“ The Last Farewell ” was released in 1978 on E. P.
Records PRP 78 as a double LP set and originated in the USA.
This is the last concert that Elvis performed the evening of June 26,
1977 at the Market Square Arena in Indianapolis, Indiana; less than two months
before his death. The years of
prescription drug addiction, which can be traced back to the army days with the
use of “ uppers ” to stay awake all night during guard duty, were finally
catching up and had been evident for several years in the form of strange
behavior on and off stage ( note the infamous paranoid “ drug monologue ”
from the closing night of Sept 2, 1974 Vegas stint ) and increasing health
problems. On August 16, 1977, Elvis’
body could no longer function after years of ingesting prescribed toxic
chemicals, and his death followed the destructive path of artists such as Janis
Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, and Jim Morrison to name a few…the path continued by the
likes of Keith Moon, John Bonham, and Lane Staley to name only a few more.
It is such a sad ending to the life of a human being, talented musician
or not, the grip of drug addiction is a horribly devastating trial that results
in tremendous suffering as the person becomes lost in the addiction and
seemingly begins to die long before actual physical death.
For a 1977 show this is a good show, the end of the
tour surely put Elvis in the mood to end on a high note.
But compared to 1969 or 1970 or 1971 or 1972, Elvis was a mere parody of
the revolutionary rocker he had been in the 50’s, and only a shadow of what he
had been capable of just five years prior. The
decline took more than a decade, was not evident for quite some time, and the
performances didn’t suffer right away. Some
people are under the grand illusion that Elvis in 1976 and 1977 was fantastic…and
those who can’t see the deadening stiffness in the 1977 CBS Special are only
seeing what they want to see unfortunately. Sure
he could still sing…some of the time, when he wanted to or was physically
capable, or perhaps a combination of the two…juxtaposed with 100% of the time
as he did in the years prior. I
personally can’t watch the CBS Special because it makes me so sad to see Elvis,
once lively and lose jumping around on stage with the music, just standing
bloated and stiff seemingly concentrating as best he can through a drug induced
fog, mustering all he can here and there to hit notes that at one time came as
naturally and effortlessly as his famous smile.
Due to the demand for this last performance, this LP is
seen in several variations. As I have the original version in my collection, the differences
described below are referenced from pictures I have seen and Cotton and
DeWitt’s “ Jailhouse Rock ” reference guide.
The first, and best is the original release which has a black cover, the
words “ Live from Indy ” at the top left in gray letters, “ The Last
Farewell ” centered in red letters, and the tickets are white with black
lettering and blue graphic highlights. The
LP labels are black with text and graphics in yellow/gold. The back cover has black and white photos, two of a tired looking
Elvis in the Sundial Suit apparently from this actual show and a third photo of
his father Vernon waiving as Elvis introduces him. The largest photo is an aerial view of the Market Square Arena.
The track listing per LP side is given as well as the list of musicians
and backing vocalists. The first
counterfeit appeared in the same year; the noticeable differences are that the
cover is red with all text and graphics in white.
The LP labels are black and silver. The
second counterfeit was released apparently in 1979.
The cover is once again black however the difference is that the tickets
on this variation have red graphic highlights as opposed to the blue on the
original. The LP labels on this variation
are white printed on black. The third
counterfeit from 1980 is again a black cover, but all the text and graphics are
in white. The photos on the back are very
dark and the LP labels are black with white lettering.
As I listen to the LPs again to refresh my memory, I am
surprised that an audience recording circa 1977 that was pressed to vinyl can
sound this decent. There are crisp highs
and resonant lows through the Arena. The CD version “ Adios: The Final Performance ” that was
released in 1993 does enjoy the benefit of digital mastering of the source.
However, this LP release is very listen able, even if the vinyl itself
does have slight surface noise throughout. I
do enjoy a good audience recording, and this one does not disappoint as it has
all the features that give the “ you are there ” feeling; the ambience of
the concert arena and the distinctiveness of the surrounding audience members…of
which one often does not get on most soundboard recordings.
The LP set opens with the usual 2001, which blends into
“ See See Rider ”. Elvis’ voice
sounds tired, but he is putting effort into the vocals.
“ I Got A Woman / Amen ” follows, and it is clear that Elvis is of
clear mind and while he sounds vocally tired, he continues to reach for the
notes and the effort does not go unnoticed by the audience.
JD Sumner does the usual “ low-vocal fly-by ”…for the last time.
Elvis welcomes the audience, and jumps into a standard version of “
Love Me ”. Elvis then introduces “
Fairytale ”, and again puts forth the effort giving a nice performance on this
song. This ends the first side of the
first LP. Side two opens with “ You
Gave Me A Mountain ”, and Elvis really gives a standout performance.
“ Jailhouse Rock ” is the standard get-it-over-with version.
Elvis then introduces Sherrill Neilson, who showboats “ O Solo Mio ”
as an introduction to “ It’s Now Or Never ”, which is a fairly passionate
version. “ Little Sister ” is a
fun version of this 60’s classic from which Elvis immediately starts into
another get-it-over-with oldie, this time killing two birds with one stone as a
medley; “ Teddy Bear/Don’t Be Cruel ”. From
here it seems Elvis just starts into “ Release Me ” unexpectedly…the band
catches up quickly and the rendering is very well done.
“ I Can’t Stop Loving You ” follows in the same vain, though is not
as strong as the prior track and closes out the second side of the first LP.
The third side opens with “ Bridge Over Troubled
Water ”, and Elvis gives and all out excellent performance on this wonderful
song…the last time we will ever hear this unfortunately.
Elvis then goes through the introductions starting with the Sweet
Inspirations, JD Sumner and the Stamps Quartet individually; the source tape
abruptly skips to Elvis speaking the name of “ Kathy Westmoreland ”.
John Wilkinson is featured for a nice rendition of “ Early Morning Rain
”. James Burton is featured with
a short version of Ray Charles’ “ What I’d Say ” and “ Johnny B Goode
” of which James is requested to play the guitar behind his head.
Elvis mentions that the regular drummer is not with them tonight but
Larry London, who is jokingly about the “ size of London ”, also has a nice
feature solo. Jerry Scheff does the blues
bass solo. Tony Brown is the pianist for
this tour as Glenn Hardin had left because of Elvis’ drug use.
Tony does a fine piece of ivory tickling, and that closes out the third
side of the set. The fourth side opens
with a short version of “ I Really Don’t Want to Know ”, and though he
sounds tired, he sings it at a slower tempo with a rather bluesy feel.
Bobby Ogdin gets his solo feature on the electric piano.
Charley Hodge gets a nod, and Joe Guercio and the Orchestra do a very
fine feature. “ Hurt ” is
introduced as the latest record, and again for the last time, he really goes all
out at the ending and hits the high note. From
this highlight, Elvis jumps right into a get-it-over-with version of “ Hound
Dog ”. Elvis introduces his daddy,
which brings applause from the audience, and he thanks the sound crew who would
go on to run sound for Bruce Springsteen’s tour in just a few months.
He introduces a few more people, thanks the audience and mentions that
this is the last show of the tour. He
also mentions to the audience that when they want him to come back to just let
him know, unfortunately that would never happen.
“ I Can’t Help Falling In Love ” closes out this last evening with
Elvis. The next tour was scheduled to
begin August 17, 1977 in Portland, Maine. As
the closing vamp played on, Elvis left the stage and the lines “ Elvis has
left the building ” were heard for the last time.
This was the last time the fans would get their Elvis Super Souvenirs as
Ernie Boyes Jr.