Ernie's Import Lp Corner

The Last Farewell

“ 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 well. 

Enough of my lamenting and sadness, but one final thought as we have just passed what would have been Elvis’ 70th birthday.  One can’t help but image what great music he would have given us over the past 27 ½ years if he had been able to get clean.  Perhaps we would not yet have “ The Last Farewell ”. This LP set is highly recommended for its quality and historical significance.

Ernie Boyes Jr.