Monday, June 21, 2010

My Thoughts on Elvis

I became a belated Elvis fan. My earliest memories of Elvis were the song "Burning Love" when it was a hit in 1972 and they played it on the radio all the time and the 1973 Hawaii Concert.

At the age of 5, I really liked the song, and didn't think too much about the concert, but my mom really liked him.

I didn't think much more about Elvis after that. I suppose I saw him on the cover of some tabloid from time to time, but really didn't connect everything. Then, in 1977 they announced that he died.

I distinctly remember at age 10 saying to my mom when I heard the news on the radio, "I thought he had already died." The reason for my statement had more to do with my attitude about popular music, that if you didn't have big hits when you once did, you must have died. I didn't take into account that someone could have a career slump or fall out of favor or just retire.

So, with Elvis, the last big thing he did was that Hawaii special, because after he died, all the TV specials came out about his life and basically all Elvis did after 1973 was record a few more so-so charting songs, tour endlessly in areas I didn't live (I lived then as I do now in Saratoga, CA, near San Jose) and get fat.

Being a huge Beatles fan, I tried to like Elvis. Sure, there were a few tunes I liked like "Hound Dog", but the biggest problem with me being an Elvis fan was one of accessibility to his music. It must have been the most frustrating thing in the world to be an Elvis fan while he was alive, if you wanted to get a single copy of every song he recorded.

Unlike most singers and musicians, rarely would tracks repeat from album to album and usually only if an album is designated a "Greatest Hits" compilation. With Elvis, no real rhyme or reason existed with his albums. After I became a fan (which was about 10-15 years ago), I realized that Elvis albums never had his hit singles on them. The hit singles were compiled into hits collections. Later one, Elvis abandoned the album idea in favor of soundtracks, and this is where the fun really begins.

With the soundtracks, sometimes you would get lucky with all the songs from the movie on the soundtrack, but most of the time, they would fill the albums with either new tracks or repeat album tracks or some sort of leftovers.

Still later, Elvis would issue new albums again, but there would be budget-line compilations featuring lame songs from his soundtracks and a couple of hits, to get you to buy it. There usually would be no designator as to whether the new Elvis album was really new or just a garbage compilation.

The ultimate in absurdity was with the aforementioned "Burning Love", a hit single from 1972. You would think a song like this would headline a brand new album of brand new material. No such luck. Apart from "Burning Love" and its b-side, the "Burning Love" album was replete with more movie soundtrack leftovers.

THIS is why I never liked Elvis. Finally, box sets were made to correct the problem so that if you just wanted all of Elvis' in studio recordings, you would need to purchase the 50s, 60s and 70s boxes, a complete Christmas compilation, a complete Gospel compilation and if you desired, the various movie soundtrack two-fers.

With that, you get about 98% of what Elvis recorded in his lifetime. The only downside is with the 70s set, which leaves off quite a few of the studio recordings Elvis did from 1970-77, so you have to resort to a lot of out of print compilations to get those missing tracks as the 70s box has kind of replaced all of those other albums.

Unfortunately, the situation isn't about to change as the 70s material is much maligned and so a proper complete compilation isn't anywhere on the horizon.

But if 1954-1969 Elvis is what you're after, it is very complete.

Anyway, with proper repackaging, I can now reevaluate Elvis and realized that he had talent, but his recordings were mismanaged into "product". Had they taken more care to issue proper albums, Elvis might have even been bigger than he already is or was.

No comments: