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Elvis' 76-77 record sales - Poised for another comeback?

Wed Jun 25, 2003 5:52 pm

Hi folks -
On the surface Elvis' recording career in 76-77 appeared to be stuck in nuetral - but appearances can be deceiving! An more in-depth examination of his sales and chart showings reveals something else: that Elvis was on an upswing. According to Carr & Farren's Elvis: The Illustrated Record, the From Elvis Presley Boulevard lp sold 400,000 copies upon initial release. This album reached #41 pop and (I think) #1 on the country charts. The sales of this album were roughly twice that of Love Letters; Elvis (Fool); Raised On Rock; and Good Times. I'm not certain, but I believe it also sold substantially more than Today, and a bit more than Promised Land. The Moody Blue lp was somewhere in the mid-twenties prior to Elvis' death, making it his highest charting studio lp since Elvis Country! Even without the additional sales that Elvis' death brought about, this album would've likely gone over the 1/2 million mark. As for singles, I've read that Hurt/For The Heart was doing really well upon initial release. Early on it looked like it would prove to be his most popular single in sales and with D.J.'s since 1972, a sure top 15 hit. Then, strangely, the bottom seemed to fall out and it got no higher than #28 on the pop chart (although it did reach a very respectable #6 on the country chart). Moody Blue, while yet another lukewarm top 40 chart showing (#31) did hit #1 on the country chart (and #2 on the easy listening chart). I'm not sure how Way Down was doing on the country chart prior to Elvis' death. In any event, Elvis' studio album sales were improving, and he was definitely enjoying increasing popularity on both the country and easy listening (adult contemporary) charts! Given this, and considering that the market for these two genres increased dramatically in the early 80's, had Elvis lived he may very well have experienced an upsurge in record sales!

Wed Jun 25, 2003 5:58 pm

Pete-

Although someone will undoubtedly bash this great point you are making (I sense DJC is preparing to pounce), I for one thank you for it. It has plenty of merit.

Wed Jun 25, 2003 8:28 pm

Pete I have always said this. There are other examples, and I don't think his death was the only cause of the record sales being better. I posted stats before, and I got shot down by other posters saying that chart statistics don't matter and that I was going overboard by making arguement in that matter.

Chart wise Elvis wasn't doing that bad and I actually made a point that Elvis had peaks in certain years of the 70's comparing all chart statistics. I forget which year, but chartwise it was the best since his year of 1956. Elvis was moving out of the POP world, and this is something that Hippies just don't get! That doesn't mean that other people weren't becoming aware of Elvis talent. If you compile the charts(cashbox-pop and country, billboard POP, R&B, Easy Listening, UK...etc) you will see what I mean. Elvis was doing very well chartwise and actually his WORST period is from 1966 and 1967.

Wed Jun 25, 2003 8:31 pm

In any event, Elvis' studio album sales were improving, and he was definitely enjoying increasing popularity on both the country and easy listening (adult contemporary) charts! Given this, and considering that the market for these two genres increased dramatically in the early 80's, had Elvis lived he may very well have experienced an upsurge in record sales!


Some interesting points, Pete.
With regard to the easy listening and country chart success, is that the way we would have wanted to see Elvis' career move?
I agree that the music he recorded in 1976 was more suited for these markets than mainstream pop/rock.
Personally, I don't think I would have enjoyed Elvis' music as much if he would have continued along this vein.
I remember him as a rocker first.
Don't get me wrong, there are many numbers from the 1976 Graceland sessions in February and October that I enjoy:
Moody Blue
Hurt
It's Easy For You
Pledging My Love
Way Down

I think if he could have continued with songs like "Way Down" and started to record music from outside of his publishing companies, the music itself would have got a lot better in the long run.
Back to your point about the records sales, what your saying does make sense, it's just a question of by 1977, who exactly was "Elvis Presley"?

Wed Jun 25, 2003 9:38 pm

The pop charts have always dismissed the artists who have been around for many years. For example, look at Elton John. He dominated the charts for about 30 years. Now he can't buy a hit except on the Easy Listening / Adult Contemporary charts. Look at the country performers such as greats Willie Nelson, Merle Haggard, George Jones and others. They may hit the charts on occasion but they never have a string of hits anymore.
Back to rock artists. How about The Rolling Stones, The Who, The Kinks or other classic rock groups? They are too "old hat" to make the pop charts. They can only chart high on the Rock Tracks charts.
I think Elvis would have gone on to chart quite a bit on the Adult & Country charts with an occasional hit on the pop charts. I think he would really have struggled as he got older just as everyone seems to do.
There doesn't seem to be a chart that will position artists beyond their 50's.
It's a real shame.

jeff R

Wed Jun 25, 2003 9:53 pm

My point is considering...Elvis still did well. Elvis started a Country artist and ended a Country hit..bottom line!!

Wed Jun 25, 2003 9:58 pm

Interesting topic. I doubt whether the material he was recording would have been strong enough to carry him to the stop - better producers and more relevant songs could have made a difference.

But - had he been still alive and the dreadful CBS special been shown - then I'm afraid any chance of a comeback would have been lost. By the mainstream he would have been regarded with pity, sadness and some sort of freak - like a Liberace.

Reworked and tired country material would not have cut it during the late 70's funky, disco world.

Compare My Way or Moody Blue with Stayin' Alive or Do Ya Think I'm Sexy - that's where the market was.

Wed Jun 25, 2003 11:15 pm

Just some comments -
Had Elvis lived the CBS special as we know it would not have seen the light of day. Carr & Farren's book also states that CBS executives were so horrified by the footage that they planned to scrap the special, and re-shoot it when & if (and that's a BIG if) Elvis got back in shape.
As for Elvis' diminishing pop chart appeal, he was still at least potentially capable of a big pop hit with a strong performance of the right song, as Burning Love showed! This potential would've applied to 1978-82 had he lived. But in 1983 the pop top 40 charts began a change towards dance/club type of songs and like many other artists Elvis would've likely disappeared from the pop charts in the mid-80's. But the audiences for the country and adult contemporary formats grew dramatically during these years, and given Elvis' increasingly successful track record on these charts in the 74-77 period, he likely would've been one of the most successful artists in these formats in the 80's. Much of his country oriented material would've fit right in with the "Urban Cowboy" craze. And Elvis should be considered one of the pioneers of the modern adult contemporary genre. He was one of the pivotal artists who took the easy listening format away from the Sinatra's and Dino's and transformed it into adult contemporary as we know it - something for which he receives little (if any ) recognition.

Wed Jun 25, 2003 11:36 pm

I think Elvis in the second Half of the seventies was really tring to move somewhere else, in a similar way to what he was doing a ddecade earlier. I think this actually alreadt started in 73 in the stx sessions. Vocally Elvis is trying, I think, to expand the interpretation of a song including new sounds from his voice. At least that's my interpretation.

would he survived the 77, musically I think elvis would not have moved completelly on the easy listening or country style - looking at the shows and some of the songs, I think he was moving to the mature Rock Elvis style: rythm, choir a guitar and a lot's of soul.

I think that probably the band would have changed and the general style - a bit as it happened after the 68 special.

But I think that the 80's wouldn├╣t have been easy....

Wed Jun 25, 2003 11:44 pm

One further thought -
Although not a classic, Way Down was a decent song, and a good, solid rock & roll performance from Elvis. The record also had a very commercial, contemporary musical backing. They knew they needed a big, commercial, pop chart hit and Way Down at least gives one the impression that Elvis was making a step in the right direction (as does his initial interest in the other contemporary rocker There's A Fire Below).

Wed Jun 25, 2003 11:54 pm

It was good that Elvis hadn't let his rock 'n' roll roots slip. He still had a passion for a good rocker, as 'For The Heart' and 'Way Down' showed. Although many of the later songs he chose were ballads.

If only he had managed to cut 'There's A Fire Down Below'.

It was a pity Elvis wasn't 'steered' in the right direction. If he had been given a good Producer, he could have made some excellent albums.

As it was, he chose the songs he wanted to sing and the albums seemed to produce themselves.

Thu Jun 26, 2003 12:10 am

I think Pete has it nailed. The "right" direction is intangible. Elvis found ways, and that is all that mattered. Hell Elvis did well even after he was DEAD!! The disco age has NOTHING to do with Elvis. Maybe he wouldn't have sold 10 million, but that doesn't mean he wouldn't be a viable rock artists. Still it is all a guessing game at this point. Elvis was moving away from Rock for a time. Maybe it would have set him up for YET another comeback, we will never know.

Thu Jun 26, 2003 3:09 am

This is a very fine topic. <>Elvis' music in my opinion never lost an audience in the 70s. The reason for the lower sales and chart positions and sales on some releases was that the frequency of albums released was too much for all but the most rabid fans to keep pace. Many fans caught up with releases like "Elvis Country" over time.

Somewhere after the Aloha TV special though Elvis lost the interests of radio programmers. Except for Neil Sedaka and Paul Anka, both of whom broke through as A/C performers, this was the case for all the 50s performers. Even performers like Rick Nelson and Dion who performed then contemporary type music this was the case. They couldn't get airplay because stations associated them with the 50s and thought playing these artists would make the stations seem unhip. So while the Eagles basically stole Nelson's act to make millions of dollars, Nelson was relegated to the bottom rungs of the charts if that.

Elvis' fate was not nearly so bad as his music resonated with the C/W audience and the A/C audience and got airplay there. However, because the rock audience has written the history he's never gotten the credit. His music continued to mean a lot to a lot but they were the wrong people according to the historians.

Sure, Elvis made his initial mark in rock but he never limited himself to that genre and he evolved into a different performer. However, his image was so stuck in the 50s that even when he went back to rocking in '75 with "T-R-O-U-B-L-E" it still was a disappointment on the pop charts which were drifting away from rock at the time. Led Zeppelin's "Trampled Under Foot" from the same year only clocked in at#38.

"Moody Blues" numbers were probably up because of the blue vinyl. But the semi-sensible release schedule of 76-77 also probably had a lot to do with the sales upswing.

Thu Jun 26, 2003 3:15 am

Geneism- The year where Elvis dominated the charts like the 50s was proably 1970 when "Don't Cry Daddy" (released in '69 but peaked in 70), "Kentucky Rain", "The Wonder of You", "Mama Liked The Roses", "I've Lost You", "The Next Step is Love", "You Don't Have to Say You Love Me" and "Patch it Up" all made the pop Top 40. In Cashbox, "Daddy", "Rain", "Wonder" and "You Don't Have to Say You Love Me" all rated in the top ten. On the LP charts, seven LPs charted.

This is a dominant year by any standard except for the Beatles in '64, Jackson in 83 and Elvis himself in '56 and 57.

Thu Jun 26, 2003 5:22 am

likethebike, you may be right. I wish I still had that list I posted many moons ago. Still, there was another year in the 70's that was also comarable. I think I compiled top 20 hits. Still the other years were much better when counting ALL CHARTS. Nothing compares to the 50's, but still Elvis was doing quite well in the 70's with the exception of one year...maybe 73. God, looks like I am going to have to do some more compiling.

Thu Jun 26, 2003 6:03 am

Even '73 was not a bad year with the #1 Chart album "Aloha from Hawaii" and the Top 20 single "Steamroller Blues". Elvis only released one other single though.

Looking at my Billboard book I noticed that "Aloha" and "Dark Side of the Moon" entered and peaked on the charts around the same time and spent about the same time in the Top 10. "Aloha" though only spent about three months in the Top 40 to "Dark Side's" more than year. Admittedly that LP was a phenemenon but it's not a coincidence that "Aloha's" days in the Top Ten evaporated around the time the "Elvis: Fool" LP came out. Worse that LP had a picture of Elvis on it from the "Aloha Concert".

Conversely, Pink Floyd didn't release another album of new material (a straight reissue made the charts in early 74) until 1975. It's very reasonable to assume that Elvis was cannibalizing his own sales at this point. Maybe if RCA had focused all the publicity on this one LP and then its followups as the followup to a blockbuster, perhaps he would have had the chart numbers and sales of a Led Zeppelin.

Nonetheless, Elvis did sell a tremendous amount of records in the 70s. More Elvis LPs charted in this decade than any other artist has attained in any decade.

Plus we have to remember, the USA is not the entire world. In the UK for example, Elvis had 14 singles make the Top Ten from 1970-1977.
Last edited by likethebike on Thu Jun 26, 2003 9:52 am, edited 1 time in total.

Thu Jun 26, 2003 9:22 am

in that disgraceful E! true hollywood story, "The Last Days", author Frank Coffee claims that Elvis' career was in decline at the time of his death and that his music was, more often, mediocre at best! anyway, I totally agree with likethebike on this topic! there was a constant problem with TOO MUCH saturation of singles and albums! I've spoken with people in the radio business that claim when "BLOVE" became a huge hit, Elvis should have followed it up with another strong rocker, but instead it was back to normal with the sad "SWAYS", again, not MY opinion, but others i've spoken too.

elvis' greatest asset in the 70's is what actually hurt him in the pop market, diversity! Elvis didn't believe in concepts and his albums were often sloppy with no directive, I mean, how do u name an album "Raised on Rock", and have a song called "Girl of Mine" on it? if RCA had put all the ballads on the "For 'ol Times Sake" side, it would have made more sense! an album called "Good Times", and we get broken hearted songs like "My Boy", "Loving Arms", "Good Time Charlie's got the Blues"...etc. the pop/rock scene at that time were more into concept albums, I think.

I also think that in the 70's Elvis had already become a living legend and alot of his sales were probably coming off his name alone. I mean, c'mon, RCA were releasing albums and singles like it was the fifties again, when in turn, they should have respected Elvis and gave time to make decent and strong recordings, rather than hodgepodge poorly arranged LP's. I always laugh when i play the "Promised Land" cd because you get some great music, just poorly sequenced! how do u go from that great rocker to "Honkey Tonk Angel" to "Help Me"? to "Mr. Songman"?

anyway, back to the topic, it's interesting to note that Elvis' appearance on the Country Charts was definetely on the rise! check these stats out for Country Albums from '73 on...

1) Burning Love and Hits From ...peaked #10, #22 Pop
2) Seperate Ways #12, #46 Pop
3) Aloha #1 for 4 weeks, #1 for one week Pop
4) Fool #8, #52 Pop
5) Good Times #5, #92 Pop
6) On Stage in Memphis #2 for 2 weeks, #33 Pop
7) Promised Land #1, #47 Pop
8) Today #4, #57 Pop
9) Sun Sessions #2 for 2 weeks, #76 Pop
10) From EP Blvd... #1 for 4 weeks!, #41 Pop
11) wELCOME TO mY wORLD #4, #44 Pop
12) Moody Blue #1 for 10 weeks!!! #3 Pop
13) Pure Gold #5
14) His Hand in Mine #7 (re-release)
15) Legendary Performer, Vol. 2 #9, ('74 #46 Pop)
16) How Great Thou Art #7, ('67 #18 Pop)
17) Elvis in Concert #1 for 5 weeks, #5 Pop


and Elvis charted 7 more Top 10 Lp's after his death and had an astonishing 12 Lp's in the Top 30 the week of October 19, 1977!

Thu Jun 26, 2003 9:38 am

I think Elvis should have followed up "Burning Love" with a single disc greatest hits collection collecting songs from 1968-1972 climaxing with "Burning Love" and "Separate Ways". A collection like this would have surely topped the charts since "B-Love" and "Separate Ways" wouldn't have been available on album and songs like "Kentucky Rain", "Don't Cry Daddy" and "Suspicious Minds" had never been available on album.

Mink- I think your comment about "Separate Ways" is very perceptive. Though "Separate Ways" was a strong track and a sizable hit, many people were put off by it dismissing "B-Love" as a fluke. Critic Robert Christgau was one.

Oddly though we see Elvis in the 70s making decisions at least on his singles from a purely artistic basis. Following up "B-Love" with "Separate Ways" is an example. Earlier in the year Elvis insisted that "An American Trilogy" serve as his single despite warnings from the label that it was too long and too soon after Mickey Newbury's chart run. Yet he stuck with his guns. Sadly instead of being celebrated for such daring thinking, he was probably condemned by management and the label and the rock press failed to notice because it was not their type of music. This despite that Elvis was taking the kind of risk they usually fawned over.

Thu Jun 26, 2003 9:42 am

:?: Don't know exactly if this is the riht place to post tjis, but anyway: Had Elvis lived he would perhaps had performed songs like "Couldn't say goodbye" and "Do I Ever Cross Your Mind" - Tom Jones put themon his album Carrying a Torch from the late 80's early 90*s....And what about an "original" EP version of the song "Statue of a Fool", which I only know from Doug Churc's album Kingtinued...I know this could lead to a lot of "what ifs...." But it was just a thought

Thu Jun 26, 2003 1:16 pm

I don't think that the lack of hit singles during the 70s is because of the material or Elvis. I think it because of the way RCA presented Elvis.

Example?
In '72 Elvis was back on Stage for 2 years. He had succes with the On Tour movie, with the Madison Square garden shows, with the Aloha announcement.... He recorded some really great songs like "Always On My Mind"... When "Burning Love" became a huge smash hit, what did RCA do? Release a good quality album that could push Elvis high in the album charts? No way, they put Burning Love on a Camden low-budget release full of awfull moviesongs....

Thu Jun 26, 2003 2:41 pm

Excellent posts, especially the points raised by Minkahed.
Let's not forget Moody Blue was top 5 or thereabouts in England, No.10 in Australia and a hit elsewhere.
Way Down was likely to match that performance, if not better it, regardless of August 16.
He had many great songs and performances from 75-77.
rick

Thu Jun 26, 2003 2:54 pm

rick -

It's also worth remembering that in 1976 in the UK, they re-issued the singles:

The Girl Of My Best Friend/A Mess of Blues

Suspicion/Long Lonely Highway

Both of which went top 10 !

Thu Jun 26, 2003 3:26 pm

minkahed wrote:... elvis' greatest asset in the 70's is what actually hurt him in the pop market, diversity! Elvis didn't believe in concepts and his albums were often sloppy with no directive, I mean, how do u name an album "Raised on Rock", and have a song called "Girl of Mine" on it? if RCA had put all the ballads on the "For 'ol Times Sake" side, it would have made more sense! an album called "Good Times", and we get broken hearted songs like "My Boy", "Loving Arms", "Good Time Charlie's got the Blues"...etc. the pop/rock scene at that time were more into concept albums, I think.

I also think that in the 70's Elvis had already become a living legend and alot of his sales were probably coming off his name alone. I mean, c'mon, RCA were releasing albums and singles like it was the fifties again, when in turn, they should have respected Elvis and gave time to make decent and strong recordings, rather than hodgepodge poorly arranged LP's. I always laugh when i play the "Promised Land" cd because you get some great music, just poorly sequenced! how do u go from that great rocker to "Honkey Tonk Angel" to "Help Me"? to "Mr. Songman"?


minkahed you raise an interesting point.
RCA and the colonel were producing and manufacturing albums like it was the still the 50's and 60's.
One (of many) great shortcomings of the colonel was that he had no vision.
And it was obvious that Elvis took little to no interest in the production of his LP's by this point.
Being that it was now the 70's (at that time) the record-buying public were more intelligent than in the 50's.
They demanded more progressive music and a more contemporary product.
That being said, instead the colonel is thinking "let's get the production of these crappy albums over with and get Elvis back to Vegas or on the road where he can make me some real money."
I really think he couldn't have cared less about the people by that point (the colonel I mean) - he put Elvis on autopilot and the money continued to roll in.
Even when he had to start getting creative about the venues that Elvis played, smaller buildings, smaller towns to ensure a sold out crowd.
What Elvis could have become during such a time of change in the music industry is only left to our imagination now.
Look at how successful the Stones have been through the 90's and the new century... and Tina Turner's successful comeback in the late 80's and 90's... I wonder if Elvis could have made a resurgence had his life taken a new direction?
What a waste.

Thu Jun 26, 2003 4:16 pm

The points about Elvis’ record releases are valid ones. Look at Elvis’ schedule for 1971. Between March and June of that year enough material was recorded for a complete gospel album, a complete Christmas album, and what could have been a complete secular album. These days most of the really big names issue a new album every two or three years, but with Elvis releases the Colonel really saturated the market.

The 1999 CD release “Burning Love” proves what could have been achieved if Elvis’ ‘70’s recordings had been subjected to a quality over quantity approach, but unfortunately the Colonel took the opposite route. Look at how the Stax sessions were released for example. Three albums worth of material came from two separate sessions, and this exhausted all the masters (good and bad) that RCA had in the vaults at the time. Had the best material been compiled on one 14 track album, the standard of such a release would have been somewhat higher, and it would have been better received both critically and commercially. Today it’s likely that this would have happened, but back then the Colonel had other ideas.