Monthly Archives: July 2006

ELVISLAND at HARD ROCK PARK

Recent press reports announced the start of construction on a world-class theme park in Myrtle Beach, SC.  The intriguing part of this news is that the folks at Hard Rock Café are building it, and it will be a rock & roll themed attraction.  Covering 150 acres and costing $400 million, Hard Rock Park is scheduled to open in spring 2008.

 

According to company executives, Hard Rock Park will be an “evolution of theme parks” and a place to “showcase some of the finest pieces of rock memorabilia.”  Although it will be designed to appeal to the whole family, it will have a strong food and beverage component, including alcohol.  Of course, it will have a large concert arena that will feature headline entertainment.

 

The announcement said Hard Rock Park would have six themed areas but did not give any details.  Certainly, one of them would have to have an Elvis theme.  If Disneyland has Fantasyland, Frontierland, and Tomorrowland, Hard Rock Park needs to have Elvisland.

 

It’s been fun thinking about a possible Elvisland and to imagine what Elvis songs and movie titles would lend themselves to rides and other attractions.  Here’s my list:

 

Roller Coaster             All Shook Up:  This was just too easy.  What could be better than “All Shook Up?”  It certainly describes me after a roller coaster ride.

Flume Ride                 Kentucky Rain:  Not too many Elvis songs mention water, but this would work for a ride where you get soaking wet.

Go Kart Course            Speedway:  All the female staff could wear short outfits and boots like Nancy Sinatra’s in the movie.-

Dark Ride                    Mystery Train:  Dark Ride is park terminology originally used for things like haunted house rides, but it has evolved into spectacles like Pirates of the Caribbean and Indiana Jones.  With “Mystery Train” the designers could do anything their imaginations conjure up.

Animatronic Ride        Wild In The Country:  That movie title didn’t refer to woodland critters, but the ride’s designers could come up with a kiddy ride that works with the theme.

Ferris Wheel               Roustabout:  The name may be a stretch, but there was a Ferris Wheel in the movie, and it had a part in one of the sub-plots.

Swing Ride                 Easy Come, Easy Go:  The most popular swing ride is the pirate ship that arcs back and forth to ridiculous heights.  “Easy Come, Easy Go” vaguely invokes an image of pendulum-like movement.  The boat could be the Port Of Call, the sunken treasure ship in the movie.

Bumper Cars               Spinout:  That’s perfect.

Carousel                      Teddy Bear:  This would work if the traditional horses are replaced with big cuddly bears.

Scenic Boat Ride        Paradise, Hawaiian Style:  Once again, the title leaves the door open for the designers to create just about anything.

 

Of course, if Elvisland is to have a stage show, here’s a natural:

Good Rockin’ Tonight.”  One of the many shops could sell jewelry

and be called “Wear My Ring Around Your Neck.”  And finally, one of 

the restaurants could be called “Fried Peanut Butter and ‘Nanners.”  It

probably should be an all-you-can-eat buffet.

 

In a year or two, we will return to this subject to see if there is an

Elvisland and whether any of these names are on the rides at Hard

Rock Park.  Remember,you heard it here first.

 

 

©  2006   Philip R Arnold   www.elvisblog.net

 

ELVISBLOG NEWS — 7/25/06

Elvisblog has reached a milestone that seemed impossible when I posted the first article a year-and-a-half ago.  My blog software keeps count of how many visits are made to the website, and, as of Friday July 21, Elvisblog passed the milestone of 50,000 hits. 

 

The weekly count now consistently totals over 1000.  Because new content is added only once during the week, there doesn’t seem to be any good reason for readers to check in more frequently than once a week.  So, by that reasoning, I like to think Elvisblog has 1000 regular readers.  There is a lot of content now, so perhaps people just discovering Elvisblog do visit the site several times a week to catch up, but I’m sticking with the 1000 regular readers.  That’s really something.  Thank you.

 

A sizeable portion of Elvisblog content comes from reprints of my articles in Elvis International, The Magazine.  After the 29th Anniversary issue comes out in two weeks, I will be able to add two more long articles: “The Sun Sessions,” about Elvis’ best album, and “Al Wertheimer,” about the magical seven days the famous photographer spent with Elvis in 1956.

 

In a year or so, this fine magazine will transition from print media to electronic, and change its name to Elvis The Magazine.  You will be able to read the whole thing on-line and print it all or just selected stories.  There will also be a great deal of audio content for subscribers to enjoy.  The Webmaster says this is the wave of the future for websites, so this will be exciting.  More news on Elvis The Magazine will be posted in the months ahead.

 

©  2006   Philip R Arnold   www.elvisblog.net

A LITTLE MORE INFO ON “A LITTLE LESS CONVERSATION'

“A Little Less Conversation” was the surprise hit of 2002, and it introduced Elvis to a whole new generation of fans who had never heard “Heartbreak Hotel” or “All Shook Up.”  It probably has the most interesting story of any of Elvis’ #1 hits.  For starters, how many songs top the charts thirty-four years after they are recorded?

 

In 1968, Elvis filmed one of his last movies, Live A Little, Love A Little.  The musical director needed to come up with a song for a scene where Elvis tries to get a beautiful girl to leave a swimming pool with him.  Budding songwriter Mac Davis got the assignment.  Davis had already penned “A Little Less Conversation” in hopes Aretha Franklin would record it, but she showed no interest, so he submitted it for the Elvis movie.  It was the beginning of an association with Elvis that produced the hit songs “Memories,” “In The Ghetto,” and “Don’t Cry Daddy.”  It was also a significant step in Mac Davis’ own career, as he later became a major recording artist, with hits of his own like “Stop and Smell The Roses” (#9) and “Baby Don’t Get Hooked On Me” (#1).

 

In the late 60’s, many of Elvis’ singles came from movie soundtracks, and although Live A Little, Love A Little was a box-office bomb, that didn’t stop the tradition.  “Almost In Love” was released as the A-side, backed with “A Little Less Conversation.”  “Almost in Love” peaked at #98, but enough DJ’s flipped the record over and played the other side that “A Little Less Conversation” entered the charts for four weeks, peaking at #69.

 

Later in 1968, Elvis recorded another version of “A little Less Conversation” for a production number in the ’68 Comeback Special.  It was cut from the final show, but it did make it into the special’s soundtrack album.  Then, for the next thirty-four years, the song languished in obscurity.

 

That changed in 2002 when Nike Corp. wanted a special song to use in their promotional ad blitz during the TV broadcasts of the soccer World Cup.  Nike’s theme for their sports shoes at that time was “Just Do It,” and someone on their staff suggested the “less talk and more action” lyrics of “A Little Less Conversation’ would be perfect for the campaign.  The brain trust at Nike agreed but thought the original arrangement was dated and needed to be revved up for the modern age. 

 

Soon, they connected with a Dutch musician and producer, Tom Holkenburg, who modestly described himself as a “master alchemist, electronic daredevil, and breaker of sound barriers.”  He was one of Europe’s hottest producers, and much of his work had been in advertising music.  His specialties were industrial rock and techno, and he did his thing under the pseudonym JXL.  J stood for “junky”, XL stood for “expanding the limits” of music.  JXL stirred up a truly incredible mix of techno sounds, all built around the original vocals and accompaniment. 

 

The Nike ad featuring “ A Little Less Conversation” appeared on television all over Europe in the spring of 2002.  The music was so popular that people called the stations and asked to hear the ad again and inquired where they could buy the CD.  When RCA/BMG Records heard about this, it didn’t take them long to oblige.  They put out a CD with three versions of “A Little Less Conversation” on it: a three-minute thirty-second version for radio play, a six-minute version as a dance track, and the one-minute thirty-nine-second 1968 original.

 

“A Little Less Conversation” soon topped the charts in over thirty countries all over Europe, Asia, the Middle East, Africa, and of course, the USA.  However, the strange story didn’t end here.  The multi-platinum CD Elvis’s Thirty #1 Hits came out a short time later.  You probably have a copy, so check out the song list.  There are actually thirty-one songs.  RCA/BMG added “A Little Less Conversation” to boost sales, and the fans got a bonus song.

 

“A Little Less Conversation” certainly proved one thing.  Elvis may be dead, but his music and influence live on.

 

©  2006 Philip R Arnold   www.elvisblog.net

Like a Prince from Another Planet

Everybody knows the two signature events of Elvis’ latter career were the ‘68 Comeback Special and the Elvis Aloha From Hawaii worldwide TV broadcast.  Do you know there was one other event that was a very big deal at the time but has faded a bit from memory?  I am referring to the four-show block of concerts Elvis gave at Madison Square Garden on June 9, 10, and 11, 1972.  If they had been preserved on film, they would probably rank up there with Aloha and the Comeback Special.

 

It’s hard to believe Elvis never gave a concert in New York City prior to this, because he had spent a lot of time there.  He was in town to do TV broadcasts for six Dorsey Brothers Shows, one Steve Allen Show, and three Ed Sullivan Shows.  He also had two recording sessions at RCA Studios that gave us “Blue Suede Shoes,” “Hound Dog,” and “Don’t Be Cruel.”  In 1958, he departed for Army service in Germany from New York Harbor before a huge crowd of fans and members of the media.

 

But Elvis did no live shows in New York City during the 50’s and none during his first three years back on the road after the movies ended.  It has been suggested this strange absence can be traced to Col. Tom Parker’s management.  He had a long memory of the brutal treatment the New York press gave Elvis in 1956.

 

By 1972, Elvis’ concerts were huge successes in Las Vegas and dozens of other cities.  Parker probably figured the time was right for Elvis to conquer New York – and Elvis certainly did.  The Colonel originally planned to do three shows at Radio City Music Hall, but when he got a sense of how big these concerts would be, he switched to Madison Square Garden. The single show on Friday and the two on Saturday sold out so quickly that a Sunday show was added.  And, it sold out.  80,000 very happy New York fans were going to see Elvis live.  There was a noticeable buzz in the city leading up to Elvis' visit.

 

Elvis and company blew into town on June 8 in three leased airplanes.  The troupe was seventy-five people strong: the TCB Band, an orchestra, The Sweet Inspirations, JD Sumner and The Stamps, Kathy Westmoreland, tech people, equipment handlers, stagehands, and assorted buddies.

 

The next day, Col. Parker staged a press conference in the Mercury Ballroom of the New York Hilton five hours before the first concert.  Elvis was in a buoyant mood, and had a grand time sparring with the reporters.  Every newscast in the city that night carried a segment on Elvis’ press conference.  The King and The Big Apple.  It was meant for greatness.

 

image

 

Elvis was in good health, he was psyched to do super concerts for the New Yorkers, and he turned on the power.  The concerts were superb.  TCB pianist Glen Hardin said afterwards, “Elvis never sang better than he did at Madison Square Garden.”  Billboard magazine gushed, “Elvis has transcended the exasperating constrictions of time and place.”  The same New York Times that cruelly dismissed Elvis in 1956, now said, “He stood there at the end, his arms stretched out, the great gold cloak giving him wings, a champion, the only one in his class… He looked like a prince from another planet.”

 

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There are more stories to tell about Elvis performing at Madison Square Garden.  For now, let’s end with a question.  If they filmed the press conference, why didn’t they film the concert?  It would have made one heck of a DVD.

 

©  2006   Philip R Arnold   www.elvisblog.net 

 

Alfred Wertheimer – But His Friends Call Him Al

This will be the third Elvisblog article about Al Wertheimer in the past six weeks.  Normally, I try to mix up the subjects for good variety, but the impression this man made on me was so strong that it pushed other story ideas farther down the list.

 

The five hours I spent on the phone with Al Wertheimer were as interesting as anything I’ve ever done, and the stories he told me about Elvis are just classic. That resulted in a 2500-word article for Elvis International Magazine, and it could have been longer if not for space limitations.  However, these limitations enabled me to save a good story for Elvisblog.

 

One of Wertheimer’s most famous photos is Elvis wearing a cool motorcycle cap and sitting on his Harley Davidson.  If you’re an Elvis fan, you’ve seen this picture.  It was taken at Elvis’ first house at 1034 Audubon Drive on July 4th, 1956, minutes before he took a few of the fans for short rides around the area.

 

Wertheimer finally got up enough nerve to ask if Elvis would take him for a ride, too.  Elvis agreed and off they went.  Not for just a few blocks, but for a good long ride out into the suburbs.  Naturally, Wertheimer took along his camera, but he had already snapped many photos, so there weren’t too many shots left.  And he did not bring any extra rolls of film. 

 

Although Wertheimer had taken almost 4,000 photos of Elvis during the previous week, he had no shots of himself and Elvis together.  He tried to correct that while they zipped along on the cycle.  He held the camera out as far as he could with one hand and shot back toward their faces.  It was a big guessing game as to the proper angle and alignment, so Wertheimer moved the camera around and kept snapping until he ran out of film.

 

A few minutes later, Elvis’ Harley ran out of gas.  Wertheimer expressed concern that this could be a problem, because Elvis had a huge holiday concert due to start in a few hours.  However, Elvis told him not to worry, something would happen to solve their problem – and it did.  A young mother and her three-year-old daughter passed them, and she quickly slammed the car to a stop.  She recognized Elvis, just like he figured somebody would.

 

Once Elvis explained the problem, she drove off, and in short order, she was back with a jerry can of gasoline.  Elvis filled up the Harley’s tank, and they were ready to go.  Elvis never offered to pay for the gas, but when he thanked the lady, he gave her a big kiss (Do you think she would have preferred cash over that?).  He walked around to the other side of the car and kissed the little girl, too.  Wertheimer was so frustrated because he had no film to capture these charming moments.

 

He was even more frustrated when he developed the prints and discovered his guesses at the correct shooting-backward camera positions were all wrong.  He got Elvis’ cap, his nose, and a few full-face shots of Elvis, but none contained his own face, too.  Oh well, at least he got to ride on the Harley with Elvis.  How many people can say that?

 

I wanted to title this article something like “Elvis Takes Al Wertheimer For A Ride” but changed it as a favor to Alfred Wertheimer.  He is known as Al but much prefers Alfred.  He suggested (several times) that a good title for the Elvis International Magazine article would be “Alfred Wertheimer – But His Friends Call Him Al.”  However, I needed to get the 50th anniversary of his photo-taking extravaganza into the title, so I had to decline.  I am very pleased to use his suggestion here on Elvisblog.  Alfred Wertheimer now has one more friend to call him Al.

 

©  2006   Philip R Arnold   www.elvisblog.net

JUNICHIRO KOIZUMI PRESENTS MY FAVORITE ELVIS SONGS


This past Friday, the news was full of stories and live feeds of President Bush and Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi visiting Graceland.  Radio, TV, newspapers, and web news pages gave Elvis fans all the coverage we could possibly want, so what’s left to say on Elvisblog?  What’s an angle that hasn’t been covered?
 
Well. Here’s a good one.  Nearly every news report mentioned that Prime Minister Koizumi released a CD back in 2001 of his 25 favorite Elvis songs.  Only 200,000 copies were made, and all the proceeds went to Japanese charities.  Hopefully, you have seen the photo of the CD cover in other media, because posting pictures is something Elvisblog doesn’t do (maybe next year).  However, the CD picture is a clever computer cut-and-paste merging of Koizumi into an old photo of Elvis on the front porch of Graceland.  For some reason, the words on the CD cover shown on the news reports are in English, not Japanese.
 
Check out the list of Koizumi’s 25 favorite Elvis songs.
 
            I Want You, I Need You, I Love You
            Wear My Ring Around Your Neck
            I Was the One
            Any way you want me
            Have I Told You Lately That I Love You?
            That’s When Your Heartache Begin
            Don’t
            A Fool Such As I
            It’s Now Or Never
            Are You Lonesome Tonight?
No More
Can’t Help Falling In Love
The Wonder of You
Bridge Over troubled Waters
You Don’t Have To Say You Love Me
The First Time Ever I Saw Your face
Amazing Grace
American Trilogy
The Impossible Dream
Separate Ways
You Gave Me A Mountain
My Boy
An Evening Prayer
If I Can Dream
Hawaiian Wedding Song
 
This list prompts several observations.  None of Elvis’ biggest hits are on the list.  No “Hound Dog” or “Don’t Be Cruel.”  Instead of “Heartbreak Hotel,” Koizumi selected the flip-side “I Was The One.”  Likewise, there is no “All Shook Up,” but the B-side “That’s When Your Heartaches Begin” is there.  Obviously, he prefers Elvis’ ballads to his rockers.  “Wear My Ring” and “A Fool Such As I” are the only true fast songs in the collection.  Also interesting is the number of gospel songs at the end of the CD.
 
To be sure, several of Koizumi’s favorites are among Elvis’ more obscure songs.  “No More” came from the soundtrack of Blue Hawaii.  Koizumi obviously liked this album, because he also included “Can’t Help Falling In Love” and  “Hawaiian Wedding Song” from it, too.  “My Boy” was released in 1975, and it went to # 20 on the charts.  IF you are curious to hear this one, it is on the album Good Times.
 
“Separate Ways also made it to # 2 (1972), and it is on the RCA Camden album of the same name.  “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face” was the flip-side of “American Trilogy,” and both songs made the list.  “An Evening Prayer” was on the album, He Touched Me, as is “Amazing Grace.”
 
Elvis never recorded “The Impossible Dream” in the studio.  It was released only on the live concert album Elvis As Recorded At Madison Square Garden.  Two other selections were never released as singles.  “Bridge Over Troubled Waters” is from the soundtrack to the 1972 documentary film Elvis – That’s The Way It Is.  Elvis sang “You Gave Me A Mountain” in the TV special Elvis Aloha From Hawaii.
 
The news reports made it plain that Prime Minister Koizumi is a genuine Elvis fan.  His selections for the Elvis CD show he has certainly spent many hours listening deep into the Elvis library of songs:  B-sides, movie soundtracks, TV specials, documentary movies, and gospel albums.  Way to go, Mr. Prime Minister.
 
©  2006   Philip R Arnold   www.elvisblog.net