wikipedian boners about elvis and “steamroller blues”

TAKING WIKIPEDIA TO TASK for the seem­ingly end­less number of mis­takes in their pop music en­tries is like shooting the prover­bial moose in a barrel. I could even make it a daily en­deavor and turn this blog into a non-stop rant about Wikipedian boners. For­tu­nately, that does not in­terest me—at least, at this time. But there are some boners that do at­tract my attention.

But first, there may be a few younger readers won­dering about the title of this ar­ticle. Aside from its slang ref­er­ence to a part (or a con­di­tion) of the male anatomy, Merriam-Webster de­fines a boner as “a foolish or care­less mis­take.” This short ar­ticle ad­dresses what ap­pears to be a couple of big boners in the entry about Elvis Pres­ley’s 1973 recording of James Tay­lor’s Steam­roller Blues.

 

I could turn this blog into a non-stop rant about Wikipedian boners but, for­tu­nately, that doesn’t in­terest me.

 

Here is the en­tire text for the Wikipedia entry on the Presley recording. I made a few styl­istic changes to keep it sim­ilar to the overall look of this blog. I also added num­bers after the two im­por­tant er­rors to make it easier to ad­dress them:

“During the 1970s, Elvis Presley added Steam­roller Blues to his con­cert reper­toire and in­cluded it on his live album ALOHA FROM HAWAII VIA SATELLITE. Presley also re­leased it as a single in Jan­uary 1973 (1) with Fool as its flip­side track and the song reached #17 on the U.S. pop sin­gles chart.

It was later in­cluded on Pres­ley’s 2007 com­pi­la­tion THE ESSENTIAL ELVIS PRESLEY. A newly-orchestrated ver­sion was in­cluded on the 2015 album IF I CAN DREAM with the Royal Phil­har­monic Orchestra.

No­tably, this song re­sulted in Elvis’ last two en­tries at #1 on a major charting format. The ALOHA FROM HAWAII double LP, for which the song was recorded, peaked at #1 on both the Bill­board and Cash Box album charts on April 28, 1973.

The single taken from the LP peaked at #1 on Record World the week of Jan­uary 13, 1973, the day be­fore the Aloha spe­cial aired on NBC.” (2)

 

Wikipedian Boner: Photo of James Taylor's Sweet Baby James LP album.

James Taylor wrote Steam­roller (the orig­inal title of the song) as a parody of white blues bands. His acoustic recording of the song ap­peared on his mas­sively pop­ular and highly in­flu­en­tial SWEET BABY JAMES album. Elvis simply dis­carded Tay­lor’s con­de­scen­sion and per­formed the song as a straight blues-based rocker.

The first Wikipedian boners

There are sev­eral er­rors in these sen­tences but I am only in­ter­ested in two of them. (In their de­fense, the Wikipedia ed­i­tors preface the two para­graphs above with this note: “This sec­tion does not cite any sources. Please help im­prove this sec­tion by adding ci­ta­tions to re­li­able sources. Un­sourced ma­te­rial may be chal­lenged and removed.”)

Here are those errors: 

(1)  This is prob­ably the biggest boner be­cause without it the others would not exist. Steam­roller Blues was not re­leased as a single in Jan­uary 1973! Steam­roller Blues was re­leased as a single with Fool as its flip-side as RCA Victor 74-0910 on March 13, 1973.

 

How could it have been #1 on Jan­uary 13, 1973, when it wasn’t recorded until Jan­uary 14, 1973?

 

(2)  As Steam­roller Blues—“the single taken from the LP”—wasn’t re­leased until March 1973, it ob­vi­ously could not have peaked at #1 on the Record World chart in Jan­uary 1973. How the heck could it have been #1 on Jan­uary 13, 1973, when it wasn’t recorded until Jan­uary 14, 1973?!!!?

To see the of­fi­cial RCA Listing No­tice with the ship­ping date of March 13, 1973, for Steam­roller Blues / Fool, click here.

 

Wikipedian Boner: Photo of Record World's Top 100 chart from January 20, 1973.

This is the Record World Sin­gles Chart for the week of Jan­uary 20, 1973.

A hefty hunk of steaming junk

I could not find a copy of the Record World Sin­gles Chart for Jan­uary 13, 1973, so I had to use the Jan­uary 20, 1973, issue. The Sin­gles Chart is on page 25 of that issue and shows that Stevie Won­der’s Su­per­sti­tion was #1 and Carly Si­mon’s You’re So Vain was #2.

The second column on the left (under “Last Wk”) in­di­cates each record’s po­si­tion on the same chart the week be­fore. It shows that You’re So Vain had been #1 on Jan­uary 13, 1973. (The Simon record was also #1 on both the Bill­board and Cash Box sur­veys on the same date.)

Of course, Jan­uary 13, 1973, is the week that Wikipedia claims Steam­roller Blues was #1. Of course, we know that record hadn’t even been re­leased yet, so it couldn’t be #1 anywhere.

Elvis did have a record on the charts at the time: Sep­a­rate Ways, which had been re­leased in Oc­tober 1972, was #22.

 

RecordWorld SinglesChart 06 02 73 600

RecordWorld SinglesChart 06 16 73 600

These are the Record World Sin­gles Charts for the weeks of June 2 and June 16, 1973.

How high did Steamroller Blues get?

So, just how high did Steam­roller Blues get on the Record World Sin­gles Chart? For­tu­nately, I was able to find copies of al­most every issue of Record World for 1973 on the in­ternet. Un­for­tu­nately, not all of them had the chart intact.

That is, someone had ripped the page with the chart out of the mag­a­zine be­fore it had been scanned and posted on the in­ternet. But I have enough in­tact charts to make sense of it all!

Here is the progress of Steam­roller Blues during its peak on the Sin­gles Chart:

•  On May 26, it was #20 on its eighth week on the survey.
•  On June 2, it was #17 on its ninth week on the survey.
•  On June 9, it was #16 on its tenth week on the survey.
•  On June 16, it was #26 on its eleventh week on the survey.
•  On June 23, it was #48 on its twelfth week on the survey.

The June 9 issue did not have its chart in­tact but the is­sues be­fore and after it—the June 2 and 16 issues—did have their charts. They are pic­tured above.

So the peak po­si­tion for Steam­roller Blues on the Record World Sin­gles Chart was #16 on June 9, 1973.

 

Wikipedian Boner: Photo of Elvis' "Steamroller Blues" picture sleeve.

Honest to Grom­mett, this is the US pic­ture sleeve for the Steam­roller Blues single. I am con­sid­ering writing an ar­ticle ti­tled “What­ever Was The Colonel Thinking?” that col­lects the lamest, cheesiest art­work to grace the covers of Elvis pic­ture sleeves and album jackets re­leased in the US.

Another Wikipedian boner

The er­rors are du­pli­cated on Wikipedia’s entry for Record World mag­a­zine. There is a list of every record to reach #1 on that mag­a­zine’s pop chart from Oc­tober 4, 1954, through March 13, 1982. This list cites two web­sites as sources for their Record World chart in­for­ma­tion:

•  Bar­ry’s Hits Of All Decades
•  Record World Chart Archive

The former is an amazing col­lec­tion of charts from Barry Kowal while the latter is part of the equally amazing World Radio His­tory web­site. What’s also amazing is that nei­ther site lists Steam­roller Blues among the #1 records of 1973!

So, if Wikipedia’s cited sources fail to cor­rob­o­rate their state­ments, what is the ac­tual ex­pla­na­tion for stating that Steam­roller Blues was a #1 record?

How could a rea­son­ably in­tel­li­gent, well-meaning con­trib­utor pull such a boner as looking at two sources and citing the op­po­site of that those sources claimed?

Or did some jackarse—a wiki troll, if you will—intentionally enter false in­for­ma­tion on Wikipedia?

Both ques­tions ad­dress on­going prob­lems with the wiki format.

 

Wikipedian Boner: Photo of Elvis' ALOHA FROM HAWAII VIA SATELLITE album.

De­spite the sig­nif­i­cance of the Aloha From Hawaii Via Satel­lite project, Colonel Parker and RCA man­aged to saddle the album jacket with cheesy art­work, like it was just an­other sound­track album to one of his lame movies from the ’60s.

A churning urn of burning funk

The Aloha From Hawaii Via Satel­lite spe­cial was a mon­u­mental suc­cess and cat­a­pulted the record album of the same name to the top of all three of the major album charts of the time.

As we have seen, it did not do the same for the single pulled from that album, Steam­roller Blues …

 

Wikipedian Boner: Photo of Elvis on stage during "Aloha From Hawaii" special.

FEATURED IMAGE: I found this great photo of Elvis from the Aloha From Hawaii spe­cial at the top of this page on the Wall­paper Cave web­site. Now, why didn’t Colonel Parker and/or RCA use this gor­geous image for the cover of the ALOHA FROM HAWAII VIA SATELLITE album? Fi­nally, I want to thank Dave Reynolds (Elvis Rare Records) and Steve Crespo for calling my at­ten­tion to these baf­fling boners.

Now it’s up to some in­trepid reader to use this ar­ticle and the links within it to make the nec­es­sary cor­rec­tions to that Wikipedia entry …

 

Subscribe
Notify of
Rate this article:
Please rate this article with your comment.
6 Comments
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

Right artist. Right song. Right chart. Right po­si­tion. Right year. Wrong date.

The King..ELVIS. Steam­roller Blues. Record World. #1. ’73. Don’t know.

Been there, done that. Key word in your post.. “ALMOST”. Its ei­ther in 1 of the missing is­sues, or 1 of the is­sues is a mis-print.

6
0
Would love your thoughts, please comment.x