I’ve already cast my ballot for my favorite song. Elvis By Request is due out on August 16.

Both concepts are reminiscent of the 1976 album Elvis In Demand, a project where members of the Official Elvis Presley Fan Club of Great Britain mailed in lists of five songs to vote for the content. The resulting record album made it to number 12 on the UK charts.

My main complaint about Elvis compilations tends to be that the same fifty or so songs are used in various combinations over and over. While I Am An Elvis Fan may end up looking like yet another similar compilation, Elvis By Request has the potential to be something special. It may very well turn out to be this generation’s Elvis In Demand.

* * *

While writing this post, I started thinking about what kind of Elvis compilation I would put together if Sony knocked on my door looking for help (someday, right?). Limiting myself to only masters released during his lifetime, it would probably look something like this.

Strangers No More

  • Money Honey
  • Like A Baby
  • For The Heart
  • How The Web Was Woven
  • Indescribably Blue
  • Clean Up Your Own Backyard
  • Early Morning Rain
  • Power Of My Love
  • Blue Moon
  • Stranger In The Crowd
  • Thinking About You
  • Baby, I Don’t Care
  • I Was The One
  • My Babe (Live)
  • Wearin’ That Loved-On Look
  • Witchcraft
  • I’ve Lost You
  • Make The World Go Away
  • Let Yourself Go
  • As Long As I Have You
  • Run On
  • Bringing It Back