Monthly Archives: October 2007

Being Elvis for Halloween

Halloween is coming up quickly, so I thought it might be interesting to see what’s available in the way of Elvis costumes.  www.amazon.com seemed like a good place to start, and indeed, it did offer many choices.  Some of the same items were also offered on www.shopelvis.com, and many of them showed up repeatedly on other sites I checked out.  The more unusual (and unflattering) selections avoided problems with Graceland by having generic titles, rather than anything Elvis-themed, but the idea that they were Elvis costumes was clearly evident.

 

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Jumpsuits clearly dominated the choices, but Elvis had other distinctive performance outfits and these are available as costumes as well.  Of course, there was a ’68 Comeback Special Black Leather Outfit, available from Amazon at just $59, marked down from $99.  It is made of ‘faux leather,’ but it looks pretty good in the picture.  How about the famous Gold Lamé Suit at $90.  “Faux gold,’ we can assume.  Then there is the Jailhouse Rock prison outfit for $40.  You might have to wear an Elvis wig with that one to be sure everyone can figure out whom you’re trying to look like.
 
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Serious Elvis jumpsuits are available at a number of websites.  Prices on these quality items go up to $2000, so they are hardly feasible for the average Halloween party-goer.  Amazon calls a gold-tone one the Adult Super Delux, and it can be yours for only $370.  However, the red Hellvis jumpsuit is just $30 – and you can get a matching Mrs. Hellvis, too.  A nice black jumpsuit with red cape is titled Rhinestone Rock Star and costs $75 (fake guitar extra).
 
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One Elvis jumpsuit with a red-white-blue Eagle on the chest showed up in almost every website I checked out.  It has the uncreative name of Elvis Economy Adult Costume and sells for just $38.  The matching child and toddler versions go for slightly less.  A matching cape is offered on ShopElvis.com at $30.
 
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It comes as a big surprise that Amazon offers a $53 costume called Adult Fat Elvis.  Other sites have it too but use code names like Rockn Roller.  Either way, it is pretty lame, but some dumb fools will probably buy it to get a laugh at Elvis’ expense.  The worst Elvis Halloween costume has to be one on Amazon called Parade Pleaser Rock Star.  Certainly not an EPE pleaser.  The costume is available on many other websites under different names, but to me it looks like Elvis Troll.  What a waste of $149.
 
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Google wasn’t as helpful when I searched for “Elvis Masks,” and most of the links were with English companies.  www.escapade.co.uk offers a full-head rubber mask that doesn’t look much like Elvis, but what can you expect for $17?  Only slightly better is an offering from www.chickenshop.co.uk at $19.  I can’t believe there are so many products out there that do such a crummy job of capturing Elvis’ features.  That’s certainly not the problem with an offering from the Forbes Magazine’s website.  For absolutely no cost, you can print a life-sized color photo of Elvis, and cut it out to make a quickie mask.  I might have to try that one. 
 
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Elvis wigs come in dozens of models ranging in appeal from poor to absolutely stupid.  One ShopElvis.com model with simulated hair sells for $20.  Of course, it works best with the imitation Elvis sunglasses and fake sideburns ($13). But, if you want something really outrageous, you can get the Elvis Conehead (my name for it) for $25.
 
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The worst Elvis wig is another freebie.  An English website enables you to print out the pattern and knit it yourself.  I love the weird stuff in Elvis world.  Have a Happy Halloween.
 
(C)  2007  Philip R Arnold  All Rights Reserved  www.elvisblog.net

MORE ON THE FTD TOP 40

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The Follow That Dream label produces CDs in several themes.  Previously unreleased Elvis concert recordings make up much of the catalog.   Another big part of the series is original album re-releases (with much improved digital sound), enhanced by the addition of alternate takes and outtakes.  And surprisingly, there are also collections of nothing but alternate takes and outtakes from groups of recording sessions.

 

I have never understood why there is sufficient demand for FTD to release so many Elvis concerts from the 70s.  At last count there are twenty-two different ones.  Thirteen of these are from Las Vegas shows, and three of these are from 1975.  I don’t own any of the concert CDs, but my guess is that there can’t be that much difference between them.

 

The FTD Top 40 list compiled by ElvisNews.com indicates that the rare studio material is the most popular.  The top four spots are:

 

Elvis Is Back:  Re-release of the 1960 album, plus six singles songs from that session, ten first takes, and over fifty outtakes.  A double CD.

 

The Jungle Room Sessions:  Alternate versions and outtakes from the February and October 1976 recording sessions held at Graceland.

 

Nashville Marathon:  Outtakes and alternate takes from the June and September 1970 sessions at RCA’s famous Studio B.

 

Memphis Sessions: Outtakes and un-dubbed masters from Elvis’ recording sessions in January and February 1969.

 

The title of the CD at #5 sounds like it would be the highest-ranking FTD live show.  However, Recorded Live On Stage in Memphis was originally a concert album released in 1974.  The FTD CD of the same name simply adds all the songs from the show that were left off the original album. 

 

The most popular previously un-released concert CD is Elvis At The International at #6.  The show took place on August 23, 1969 in Las Vegas, and is of historical interest because of Elvis’ return to live shows after an eight-year absence.

 

So, it is clear that the serious collectors of FTD’s Elvis music most prefer the obscure studio stuff.  Personally, I have never been that big on Elvis’ music from the 70s, but after reading the reviews of The Jungle Room Sessions, I think I would really enjoy it.  The idea of being a fly-on-the-wall listening in on Elvis’ last recording sessions has great appeal.  And, all the reviews of this CD rave about the different sound you get without the overdubbed strings, vocal background singing and added echo.  Some of the reviewers’ comments are revealing.  “Without overdubs… the sound is incredible, almost pristine.”  “You get to hear moments of the real Elvis as you’ve never heard him before.”  The songs are interspersed with studio-chat, jokes and laughter, goofing around.”  “This is a fabulous release.”  Obviously, the voting fans agree and rank The Jungle Room Sessions #2 on the list.

 

Earlier this year, I wrote about three FTD CDs that appealed to me.  It came as a blow to my ego that the folks who have responded to the Top 40 poll don’t agree at all.  Too Much Monkey Business came in at #33, which shows that the voters don’t particularly care for the new instrumental backing added to these twenty Elvis songs.  This now comes as no surprise, since the voters go the other way and favor the stripped-down sound of original takes with no over-dubbing.

 

Burbank ’68 did a little better at #28, but I don’t understand why it isn’t higher.  You would think that the unplugged music from the ’68 Comeback Special would be very popular.  The problem here may be that this CD came out in 1999 as the very first FTD release.  Anything that old may have trouble hanging in there in the voting today.

 

Finally, the last FTD CD I favored in the March Elvisblog article was Tickle Me, a pseudo soundtrack album from a movie that never had one.  It was nowhere to be found in the TOP 40.  I did call it a “totally contorted, screwed-up concept,” and I guess other potential FTD buyers agreed and didn’t think that was a very good reason to part with $30.

 

©   2007   Philip R Arnold   All Rights Reserved   www.elvisblog.net

FTD TOP 40

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Elvis fans are fortunate the Internet offers a large choice of websites devoted to The King, and some of these sites have an incredible assortment of content.  I recently added three of the best Elvis websites to the list of this blog’s favorite links: www.elvis-collectors.com, www.elvisinfonet.com, and www.elvis.com.au.   This should have been done some time ago, because all had been referenced in earlier Elvisblog articles.

 

Do you ever check into a major Elvis website for the first time and feel overwhelmed by all the content they offer?  My answer is to check back every once in a while and try to cover everything in a new tab each time.  Thus, it was that I discovered The FTD Top 40 List on www.elvisnews.com this week.  They have archives going back only to June 2007, so I guess this is a fairly new addition.

 

The Follow That Dream label (FTD) was the topic of two Elvisblog articles back in February and March 2007.  To repeat, here’s a quick review of what the FTD program for Elvis music is all about.  Sony/BMG, the company that bought RCA in the mid-80s, started the Follow That Dream label in 1999.  It was to serve the dedicated Elvis collector, not the public at large.  It was also a response to the thriving business in bootleg Elvis records and CDs.  As the EPE website, www.elvis.com, states, “The volume of unofficial audio product in the marketplace reached a level which Sony/BMG and EPE could no longer tolerate.”  Well, they had access to a huge inventory of Elvis outtake and specialty material, so why not beat the bootleggers at their own game?

 

The ElvisNews.com FTD Top 40 list is compiled from reader responses.  The fine print says that votes are dropped after 18 months, so I guess the results are tallies of an 18-month rolling average.  Click here to see the entire list.

 

You will note that Elvis Is Back is the most popular FTD CD this month.  It was released in 2005 and contains studio recordings from the March and April 1960 sessions at Nashville’s famous Studio B.  I was particularly happy to see it on top, because the original Elvis album of that name has always been my favorite.  You may recall that this album came from the first recording sessions after Elvis returned from the Army.  After so long out of the spotlight, it was critical that Elvis produce some top-notch material — and he certainly did.

 

These sessions gave birth to three #1 hits: “Stuck On You,” “It’s Now or Never,” and “Are You Lonesome Tonight?” as well as powerful B-sides “Fame and Fortune,” “A Mess Of The Blues,” and “I Gotta Know.”  However, none were included in the original album Elvis Is Back.  Col. Parker figured the fans would buy it whether or not it contained any hits.  That wasn’t quite right, but the album had it’s own charm.  I've always loved it because it contained three genuine, low-down blues songs: “Like A Baby,” It Feels So Right,” and “Reconsider Baby.” 

 

So, the FTD Elvis Is Back CD corrects the original mistake and contains all twelve album cuts plus both sides of the singles songs.  But that’s not all.  This double CD is almost 160 minutes of music, so you get tons of extras.  You get the first takes of ten songs, so you can see how much they changed and improved before the master was chosen.  The entire second CD is a collection of outtakes – over fifty of them covering fifteen songs.  If you like to hear studio chatter at recording sessions, this CD has plenty for you.  However, be warned.  There is a good bit of profanity from Elvis when he screws up the lyrics.

 

I do not own the FTD Elvis Is Back CD, but after reading the reviews on selected Elvis websites, I am putting it on my wish list for Christmas presents from family.  Here are some selected quotes from these reviews.

 

“The warmth of these 1960 master recordings is palpable, and as good as anything issued so far in the digital era.” (For Elvis CD Collectors)

 

“This might be the best music that Elvis would ever produce.” (Elvis Australia)

 

“Superb Audio Quality.  Beautifully restored… there is a lovely shine and fullness to this sound.” (Elvis Information Network)

 

“Seldom in his career would he be so consistently superb in voice, performance and material.” (For Elvis CD Collectors)

 

”This is a very different sound to the Elvis of the fifties, smoother, more mature, and with a new beauty and strength to his voice.”  (Elvis Australia)

 

“A totally essential FTD and their best, complete work so far.” (Elvis Information Network)

 

After reading these reviews, there’s no doubt I want to own Elvis Is Back.  I can’t wait until Christmas day when I will get to listen to it.  More on the FTD Top 40 List next week.

 

©  2007   Philip R Arnold   All Right Reserved   www.elvisblog.net

 

ELVISBLOG NEWS — 10/5/07

We’re Back:  Vacation was great, but now it’s time to get back to the business of writing Elvisblog articles.  Nothing was posted the past two Sundays, so I moved the schedule up to Friday, 10/05.  I hope you will enjoy, “Searching for Elvis in Reno, Salt Lake, and Jackson Hole.”  We’ll get back to the regular Sunday cycle on October 14.

 

Wrong Assumption:  I was pleasantly surprised to see that 3400 readers checked in during the past two weeks when there was no new content.  It seems there are more Elvisblog readers than I guessed, but many don’t access the blog each week for the new article.  I’m the same way with some websites – I check in every once in a while and catch up on what’s new.  Fair enough, but I’ll still be adding new articles to Elvisblog every Sunday.

SEARCHING FOR ELVIS IN RENO, SALT LAKE AND JACKSON HOLE

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“Elvis is everywhere.”  That statement has been repeated numerous times here in Elvisblog, and it’s been fun to report the never-ending ways in which the sentiment has been validated.  Some corroborating examples come from news reports, and my web surfing has uncovered Elvis’ presence in plenty of places and on many products, some pretty obscure.  I have also enjoyed the challenge of searching for Elvis stuff in unlikely places like Egypt while on vacation.

 

So, it is a pleasure to report great Elvis-hunting success during our recent 2700-mile trip through six states to visit four National Parks.  My wife would never put up with Elvis searches in the Parks, so I didn’t even try.  However, the cities in between offered promise, some more than others.  Reno, Nevada was the first stop, and it seemed to have the best chances for success.

 

Sure enough, the shops In Reno were loaded with Elvis goodies to buy.  The strangest thing I found with Elvis’ name and image on it was a ceramic cookie jar in the shape of an old 50s record player.  The original machines were self-contained units with everything you needed to get music — a turntable, an amp, and a single mono speaker, all inside a 14” X 14” X 8” box.  You could close and latch the lid and use the built-in handle to carry it to a party.

 

I had one of these old portable record players, and I loved it.  But, making a cookie jar look like one was a mistake.  To get the cookies out, you have to open the lid and lift off the simulated turntable and album record.  Very cumbersome.  If you don’t want to lift the lid each time, it can be propped up.  Of course, then it takes up a lot of space and is just asking to be banged into.

 

I wish Elvis’ name and image had not been put on this disaster.  I forgot to see if it had an official EPE hologram tag attached, but if it did, it is one of the worst products Graceland has licensed.  If it was a bootleg, EPE needn’t bother with suing the manufacturer.  At the prohibitive price of $89, the stupid thing can’t have enough sales to produce any profit.

 

One other note on Reno.  A motorcycle rally was going on when we arrived.  Several streets were blocked off, and dozens of vendors sold their wares in tents, kiosks, and even mobile stores in tractor/trailers.  There was lots of Harley-Davidson stuff, but I was unable to find any merchandise featuring the famous 1956 picture of Elvis on his Harley.  I think photographer Al Wertheimer has missed a good marketing opportunity here.

 

Next up was Salt Lake City.  Our stop here was brief, but we did eat lunch at the Hard Rock Café.  It had dozens of Elvis memorabilia items, but much of it was placed too high on the wall to really see.  They did have a set of stained-glass windows – Elvis in the center, flanked by Chuck Berry and Jerry Lee Lewis.  All three were very cool.

 

The toughest challenge to find anything Elvis was in Jackson Hole, Wyoming.  This gorgeous rustic town of less than 10,000 permanent residents is a Mecca for tourists.  It is just one hour south of Yellowstone National Park and right at the doorstep of Grand Teton National Park.  The median price of a house in Jackson Hole is $1.2 million, and the ones on the high side of this all have absolutely stunning views of the Teton Mountain Range.  Rich folks from all over the country come to their ‘second’ homes in Jackson Hole during the summer.  The temperatures are mild, and there is no humidity.  A lot of these folks come back in January for a few months of skiing.

 

So the challenge to finding anything Elvis in Jackson was twofold.  The town still has much of its rugged cowboy charm, and that doesn’t tie-in well with Elvis.  The other problem was that every store is so high end — expensive clothing, art, jewelry, etc.  I had nearly given up my quest for Elvis, when I saw the sign for a shop called HERO’S – Books, Toys, Collectibles.  I knew I had found the end of the rainbow and that wonderful things awaited me inside.

 

Good call.  HERO’S had five Elvis items for sale.  There were two McFarlane figurines, 50s Elvis, and ’68 Comeback Elvis.  I think McFarlane could sell a lot more of these things if the faces looked more like Elvis.  I guess it’s hard to get the nuances of all his features on ¾ inch of molded plastic.  HERO’S also had the All About Elvis Trivia Game, The Elvis Puzzle, and Elvis Yahtzee.  My favorite was the trivia game, but I can’t decide whether to save it as a collectible, or to open it up and play.

 

On the flight back from Denver, I came across Elvis in the strangest place.  Delta’s in-flight magazine, Sky, had a full-page color ad for the Robot Elvis Talking Head we discussed here back in January.  The product was a featured item at the Elvis Expo at Elvis Week, so they are serious about selling these things.  The price is now $300, down $50 from the original announced price. 

 

After all the money my wife spent during this vacation (most of it in Jackson Hole, of course), I think I could tell her I was buying a talking Elvis head — and get away with it.  The trouble is that this head doesn’t look like Elvis, either.  It is full sized, but they still can’t get his face right.  Anyway, it was nice to finish the trip with one last surprise to again validate “Elvis is everywhere.”

 

©  2007   Philip R Arnold   All Rights Reserved   www.elvisblog.net