It’s a fact that Elvis fans buy lots of Elvis stuff, and that keeps the smart marketers coming up with new goodies for us. Well, they’ve done it again, and, if you’re looking for a way to get the most bang for your buck, let me recommend Elvis – The Ed Sullivan Shows. You have probably read that this recently released triple DVD set contains all three shows where Ed Sullivan hosted Elvis in 1956 and 1957. It is that and so much more, and I am truly surprised it costs only $30, not $50.
Because I had seen these performances on a twelve-inch TV as a young fan of fourteen, there was a huge déjà vu factor for me when Elvis – The Ed Sullivan Shows arrived in the mail. I was even more pleased when I saw the packaging. Although the set covers events a half-century old, the graphic design is as cool and modern as you can get. Mini-holograms front and back. When you slide the set out of the heavy cardboard sleeve and fold it open, it measures almost three feet wide. First class liner notes await you, done by famous rock & roll writer Greil Marcus, author of “Mystery Train.”
Some of the inner pages list the special features on each disk. I love all the special features that come on DVDs these days, and Elvis – The Ed Sullivan Shows has plenty. My favorite is a color film (no sound) of Elvis performing in 1955. It is the earliest known video of Elvis performing and shows a step in his evolution as a performer. Here he is wearing some sort of denim overalls, singing on a tiny stage (with young girls sitting on the edge). He looks so young, and he sure is having fun.
One of the special features on each disc is the option to watch just the Elvis segments. That’s exactly what I did first. When you see all the songs back-to-back (four songs from Sept. 9, 1956, four songs from Oct. 28,1956, and seven songs from Jan. 6,1957, you start to notice interesting things. For example, Elvis did three of his hits on all the shows: ”Hound Dog,” “Don’t Be Cruel,” and “Love Me Tender.” That’s not surprising with the first two being a two-sided smash that together stayed at # 1 for twelve weeks. “Love Me Tender” was the title song from Elvis’ first movie, which got lots of mention on the shows.
Watching Elvis’ performances in sequence cleared up the confusion in my mind about whether Ed Sullivan filmed Elvis from the waist up on all three shows or just the last one. Actually, Sullivan allowed full viewing of Elvis on just one song each on the first two shows.
Another thing I noticed was how Elvis toyed with the young girls in the audience by doing hand motions, mouth movements and exotic looks with his eyes. All followed by shrieks, of course. The Jordanaires backed Elvis on every song and were constantly visible behind or beside him except for the tight shots of Elvis’ head. That’s fine, but the band was not seen except on two songs. You could tell Scotty, DJ, and Bill were close by, so why the camera didn’t pan to them mystifies me. Well, maybe Col. Parker had already started his campaign that ultimately squeezed Scotty and Bill out.
The song on Disc 1 with the band on screen is “Ready Teddy,” and it is my favorite of the whole set. Scotty rocks out on the instrumental bridge, and we get a full-shot view of Elvis doing some hot footwork. This is the Elvis I tuned in to see back in 1956, and my preference is no different today. I must admit that one move looks like classic James Brown, but I don’t care. Elvis’ dancing was great and I wished it had lasted much longer.
The second time I watched the song, I couldn’t resist the temptation to play with the slow-mo and freeze-frame features on the remote. Seeing Elvis in action in slow motion is such a kick for me. Every time I freeze a good shot, I wish there was a machine connected to my TV that would print out a poster of what’s on the screen. Boy, would I have a collection of cool posters. Come to think of it, maybe that’s another good idea for those smart marketers.
© 2007 Philip R Arnold All Rights Reserved www.elvisblog.net