I AM WORKING on a series of articles for my Rather Rare Records site about the Byrds records of 1966, which will cover the three singles—Eight Miles High, 5D (Fifth Dimension), and Mr. Spaceman—and the FIFTH DIMENSION album. Unfortunately, it is weeks away from completion and Christmas can’t wait.
For this holiday season, I added a pair of plug-ins to my websites that display a string of colored Christmas lights across the top of each page on each site while snow falls gently across those pages.
As I was testing out this particular image for one of the articles—it is a cropped shot from the FIFTH DIMENSION album from ’66—I liked how the snow looked falling and the lights looked hanging there in the fifth dimension.
So here is a temporary posting just to have the Byrds of 1966 lit up for Christmas fifty years later!
Berni and Neal say, “Have a very Merry Christmas,” and as someone once famous once said, “Grommett bless us, every one!”
Elvis and Felton
To keep this tied in with Elvis, I’ll add a few words here about Presley’s year. 1966 was a turning point in his career, although few knew it then. The biggest event seems to have been his teaming up with a new producer, Felton Jarvis, a fellow Southern singer who shared Elvis’s thoughts and feelings about the recording process.
Jarvis deserves a lot of credit for the non-soundtrack recordings that were completed in ’66, and much of the creative work that laid the groundwork for Elvis’s spectacular resurrection from zombiehood in 1968-69. Here is a thumbnail outline of activities involving Presley’s records of 1966 …
February: Elvis’s new single is Frankie And Johnny, a dreadful choice for an A-side, although you can tell he is trying to make something happen. It is backed with Please Don’t Stop Loving Me, a lovely recording that is all but destroyed by a horrendous mix that distorts Presley’s vocal.
March: The new movie Frankie And Johnny is released. Elvis looks doughy (maybe this was a ‘downer’ movie) and Donna Douglas seems to be just another pretty face. The movie is dumb and the soundtrack music is even dumber.
April: The soundtrack album FRANKIE AND JOHNNY is released and ranks among the worst records of Presley’s career.
June: Elvis’s new movie Paradise, Hawaiian Style is released. Elvis plays a zombie with a helicopter in Hawaii. The soundtrack music is so dreadful that not a single track warrants release as a single.
Love Letters is Elvis’s first single to feature a new, non-soundtrack recording as the featured side in three years. Presley’s reading and the basic arrangement is lifted straight from Ketty Lester’s hit of 1962. The picture sleeve uses a photo a few years old and was out of place with the other cover photos of Elvis that year (see If Every Day Was Like Christmas below).
A new single is released, Love Letters, the first non-soundtrack, original studio single since (You’re The) Devil In Disguise in 1963. It’s also the best single since that single (not counting Crying In The Chapel). The flip-side is the forgettable Come What May.
July: The soundtrack album PARADISE, HAWAIIAN STYLE is released, and is arguably worse than the previous album. Elvis walks though the movie like a zombie with a helicopter. Once again, it fails to meet the minimal expectations of Presley’s dwindling fan base—which in Kingston, Pennsylvania, is beginning to look like just one person.
September: Another new soundtrack single is released, Spinout / All That I Am. The A-side sorta rocks and is fairly tough sounding for Elvis. Too bad it’s burdened with really dumb lyrics. “The road to love is full of danger signs. Too many guys were lost who crossed those double lines.”
The B-side, All That I Am, is one of the lovelier ballads that he has recorded for a movie in the past few years and might have made a stronger A-side than Spinout. In fact, in England it is the featured side and makes the Top 20 there!
October: The soundtrack album SPINOUT is released, and it keeps up the tough sound of the single but also the overall dumbness. As there are insufficient soundtrack recordings, three “bonus tracks” are part of the album: Down In The Alley, Tomorrow Is A Long Time, and I’ll Remember You. They are recent studio recordings and are just short of amazing and indicate that the real Elvis is still alive somewhere beneath the celluloid zombie helicopter pilot!
Elvis ended 1966 on a reasonably positive note: If Every Day Was Like Christmas joined the other studio recordings Love Letters, Down In The Alley, Tomorrow Is A Long Time, and I’ll Remember You along with a few soundtrack recordings like All That I Am and I’ll Be Back to leave us fans with a new sense of expectation. Little did we know that during the year Presley had recorded what could be the most amazing album of his career, HOW GREAT THOU ART.
November: Yet another new studio single is released: If Every Day Was Like Christmas is both brilliant and a bit over the top. It also shows how well Presley has adopted aspects of Bing Crosby into his own style, although few Elvis fans ever notice this.