Elvis Charro header cropped copy 2

at the crossroads: on being an elvis fan in 1968 when all appeared lost

AS A SYMBOL OF POTENCY, by 1968 Elvis Presley was per­ceived by many as being, um, flaccid. His records had lost any sem­blance of al­le­giance to—or even recog­ni­tion of—the pas­sion and fervor of its country and blues roots. The sound­track music he had been recording for the req­ui­site three movies per year owed more to “How Much Is That Doggie In The Window” than to Big Boy Crudup or Hank Williams.

He was at a pro­fes­sional and per­sonal cross­roads: any single de­ci­sion could have un­done his ca­reer, per­haps even je­poard­ized the legacy of his ear­lier ac­com­plish­ments. It was do-or-die time and the man needed a put-up-or-shut-up chal­lenge

Few fans today know the many downs and the oc­ca­sional ups of having ac­tu­ally been an Elvis fan in 1968, es­pe­cially if you were one of the few still buying each new so-so record and tickets for each new dreadful movie as they came out. It was a con­fusing and a fairly lonely ex­pe­ri­ence.

You had to have been there.

Then.

And frankly, there were few real fans left by the start of ’68. 

 

Elvis_Clambake_photo

Elvis in 1967 was leaner but still that overindul­gent soft­ness in his face (dis­missed as poor eating habits but more likely poorer drug habits) and the bouffant-ish hairdo that was so out of place at the time. Ex­cept, of course, with hair­dressers.

A solitary pleasure

The un­ex­pected de­mand for his records in the wake of his death and the huge in­flux of col­lec­tors since then would lead many to be­lieve that they were there all along. 1

They were not.

Going to a movie the­ater to see an Elvis movie during the second half of the ’60s was usu­ally a soli­tary plea­sure.

Sup­porting the Elvis Movie Ma­chine was a kind of guilty plea­sure. 2

Most hip critics did NOT live through this era, so do NOT have the ac­tual ex­pe­ri­ence of going through the changes of habit that these records and these films en­tailed.

 

Second-generation Elvis fans of the ’60s saw the ’50s movies at Sat­urday mati­nees and bought all the old 45s for a nickel apiece at junk shops and yard sales.

 

And most diehard fans who grew up with Elvis in the ’50s aban­doned him in the early ’60s and didn’t re­dis­cover their love for him until Au­gust 16, 1977.

But that’s not me: I’m a second-generation Elvis fan who came of age watching Loving You and Jail­house Rock and G.I. Blues and Girls! Girls! Girls! at Sat­urday mati­nees.

Who bought the ’50s 45s for a nickel apiece at junk shops.

I am also of the gen­er­a­tion of Elvis fans who paid their al­lowance or after-school job money for tickets to the movies where there was every­thing but the plot, di­recting, and acting and the sound­track al­bums that pre­ceded them. 

 

Elvis_StayAwayJoe_poster_blue2 copy

This is easily one of the busiest, most col­orful posters for any Elvis movie! I’d like to say some­thing about the colors here, but this is a photo of a poster up­loaded onto the in­ternet. It may be some­what in­ac­cu­rate in terms of color rep­re­sen­ta­tion. So I won’t ex­cept to say that Elvis looks like he’s made of Her­shey’s choco­late! (More on Stay Away, Joe below.)

Your time hasn’t come yet, baby

For Elvis, the ’60s can be broken up into three major sec­tions: the First Come­back, the Hol­ly­wood Years, and the Second Come­back. The First Come­back is as short as one year (1960) but could be ex­tended to 1962. After that, songs that should have been re­jected as sound­track fodder found their way into his normal studio ses­sions and every­thing went down­hill fast.

The Hol­ly­wood Years began in earnest in 1961 when Elvis made three movies that pro­duced two sound­track EP al­bums and one LP album. His de­vo­tion to his studio work slack­ened off con­sid­er­ably in quan­tity and quality. One lack­luster movie fol­lowed an­other into 1969, often with a script so brain-dead that Brando or Nicholson couldn’t have saved it.

The Second Come­back had its roots in May 1966, when Elvis was con­trac­tu­ally forced to record some new non-soundtrack sin­gles and a new gospel album. RCA’s man-in-Nashville Chet Atkins as­signed Felton Jarvis to be Elvis’s full-time A&R man; their first ses­sions to­gether pro­duced some of Pres­ley’s best work in a while.

This in­cluded a Top 20 single, Love Let­ters, one of his best al­bums ever, HOW GREAT THOU ART. He also waxed one of his most tran­scen­dent record­ings ever, To­morrow Is A Long Time. Bob Dylan would later claim this as his fa­vorite reading of one of his songs by an­other artist.

 

First-generation Elvis fans of the ’50s didn’t have to do the clam with Queenie Wahine, or get into double trouble with a kissin’ cousin while slicin’ sand at a bloody clam­bake!

 

What­ever opinion one may have of Felton, things began hap­pening when he en­tered the scene: those ’66 ses­sions, the Jerry Reed ses­sions of ’67, and the ’68 come­back all hap­pened in the first twenty-four months of Fel­ton’s taking over the A&R po­si­tion

Co­in­ci­dence?

Only if you be­lieve in such things.

But the come­back began in earnest in June 1968, when Elvis began work on his first (and only, re­ally) tele­vi­sion spe­cial. But we fans weren’t fully privy to that come­back until De­cember 3, 1968, when NBC broad­cast that spe­cial.

So the list below is broken up into two sec­tions: “Your time hasn’t come yet, baby,” in which Elvis tran­si­tions out of the Hol­ly­wood Years, and “Just let your­self go,” in which Elvis does! (Let him­self go, fi­nally.)

Or did …

 

Beatles_MagMyTour

dbl_Donovan_Gift

Hendrix_Axis

JeffAir_Baxters

RollStones_Satanic

If you had been a good girl or boy throughout 1967, you re­ceived one of the above al­bums for a psy­che­delic Christmas: the Bea­tles’ MAGICAL MYSTERY TOUR, Dono­van’s A GIFT FROM A FLOWER TO A GARDEN, the Jimi Hen­drix Ex­pe­ri­ence’s AXIS: BOLD AS LOVE, Jef­ferson Air­plane’s AFTER BATHING AT BAXTER’S. and the Rolling Stones’ THEIR SATANIC MAJESTIES REQUEST. Four of these al­bums had gate­fold jackets that opened into col­orful pack­ages!

Where we left off with Elvis in 1967

Had Elvis left the pre­vious year in good form or not? His pre­vious single had been Big Boss Man, a fine stomping blues number that was light years be­yond Frankie And Johnny and Spinout and (cringe) Long Legged Girl (With The Shirt Skirt On).

But by the end of ’67, every­thing was about your fa­vorite artist’s latest album, and Presley gave the world of rock & roll Clam­bake, the in­cred­ibly lame sound­track album to the even lamer movie of the same name!

What a mish­mash that album was! Seven songs recorded in Feb­ruary 1967 for the movie, plus five songs recorded in Sep­tember as pos­sible sin­gles. The movie songs in­cluded four of the most dreadful record­ings of Pres­ley’s ca­reer: Clam­bake, Hey Hey Hey, Who Needs Money, and Con­fi­dence. 3

Got that: one-third of the album was sub-par dreck even by Pres­ley’s ever-diminishing stan­dards!

At a time when al­bums were get­ting better, stronger, and more con­sis­tent, Elvis al­bums were get­ting worse!!

To fur­ther mess with the heads of we fans, RCA in­cluded two of the strongest sides that Elvis had cut in years, Big Boss Man and Guitar Man!!!

In was an in­aus­pi­cious way to end a year full of amazing de­vel­op­ments in rock music.

 

Elvis_Clambake_fc

Elvis_Clambake_bc

If you had been a good girl or boy throughout 1967 but were an Elvis fan, Santa may have thought he was doing you a favor by leaving you this in­stead of one of the afore­men­tioned psy­che­delic gems. Of course, what we fans didn’t know then was that Elvis was se­cretly pushing the in­ges­tion of the ultra-rare psy­che­delic clam Tri­dacna mbal­avuana ly­ser­gicaa. Slurp down a couple of these ba­bies raw and you’ll be cut­ting loose and let­ting go be­cause who needs the worry and the strife?

Month-by-month with Elvis

Below the reader will find a month-by-month ac­count of the events of 1968 that were easily known by an Elvis fan then. Need­less to say, the list fo­cuses on the records and the movies re­leased that year.

Mini-reviews of each were in­cluded when I could find them easily, often from Lee Cotten. Sales fig­ures for the records came from two sources, Ernst Jør­gensen and Marc Hen­dricks. (Im­ages for the books can be found at the bottom of this page.)

 

January

Elvis_GuitarMan_ps

Guitar Man / Hi Heel Sneakers

Bill­board: #43 / #__
Cash Box:
#39 / #69

Single: RCA Victor kicked off the new year with a smart move (for a change): they pulled the standout track from the CLAMBAKE album and is­sued it as the new Elvis single. Sup­pos­edly, RCA tam­pered with Elvis’s mix of Guitar Man, moving Pres­ley’s voice up to the fore. Elvis com­plained but the single was is­sued with the RCA mix.

Re­views: Bill­board fea­tured both sides and said of Guitar Man that “this in­fec­tious rock number could easily prove one of his top sellers in some time.”

Sales: Hopes were high for this record, but ac­cording to Jør­gensen it was met with “dis­ap­pointing sales of less than 300,000” copies in the US. 

Ac­cording to Hen­drickx, Guitar Man even­tu­ally sold 400,000 in the US. It also sold 100,000 in the UK and passed 1,000,000 glob­ally. 4

Per­sonal ex­pe­ri­ence: I was 16-years old when Guitar Man ap­peared as AM-590 WARM’s Pick Hit of the Week. I was starting to pay more at­ten­tion to girls (and they to me) and pol­i­tics than home­work and base­ball. (Al­though Marvel su­per­hero comics re­mained the love of my life.)

While it would be great to say, What a great new single!, that praise was ham­pered by the fact that the track had al­ready been re­leased on the CLAMBAKE album. Tech­ni­cally it was re­cy­cled and saying, What a great reissue as a new single! didn’t carry as much weight. 5

 

February

Elvis_GoldRecords4_lpm

Elvis’ Gold Records, Vol. 4

Bill­board: #33

Album: So that fans weren’t buying the same track on two dif­ferent LPs, RCA com­piled A- and B-sides of million-selling sin­gles that had not al­ready been is­sued on an LP. Here are tracks that could have been used on this album if RCA wanted to re­cycle some of them from an ear­lier album to this one:

1960   A Mess Of Blues
            Wooden Heart
1961   Can’t Help Falling In Love / Rock-A-Hula Baby
1962   Re­turn To Sender
1963   One Broken Heart For Sale
            (You’re The) Devil In Dis­guise

            Bossa Nova Baby
1964   Kissin’ Cousins
            Viva Las Vegas / What’d I Say

            Ask Me / Ain’t That Loving You Baby
1965   Crying In The Chapel
            I’m Yours
1966   Frankie And Johnny
            Love Let­ters

1967   In­de­scrib­ably Blue

This could have been a killer col­lec­tion! The state­ment that Elvis and RCA had run out of gold by this time was a common com­ment then and has re­mained a common com­ment on this album for fifty years de­spite it’s not being re­motely ac­cu­rate!

Re­views: Bill­board said, “To get enough gold to label this LP, the com­pany had to do some searching.” Like I said …

Sales: Ac­cording to Jør­gensen, this album sold “350,000 copies over the course of the year.” It even­tu­ally passed 500,000 and was cer­ti­fied for an RIAA Gold Record Award in 1992.

Ac­cording to Hen­drickx, ELVIS’ GOLD RECORDS VOL. 4 even­tu­ally sold 500,000 in the US. It also sold 100,000 in the UK and passed 2,000,000 glob­ally.

Per­sonal ex­pe­ri­ence: I bought this album upon re­lease and was happy to have these twelve sides on an LP in stereo. I would have hap­pier if the album had been ti­tled ELVIS FOR EVERYONE VOL. 2

 

Elvis_GS_StayAway_ps

Stay Away / U.S. Male

Bill­board: #67 / #28
Cash Box: #50 / #26

Single: Bill­board only fea­tured Stay Away and said, “Elvis comes on strong with a folk flavor in this rhythm number.”

Re­views: U.S. Male spent six weeks on Bill­board’s “Hot Country Sin­gles” survey, reaching #55. It was the first Elvis record to make that chart since 1961!

Sales: Ac­cording to Jør­gensen, ini­tial sales were “just under half a mil­lion.”

Ac­cording to Hen­drickx, U.S. Male even­tu­ally sold 700,000 in the US. It also sold 100,000 in the UK and passed 1,000,000 glob­ally.

Per­sonal ex­pe­ri­ence: I al­ways as­sumed that El per­formed U.S. Male with his tongue planted firmly in his cheek. If he didn’t, well, no wonder his mar­riage didn’t last long.

 

March

Elvis_StayAwayJoe_poster2

Stay Away, Joe

Movie: The movie was based on the novel Stay Away, Joe by Dan Cushman. Due to Pres­ley’s in­volve­ment with the movie, sales of the book in­creased no­tice­ably: “By golly, Elvis Presley sold books,” Cushman ex­claimed!

The book Amer­ican In­dians And Pop­ular Cul­ture (Praeger Books, 2012) con­tains a chapter ti­tled “Elvis as In­dian in Film and Life.” Pro­fessor Michael Snyder noted of Stay Away, Joe, “The problem was no one in­volved ex­cept Elvis Presley ac­tu­ally cared about making a good movie about Amer­ican In­dians. Like others in­volved with the film, [Burgess] Meredith re­fused to take it se­ri­ously.”

 

“The only person in­volved who ac­tu­ally cared about making a good movie about Amer­ican In­dians was Elvis.”

 

Meredith later ac­knowl­edged, “The reason I took the role [in Stay Away, Joe] was to get fi­nan­cial backing to do the Chayefsky play.” 6

Re­views: Va­riety called this movie “a dim artistic achieve­ment.” The New York Times said that it “could scarcely seem more em­bar­rass­ingly taste­less”!

Sales: Among its biggest films of the year, Va­riety ranked Stay Away, Joe at #65 for 1968 with a rental of $1,500,000. This figure rep­re­sents rental fees paid by the­aters to dis­trib­u­tors; the box of­fice take would be con­sid­er­ably higher.

Per­sonal ex­pe­ri­ence: I saw this in the the­ater, one of the few in an ever-dwindling au­di­ence that paid for a new Presley ve­hicle. I was 16 and thought the movie was one of Elvis’s fun­niest and was un­aware that it could be seen as being “po­lit­i­cally in­cor­rect.”

 

April

Elvis_WeCall_ps

We Call On Him / You’ll Never Walk Alone

Bill­board: #__ / #90
Cash Box: #__ / #__

Single:

Re­views: Bill­board fea­tured both sides and said that “Presley is in top form with two equally po­tent ballad sides.”

Sales: Ac­cording to Jør­gensen, Parker pushed RCA to push this record hard for Easter, “but whether or not RCA fully sat­is­fies his cam­paign di­rec­tives, the single sells only 50,000 copies.” 

Ac­cording to Hen­drickx, You’ll Never Walk Alone even­tu­ally sold 130,000 in the US, and passed 200,000 glob­ally.

You’ll Never Walk Alone was nom­i­nated for a Grammy Award for Best Sa­cred Per­for­mance.

Per­sonal ex­pe­ri­ence: I bought this single upon re­lease and liked it but thought it a rather poor choice if Elvis and RCA thought it was going to get any AM radio air­play.

 

May

Elvis_LetYourselfGo_ps

Let Your­self Go / Your Time Hasn’t Come Yet Baby

Bill­board: #71 / #72
Cash Box: #55 / #63

Single: Be­lieve it or not, Your Time Hasn’t Come Yet Baby was a bigger country hit than U.S. Male: it spent eight weeks on Bill­board’s C&W chart and reached #50!

Re­views: Bill­board fea­tured both sides, saying they were “Two equally po­tent sales items.”

Sales: Ac­cording to Jør­gensen, “it at­tracts little radio play and 150,000 less sales than U.S. Male,” or ap­prox­i­mately 300,000 copies sold in the US.

Ac­cording to Hen­drickx, Let Your­self Go / Your Time Hasn’t Come Yet Baby only sold 230,000 in the US. It also sold 100,000 in the UK.

Per­sonal ex­pe­ri­ence: I bought this one, too, and thought it was going to be a big hit. I still think it should have been a hit and am per­plexed that so many people think it was a mediocre choice as a single.

 

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Speedway

Bill­board: #82

Album: De­spite the cliff-like drop-off in sales of Elvis movie sound­tracks in the pre­vious few years, they re­mained the staple of his album output.

Re­views: I could not find a re­view of this album in any of the trade pub­li­ca­tions of the time.

Sales: Un­known (but nothing to write home about, even after fifty years). As this album has not been cer­ti­fied by the RIAA for a Gold Record Award, I as­sume that it has not sold 500,000 copies in the US.

Ac­cording to Hen­drickx, SPEEDWAY even­tu­ally sold 300,000 in the US and passed 1,000,000 glob­ally.

Per­sonal ex­pe­ri­ence: I ac­tu­ally don’t re­member if I bought this album at the time.

 

June

Elvis_Speedway_movie_poster

Speedway

Movie: Elvis and old friend Nancy in a typ­ical Presley vehicle—except that Ms. Sinatra gets her own solo, Your Groovy Self (see video below). Cars, songs, girls, and Elvis looks better than he has in a few years.

Re­views: Roger Ebert was kind while dis­missing the movie as fluff: “Speedway is pleasant, kind, po­lite, sweet, and noble, and if the late show viewers of 1988 will not dis­cover from it what Amer­ican so­ciety was like in the summer of 1968, at least they will dis­cover what it was not like.”

The Hol­ly­wood Re­porter said, “The plot is tissue-thin.”

Sales: Among its biggest films of the year, Va­riety ranked Speedway at #40 for 1968 with a gross of $3,000,000. This figure rep­re­sents rental fees paid by the­aters to dis­trib­u­tors; the box of­fice take would be con­sid­er­ably higher.

Per­sonal ex­pe­ri­ence: I did not pay to see this movie in a the­ater but saw it as part of a double-feature at a drive-in.

During this month, Elvis taped his first tele­vi­sion spe­cial for NBC-TV.

 

July

Elvis_RollsRoyce

This photo of Elvis with his 1964 Rolls Royce Phantom is all over the place—and it’s a fake. When I found the photo, I no­ticed that while the en­tire image is sharply in focus, Pres­ley’s head is not. Then I no­ticed that while the car casts a midday shadow on the ground be­neath it, Elvis does not. 

Elvis do­nated his 1964 Rolls Royce to be auc­tioned off for a Hol­ly­wood charity for men­tally re­tarded chil­dren. This was typ­ical of Presley—a no­to­ri­ously gen­erous giver to charities—and atyp­ical of wealthy people, no­to­ri­ously un­gen­erous pe­riod.

The car was valued at $35,000 at the time: ac­cording to the con­ser­v­a­tive Con­sumer Price In­di­cator, it would be worth $270,000 today. Using the more re­al­istic Her­shey Bar Index, that $35,000 would trans­late into $650,000 in 2016 dol­lars! 7

Ei­ther way, it was a hel­luva do­na­tion, and it caught a lot of peo­ple’s at­ten­tion.

Elvis recorded the theme song to his next movie, Charro. The song was arranged by Hugo Mon­tenegro, who had just had a big hit with his arrange­ment of Ennio Mor­ri­cone’s theme song to the quin­tes­sen­tial spaghetti western, The Good, The Bad And The Ugly from 1966.

This re­ceived at­ten­tion be­cause photos of the un­shaven Presley, looking like he was bucking for Clint East­wood’s role in those spaghetti west­erns, were being cir­cu­lated as ad­vanced pro­mo­tion for the movie.

 

August

Elvis_Charro_horse

In Au­gust, filming con­tinued at Apache Junc­tion, Ari­zona, for Charro. Photos of the un­shaven Elvis found their way into the trade pub­li­ca­tions. Be­lieve it or not, fans were so starved for a “new” non-Spinout/Clambake Elvis that we thought this was groovy!

Mean­while, Colonel Parker sees a rough cut of the tele­vi­sion spe­cial and is in­censed that there’s not a single Christmas song in the show! For­tu­nately, Elvis and the guys cut a re­laxed ver­sion of Blue Christmas in the sit-down ses­sions on June 27 (“I’d like to do my fa­vorite Christmas song of all the ones I’ve recorded”). It is in­cluded in the final cut, and Colonel is as­suaged.

 

September

Elvis_drugs_Less_PS

Almost In Love / A Little Less Con­ver­sa­tion

Bill­board: #95 / #63
Cash Box: #63 / #53

Single: Both sides of this, the fifth single of the year, were from the movie Live A Little, Love A Little, a title that ap­par­ently was meant to sound hip but prob­ably en­sured that people stayed away from the­aters at the time it was playing. It’s hard to be­lieve that Elvis, the Colonel, and RCA thought to pro­mote the nice I mushy ballad as the A-side.

Re­views: Bill­board re­viewed Al­most In Love and called it “a smooth ballad [that] should hit hard.”

Sales: Ac­cording to Jør­gensen, this single sells “just over 100,000 copies.”

Ac­cording to Hen­drickx, A Little Less Con­ver­sa­tion even­tu­ally sold 350,000 in the US and passed 500,000 glob­ally.

Per­sonal ex­pe­ri­ence: I didn’t like these two tracks as a single but bought the record nonethe­less.

 

October

Elvis_drugs_LAL_poster2

Live A Little, Love A Little

Movie: This movie was based on the novel Kiss My Firm But Pliant Lips by Dan Green­burg.

Re­views: Va­riety said the movie was one of Pres­ley’s “dimmest ve­hi­cles.” The Mo­tion Pic­ture Herald said, “Au­di­ences may grow a little weary of psy­cho­log­ical studies of frigidity.” (!)

Due to a poor per­for­mance in the US, the film was not re­leased at all in many re­gions, in­cluding the UK.

Per­sonal ex­pe­ri­ence: Again, I did not pay to see this movie in a the­ater but saw it as part of a double-feature at a drive-in.

 

Elvis_SingerPresents_lp

Singer Presents Elvis Singing Flaming Star And Others

Album: As part of the deal to get the Singer Sewing Com­pany to sponsor the Elvis Presley tele­vi­sion spe­cial, the com­pany re­ceived this unique album to sell ex­clu­sively in Singer Sewing Cen­ters throughout the US.

Re­views: As this album was only avail­able at Singer Sewing Cen­ters and not re­leased to the gen­eral mar­ket­place, I do not think that it was re­viewed in the trades at the time.

Sales: I don’t know if anyone has ever found any sales records from Singer re­garding this album, so your guess is as good as mine.

Com­men­tary: The album con­tained ten tracks: Flaming Star had been a Top 20 hit on Bill­board in 1961 as the fea­tured track on an EP. Seven other tracks were mostly for­get­table af­fairs from sev­eral mostly for­get­table movies.

But there were two big at­trac­tions to the record: Elvis’s ver­sion of Chuck Berry’s Too Much Monkey Busi­ness rocked and ac­tu­ally made ref­er­ence to Viet Nam! It would have made a much stronger single than Let Your­self Go and Al­most In Love.

The record ended with a fierce ver­sion of Tiger Man, the first recording from the up­coming tele­vi­sion spe­cial to be re­leased.

After the deal with Singer ended in early 1969, RCA Victor reis­sued this album as Elvis Sings Flaming Star on their Camden budget line. That record sold at least 500,000 copies. It was reis­sued again on the Pick­wick im­print and sold at least an­other 500,000 in the wake of Pres­ley’s death in 1977.

Per­sonal ex­pe­ri­ence: I bought this album at the Singer Sewing Center the day that it came out. The NBC-TV spe­cial was al­ready get­ting at­ten­tion in the media and I was psy­ched! I also picked up all the little free goodies that RCA Victor was cir­cu­lating there (booklet, tickets, etc.). I was able to for­give some of the sound­track dross on the record be­cause of Tiger Man, an out­take from the up­coming spe­cial.

 

Playboy_Feb68b

Elvis was in­ducted into Play­boy’s Music Hall of Fame, the closest thing to such an honor that ex­isted at the time. Of course, he went in after Frank Sinatra. And the Bea­tles. And Herb Alpert. On the bright side, he beat out such Playboy readers’ faves as Three Dog Night, Blood Sweat & Tears, and Chicago.

I could write at length about the build-up and the an­tic­i­pa­tion we fans un­der­went in Oc­tober and No­vember over this show. While it may seem dif­fi­cult to be­lieve in hindsight—and given Pres­ley’s preter­nat­ural pres­ence and per­for­mance on the show—many of us were afraid that he would blow it.

He didn’t and nothing was the same ever again.

 

November

Elvis_IfICanDream_ps1

Elvis_IfICanDream_ps2

If I Can Dream / Edge Of Re­ality

Bill­board: #12 / #__
Cash Box: #  9 / #__

Single: The A-side her­alded the up­coming tele­vi­sion spe­cial; the B-side the up­coming movie. First print­ings of the pic­ture sleeve from No­vember read “If I Can Dream As Fea­tured On His NBC-TV Spe­cial.” Second print­ings from De­cember re­placed that blurb with a piece of filigree-like art­work.

Re­views: Bill­board said that If I Can Dream was “one of his strongest com­mer­cial en­tries in a while.”

Sales: Ac­cording to Jør­gensen, ini­tial sales reach “some­thing like 800,000” copies.

Ac­cording to Hen­drickx, If I Can Dream even­tu­ally sold 1,250,000 in the US. It also sold 150,000 in the UK and is just under 2,000,000 glob­ally.

Per­sonal ex­pe­ri­ence: I bought this upon re­lease. I thought it one of the best records Elvis had ever recorded. My opinion hasn’t changed.

 

Elvis_NBC_4088

Elvis (aka Elvis NBC-TV Spe­cial)

Bill­board: #8

Album: This fea­tured record­ings done for the NBC-TV spe­cial at NBC’s studio and sound­stage in Bur­bank, Cal­i­fornia, in June 1968. At the time, it was the longest LP that Elvis had re­leased.

Re­views: I could not find a re­view of this album in any of the trade pub­li­ca­tions of the time.

Sales: Ac­cording to Jør­gensen, this album “sells more than 500,000 in its ini­tial chart run.” Sales of ap­prox­i­mately 600,000 copies qual­i­fied the album for an RIAA Gold Record Award in 1969.

Ac­cording to Hen­drickx, ELVIS even­tu­ally sold 1,750,000 in the US. It also sold 250,000 in the UK and passed 3,000,000 glob­ally.

Per­sonal ex­pe­ri­ence: I ran to the record store after school to buy this album. I ran home from the record store to play this album. It was prob­ably the most in­tense emo­tional re­sponse I had ever had to a new Elvis album in my life. Of course, given the al­bums of the pre­vious few years, there hadn’t been much com­pe­ti­tion.

 

December

Elvis_Singer_ad

Elvis (Singer Presents Elvis)

Tele­vi­sion: The Singer spon­sored spe­cial is broad­cast on De­cember 3. It beat out Rowan & Mar­t­in’s Laugh-In for the top spot as the most-watched show that week.

Re­views: Most re­views were glowing. Be­lieve it or not, the show was greeted with less than en­thu­si­astic re­sponses from some sources. Va­riety stated, “He still can’t sing!” What in Grom­mett’s Wholly Name were they sniffing during the show?

The idiot, ahem, the critic for The Los An­geles Times ac­tu­ally wrote, “I don’t think many viewers care to see singers sweat on TV.”

Per­sonal ex­pe­ri­ence: I still re­member sit­ting on the floor in front of the tele­vi­sion set in the living room of my par­ents’ house on the evening of De­cember 3, 1968. My brother and sister were in­ten­tion­ally run­ning and horsing around to annoy me be­cause I loved Elvis. This was the greatest tele­vi­sion ex­pe­ri­ence of my life, matched only by the moon landing in 1969.

Com­men­tary: Colonel Parker signs Elvis to a con­tract to open the show­room of the new In­ter­na­tional Hotel in Las Vegas, Nevada, in July 1969. Presley will re­ceive $100,000 a week, which will turn out to be one of the best deals in the his­tory of Las Vegas.

In fact, let’s call it a steal for Vegas!

De­spite the stag­ger­ingly un­prece­dented in­come that Pres­ley’s stay will bring the In­ter­na­tional every other hotel and restau­rant, and bar in Vegas, the crafty Colonel will con­tinue to com­mand stag­ger­ingly less than his boy’s worth for years to come.

In Eng­land, the New Mu­sical Ex­press mag­a­zine once again named Elvis Presley the “Out­standing Male Singer of the Year.”

 

Elvis_InternationalHotel69

This is what the newly con­structed In­ter­na­tional Hotel would like eight months after Colonel Parker signed Elvis to open the show­room in July 1969.

Thoughts of an Elvis fan in 1968

For those of us who sat there on De­cember 3, 1968, glued to our tv sets, and watched the res­ur­rec­tion of a star and the cre­ation of a legend, we thought we’d never have to live through any­thing like the first 337 days of 1968 again.

Hah!

The re­lease of a se­ries of lame sin­gles (Rags To Riches and Life and It’s Only Love and Until It’s Time For You To Go and An Amer­ican Trilogy) and anemic al­bums (LOVE LETTERS FROM ELVIS and ELVIS NOW and MADISON SQUARE GARDEN and RAISED ON ROCK and HAVING FUN ON STAGE) ac­com­pa­nied by em­bar­rassing per­for­mances and no-shows in Vegas and on the road and all that was all only 800 days away but that’s an­other story!

 

Elvis_Charro_header

FEATURED IMAGE: Lo­ca­tion filming for Charro began on July 22, 1968, and was com­pleted in the first week of Sep­tember. The movie didn’t open in the­aters until March 1969, but im­ages of the new ‘new’ Elvis popped up in trade pub­li­ca­tions.

The ‘new’ Elvis was the leaner Elvis with the sculpted side­burns that made the Star Trek crew look timid. The new ‘new’ Elvis was the un­shaven dude in the poster above. For­tu­nately, the movie tanked and we got only the ‘new’ Elvis from that point on.

 

Elvis 1957 goldsuit standup 1000

 

POSTSCRIPTUALLY, these books were re­ferred to or used for this ar­ticle. Each is ex­cel­lent; each is rec­om­mended.

 

Elvis_Cotten_Day

Elvis_Guralnick_Day

Elvis_Hendrickx

Quotes re­garding record re­views and movie re­views are from All Shook Up – Elvis: Day-By-Day, 1954-1977, by Lee Cotten (top image). Sales fig­ures and quotes re­garding those sales are by Ernst Jor­gensen from Elvis – Day By Day: The De­fin­i­tive Record Of His Life An Music, by Peter Gu­ral­nick and Jør­gensen (middle image). Marc Hen­dricks ap­par­ently had ac­cess to RCA’s vaults in New York and came up with dif­ferent num­bers, along with ap­prox­i­mate sales for the UK and ac­cu­mu­lated world­wide sales. These were pub­lished in Elvis A. Presley – Muziek, Mens, Mythe (“Music, Man, Myth” and bottom image). There have been sev­eral edi­tions since 1993, this one is from QM Pub­lishing (1998)

 


FOOTNOTES:

1   In a pre­vious ar­ticle (“I was going to sub­scribe to your site, but if you men­tion drugs once”) I wrote this cap­tion to a poster from Live A Little Love A Little: “Being an Elvis fan in 1968-1969 was con­fusing and re­warding experience—especially if you were one of the few still buying tickets for each new movie. Pres­ley’s last six at­tempts at re­viving a ca­reer in Hol­ly­wood all failed, but were a hoot to watch.” This mo­ti­vated me to write this ar­ticle that you are reading right now.

 By 1968, the feeling of guilt had be­come one with the feeling of stu­pidity.

3   How Can You Lose What You Never Had and The Girl I Never Loved were two of the best sound­track songs in re­cent memory and they were dropped from the movie! Go figure.

4    The dis­crep­an­cies be­tween Jør­gensen and Hendrycks’s sales figures—whether small or huge—can be ex­plained: the for­mer’s may be based on ini­tial sales or in­com­plete fig­ures, while the latter may take in the whole pic­ture over a longer pe­riod of time. (Or not.)

5    Here’s the way it more or less worked in the ’60s for es­tab­lished artists: new single re­leased to radio sta­tions, who play record. Air­play pro­duces de­mand. Single re­leased and the artist’s diehard fans all buy it within days of re­lease and it shoots up charts. Sales in­crease air­play, which in­creases de­mand which pro­duces more sales which moves a record fur­ther up charts which in­creases air­play …

Sim­i­larly, a new Bea­tles Dylan Elvis album was re­leased and sev­eral hun­dred thou­sand fans bought it im­me­di­ately! RCA might have lost a few hun­dred thou­sand sales for Guitar Man by re­leasing it eight weeks ear­lier on the CLAMBAKE album. De­creased sales meant less air­play which meant less de­mand etc. We’ll never re­ally know …

6    Actor Burgess Meredith was di­recting Chayef­sky’s play The La­tent Het­ero­sexual in 1968 and was coming up short in backing.

7    I used local Seattle prices, which is $1.49 for a 1.55 ounce Her­shey bar in 2016. As prices tend to be on the high side here, the $655,000 value for the Rolls may be a wee bit less in other parts of the country.

 

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