facts and fallacies about elvis’ gold records volume 4

IN FEBRUARY 1968, RCA Victor issued ELVIS’ GOLD RECORDS VOLUME 4, the first compilation of million-sellers by Elvis in five years. Or, at least they were supposed to be million-sellers, but only half the album consisted of genuine gold record hits. The whys and wherefores for this are filled with fallacies and misconceptions that began with the album’s release.

To get enough gold to label this LP, the company had to do some searching.

This album was not greeted with warmth by reviewers or the record-buying public.

This new album closely followed Presley’s latest single, Guitar Man, which had been released a few weeks earlier. While hardly a straight-ahead rock & roller, this was a sort of countrified blues that didn’t sound like much of anything else on Top 40 radio at the time.

Guitar Man had been greeted warmly by fans and was already receiving more radio play than usual for an Elvis record of the time.

But ELVIS’ GOLD RECORDS VOLUME 4 was a different story altogether, because it represented the work of a different kind of recording artist than the kind of artist the first three volumes in the Elvis’ Golden Records series had represented.


Fallacies: photo of Elvis from the 1967 movie Clambake.

Released in December 1967, Clambake was yet another in a line of eminently forgettable Presley movie vehicles. And this was the image of Elvis-the-(former)-Pelvis with which we entered 1968: the soft, rounded face and the teased bouffant that had been a part of Presley’s look in the mid ’60s. It was soon replaced by the leaner, chiseled features we associate with the NBC TV Special one year later in December ’68.

From 1961 through 1968, Elvis Presley was essentially a movie star who made movies that were basically lightweight musical melodramas or comedies. The records that he made were predominantly made to fill out the soundtrack requirements for those movies.

By 1968, Presley’s career as both a movie star and a recording artist was spiraling downward and brakes needed to be applied to halt the descent. So it was in everyone’s interest to have this album be a success. And as stated, such was most definitely not the case with ELVIS’ GOLD RECORDS VOLUME 4 . . .

Facts and fallacies

Everyone was expecting Guitar Man to be a BIG hit. A solid new album—even a collection of older hits—would have made Presley look like he was still in the game. 1

Of course, he wasn’t in the game.

Not yet.

And neither was ELVIS’ GOLD RECORDS VOLUME 4. 2

The album was a disappointment every which way one can imagine, from the selection of less-than-stellar material to the uninspired album artwork. That said, there are certain fallacies about the album that need addressing:

Fact #1

ELVIS’ GOLD RECORDS VOLUME 4 contained only one side that had been a really big hit in the US. The rest of the tracks were much more modest hits or the flip-sides of hits!

Fallacy #1

RCA was forced to put out an album that skimped on big hits because there were no more big hits to choose from.

Fact #2

The fourth volume of the Elvis’ Golden Records series wasn’t short on gold because there was no gold; it was short because Colonel Parker didn’t want the fans paying for the same tracks twice.

Fallacy #2

The record reviewers of 1968 didn’t understand Fact #2 then and the rockwriters of 2016 don’t get it now!

Instead of being a collection of actual million-selling hits, the album was more a collection of 45 sides looking for a home on a convenient LP. The selection of ‘gold records’ included sides that no argument by anyone would qualify the record as a million-seller! Meanwhile, a lot of genuine gold was left sitting on the shelf.


Fallacies: US picture sleeve to the Guitar Man single of 1968.

In January 1968, RCA Victor issued Guitar Man, a rocking country number featuring some spectacularly bluesy guitar playing by Jerry Reed. This was unlike any record that Presley had recorded and unlike anything on pop radio station in ’68. Unfortunately, it was just another modest Top 40 hit.

Getting enough gold wasn’t easy

Reviews at the time were not kind: Billboard—who often seemed to bend over backward to give accolades to even mediocre records—dismissed it by stating, “To get enough gold to label this LP, the company had to do some searching.”

Elvis’ Gold Records Volume 4 was “short” on real gold because Colonel Parker didn’t want the fans paying for the same tracks twice.

Statements that RCA had run out of Elvis gold by this time were common, and have remained common for almost fifty years, despite it’s not being remotely accurate!

There was plenty of gold on RCA’s shelves, but the Colonel and RCA were carrying on their practice of non-redundancy so that fans weren’t buying the same track on two different LPs.

Therefore—and this is important!—any million-selling single that had already appeared on an earlier LP was kept off of the Gold Records compilations.

Stated otherwise, the goal of the Gold Records series of albums was to collect the sides of million-selling singles that had not already been issued on an album.

From 1963 through 1968, Elvis Presley was essentially a movie star who made records to fill out the soundtrack requirements of those movies. Many of Presley’s million-sellers in those years were lifted from movie soundtrack LPs, thereby disqualifying them for consideration.

That said, the album remains as misunderstood by today’s rockwriters as it was by 1968’s record reviewers.


Fallacies: cover to the rare mono version of Elvis' Gold Records Volume 4 from 1968.

The mono version of ELVIS’ GOLD RECORDS VOLUME 4 (LPM-3921) was one of the last Presley albums to have been issued in both mono and stereo. American record companies ended that practice in 1968 and deleted all mono records by the end of that year. The US pressing is a very rare record and commands big bucks on the collectors market: expect to pay $500-1,000 for a NM copy.

The contents of Volume 4

In his first seven years as RCA Victor’s biggest selling recording artist, his company released three volumes in the Elvis’ Gold Records series. That’s one every two years. It had been five years since the third volume.

That was the length of a career for most artists in the ’60s.

Here are the twelve tracks that were included on ELVIS’ GOLD RECORDS VOLUME 4. Each title is preceded by the year it was released as a 45 in the US. The third column features one to three (1-3) asterisks, which are explained below the list.

1966    Love Letters                                                                                *
1963    Witchcraft                                                                               ***
1964    It Hurts Me                                                                              ***
1964    What’d I Say                                                                             **
1963    Please Don’t Drag That String Around                            ***
1967    Indescribably Blue                                                                     *
1963    (You’re The) Devil In Disguise                                                *
1961    Lonely Man                                                                              ***
1960    A Mess Of Blues                                                                        **
1964    Ask Me                                                                                          *
1964    Ain’t That Loving You Baby                                                   **
1962    Just Tell Her Jim Said Hello                                                 ***

The key to the asterisks

*    One asterisk indicates the track was the A-side of a worldwide million-seller.

**  Two asterisks indicates the track was the B-side of a worldwide million-seller that belongs on the album because:

1. The record sold millions and the flip-side was a reasonable hit on its own and should be considered a million-seller.

2. The flip-side was the hit-side outside the US and thereby shared in the million-seller status.

*** Three asterisks indicates the track was the B-side of a worldwide million-seller that does not belong on ELVIS’ GOLD RECORDS VOLUME 4. Regardless of the sales of the 45, the flip-side was not a big enough hit to justify its inclusion on this album.


Fallacies: bonus photo included with original copies of Elvis' Gold Records Volume 4 in 1968.

This is the bonus photo associated with ELVIS’ GOLD RECORDS VOLUME 4. It was not packaged with the record inside the shrinkwrap, but given to customers who purchased the album at the cash register at select stores. As such, it is one of the rarest such photos and is worth an easy $100 in NM condition.

As the asterisks indicate, seven of the twelve tracks belong on the album; five do not. As many of the seven were only modest hits but sold a million through accumulated global sales, ELVIS’ GOLD RECORDS VOLUME 4 was a not an impressive statement about Elvis Presley’s achievements in recent years.

Where were the BIG hits?

Despite this, the album was not a sales disaster: it made it to #33 on Billboard’s best-selling LP survey and remained a slow but steady catalog seller for years. In 1992, it was certified by the RIAA for a Gold Record Award for domestic sales in excess of 500,000 units. According to Marc Hendrickx, it has passed 2,000,000 in global sales. 3


Fallacies: cover to the stereo version of Elvis' Gold Records Volume 4 from 1968.

This is the more common stereo version of ELVIS’ GOLD RECORDS VOLUME 4 (LSP-3921). While it far outsold the mono version in 1968, original copies of the album with the classic glossy black label with Nipper listening to his master’s voice on a phonograph at the top is not an easy record to find. Note that original jackets have RCA Victor with Nipper in the upper right below the title.

Gold in them there mountains

Keeping in mind Billboard’s review above, there was plenty of real gold, but RCA opted not to use those sides. Here are tracks that could have been used on this album—solid gold tracks—if RCA wanted to recycle some of them from earlier albums. The same system of asterisks applies here:

1960

A Mess Of Blues                                                                                *

Status: Previously unissued on an album.

In the US, A Mess Of Blues reached the Top 40 as the B-side of the massive selling It’s Now Or Never. In the UK, there were copyright issues with It’s Now Or Never that held up its release. In its place, RCA issued A Mess Of Blues / The Girl Of My Best Friend, which was a double-sided chart entry that reached #2 on Music Week and sold more than 500,000 copies.


1961

Wooden Heart                                                                                   *

Status: Previously issued on the G.I. BLUES album.

In the UK, there were copyright issues with Surrender, which held up its release. In its place, RCA issued Wooden Heart / Tonight Is So Right For Love, which reached #1 and sold more than 500,000 copies. It was issued in West Germany, where it also topped the charts and reputedly sold more than 1,000,000 copies. Wooden Heart was not issued as a single in the US at the time.


Wild In The Country                                                                   **

Status: Previously unissued on an album.

In the US, Wild In The Country reached the Top 40 as the B-side of I Feel So Bad, a Top 5 hit that sold more than 500,000 copies. In the UK, it was the featured side of a double-A-sided single that reached #2 on Music Week. One of the two sides was a hit in other markets, selling more than 500,000 copies.


Wild In The Country was a bigger hit in the UK (#2) than I Feel So Bad was in the US (#5). Yet it’s been ignored by RCA and historians since its release!



Can’t Help Falling In Love                                                         *

Status: Previously issued on the BLUE HAWAII album.

In the US, Can’t Help Falling In Love was a Top 5 hit that sold more than 1,000,000 copies. Its B-side Rock-A-Hula Baby also made the Top 40.


Rock-A-Hula Baby                                                                        **

Status: Previously issued on the BLUE HAWAII album.

In the UK, Rock-A-Hula Baby / Can’t Help Falling In Love was a double-A-sided single and sold more than 500,000 copies. Both sides were hits in other countries, selling another 1,000,000 globally.


1962

Return To Sender                                                                             *

Status: Previously issued on the GIRLS! GILS! GIRLS! album.

In the US, Return To Sender was #1 on Cash Box that sold than 1,000,000 copies, and selling another 1,000,000 as a worldwide hit. Its B-side Where Do You Come From was not a major hit in any major market.


1963

One Broken Heart For Sale                                                         *

Status: Previously issued on the IT HAPPENED AT THE WOLD’S FAIR album.

In the US, One Broken Heart For Sale was a Top 10 hit on Cash Box that sold more than 500,000 copies, and selling another 500,000 as a worldwide hit. Its B-side They Remind Me Too Much Of You wasn’t a major hit in any major market.


(You’re The) Devil In Disguise                                                   *

Status: Previously unissued on an album.

In the US, (You’re The) Devil In Disguise was a Top 5 that sold more than 500,000 copies, and selling another 500,000 as a worldwide hit. Its B-side Please Don’t Drag That String Around wasn’t a major hit in any major market.


Bossa Nova Baby                                                                             *

Status: Previously issued on the FUN IN ACAPULCO album.

In the US, Bossa Nova Baby was a Top 5 that sold more than 500,000 copies, and selling another 500,000 as a worldwide hit. Its B-side Witchcraft also reached the Top 40, but wasn’t a major hit in any other major market.


Fallacies: theater lobby poster to the 1964 movie Viva Las Vegas.

In 1963, Elvis was still slim and fit and was taken somewhat seriously as a recording artist and a movie star. Working with Ann-Margret, he turned in one of his best performances in Viva Las Vegas. Unfortunately, the music from this movie was not properly packaged and one of the better Presley soundtrack albums of the ’60s never materialized.


1964

Kissin’ Cousins                                                                                 *

Status: Previously issued on the KISSIN’ COUSINS album.

In the US, Kissin’ Cousins was a Top 10 hit on Cash Box that sold more than 500,000 copies, and selling another 500,000 as a worldwide hit. Its B-side It Hurts Me also reached the Top 40, but wasn’t a major hit in any other major market.


Viva Las Vegas                                                                                 *

Status: Previously unissued on an album.

In the US, Viva Las Vegas was the A-side but was outperformed on the charts by its B-side What’d I Say. Both sides reached the top 20 on Cash Box and sold more than 500,000 copies. One of the two sides was a hit in other markets, selling another than 500,000 copies.


What’d I Say                                                                                   **

Status: Previously unissued on an album.

See Viva Las Vegas above.


Ask Me                                                                                                  *

Status: Previously unissued on an album.

In the US, Ask Me was a Top 10 hit on Cash Box while its B-side Ain’t That Loving You Baby also reached the Top 20, selling more than 500,000 copies. One of the two sides was a hit in other markets, selling more than 500,000 copies.


Ain’t That Loving You Baby                                                        *

Status: Previously unissued on an album.

See Ask Me above.


1965

Crying In The Chapel                                                                    *

Status: Previously unissued on an album.

In the US, Crying In The Chapel was a Top 5 hit that sold more than 1,000,000 copies, and selling another 1,000,000 as a worldwide hit. Its B-side I Believe In The Man In The Sky wasn’t a major hit in any major market.


Crying In The Chapel was a huge hit around the world and could have been used as the basis for a  fourth volume in the Golden Records series in 1965!



Tell Me Why                                                                                       *

Status: Previously unissued on an album.

In the US, Tell Me Why was a Top 20 hit on Cash Box that sold more than 500,000 copies, and selling another 500,000 as a worldwide hit. Its B-side Blue River wasn’t a major hit in any major market.


I’m Yours                                                                                            *

Status: Previously unissued on an album.

In the US, I’m Yours was a Top 10 hit on Cash Box that sold more than 500,000 copies, and selling another 500,000 as a worldwide hit. Its B-side, (It’s A) Long Lonely Highway, wasn’t a major hit in any major market. (A different version of I’m Yours appeared on the POT LUCK album.)


1966

Frankie And Johnny                                                                       *

Status: Previously issued on the FRANKIE AND JOHNNY album.

In the US, Frankie And Johnny was a Top 40 hit that sold more than 500,000 copies, and selling another 500,000 as a worldwide hit. Its B-side Please Don’t Stop Loving Me wasn’t a major hit in any major market.


Spinout                                                                                                *

Status: Previously issued on the SPINOUT album.

In the US, Spinout was a Top 40 hit that sold more than 500,000 copies. In the UK and elsewhere, the B-side All That I Am was the hit side, selling another 500,000 as a worldwide hit.


Love Letters                                                                                       *

Status: Previously unissued on an album.

In the US, Love Letters was a Top 20 hit that sold more than 500,000 copies, and selling another 500,000 as a worldwide hit. Its B-side Come What May wasn’t a major hit in any major market.


If Every Day Was Like Christmas                                             *

Status: Previously unissued on an album.

In the US, If Every Day Was Like Christmas was not eligible for the regular Billboard and Cash Box surveys, but were hits on their annual Christmas charts. It sold more than 500,000 copies, and selling another 500,000 as a worldwide hit. Its B-side How Would You Like To Be wasn’t a major hit in any major market.


1967

Indescribably Blue                                                                          *

Status: Previously unissued on an album.

In the US, Indescribably Blue was a Top 40 hit that sold more than 500,000 copies, and selling another 500,000 as a worldwide hit. Its B-side Fools Fall In Love wasn’t a major hit in any major market.


Fallacies: US picture sleeve to the Stay Away / U.S. Male single of 1968.

In March 1968, a few weeks after the release of ELVIS’ GOLD RECORDS VOLUME 4 and only two months after the disappointment of Guitar Man, RCA Victor issued Stay Away. This was an uptempo adaptation of the chestnut Greensleeves and intended as the theme song to the new movie Stay Away, Joe. But radio programmers and disc-jockeys wisely turned the record over and played the country-rocker U.S. Male. It was the third strong studio single in a row from Elvis, and yet another modest Top 40 hit.

This could have been a fine album

There are nineteen tracks to choose from; all million-sellers, some of exceptional quality. And not a three-asterisk among them! But most had already been issued on an LP and Parker and Victor wanted to avoid redundancy.

So, as anyone who did a little research would discover, ELVIS’ GOLD RECORDS VOLUME 4 could have been a fine collection, not the embarrassment that it was! 4

When RCA reissued this title on compact disc in 1997, they included the following ‘bonus tracks’: Crying In The ChapelRock-A-Hula BabyReturn To SenderBossa Nova Baby, Kissin’ Cousins, and Viva Las Vegas.


Fallacies: back cover of Elvis' Gold Records Volume 4.

The back cover would seem to indicate that the title of the album is ELVIS’ WORLDWIDE GOLD RECORDS VOLUME 4. This was the first time that RCA used the term “worldwide” to justify their inclusion of seemingly obscure ‘hits’ on a Gold Records collection. Two years later, the term would be used for the four-record boxed set WORLDWIDE 50 GOLD AWARD HITS VOL. 1.

A few notes for collectors

ELVIS’ GOLD RECORDS VOLUME 4 remained in print from 1968 through then end of the Vinyl Era. There were several label variations during that time:

1968-1969   LPM-3921 and LSP-3921 have glossy black labels with Nipper listening to his master’s voice on a phonograph at the top. The jackets have RCA Victor with Nipper in the upper right on the front cover.

1969-1970   LSP-3921 has orange labels pressed on non-flexible vinyl. The jackets on this and all subsequent pressings have RCA in the upper left corner on the front cover.

1971-1975   LSP-3921 has orange labels on extremely flexible, flimsy vinyl.

1975-1976   LSP-3921 has brown labels.

Final pressings from 1976 on have a new prefix in the catalog number (AFL1-3921). The labels are non-glossy black with Nipper in the upper right. This variation remained in print into the ’80s.


POSTSCRIPTUALLY, my experience of buying ELVIS’ GOLD RECORDS VOL. 4 in February ’68 was split: on one hand, I wanted a stronger album that showed Presley off. It was difficult being an Elvis Presley fan at this time when many young people judged him by his ridiculous movies. This type of release didn’t make thing easier.

On the other hand, I was happy to have the twelve sides on an LP in stereo. Of course, I would have happier if the album had been all B-sides and EP sides and had been titled MORE ELVIS FOR EVERYONE.


Fallacies: photo of Elvis and Michelle Carey in the 1968 movie Live A Little, Love A Little.

FEATURED IMAGE: The times they were a-changin’ and in 1968 those changes finally caught up with Elvis. Since most of the world was ignoring most of Presley’s product in ’68, the changes seemed to appear all at once on December 3 with the broadcast of the Singer Presents Elvis television special. But things had been happening all year: here is a scene from Live A Little Love A Little, where Mr. P has very obviously spent the night with his leading lady. And what a leading lady: Michelle Carey was about as far from the virginal Annette Day of 1967’s Double Trouble as it was possible for two women to be. 5

 


FOOTNOTES:

1   Alas, Guitar Man was not a big hit as a single in early 1968. But it took on new life when it was used as the de facto theme to Elvis’s NBC TV special in December ’68.

2    The rock and pop music scene changed so much since ELVIS’ GOLDEN RECORDS VOLUME 3 in 1963 and Elvis had changed so little that a fourth volume could not possibly have been relevant. But it could have been worthwhile; it could have stood as testimony that he had made an LP’s worth of million-selling singles in the preceding years.

3   From the book Elvis A. Presley – Muziek, Mens, Mythe by Marc Hendrickx (various publishers).

4   The obvious thing to have done was to have compiled this fourth volume  in 1965 and release it then. It could have built around the worldwide smash Crying In The Chapel and the tracks from the early ’60s would have been more relevant. But that didn’t happen.

5   Virginal schmirginal! Annette Day looked young enough to get Elvis locked up just for being in the same car with her in some parts of these here United States!


Fallacies: the 8-track cassette tape version of Elvis' Gold Records Volume 4.

This is the 8-track tape version of the album (P8S-1297), part of RCA’s Stereo 8 line. All these tapes were issued in an omnibus 8-Track Cartridge box. Ideally, this is how many collectors would like to find a copy today, forty-eight years later. Instead, it is usually found heavily played and worn and without the box.

 
 

 

6 Replies to “facts and fallacies about elvis’ gold records volume 4”

  1. I agree that the album could have been a lot stronger and I’m glad I now know why it wasn’t. Nonetheless, I have a certain fondness for it because it was where, circa the early eighties, I discovered “It Hurts Me.” Might have had to wait for the CD era otherwise. That makes up for a lot!

    1. NDJ

      It is amazing to look back at all the decisions that were detrimental to Presley’s career that he nonetheless survived. The minus of being a fan my age and having lived through those years is that many of us will never forget how much we dreaded taking the newest soundtrack albums home and listening to them for the first time.

      I am still not certain that I have ever “gotten over” HARUM SCARUM, FRANKIE AND JOHNNY, PARADISE HAWAIIAN STYLE, and DOUBLE TROUBLE.

      The plus of being a fan my age is that we were the ones who lived and shared THEN AND THERE those 60 minutes that Singer brought us on December 3, 1968. The day before, kids still made fun of me for being an Elvis fan. The day after the same kids were coming up to me in the halls of Kingston High and saying how awesome Elvis had been the night before.

      Sigh …

      EDN

  2. another great read neal, i was one of the lucky ones to have found a mono copy of this, got it from a radio station in wheatland, wyoming.

    1. Thanks! The monos are rare in any condition! The bonus photo is almost as rare as the mono album and probably under-valued. In some respects, GOLD RECORDS VOLUME 4 is almost like the precursor to the Camden albums that were a year down the line …

  3. Hi I was 14 when this came out and a “new” fan having been blown away by “Bossa nova baby” “Viva las vegas” “Kissin cousins” “Do the clam” etc
    I had them all on 45s….still do….and still play them.
    I recall I did not have hardly any of the songs on this album at the time , so for me it was fantastic.
    I also loved the artwork and the bright green cover….still do.
    Although I now know volume 4 was technically incorrect , it was just RCA mopping up singles that had yet to be released on albums,
    I still treasure this collection and have just ordered it on “FTD” although I would have preferred disc 2 to have contained what might have been a more correct collection of hits whether or not they had previously been on an album.

    1. PHIL

      We must be of a similar age: I too enjoy GOLD 4 as a collection: I would like any album with “Devil In Disguise” and “Love Letters.”

      As for the ever under-appreciated “Bossa Nova Baby,” check these out:





      NEAL

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