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
Something
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
Fever
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
Something
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
Fever
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




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