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Elvis Presley’s adventures in yoga and Eastern mysticism
08.11.2017
07:44 am
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Col. Tom Parker, Elvis Presley and Larry Geller on the set of ‘Spinout’ (via Bodhi Tree.com)
 
In the spring of 1964, Elvis’ hairdresser, Larry Geller, introduced him to the teachings of Paramahansa Yogananda. The founder of the Self-Realization Fellowship had a lasting impact on Elvis, who often visited the SRF’s Mt. Washington headquarters and Pacific Palisades retreat during his Hollywood years, and developed a close relationship with Yogananda’s successor, Sri Daya Mata.

Priscilla did not welcome the arrival of cosmic consciousness in her life with the King:

Larry was a total threat to us all. He would spend hours and hours and hours with Elvis, just talking to him, and he wasn’t anything that Elvis represented; he didn’t represent anything that Elvis had believed in prior to that time… [Elvis] read books studiously for hours and hours. He had conversations with Larry for hours and hours — he was going on a search for why we were here and who we were, the purpose of life; he was on a search with Larry to try to find it. You know, Larry would bring him books, books, books, piles of books. And Elvis would lay in bed at night and read them to me. That was the thing when you dealt with Elvis: if he had a passion for something, you had to go into it with him and show the same love he had for it. Or at least you had to pretend to.

Of course, these new enthusiasms were amplified by Elvis drugs. Not acid, so much—during the one trip Geller and Elvis took together, they ordered pizza and watched The Time Machine on TV—but friends observed troubling interactions between the King’s diet pills and his Kriya Yoga practice. From the second volume of Peter Guralnick’s Elvis biography:

He felt a new serenity in his life. To the guys it seemed more like madness, and they felt increasingly alienated, resentful, bewildered, and angry all at once. Elvis appeared to be leaving them with his almost daily visions, his tales of going off in a spaceship, his delusions of being able to turn the sprinkler system of the Bel Air Country Club golf course behind the house on and off with his thoughts, his conviction that he could cure them of everything from the common cold to more serious aches and pains by his healing powers.

 

 
Geller’s spiritual counsel did not endear him to Colonel Tom Parker. Guralnick reports Larry’s contention that one terrible number in 1967’s Easy Come, Easy Go was a clear message from the King’s manager:

The inclusion of the musical number “Yoga Is As Yoga Does,” which Elvis performed as a duet in Easy Come, Easy Go, was no accident, Larry felt, but intended, rather, as a direct insult to Elvis’ (and Larry’s) beliefs — but Elvis went ahead and recorded it anyway. Only after the scene in which it was included was shot did Elvis finally react. It was then, in Larry’s account, that Elvis “stormed into the trailer, shouting, ‘That son of a bitch! He knows, and he did it! He told those damn writers what to do, and he’s making me do this.’”

More after the jump…

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Posted by Oliver Hall
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08.11.2017
07:44 am
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‘Whatever Happened to PJ Proby?’: The hellraising madman of rock & roll is a god amongst men
07.25.2017
09:21 am
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“My idea of fun is what puts most people in jail.”
—PJ Proby

The entire point underlying this blog is to impart enthusiasm for the given subject matter. Sharing something extraordinary, remarkable or even just plain fun with the audience. Life’s too short to focus on lameass things. And to have to write about things you don’t even like? Nope, not how we really want to spend our days. Plus, why would you, the reader want to read about something mundane? Of course you don’t want that. You want awe-inspiring. Or at least things with cute cats and Twin Peaks-themed pot pipes. It’s our primary job here at Dangerous Minds to entertain you. Sometimes it’s simply to distract you from all of the bad shit going down…

You’ll get all of the above, in spades, I reckon, in the form of Texas-born rock and roller, PJ Proby, the entire package. He’s admittedly a pretty obscure figure. Frankly not even the most archly jaded rock snobs have probably ever heard of the guy. The subset of crate diggers who have actually heard the sound of the man’s truly phenomenal voice is smaller still. (His classic albums have hardly existed in the CD age.) I’ve been obsessed with him since the late 80s and have long wanted to make a documentary about him. Frankly I’m not really sure if I am acquainted with anyone who knows or cares about him like I do. (Maybe you do, but I don’t know you, do I?) Considering the intense megawatt talent the man possesses, all the lucky breaks that he’s had over his six decade-long career, and all of the immortals his orbit has collided with, PJ Proby should be, as he’s said himself—and I agree with this wholeheartedly—at least as famous as his one-time drinking buddy Tom Jones. That was not to be, although it coulda been and shoulda been.
 

 
When Tom Jones was just starting out, he was often accused—unfairly I think—of copying Proby’s act. In many ways PJ Proby and Jones are performers in that same general mold: powerful belters, macho, sexy, equally at home singing heart-breaking lonely boy ballads or bellowing balls-out rockers. When Proby’s infamous onstage trouser-splitting stunt occurred in Croydon (more on this below), it was in fact Jones who hastily replaced him on the package tour he was embarked upon after Proby was summarily banned from most of the live stages in Britain. If you like early Scott Walker, or the big ballady material Dusty Springfield excelled at, or even Nick Cave, then PJ Proby is probably in your wheelhouse. His records are easy to find—usually for really cheap—in used record bins. Every one of them is a mixture of filler and hits, but when he connects with the material, something sublime happens. I think he’s one of the all time greatest talents in rock and roll history, but few people would know that in 2017, or care.

PJ Proby was born James Marcus Smith on November 6, 1938, in Houston. His great-grandfather on his mother’s side was the outlaw gunfighter John Wesley Hardin and his father was a successful banker. He was educated at the strict San Marcos Military Academy, but even at school he was known as a bit of a hellraiser and was early on convinced that he was a genius and destined for greatness of some sort. His showbiz ambitions started early with local preteen appearances singing country music. He met Elvis Presley on that circuit when he was just 12 or 13 and Elvis at one point dated his step sister, Betty. But this was just the start of Proby’s improbable, Zelig or Forrest Gump-like ability to always be where the action was. Even at that age, he just was warming up, but already in the right places at the right time and always with the right crowd.
 

 
After moving to Hollywood in the mid-50s to become and actor and/or a singer, Smith took the name “Jett Powers” and recorded the single “Go, Girl Go!,” which is best known today as a song that the Cramps dug. (Jett’s backing band the Moondogs included Elliot Ingber/“Winged Eel Fingerling,” later of Frank Zappa’s Mothers of Invention and Captain Beefheart’s Magic Band, on lead guitar). Signed to a songwriting and performing contract with Liberty (along with the likes of Leon Russell and Glen Campbell), he recorded under the name Orville Woods so that the public would think he was black! Additionally Proby made a living working as a bodyguard for closeted gay entertainers like Rock Hudson, Liberace and Tab Hunter (by his own account, brutally dispensing anyone who dared hassle one of them in a “gay bashing” manner). Proby also recorded “vocal guides” for $10 a pop so that performers like Elvis could more efficiently make use of expensive recording studio time. (He did twenty such vocal guides for Presley, mimicking his singing style in a full-throated manner that was said to have amused the King.) In early 1964 Jackie DeShannon and songwriter Sharon Sheeley (who’d been his best friend, Eddie Cochran’s, fiancée) introduced Proby—then bearded and wearing his hair extremely long as he was hoping to play the part of Jesus in a musical—to Jack Good who was visiting from London. The meeting would change the course of his life.

Good, the prominent TV producer and manager who gave the world Shindig!, Cliff Richard, Tommy Steele, Billy Fury, Marty Wilde and others of Britain’s first wave of rock and roll stars (he’s also the guy who convinced Gene Vincent to don that Richard III garb) is alleged to have grabbed Proby’s ponytail to see if it was real. Soon afterward, Good’s secretary called from London and offered the complete unknown a spot on the Beatles’ upcoming television special “With the Beatles.”
 

Upon his arrival at Heathrow airport Proby told reporters of his intentions for Great Britain: “I’m going to fight all your men, fuck all your women and steal all your money. Then I’m going to buy myself a yacht and sail off into the wide blue yonder.”

When the show aired, Proby immediately became extremely famous, the very definition of the overnight sensation, even if his fame was to be short-lived. A single, “Hold Me” was recorded and rushed out so quickly that a stray vocal was inadvertently pressed into the record’s fadeout on the initial run. The song became a smash, reaching #3 in the UK charts. He racked up more hits with utterly histrionic (and almost insane-sounding, yet mesmerizing) cover versions of West Side Story‘s “Somewhere” and “Maria,” as well as with a song the Beatles had tried unsuccessfully to record for the Help! soundtrack, but that none of them could adequately sing. They opted to gift the song, “That Means a Lot,” to someone with the pipes who could, their American pal (well at least Lennon liked him) Proby. Incredibly, George Martin even arranged the song for him!
 

PJ Proby performs the castoff number from ‘Help!’ that Lennon and McCartney gave him, “That Means a Lot” on ‘Hollywood A Go-Go’ in 1965. If you are not mazed by this, I cannot possibly help you.

What insane luck, right? Soon Beatles manager Brian Epstein set up Proby with a UK package tour, co-headlining with Cilla Black. That’s when things got a bit out of the egotistical young rocker’s control: At a date in Croydon, Proby clad in his trademark tight velvet jumpsuit and looking like an 18th century dandy, was doing his James Brown-inspired stage act (the likes of which still staid post war Britain had not yet seen) and slid across the stage, tearing his pants around the knees and upwards from there. The crowd of teenaged girls went utterly mad, but the incident caused a stir in the media getting Proby on the radar of Britain’s self-appointed moral censor, Mary Whitehouse. When Proby did the same thing two nights later it was widely reported that he’d done something lewd in Luton. The Daily Mirror wrote that he was a “morally insane degenerate” and urged parents to keep their children from attending one of his shows. Whitehouse called his “thrusting” obscene but Proby claimed otherwise and available photos seem to corroborate his side of the story. He was kicked off the tour anyway and banned from the ABC theater chain and BBC radio and television. This was a good decade before the Sex Pistols, of course. Proby had a few more semi hits, but without radio play his star quickly faded. He later said of the incident:

“I was Britain’s Errol Flynn, the rough mother of pop. I was Jimmy Dean all busted up. I was Marlon Brando. They wanted rid of me.”

 

Canadian audiences were still able to thrill to Proby live in concert, while his work visa was yanked for a time in the UK
 
Back in Hollywood, Proby had his sole Billboard Hot 100 Top 30 hit with the infectious cajun-spiced rocker “Niki Hoeky.” He bought a mansion in Beverly Hills and married one of Dean Martin’s daughters. When he found out that she’d been having an affair with his car mechanic and saw them walking together hand in hand, he discharged his gun in the air several times to intimidate them. He soon found himself surrounded at gunpoint by much of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s department and did a three month stint in a holding cell before moving back to the UK. He recorded his Three Week Hero album in 1968 with Jimmy Page, Robert Plant, John Bonham and John Paul Jones, then of the New Yardbirds, but soon to be rechristened Led Zeppelin. It was the very first time all four of them would be inside of a recording studio together.

In 1971 Proby played Cassio on the West End in Catch My Soul, Jack Good’s rock musical adaptation of Shakespeare’s Othello. He made the cabaret and nightclub circuit for money and even recorded an album with the Dutch prog rockers Focus (it’s amazing!). In 1977, again with Good producing, he co-starred in Elvis – The MusicalShakin’ Stevens played the young King of rock and roll while Proby played him in his later years—which won a Best Musical award the following year. Proby was fired when he began getting drunk before going onstage and started speaking directly to the audience.

There are all kinds of crazy PJ Proby stories involving Jack Daniels, bankruptcies, guns, underage girls, more guns and more Jack Daniels. Every once in while during the 80s he’d turn up again in some completely insane or scandalous situation. He went through six wives. He worked as a shepherd on a farm before running off with the farmer’s daughter. He recorded some totally off the wall covers of songs like “Love Will Tear Us Apart,” “Heroes” and “Tainted Love” for the Manchester-based Savoy label, there was at least one fairly lurid television news piece about him…

Much more PJ Proby after the jump…

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Posted by Richard Metzger
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07.25.2017
09:21 am
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That one time Elvis died
07.14.2017
08:01 am
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It’s easy to forget how weird Elvis was. Sure, I mean weird “like a prince from another planet,” in the New York Times’ phrase, but I also mean weird like an ordinary nerd. Kicked, punched, wedgied, swirlied, dumped-in-the-trash-can weird. Sun Records artist Barbara Pittman makes it sound like humiliating Elvis was once a kind of neighborhood sport:

My older brother went to school with him, and he and some of the other boys used to hide behind buildings and throw things at him—rotten fruit and stuff—because he was different, because he was quiet and he stuttered and he was a mama’s boy.

He could have been John Lauber, the gay schoolmate whose bleached hair Mitt Romney reportedly chopped off with scissors as a senior. He very nearly was, according to Memphis Mafioso Red West, who claims to have broken up just such a scene in the high school men’s room:

What sealed our fate forever, I’m sure: between classes, I went into the bathroom one day, and I saw these three guys and Elvis back in the corner. Two of ‘em were holding him, one guy had the scissors. Elvis was different: he wore the long hair, and all of us had crew cuts. And I walked in, looking around. “What’s goin’ on, boys?”

“We gonna cut a little hair off this boy, here, you know.”

And I said, “He don’t look like he wants it cut off, to me.”

He said, “No he don’t, but we do.”

And I said, “Well, if you cut his, you’re gonna cut mine, and I ain’t got too damn much up here to cut.” And they looked at me to see if I was serious, and they saw that I was serious, and they let him go.

Now, the story that these were football players—these weren’t football players. These were just redneck dumbasses.

 

 
So while some of the world’s mean motherfuckers consider Elvis one of their own, their claim is by no means exclusive. To be the King of Rock and Roll is to be the king of every abnormal person who’s ever been on the losing end of a fight. I’ll grant you that Elvis did not always act with these subjects’ best interest at heart, as when, in the rambling letter to Nixon he wrote on American Airlines stationery, he volunteered to use his bona fides with “The Drug Culture, The Hippie Elements, The SDS, Black Panther, etc” to infiltrate those groups as a “Federal Agent at Large.”

But Elvis contained multitudes. At least in the probably apocryphal version of the Elvis story Lux Interior of the Cramps said he heard from Sam Phillips’ son (which one?) “one drunken night,” Elvis was “The Drug Culture” of 1954, leveraging Gladys’ supply of bennies for studio time:

Yeah, we were told that Elvis wasn’t discovered as such at all! He was just some freaky-looking kid always making a nuisance of himself around Sun Studios and nobody wanted to know him. Like here’s this guy who dyed his fuckin’ eyebrows and dressed in black pimp clothes—and this was the ‘50s in the South, you’ve got to remember—and Sam Phillips and all the session guys thought he was some disgusting little faggot!

However Elvis did have this one piece of luck. His mother, right, had a really bad weight problem and the doctor prescribed her this enormous supply of diet pills which just happened to be… these pills were just pure benzedrine, right, which is a very potent form of speed.

And all those Sun guys just lived on speed, man. So when Phillips found out that Elvis could get bottles of these things, he let him hang around. So, like, here was Elvis every week bringing huge bottles of these pills to the guys at Sun until, as he was the studio’s main source of supply for speed, Phillips was more or less obliged to let him cut a record.

So like, rock ‘n’ roll was born simply because Elvis Presley was Sun Records’ number one speed dealer.

 

 
It’s fitting that the book Elvis is said to have taken with him on his fatal trip to the can, A Scientific Search for the Face of Jesus, concerned the Shroud of Turin, which is either a holy relic or a total ripoff, depending on who’s talking. He was about to pass into just such an indeterminate state, Elvis was, forever leaving behind the dimension that has toilets for the one made entirely out of meaning. And now that he’s been a pure symbol for so long, hardly anyone remembers that he used to sing. (N.B.: Elvis was fucking great!) But everyone remembers that he died on the shitter.

VCRs and cassette decks everywhere whirred into action on August 16, 1977, perhaps hoping to capture a glimpse or echo of EP kung-fuing his way through the pearly gates. Because I love Elvis, before I am subjected to the inevitable cable news specials marking the 40th anniversary of his death next month, I’m inoculating myself with heavy doses of raw video. There are hours of TV and radio coverage of the event. Perhaps you’d like to join me?

After the jump, nearly two hours of Elvis death coverage and ‘mini-docs’...

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Posted by Oliver Hall
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07.14.2017
08:01 am
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80s ‘Superfans’ talk about their obsessions for Bowie, Boy George, Duran Duran & Elvis

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Superfans in the sixties.
 
I don’t suppose I fit the requirements to be called a superfan, well, unless you count having a cheeky wank to a Kate Bush video when I was much younger. Probably not. But I did once (all too briefly) date a tall blonde David Bowie superfan, who probably only ever went out with me because of my passable impression of the Thin White Duke. My vocal dexterity was convincing enough for this dear sweet girl to demand I serenade her with one or two of her favorite Bowie songs during our more intimate moments. I knew it could never last. There was only so long I could sing “The Laughing Gnome” without losing my ardor.

Back in January 1984, Smash Hits music magazine went in search of a selection of typical eighties superfans. They discovered a band of girls and boys who had an overwhelming passion for all things Bowie, Presley, Duran Duran, Culture Club, Madness, Staus Quo, and even Marillion. These young things gave some sweet and occasionally strange answers as they tried to explain exactly what it means to be a “superfan.” Their answers were compiled into a strange format—as if the writer was attempting to cram in as many words as possible into one sentence without thought for punctuation or even explaining who exactly was talking (Me). But that’s not so important as we do get to hear what it meant to be young(-ish) and obsessed with music in the 1980s.
 
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Smash Hits 5-18 January 1984.
 
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DURAN FANS

NAMES: TRACY PARKES & KIM GREVILLE
AGES: 15 & 14
HOME: BIRMINGHAM

“I (Tracy) liked them when they first came out. She talked me (Kim) into going on Duran Duran ‘cause I liked Dexys. She told me to take down all my DMR stuff, give it away and stick up Duran Duran. We have about the same amount of stuff. Tracy has more scrapbooks but I’ve got more on the wall—about 50 different things. We don’t get anything. We only get things if we like them. If it’s a really gonkified pic of Simon le Bon we won’t get it. You don’t put gonks on your wall do you? There’s sort of levels of being a fan. We’ve got a friend who is a real fan but we think she prefers football. She only puts up little pictures on her wall. Even if we see a little one when we’re walking up the street, we’ll be screaming. There was one time she went totally mad on Wham!. We didn’t talk to her for about three days. Then suddenly she went back to Duran. All the lost Duran Duran fans are Wham! fans. We visit Roger’s mum and we’ve been up to Nick and John’s parents’ houses. The first time we went to Roger’s we interviewed his mum for a school project and we found out a few facts that no-one else knew. She told us he was tone deaf and that his favourite toy was a glove puppet. And that his favourite meal is Welsh Rarebit. We’ve been up twice now. No three times. The last time she invited us. His dad was there decorating. We had our pictures took with his dad, his mum and the dog. I think people who go mad and sleep on the grass outside are cruel. OK, you might see him but he isn’t going to ask you out and that is what a lot of fans expect. Some of the girls say they are going to meet John Taylor one day. He’s going to swirl them round to the dinner table—with chocolates and everything—and ask them to marry him. We know that isn’t going to happen. I (Tracy) would love to be in one of their videos. Yeah (Kim), even if we were only standing at the bus stop. Anything. The only thing we have in common is that we’re Duran Duran fans. I’m (Tracy) quiet; she’s noisy. I (Kim) say the wrong things; she doesn’t”

 
More superfans discussing their love of Staus Quo, Madness, Elvis Presley and David Bowie, after the jump….

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Posted by Paul Gallagher
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04.26.2017
09:46 am
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When Quentin Tarantino played an Elvis Impersonator on ‘The Golden Girls’


 
In 1988, before Quentin Tarantino had sold his scripts for True Romance or Natural Born Killers, leading the way to secure a deal to direct his first film Reservoir Dogs, he appeared for a few seconds as an Elvis impersonator at Sophia’s wedding in an episode of The Golden Girls.

Tarantino discussed the appearance in a 1994 Playboy interview:

“Well, it was kind of a high point because it was one of the few times that I actually got hired for a job. I was one of 12 Elvis impersonators, really just a glorified extra. For some reason they had us sing Don Ho’s ‘Hawaiian Love Chant.’ All the other Elvis impersonators wore Vegas-style jumpsuits. But I wore my own clothes, because I was, like, the Sun Records Elvis. I was the hillbilly cat Elvis. I was the real Elvis; everyone else was Elvis after he sold out.”

Indeed, Tarantino’s Elvis look doesn’t seem too far off from the look he sports in his 1987 unfinished directorial debut, My Best Friend’s Birthday, in which a character he plays in the film seems obsessed with Elvis (a theme that would carry on through other films in Tarantino’s body of work).

See QT in action as Elvis after the jump…

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Posted by Christopher Bickel
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03.24.2017
08:03 am
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Own Elvis’ personal Quaalude bottle
05.20.2016
09:01 am
Topics:
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There seems to be quite a market for Elvis Presley drug paraphernalia out there! Just six months ago we posted about an auction featuring Valium and Naldecon bottles once owned by The King™, along with a prescription written by his infamous doctor George “Dr. Nick” Nichopoulos (R.I.P February 24, 2016). Tomorrow, still more prescription bottles are being made available to “lucky” bastards with more money than sense—each is expected to fetch $6,000-8,000, and auction house estimates tend to be on the low side so as not to discourage bidders.

I’d love to know who the hell is buying these. Is there a trader scene, like with Grateful Dead tapes? “DUDE, you have doubles of Trisoralen? I’ll swap you two Valium and a Maolate!”

This auction—being held tomorrow by “Auction House to the Stars” Julien’s—features not only the evidently de rigueur Valium and Naldecon, but Dalmane, Temaril, Triavil, Trisoralen, and something called “Sanilert” that doesn’t appear to be a drug that actually existed but one that sounds alarmingly like a portmanteau of “sanity” and “alertness.” (What’s visible on the partial label in the photo provided clearly reads “keep sanity.”) God only knows what the hell that actually was. And then there’s the grail: a bottle that once held Elvis’ supply of that most acutely ‘70s chemical refreshment, Quaaludes.
 

 

 
See more of The King™‘s drug bottles, after the jump…

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Posted by Ron Kretsch
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05.20.2016
09:01 am
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‘Your Groovy Self’: Watch Nancy Sinatra do something really amazing (with very little effort)
03.30.2016
11:50 am
Topics:
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Speedway is a typical lightweight Elvis romp from the ‘60s co-starring Nancy Sinatra who plays a sexy IRS agent who comes to audit racecar driver Elvis, whose business manager (Bill Bixby) is an idiot addicted to gambling. She succumbs to the King’s charms, natch. There are songs and even a plucky homeless family living in their car. That’s Speedway‘s plot in a nutshell.

Carl Ballantine from McHale’s Navy and Gale Gordon, best known as Mr. Mooney from The Lucy Show are also part of the cast. One production number, for a song called “He’s Your Uncle, Not Your Dad,” takes place in an IRS office! It’s perfectly dreadful, if entertaining, drivel, but it does have two great numbers in it. Elvis does a rocker called “Let Yourself Go” that was released as a single, but flopped, which is a shame, because it’s one of my own personal very top favorite Elvis tracks. (Glenn Danzig must feel the same way, he recorded a credible cover version in 2007.)
 

 
And then Nancy Sinatra performs a swingin’ little number called “Your Groovy Self,” complete with decidedly minimalist mod choreography. It’s also one of her best songs: written and produced by Lee Hazlewood, she’s backed by a brassy configuration of the Wrecking Crew. It’s most certainly one of her best performances on film and the sole track by anyone other than Elvis himself to appear on the soundtrack album to one of his movies.
 

 
Two fun facts: First, Speedway was originally written for Sonny and Cher!

Second, take a look at the nightclub: Quentin Tarantino’s set design for Jack Rabbit Slims in Pulp Fiction was inspired by the campy racecar decor of the Hangout, where Speedway’s in-crowd mix.

The plot device that gets Nancy to sing is when Carl Ballantine, the maitre’d of the Hangout shines a spotlight on her, and for some arbitrary Elvis-movie logic, she has to “get up and do something.”

See what she did, after the jump…

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Posted by Richard Metzger
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03.30.2016
11:50 am
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The Bowie, Elvis, Warhol ‘Black Star’ connection: Popism eats itself

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Like everyone else on this planet, I feel the loss of David Bowie like a black hole in my heart and this sets me searching and thinking and finding weirdness a go-go (and everything tastes nice). After watching the new video for “Lazarus,” I was left chilled to the bone as though it was recorded as he was dying, and as if he were speaking directly to me. The whole thing with UK newspapers saying there are “clues” all over Blackstar and all that “Paul is Dead” sorta stuff. Except David Bowie is dead. I mean he is dead, right? Then I was alerted to the unreleased song “Black Star” recorded by Bowie’s birth mate (everyone knows they share a birthday of course) Elvis!
 
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This track was recorded for a 1960 film that was originally to be called Black Star but that wound up being retitled Flaming Star instead.

The original recording sat in the vaults until the 1990s when it became available to the public. Besides sharing a birthday with the King of Rock and Roll, Bowie was very interested in and influenced by Elvis, too, so there would be no reason to think that he wouldn’t have been aware of this song, with its aptly chilling lyrics that could be applied to Bowie’s end of life situation…

Every man has a black star
A black star over his shoulder
And when a man sees his black star
He knows his time, his time has come

Black star don’t shine on me, black star
Black star keep behind me, black star
There’s a lot of livin’ I gotta do
Give me time to make a few dreams come true, black star

When I ride I feel that black star
That black star over my shoulder
So I ride in front of that black star
Never lookin’ around, never lookin’ around

Black star don’t shine on me, black star
Black star keep behind me, black star
There’s a lot of livin’ I gotta do
Give me time to make a few dreams come true, black star

One fine day I’ll see that black star
That black star over my shoulder
And when I see that old black star
I’ll know my time, my time has come

Black star don’t shine on me, black star
Black star keep behind me, black star
There’s a lot of livin’ I gotta do
Give me time to make a few dreams come true, black star

 
Here’s Elvis’ “Black Star”:
 

 
And Bowie’s “Blackstar”...
 

 
...with its own chilling and obscure lyrics:

In the villa of Ormen, in the villa of Ormen
Stands a solitary candle, ah-ah, ah-ah
In the centre of it all, in the centre of it all
Your eyes

On the day of execution, on the day of execution
Only women kneel and smile, ah-ah, ah-ah
At the centre of it all, at the centre of it all
Your eyes, your eyes

Ah-ah-ah
Ah-ah-ah

In the villa of Ormen, in the villa of Ormen
Stands a solitary candle, ah-ah, ah-ah
In the centre of it all, in the centre of it all
Your eyes
Ah-ah-ah

Something happened on the day he died
Spirit rose a metre and stepped aside
Somebody else took his place, and bravely cried
(I’m a blackstar, I’m a blackstar)

How many times does an angel fall?
How many people lie instead of talking tall?
He trod on sacred ground, he cried loud into the crowd
(I’m a blackstar, I’m a blackstar, I’m not a gangster)

I can’t answer why (I’m a blackstar)
Just go with me (I’m not a filmstar)
I’m-a take you home (I’m a blackstar)
Take your passport and shoes (I’m not a popstar)
And your sedatives, boo (I’m a blackstar)
You’re a flash in the pan (I’m not a marvel star)
I’m the great I am (I’m a blackstar)

I’m a blackstar, way up, oh honey, I’ve got game
I see right so white, so open-heart it’s pain
I want eagles in my daydreams, diamonds in my eyes
(I’m a blackstar, I’m a blackstar)

Something happened on the day he died
Spirit rose a metre and stepped aside
Somebody else took his place, and bravely cried
(I’m a blackstar, I’m a star star, I’m a blackstar)

I can’t answer why (I’m not a gangster)
But I can tell you how (I’m not a flam star)
We were born upside-down (I’m a star star)
Born the wrong way ‘round (I’m not a white star)
(I’m a blackstar, I’m not a gangster
I’m a blackstar, I’m a blackstar
I’m not a pornstar, I’m not a wandering star
I’m a blackstar, I’m a blackstar)

In the villa of Ormen stands a solitary candle
Ah-ah, ah-ah
At the centre of it all, your eyes
On the day of execution, only women kneel and smile
Ah-ah, ah-ah
At the centre of it all, your eyes, your eyes
Ah-ah-ah

And as all things in pop culture eventually lead back to Andy Warhol, the kicker for me is that as I was looking into this I realized that all the infamous Warhol Elvis silkscreen art that you have seen your whole life is from (of course) a still photo from Flaming Star. And I don’t have to remind you that Bowie played Warhol in the 1996 film Basquiat do I? More will be revealed, I’m sure. It’s like that Kennedy and Lincoln coincidence thing, isn’t it?
 
vhbkuyjvxhd
 

Posted by Howie Pyro
|
01.12.2016
07:57 pm
|
Who was that masked man? ORION: The Man Who Would Be King
12.04.2015
12:10 pm
Topics:
Tags:


 
This is a guest post by Jeanie Finlay, director of ORION: The Man Who Would Be King which comes out in limited release today via Sundance Selects. In cinemas and on VOD through all of the usual suspects: iTunes, Amazon, Direct TV, YouTube and elsewhere.

Ten years ago I was at a garage sale with my husband Steven in our hometown of Nottingham, England. On a stall filled with cheap ornaments and dog-eared paperbacks, standing proudly at the front of a box of faded vinyl records, we found this album:
 

 
Orion: Reborn. Sun Records. Collector’s gold vinyl. Release date on the back said 1979. No songs we’d ever heard of, but that coverWho was this mysterious masked man, standing hand on hips, with his perfect raven hair and sta-press trousers? What the hell was his story?

We took the record home, put it on and within seconds the mystery deepened. Whoever this guy was, he sounded exactly–and I mean exactly—like Elvis. Except these weren’t songs that Elvis ever recorded, and there was no mention of the King on the record. But there was the fact of Sun Records and this odd story on the back sleeve about this guy called Orion Eckley Darnell and something about a coffin, and a book… Most of all, though, there was this guy in the blue rhinestone-studded mask with the voice of Elvis. I had to know more.
 

  

The story I uncovered was one of the strangest I’ve ever encountered. As a documentary-maker, I’ve long been fascinated with stories that peek under the surface of popular culture and the machinations of the music industry, or explore just how important music is in our lives. Stories like The Great Hip Hop Hoax–about two Scottish chancers who faked their way to a record deal by pretending to be American rappers; SOUND IT OUT about the very last record shop in my home town in Teesside or Goth Cruise a documentary about 150 goths (along with 2500 “norms”) taking a cruise in the sunshine to Bermuda.

But this story had it all. A roller coaster tale of the Nashville music scene in the wake of Elvis Presley’s death, taking in deception, a quest for success, a search for identity and ending in brutal and tragic murder.

Even if you’ve never heard of Orion, you probably know about the “Elvis is Alive” myth. What I uncovered was that the story of Orion is the story of how that myth got started. 
In the marketing offices of Sun Records, maverick producer Shelby Singleton came up with the plan to utilize the incredible pipes of Alabama singer Jimmy Ellis – a voice which was both a blessing and a curse to the singer. Ellis had found it hard to get a solid foothold in the industry because of the similarity of his voice to Elvis’ –a similarity which was wholly unpracticed. Jimmy didn’t try to sound like Elvis, he just did. That made it hard for any record company to use him.
 

 
Shelby had already tried one tack, dubbing Jimmy Ellis’ vocals uncredited onto the Jerry Lee Lewis tracks in the Sun catalog, releasing the recording under the name of Jerry Lee Lewis “and friends.” He’d leave it up to the audience to come to the conclusion –if they saw fit—that it might just be a previously unheard recording from the depths of the Sun vaults. After all, it sounded just like Elvis…

 

“I was born in Sun Records, in the studio.”

But it wasn’t until Shelby came across a novel by Georgia writer Gail Brewer Giorgio that the stars aligned for Jimmy Ellis.  Orion was the story of the world’s greatest rock star and how he fakes his own death. As a character, her “Orion” was not a million miles away from a certain Memphis-dwelling King. It was a fantasy that so easily could be true. A fantasy that could be made true… In a move that Shelby himself later described as “part madman, part genius,” Sun Records put a mask on Jimmy Ellis, rechristened him “Orion” and unleashed him on an unsuspecting world. In Jimmy Ellis, Shelby had “The Voice.” And the book gave him a name, and a backstory.
 

A copy of the letter announcing the name “ORION” for the first time. The mask was the beginning of the Orion mystery.

In May of 1979, one month after his announcement of the imminent arrival of “ORION,” Shelby Singleton sent the first single to the radio stations. The cuts were “Ebony Eyes” and “Honey,” but there was no label on either side. Shelby wanted to build the mystery. The voice was the thing. He knew that the moment they heard that voice, they would have a million questions. And they’d want to see the mouth it came from…
 

 
Orion’s first album was readied – but hit controversy when there were complaints about the depiction of the masked singer appearing to rise from the dead from an open casket. (It was replaced by the blue cover above, which was later to catch my eye.)

Orion was now out in the world. Performing across America, always in the mask, always in character (legend was that Shelby would fine Jimmy if he were caught not wearing the mask at any time). And the crowds came. Hundreds and thousands of them, many coming for that voice–and many simply coming for the fantasy, the fantasy that the thin mask kept precariously in place. But for Jimmy, it was a frustrating ride.
 

 
Orion traveled the world while on Sun–including, bizarrely, performing with Kiss in Germany—putting out seven albums on Sun in just five years, but Jimmy hated the mask; the gimmick that provided the all-important mystery was ultimately a trap.  He could never be himself.
 

“Look Me Up”

When the gimmick wore thin, Ellis discarded the mask. The fragile spell was broken – but Jimmy was free. However, he struggled to step out of the shadow of Presley and the voice he was “blessed and cursed” with. He tried out many different identities – Ellis James, Mister E – he put the mask back on, then took it off again - but he never really found the same bright spotlight again.
 

 
For the past four years, I have tracked down the people that were close to Orion to discover his story. The result is ORION: The Man Who Would Be King.

More ‘Orion: The Man Who Would Be King’ after the jump…

READ ON
Posted by Richard Metzger
|
12.04.2015
12:10 pm
|
Elvis Presley drug paraphernalia up for auction
11.04.2015
08:52 am
Topics:
Tags:


 
Julien’s calls itself “The Auction House to the Stars,” and not without reason—an auction they’re holding this week, “Icons and Idols 2015: Rock n’ Roll,” features a metric shitload of guitars, amps, and even a couple of autoharps owned by Heart’s Nancy Wilson, Jim Morrisson’s Tallahassee mug shot, Michael Jackson memorabilia that includes his fang mold from the “Thriller” video, a Jimi Hendrix rehearsal cassette, and even handwritten song lyrics by Johnny Cash (about those last two THE HOLIDAYS ARE COMING UP YOU GUYS I’M JUST SAYIN’).

But nothing in the auction, however badass, has anything like the lurid appeal of some of the Elvis Presley lots. There’s one of Elvis’ Cadillacs. There’s a gold-leaf piano. Bafflingly, there’s even a Chai necklace. Pretty sure The King wasn’t Jewish, but hey, I’m sure he’d be welcome in the tribe. There’s a lot of great Elvis stuff on the block at Julien’s for the discerning 1%er who has it all. but the real winners here are his drug paraphernalia.

Sadly, his notorious final prescription (reproduced on the back cover of Death of Samantha’s Laughing In The Face Of A Dead Man EP, I’m compelled to mention) is not among the lots offered for bidding here, but there IS a prescription written by Elvis’ infamous personal physician George “Dr. Nick” Nichopoulos, for the muscle relaxer Maolate.
 

Lot 127

There are two pill bottles here, too—empty, smartass—one for Valium, one for the antihistamine Naldecon. In 2007, an Elvis Naldecon bottle sold for $2,640. This one’s expected to go for $4,000—$6,000.
 

Lot 128
 

Lot 129

Finally, if you have the projected $1,000—$2,000, you can brandish Dr. Nick’s very own golden ID card identifying him as a member of Elvis’ entourage. That has to open SOME doors, no?
 

 
Lot 126
 
Continues after the jump…

READ ON
Posted by Ron Kretsch
|
11.04.2015
08:52 am
|
Elvis Presley, Perry Como… Minor Threat? Granny panties, now for hipsters!
06.15.2015
08:10 am
Topics:
Tags:


 
According to the Internet, 2015 is the year granny panties come back into style.

Whether this is a result of a healthier body-positive society or simply hipster “normcore” irony infiltrating the undergarment market, it’s certainly a clear-cut case of “everything old is new again.”

Here’s a trend we’d really love to see come back: granny panties embroidered with little 45 rpm records—you buy six of them and get a free single!
 

The music fan in this photo may want to consider using a pair over her greasy mitts, as her record handling skills leave something to be desired.
 
The 1958 Sears catalog ad features an unbeatable deal: You buy six adorable pairs of embroidered panties, and you get a free record of your choice: Elvis Presley, Eddie Fisher, or Perry Como!
 

Now, we’re not sure how many underthings Eddie Fisher or Perry Como were moving, but we’re pretty sure Elvis was causing lots and lots of panties to need replacing back in ‘58.
 
Fast-forward to 2015’s granny panty offerings after the jump…

READ ON
Posted by Christopher Bickel
|
06.15.2015
08:10 am
|
Elvis Presley’s teeth visit English town
04.30.2014
12:22 pm
Topics:
Tags:

Elvis' teeth
 
If you were active in the Malvern area in western England today (Wednesday, April 30)—you know, up near Redditch, Bromyard, Studley, and Droitwich Spa (none of those names are made up)—you most likely missed a once-in-a-lifetime chance to pay homage to Elvis Presley’s teeth at Beacon Dental Care on Pickersleigh Road (nope, didn’t make that one up either). Elvis fan and licensed dentist Dr. Karen Sutton was expected be on hand. Staff were obliged to “dress up”; “Elvis’ legendary music will be played in the waiting room.”
 

“The King’s Crown”
 
To get technical about it, what was actually on display was a model of Elvis’ teeth along with a “genuine” crown, which has led everyone writing about this to work in a reference to the King’s Crown, har de har har. The crown was made for the rock and roll legend by a Memphis dentist named Henry J. Weiss.

Dr. Sutton insists that the day has a serious message behind it, to raise awareness of mouth cancer (free mouth screenings were available). “Beacon Dental Care is thrilled to have been selected to host the prized object which is on loan for a day,” quoth the doc.

Elvis’ crown was bought on auction in February 2012 for $11,000 by Michael Zuk, a Canadian author, dentist and obsessive collector of celebrity teeth. Wait a minute, Michael Zuk…. I know that name! I wrote about this guy last August ... Zuk had purchased one of John Lennon’s rotten molars for $31,000 and claimed to want to generate a whole new John Lennon from the DNA in the tooth.

So it seems this Zuk guy really is a celebrity tooth collector. What’s next, a “Jurassic Park”-style theme park featuring the cloned denizens of rock-n-roll Heaven?
 
Elvis
 
via Arbroath

Posted by Martin Schneider
|
04.30.2014
12:22 pm
|
Elvis’ Greatest Shit: 50,000,000 Elvis fans CAN be wrong
04.21.2014
11:50 am
Topics:
Tags:


 
Although the intention of Elvis’ Greatest Shit to wallow in bad taste is pretty obvious from its use of the infamous coffin shot of a dead King of Rock and Roll (allegedly shot by Elvis’ cousin BIlly Mann and sold to the National Enquirer for $18,000) on the album cover, let alone the blunt title, can it honestly be said that the external trappings are any worse here than the music within?

Probably not.

Compiled by a mysterious bootlegger named “Richard” on “Dog Vomit Records”—purveyors of “Let’s Drop Some ‘Ludes And Vomit With Jimi Hendrix”—the collection was exactly what you’d think it is, the worst of the worst of Elvis Presley’s musical output, most of it sourced from his Hollywood films, with a few numbers recorded in the waning years before he’d eaten his last deep-fried peanut-butter-and-banana sandwich.

With song selections like “He’s Your Uncle, Not Your Dad” (about an IRS audit), “Dominic” (about an impotent bull”), “Queenie Wahine’s Papaya” (don’t wanna know) and “Fort Lauderdale Chamber of Commerce” (what?), Elvis himself probably would have agreed that this was the worst dross he’d ever recorded. Hell, no wonder he became such a waste case. Imagine how humiliating these songs were for him to sing, and this was still a good few years away from Elvis’ awful BJ Thomas cover version-era of the 1970s!
 

“Old MacDonald Had a Farm” from Double Trouble
 

“Yoga Is As Yoga Does,” a duet with Elsa Lanchester(!) from 1967’s Easy Come, Easy Go
 

“He’s Your Uncle, Not Your Dad” from Speedway
 
More of Elvis’ Greatest Shit after the jump…

READ ON
Posted by Richard Metzger
|
04.21.2014
11:50 am
|
Who was that masked man? ORION: The Man Who Would Be King
04.14.2014
06:52 pm
Topics:
Tags:


 
This is a guest post by Jeanie Finlay, director of ORION: The Man Who Would Be King

Ten years ago I was at a garage sale with my husband Steven in our hometown of Nottingham, England. On a stall filled with cheap ornaments and dog-eared paperbacks, standing proudly at the front of a box of faded vinyl records, we found the above album.

Orion: Reborn. Sun Records. Collector’s gold vinyl. Release date on the back said 1979. No songs we’d ever heard of, but that coverWho was this mysterious masked man, standing hand on hips, with his perfect raven hair and sta-press trousers? What the hell was his story?

We took the record home, put it on and within seconds the mystery deepened. Whoever this guy was, he sounded exactly–and I mean exactly—like Elvis. Except these weren’t songs that Elvis ever recorded, and there was no mention of the King on the record. But there was the fact of Sun Records and this odd story on the back sleeve about this guy called Orion Eckley Darnell and something about a coffin, and a book… Most of all, though, there was this guy in the blue rhinestone-studded mask with the voice of Elvis. I had to know more.
 

  

The story I uncovered was one of the strangest I’ve ever encountered. As a documentary-maker, I’ve long been fascinated with stories that peek under the surface of popular culture and the machinations of the music industry, or explore just how important music is in our lives. Stories like The Great Hip Hop Hoax–about two Scottish chancers who faked their way to a record deal by pretending to be American rappers; SOUND IT OUT about the very last record shop in my home town in Teesside or Goth Cruise a documentary about 150 goths (along with 2500 “norms”) taking a cruise in the sunshine to Bermuda.

But this story had it all. A roller coaster tale of the Nashville music scene in the wake of Elvis Presley’s death, taking in deception, a quest for success, a search for identity and ending in brutal and tragic murder.

Even if you’ve never heard of Orion, you probably know about the “Elvis is Alive” myth. What I uncovered was that the story of Orion is the story of how that myth got started. 
In the marketing offices of Sun Records, maverick producer Shelby Singleton came up with the plan to utilize the incredible pipes of Alabama singer Jimmy Ellis – a voice which was both a blessing and a curse to the singer. Ellis had found it hard to get a solid foothold in the industry because of the similarity of his voice to Elvis’ –a similarity which was wholly unpracticed. Jimmy didn’t try to sound like Elvis, he just did. That made it hard for any record company to use him.
 

 
Shelby had already tried one tack, dubbing Jimmy Ellis’ vocals uncredited onto the Jerry Lee Lewis tracks in the Sun catalog, releasing the recording under the name of Jerry Lee Lewis “and friends.” He’d leave it up to the audience to come to the conclusion –if they saw fit—that it might just be a previously unheard recording from the depths of the Sun vaults. After all, it sounded just like Elvis…

 

“I was born in Sun Records, in the studio.”

But it wasn’t until Shelby came across a novel by Georgia writer Gail Brewer Giorgio that the stars aligned for Jimmy Ellis.  Orion was the story of the world’s greatest rock star and how he fakes his own death. As a character, her “Orion” was not a million miles away from a certain Memphis-dwelling King. It was a fantasy that so easily could be true. A fantasy that could be made true… In a move that Shelby himself later described as “part madman, part genius,” Sun Records put a mask on Jimmy Ellis, rechristened him “Orion” and unleashed him on an unsuspecting world. In Jimmy Ellis, Shelby had “The Voice.” And the book gave him a name, and a backstory.
 

A copy of the letter announcing the name “ORION” for the first time. The mask was the beginning of the Orion mystery.

In May of 1979, one month after his announcement of the imminent arrival of “ORION,” Shelby Singleton sent the first single to the radio stations. The cuts were “Ebony Eyes” and “Honey,” but there was no label on either side. Shelby wanted to build the mystery. The voice was the thing. He knew that the moment they heard that voice, they would have a million questions. And they’d want to see the mouth it came from…
 

 
Orion’s first album was readied – but hit controversy when there were complaints about the depiction of the masked singer appearing to rise from the dead from an open casket. (It was replaced by the blue cover above, which was later to catch my eye.)

Orion was now out in the world. Performing across America, always in the mask, always in character (legend was that Shelby would fine Jimmy if he were caught not wearing the mask at any time). And the crowds came. Hundreds and thousands of them, many coming for that voice–and many simply coming for the fantasy, the fantasy that the thin mask kept precariously in place. But for Jimmy, it was a frustrating ride.
 

 
Orion traveled the world while on Sun–including, bizarrely, performing with Kiss in Germany—putting out seven albums on Sun in just five years, but Jimmy hated the mask; the gimmick that provided the all-important mystery was ultimately a trap.  He could never be himself.
 

“Look Me Up”

When the gimmick wore thin, Ellis discarded the mask. The fragile spell was broken – but Jimmy was free. However, he struggled to step out of the shadow of Presley and the voice he was “blessed and cursed” with. He tried out many different identities – Ellis James, Mister E – he put the mask back on, then took it off again - but he never really found the same bright spotlight again. In December 1998, back in Orrville Alabama, the town he had left many years before to find success in music, Ellis was brutally murdered in his pawnshop during an armed robbery. A tragic ending for the man with the voice of a legend.
 

 
For the past four years, I have tracked down the people that were close to Orion to discover his story and I am raising finishing funds for ORION: The Man Who Would Be King on Indiegogo so that I can finish the documentary. You can support getting this story to the screen by pre-ordering the film, getting some original Orion memorabilia or even a bejeweled Orion mask.
 

Orion and author Gail Brewer Giorgio interviewed in 1979 TV news report.
 
More Orion, the man who would be King, after the jump…

READ ON
Posted by Richard Metzger
|
04.14.2014
06:52 pm
|
‘Having Fun with Elvis on Stage’: All banter, no songs, this is the weirdest Elvis album ever
04.03.2014
10:40 am
Topics:
Tags:

Having Fun with Elvis on Stage
 
Colonel Tom Parker, Elvis Presley’s friend/assistant/manager/svengali/whatever, was trying to figure out a way to release an Elvis album to which RCA, Elvis’ usual recording label, would own no rights. The problem was, contracts being what they are, RCA had exclusive rights to music released by Elvis. At some point he came up with a solution—release an “Elvis album” with no music! In 1974 Parker’s Box Car Records released the only LP it would ever release, an all-banter album with no songs at all called Having Fun with Elvis on Stage. And Parker owned the rights outright.
 
Tom Parker and Elvis
 
The album had two tracks, “Side A” (18:06) and “Side B” (19:00). Both sides consisted of a long succession of short, context-free snippets of Elvis talking on stage, introducing the next song and so forth. Since Elvis is seguing from this or that song, you get a lot of truncated audience clapping noises. If you are supposing that there is some rhyme or reason to the way the clips were put together, well then, you’ve overestimated the ingenuity of Col. Parker. Later RCA would release it as well; there is a CD release of it, billed as a “Special Extended Edition”—only who on earth would want this thing to be longer?
 
Having Fun with Elvis on Stage
 
Understandably, Having Fun with Elvis on Stage has come in for its share of abuse. It’s made a lot of “worst records of all time” lists, sometimes even making the top slot. The generally gentle Allmusic.com gave it one star (there really was no other option) and wrote of it, “Some have called Having Fun With Elvis on Stage thoroughly unlistenable, but actually it’s worse than that; hearing it is like witnessing an auto wreck that somehow plowed into a carnival freak show, leaving onlookers at once too horrified and too baffled to turn away.” Ouch. And yet, that’s not unfair.
 
A Talking Album Only
 
Some have compared Having Fun with Elvis on Stage to Lou Reed’s Metal Machine Music, but it’s nothing like that. You know the expression, “I’d pay to see that person read the telephone book?” Having Fun with Elvis on Stage is the rock music equivalent of that. Elvis was so immensely popular that people bought even this. It reached #130 on the Billboard charts and, almost incredibly, made it to #9 on Billboard’s Country Albums chart. The album had the (small) disclaimer on the cover “A Talking Album Only” but a good number of people didn’t notice, didn’t care, or were so enamored of Elvis that they enjoyed it anyway. Personally I think when people got home and put it on, they were pissed.

Here’s Side A, in full. I have to say, I’ll take 45 minutes of Paul Stanley’s banter any day.
 

 

Posted by Martin Schneider
|
04.03.2014
10:40 am
|
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