Elvis Week 2017 will mark the 40th anniversary of Elvis’ passing, and EPE has a great event planned for the fans. There is so much quality stuff to do and see, enhanced by the new Graceland Guest House and Elvis Presley’ Memphis. I wish I was going.
Another 40th anniversary coming up is Elvis’ last concert performance on June 26 at the Haymarket Arena in Indianapolis. I had the privilege of contributing to an upcoming special on local radio station WIBC. Programmer Chris Davis interviewed me to get soundbites for the broadcast.
Not that I had attended the concert. He had already found some Hoosiers who had been there. He asked me general stuff like the difference between Elvis’ 1950s music and his 70s music, and what was it like to be a teenager when Elvis burst on the scene and changed everything. He also asked me my opinion of Col. Parker, but I’m pretty sure he won’t use my answer. I didn’t mince words about my disdain for Parker. If you’d like to read a 2009 blog post I did on Elvis’ final concert, click here.
Another 40th anniversary is the Elvis in Concert TV special on CBS. It aired on Oct 3, 1967, just a few weeks after Elvis died. However, it was conceived well before his death and was supposed to join the ranks of the ’68 Comeback Special and Aloha from Hawaii to create a trio of historic Elvis TV specials. The results did not live up to expectations, and Elvis in Concert has been mostly just a historical footnote.
This is a screen grab of the commercial CBS used to promote the program.
Filming for the special was done on June 19 at the Omaha Civic Center and June 21 at the Rushmore Plaza Civic Center in Rapid City, South Dakota.
This is the opening shot from the one-hour broadcast.
Elvis in Concert contained fourteen songs, but only three were included form the Omaha show. According to Peter Guralnick and Earnst Jorgensen, the authors of ELVIS – Day by Day, “it is one of the poorest shows Elvis has given to date, a sad and incoherent performance for the most part.”
Elvis was in much better two nights later in Rapid City. He performed memorable versions two songs, but one was not included in the special. Again, quoting ELVIS – Day by Day,
“Perhaps the highlight of the show (although it is neither easy viewing nor listening) is Elvis’ version of “Unchained Melody,” which will not be included in the television broadcast, though Elvis performs it in bravura fashion, alone at the piano.”
I would like to disagree. There is footage on YouTube of Elvis performing “Unchained Melody” the same manner on April 24, 1977, two months earlier. If you have seen it, you’ll never forget it. Elvis was bloated, sweating profusely, and performing through a cloud of painkillers.
And yet, he gave an utterly moving rendition of the song. Maybe it wasn’t easy viewing, but it was compelling. It gave me the chills and a lump in my throat. It was a great triumph for Elvis to pull it off. I was so proud of him.
The other memorable song in Elvis in Concert was “Are You Lonesome Tonight?” Starting in 1969, when Elvis performed it onstage, he regularly played around with the words during the talking part part of the song. Often, this caused him to break into fits of laughter. If you’ve never seen a video of this, just go to YouTube and type in Are You Lonesome Tonight Laughing Version.
However in the Elvis in Concert broadcast, just before Elvis went into the recitation part of the song, the music was faded down and a devoted female fan is shown talking about her determination to see Elvis live in concert, then it switches back to Elvis after the talking part was finished. This may have been done so that viewers would not have to see Elvis fumbling through the recitation.
Shortly after the broadcast, RCA released a double album also called Elvis in Concert. Although it contained all the songs from the TV special, it also contained “Fans’ Comments,” “Elvis Talks,” a “Special Message from Elvis’ Father,” and a bunch of songs recorded at other concerts in June 1977.
The Elvis in Concert TV Special has never been officially released on VHS or DVD, and Elvis’ estate has issued a statement saying that they have “no plans” to release the special, due to the fact that Elvis was visibly “far from his best in the way he looked and the way he performed.”
However, the bootleggers have been busy putting out unofficial DVDs. Here are just a few.
And like everything else ever filmed, Elvis in Concert has shown up on YouTube – numerous times. Click here and take your pick.
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