Tag Archives: Elvis Presley

Elvis Designer Dead at 76

70s ElvisThe man who created Elvis Presley’s iconic stage suits in the late 60s and 70s has died in Palm Springs. Costume designer Bill Belew created the bad ass leather outfit Elvis wore in his ’68 Comeback Special and many of the superhero jumpsuits The King wore in the 1970s. The high-collared jumpsuits—with accompanying belts and even capes!!!—became the official uniform of would-be rockers in that strangest of decades with everyone from the Jackson 5 and the Osmonds to your Uncle Dan donning jumpsuits and chunky boots.

“Bill Belew changed the face of rock ‘n’ roll fashion,” Presley costume historian Butch Polston said.

And how!

Elvis Enters Public Domain, Sony-BMG in Denial

Elvis Album At The Center Of U.K. Copyright Row:

In one of the clearest signs to-date of Sony BMG’s tough policy of enforcing the copyright of its vintage Presley works — even though some sound recordings have become part of the public domain — the music major put pressure on Cargo to withdraw the release, “New York: RCA Studio 1: The Complete Sessions.” Sony BMG disputed that a handful of outtakes on the album, which was released by Memphis Recording Service, were public domain.

Songs originally recorded in 1956 entered the public domain on January 1, 2007, since the copyright term for sound recordings in the UK is 50 years (in the US, it’s the life of the author plus 70 years). Looks like the album in question has been pushed back to February 25, 2008. We’ll see…

Previously: UK Copyright Not Extended.

Graceland To Be Overhauled

No indication of any upcoming changes to the mansion, but it sounds like the visitors center is going to be completed redone. Elvis Managers Plan Graceland Overhaul:

Graceland’s current visitors center, souvenir shops and museums were cobbled together by renovating a small strip mall across the street from what the Elvis faithful affectionately call “the mansion.” The new plans call for leveling all that and building a 80,000-square-foot visitors center designed from the ground up for handling big crowds and high-tech exhibits.

There’s still no timeline set, but apparently Elvis Presley Enterprises has been buying up land around Graceland “for years” in order to move everything to the same side of Elvis Presley Boulevard as the mansion. Right now, you buy your tickets across the street and have to wait for a silly shuttle bus to drive you over there.

Continue reading Graceland To Be Overhauled

I Write the Songs That Make the Whole World Sing

The Associated Press’ Nekesa Mumbi Moody is reporting that artists are taking credit for other’s songs:

This being the music industry, money is, of course, a factor, since the writers of hit songs can earn more than the singer over the long term. But today’s singers also press for writing credit because it gives them more of a cache, presenting them as more of a “real artist” in comparison with a star who doesn’t write a note.

This has been going on since (at least) the days of Elvis Presley, whose manager would demand songwriters split the publishing with the King. So it goes.

Continue reading I Write the Songs That Make the Whole World Sing

Elvis and Nixon: Crime Fighters!

The president and the King

In a truly fascinating online exhibit from the National Archives, the historic (and hilarious) meeting between Elvis and Nixon is documented with some surprising documents.

Here, a Nixon staffer suggests Elvis record a song “Get High on Life” and then recruit some of his rock and roll friends to write a musical of the same name to dissuade kids from dope.

Then, more shocking is the king’s claim that the Beatles were responsible for anti-American sentiment abroad!

How can anyone argue that Elvis was not high as hell when he wrote this?


Rock and Roll Can Never Die

Elvis means a lot of different things to a lot of people. To some zealous fans, he is a hero worthy of being impersonated. On the other hand, Public Enemy’s Chuck D considered him “straight up racist…simple and plain.” But before you motherfuck him and John Wayne, consider this: Elvis was just a kid who was moved by good music. Physically moved by it. He heard songs by Big Boy Crudup and by Bill Monroe and sang them with passion that shook up the world.

Elvis reading an early print edition of Glorious Noise.Elvis wasn’t the first honkey to imitate black musicians, not even close. Bill Haley beat him to it by several years, and let’s not even get into Stephen Foster and the weird, mean world of minstrelsy. Elvis wasn’t even the first to popularize the rebel attitude: Marlon Brando beat him to that punch in “The Wild One” and “A Streetcar Named Desire.” But he mixed up country and western music with rhythm and blues, and he donned black men’s fashion with a respectful Southern drawl, and he shook those hips and snarled that lip and dabbed a dollop of Royal Crown hair dressing his hair and pretty much defined “cool” for white guys from there on out.

He made a lot of bad decisions and allowed others to manipulate him, and he kept going on stage well after he should have stopped to take care of himself.

We’ve been hearing a lot of people talk about Elvis this week, leading up to today, the 25th anniversary of his death. And most of it is a bunch of crap, including this article. Just listen to his music. Bust out the Sun Sessions or the 1969 Memphis recordings and just listen. Rock and roll doesn’t get better than that.

Ozzy: That’s the Way It Wasn’t

You remember Winston Smith, don’t you? Sure, he’s the protagonist of George Orwell’s 1984, but do you remember what he did for a living? He worked in the so-called “Ministry of Truth,” changing history by rewriting newspapers and books and any other media that needed updating to reflect the prevailing mindset of Oceana’s totalitarian regime.

Not unlike Ozzy and Elvis.

By now you’ve probably heard about the “reissue” of some of Ozzy Osbourne’s back catalog earlier this year. Problem is, they are not reissues at all. These new versions of the old albums have had the original Bob Daisley bass and Lee Kerslake drum tracks removed; the remastered songs now feature members of Ozzy’s current touring band. Apparently this was done because of ongoing legal disputes over royalties among these former bandmates.

Regardless of motive, this transgression of history is wrong, for reasons that shouldn’t need explaining.

As is what was done to the documentary, Elvis: That’s the Way It Is when it was re-edited and released on DVD about a year ago. While the Ozzy debacle is annoying and typical of the corporate entertainment industry, the new Elvis movie is even more disappointing because its ruination was carried out in the name of the fan. Yeah, you and me and every other music geek were catered to when they unearthed the extra thirty minutes of footage and remastered the sound to create this concert film. Only problem is, the original movie was a heck of a lot more than a concert.

That’s the Way It Is was a strange document of a strange time, something of a foil to Hunter S. Thompson’s Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. It was a true documentary—of the entire process of putting post-Comeback Special Elvis Presley into the Las Vegas show scene, a fascinating idea for 1970, especially considering E’s only other appearance there, in the late-1950s, had bombed. (Remember too, this was long before a stint in the desert on the road to eternal life in Branson, Mo., was the natural washed-up pop star progression we think of now.) Sure, on outward appearances That’s the Way It Is was a concert flick, but there was a lot more to the goofy film and its oddball interviews with unnamed and frequently creepy fans and hangers-on. Most of this fell to the cutting room recycle bin for the digital release in favor of more concert footage, little of which adds much of anything to the film as a film. No, the new footage amounts to more rocks for the fan cum crackhead, while eliminating much of what worked in the original film—the reflections of Elvis in the eyes of all who beheld him. The effect leaves Elvis looking as two-dimensional as his postage stamp.

The most important legacy of my much-played VHS dub of That’s the Way It Is is that even the non-Elvis fanatics I’ve shown it to have come away with a better understanding of why this era of Elvis’ long and tumultuous career was perhaps his best. As the availability of the original version of the film wanes, as old videotapes get eaten by dirty players or thrown away after garage sales, this very real historical document will disappear. Sure, we’ll have many more copies of a fancy new DVD to replace it, but without the historical context of the original edit there will be little to learn from it.

Reissues, remastering, lost footage, unreleased tracks—they’re all worthy endeavors, but full-scale revision leads us down a dangerous path indeed. Remember Winston Smith?