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I actually found schlocky Vegas---it wasn't Elvis!

Fri Nov 16, 2012 6:23 pm

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Hmmmm........doesn't look or sound anything like Elvis.

Re: I actually found schlocky Vegas---it wasn't Elvis!

Fri Nov 16, 2012 6:48 pm

To most people the word "schlock" would refer to something cheap or tacky and, when it comes to music or art, a lack of the real or of emotion - style over substance essentially. Tom Jones, particularly in the 1970s and early 1980s, would often fit that description. And anyone listening to those versions by Engelbert Humpdeflump (as Eddie Izzard would call him) that you have posted would may well class those vocals in the same category - they sound nice, but lack any emotional depth.

Despite their work in Vegas, both Sinatra and Elvis never seem to fall into that trap. With the exception of the occasional bow to current pop hits, Sinatra always remained true to himself in Vegas. He didn't change his style, his presentation, his orchestrations or his repertoire. Vegas suited him because of the smaller venues, more than he suited Vegas. He went on record a number of times criticising the conservative Vegas, it's treatment of black performers and so on. An interview is included in the Sinatra: Vegas boxed set in which he quite vehemently attacks the city that gave him so much work.

Elvis is more of a conundrum. Elvis didn't make concessions to Vegas in his act, he simply incorporated Vegas into his act - because he liked it. It's the same as any other genre or style that made up Elvis by the 1970s - it was there because he liked it, not because he felt he had to include it. While the youtube vids you have posted are all glitz, glamour etc Presley's versions of these songs are now. Elvis never had the dancing girls, and his versions of Proud Mary and Never Been To Spain and, yes, My Way, are far more honest and emotional than the equivalent versions by Humperdinck, Tom Jones etc during the same period.

Elvis didn't become "schlocky Vegas", he took what he wanted from it: the sense of the theatrical and the showmanship (as Greystoke said on the My Way thread), and he added it into the huge melting pot of styles and genres that already made up his music and live shows. Presley's Never Been To Spain isn't Vegas, it is Vegas and rock and gospel and blues. All in one. And that's something which is not true of performances of that or similar songs by Humperdinck or Wayne Newton, for example.

Re: I actually found schlocky Vegas---it wasn't Elvis!

Fri Nov 16, 2012 7:34 pm

I would agree with everything you just said. I have noticed that alot of critics associate overblown orchestrations with the "Vegas" sound...and that is apparent in these three videos as well. If you want to get technical...Ike & Tina's version of Proud Mary could be considered overblown as it is chock full of horn section. Elvis' version at the Garden the horns do not come in until he raises the chord on the second reprise of the chorus after the third verse, and then it's a relatively light accent as the rhythym section and lead/backing vocals are driving the train. Just to clarify I'm speaking soley about the versions from the Garden, as I personally think the versions from On Tour in April are not good at all--something is not right with those performances, i.e. tempo/sound--almost as if John Wilkinson has the lead instead of JB. I would contend as well that Elvis is lumped in with all that due to guilt by association...he; the very king of rock, "sold out" to the establishment and dared to play Vegas and sing songs outside the rock and roll genre--never mind that he knocked it on it's collective ass and changed it forever.

I have been to six Tom Jones concerts in the 80s, one Engelburt concert in '83, and Elvis in 1975. Tom Jones is one of my favorite live performers as his shows were consistenly good when he was performing annually near where I lived at that time, and he changed his show start to finish every year. There are songs that he performs wonderfully such as Memory from Cats, Sixteen Tons, If He Should Ever Leave You, KISS, If I Only Knew, She's A Lady, Momma Told Me Not To Come, 200 Pounds of Heavenly Joy, etc. Then there are songs he never should have gone anywhere near such as Proud Mary, Polk Salad Annie, Johnny B. Goode, etc. He's also one of the very few people I've ever seen who could keep up with Little Richard, I suspect that was because Little Richard was playing the piano and they used his arrangements instead of Tom having to come up with his own.

Engelburt has a phenomenal voice when used with the right material, I was very impressed with his show in '83...amazingly there was no schlock in it whatsoever. The only rock song he did was Jerry Lee's Whole Lotta Shakin' and he did a credible job, but there was massive potential to ruin the whole evening with that song as well.

Re: I actually found schlocky Vegas---it wasn't Elvis!

Fri Nov 16, 2012 10:19 pm

poormadpeter wrote:Elvis didn't make concessions to Vegas in his act, he simply incorporated Vegas into his act - because he liked it.

If you truly believe this, then it makes Presley's '70s period seem more desolate than it is perceived to be by the cognoscenti.

Nearly everything about Elvis performing in Nevada is a concession to Las Vegas. And it carried over to his performances elsewhere. Las Vegas twice a year -- not to mention Lake Tahoe -- was the beginning of the end.

Re: I actually found schlocky Vegas---it wasn't Elvis!

Fri Nov 16, 2012 10:46 pm

drjohncarpenter wrote:
poormadpeter wrote:Elvis didn't make concessions to Vegas in his act, he simply incorporated Vegas into his act - because he liked it.

If you truly believe this, then it makes Presley's '70s period seem more desolate than it is perceived to be by the cognoscenti.

Nearly everything about Elvis performing in Nevada is a concession to Las Vegas. And it carried over to his performances elsewhere. Las Vegas twice a year -- not to mention Lake Tahoe -- was the beginning of the end.


Being stuck in a contract? possibly. The location of the performances? No. Presley clearly thrived in Vegas from 1969 through to the end of his 3rd season in 1970. His problem was being stuck for seven years..

As for how others perceive Presley in the 70s, I don't really give a damn. I can perceive him in my own way, and what's more I can give good reasons for perceiving the period in the way I have chosen, and hold my own in an argument with my reasoning if I want/need to.

Re: I actually found schlocky Vegas---it wasn't Elvis!

Fri Nov 16, 2012 10:48 pm

You have obviously never seen a major artist perform in Las Vegas. It is artistic death. Period.

Re: I actually found schlocky Vegas---it wasn't Elvis!

Fri Nov 16, 2012 11:13 pm

drjohncarpenter wrote:You have obviously never seen a major artist perform in Las Vegas. It is artistic death. Period.


Oh yes, I think of Sinatra - artistic death is obvious there. After all, after he started performing there in the 1950s he never did anything of artistic worth.

And Ella Fitzgerald. She only won 6 Grammys and recorded some of her greatest work after performing in Vegas.

And Barbra Streisand. Yeah, she's a has-been these days. Never did anything of any worth after her first Vegas seasons in the late 1960s. Never pushed herself artistically after Vegas.

Count Basie. Received five Grammy awards after he played Vegas with Sinatra in 1966.

Bobby Darin. First played Vegas in 1959 - and clearly did nothing of artistic worth after that. That's All, This Is Darin, Earthy, If I Were A Carpenter, Commitment, Live at The Desert Inn - all completely worthless albums artistically.

Johnny Cash. Performed in Vegas in 1958, and again in 1964. Obviously that was his artistic death. He recorded nothing but rubbish after 1958.

You sure spout some tripe sometimes.

Re: I actually found schlocky Vegas---it wasn't Elvis!

Fri Nov 16, 2012 11:45 pm

Thank you for confirming you've never seen a major artist in Las Vegas. You've never sat in a Vegas crowd. You have no idea what I am talking about.

Also, all of the showtime examples you present do not in any way encompass who Elvis Presley was, the type of music he made, or what he accomplished in his career.

Sad you can only reply with put-downs. It hinders an intelligent conversation.

Carry on!

Re: I actually found schlocky Vegas---it wasn't Elvis!

Fri Nov 16, 2012 11:57 pm

I never really found Elvis in Vegas schlocky while he was alive but since his death it has become cheesy.

With all the Elvis impersonators and the fact that he played there so much he became identified with the city so much that it became bad for his image.

It has made me wish that Elvis didn't play Vegas in the 1970s.

Truth be told if Elvis was going to play Vegas he should have waited until the 1990s and gotten the huge money that Madonna, Cher, Celine Dion and Elton John are now getting.

That's if he hadn't of died of course.

He wasn't of the same ilk as Sinatra and Dean Martin so he shouldn't of been playing there in the 70s.

I think the whole thing about Elvis in Vegas being bad and being a self parody has been overblown by people though.

Re: I actually found schlocky Vegas---it wasn't Elvis!

Sat Nov 17, 2012 12:05 am

drjohncarpenter wrote:Thank you for confirming you've never seen a major artist in Las Vegas. You've never sat in a Vegas crowd. You have no idea what I am talking about.

Also, all of the showtime examples you present do not in any way encompass who Elvis Presley was, the type of music he made, or what he accomplished in his career.

Sad you can only reply with put-downs. It hinders an intelligent conversation.

Carry on!


And thank you for confirming once again in your response your never-ending quest to persuade these boards that rock music is somehow on a higher plain than any other form of musical expression. Your reference to such a supreme catalogue of real artists as "showtime" says more about you than hundreds of your posts put together. It's such a shame you don't admit your musical hierarchy so that we can all move on.

Re: I actually found schlocky Vegas---it wasn't Elvis!

Sat Nov 17, 2012 12:16 am

ML4EP wrote:I would agree with everything you just said. I have noticed that alot of critics associate overblown orchestrations with the "Vegas" sound...and that is apparent in these three videos as well. If you want to get technical...Ike & Tina's version of Proud Mary could be considered overblown as it is chock full of horn section. Elvis' version at the Garden the horns do not come in until he raises the chord on the second reprise of the chorus after the third verse, and then it's a relatively light accent as the rhythym section and lead/backing vocals are driving the train. Just to clarify I'm speaking soley about the versions from the Garden, as I personally think the versions from On Tour in April are not good at all--something is not right with those performances, i.e. tempo/sound--almost as if John Wilkinson has the lead instead of JB. I would contend as well that Elvis is lumped in with all that due to guilt by association...he; the very king of rock, "sold out" to the establishment and dared to play Vegas and sing songs outside the rock and roll genre--never mind that he knocked it on it's collective ass and changed it forever.

I have been to six Tom Jones concerts in the 80s, one Engelburt concert in '83, and Elvis in 1975. Tom Jones is one of my favorite live performers as his shows were consistenly good when he was performing annually near where I lived at that time, and he changed his show start to finish every year. There are songs that he performs wonderfully such as Memory from Cats, Sixteen Tons, If He Should Ever Leave You, KISS, If I Only Knew, She's A Lady, Momma Told Me Not To Come, 200 Pounds of Heavenly Joy, etc. Then there are songs he never should have gone anywhere near such as Proud Mary, Polk Salad Annie, Johnny B. Goode, etc. He's also one of the very few people I've ever seen who could keep up with Little Richard, I suspect that was because Little Richard was playing the piano and they used his arrangements instead of Tom having to come up with his own.


i have seen tom jones 15 times what a voice and every concert was really outstanding....but ML4EP can you tell me the concert of elvis 1975 was it much better ??? can only dream about seeing a concert of ep

Engelburt has a phenomenal voice when used with the right material, I was very impressed with his show in '83...amazingly there was no schlock in it whatsoever. The only rock song he did was Jerry Lee's Whole Lotta Shakin' and he did a credible job, but there was massive potential to ruin the whole evening with that song as well.




i have seen tom jones 15 times what a voice and every concert was really outstanding....but ML4EP can you tell me the concert of elvis 1975 was it much better ??? can only dream about seeing a concert of ep

Re: I actually found schlocky Vegas---it wasn't Elvis!

Sat Nov 17, 2012 12:53 am

poormadpeter wrote:
drjohncarpenter wrote:Thank you for confirming you've never seen a major artist in Las Vegas. You've never sat in a Vegas crowd. You have no idea what I am talking about.

Also, all of the showtime examples you present do not in any way encompass who Elvis Presley was, the type of music he made, or what he accomplished in his career.

Sad you can only reply with put-downs. It hinders an intelligent conversation.

Carry on!


And thank you for confirming once again in your response your never-ending quest to persuade these boards that rock music is somehow on a higher plain than any other form of musical expression. Your reference to such a supreme catalogue of real artists as "showtime" says more about you than hundreds of your posts put together. It's such a shame you don't admit your musical hierarchy so that we can all move on.

Do you know who the subject of this forum is?

Hint: not Ella Fitzgerald.

P.S. If you ever actually ATTEND a performance in Las Vegas by a major musical act, do let us know.

::rocks

Re: I actually found schlocky Vegas---it wasn't Elvis!

Sat Nov 17, 2012 1:22 am

The condescending attitude is getting REALLY annoying!

Re: I actually found schlocky Vegas---it wasn't Elvis!

Sat Nov 17, 2012 1:25 am

HoneyTalkNelson wrote:The condescending attitude is getting REALLY annoying!

I agree!

A person cannot make an intelligent opposing point without a snide remark in the reply.

Re: I actually found schlocky Vegas---it wasn't Elvis!

Sat Nov 17, 2012 1:29 am

Cute...

Re: I actually found schlocky Vegas---it wasn't Elvis!

Sat Nov 17, 2012 7:05 pm

ep2 wrote:
ML4EP wrote:I would agree with everything you just said. I have noticed that alot of critics associate overblown orchestrations with the "Vegas" sound...and that is apparent in these three videos as well. If you want to get technical...Ike & Tina's version of Proud Mary could be considered overblown as it is chock full of horn section. Elvis' version at the Garden the horns do not come in until he raises the chord on the second reprise of the chorus after the third verse, and then it's a relatively light accent as the rhythym section and lead/backing vocals are driving the train. Just to clarify I'm speaking soley about the versions from the Garden, as I personally think the versions from On Tour in April are not good at all--something is not right with those performances, i.e. tempo/sound--almost as if John Wilkinson has the lead instead of JB. I would contend as well that Elvis is lumped in with all that due to guilt by association...he; the very king of rock, "sold out" to the establishment and dared to play Vegas and sing songs outside the rock and roll genre--never mind that he knocked it on it's collective ass and changed it forever.

I have been to six Tom Jones concerts in the 80s, one Engelburt concert in '83, and Elvis in 1975. Tom Jones is one of my favorite live performers as his shows were consistenly good when he was performing annually near where I lived at that time, and he changed his show start to finish every year. There are songs that he performs wonderfully such as Memory from Cats, Sixteen Tons, If He Should Ever Leave You, KISS, If I Only Knew, She's A Lady, Momma Told Me Not To Come, 200 Pounds of Heavenly Joy, etc. Then there are songs he never should have gone anywhere near such as Proud Mary, Polk Salad Annie, Johnny B. Goode, etc. He's also one of the very few people I've ever seen who could keep up with Little Richard, I suspect that was because Little Richard was playing the piano and they used his arrangements instead of Tom having to come up with his own.


i have seen tom jones 15 times what a voice and every concert was really outstanding....but ML4EP can you tell me the concert of elvis 1975 was it much better ??? can only dream about seeing a concert of ep

Engelburt has a phenomenal voice when used with the right material, I was very impressed with his show in '83...amazingly there was no schlock in it whatsoever. The only rock song he did was Jerry Lee's Whole Lotta Shakin' and he did a credible job, but there was massive potential to ruin the whole evening with that song as well.




i have seen tom jones 15 times what a voice and every concert was really outstanding....but ML4EP can you tell me the concert of elvis 1975 was it much better ??? can only dream about seeing a concert of ep


I was very lucky that the show in Tampa I went to he was pretty much on target. There were only four or five oldies in the show, and they were not lumped together so he didn't blow thru them. Elvis did do stellar versions of It's Midnight, Burning Love, and I'll Remember You. He also did a very nice, spontaneous That's All Right and followed it up with a slow, very bluesy Heartbreak Hotel similar to '69. The audience was screaming for him to do Promised Land but I guess he just wasn't feeling it, but that would have been great to see him do it and Steamroller.

Re: I actually found schlocky Vegas---it wasn't Elvis!

Sat Nov 17, 2012 7:24 pm

ML4EP wrote:
ep2 wrote:
ML4EP wrote:I would agree with everything you just said. I have noticed that alot of critics associate overblown orchestrations with the "Vegas" sound...and that is apparent in these three videos as well. If you want to get technical...Ike & Tina's version of Proud Mary could be considered overblown as it is chock full of horn section. Elvis' version at the Garden the horns do not come in until he raises the chord on the second reprise of the chorus after the third verse, and then it's a relatively light accent as the rhythym section and lead/backing vocals are driving the train. Just to clarify I'm speaking soley about the versions from the Garden, as I personally think the versions from On Tour in April are not good at all--something is not right with those performances, i.e. tempo/sound--almost as if John Wilkinson has the lead instead of JB. I would contend as well that Elvis is lumped in with all that due to guilt by association...he; the very king of rock, "sold out" to the establishment and dared to play Vegas and sing songs outside the rock and roll genre--never mind that he knocked it on it's collective ass and changed it forever.

I have been to six Tom Jones concerts in the 80s, one Engelburt concert in '83, and Elvis in 1975. Tom Jones is one of my favorite live performers as his shows were consistenly good when he was performing annually near where I lived at that time, and he changed his show start to finish every year. There are songs that he performs wonderfully such as Memory from Cats, Sixteen Tons, If He Should Ever Leave You, KISS, If I Only Knew, She's A Lady, Momma Told Me Not To Come, 200 Pounds of Heavenly Joy, etc. Then there are songs he never should have gone anywhere near such as Proud Mary, Polk Salad Annie, Johnny B. Goode, etc. He's also one of the very few people I've ever seen who could keep up with Little Richard, I suspect that was because Little Richard was playing the piano and they used his arrangements instead of Tom having to come up with his own.


i have seen tom jones 15 times what a voice and every concert was really outstanding....but ML4EP can you tell me the concert of elvis 1975 was it much better ??? can only dream about seeing a concert of ep

Engelburt has a phenomenal voice when used with the right material, I was very impressed with his show in '83...amazingly there was no schlock in it whatsoever. The only rock song he did was Jerry Lee's Whole Lotta Shakin' and he did a credible job, but there was massive potential to ruin the whole evening with that song as well.




i have seen tom jones 15 times what a voice and every concert was really outstanding....but ML4EP can you tell me the concert of elvis 1975 was it much better ??? can only dream about seeing a concert of ep


I was very lucky that the show in Tampa I went to he was pretty much on target. There were only four or five oldies in the show, and they were not lumped together so he didn't blow thru them. Elvis did do stellar versions of It's Midnight, Burning Love, and I'll Remember You. He also did a very nice, spontaneous That's All Right and followed it up with a slow, very bluesy Heartbreak Hotel similar to '69. The audience was screaming for him to do Promised Land but I guess he just wasn't feeling it, but that would have been great to see him do it and Steamroller.



the best concert you ever saw??

Re: I actually found schlocky Vegas---it wasn't Elvis!

Sat Nov 17, 2012 8:21 pm

No, Elvis was very good that day...but it wasn't the best show I ever saw. That would be Tom Jones in Clearwater, Florida 1984. Phenomenal show that year, Memory (Cats), Islands in The Stream, Heart of Rock and Roll, Old Time Rock and Roll, What a Feeling, Purple Rain and a few others I can't remember. His version of Memory was incredible...standing ovation, and Purple Rain was very good too, much different than Prince. I liked a lot of Prince's songs, but that wasn't one of them.

Tom's show was about 75 minutes long, he performed in the round---pretty brave of him because this was a Friday nite, the audience was chock full of women who had got off work, had a nice dinner and more than one drink, and were really in the mood. He was in tremendous shape as it was quite obvious he had a strict exercise regimen. He was wearing tuxedo pants, white wing tipped formal shirt, and a short-copper/bronze colored jacket. The best thing about Tom was he knew the difference between doing an arena show and working Vegas. He would do five or six songs in a row with no screwing with the lyrics or messing with the audience, then he'd take a break for a couple of minutes and fuss with the ladies, then back to work. It seemed as if he was trying to entertain everybody in the building and not just the folks ringside, and the man worked his ass off the whole time he was on stage.

On the other end of the spectrum the worst concert I have ever seen is Whitney Houston...one continuous vowel movement. People were leaving before she finished her last song, she left the stage at which point the rest of the audience got up to leave--then she came back for an encore and the building staff locked the doors so the audience couldn't leave...almost 10,000 people stuck in the aisles, mad as hell...and they still wouldn't let us leave until after her band left the stage!

Re: I actually found schlocky Vegas---it wasn't Elvis!

Sun Nov 18, 2012 12:03 am

ML4EP wrote:No, Elvis was very good that day...but it wasn't the best show I ever saw. That would be Tom Jones in Clearwater, Florida 1984. Phenomenal show that year, Memory (Cats), Islands in The Stream, Heart of Rock and Roll, Old Time Rock and Roll, What a Feeling, Purple Rain and a few others I can't remember. His version of Memory was incredible...standing ovation, and Purple Rain was very good too, much different than Prince. I liked a lot of Prince's songs, but that wasn't one of them.

Tom's show was about 75 minutes long, he performed in the round---pretty brave of him because this was a Friday nite, the audience was chock full of women who had got off work, had a nice dinner and more than one drink, and were really in the mood. He was in tremendous shape as it was quite obvious he had a strict exercise regimen. He was wearing tuxedo pants, white wing tipped formal shirt, and a short-copper/bronze colored jacket. The best thing about Tom was he knew the difference between doing an arena show and working Vegas. He would do five or six songs in a row with no screwing with the lyrics or messing with the audience, then he'd take a break for a couple of minutes and fuss with the ladies, then back to work. It seemed as if he was trying to entertain everybody in the building and not just the folks ringside, and the man worked his ass off the whole time he was on stage.

On the other end of the spectrum the worst concert I have ever seen is Whitney Houston...one continuous vowel movement. People were leaving before she finished her last song, she left the stage at which point the rest of the audience got up to leave--then she came back for an encore and the building staff locked the doors so the audience couldn't leave...almost 10,000 people stuck in the aisles, mad as hell...and they still wouldn't let us leave until after her band left the stage!


so the magic what everybody always are saying....that when you have seen elvis you have seen the real magic and the best you will never forget........or was it just like all other concerts???

Re: I actually found schlocky Vegas---it wasn't Elvis!

Sun Nov 18, 2012 8:30 am

In all fairness to the two artists above...I believe these clips are from their respective 1970's ABC TV NetworkShows. They wouldn't really be representative of eithers actual act. They are, however, very indicative of the production numbers that were a part of such shows at the time.
It does give you a good feeling that Elvis did NOT do such a show. Sure we would have clips of him galore...but how many would be clips like we see above.

Re: I actually found schlocky Vegas---it wasn't Elvis!

Sun Nov 18, 2012 9:03 am

There is a legitimate argument that Elvis just didn't belong in this Vegas-Variety Show environment. As for the pre-rock/not-rock acts mentioned who were great, well, they had begun their careers in similar clubs, and so it didn't really have a negative effect on their music. And the audience in a casino town was, at that time, genuinely decrepit! You had 60-something high rollers in Elvis's audience holding their fingers in their ears! Maybe it was of no concern to some artists who did play Vegas/Tahoe, and there were quite a few genuine R&B acts who played those towns then. Jones is riffing of Ike and Tina, who played Vegas then.

Humpledeflump (or whatever . . .) didn't really have that far to "fall." I mean, he didn't even understand the song! Working for "a man" is NOT the same as "workin' for THE man." :roll: That's bad . . . really.

There were other opportunities for Elvis right out of the chute, but I don't think he questioned it at all. He just came out there and signed up. But when those "old folks" were sticking their fingers in their ears, he was ticked off! "Maybe they have old ears!" he told Myrna Smith.

He wasn't just yet ready for a crowd with old ears. (And, of course, not all of the audience was so unappreciative. But there were other venues for him to have explored.)

One of the many R&B acts to play Vegas/Tahoe in the '70s were the Jacksons, but they got out of it. Their front man did not like it, and he was right. In fact, in 1985, in the studio, working out the (almost) final demo for "We Are The World" with Quincy and Lionel Richie, he responded to Lionel launching into something the 26-year-old found corny. He told Lionel "that's for when you're 60, and play Las Vegas." By the '80s, people saw it that way. It's like Branson now, I guess.

It depends on the context, audience expectations, how far back one's career went . . . Elvis definitely had options that he didn't know he had. As for the non-rock artists, well, they were doing the same show they always did, to pretty much similar audiences. But for younger, hipper artists, it wasn't the best choice. It was often the only choice for some, but not the best choice.

Lionel is definitely "old enough" for Vegas now.

MGM Grand, 2012. "You can feel the love in the room."

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rjm (the younger fella died long before he reached 60, so it was a non-issue)
P.S. --
poormadpeter wrote:And thank you for confirming once again in your response your never-ending quest to persuade these boards that rock music is somehow on a higher plain than any other form of musical expression.


There are those who have thought so . . . ;)

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Re: I actually found schlocky Vegas---it wasn't Elvis!

Sun Nov 18, 2012 10:51 am

The oldsters sticking their fingers in their ears is kind of an unfair argument RJM. Perhaps that was more true of his '50s Vegas gig where he and the audience had a mutual contempt. Particularly in his early Vegas gigs, the audience is in large part the Elvis faithful who made the journey to Vegas to see their man in the flesh. And a substantial part of the casual base were people that were shocked that Elvis gave Vegas such a shot in the arm. Cary Grant, who was in his '60s at that time, declared Elvis to be the greatest performer since Jolson, a huge compliment for someone that age. He was definitely appreciated in those early years.

He was not like other Vegas artists. Other Vegas artists did not dress in Karate gi's or later on like Superman. They did not have rock rhythm sections. They did not wildly move and jump around the stage as Elvis did. He was not imitating Sinatra or Como. He was doing his thing.

The problem with Vegas was not Vegas, but that Elvis stayed there too long. It was problematic for him in that he was easily bored and the worst thing for him artistically was constant repetition and routine. There were only so many times per year and so many years in a row he could conquer the same venue. For his audience, playing there so often made Elvis seem commonplace. That's one of the things you notice in the PFAP doc, In New York City in 1972 Elvis was an exotic creature. In Vegas, he was something that came and went with each season. Many have said that Elvis was losing enthusiasm by the third season. That's not evident to me because TTWII seems the peak Vegas season. However, each of the initial Vegas seasons had their own inherent challenges. First time back, it's his first shows in almost a decade. In February, he has to show what happened before was no fluke and that he can perform the unique tasks of filling the rooms in the dead season especially less than half a year after the initial engagement. The third season there was the movie. After that, though, what more was there to prove learn or do by another engagement. It was the repetition not the venue.

I would argue that the perceived strictures of Vegas had relatively impact on the act Elvis performed. Sure Vegas audiences demanded familiar material, but so do all arena audiences. It's why when the Rolling Stones want to a blues set these days, they do it in a club lottery ticket type situation. In the arena, it's "Satisfaction," not some old blues cover. Plus, as an interpretive artist the new material that Elvis would bring to the show was likely to be remakes of hits from other artists. It's what he did in the 1950s. It's what he did in the 1970s. It's also important to note that Vegas audiences occasionally even got material that road audiences never heard including obscurities like "True Love Travels on a Gravel Road" (in a great version by the way), "Inherit the Wind," and "Good Time Charlie's Got the Blues." In fact, what road audience would have stood for the August 1970 opening night show which contained almost no Elvis hits? As far as the big arrangements and productions go, Elvis' appetite was already whetted for those with the '68s show and the Moman recordings. Arguably, you definitely could state that a lot of Elvis' bigger Vegas arrangements hold up much better than some of what accompanied the stand up shows in '68.

Vegas was a venue, no better than some, no worse than a lot of others. The problem, as often occurred in Elvis' career (Felton, the movies etc), was that Elvis and Parker stuck with it long after the thrill was gone.

What matters with a song like "Never Been to Spain" (mentioned in another thread as "too Vegas" for Elvis) is not that a bunch of lounge singers enjoyed it 40 (!!!) years ago, but that Elvis did a kick ass job singing it. My only regret with Elvis singing that song is that he didn't first crack at it, because he clearly enjoys and understands the song and he really puts it over.

Re: I actually found schlocky Vegas---it wasn't Elvis!

Sun Nov 18, 2012 11:25 am

Well, as to the "fingers in ears" thing, it did happen. High Rollers who were comp'd, apparently, and had never been to a rock concert before. Anyway, that's not the main issue. The main issue is how would performing in a different kind of venue changed his work?

There were rock clubs in those days. Places where exciting music was happening, in a great variety of genres. What if someone contacted Parker late in '68, and outslicked him into snagging Elvis? And then Elvis has to REALLY impress a tough crowd! On a regular basis. Maybe it wouldn't have worked; his more "square" fans might not have gone to such a venue. But it was worth a try. When he was most afraid - afraid of not being liked by "real" or "regular" people, as happened in '68, he really tore it up! He knew his old reliable fans liked anything he did, so he didn't take them all that seriously. He was worried about 10s of millions of "real" people out there in TV Land, who might not like him at all. So, he made sure they did. He glared into that camera, and gave it everything inside him: "If you're lookin' for trouble/You came to the right place."

Vegas may not have been the right place.

There are other issues, but they do seem moot now. One might argue that such clubs were filled with drugs and other dangerous temptations. I don't think that holds much water, considering. What the clubs WERE filled with, were other musicians, musicians who were willing to try new things, who were trying new things. He had a whole new career at the time, and really was not challenged in a stimulating musical environment.

Certainly, the Vegas setting affected his choice of material in the '70 recording sessions. Imagine how differently things could have been had he actually been interacting with musicians who were doing some really interesting things! Elvis loved all music, and he would have tried anything, I think. He would, naturally, go back to a certain musical comfort zone, but just to have an edge to it . . . that would have been really something! The American Sound sessions were great for so many reasons, but one was that he was "dancing" you might say, on the edge at the time. He was making music in a "happening" place, and this ignited him!

And then he went to Vegas. And back to Nashville. And it was "Nashville, informed by Vegas."

We can speculate on alternative scenarios, at least. It does no harm.

rjm

Re: I actually found schlocky Vegas---it wasn't Elvis!

Sun Nov 18, 2012 7:59 pm

I see it as Nashville informed by the radio as opposed to Vegas. And I think both Elvis' studio and road band were pretty unimpeachable.

It's also important to remember that in 1970 Elvis was 35 years old, no longer the angry young man or the wild young buck just discovering the world. This is something I think many fans have trouble dealing with. He was more interested in songs that expressed disappointment or dismay or domestic values or even vague social comments than youthful exuberance. It was a natural evolution. He was also, since he returned from the army interested in more elaborate musical settings and more melodic pieces. He wanted to show he was a singer above all and pieces like "Bridge Over Troubled Water" allowed him to do that.

In fact, Elvis' rock audience should be at least at some peace with the work Elvis did in his final decade because it expresses very much the aesthetic they espouse of "Doing your own thing." Or is that only for the Beatles and a select few hipster acts whom the rock "cognoscenti" worshiped?

Re: I actually found schlocky Vegas---it wasn't Elvis!

Sun Nov 18, 2012 8:50 pm

Could you tell me what "rock clubs" were large enough to handle the crowds for Elvis at that time?