BMG Building in Indianapolis
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All photos Ger Rijff

Diggin' in the Indy Vaults

By GER RIJFF

Indianapolis Vaults

After our incredible success in locating tons of rare Elvis tapes in New York in November of last year a second trip to the States had been in the planning for months. Finally the date was set by Ernst Jorgensen (BMG Denmark) and Roger Semon (BMG UK) for June 24th, when the three of us would meet up in Indianapolis to prepare strategy on how to dig through tens of thousands of tapes in the Indianaoplis RCA/ BMG tape vault.

Sessiontape Another sessiontape

It hadn't struck me until the taxi that drove us from the Indy airport to The Mariott Hotel passed by the Market Square Arena that it was only two days away from the 26th - the day Elvis performed his final concert there back in 1977. I happen to be one of the lucky ones who'd witnessed that final show 13 years ago and, believe me, it didn't leave me unmoved seeing the sights of the Arena again.

In the hotel that evening we reminisced about the great times we'd had in the New York vault and wondered if tomorrow would bring the same excitement and surprising results experienced there eight months before.

Roger Semon and Nipper

A taxi drove us up to 6650 East 30th Street where the BMG factory is situated on a highway some 20 minutes outside Indy centre. The factory is enormous in size with hundreds of employees shipping BMG products to all corners of the U.S.

Wendell Davis, the vault keeper, walked us through many hallways until we finally faced the huge electronically-secured doors that gave entrance to the vault.

Wherever we looked it was tapes, tapes and more tapes - all stored on seemingly endless iron shelves. There wasn't a cigarette butt or chewing gum wrapper on the floor - everything looked so neat and in place. It was scarey. This was quite a different scene to the Big Apple vault...

Our search for tapes started on the first floor amongst the `miscellaneous' files - hundreds of tapes that are waiting to be filed properly. We dug through them all, one by one. We came across everything from Glenn Miller to Jefferson Airplane, but not one 'lost' Elvis tape. The dust gathered on the shelves now stuck nicely to our hands, face and clothes.

Tape Tape

From `miscellaneous' we went to the section of the filed two-track tapes downstairs. All of them (thousands!) stored by year of recording. Whilst in the New York vaults Elvis has his own section (well, more or less), in Indy our man shares the shelves with all the other RCA recording artists. On top of that, no names of artists are mentioned on the tapebox spines; one has to work strictly by matrix numbers. (Do I hear any volunteers?)

The first Elvis tapes pulled from the shelves contained `master' takes of various '5O's classics such as `Jailhouse Rock' and 'Blue Suede Shoes'. At first glance maybe not so startling, but Ernst immediately underlined the fact that these masters had probably not been touched by RCA engineers for over 30+ years. Meaning: these are the top-notch, A1 quality tapes -many times better than their second or third generation copies used in the preparation of the countless reissues since their date of recording!

Why, oh why, then, you might ask, didn't the engineers go for the originals all these years? There's two possibilities:
A) They didn't care. B) They didn't know. Take your pick.

Roger Semon discovered a new tape

Things finally started cooking when two boxes turned up marked 'Elvis Presley w/piano - Germany', and two more marked 'Elvis w/guitar home recording'. Listed on the back of the boxes, together with released material such as 'Earth Angel' and 'Mona Lisa', were half-aiJozen yet-to-be-released songs! Among them, 'I Wanna' Be Loved By You'. Could this be the old Marilyn Monroe oo-poo-pee-doo ditty? The reason I sound so vague is that, unlike New York, at Indy there was nowhere for us to actually hear these tapes. Indy is used basically as just a storage plant, so there's no facilities for listening the the tapes stored there.

Anyway, amongst the other titles on the 'home-recorded' tapes were the Little Richard hit 'Send Me Some Lovin",'I'll Take You Home Again Kathleen', 'There's No Tomorrow' and 'Hound Dog'. Marked on the boxes, however, is "Poor quality", so don't expect miracles. (Surely these tapes were examined when the 'Golden Celebration' box-set was put together anyway and if the contents were up to scratch they would've been used then.) But just to get you all going there is a song listed as being on there that was a huge rock n roll hit in 1957 for a fourpiece Philadelphia group. Sorry, but I can't give out any more info at this time - you're just gonna' have to guess...

The excitement of finding these four boxes of 'home-recorded Elvis' gave us new energy to continue digging through the hundreds of tapes still waiting to be inspected.

sessiontape_indiana.jpg

One box we came across claimed to contain two takes of 'Let Me' from the 'Love Me Tender' session. Interestingly, it listed a date of September 1 3th 1956. The exact date of this session has never been known, but it seems more than likely that this date refers to the date 20th Century Fox handed the session tapes to RCA.

The next great find was the unreleased studio master of 'For The Good Times' from 1972, soon followed by tons of '70s outtakes of songs such as 'Mary In The Morning', 'Way Down' and 'Sweet Angeline' - to name but a few. But the best was yet to come.

Stored in a large box we discovered several reels containing a dozen unreleased master recordings done at various Vegas shows back in 1969. Among them, the 'lost' songs 'This Is The Story', 'Rubberneckin", 'Inherit The Wind', 'Funny How Time Slips Away' and a title none of us knew he had ever performed during his '69 Vegas stint! A real find if ever there was one.

The reason I'm not giving out all the titles found in Indy is to keep the excitement going until their official release date. And many of the lost treasures found in both New York and Indianapolis will see release early next year. That's a fact, not just a rumour. On the subject of what else and how many concerts were recorded during the '70s', I'll get back to that in a future issue.

After two days spent in the vault, both Ernst and Roger flew to Los Angeles to have talks with Don Wardell about what we had accomplished so far and to lay-out ideas about future Elvis projects. I flew back home to Amsterdam. And I'm sure I speak for all three of us when I say we were tired but excited. I spoke to Ernst briefly over the telephone on the day he arrived back in Denmark and he told me he had already found new leads in L.A. that point to yet more unreleased material - maybe even studio-recorded titles unknown to all of us!

The search continues. There's no stopping us now!!!

(published in TMAHM 1990)