Friday, October 28, 2011

Death Elvis & His One Man Grave

Interview: Dead Elvis and His One Man Grave. By James G. Carlson, 2011. Source: The Roots Music Authority

When I first began my journalistic series on the world’s one-man bands I came across an artist who goes by the moniker Dead Elvis. In every photo I've seen of him, he has sported a white, Vegas-era Elvis Presley outfit, as well as a latex rockabilly zombie mask which looks for the world like the King himself after years in the ground. Hence the full name of his project: Dead Elvis and His One Man Grave. Suffice to say, his getup caught my attention immediately. But there was something to him beyond the novelty of his costume. And that sas the music.

Dead Elvis’s songs are short bursts of catchy, energetic rockabilly and primitive rock’n’roll, almost certainly like something the King would play if back from the grave, only with a punk rock edge. And where the King had a tremendous mainstream fan base, Dead Elvis has gained a fairly substantial underground following of his own in recent years. It wasn’t for lack of working for it, though, as Dead Elvis has been featured on a few different compilations and released several pieces of 7” vinyl on such labels as Squoodge, Luna Sounds, Hoarse, Kizmiaz, and Rock N Roll Purgatory. He has also toured extensively through Europe, China, Japan, and South America. And he just keeps on going, with no sign of slowing down whatsoever..."takin' care of business from the grave," as he says. Not too shabby for a dead man.

Dead Elvis has always stayed true to the one-man band formula, opting to go it alone rather than take on fellow musicians to create his signature sound. Truly, it is impressive what he does with only his guitar, a partial drum kit, and his voice. It's a sound comprised of high treble distortion with a slight crunch and a bit of echo, the boom of the kick drum, the snap of the snare, and a deep, smoldering hellfire vocal delivery.

Sometime in 2010, having strictly adhered to the vinyl-only format that he has always favored above all else, he chose to release an album on CD, at last, for the fans without record players. Dig ‘Em Up! is the title of the album, which is appropriate considering it is a collection of songs that previously appeared spread out on his numerous vinyl releases. With fourteen songs in all, “Monster Under Your Bed,” “50 Gallon Drum,” “Deadman,” “Long Gone Dead and Gone” and “Shake It” are just a few of the more notable songs on the album.

Now, for those diehard Elvis Presley fans who may consider Dead Elvis's endeavor a travesty or a mockery, it is neither of those things...according to Dead Elvis, at least. In fact, in March of 2010 a writer by the name of Morgan Short published an interview he did with Dead Elvis [click this to read it], during which he broached that exact topic. In reply, Dead Elvis said, "Actually, I've had two or three people mailing me, saying, Ahh, this is not normal what you're doing, this is a disgrace! You're taking the piss with Elvis! But, you know, if you don't get the joke then I don’t know -- don’t look at the MySpace. [Laughs.]

Recently I had the opportunity and pleasure of interviewing this rock’n’roll monster, Dead Elvis. And I have included the content from that interview for you here in its entirety.

As is often the case in my interviews, I would like to begin with an introduction, so to speak, an informative summary of Dead Elvis as not just a rock’n’roll monster from the grave but as an individual, a human being of this vast and crazy world in which we live?

Sometimes I think I am one of the few crazy ones in a world which is too damn normal!

Like a handful of other interesting one-man bands out there today, namely Bob Log III (with his cannonball stuntman jumpsuit and helmet with attached telephone as microphone rig), and Reverend Beat-Man (with his priestly garments), you seem to have developed a rather unusual way of presenting your sound to the people. Of all things, how did you come up with the Dead Elvis moniker and act?

Well, it just suddenly hit me! At first I thought about getting some friends together and calling it “Dead Elvis & the Undertakers” or “Dead Elvis & the Gravediggers” or something. But after some consideration I realized I could better do it alone. Sometimes I have a very obsessive way of working, and I am a bit too creative. Working with other band members would just slow me down. Alone I am free to do what I want. I make my own music, record covers, websites, posters, videos, and all other artworks. I like doing that stuff and it saves me a lot of time and cash. When I had the idea to make it a one-man band, the name "Dead Elvis & His One Man Grave” was the first thing I came up with. After that it all went pretty darn fast! Sometimes I'm still amazed about the impact the name has on people.

For the longest time you released your recordings strictly on vinyl format. Only now with your latest release “Dig ‘Em Up!” are you releasing your songs on CD as well. Why did you choose vinyl for your first several releases? And why are you adding CD’s into the mix now?

Yes, I have only released vinyl, as I totally dislike CD's. For me they are like throwaway lighters or something, so I never bought them and I never really wanted to release any. But nowadays many people don’t own them record players anymore and many people ask me for a CD. So I have decided to press the “Dig ‘Em Up!” album on CD soon. If a fan wants a CD, who am I to say he cannot? Everybody should be able to enjoy my music on whatever machine they want.

You are undoubtedly one of the most mysterious artists I’ve ever done an article on. That is, I can usually find an abundance of information scattered across the web about most bands and singer/songwriters, but with you…it’s like only your Dead Elvis character exists and no one is behind the mask. When a place of residence is mentioned is invariably states you reside in Disgraceland (as opposed to Presley’s Graceland). Nothing about you personally ever surfaces. Hell, nothing vague comes up, for that matter. Is the mystery surrounding you intentional, or did things just sort of happen that way?

Well, I never give out much information about myself, and I normally don’t let people make pictures of me without the mask. When people ask me where I'm from I just make up something like Disgraceland, Legoland, or I just name any country that comes to mind. Sometimes after shows, when people come up to me and ask me if I was the dead guy on stage, I usually tell them that Dead Elvis is in the hotel and I’m just the roadie or the merchandise dude. I don’t know, it is kinda fun to keep the people in the dark, and I think my personal stuff has got nothing to do with Dead Elvis. But unfortunately, sometimes I can’t keep hidden who I am. A dead guy also has his needs, and I wouldn’t want all them beautiful woman fans to pass me by because they think I’m the damn roadie.

More and more we are seeing a rise in the number of lads and lasses taking the one-man band path, some of them very talented, like Reverend Beat-Man, Bloodshot Bill, Phillip Roebuck, Urban Junior, Pete Yorko, Sheriff Perkins, and so on. Obviously the One-Man Band community is expanding, just as the craft itself is evolving. It’s a very exciting time in underground and independent music, and you are at the very center of it, it seems. What are your thoughts and feelings on the one-man band phenomenon going on in the world today?

Yes, it seems I’m in the very center of a rapidly expanding worldwide one-man band scene. It is amazing how many cool new OMB's have hit the surface! You have to check out The Fly and His One Man Garbage from Japan; he’s got some killer stuff going on down there! I know a lot of one-man bands all over the world and I have come to realize that most of them are very active/creative people, all of them working very hard to play shows and get stuff out there. Sometimes it really feels like a big worldwide family of the crazed! Like I said before, the good thing about being a one-man band is that you don’t have to wait for other band members, so you can get stuff done. I think this makes the one-man band scene a very different and more active scene altogether, and I can only say I’m very glad to be part of it!

You evidently tour quite a bit. What are some of your most memorable moments as a live perbormer on the road or at your shows?

Since I got out of my grave, everything went really fast. I released a lot of records and went all around the world to play shows. I have been able to do things I would have never dreamed to be possible. It has been like an unstoppable roller coaster ride with too many memorable moments to mention. A few Highlights for me are my two China tours, my Japan tour, Istanbul Turkey, and Oulu Finland (which is 120 miles from the polar circle where it was about -22F/-30C outside!).

What bands and/or singer/songwriters were most influential to you as a singer/songwriter and musician?

I see my one-man band as a bad B-movie in music, and I write songs about that. So as a singer/songwriter I am mainly influenced by this imaginary movie. Dead Elvis is not a normal band like any other, so I don’t treat it as such. As a musician, there are a lot of artists that definitely had influence on my music, like The Cramps, Hasil Adkins, Screamin' Jay Hawkins, Bo Diddley, Johnny Burnette, Charlie Feathers, and a lot of others. But I think that if I would have never heard Jack Starr's "Born Petrified" record, I would have never come out of my grave. That album is just great!

Is the Dead Elvis endeavor your primary gig? That is, it seems like you tour a lot, going to places like China, all over Europe, and so forth, and you put out a fair number of recordings on small, independent labels. It’s difficult to see how you would have time to do much else.

Yes, my one-man band is my primary gig at this moment, and I haven’t got much time to do anything else. But I think that If I would have time for other stuff, I wouldn’t know what to do.

Now that your Dig ‘Em Up! album is in the works and you have just visited China and Japan, what do you have in the works for the future, aside from more of the same…you know, any new material, side projects, switching labels, doing your own label, etc?

Yes 2011! First of all, the Dig ‘Em Up! CD will be released. After that I will record a new album for Luna Sounds Germany, which will be released somewhere in May. I assume I will also release a few new 7”s on Squoodge Records Germany. There will be a South America tour coming up in March/April, during which I will visit Brazil, Uruguay, Chile and Argentina. I will go back to China and Japan again, and I’m working on several European tours and shows in countries like UK, Finland, Germany and Croatia. I guess it will be a busy year…

Lastly, if there’s anything I failed to cover or anything you would like to express, etc, please feel free to do so now. The floor is yours, dead man.

Just wanna thankyaverymuch for this interview and for promoting the one-man band scene!!!

Fifty Gallon Drum
Cold Heart Of Mine
Monster Under The Bed
Get Outta My Grave
Long Gone Dead and Done
Shot My Woman
Hold My Cold Hand
Deadest Girl In Town
Tired of Hell
R.I.P. Baby

Get the real thing over here:

Friday, October 21, 2011

Elvis: Rock, Sex, and Roll (Yeah Elvis!!! playlist #1)

A new book from JAT publishing is coming soon. Elvis : Rock, Sex and Roll. Focusing on Elvis in 1956. Acording to the press release, it will be: a 'ground-breaking, history-making' book featuring never before seen photos along with extensive details about Elvis in '56, the year in which Elvis changed the world forever. The title of this book was chosen because we believe we will capture Elvis Presley in his coolest, sexiest way.

Here is the video add:

Well we haven't seen it yet, but this guy, Joseph A. Tunzi (JAT) really knows how to deliver, so we are really looking forward to it. In the mean time, Elvis: Rock, Sex and Roll its a good excuse to create and share with you a playlist that really lives up to the excitment of that title. So here it is! our own selection of hard rocking 50's and early 60's tracks, not a lot of talking reviewing the tracks this time, you know the songs, you know this got to be played fuckin' loud, so download it and Rip it Up!

'Hearing him (Elvis) for the first time was like busting out of jail,' stated Bob Dylan once, you will have to understand the moral climate in America during the mid 50's to realize what a shook Elvis Presley was. On issue #1 of Revolver Mag, Dave Marsh published an article called 8 Revolutionary events that rocked the world, on the number one spot he places: Elvis Presley on TV (1956): 'Elvis on the Radio was radical enough, but putting him on the small screen was another matter altogether. It unveiled the predatorial leer and swarthy features that coded "Negro" to every bigot in America. Broadcast into every living room, those hips wanted to fuck your daughter, your wife, and (maybe, even if you wouldn't admit it) you. MTV still hasn't come up with anything as creative, as sexy or, for that matter, as interesting.'

For the post war teenagers, Elvis meant rebellion, that sexy, breathlessly and frantic sound of his was the bad seed of defiance and disobedience that will rise during the mid 60's. 'When I first heard [Elvis Presley's] voice I just knew that I wasn't going to work for anybody; and nobody was going to be my boss.' summed up Dylan.' 'He taught white America to get down" said James Brown, as a racial integrator, Elvis took hold all over the South, Elvis -a working class Southerner- fusad sounds of white country music with black blues and R&B. In an uptight white America segregation happpened in their very bodies, where sexuality needed to be separated from the rest of the cultural being, Elvis Presley came as a sexual awakening, the generally described 'frenezy' Elvis caused in the Audience was more like a sexual expression, a liberation from the taboos of the older generation, and that was the real fear regarding Elvis.

Well we did some talkin' after all, but here it is, Elvis: Rock, Sex and Roll, enjoy our playlist, this is not a greatest hits collection, this is Elvis the rocker, malicious glee that 50 years latter still has that rebellious edge.

Mildred: Hey Johnny, what are you rebelling against?
Johnny: Whadda you got?
Elvis - Rock, Sex, And Roll (A BOOK FROM JAT publishing) Get It NOW!!!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Hollywood Hound Dog. By Chris Hutchins

By Halloween 1957, Elvis had achieved the impossible and he knew it. The shimmering iridescense that was the King of Rock 'n' Roll glowed in every corner of the globe. Even in silhouette, his image was unmissable. 

Earlier that year, the Colonel organized a concert tour starting in Chicago and working its way through St. Louis, Philadelfia and Buffalo, to Toronto, Montreal and Ottawa,. Squezeed in between the end of filming Loving You in March and the start of Jailhouse Rock in May, the tour proved so successful that Elvis was back on the road in late August, covering the Pacific North-west centres of Spokane, Tacoma, Seattle and Portland. In Vancouver, ha flapped his wings so freely that he was accused of inciting a full-scale rock 'n' roll riot among the fans. Elvis revelled in it. 

But there was serious trouble waiting in Los Angeles, where Elvis ached to give the best show of his life at the Pan-Pacific Auditorium in the heart of Hollywood. More by accident than design, the first performance ended in a bizarre climax, which even Elvis found hard to explain after the damage  had been done. 

Bathed in white light and clad in a tuxedo woven of golden thread, its lapels and cuffs sparkling with rhinestones ($10,000 from Nudie's Hollywood), Elvis was at the height of his powers. Even before he opened that first night, 28 October, with 'Heartbreak Hotel', a mounting crescendo of ear-splitting squeals told him he had died and gone to teenage heaven. The audience, decked out from top to toe in Elvis fashions and waving his publicity picture over their heads like sails in a high wind, they let him know that they were here for some action. He was only too happy to oblige. This was the Teddy Boys army. And Teddy Girls, its battle colours of Hound Dog Orange, Hearbreak Pink, Love Ya Fuchsia, and Cruel Red shining brightly on moist young lips. His own likeness smiled boldly back at him from a multitude of scarves, dresses, dungarees, blouses, sneakers, and charm bracelets. He knew he was among the faithful. 

Instantly, he was Presley the Performer, a master illusionist who created magical shapes with his flowing torso and liquid limbs. These combined with nerve-tingling sound bites from those curling, bee-stung lips to summon up the libido even in those too young to know they had one. The black pompadour slicked back into the classic ducktail, the kiss curl hanging over the high, noble forehead and the long sideburns now stamped him as arrogant, delinquent and dangerous. As he cast his spell, the dynamic that came into play made anything, anything at all, seem possible for a few  fleeting moments: the most improbable sexual fantasy might just become reality for the truly devout believer. 

As the vision Elvis created became momentarily real, yet more squeals, tearful cries and ecstatic screams ripped the night air, only to rise even higher the instant that pivotal, pump-action pelvis stopped moving. Once the radioactive particles ceased to vibrate, the illusion faded and the sudden withdrawal was unendurable. All too aware of what he had done, Elvis looked curiously contrite. Standing motionless beneath the spotlights, he was human again and noticeably vulnerable. But still they begged for more and, once again, he obliged. Maurice Kinn reported that night in the New Musical Express: 

Throughout the fifty minutes of Presley's shattering antics, the entire auditorium was a seething, contorting mass of wriggling humanity, reacting with shrill screams and convulsive jerks to every breath of the Presley voice, every twitch of the Presley hips. This was not just audience reaction, but sheer mass hypnotism. Fans fainted in dozens, falling like ninepins in the aisles and across the rows of seats.
He deliberately sets out with an almost sadistic intent to arouse the fans to fever pitch. They say that Elvis is the only singer who wears out his trousers from the inside -and now I know just what they mean.

In a final burst of high spirits, Elvis concluded the show by rolling over and over on the stage with his arms and legs wrapped around a stuffed version of Nipper, the dog normaly seen cocking an attentive ear to a wind-up phonograph on the RCA Victor logo. Elvis had ended each performance on the tour by serenading the mascot with a fast and furious rendition of  'Hound Dog'. In Los Angeles, when he suddenly seized Nipper in this undignified and unscripted embrace, the foreplay had been so great that some outraged members of the press thought he was simulating sex with it. Exciting young girls to orgasm was bad enough, but having sexual intercourse with a dog was going to far. The final taboo had been broken. 

The LA deputy police chief ordered the Vice Squad to instruct Elvis to eliminate any 'sexy overtones' from his next performance. To underscore the caution, the Colonel was also warned that obscenity charges would be brought against his star if the Nipper act were repeated at the second concert. 

Three 16mm movie cameras were hastly despatched to the Pan-Pacific Auditorium to shoot Elvis from different angles. In the event of further infringement, the film would be produced in the court as evidence. Bunkered down in the Presidential suit of the Beverly Wilshire Hotel, Elvis stuck to his usual rejoinder: 'They all think I'm a sex maniac, but I come from a respectable family and I wouldn't do anything to embarras them. I just act natural.'

No Presley concert had ever been staged in front of such a dedicated turnout of his peers or in such a high-voltage atmosphere of official disdain. He came on with the eyes and ears of the world upon him, with the Vice Squad waiting in the wings and the créme de la créme of Hollywood's young talent watching in rapt anticipation from their ringside seats. It was a big moment. Elvis stood briefly speechless as he caught sight of the famous faces. Some he knew well, like Nick Adams, Dennis Hopper and Sammy Davis, but he had never met Ricky Nelson, Ricky shifted uncomfortably when he realized Elvis was looking at him. 

Addressing the crowd, Elvis said: 'I'm sorry this came up, but we're not gonna let it stop us from putting on the best show we can for you people. If they think I'm obscene, that's their problem, not mine.' 

Before going into his act, he winked at one of the spy cameras, inscribed a halo around his head with a circular motion of his hand and said: 'I'm going to be angel tonight'. Pandemonium. 

Fans fainted in dozens, falling like ninepins in the aisles and across the rows of seats... New Musical Express, Oct. 1957

Sunday, October 9, 2011

"6.000 Kids Cheer Elvis' Frantic Sex Show" by Dick Williams -L.A. Daily Mirror-News October 29, 1957

October 29, 1957
Pan Pacific Auditorium, Los Angeles California.

Sexhibitionist Elvis Presley has come at last in person to a visibly palpitating, adolescent female Los Angeles to give all the little girls' libidos the jolt of their lives. Six thousand kids, predominantly feminine by a ratio of 10 to 1, jammed Pan-Pacific Auditorium to the rafters last night. They screamed their lungs out without letup as Elvis shook, bumped and did the grinds from one end of the stage to the other until he was a quivering heap on the floor 35 minutes later.

With anyone else, the police would have closed the show 10 minutes after it started. But not Elvis, our new national teenage hero. If any further proof were needed that what Elvis offers is not basically music but a sex show, it was provided last night. Pandemonium took over from the time he swaggered triumphantly on stage like some ancient Caesar, resplendent in gold lame tux jacket with rhinestone lapels, until he weaved off at the end of his stint. It was almost impossible to hear the music despite a turned-up public address system. A cloud of thumping drums, whining guitars and Elvis' hoarse shouts rose like some lascivious steaming brew from the bare stage (except for a banner plugging his next picture, "Jailhouse Rock") and filled the auditorium.

The only way I knew what Elvis was singing was by asking the youths sitting next to me. They somehow recognized every number. It started with "Heartbreak Hotel" and wound its way through all his popular record hits from "Hound Dog" to "Don't Be Cruel." There is but scant difference in any of them. Only the wild abandon varies. Hundreds of little girls brought their flash cameras although what they expected to get sitting far back in this vast barn of a place I don't know. Constantly, amidst the high, sustained screaming, the thumping, clapping and wild shouts, innumerable flashes kept going off so that the darkness was intermittently lit as if by lightning. The whole panorama, from the frenzy on stage to the far reaches of the jammed bleachers which seemed a mile back at the rear, looked like one of those screeching, uninhibited party rallies which the Nazis used to hold for Hitler. Scores of police circled the auditorium and at the slightest hint of trouble plunged in ominous pairs up the aisles toward the offenders. There have been too many Elvis "concerts" which ended in riots in the past to risk any trouble.

Elvis worked with two guitarists, a drummer and a pianist plus the Jordinaires, a quartet of young harmonists who were lost in the hubbub. He attempted almost no talking after his initial muttered, "Friends, I want to introduce yuh to the members of muh gang." Most of the time he was weaving over the stage like a horse with the blind staggers. He wiggled, bounced, shook and ground in the style which stripteasers of the opposite sex have been using at stag shows since grandpa was a boy. He used frequent contrived sensual gestures such as constantly hitching up his pants, fooling with his belt buckle and yanking down his coat to elicit further wild screams from his audience. He played up to the mike stand like it was a girl in a gesture which is expressly forbidden by the police department in every burlesque show in Los Angeles County. The wilder Elvis got in his pelvic gyrations, the more frenzied his audience became. Inevitably, he announced midway, sweat pouring down his face, that he was "all shook up."

The madness reached its peak at the finish with "Hound Dog." Elvis writhed in complete abandon, hair hanging down over his face. He got down on the floor with a huge replica of the RCA singing dog and made love to it as if it were a girl. Slowly, he rolled over and over on the floor. The little brunette of maybe 15 sitting in front of me bent her head and covered her eyes, whether with embarrassment, fright, sickness or excitement, I know not. I do know this is corruption of the innocent on a scale such as I have never witnessed before. For these are children to whom Elvis appeals, preconditioned, curious adolescents, who are artificially and unhealthfully stimulated. Their reactions would shock many a parent if he or she could see this display. They are not adults who can take his crudities and laugh or shrug them off.The boy next to me, bent forward on his seat taking it all in, turned briefly to me between numbers. "He's great," he enthused. "He's simply great, isn't he?"

The same lesson in pornography will be repeated tonight, barring an interruption by the Police Department, which is unlikely, in view of the fact that they might have a riot on their hands.

L.A. Police Order Presley "Clean Up" His Pan-Pac Show" -October 29, 1957. 

 "Clean it Up and tone it down". That was the crisp order issued by L.A. police last night prior to the second and last Elvis Presley performance at the Pan-Pacific Auditorium. Came on the heels of the opening night performance which provided a chilling picture of Presley's impact on adolescent minds. Many sources flatly labeled the show "lewd," police reported. Others described it as the "most disgusting and most frightening" show they had seen. 

However, city officials said that while the show was in "questionable taste" it did not violate any obscenity laws and no action was planned. But Deputy Chief Richard Simmons ordered his vice squad to give Presley strict orders that the alleged sexy stuff be cut. 

" At one point during the second night show, he formed a halo over his head and offered his wrist for handcuffs to the police cameras. -You should have been here last night, he added with mockery."

    The Pan Pacific Auditorium

The Pan Pacific Auditorium, Mid 80's

Thursday, October 6, 2011

"Elvis Presley Will Have to Clean Up His Show -Or Go To Jail." Excerpt from "Last Train to Memphis" By Peter Guralnick.

Here. Read This!" said a reporter, shoving a magazine article into Elvis' hands. "Rock 'n' Roll smells phony and false", declared Frank Sinatra in the story's text. "Its sung, played and written for the most part by cretinous goons and by means of its almost imbecilic reiteration, and sly, lewd, in plain fact dirty lytics... it manages to be the martial music of every sideburned delinquent on the face of the earth... it is the most brutal, ugly, desperate, vicious form of expresion it has been my misfortune to hear".

And what was Elvis Presley's response to that? he was asked, standing in front of a roomful of reporters. It was an hour before his October 28 [1957] performance at the Pan Pacific Auditorioum, which would mark his Hollywood debut. "I admire the man", said Elvis. "He has a right to say what he wants to say. He is a great success and a fine actor, but I think he shouldn't have said it. He's mistaken about this. This is a trend, just the same as he faced when he started years ago. I consider it the greatest in music," Elvis added mischievously, throwing the reporters a little off balance. "It is very noteworthy -and namely because it is the only thing I can do..."

"Is that all you have to say?"
"You can't knock success," declared Elvisand went on to answer questions about his income, his sideburns, his draft status, and any plans he might have for marriage, before taking the stage in gold jacket and dress pants at 8:15. 

He was determined to impress his celebrity-studded audience, and he did. In front of a sold-out, paid attendance of more than nine thousand, he flung himself about, "wiggled, bumped, twisted" and at the conclusion of the fifty-minute performance rolled around on the floor with Nipper in a manner longtime Jack O' Brian of the New York Journal-American declared "Far too indecent to mention in every detail". The Los Angeles Mirror-News did wrote the next day "Elvis writhed in complete abandon, hair hanging over his face. He got down on the floor with a huge replica of the RCA singing dog and made love to it as if it were a girl."

The audience went wild, but the newspapers took a somewhat dimer view. "Elvis Presley Will Have to Clean Up His Show -Or Go To Jail," declared one headline, while O´Brian characterized the music as "a terrible popular twist  on darkest Africa's fertility tom-tom displays" and Los Angeles Mirror-News entertainment editor Dick Williams noted: "If any further proof were needed that what Elvis offers is not basically music but a sex show, it was proved last night".  His performance, wrote Williams, resembled "one of those screeching, uninhibited party rallies which the Nazis used to hold for Hitler," and many parents who had attended with their children, including actors Alan Ladd and Walter Slezak, expressed equal outrage to authorities and the newpapers. The result was that the Los Angeles Vice Squad contacted the Colonel [Elvis Manager], who told Elvis that he would have to cut out some of the dancing and in general tone down his act. What was Elvis reaction? the Colonel was asked, "This isn't the first time," said the Colonel, "You know, they done it a couple of times before." Did Elvis complain about not being able to dance? "Naw, he didn't complain... He just said, "Well, if I don't dance tonight, maybe I don't have to take a shower tonight." "Coloner Parker said that?" declared Elvis incredulously. "He couldn't have! You see," Elvis explained, genuinely upset, "I take a shower every night, whether I dance or just sing."

When the police showed up with movie cameras on the second night, the show was considerably tone down, and the only person to object was Yul Brynner, "whose bleeding heart", wrote Jack O'Brian, "led him to protest [the censorship] as if it were an invasion of someone's privacy." Brynner, declared O'Brian olympianly, was "ridiculous." Elvis, for his part, kept his own counsel. At one point during the second night show, he formed a halo over his head and offered his wrist for handcuffs to the cameras. "You should have been here last night," he added with mockery.

"When I originally saw the act, I was horrified... Elvis was rolling around the floor of the
Pan Pacific Auditorium in Hollywood with his arms and legs wrapped
around the microphone as though they where bride and groom." Hedda Hopper.

Monday, April 4, 2011

1973 - Aloha From Hawaii: Via Satellite

Although he is perhaps one of the world's greatest music legends, Presley proceeds to slay an audience with more guts and more soul and more intensity vocally than any performer alive. His shows are not only a production, but a musical "happening." And this live recording, which offers eight tunes previously unrecorded by Elvis, is not only a historical event because of the satellite broadcast and the U.S. TV special of the Hawaiian performance, but because Elvis, a focus point in the origin of rock, is perhaps back, cooking again like he seldom has in the past several years.
- Billboard, 1973.

We think of Elvis as a pioneer but it’s amazing how many of his trips off the map of expectations we forget. Who today thinks of him as the original explorer of live satellite broadcasts of entertainment events? Today we take such things for granted. But nobody had ever done anything like it before January 14, 1973. When Elvis sent his live show out into the world, with a live audience that included almost forty per-cent of the TV sets in Japan, the very idea was audacious.

Put yourself in the place of the world's most influential musical artist of the 20th century, circa 1972. In less than two decades, you've charted 132 singles (including 38 Top 10s and 18 #1 hits), recorded over 50 albums, starred in 33 films, headlined a Peabody Award-winning/critically hailed television special ('68 Comeback), won two Grammys, plus the Livetime Achievement Grammy Award at only 36 years old, shattered concert attendance records in the US, earned enough gold records to occupy an entire wing of a mansion and can lay claim to being on a first name basis with the world: Elvis.

So what's left for the King of Rock and Roll to do in terms of a creative challenge? Colonel Tom Parker, in his 17th year of service as manager to the world's most popular live act, in the fall of 1972, announced that Presley would headline a live television concert from Honolulu, Hawaii to be televised worldwide via satellite, the first such event of its kind.

Elvis: Aloha from Hawaii was the music concert that was headlined by Elvis Presley and broadcasted live via satellite on January 14, 1973 at 12:30 AM Hawaiian time. It was the most watched broadcast by an individual entertainer in television history, a worldwide ratings smash. The concert took place at the International Convention Center Arena in Honolulu (now known as the Neal S. Blaisdell Arena) and aired via Globecam Satellite in over 40 countries across Asia, Australia, the Far East, Europe, and South America(some receiving the telecast the next day, also in primetime) even parts of Communist China supposedly tuned in. Despite the satellite innovation, the United States did not air the concert until April 4, 1973 (the concert took place the same day as Super Bowl VII). The show was the most expensive entertainment special at the time, costing $2.5 million, the American broadcast attracted 51% of the television viewing audience and was seen in more American households than man's first walk on the moon. In all, it was initially seen in approximately around the world by 1-to-1.5 billion people.

A live concert album was released by RCA Records, "Aloha From Hawaii: Via Satellite" in February 1973, and peaked on the Billboard chart in the Spring of 1973. Aloha from Hawaii‎ went to number one on the 'Billboard' album chart, replacing Pink Floyd's "Dark Side of The Moon" and being succeeded in the No.1 spot by Led Zeppelin's "Houses of The Holy". The album also reached #1 in both the pop and country charts in the United States. The album is certified 5x Platinum by the RIAA. As of 2004, Aloha From Hawaii was the #47 best-selling album of the 70s.

Aloha from Hawaii was a two-disc set—only, the second such release of Presley's career (the first being 1969's double set From Memphis to Vegas/From Vegas to Memphis). It was initially released only in quadraphonic sound, becoming the first album in the format to top the Billboard album chart and the biggest-selling album in the format's history. A stereo version was initially released only through the RCA Record Club, but later replaced the quadraphonic version in record stores.

In January 9, 1973 a chartered Boeing 747 landed at Honolulu Airport on the island of Oahu. Elvis was led then on board a helicopter which flew him to the landing pad outside Hilton's Hawaiian Village, by the most overpopulated beach in world, Waikiki. Around 1000 people stood outside the fenced off landing pad to pay tribute to the artist who had made 3 of his movies on Hawaii, held a charity concert, and who was now going to hold another concert where the takings would go to charity, this time a cancer found. (The aim was to raise $25,000 for the fund. The result turned out to be $85,000). Rehearsals where done at the Hilton's Hawaiian Dome.

It was decided that the satellite show was not going to have set ticket prices, and that the 200 who paid the most for their tickets should get a seat in the so-called 'golden circle'. Colonel Parker decided that if the demand for tickets was great, the audience would be given an opportunity to buy tickets for the rehearsal show on the 12th as well. This show was made because a backup show was necessary in case something went wrong during the live transmission.

The tickets for the TV show went on sale on January 7. At this time 4000 of the 6000 tickets had already been sold through postal orders. The remaining 2000 were sold the same day, and the tickets for the rehearsal show were then put on sale - and sold out shortly after.

Even though the transmission had been planned to the minutest detail, several problems arose during the days and hours before the satellite show was going to take place: the stage was enormous, built especially for this occasion, it demanded so much space that the audience had to be limited to 6000, whereas the hall could normally take 8400. The technical problems which arose, threatened to upset the whole transmission, all the electrical equipment needed more electricity than was available in the building. Two hours before the show was due to start, the lights in the hall started flickering - disappeared - and then returned. The navy was contacted and they came to the rescue with equipment to upgrade the electricity supply - only minutes before Elvis was due to come on stage.

For production reasons the producer, Marty Pasetta, had placed Elvis' musicians on a raised stage far behind Elvis, something Elvis didn't accept: 'Sorry, Mr. Pasetta, I want my musicians with me on stage'. Standing alone, literally face to face with over 1 billion TV viewers, was tougher than Elvis liked to consider.

The rehearsal show revealed that the concert was shorter than calculated, and Pasetta asked Elvis to include another 3 new songs in the satellite show, something Elvis agreed to with a slight nod. He was used to doing things as they came along during concerts, and 'Johnny B. Goode', 'I Can't Stop Loving You' and a medley of 'Long Tall Sally' and 'Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On' were added to the rehearsal programme.

When Also Sprach Zarathustra heralded the arrival of the King at the HIC arena half an hour after it had become Sunday 14th January on Hawaii, it wasn't only the 6000 in the hall who felt a quivering excitement in all the nerves of their bodies. Elvis, who was always nervous before a concert, was probably more aware than ever that he faced a task in which every mistake would be observed by millions of people all over the world. Ronnie Tutts' intense activity behind a 10 piece drum kit drives the excitement to a climax when Elvis enters the gigantic stage and causes an anticipated release of excitement. The monarch of the entertainment world hands trembles lightly as he grabs the microphone: 'Oh see, see see rider, Oh see, what you have done...' and the rest is history.

Elvis sang well that night, as did his backup singers, J.D. Sumner and the Stamps, the Sweet Inspirations and soprano Kathy Westmoreland. His band and the orchestra played great, as they invariably did. His performance is amazingly private, almost as if he sings to himself most of the time, then periodically recalls where he is and heads on down the runway to gla`-hand the front rows.

The well known British magazine New Musical Express (NME) has listed Elvis' Aloha From Hawaii Concert in it's top 50 live gig list at #30, beating U2, Queen and Tom Waits.

Besieged by personal difficulties, Elvis' more ballad-oriented song selection during this period of his career reflected his heart and soul, a quality that more often than not became the impetus for some stirring performances with many definitive versions emerging via this big event: "You Gave Me a Mountain", the middle of the road Frankie Laine tune that Presley infused with soul and feeling; a bluesy take on the Hank Williams classic, "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry" (sadly, a planned album filled with Presley interpretations of the legendary songwriter's biggest hits never materialized); "It's Over", a beautifully executed cover of a Jimmie Rogers single Elvis rescued from obscure oldie oblivion; the utterly lovely "I'll Remember You", and, of course, "An American Trilogy", an under-performing 1972 single that combines images of Southern pride and gospel fervor, which fit the Tupelo native like a glove.

The dramatic climax of the show unquestionably lies in "An American Trilogy", which fuses the anthems of the Civil War era - "Dixie" and "The Battle Hymn of the Republic" - with an African-American spiritual, "All My Trials". Elvis performs these songs as a man who explicitly understands himself to be the product of the history they describe, and in some ways its culmination. Elvis reinforces these symbols, and the concept of this show as a statement about his version of America, when he spreads his arms to fully expose the American bald eagle studded in gemstones on the back of the white cape he dons for the finale: "Can't Help Falling in Love".
Three decades onward, those trumpets hailing the final repetition of the chorus, Elvis' breathtaking high note at the end, and the thunderous ovation of that Honolulu Convention Center audience in response still delivers chills.

Though ballad heavy, the King didn't neglect his rocking contingent with stellar versions of "Johnnie B. Goode", a swinging "Big Hunk O' Love", "Suspicious Minds", the slow-burn of "Fever", and a fabulous reworking of James Taylor's"Steamroller Blues": "I'm a steamroller baby, I'm 'bout to roll all over you, I'm a napalm-bomb, guaranteed to blow your mind, I'm a cement mixer, a churning urn of burning funk" the lyrics where a Statment that defined his 70's Stage persona. "Steamroller Blues" became the hit single out of the album, reaching #17 in the U.S Billboard's Hot 100(#15 in the UK) at the time of the American broadcast of the special, at it became a classic one, some of his great rock/blues performances of the 70's.

That band could, and did, rock the hell out of his hottest numbers, from the opening "See See Rider", a ’50s standard (actually the song was decades old before any rocker got hold of it) and most important, Elvis’s biggest recent hit, the explosive "Burning Love" with its shrieking choruses and, here, intensely enunciated, fiery verses. One of the joys in revisiting Aloha is getting a chance to see what an amazing handpicked live unit Elvis' back-up group had become since the summer of 1970: lead guitarist and master of the paisley Fender Telecaster, James Burton (creator of the 1957 version of Suzie Q, original Ricky Nelson guitarist); Jerry Scheff, always 'on the Fender bass' (bassist on The Door's classic L.A. Woman album; mid-1980s Elvis Costello band member); stickman Ronnie Tutt (Gram Parsons studio and live drummer by choice); Glen D. Hardin, the incredibly versatile keyboardist whom Elvis dubbed the 'fastest piano player in the world' (post Buddy Holly-era Crickets and ex Shindog!); and close friend/rhythm guitarist John Wilkinson (mid-'70s Kingston Trio). And who else but Elvis could have organized an eclectic mix of accompanying singers whose backgrounds included Southern Gospel, late '60s soul, and the Metropolitan Opera? Yet the combination of J.D. Sumner and The Stamps Quartet, The Sweet Inspirations and soprano Kathy Westmoreland gelled perfectly. The Joe Guercio Orchestra, (and hybrid between The Memphis Horns and over the top Phil Spector heavy string arrangments) providing the icing on the cake, you had a backing ensemble... fit for a King.

The rehearsal show,recorded as a back-up in case satellite gremlins prevented the January 14th show from being transmitted, offer a looser Presley, and spurred on by a wilder audience, gives what some fans call an even better show than the big event; Elvis looks lean, acts loose and lets go musically as he rarely did. Burton’s guitar is on fire, and Tutt literally plays up a storm. It’s a shame it has taken so long for this show to find its public, because there isn’t a better record, in video, film or audio, of what Elvis did once he’d standardized the ’70s show and began touring with it regularly. Elvis radiates healthiness, but more important, he sings fabulously, and the ritual he and the audience enact has a depth of feeling on both sides. The main ritual though is the byplay between Elvis and the musicians, who are clearly having a ball, especially at the beginning when there are ample opportunities for Burton to tear off with many of the rock ’n’ roll riffs he helped invent. There are key pieces of musical evidence that are hard to argue with: a smoking "Steamroller Blues" with a much different solo from Burton that tops the broadcast version; "Suspicious Minds", about as tight as that adolescent fan that just couldn't let go of the King in the homestretch; and the near operatic flourish of "What Now My Love", whose tempo brings to mind one of Presley's vocal heroes, Roy Orbison.

“It is the intention of Elvis to please all his fans throughout the world,” said RCA Records president Rocco Laginestra at the press conference announcing the special some months before. At the rehearsal show, he seems to have pleased himselb—there is something almost contemplative about the way he sings some of the ballads, although as a whole the event is more boisterous than anything else.

Aloha from Hawaii was the last appearance of Elvis in full bloom on a worldwide stage. Like all else he did, its best moments are unique and unforgettable whether you encounter them as a veteran Elvis fan or as a new Elvis fan. There is no third category.

In 2003 EPE released a 3DVD Deluxe Set with remastered video and sound of this event, and historical release of an historical event. But surprisingly the Aloha From Hawaii: Via Satellite album is been years out of print. We are happy to share it here with you.

On the wrong side: Yes, since its original release, the Aloha From Hawaii: Via Satellite L.P. has always sounded so flat and horribly trebly due to a poor, rushed 'let's get a new product on the market quick' mix, no wonder naysayers weren't initially won over. Also to blame is that Felton Jarvis, Elvis then in turn record producer, wasn't in charge of this release, as he was in any other 70's Elvis live album (and all sound way better than this).

Not much was improved sonically in the 80's Cd release, and the 90's CD release was even worst souding. The 5.1 sourround new mix on the 3 DVD Deluxe Edition release its fantastic, the best way to experience it, but for ordinary stereo nothing else has been released, in fact the album is now out of print. Here in www.yeahelvis.blogspot we have done the best EQ to each of the tracks to upgrade a bit the sound, but don't worry, this is no computerish unwise new mix. Just a tighter rounder sound. Also we have added, as a bonus the full rehearsal show, as released back in the 80's in the so called: The Alternate Aloha Concert CD.

And as we love, more bonus are for you while sharing this show. First, the hit singles of the day, and as there was no point in reprising "Steamroller Blues", we have choosen to give you and original radio broadcast of the then new single, from nothing less than the "WOlFMAN JACK RADIO SHOW", yes, here is a full rare clip of Mr. Robert Weston Smith, better known as "Wolfman Jack", a key figure in putting rock and roll in the radio map back in the 50's and early 60's, still rockin' in the 70's as the legendary gravelly-voiced Disc Jockey, presenting: A NEW ELVIS SONG, to you...

Also as a bonus are the recent hit singles. "Burning Love" and "Always on My Mind". Common and popular mistake is to state that Elvis recording of "Always On My Mind" was a cover of an original "Brenda Lee" country hit. In fact, "Always On My Mind" was written for Elvis Presley by Mark James ("Suspicious Minds" fame)and it was recorded by Elvis in March '72, before anyone else. It happens that RCA had already sheduled songs from '71 to be released as the first two singles during the first half of 1972, and then in the summer, it was "Burning Love", from new batch of songs of the March session, the first one to came out, and so, "Always On My Mind" by Elvis, happened to be released until November '72, by then Brenda Lee, who recorded tha song after Elvis, had released her version achieving a country hit with it but failing the Hot 100. Elvis version reached #20 on the Hot 100 but also got on top of Brenda Lee's version achieving #16 in the country charts. More over, it was Elvis who made it a world wide hit, #9 in the U.K. and Aus, #4 in Canada and so on. The songs represents pretty much his feelings about his recent separation from his wife as many of the ballad he sang during the Aloha special. "Burning Love" on the other hand was Elvis on fire, good old vintage R&R with that 70's edge, one of his greatest straight rock singles, "his greatest since All Shook Up" some critics dared to say. It reached #2 on the Hot 100 and #1 on Cashbox. Drummer Ronnie Tutt recalls: "Well, 'Burning Love' kind of has a soft spot in my heart. I remember that Felton Jarvis was sick as a dog. He had a kidney transplant, and he was very, very ill the day that we recorded that song. He was lying on his back in the control-room at RCA, and I produced the record. Emory Gordy came up with the bass-line, and I produced the record for Felton, you know, the whole session. It's been a very successful song. I take a little pride in that".

Sessions for "Burning Love" and "Always On My Mind" where backed by the same band who backed Elvis at the Aloha Show: The TCB Band, except for bass player Jerry Scheff, who was replaced by Emory Gordy, he recalls: I" was in the right place at the right time. As someone said, “Luck is where opportunity meets preparation.” I did a demo session with Jefferson Kewley, who played it for Elvis’s drummer, Ronnie Tutt, who asked him for my phone number. A week later my [then] wife wrote down a phone message saying, “Call Colonel Parker’s office—Elvis.” I thought it was a joke and threw it in the trash! Parker’s office called back the next day and said, “Don’t you return your phone calls?” and proceeded to book me for a Monday night session a few days later at RCA Studio C in North Hollywood. I had done a few sessions with his guitarist, James Burton— who may have helped get my name in there, too—and I knew the producer, Felton Jarvis, from my Atlanta days. One of the first things we cut, in one or two takes, was “Burning Love.” Ronnie, James, and Glen D Hardin set up an unbelievable feel, and I played every note I knew in the key of D, thinking we would do a few more takes and I could pare down my part to something useful. It was all live, vocals and all, and when it was over, I went over to Felton and and quietly told him my part was all over the map and I needed to fix it. He said, “We’ll deal with it”—and I honestly thought they would replace it in Nashville with someone else, but they kept it! When the record came out, it sounded like “Bass Solo featuring Elvis!”

So, that's for the bonus singles, plus we have added some rough alternate takes picturing the recording of both hit singles. Another interesting bonus on this sharing of the Aloha show, is a short Jam session at Elvis Home in L.A. arround the time he was about to leave to Hawaii, where an Elvis surrounded by friends, picks up his guitarr, and sang some favourite tunes just for fun. Suddenly where back at the '68 special, all big orchestal arrangments gonne as Elvis goes for "Baby What You Want Me To Do", "I'm So Lone Some I Could Cry" and "Spanish Eyes", on this last one, he hit the high notes in a way that reminds us of "Blue Moon", he is back at Sun Records, crooning a country tune, alone with his guitar.

Also Interviews conerning the Aloha shows and two post production songs "Early Morning Rain" and "Blue Hawaii" recorded after the show, to be inserted in the American telecast are included and a cool picture gallery. We just love bonus over here, lol. Enjoy!

Review Sources: Dave Marsh, Jeff Rosado and Elvis Australia Composite.

Cd 1
Aloha From Hawaii: Via Satellite
Original L.P.

Introduction: Also Sprach Zarathustra
See See Rider
Burning Love
You Gave Me a Mountain
Steamroller Blues8/b>
My Way
Love Me
Johnny B. Goode
It's Over
Blue Suede Shoes
I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry
I Can't Stop Loving You
Hound Dog
What Now My Love
Welcome to My World
Suspicious Minds
Introductions By Elvis
I'll Remember You
Long Tall Sally/Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On
An American Trilogy
A Big Hunk O' Love
Can't Help Falling in Love

Bonus Tracks:

The Singles:
Steamroller Blues (From the Wolfman Jack Radio Show)
Burning Love
Always On My Mind

1973 Home Recordings
I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry (Home Recording)
Baby What You Want Me To Do (Home Recording)
Spanish Eyes (Home Recording)

Cd 2
The Alternate Aloha Concert

Introduction: Also Sprach Zarathustra
See See Rider
Burning Love
You Gave Me a Mountain
Steamroller Blues
My Way
Love Me
It's Over
Blue Suede Shoes
I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry
Hound Dog
What Now My Love
Welcome to My World
Suspicious Minds
Introductions By Elvis
I'll Remember You
An American Trilogy
A Big Hunk O' Love
Can't Help Falling in Love

Bonus Tracks:
Burning Love (Alternate Take)
Always On My Mind (Alternate Take)
Early Morning Rain
Blue Hawaii
Press Conference: Sep, 1972
Elvis Arrives in Hawaii: Tom Moffatt Interview. Jan 9, '73

The Band:
Elvis Presley: Vocals
James Burton: lead guitar
John Wilkinson: rhythm guitar
Glen Hardin: piano/keyboards
Ronnie Tutt: drums
Jerry Scheff: bass
The Sweet Inspirations: vocals
J.D. Sumner & the Stamps Quartet: vocals
Joe Guercio & his Orchestra