IN THE SUMMER OF 1966, I heard Elvis’s new single on the radio and hurried to the record store to buy a copy. I always tried to buy new singles as soon as they came out so that I could find a copy with a picture sleeve. Upon seeing the sleeve for this new Elvis single, Spinout / All That I Am, I was confused: Elvis‘ face was puffy and round and he had the most ridiculous, un-hip hairdo imaginable.
In fact, the make-up—which in the past had made him look cinematically dramatic—combined here with the highly stylized hair made him look effeminate. This was definitely not a look any entertainer (anyone, straight or gay) needed in the very homophobic ’60s.
I had just turned 15 and I was one of my high school’s few Elvis fans, which was not something that one bragged about in most circles at that time. Presley’s fall from the toppermost of the poppermost had begun years before and was made worse by the arrival of the Beatles and the rest of the British Invasion.
A customer of mine referred to these as the “haircut sleeves” back in the 1980s, which I thought both hilarious and apt and I’ve used the term ever since.
While one could argue in 1964 about who was bigger, Elvis or the Beatles (Jesus hadn’t entered the brouhaha yet), by 1966 there was no debate: Elvis was a joke to most serious rock & roll fans and his record sales were rapidly declining while those of the Beatles were still in the millions.
Any less-than-savvy decision or unhip move Presley made just made him and his fans look more foolish—and being hip was almost a requisite for a rock star in the ’60s. And Presley, the Colonel, RCA Victor, and various movie producers made a lot of downright dumb moves regarding Elvis’s career.
And this “look” with this hairdo was definitely a dumb move! It also coincided with the period that saw US sales of a new Elvis single drop from a sure 400,000 to less than half that. While none of these sleeves are rare, for some reason, several are very difficult to find in near mint (NM) condition.
Elvis as he appeared posing for a publicity photo with leading lady Jocelyn lane for the movie Tickle Me, shot in November 1964. Compare this Elvis with the Elvis on the haircut sleeves.
Posthumous feeding frenzy
When I began selling records through the mail via ads in Goldmine magazine back in 1980, Elvis had been dead less than three years. The impact of his death on collectors had created a feeding frenzy on anything Elvis: items that had sold for $10-20 the day before his death on August 16, 1977, were selling for $50-100 the day after his death.
And this mayhem continued three years after the fact. This was unprecedented then and remains unmatched by any other artist’s death since. (There was an explosive rush to buy up all things MJ after Michael Jackson’s unexpected death in 2009, but it didn’t last long.)
People who knew nothing about collecting anything were suddenly “Elvis Collectors,” paying absurdly inflated prices for readily available items. This should have been a temporary aberration but such was not the case.
Instead, this aberration was magnified by the price guides of the time, which cemented into place (at least in the minds of the guides’ true believers) the staggeringly inflated prices that this new breed of Elvis collector had been paying for Elvis items in the years 1977-1979.
This is a publicity shot of Elvis for his movie Frankie And Johnny with co-star Donna Douglas (then hot as a pistol as Ellie Mae Clampett on The Beverly Hillbillies television show). For the movie, Elvis was notably pudgier than normal, with bloating evident in his face—which looks rather lifeless—and his abdomen (and the tight pants exaggerate the bloating).
Things tamed down
I am not knocking these guides for assigning the values that they did as they more or less reflected the market for several years. But the market for any kind of collectable tends to be volatile and price guides should be done in the spirit of the daily stock market results in your local newspaper, with ups and downs of the market constantly reflected in the stated values.
By 1980, things had tamed down but this was not reflected in the price guides. While the values assigned to the majority of records—especially the more common items—in the guides were absurdly exaggerated, many items were inexplicably undervalued.
Such as a handful of picture sleeves for 45s from 1966-1967 in NM condition that I refer to as the “haircut sleeves.”
For the picture sleeve for the single from the movie Frankie And Johnny, RCA Victor reached back and pulled a photo of the sleek Elvis from 1964 and gave us the best looking Presley picture sleeve in a while.
Those fabulous “haircut sleeves”
In 1964, Larry Geller took over as Elvis’s regular hairstylist, quickly becoming one of the singer’s closest friends and confidantes. Geller was a name to be reckoned with: in 1959, he had opened the first men’s hair-styling salon in America with partner Jay Sebring.
This salon, Sebring International, provided services like women’s hairstyling salons, far beyond the limited scope of the services offered a neighborhood barbershops. It attracted some of Hollywood’s biggest names, including Marlon Brando, Kirk Douglas, Henry Fonda, Rock Hudson, Steve McQueen, and the Chairman of the Board himself, Frank Sinatra.
The values in the early price guides reflected the hysteria of the post-death market and should have been a temporary aberration.
Geller styled Elvis’s hair for several movies in 1964-1966 and the photoshoots of the time that provided images for promotional purposes. It’s probably impossible to guess what he was thinking with the new look he gave Elvis for a photoshoot in mid-1966 that was to provide the Colonel with a selection of photos to give RCA Victor for upcoming Presley platters.
Geller’s new ‘do’ continued dying Presley’s hair jet-black and combing it straight back. In these photos, the hair appears to be held in place with an industrial-strength hairspray or several coats of varnish or lacquer.
For a bit of perspective on where the record industry and the youth of America were at in early 1966 just before Elvis let Larry do his new “do,” this is how Columbia was advertising the Byrds. This full-page ad for the group’s new single Eight Miles High / Why appeared in the April 2, 1966, issues of Billboard and Cash Box magazines. (And I won’t even dare to compare the characterless movie music that Elvis was making at the time with either of these brilliant sides.)
Lacquered it into place
While pop and rock artists around the world were letting their hair down in 1966, falling in their faces as nature intended, in these photos Elvis’s hair was given a round shape, making it look like a black helmet atop his head. Instead of Beatle-like bangs, Geller teased a lock of hair down onto Presley’s forehead and then lacquered it into place.
To make matters worse, Elvis’s face is bloated and round, possibly a reflection of his diet or his drug intake (the latter not even suspected by we fans at the time). And his make-up looks like a cheap pancake make-up.
The overall effect was weird and, in hindsight, Elvis looks like an over-the-hill gay male-model, but I’m not certain that a gay male would come out into public looking like this in 1966.
Unfortunately, these photos were used in advertising and on records into late 1967, including the aforementioned “haircut sleeves” used by RCA Victor in the US and several other European countries. Fortunately, this was apparently the only time Elvis used this “do” of Geller’s, at least in public.
My second all-Elvis price guide, A Touch Of Gold – The Elvis Presley Record & Memorabilia Price Guide, was self-published by my own White Dragon Press in 1990. Despite being so old, it is still the easiest Elvis guide to read and understand and because the Elvis market peaked and declined since the values are surprisingly accurate.
A Touch Of Gold
In the early 1980s, I sold records under the name Pet Sounds Records through ads in Goldmine magazine. Despite my sixties-ish business name, I specialized in finding near mint copies of Elvis items that were hard to find in NM condition. One day, a customer asked me if I had any NM copies of the “haircut sleeves.”
After he explained what he was referring to, I thought his term was both hilarious and apt and I’ve used it ever since! And I immediately began looking for copies in NM condition, which I turned over as fast as I could find them. This experience stayed with me when I became editor of the O’SullivanWoodside record collectors price guides a few years later.
When OW published my Elvis Presley Record Price Guide in 1985, many of the issues concerning values assigned records that were both too high and too low were corrected. Those that weren’t properly adjusted in that book were subsequently addressed 1990 with the publication of A Touch Of Gold – The Elvis Presley Record & Memorabilia Price Guide by my own White Dragon Press.
This is the Spinout / All That I Am sleeve from Germany. Apparently, RCA determined that the term “spinout” had no meaning outside the US, so the title of the movie was changed to “California Holiday” in many countries.
All values below are based on a definition of Near Mint (NM) that can be found in my article “On Grading Records.” The records that accompanied these picture sleeves are not included below; they are much easier to find in NM condition and can usually be found selling for in the $10-15 range. White label promo copies of these records are much harder to find in collectable condition and prices vary considerably but are usually in the $30-60 per title.
For this article, I want to call readers’ attention to these “haircut sleeves” with their absurd-looking photos—apparently selected by the Colonel—which used by RCA Victor at a time when Presley’s reputation and sales were dropping precipitously.
Regarding those diminishing sales, I have included the US sales figures for each record according to Ernst Jorgensen’s data in Elvis – Day-By-Day (Ballantine Books, 1999).
Each entry also notes peak chart positions from the Billboard Hot 100 and the Cash Box Top 100 charts. I have also included the peak positions of each side on the UK charts to show that for a while, Elvis did considerably better there than here.
This group of five sleeves and one LP provide a tiny glimpse into just how out of touch the Colonel and Elvis were at this time.
In France, a Double Trouble EP was released using the same photo and cover design as the Long Legged Girl picture sleeve (below).
RCA Victor 47-8941
First printings of this picture sleeve have “Watch For Elvis’ Spinout LP Album” in a black border at the bottom of both sides.
Second printings of this picture sleeve have “Ask For Elvis’ Spinout LP Album” in a black border at the bottom of both sides.
US Charts: Spinout peaked at #32 on Cash Box but only reached #40 on Billboard. The flip-side All That I Am peaked at #39 on Cash Box but only reached #41 on Billboard.
UK Charts: All That I Am reached #18 on one survey while Spinout did not make any UK survey.
US Sales: Initial sales were approximately 400,000.
First printing: The sleeve has “Watch For Elvis’ Spinout LP Album” at the bottom.
• Suggested VG value for the “Watch For” sleeve: $10-15
• Suggested NM value for the “Watch For” sleeve: $30-40
Second printing: The sleeve has “Ask For Elvis’ Spinout LP Album” at the bottom.
• Suggested VG value for the “Ask For” sleeve: $10-15
• Suggested NM value for the “Ask For” sleeve: $40-50
Comments: Needless to say, I don’t like any of the photos used on these sleeves, but this design is several standards above the rest that followed. Whereas the others are headshots, here we get Elvis from the waist up. The two-panel design with one side looking like a frame from a strip of film is visually strong due to Elvis’s gold top against the blue background.
Along with the Top 20 success of All That I Am on the UK charts, it made the Top 10 on the Billboard easy-listening survey. This should have made clear that it was obviously the side that RCA should have been promoting from the beginning, regardless of the Colonel’s dictates.
RCA Victor LPM-3702 (mono)
RCA Victor LSP-3702 (stereo)
The mono (top) and stereo (bottom) jacket cover looked slightly different due to the placement of “LSP-3702 STEREO” in the upper left corner. The additional space at the top makes the stereo cover slightly more effective graphically. The blue sticker advertises the bonus photo included in the album and is affixed to the shrinkwrap, not the album’s cover.
US Charts: Spinout reached #18 on the Billboard Best-Selling LPs survey.
US Sales: Initial sales were approximately 300,000.
First pressing: The record has black labels with “RCA Victor” and Nipper on top at 12 o’clock. There were no second pressings for either LPM-3702 or LSP-3702.
• Suggested VG value for the mono album: $10-15
• Suggested NM value for the mono album: $30-50
• Suggested VG value for the stereo album: $5-10
• Suggested NM value for the stereo album: $25-40
Note: Copies of LPM-3702 or LSP-3702 that are still in the original shrinkwrap with the blue “Special Bonus” sticker have a suggested NM value of $50-75. Copies that are still factory-sealed with the sticker have a suggested NM value of $150-200.
Original mono (LP-3702) and stereo (LSP-3702) copies of Spinout were packaged with an 11 x 11-inch bonus photo of Elvis with “the haircut.” Suggested NM value for this photo is $20-30.
Comments: What word comes to mind when I look at this design? For me, it’s insipid. If you need another word, Google’s dictionary offers plenty of synonyms, these being the most apt: anemic, boring, characterless, dull, lifeless, uninteresting, and my favorite, zestless.
Reorders for this album were non-existent and it was rather quickly deleted from RCA’s active catalog and so there were no second pressings for either LPM-3702 or LSP-3702. Spinout was reissued in stereo in 1980 (AYL1–3684) to meet the demand for all things Elvis in the wake of his death in 1977.
Did you know that aptness (noun), aptly (adverb), and aptest (adjective) are all acceptable in most dictionaries? I think I prefer most apt over aptest, the latter sounding like something most high school seniors routinely flunk.
RCA Victor 47-8950
First and only printings of this picture sleeve have “Ask For Elvis’ New RCA Victor Stereo 8 Catalog” in a black border at the bottom of both sides.
US Charts: If Every Day Was Like Christmas did not qualify on either the Cash Box or Billboard pop chart as both magazines did not include Christmas records in their regular surveys. The flip-side How Would You Like To Be did not make either the Cash Box or Billboard pop charts.
UK Charts: If Every Day Was Like Christmas reached #9 on one survey while How Would You Like To Be did not make any UK chart.
US Sales: Initial sales were approximately 200,000.
First printing: The sleeve has “Ask For Elvis’ New RCA Victor Stereo 8 Catalog” at the bottom. There was only one printing of this sleeve.
• Suggested VG value for the “Ask For” sleeve: $5-10
• Suggested NM value for the “Ask For” sleeve: $20-40
Comments: If the Top 40 radio stations in the US had played If Every Day Was Like Christmas like a regular single in 1966 (as stations in the UK and elsewhere did), with 200,000 sales it would have easily made the Top 20. Of course, if it had received round-the-clock airplay, it would have been heard by millions of more people and probably would have sold considerably more copies.
As for this sleeves’ design, I’m going to borrow one of the synonyms from the comments on the Spinout LP above and say, “What a zestless sleeve this is!”
RCA Victor 47-9056
First and only printings of this picture sleeve have “Coming Soon! Elvis’ new Sacred LP Album How Great Thou Art” in a white border at the bottom of both sides.
US Charts: Indescribably Blue peaked at #26 on Cash Box but only reached #33 on Billboard. The flip-side Fools Fall In Love did not make either the Cash Box or Billboard pop chart.
UK Charts: Indescribably Blue reached #21 on one survey while Fools Fall In Love did not make any UK chart.
US Sales: Initial sales were approximately 300,000.
First printing: The sleeve has “Coming Soon! Elvis’ new Sacred LP Album How Great Thou Art” at the bottom.
Second printing: Copies of this sleeve with “Ask For Elvis’ new Sacred LP Album How Great Thou Art” at the bottom are not known to exist.
• Suggested VG value for the “Coming Soon” sleeve: $10-15
• Suggested NM value for the “Coming Soon” sleeve: $40-60
Comments: As for this sleeves’ design, I’m going to borrow one of the synonyms from the comments on the Spinout LP above and say, “What a dull, lifeless sleeve this is!”
RCA Victor 47-9115
First printings of this picture sleeve have “Coming Soon Double Trouble LP Album” in a white border at the bottom on both sides.
Second printings of this picture sleeve have “Ask For Double Trouble LP Album” in a white border at the bottom on both sides.
US Charts: Long Legged Girl (With The Short Dress On) peaked at #35 on Cash Box but only reached #63 on Billboard. The flip-side That’s Someone You Never Forget peaked at #92 on Billboard, but did not make the Cash Box chart.
UK Charts: Long Legged Girl (With The Short Dress On) reached #49 on one survey while That’s Someone You Never Forget did not make any UK chart.
US Sales: Initial sales were less than 200,000.
First printing: The sleeve has “Coming Soon Double Trouble LP Album” at the bottom.
• Suggested VG value for the “Coming Soon” sleeve: $10-15
• Suggested NM value for the “Coming Soon” sleeve: $30-40
Second printing: The sleeve has “Ask For Double Trouble LP Album” at the bottom.
• Suggested VG value for the “Ask For” sleeve: $15-20
• Suggested NM value for the “Ask For” sleeve: $40-60
Comments: Compared to the Spinout sleeve above, this sleeve pales, but compared to If Every Day Was Like Christmas and Indescribably Blue, this uninteresting sleeve design is bold. As to why RCA Victor pulled That’s Someone You Never Forget off the 1962 album POT LUCK WITH ELVIS to use as a B-side in 1967 is unknown. At this point in Presley’s career, it was getting to be “Who cares?”
RCA Victor 47-9287
US Charts: There’s Always Me peaked at #45 on Cash Box but only reached #56 on Billboard. The flip-side Judy peaked at #78 on Billboard but did not make the Cash Box chart.
UK Charts: There’s Always Me did not make any British survey while Judy did not make any UK chart.
US Sales: Initial sales were less than 200,000.
First printing: The sleeve has no border at the bottom. There was only one printing of this sleeve.
• Suggested VG value for the sleeve: $10-15
• Suggested NM value for the sleeve: $30-50
Comments: As sales of new Presley Platters were plummeting, RCA Victor reached back to the 1961 album SOMETHING FOR EVERYBODY and pulled There’s Always Me (from the LP’s “Ballad Side” and a personal fave of Elvis) and Judy (from the LP’s “Rhythm Side”). According to the blurb on the sleeve, they were released as a single “by popular demand,” although who was doing the demanding was never said. (The rabid readers of Elvis Monthly?)
Both are fine recordings but unexceptional and absolutely the wrong choices for a single during 1967’s Summer of Love. Judy is a personal fave of mine and made an excellent album track in 1961 but here Judy’s in disguise as a would-be hit single, for which it was most un-apt (an ungainly word also found in most dictionaries).
This is a three-panel, fold-open poster sent to retail record stores for hanging on their walls. A copy of this catalog has a suggested NM value of $100-200.
In 1966, RCA Victor began issuing their vast catalog of popular music LP albums on the new-fangled 8-track tape cartridge medium. For Elvis, they issued seventeen tapes with a single LP on each and three tapes with two LPs on each. In hawking this new product, RCA used a photo from “the haircut” sessions in ads in trade publications, on a catalog that was handed out to customers at stores, and as a 3½ x 5-inch bonus photo that was inserted into each of the tape cartridge boxes.
This 3½ x 7-inch catalog was handed to customers at retail record stores in the latter part of 1966, usually when the customer had either purchased and Elvis 45 or LP or simply requested the catalog. A copy of this catalog has a suggested NM value of $15-20.
This full-page ad for the new Elvis Presley Stereo 8 cartridge tapes appeared in the October 8, 1966, issues of Billboard, Cash Box, and Record World magazines.
This 3½ x 5-inch photo was inserted into the RCA Victor box along with the cartridge tape and then shrinkwrapped and shipped to wholesalers. A copy of this card has a suggested NM value of $5-10.
In 1966-1967, the career of Elvis Presley was in free-fall: he had lost many (most?) of his original fans from the ’50s when he was the rock & rolling “Elvis the Pelvis” and was in the process of losing the new fans he had picked up in the early ’60s as a pop singer and movie matinée idol.
Every decision made by Colonel Parker concerning his career proved in hindsight to have been the bad decision: these include keeping Elvis from touring and appearing on television, having Elvis make one spiritless, bloodless, and lifeless (all synonyms for insipid) movie with its accompanying soundtrack album after another, and on insisting that Elvis got a piece of the publishing on every song he recorded.
In fact, it’s difficult to find a single sane, and sound decision the Colonel made at this time! And yet, Elvis went along with each of them, never once putting his foot down and saying “No more!” to poorly conceived, cheaply made movies—where was his sense of duty to his fans?—or the often execrable songs that were part of the film soundtrack.
Elvis never once put his foot down and said “No more!” to all those poorly conceived, cheaply made movies and their execrable soundtracks.
And RCA Victor went long with each lousy photograph given them as the cover shot for Presley’s singles and albums. Apparently, they did step in at times and make decisions about their Presley product—at least I am assuming it was their idea to use an older photo of a leaner Elvis for the cover of the PARADISE, HAWAIIAN STYLE album.
(I would love to hear someone associated with RCA in 1968 explain the rationale behind the tracks selection for ELVIS’ GOLD RECORDS VOLUME 4, which ignored a pile of gold hits—such as “Can’t Help Falling in Love,” “Return to Sender,” and “Crying in the Chapel”—for almost unknown flip-sides at a time when Presley’s credibility was becoming a joke. But that’s another story.)
Back to the “haircut sleeves”: as far as I know, this is the extent of the use of the photos from the “haircut” photoshoot. That is, Geller’s “do” appears to have been a one-time thing for that particular photo session in 1966: Elvis certainly never made a movie sporting it and it’s possible he never even walked through the door of Graceland with it atop his head.
There may be other uses of the “Geller-do” photos for promotional purposes, especially advertisements for the Stereo 8 tapes. If you know of any, please contact me via the comments section below.
FEATURED IMAGE: The featured image that I had initially selected for this rewrite was this is a lobby card from Spinout with Diane McBain standing up to Elvis. Note that for the movie, Mr. P has his normal hairstyle of the mid-’60s, meaning the publicity shots of him with his new ‘do’ were chosen over photos of his better-looking self in the actual movie. Then I found a huge reproduction of the Indescribably Blue picture sleeve (almost 1,500 pixels wide!) and opted for it instead.
POSTSCRIPTUALLY, please note that many of the images above are from the fantastic website 45cat, where they are attempting a massive discography of more artists than I care to count. Submissions, corrections, editions, comments, etc. are made by members, and of course, anyone can join.