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A Meaningless Observation About 1970's RCA Elvis Albums Art?

Tue Jul 08, 2003 4:26 pm

This may be an absolutely pointless observation, but since we detail just about everything concerning Elvis here- I thought I'd post this one: Did you ever notice that the majority of 1970's Elvis albums have a black background? Actually, let's start with the 1969 release 0f the double album Elvis Live At The International/Back In Memphis. Then consider (not in any particular order): On Stage, That's The Way It Is, He Touched Me, Live Via Satelite From Hawaii, Live At Madison Square Garden, Promised Land, Raised On Rock, Today, Good Times, and Elvis In Concert- all black backgrounds. Can you think of any artist or group that had such a run of similarly styled albums? What do you think was RCA's intent? Was it lack of imagination? Was it less expensive to make? Was it fadish? Or was it a backlash against the multicolored album artwork of the soundtrack albums? Just something to ponder folks- won't change anything major. :lol:


Tue Jul 08, 2003 4:36 pm

Don't know for sure, but the artwork on Elvis releases in his lifetime was never a high priority, I guess...

Thankfully things have changed in recent years!


Tue Jul 08, 2003 5:20 pm

I think it's a function of Elvis "standing alone," as a singular cultural entity. The artwork fostered this image but also reflected the reality.

Likewise, as great as the "TCB Band" was, the billing could only be just "Elvis."

Tue Jul 08, 2003 6:26 pm

I think this has also to do with the fact that neither RCA nor Elvis could muster enough interest in paying/attending a regular photo session necessary for providing pics...
As it is, I think that somebody made the decision at some point that it was easier and cheaper to simply buy some live pics from regular photographers like Sean Shaver etc. than to spend more time and money on producing covers with studio Elvis pics...

Tue Jul 08, 2003 6:52 pm

Most of the 70’s cover photos were taken by Ed Bonja. RCA would normally paint out the background so that the image was just Elvis, and no members of the band, or equipment on the stage would be visible. Hence the black backgrounds.

Tue Jul 08, 2003 8:00 pm

When did Elvis stop taking publicity photos? Anybody know?? I assume 68 or 69.

Tue Jul 08, 2003 8:27 pm

A stage shot of Elvis couldn't really have anything but a black background.

Elvis disliked having photo sessions - so he didn't bother with them. That was a shame, as the early 70's covers could have been so much better.

I suppose a break from the 'norm' would have to be "Live On Stage In Memphis" - which had a picture of Elvis's house. That was a pretty neat idea. Although perhaps "From Elvis Presley Boulevard" should have featured Graceland instead. Speaking of which - that album had a blob of blue light shining through the corner. Perhaps RCA were attempting a little flourish of artisticry with colour!

Tue Jul 08, 2003 10:27 pm

Yes, I neglected to add the album "From Elvis Presley Blvd"- it was basically black- even with that splash of blue. Also, should have added the LP's "Elvis Now" and "Fool." Have I left any others out? When was "Pure Gold" released- that's another one.


Tue Jul 08, 2003 10:46 pm

Why do you all think the new version of "Promised Land" (on CD) has yet another pic of Elvis on stage? The album was studio made- was BMG continuing their "legacy" of stage shots, when, in my opinion a nonstage shot would have been more appropriate for a studio album?


Tue Jul 08, 2003 10:51 pm

Did I get the album mixed up? Was it Moody Blue or Promised Land where the newer CD version shows a different pic of Elvis?


Tue Jul 08, 2003 11:18 pm


Tue Jul 08, 2003 11:23 pm

Personally, I thought the original “Moody Blue” sleeve was one of the better 1970’s cover designs, even though it would have been better suited to album released circa 1972 due to the cover photos RCA used.

Tue Jul 08, 2003 11:54 pm

Since there are sooo many awesome pictures of Elvis taken during the 70s, it's shocking to see how RCA came up with all those bad pictures for the sleeves. Just go to the photosection of this site, and you can make a better selection of photo's that would have been better for every 70s LP...

Wed Jul 09, 2003 1:05 am

Albert, I couldn't agree more! Also, does it bug anyone else that the pics on the albums didn't coinside with the music. Why does the LP Elvis In Person-Live At The International (1969) have Elvis in the 68 Special leather for it's cover? For that matter, why did the classic Elvis In Memphis have a photo from the 68 Special too?


Wed Jul 09, 2003 1:24 am

Speaking of good covers, here's one of my favorite: 1956 EP.



Except for this edgey artsy "dark" image and one or two other ep jackets, the cover photos - especially in the 1960s - became colorful posed smiley happy face shots like a kid's cereal box.

Wed Jul 09, 2003 3:53 am

Graceland Gardener- that cover for the Heartbreat Hotel EP is one of my favorites too. The shot of Elvis is dark and gloomy- which matches the song perfectly! And speaking of Record Cover Art- nothing can hardly beat the cover of Elvis' first album which I think portrayed exactly the energy and dynamic power of Elvis at that time.


Wed Jul 09, 2003 5:04 am

JonRomanovich wrote:When did Elvis stop taking publicity photos? Anybody know?? I assume 68 or 69.

Elvis' last formal, studio portraits were taken during "The Trouble With Girls" in November 1968. It's a shame, he almost always looked just incredible between December 1968 and June 1971.

God bless!

Wed Jul 09, 2003 5:34 am

And now we have purple!

Wed Jul 09, 2003 12:39 pm

does anyone has the back picture of Elvis from the Moody blue LP?? (not the CD)

Sun Jul 13, 2003 5:15 am

I really like a lot of the '70s LP covers, especially the action-packed "Raised On Rock" and "Madison Square Garden" shots and the nice one on the "Fool" LP. Of course, "On Stage" was pretty cool and the 1975 Memphis shot (though 'edited') on the "Boulevard" LP became a classic Elvis image..."Moody Blue" had a great sleeve design, though the reissue is horrendous.

Anyway, RCA did produce some pretty heinous LP and single covers during the '70s. I never understood why they used such an unflattering picture for the "Promised Land" LP when they had so many others -- even including some from the same concert -- that were better AND more representative of how Elvis looked at the time.

Ditto with the "Aloha" LP -- it was as if they chose the worst possible photo that they could from 1972. I've never seen a photo from that April tour that actually had Elvis looking as girthy as in that photo, probably because he actually wasn't that hefty at the time...just a bad angle during an action moment. And I always thought that the "Love Letters" LP, complete with blurry photographs, could have been represented much more effectively by the photo used on the "C'mon Evertbody" Camden release -- seems to me like a budget label release shouldn't sport a better cover than does a mainstream catalog LP.

When I think about it, some of the best cover designs that Elvis' records sported during his lifetime were those from the '50s. The debut LP is a pop icon and his follow-up is a clssic in its uncluttered simplicity -- it also happens to be a great shot. Very "Blue Moon." The two soundtrack LPs from the '50s, too, were both simple and very eye-catching. And the "Gold Records Volume 2" attack of the gold-clad Elvii is another in a series of cultural images that Elvis left embedded in pop consciousness. Then there's "For LP Fans Only" -- another great shot on an album sleeve that's as simple as it could get.

The '60s were marked primarily by 'busy' covers (with the exception of the gospel albums, to a great extent), even on some studio releases and it wasn't until 1968 that the situation began to consistently improve.

Sun Jul 13, 2003 6:47 am

I thought it was well documented that during the 70's at least the cover photo and album title was determined by the Colonel. I think you will find a reproduction of a letter from the Colonel to RCA to this effect in the Ryhthm and Country CD.

RCA had to work within the constraints of the supplied photo which inhibited design and color severely.

You will notice how the covers improved greatly once the Colonel left the scene.

So don't bag RCA - bag the Colonel (again). :P


Sun Jul 13, 2003 8:15 am

I think some of the nicest covers were to be found on the CAMDEN lp's.
Other than that, I always liked the ELVIS COUNTRY cover. The boxed sets were also kinda special!

Sun Jul 13, 2003 11:14 am

What does the Nash book say about the Colonels role in producing the album covers? How many of the covers was the Col responsible for -just the ones that we don't like? According to the Classic Albums documentary he was responsible for Elvis first album cover for RCA -I didn't like that one either.

Some of the 70's album covers sucked but not all- good point about
the concert pics for studio albums being misleading. For ELvis performing live in Memphis they had a shot of his home and for the original studio album from Elvis home they had a concert pic with the words 'Recorded Live' to add to the confusion. Its a classic Elvis image on the FEPB cover but it looks like Elvis's Scarfe been artificially enlarged to cover parts of his body.

The Madison Sq Gardens cover is one of my favourites.

Can't remember that many classic album covers from the 80's. Though the Pink Vinyl 40 Greatest Hits double album was a favourite posthumous cover.

There has been an improvement in more recent years but don't
most covers feature plain coloured backgrounds and pretty unremarkable pics?

I like the cover shot for 'Close up' but like the 70's live pics -how represenative is that of the content? And how original?
When you think of all the images of Elvis available it makes wonder about the choice of pics at times. LOL

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Sun Jul 13, 2003 11:51 am


Sun Jul 13, 2003 2:15 pm

but these pics were originally released as part of the elvis aron presley box set...and without all this unnecessary crap on them :wink: