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.
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
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
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 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 . . .
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:
Elvis’ Gold Records, Vol. 2
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
Elvis’ Gold Records – Volume 2
50,000,000 Elvis Fans Can’t Be Wrong/Elvis’ Gold Records – Vol. 2
Elvis’ Gold Records Volume 2
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:
I Beg Of You
My Wish Came True
Wear My Ring Around Your Neck
Doncha’ Think It’s Time
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.”
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.
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.”)
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.
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.