About fifteen years ago, I went into a record store in Memphis and asked what they had in Elvis bootleg albums.  The guy behind the counter gave me a skeptical look and sort-of danced around the question.  I should have expected this, because bootlegs are illegal, and he could get in trouble for selling them.  So, he asked me a bunch of questions, and, once he was satisfied I was a collector and not a federal agent, he finally reached under the counter and brought out a cardboard box full of bootlegs.


To my surprise, most of them had excellent full-color covers featuring uncommon photos of Elvis.  There were track listings and liner notes, and best of all, Elvis music that was not available on commercial releases.  The prices of these bootleg albums ranged from $25 to $200, and the shopkeeper assured me the sound quality was excellent on all.


I selected a few treasures and parted with nearly $100, but I was thrilled with the new additions to my collection.  Now I could listen to the audio tracks from Elvis’ appearance on The Milton Berle Show, alternate takes of Elvis’ songs on Sun Records, and alternate takes from the “King Creole” rehearsals.


But my favorite of all was the double album, “The Burbank Sessions Vol.1,” which contained songs from the unplugged session in the 68 Comeback Special.   That wonderful segment lasted a half hour or so, but Elvis and the boys actually were filmed going through it four different times with a flexible song list.  From that trove of videotape, the producers edited the best to use for the show.  My bootleg contained the songs from two of these filming sessions, both held on June 27, 1968.  Because there are some lyric flubs and other distinctive features, I can tell most of it did not appear in the original TV show.  So, technically I had purchased “Previously Unreleased Alternate Versions” at a time when the original versions had not yet been released, either.  Did you follow that?


When I got home, I immediately put the music on cassette tape, and I have played it zillions of times since.  Whenever I hear the songs of that unplugged session with all the screaming from those girls in the studio, I visualize Elvis wearing the black-leather outfit and looking as cool as he ever did in his life.


As I mentioned last week, the sales of bootleg Elvis music had grown to such a level that Sony/BMG and Graceland decided to minimize the problem and started the Follow That Dream label in 1999.  So, what do you think was the first thing they released?  Of course, it was music from the 68 Comeback Special titled “Burbank 68.”  It contained songs from the June 25 rehearsal and the June 29 show taping. 


In 2006, FTD’s Earnst Jorgensen went back to the well one more time and released “Let Yourself Go – The Making of ‘Elvis’ – The Comeback Special.”  It contains a lot of music from the special’s production numbers and Elvis’ solo performances.  Although both of these Follow That Dream releases have now caused the value of my prized bootleg album to drop, I’m not mad.  I would still recommend both CDs to any Elvis collector looking for something different.  I also would be surprised if there isn’t at least one more release of music from the 68 Comeback Special yet to come


There is one other interesting title on my Follow That Dream wish list.  It is titled “Tickle Me,” and FTD describes it as a Movie Soundtrack Reissue (Sort Of).   There never was any recording session to produce songs for the low-budget 1964 movie “Tickle Me.”  Instead, the producers saved money by using nine songs recorded during the preceding three years.  The songs were selected from seven different recording sessions.


“Tickle Me” did not have a soundtrack album, but now we can get FTD’s pseudo-soundtrack CD.  All nine songs from the movie are in it, as well as an alternate version of each.  Plus, as a bonus, five more tracks from those same earlier sessions are added.  It’s a totally screwy, contorted concept, and I love it.


©  2007   Philip R Arnold   All Rights Reserved

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