DURING 1961-1962, RCA Victor issued five of Elvis Presley’s new singles as monaural Compact 33 Singles in the US. These are all really rather rare records and their picture sleeves are even rarer! This something that cannot be said about almost any other commercially released Elvis titles. They also released a couple of unique formats.
The first Elvis record to be released on the new format was not a single, but an EP, or Compact 33 Double. Released in February 1961, RCA Victor LPC-128, ELVIS BY REQUEST, was an odd duck: it may have been the first Presley in the new-fangled Compact 33 Singles format to be released anywhere in the world.
It did not announce its presence with authority: the first side consisted of new material from Elvis’s latest movie, Flaming Star and Summer Kisses Winter Tears. The jacket also featured a photo of Elvis from the movie. 1
The second side contained his two massive worldwide hits from the previous year, It’s Now Or Never and Are You Lonesome Tonight. So, half of this could be considered Elvis’s second soundtrack album of the ‘60s, the other half could be considered his first ‘golden records’ compilation album of the ‘60s.
The Compact 33s are an important part of any Elvis Presley collection and the Elvis By Request album should be on every Elvis collectors want-list.
The record sold well enough to place one track, Flaming Star, in Billboard’s Hot 100. But the combination of two new soundtrack songs plus two previously released hits on a new format probably confused both merchandisers and customers.
In hindsight, a better choice might have been to make it the soundtrack album for the movie. There was enough material: the two selected (Flaming Star and Summer Kisses, Winter Tears) plus two very minor recordings, Britches and A Cane And A High Starched Collar.
There was also the original title song Black Star and a lovely, Indian-ish(sic) alternative take of Summer Kisses. A very nice, six-track album with one easily understood title could have been assembled and more easily and effectively marketed. Alas, they did not …
Suggested Near Mint value: as this is an album, the record is almost always sold still housed in the jacket. So refer to the jacket below for a value for the album.
Compact 33 double
From the front cover, there is no questioning one thing: Flaming Star is the featured track on the record. It is at the top, first in line, and in type several times larger than that of the other three song titles. Because of this, this album is often referred to as Flaming Star.
From the labels, there is no questioning one thing: the title. No matter how many times this album is erroneously referred to as Flaming Star or Elvis by Request – Flaming Star, it does not make it correct. The record has one title and it has nothing to do with the movie: the title of the record is ELVIS BY REQUEST.
Variations for this label exist: RCA Victor’s pressing plants used different companies to print their labels. Each plant’s records can usually be identified by the peculiarities of each plant’s printer. Most of the differences are in the choice of typeface and the sizing of that type, as witness the Hollywood pressing’s smaller, thicker print (top image above) and the Indianapolis pressing’s taller, thinner print (bottom image above).
This can be also be done by looking at the identifying code of each plant that is etched into the trail-off vinyl (or ‘dead wax’ among older, aging, decrepit collectors like myself) of each record. At this time, there is no established difference in the value between the two pressings.
Suggested Near Mint value: as this is an album, the jacket is almost always sold with the record still housed within. So a suggested Near Mint value for the album (the jacket with the record) is $40-60. 2
The values assigned are estimates based on registered sales reported on the Popsike and Collectors Frenzy websites. Should you do some research on either site, you will see that regardless of the grades given the items, the photos indicate that few if any of the items are truly NM, hence the relatively modest prices fetched for these items on eBay and elsewhere on the Internet.
Finally, the image I chose for the top of this page is the Brazilian version of the album. The orange border and print are so much more attractive and effective than the blue …
POSTSCRIPTUALLY, whatever you choose to call this album, it sold well enough that the featured track Flaming Star reached #14 on Billboard—and it certainly required six-figure sales to reach that position (although it failed to even reach the Cash Box Top 100)—and is easily the easiest Compact 33 title to acquire.
While only five more Elvis compact 33 records would follow in the US, the format would last into the final years of the decade in other countries.
1 There is a non-Elvis movie allusion in this paragraph. One used but still desirable 1966 Marvel No-Prize to everyone who gets it immediately!
2 The value assigned to ELVIS BY REQUEST is based on sales from the past few years when supply has been high. It is difficult to gauge demand, but it is not low: 31 copies of this album have sold in 2013-14. Still, at one time, this was a hundred dollar record …