facts and fallacies about elvis’ gold records volume 4

IN FEBRUARY 1968, RCA Victor is­sued ELVIS’ GOLD RECORDS VOLUME 4, the first com­pi­la­tion of million-sellers by Elvis in five years. Or, at least they were sup­posed to be million-sellers, but only half the album con­sisted of gen­uine gold record hits. The whys and where­fores for this are filled with fal­lacies and mis­con­cep­tions that began with the al­bum’s re­lease. This album was not greeted with warmth by re­viewers or the record-buying public.

This new album closely fol­lowed Pres­ley’s latest single, Guitar Man, which had been re­leased a few weeks ear­lier. While hardly a straight-ahead rock & roller, this was a sort of coun­tri­fied blues that didn’t sound like much of any­thing else on Top 40 radio at the time.

Guitar Man had been greeted warmly by fans and was al­ready re­ceiving more radio play than usual for an Elvis record of the time.

 

“To get enough gold to label this LP, the com­pany had to do some searching.”

 

But ELVIS’ GOLD RECORDS VOLUME 4 was a dif­ferent story al­to­gether be­cause it rep­re­sented the work of a dif­ferent kind of recording artist than the kind of artist the first three vol­umes in the Elvis’ Golden Records se­ries had rep­re­sented.

From 1961 through 1968, Elvis Presley was es­sen­tially a movie star who made movies that were ba­si­cally light­weight mu­sical melo­dramas or come­dies. The records that he made were pre­dom­i­nantly made to fill out the sound­track re­quire­ments for those movies.

By 1968, Pres­ley’s ca­reer as both a movie star and a recording artist was spi­raling down­ward and brakes needed to be ap­plied to halt the de­scent. So it was in every­one’s in­terest to have this album be a suc­cess. And as stated, such was most def­i­nitely not the case with ELVIS’ GOLD RECORDS VOLUME 4.

 

Fallacies: photo of Elvis from the 1967 movie Clambake.

Re­leased in De­cember 1967, Clam­bake was yet an­other in a line of em­i­nently for­get­table Presley movie ve­hi­cles. And this was the image of Elvis-the-(former)-Pelvis with which we en­tered 1968: the soft, rounded face and the teased bouf­fant that had been a part of Pres­ley’s look in the mid-’60s. It was soon re­placed by the leaner, chis­eled fea­tures we as­so­ciate with the NBC TV Spe­cial one year later in De­cember ’68.

Facts and fallacies

Everyone was ex­pecting Guitar Man to be a BIG hit. A solid new album—even a col­lec­tion of older hits—would have made Presley look like he was still in the game. 1

Of course, he wasn’t in the game.

Not yet.

And nei­ther was ELVIS’ GOLD RECORDS VOLUME 4. 2

The album was a dis­ap­point­ment every which way one can imagine, from the se­lec­tion of less-than-stellar ma­te­rial to the unin­spired album art­work. That said, there are cer­tain fal­lacies about the album that need ad­dressing:

Fact #1

ELVIS’ GOLD RECORDS VOLUME 4 con­tained only one side that had been a re­ally big hit in the US. The rest of the tracks were much more modest hits or the flip-sides of hits!

Fallacy #1

RCA was forced to put out an album that skimped on big hits be­cause there were no more big hits to choose from.

Fact #2

The fourth volume of the Elvis’ Golden Records se­ries wasn’t short on gold be­cause there was no gold; it was short be­cause Colonel Parker didn’t want the fans paying for the same tracks twice.

Fallacy #2

The record re­viewers of 1968 didn’t un­der­stand Fact #2 then and the rock­writers of 2016 don’t get it now!

In­stead of being a col­lec­tion of ac­tual million-selling hits, the album was more a col­lec­tion of 45 sides looking for a home on a con­ve­nient LP. The se­lec­tion of ‘gold records’ in­cluded sides that no ar­gu­ment by anyone would qualify the record as a million-seller! Mean­while, a lot of gen­uine gold was left sit­ting on the shelf.

 

Fallacies: US picture sleeve to the Guitar Man single of 1968.

In Jan­uary 1968, RCA Victor is­sued Guitar Man, a rocking country number fea­turing some spec­tac­u­larly bluesy guitar playing by Jerry Reed. This was un­like any record that Presley had recorded and un­like any­thing on pop radio sta­tion in ’68. Un­for­tu­nately, it was just an­other modest Top 40 hit.

Getting enough gold wasn’t easy

Re­views at the time were not kind: Bill­board—who often seemed to bend over back­ward to give ac­co­lades to even mediocre records—dismissed it by stating, “To get enough gold to label this LP, the com­pany had to do some searching.”

State­ments that RCA had run out of Elvis gold by this time were common, and have re­mained common for al­most fifty years, de­spite it’s not being re­motely ac­cu­rate!

There was plenty of gold on RCA’s shelves, but the Colonel and RCA were car­rying on their prac­tice of non-redundancy so that fans weren’t buying the same track on two dif­ferent LPs.

 

Elvis’ Gold Records Volume 4 was “short” on real gold be­cause Colonel Parker didn’t want the fans paying for the same tracks twice.

 

Therefore—and this is important!—any million-selling single that had al­ready ap­peared on an ear­lier LP was kept off of the Gold Records com­pi­la­tions.

Stated oth­er­wise, the goal of the Gold Records se­ries of al­bums was to col­lect the sides of million-selling sin­gles that had not al­ready been is­sued on an album.

From 1963 through 1968, Elvis Presley was es­sen­tially a movie star who made records to fill out the sound­track re­quire­ments of those movies. Many of Pres­ley’s million-sellers in those years were lifted from movie sound­track LPs, thereby dis­qual­i­fying them for con­sid­er­a­tion.

That said, the album re­mains as mis­un­der­stood by to­day’s rock­writers as it was by 1968’s record re­viewers.

 

Fallacies: cover to the rare mono version of Elvis' Gold Records Volume 4 from 1968.

The mono ver­sion of ELVIS’ GOLD RECORDS VOLUME 4 (LPM-3921) was one of the last Presley al­bums to have been is­sued in both mono and stereo. Amer­ican record com­pa­nies ended that prac­tice in 1968 and deleted all mono records by the end of that year. The US pressing is a very rare record and com­mands big bucks on the col­lec­tors market: ex­pect to pay $500-1,000 for a NM copy.

The contents of Volume 4

In his first seven years as RCA Vic­tor’s biggest selling recording artist, his com­pany re­leased three vol­umes in the Elvis’ Gold Records se­ries. That’s one every two years. It had been five years since the third volume.

That was the length of a ca­reer for most artists in the ’60s.

Here are the twelve tracks that were in­cluded on ELVIS’ GOLD RECORDS VOLUME 4. Each title is pre­ceded by the year it was re­leased as a 45 in the US. The third column fea­tures one to three (1−3) as­ter­isks, which are ex­plained below the list.

1966    Love Let­ters                                                                                *
1963    Witch­craft                                                                               ***
1964    It Hurts Me                                                                              ***
1964    What’d I Say                                                                             **
1963    Please Don’t Drag That String Around                            ***
1967    In­de­scrib­ably Blue                                                                     *
1963    (You’re The) Devil In Dis­guise                                                *
1961    Lonely Man                                                                              ***
1960    A Mess Of Blues                                                                        **
1964    Ask Me                                                                                          *
1964    Ain’t That Loving You Baby                                                   **
1962    Just Tell Her Jim Said Hello                                                 ***

The key to the asterisks

*    One as­terisk in­di­cates the track was the A-side of a world­wide million-seller.

**  Two as­ter­isks in­di­cate the track was the B-side of a world­wide million-seller that be­longs on the album be­cause:

1. The record sold mil­lions and the flip-side was a rea­son­able hit on its own and should be con­sid­ered a million-seller.

2. The flip-side was the hit-side out­side the US and thereby shared in the million-seller status.

*** Three as­ter­isks in­di­cate the track was the B-side of a world­wide million-seller that does not be­long on ELVIS’ GOLD RECORDS VOLUME 4. Re­gard­less of the sales of the 45, the flip-side was not a big enough hit to jus­tify its in­clu­sion on this album.

As the as­ter­isks in­di­cate, seven of the twelve tracks be­long on the album; five do not. As many of the seven were only modest hits but sold a mil­lion through ac­cu­mu­lated global sales, ELVIS’ GOLD RECORDS VOLUME 4 was not an im­pres­sive state­ment about Elvis Pres­ley’s achieve­ments in re­cent years.

Where were the BIG hits?

De­spite this, the album was not a sales dis­aster: it made it to #33 on Bill­board’s best-selling LP survey and re­mained a slow but steady cat­alog seller for years. In 1992, it was cer­ti­fied by the RIAA for a Gold Record Award for do­mestic sales in ex­cess of 500,000 units. According to Marc Hen­drickx, it has passed 2,000,000 in global sales. 3

 

Fallacies: bonus photo included with original copies of Elvis' Gold Records Volume 4 in 1968.

This is the bonus photo as­so­ci­ated with ELVIS’ GOLD RECORDS VOLUME 4. It was not pack­aged with the record in­side the shrinkwrap, but given to cus­tomers who pur­chased the album at the cash reg­ister at se­lect stores. As such, it is one of the rarest such photos and is worth an easy $100 in NM con­di­tion.

Gold in them there mountains

Keeping in mind Bill­board’s re­view above, there was plenty of real gold, but RCA opted not to use those sides. Here are tracks that could have been used on this album—solid gold tracks—if RCA wanted to re­cycle some of them from ear­lier al­bums. The same system of as­ter­isks ap­plies here:

1960

A Mess Of Blues                                                                                *

Status: Pre­vi­ously unis­sued on an album.

In the US, A Mess Of Blues reached the Top 40 as the B-side of the mas­sive selling It’s Now Or Never. In the UK, there were copy­right is­sues with It’s Now Or Never that held up its re­lease. In its place, RCA is­sued A Mess Of Blues / The Girl Of My Best Friend, which was a double-sided chart entry that reached #2 on Music Week and sold more than 500,000 copies.

 

1961

Wooden Heart                                                                                   *

Status: Pre­vi­ously is­sued on the G.I. BLUES album.

In the UK, there were copy­right is­sues with Sur­render, which held up its re­lease. In its place, RCA is­sued Wooden Heart / Tonight Is So Right For Love, which reached #1 and sold more than 500,000 copies. It was is­sued in West Ger­many, where it also topped the charts and re­put­edly sold more than 1,000,000 copies. Wooden Heart was not is­sued as a single in the US at the time.

 

Wild In The Country                                                                   **

Status: Pre­vi­ously unis­sued on an album.

In the US, Wild In The Country reached the Top 40 as the B-side of I Feel So Bad, a Top 5 hit that sold more than 500,000 copies. In the UK, it was the fea­tured side of a double-A-sided single that reached #2 on Music Week. One of the two sides was a hit in other mar­kets, selling more than 500,000 copies.

 

Can’t Help Falling In Love                                                         *

Status: Pre­vi­ously is­sued on the BLUE HAWAII album.

In the US, Can’t Help Falling In Love was a Top 5 hit that sold more than 1,000,000 copies. Its B-side Rock-A-Hula Baby also made the Top 40.

 

Rock-A-Hula Baby                                                                        **

Status: Pre­vi­ously is­sued on the BLUE HAWAII album.

In the UK, Rock-A-Hula Baby / Can’t Help Falling In Love was a double-A-sided single and sold more than 500,000 copies. Both sides were hits in other coun­tries, selling an­other 1,000,000 glob­ally.

 

1962

Re­turn To Sender                                                                             *

Status: Pre­vi­ously is­sued on the GIRLS! GILS! GIRLS! album.

In the US, Re­turn To Sender was #1 on Cash Box that sold than 1,000,000 copies and selling an­other 1,000,000 as a world­wide hit. Its B-side Where Do You Come From was not a major hit in any major market.

 

1963

One Broken Heart For Sale                                                         *

Status: Pre­vi­ously is­sued on the IT HAPPENED AT THE WOLD’S FAIR album.

In the US, One Broken Heart For Sale was a Top 10 hit on Cash Box that sold more than 500,000 copies and selling an­other 500,000 as a world­wide hit. The B-side was They Re­mind Me Too Much Of You, which wasn’t a major hit in any major market.

 

(You’re The) Devil In Dis­guise                                                   *

Status: Pre­vi­ously unis­sued on an album.

In the US, (You’re The) Devil In Dis­guise was a Top 5 that sold more than 500,000 copies and selling an­other 500,000 as a world­wide hit. Its B-side Please Don’t Drag That String Around wasn’t a major hit in any major market.

 

Bossa Nova Baby                                                                             *

Status: Pre­vi­ously is­sued on the FUN IN ACAPULCO album.

In the US, Bossa Nova Baby was a Top 5 that sold more than 500,000 copies, and selling an­other 500,000 as a world­wide hit. Its B-side Witch­craft also reached the Top 40 but wasn’t a major hit in any other major market.

 

Fallacies: theater lobby poster to the 1964 movie Viva Las Vegas.

In 1963, Elvis was still slim and fit and was taken some­what se­ri­ously as a recording artist and a movie star. Working with Ann-Margret, he turned in one of his best per­for­mances in Viva Las Vegas. Un­for­tu­nately, the music from this movie was not prop­erly pack­aged and one of the better Presley sound­track al­bums of the ’60s never ma­te­ri­al­ized.

 

1964

Kissin’ Cousins                                                                                 *

Status: Pre­vi­ously is­sued on the KISSIN’ COUSINS album.

In the US, Kissin’ Cousins was a Top 10 hit on Cash Box that sold more than 500,000 copies and selling an­other 500,000 as a world­wide hit. Its B-side It Hurts Me also reached the Top 40 but wasn’t a major hit in any other major market.

 

Viva Las Vegas                                                                                 *

Status: Pre­vi­ously unis­sued on an album.

In the US, Viva Las Vegas was the A-side but was out­per­formed on the charts by its B-side What’d I Say. Both sides reached the top 20 on Cash Box and sold more than 500,000 copies. One of the two sides was a hit in other mar­kets, selling an­other than 500,000 copies.

 

What’d I Say                                                                                   **

Status: Pre­vi­ously unis­sued on an album.

See Viva Las Vegas above.

 

Ask Me                                                                                                  *

Status: Pre­vi­ously unis­sued on an album.

In the US, Ask Me was a Top 10 hit on Cash Box while its B-side Ain’t That Loving You Baby also reached the Top 20, selling more than 500,000 copies. One of the two sides was a hit in other mar­kets, selling more than 500,000 copies.

 

Ain’t That Loving You Baby                                                        *

Status: Pre­vi­ously unis­sued on an album.

See Ask Me above.

 

1965

Crying In The Chapel                                                                    *

Status: Pre­vi­ously unis­sued on an album.

In the US, Crying In The Chapel was a Top 5 hit that sold more than 1,000,000 copies and selling an­other 1,000,000 as a world­wide hit. The B-side was I Be­lieve In The Man In The Sky, which wasn’t a major hit in any major market.

 

Tell Me Why                                                                                       *

Status: Pre­vi­ously unis­sued on an album.

In the US, Tell Me Why was a Top 20 hit on Cash Box that sold more than 500,000 copies, and selling an­other 500,000 as a world­wide hit. Its B-side Blue River wasn’t a major hit in any major market.

 

I’m Yours                                                                                            *

Status: Pre­vi­ously unis­sued on an album.

In the US, I’m Yours was a Top 10 hit on Cash Box that sold more than 500,000 copies and selling an­other 500,000 as a world­wide hit. Its B-side, (It’s A) Long Lonely Highway, wasn’t a major hit in any major market. (A dif­ferent ver­sion of I’m Yours ap­peared on the POT LUCK album.)

 

1966

Frankie And Johnny                                                                       *

Status: Pre­vi­ously is­sued on the FRANKIE AND JOHNNY album.

In the US, Frankie And Johnny was a Top 40 hit that sold more than 500,000 copies and selling an­other 500,000 as a world­wide hit. Its B-side Please Don’t Stop Loving Me wasn’t a major hit in any major market.

 

Spinout                                                                                                *

Status: Pre­vi­ously is­sued on the SPINOUT album.

In the US, Spinout was a Top 40 hit that sold more than 500,000 copies. In the UK and else­where, the B-side All That I Am was the hit side, selling an­other 500,000 as a world­wide hit.

 

Love Let­ters                                                                                       *

Status: Pre­vi­ously unis­sued on an album.

In the US, Love Let­ters was a Top 20 hit that sold more than 500,000 copies and selling an­other 500,000 as a world­wide hit. Its B-side Come What May wasn’t a major hit in any major market.

 

If Every Day Was Like Christmas                                             *

Status: Pre­vi­ously unis­sued on an album.

In the US, If Every Day Was Like Christmas was not el­i­gible for the reg­ular Bill­board and Cash Box sur­veys, but were hits on their an­nual Christmas charts. It sold more than 500,000 copies and selling an­other 500,000 as a world­wide hit. The B-side was How Would You Like To Be, which wasn’t a major hit in any major market.

 

1967

In­de­scrib­ably Blue                                                                          *

Status: Pre­vi­ously unis­sued on an album.

In the US, In­de­scrib­ably Blue was a Top 40 hit that sold more than 500,000 copies and selling an­other 500,000 as a world­wide hit. Its B-side Fools Fall In Love wasn’t a major hit in any major market.

 

Fallacies: US picture sleeve to the Stay Away / U.S. Male single of 1968.

In March 1968, a few weeks after the re­lease of ELVIS’ GOLD RECORDS VOLUME 4 and only two months after the dis­ap­point­ment of Guitar Man, RCA Victor is­sued Stay Away. This was an up­tempo adap­ta­tion of the chestnut Greensleeves and in­tended as the theme song to the new movie Stay Away, Joe. But radio pro­gram­mers and disc-jockeys wisely turned the record over and played the country-rocker U.S. Male. It was the third strong studio single in a row from Elvis, and yet an­other modest Top 40 hit.

This could have been a fine album

There are nine­teen tracks to choose from; all million-sellers, some of ex­cep­tional quality. And not a three-asterisk among them! But most had al­ready been is­sued on an LP and Parker and Victor wanted to avoid re­dun­dancy.

So, as anyone who did a little re­search would dis­cover, ELVIS’ GOLD RECORDS VOLUME 4 could have been a fine col­lec­tion, not the em­bar­rass­ment that it was! 4

When RCA reis­sued this title on com­pact disc in 1997, they in­cluded the fol­lowing ‘bonus tracks’: Crying In The ChapelRock-A-Hula BabyRe­turn To SenderBossa Nova Baby, Kissin’ Cousins, and Viva Las Vegas.

 

Fallacies: the 8-track cassette tape version of Elvis' Gold Records Volume 4.

This is the 8-track tape ver­sion of the album (P8S-1297), part of RCA’s Stereo 8 line. All these tapes were is­sued in an om­nibus 8-Track Car­tridge box. Ide­ally, this is how many col­lec­tors would like to find a copy today, forty-eight years later. In­stead, it is usu­ally found heavily played and worn and without the box.

A few notes for collectors

ELVIS’ GOLD RECORDS VOLUME 4 re­mained in print from 1968 through then end of the Vinyl Era. There were sev­eral label vari­a­tions during that time:

1968-1969   LPM-3921 and LSP-3921 have glossy black la­bels with Nipper lis­tening to his mas­ter’s voice on a phono­graph at the top. The jackets have RCA Victor with Nipper in the upper right on the front cover.

1969-1970   LSP-3921 has or­ange la­bels pressed on non-flexible vinyl. The jackets on this and all sub­se­quent press­ings have RCA in the upper left corner on the front cover.

1971-1975   LSP-3921 has or­ange la­bels on ex­tremely flex­ible, flimsy vinyl.

1975-1976   LSP-3921 has brown la­bels.

Final press­ings from 1976 on have a new prefix in the cat­alog number (AFL1-3921). The la­bels are non-glossy black with Nipper in the upper right. This vari­a­tion re­mained in print into the ’80s.

 

Fallacies: photo of Elvis and Michelle Carey in the 1968 movie Live A Little, Love A Little.

FEATURED IMAGE: The times they were a-changin’ and in 1968 those changes fi­nally caught up with Elvis. Since most of the world was ig­noring most of Pres­ley’s product in ’68, the changes seemed to ap­pear all at once on De­cember 3 with the broad­cast of the Singer Presents Elvis tele­vi­sion spe­cial. But things had been hap­pening all year: here is a scene from Live A Little Love A Little, where Mr. P has very ob­vi­ously spent the night with his leading lady. And what a leading lady: Michelle Carey was about as far from the vir­ginal An­nette Day of 1967’s Double Trouble as it was pos­sible for two women to be. 5

 

POSTSCRIPTUALLY, my ex­pe­ri­ence of buying ELVIS’ GOLD RECORDS VOL. 4 in Feb­ruary ’68 was split: on one hand, I wanted a stronger album that showed Presley off. It was dif­fi­cult being an Elvis Presley fan at this time when many young people judged him by his ridicu­lous movies. This type of re­lease didn’t make thing easier.

On the other hand, I was happy to have the twelve sides on an LP in stereo. Of course, I would have hap­pier if the album had been all B-sides and EP sides and had been ti­tled MORE ELVIS FOR EVERYONE.

 


FOOTNOTES:

1   Alas, Guitar Man was not a big hit as a single in early 1968. But it took on a new life when it was used as the de facto theme to Elvis’s NBC TV spe­cial in De­cember ’68.

2    The rock and pop music scene changed so much since ELVIS’ GOLDEN RECORDS VOLUME 3 in 1963 and Elvis had changed so little that a fourth volume could not pos­sibly have been rel­e­vant. But it could have been worth­while; it could have stood as tes­ti­mony that he had made an LP’s worth of million-selling sin­gles in the pre­ceding years.

3   From the book Elvis A. Presley – Muziek, Mens, Mythe by Marc Hen­drickx (var­ious pub­lishers).

4   The ob­vious thing to have done was to have com­piled this fourth volume in 1965 and re­lease it then. It could have built around the world­wide smash Crying In The Chapel and the tracks from the early ’60s would have been more rel­e­vant. But that didn’t happen.

5   Vir­ginal schmir­ginal! An­nette Day looked young enough to get Elvis locked up just for being in the same car with her in some parts of these here United States!

 

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I agree that the album could have been a lot stronger and I’m glad I now know why it wasn’t. Nonethe­less, I have a cer­tain fond­ness for it be­cause it was where, circa the early eighties, I dis­cov­ered “It Hurts Me.” Might have had to wait for the CD era oth­er­wise. That makes up for a lot!

an­other great read neal, i was one of the lucky ones to have found a mono copy of this, got it from a radio sta­tion in wheat­land, wyoming.

Hi I was 14 when this came out and a “new” fan having been blown away by “Bossa nova baby” “Viva las vegas” “Kissin cousins” “Do the clam” etc
I had them all on 45s.…still do.…and still play them.
I re­call I did not have hardly any of the songs on this album at the time , so for me it was fan­tastic.
I also loved the art­work and the bright green cover.…still do.
Al­though I now know volume 4 was tech­ni­cally in­cor­rect , it was just RCA mop­ping up sin­gles that had yet to be re­leased on al­bums,
I still trea­sure this col­lec­tion and have just or­dered it on “FTD” al­though I would have pre­ferred disc 2 to have con­tained what might have been a more cor­rect col­lec­tion of hits whether or not they had pre­vi­ously been on an album.

Album was ap­par­ently ahead of its time, well at least “In­de­scrib­ably Blue,” which is pow­erful. “Devil” kicks butt, es­pe­cially the subtle guitar during the non-solo parts. It’s mostly a fine wine that got better while everyone grew up to hope­fully like fine wine. I per­son­ally hate wine but rate this album 9 outta 10.

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