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The popularity of Elvis' music in the 70s

Tue Jun 10, 2003 7:20 am

The conventional rock history is that Elvis' music met with mostly indifference during the 70s as he became increasingly irrelevant to the popular audience. This theory is mostly due to Elvis' lack of one big super selling classic along the lines of "Tapestry" or "Led Zeppelin IV" and his relatively few high charting albums.

This line of thinking bears little relation to the reality of the situation. First off, Elvis hit the singles Top 40 more than 30 times with nearly a dozen singles in the Top 40. Ten singles from the decade were certified Gold or better and "I've Got a Thing About You Baby" just missed a certification.

His lack of success on the album chart is only relative and could be attributed solely to RCA's release policy. In the 1970s Elvis had 39 LPs make the Billboard Top 200. This is the most of any artist in any decade. That figure does not include the multi-million selling "Pure Gold" collection, priced too low for a chart appearance and the 1970 Christmas album or the 1971 Christmas collection. In the early 70s Billboard ranked Christmas releases on a separate chart. The 1971 collection topped the Christmas chart in '72 and '73.

Given this staggering number of releases it is no wonder that there wasn't any one super release. There was too much product for fans to choose from. That said, Elvis still hit with nine Top 40 LPs, equivalent to Led Zeppelin's entire output, which included the Chart busting MSG and Aloha Collections. Worldwide, he may very well have been the decade's top seller overall.

There is no question that there was a market for both Elvis' present and past hits. Maybe he wasn't making it with the "hip" young rock audience but he was still a significant figure to a lot of people and making and had made relevant music to their lives.

It's a shame that this decade has often been used a club against Elvis and that Elvis himself didn't realize the extent of his achievement thanks to the greed and shortsightedness of his record company.

Tue Jun 10, 2003 7:49 am

The 70's is not my favorite Elvis period.

However having said that I feel that Felton Jarvis really let the team down as far as production values were concerned.

T-R-O-U-B-L-E should have hit number one with Promised Land much higher as well. But sloppy production and uninspired arrangement prevailed.

I saw Charley Pride undertake T-R-O-U-B-L-E as Elvis version was still on the charts. However Pride's band (which lacked a piano) featured a deep bass lead guitar virtually duelling with a steel. It really rocked.

Perhaps it was an error to drop the "infamous" Nashville A Team and use the live band members? Was James Burton past his studio best?

Perhaps Elvis was never truly happy with multi track recording?

Whatever, the fire that Chips and Bones ignited died out rapidly.

Tue Jun 10, 2003 8:01 am

I love Elvis' "T-R-O-U-B-L-E" especially the noise Elvis' makes at the end. James' work was buried in the mix but the re-releases correct that problem. The failure of this single has always been a mystery to me. However, Top 40 wasn't as rocker friendly as it had been only three years before when "Burning Love" hit. The MSG appearance also probably helped that song get airplay.

The fact that Pride had a competing version out undoubtedly hampered the overall sales.

I have read many criticisms of Felton's mixes in this period. However, it's hard for me to remember. I was a boy in the 70s and had few original releases from that period. Most of my collection these days is the CD re-releases and its hard for me to remember what Felton's mixes sounded like.

Tue Jun 10, 2003 8:07 am

Just for the record - I don't think that Pride had a competing version out - he just liked to sing it live :D

The fact that new mixes of 70's material are improvements illustrates Felton's short comings.

It is sad that no-one could get Elvis together with the top producers of the time.

Tue Jun 10, 2003 8:15 am

Elvis liked Felton. He would have been problematic for some of the greater producers. For instance he could have never worked with Spector because Spector demanded almost complete control and Elvis liked to do his own thing. That's why Chips Moman has disowned a lot of the Memphis Sessions. That's also why Elvis didn't work with Moman again though he liked the results he got.

Some of Felton's mixes were (from what I've read) a concession to the radio sounds of the time.

Tue Jun 10, 2003 8:22 am

When I bought the Albums in the seventies, I had no complaints about the mixes. I liked what I got. It seems in hindsight some want to pick on the seventies and Felton seems to be a target. I don't think the mixing was the reason Elvis' Albums didn't do any better on the charts in the seventies.


:roll:

Tue Jun 10, 2003 9:44 am

It seems funny that fans have complained of disappointing sales but in retrospect the numbers are staggering. More chart albums than any artist in any decade. That's got to say something.

Tue Jun 10, 2003 11:22 am

I have no quibble with Felton Jarvis and his '70s production techniques. I love the horns, strings, voices, etc. Flame me all you like but the '70s stuff is constantly in my cd player. Whereas I can't remember the last time I played the "Sun Sessions".

Tue Jun 10, 2003 4:03 pm

I am the exact same way. The significance of the Sun recordings is not lost on me, nor do I dislike them. But it is the 70's material which is almost always in my CD player. That is the music which really grabs me.

This topic is all about personal opinions, but one thing I take issue with is when people say that Elvis's genius is nowhere better represented than in the Sun Sessions. That is akin to saying he reached his artistic peak with his first efforts, and it was all downhill from there. Bono seems to support that kind of thinking. That is why I can't stand to see him talk about Elvis--that and his ridiculous poetry.