Elvis Presley: The Complete '68 Comeback Special (SonyBMG)

 |   |  1 min read

Elvis Presley: Baby What You Want Me To Do (rehearsal)
Elvis Presley: The Complete '68 Comeback Special (SonyBMG)

By 1968 the man who had almost single-handedly created rock'n'roll culture just a decade previous was all but irrelevant: Elvis hadn't sung live since a concert in Hawaii in 1961; his last top selling single had been Good Luck Charm six years previous; and his recent single Guitar Man had failed to enter the Top 40. He hadn't been on television since a Frank Sinatra special in May 1960.
While the Doors, the Byrds, the Beatles and hippies/Yippies and Black Panthers commanded the headlines in that year of assassinations (Martin Luther King, Robert Kennedy) and the escalation of the conflict in Vietnam, Elvis Presley was a man out of time.
He had retreated to Hollywood for increasingly terrible films and their lazy, dire soundtracks.
Then something remarkable happened: in June 1968 his manager Tom Parker decided Elvis needed to be on television and mooted the idea of a Christmas special. Elvis would naturally sing Yuletide songs.
But through a series of fortuituous connections and a rare alignment of talent (television producer Steve Binder, music producer Bones Howe who had worked with jazz legends such as Ornette Coleman and would later produce for Tom waits) and excellent musicians, a very different show started to be rehearsed.
Screened in December of that year it became known as Elvis' '68 Comeback Special because in a leather-clad sequence before a live audience Elvis delivered what we might now call an Unplugged session notable for its energy, passion and humour.
Not since he had emerged out of Memphis in 1956-57 had Elvis seemed so vital.
Even today on the three DVD set (released in 2004) or on this new four CD set of all the outtakes, rehearsals and the show that went to air you can hear the King reclaiming his crown.
This collection shows how relaxed but committed Elvis was, and how he was never more comfortable and at ease than when he was making music.
When the shy 18-year old Elvis recorded his first song My Happiness in Sam Phillips' Memphis studio he was asked by Phillips' partner Marion Keisker who he sounded like.
"I don't sound like nobody," he replied.

Share It

Your Comments

post a comment

More from this section   Music articles index

BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2008: Ryan Bingham: Mescalito (Lost Highway)

BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2008: Ryan Bingham: Mescalito (Lost Highway)

We live and we learn -- and I have been living and relearning by repeat plays of this exceptional debut by someone called Ryan Bingham of whom I know nothing. And in a way, I'm grateful he has... > Read more

Dappled Cities: Zounds (Inertia/Border)

Dappled Cities: Zounds (Inertia/Border)

This Sydney-formed band don't lack the grand gesture: this album is chock full of wide screen, sweeping, heroically realised pop-rock noise propelled by massive guitars, strings, the kitchen sink... > Read more

Elsewhere at Elsewhere

EPs by Yasmin Brown

EPs by Yasmin Brown

With so many CDs commanding and demanding attention Elsewhere will run this occasional column by the informed and opinionated Yasmin Brown. She will scoop up some of those many EP... > Read more

STEVEN SPIELBERG'S DUEL: The open road as a death trap

STEVEN SPIELBERG'S DUEL: The open road as a death trap

The best suspense movies can be very simple. There’s a lot you can do with a baby sitter, a telephone and a threatening phone call. Or two people abandoned at sea. The chill factor in... > Read more