50,000,000 wikipedia contributors can’t be wrong (hah!)

I WAS PUTTING THE FINAL TOUCHES on my ar­ticle “Elvis’ Golden Car­i­ca­tures Volume 3” on this site and had to link a title to a Wikipedia entry. Nor­mally, I just find the entry, copy the ad­dress, and head back to my site and paste the link into the text. But the first sen­tence in the entry caught my eye: “50,000,000 Elvis Fans Can’t Be Wrong: Elvis’ Gold Records – Volume 2 is the ninth album by Elvis Presley.”

No. It’s not.

Or once upon a time wasn’t: upon re­lease in 1959, the ninth Elvis Presley album is­sued by RCA Victor in the United States was ELVIS’ GOLD RECORDS, VOL. 2.

Pe­riod.

And then, for a short while, it wasn’t.

And then, for a long while, it was.

And maybe now it isn’t.

I knew this, but it didn’t sound like the Wiki ed­i­tors knew it.

So I had to read the rest of the entry.

I didn’t even finish reading when I ticked the Edit button and went to work editing. When a Wiki con­trib­utor fin­ishes editing, there is a field re­quiring a brief ex­pla­na­tion of the reason for the cor­rec­tions or ad­di­tions. Here I typed: “The orig­inal ver­sion was so full of fac­tual er­rors and mis­con­cep­tions as to be a farce. I rewrote por­tions so that an Elvis ex­pert or a record col­lector could read it without cringing.” 1

 

Elvis GoldRecordsVolume2 m 600

ElvisGold2_R1

This is the orig­inal jacket for LPM-2075: on the front cover there is a box in the upper right that reads “Magic Mil­lions / RCA Victor / LPM-2075 / A New Or­tho­phonic High Fi­delity Recording.” Nipper is also a part of the logo box. All sub­se­quent print­ings of this jacket had that data re­lo­cated. This is the orig­inal label of the record and reads “Long 33⅓ Play” at the bottom.

This is not an anti-Wikipedia rant

Be­fore I go any fur­ther, let’s get one big thing straight: this is not an anti-Wikipedia rant! I am a fan of Wikipedia and the fact that I have used it as a source hun­dreds of times on my sites verify that statement.

But the entry ad­dressed in this ar­ticle was a trav­esty. I as­sume that it was the work of a group of con­trib­u­tors, ap­par­ently not a one of which knew what he was talking about.

But they knew to look things up and cite their sources.

Why do I as­sume a committee?

Be­cause when I fi­nal­ized my cor­rec­tions, the first thing at the top of the Wikipedia entry was a warning/disclaimer: “This ar­ticle re­lies largely or en­tirely upon a single source.”

The single source is me.

Since that dis­claimer was not a part of the ear­lier entry, I as­sume that it was not a single source, but a group, or committee.

I have been known to have been wrong in the past—especially when making as­sump­tions. 2

 

ElvisGold2_LP_62_C

ElvisGold2_62_R2

This is the orig­inal front cover for the first press­ings of LSP-2075(e) from 1962. On both the front cover and the label, “Stereo” was arranged in al­ter­nating super- and/or sub-script. Col­lec­tors refer to this as the “stag­gered stereo ver­sion” of the album and glee­fully pay $100 for NM copies. Sub­se­quent ver­sions of the album had a more se­date “Stereo” set on a straight line.

50,000,000 fans can’t be wrong

Re­garding Wikipedia as a source of in­for­ma­tion: I have written else­where about how it has be­come a fairly re­li­able re­source. One does not have to be em­bar­rassed to cite it as a source in a post or ar­gu­ment. 3

But not all of the time: a lot of non­sense finds its way into en­tries that in­volve con­trib­u­tors emotions—such as cre­ative artists and their works. 4

So, here is the entry on RCA Victor LPM-2075 as it ap­peared in Wikipedia be­fore my rewrite: it is in­dented and in a san serif type­face. I have num­bered each error that I sub­se­quently cor­rected in su­per­script (above the line) in red type in paren­thesis to set it off.

I kept most of Wikipedia’s ty­po­graphic style—even when they con­flict with mine—but I did break up large para­graphs into smaller ones for read­ability. The changes that I made and my rea­sons for those changes follow as “My ob­jec­tions and my corrections” …

 

Original entry for “50,000,000 Elvis Fans Can’t Be Wrong”

50,000,000 Elvis Fans Can’t Be Wrong: Elvis’ Gold Records – Volume 2 is the ninth album by Elvis Presley, is­sued by RCA Victor in No­vember 1959. (1) It is a com­pi­la­tion of hit sin­gles re­leased in 1958 and 1959 by Presley, from two recording ses­sions in June 1958 at the RCA Victor Stu­dios in Nashville and three at Radio Recorders in Hol­ly­wood. (2)

The album peaked at number 31 on the Bill­board Top Pop Al­bums chart. It was cer­ti­fied Gold on No­vember 1, 1966 and Plat­inum on March 27, 1992 by the Recording In­dustry As­so­ci­a­tion of America.

Gold Records Vol. 2 com­prises every single, both A-sides and B-sides, re­leased by Presley during 1958 and 1959, with the ex­cep­tion of “Hard Headed Woman” backed with “Don’t Ask Me Why,” both of which having been pre­vi­ously is­sued on King Creole. (3) The sin­gles all made the Top Five on the Bill­board Hot 100, and the b-sides all charted in the Top 40 in­de­pen­dently of the hit sides. (4)

In the 1950s, a gold record awarded for a single re­ferred to sales of one mil­lion dol­lars gross to the com­pany, (5) dif­ferent from the de­f­i­n­i­tion in use by the late 1970s for al­bums, where a gold record came to mean shipped sales of 500,000 units. (6) Exact sales fig­ures from the RIAA for each record, how­ever, are dif­fi­cult to con­firm. (7)

The orig­inal 1984 com­pact disc issue in re­processed (fake) stereo sound was quickly with­drawn and reis­sued in orig­inal mono­phonic. (8) The July 15, 1997 reissue dou­bles the number of tracks to 20, adding the b-side “Playing for Keeps” from a single is­sued on Elvis’ first sin­gles compilation.

The re­maining bonus tracks de­rive from al­bums and EP sin­gles re­leased in the decade, with “Peace in the Valley” re­leased on both EP and Elvis’ Christmas Album. The bonus tracks are in­ter­spersed within the orig­inal tracks, with the run­ning order to the album sub­stan­tially al­tered. The album was reis­sued again with the bonus tracks re­moved and the orig­inal run­ning order restored.

Al­though RCA ex­ec­u­tive Steve Sholes was the in-house A&R man for Presley, and nom­i­nally in charge of his recording ses­sions at RCA, ac­counts by Presley his­to­rian Peter Gu­ral­nick and Presley discog­ra­pher Ernst Mikael Jor­gensen in­di­cate that Presley him­self acted as the pro­ducer for his RCA ses­sions in the 1950s. (9)

The uni­fied Bill­board Hot 100 sin­gles chart was not cre­ated until Au­gust 1958. (10) Chart po­si­tions for records prior to this date would be taken from the “Best Sellers In Stores” chart, al­though early mea­sure­ment of rock and roll records also came from the “Most Played In Juke­boxes” chart. (11) Chart po­si­tion for bonus album tracks taken from Bill­board Top Pop Al­bums. (12)

I only ad­dressed the in­tro­duc­tory por­tion and the Con­tent sec­tion; I did nothing to the Homage and Track Listing sections!

 

Elvis_Nudie3

Elvis in his gold lamé suit de­signed and made for him by Nudie Cohn in early 1957. “The suit would be valued at an as­tounding $10,000. Nudie would later joke that $7,500 was pure profit, and the bill of sale for the suit was for $2,500—but the suit would of­fi­cially be touted as the ‘Fa­mous $10,000 Gold Lamé Suit.’” (Elvis His­tory Blog)

My objections and my corrections

Here are my ob­ser­va­tions and cor­rec­tions, num­bered as foot­notes the bottom of a page would be listed. The red number here cor­re­lates with the red number in paren­thesis in the Wikipedia entry above.

1.  Over the years, many al­bums were is­sued by many record com­pa­nies with different—and oc­ca­sion­ally conflicting—titles on the album jackets and on the record la­bels. As con­fusing as this was at the time of the al­bum’s re­lease, it often only got worse over time.

His­to­rians and record col­lec­tors have long chosen to use the title of the album as it ap­peared on the record’s la­bels as the cor­rect title, be­cause after all, it’s the record that you pur­chase, not the jacket. The record com­pa­nies only threw the jackets in to make the records more ap­pealing to consumers.

So let’s in­spect RCA Victor LPM-2075: the front cover reads “50,000,000 Elvis Fans Can’t Be Wrong” in large red type with “Elvis’ Gold Records – Volume 2” below it in much smaller black type. Note that an en-dash (–) was used for punc­tu­a­tion and the world “Volume” was spelled out.

The phrase “50,000,000 Elvis Fans Can’t Be Wrong” did not ap­pear any­where else on the album: not on the back cover, not on the jack­et’s spine (a normal in­di­cator), and not on the record (nor­mally a requisite).

So how can it be the record’s title?

That’s be­cause it was not the al­bum’s title: it was a bit of brag­gadocio, an ad­ver­tising blurb! 5

Back to the vinyl: the title of the album on the record la­bels is ELVIS’ GOLD RECORDS, VOL. 2. Note that here a comma was used as punc­tu­a­tion and “Volume” was abbreviated.

The jacket and the records re­mained this way from the al­bum’s re­lease in 1959. In 1962, the album was re­leased in “elec­tron­i­cally re­processed stereo” as LSP-2075(e), and—lo and behold!—the phrase “50,000,000 Elvis Fans Can’t Be Wrong” ap­peared on the record’s la­bels for the first time.

The cor­re­sponding mono records also had their la­bels changed to re­flect the al­ter­ation in titles.

For a while anyway …

 

ElvisGold2_CD_84C

ElvisGold2_CD-842

This is PCD1-2075, the first com­pact disc re­lease of ELVIS’ GOLD RECORDS, VOL. 2 from 1984. It was is­sued in the same ghastly fake stereo sound that RCA had been foisting on record buyers for more than twenty years! Nonethe­less, it is a rather rare disc and has sold for as much as $500. (This image was not part of the Wikipedia entry.)

“Vol.” and “Volume”

By 1968, “50,000,000 Elvis Fans Can’t Be Wrong” was re­moved from the la­bels and was not found on any record la­bels (mono or stereo) until the 50th An­niver­sary re­leases of 1985. here is a break­down of the use of the var­ious titles:

1959-1961
Elvis’ Gold Records, Vol. 2

1962-1963
50,000,000 Elvis Fans Can’t Be Wrong/Elvis’ Gold Records, Vol. 2
50,000,000 Elvis Fans Can’t Be Wrong/Elvis’ Gold Records – Volume 2

1964-1968
Elvis’ Gold Records – Volume 2

50,000,000 Elvis Fans Can’t Be Wrong/Elvis’ Gold Records – Vol. 2

1968-1984
Elvis’ Gold Records Volume 2

1985-2016
50,000,000 Elvis Fans Can’t Be Wrong/Elvis’ Gold Records, Vol. 2

That ap­pears to be where things stand: this album has al­ways been ELVIS’ GOLD RECORDS, VOL. 2 (with sev­eral spellings) and most often also been 50,000,000 ELVIS FANS CAN’T BE WRONG/ELVIS’ GOLD RECORDS, VOL. 2. So while I prefer the orig­inal, short title, I guess I can live with the later, longer title. 6

2.  There was, in fact, one recording ses­sion held on June 10, 1958, at RCA’s Studio B in Nashville, with four of the ten tracks were that day. Here are the recording dates of the ten songs:

Feb­ruary 1957
I Beg Of You
One Night

Sep­tember 1957
My Wish Came True
Don’t

Feb­ruary 1958
Wear My Ring Around Your Neck
Doncha’ Think It’s Time

June 1958
I Need Your Love Tonight
A Big Hunk O’ Love
(Now And Then There’s) A Fool Such As I
I Got Stung

3.  This is a con­fusing sen­tence: “every single” should mean every single, not every-single-but-one. And it is ex­tra­neous: there was no need to tell us what was not on the album.

4.  In the 1950s and ’60s, Bill­board used a system of ranking for sin­gles based on sev­eral fac­tors, in­cluding re­quests made for ti­tles at re­tail stores, the number of plays on juke­boxes, and the number of spins by disc-jockeys. This al­lowed for both sides of a single to chart as though they were in­de­pen­dent records. This only af­fected a small per­centage of sin­gles, but it af­fected all of Pres­ley’s records.

So, of the ten sides of the five sin­gles on ELVIS’ GOLD RECORDS, VOL. 2, eight made the Top 10 on Bill­board’s Top 100 survey! That is a more accurate—and more impressive—statement than merely saying, “the b-sides all charted in the Top 40 in­de­pen­dently of the hit sides.”

 

Elvis_OnStage_57_color

Color photos of Elvis in per­for­mance in the ’50s in his gold suit are hard to find! This was taken on April 2, 1957, at the Maple Leaf Gar­dens in Toronto, Canada. “Al­though Toronto teenagers may have been qui­eter and better be­haved than teenagers else­where, they man­aged to dis­ap­point anyone who came to hear Elvis sing. From the time Elvis … walked on stage and smiled until he gave his last bump nearly an hour later, nearly every teenager in the place screeched at the top of his lungs.” (Elvis Col­lec­tors)

Two notes instead of one

5.  Wowie zowie, baby! This sen­tence is so mis­in­formed that I gave it two notes! A gold record for a single—whether awarded un­of­fi­cially by the record com­pany or of­fi­cially by the RIAA (which began in 1958)—al­ways meant sales of one mil­lion (1,000,000) copies. For un­of­fi­cial awards (or “in-house awards”), this could rep­re­sent global sales, but RIAA awards only re­flected sales in the United States.

6.  The RIAA awarded a Gold Record to an LP album based on sales of one mil­lion dol­lars ($1,000,000) at the man­u­fac­tur­er’s whole­sale level. This figure was based on one-third (⅓) of the man­u­fac­tur­er’s sug­gested re­tail price.

As that was usu­ally $3.95 for a reg­ular pop album, the value used for tal­lying up a Gold Record was one-third (⅓) of $3.95, or $1.32. That means that a reg­ular cat­alog LP had to sell more than 750,000 copies to qualify for an RIAA Gold Record Award.

As the cost of records rose over the years, the number of copies re­quired to qualify dropped. By 1974, an album could qualify for an award with 450,000 sales: Dy­lan’s PLANET WAVES was the first so certified.

This ap­par­ently ruf­fled some feathers in the bon­nets of the chiefs in the record busi­ness. In 1975, the RIAA changed their cer­ti­fi­ca­tion stan­dards to re­quire both $1,000,000 at the whole­sale level plus a min­imum of 500,000 units of sales.

7.  The RIAA does not pro­vide “exact sales fig­ures,” which is the record com­pa­ny’s job (or pref­er­ence). RIAA awards are based on levels (or in­cre­ments) of sales: an album with an RIAA Plat­inum Record Award must have sold at least one mil­lion copies (1,000,000) but could have sold many more.

To qualify for a 2x Multi-Platinum Award, an album must sell two mil­lion (2,000,000) copies. As RIAA Awards are based on au­dits re­quested and paid for by the record com­pa­nies, an album with a Plat­inum Award could have sold any­where from 1,000,000 copies to 1,999,999 copies, or 9,999,999, or 19,999,999! The amount re­ported and cer­ti­fied de­pends on the de­sires and needs of the record company—which can range from brag­ging rights to things more nefarious.

In fact, many (most? all?) record com­pa­nies did not re­port all sales. “There was good reason, too, for record com­pa­nies to under-report.” Why? To avoid paying roy­al­ties to artists! “The Bea­tles caught Capitol doing this at least three times. Jim Croce died broke for that reason.” (Frank Daniels again.)

8.  In 1984, the first CD ver­sion of Elvis’ Gold Records, Vol. 2 was re­leased in ghastly “elec­tron­i­cally re­processed stereo” as PCD1-2075! For the 50th An­niver­sary cel­e­bra­tion of 1985, RCA deleted that ver­sion. In a tri­umph of computer-based tech­nology, Gregg Geller and his team “dig­i­tally re­stored” a rea­son­able ap­prox­i­ma­tion of the orig­inal 1959 album mono sound using the fake stereo tapes as source ma­te­rial. These mono al­bums were re­leased on both LP (AFM1-5197) and CD (PCD1-5197).

Com­pact discs with “true mono” (sic) sound did not come until years later after Ernst Jørgensen scoured the vaults of RCA-related com­pa­nies around the world hunting for safety copies of orig­inal master tapes of Presley recordings.

9.  What is this para­graph doing here? It is un­nec­es­sary to the plot! So I re­moved it.

10. Bill­board had a top 100 survey of pop sin­gles be­fore 1958: it was called … the Top 100! In Au­gust 1958, it was changed to the Hot 100, prob­ably to dif­fer­en­tiate it­self from the Cash Box Top 100 survey.

11. The Bill­board Top/Hot 100 rep­re­sented data from three other sur­veys in the mag­a­zine: Best Sellers in Stores, Most Played in Juke­boxes, and Most Played by Jockeys. I as­sume that is what was meant by the state­ment that an “early mea­sure­ment of rock and roll records also came from the Most Played in Juke­boxes chart.”

12. The state­ment, “Chart po­si­tion for bonus album tracks taken from Bill­board Top Pop Al­bums,” is con­fusing: the po­si­tions for each song noted in the Wikipedia ar­ticle rep­re­sent peak po­si­tions for the EPs that con­tained those songs—not for the songs them­selves! And they were taken from a sep­a­rate EP chart which Bill­board pub­lished from 1956 through 1959.

 

Elvis 57 live Toronto color 1000

FEATURED IMAGE: The photo at the top of this page is from a per­for­mance at the Maple Leaf Gar­dens in Ot­tawa, Canada, on April 3, 1957. Elvis hated the re­stric­tions that the suit’s weight placed on his move­ment (and the fragility of the pants), so he re­placed the cum­ber­some bot­toms with a pair of black slacks. (For more photos from this time, see “Elvis Presley: Pan Pa­cific Au­di­to­rium, Los An­geles: Oc­tober 28 & 29, 1957.”)

 

Elvis_ATOG_image

POSTSCRIPTUALLY, Elvis in his gold suit are in­ex­tri­cably linked to his second col­lec­tion of gold records, ELVIS GOLD RECORDS. VOL. 2. It is also linked to a trio of extended-play al­bums jointly ti­tled A TOUCH OF GOLD. It is from these EPs that I took the title for my second Presley record col­lec­tors price guide and this website.

 


FOOTNOTES:

1   I have been a Wiki ed­itor for a while. No biggie: anyone can reg­ister as an ed­itor and con­tribute. That’s the plus of Wikipedia: an al­most lim­it­less source of knowl­edge, ex­pe­ri­ence, and in­sight. It’s also the minus of Wikipedia: an al­most lim­it­less source of well-intentioned, mis­in­formed contributors.

2   I was wrong once, back in 1975. It was weird. But Hell’s Belles, I was only 24-years old! And I was living in Con­necticut, and living in that state has been known to cause many people to make in­cor­rect assumptions.

3    Refer to “Wikipedia And The Col­lected Knowl­edge Of The World.”

4   When I brought the bad­ness of the entry to the at­ten­tion of my friend Frank Daniels, he wrote, “It is in­ter­esting for me to ob­serve this sort of slop­pi­ness in Wikipedia given that their ar­ti­cles on quantum me­chanics and graduate-level math­e­matics are quite ac­cu­rate. That’s the dif­fer­ence be­tween having a sci­ence pro­fessor as an ed­itor and, oh, say Elvis’ 50,000,001st fan.”

5   “A blurb is a brief piece of writing used in the ad­ver­tising of cre­ative work. The classic ex­ample is the quote splashed across the cover of a best­selling novel, which reads some­thing like ABSOLUTELY THRILLING. Blurbs are de­signed to drum up in­terest in the cre­ative work, hope­fully thereby in­creasing sales, and the hunt for them is a peren­nial quest for many artists, es­pe­cially for people who are just starting out in their field.

Clas­si­cally, a blurb is an ex­cerpt of a larger re­view written by a re­viewer, pub­lisher, or fan. Au­thors fre­quently create ones for each other, trading quotes that can be used on book jackets and in pro­mo­tional ma­te­rials. Others may sum­ma­rize the plot, as in AN EPIC PIRATE ADVENTURE SET IN THE SOUTH SEAS, and some in­clude ex­cerpts from the work. These state­ments are often used again and again in pro­mo­tional ma­te­rials, and they may be­come ex­tremely fa­miliar to mem­bers of the public.” (Wise Geek)

6   The over­whelming ma­jority of records man­u­fac­tured during this time had the first, short title; i.e., they did not have the “50,000,000” phrase as part of the title.

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Ex­tremely in­ter­esting. I join you in saluting Wikipedia’s very real strengths (while ac­knowl­edging its oc­ca­sional weaknesses).…And this is ac­tu­ally the first time I’ve ever seen the his­tory of “gold records” laid forth in any­thing like this de­tail. Darn, you re­ally are (no sur­prise) an ex­pert at this stuff!

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