- 11 Aug 23
The Once And Future King
Much as one might argue that all those sixties Elvis movies, whether he was playing a racing driver, a water skiing instructor, or even a fisherman, were great sport, there’s no denying that the famous 1968 NBC television special – the one where he’s in the leather gear – was a creative rebirth for The King after the soundtrack years. While I, and others like me, might profess a fondness for ‘There’s No Room To Rhumba In A Sports Car’ or “Fort Lauderdale Chamber Of Commerce’, ‘If I Can Dream’ clearly blows them out of the water.
After the special, Elvis made some of his greatest records – From Elvis In Memphis, Elvis Country (I’m 10,000 Years Old) – and started touring again, including a residency at the International Hotel in Las Vegas and you can press play on That’s The Way It Is if you want to see just how great Vegas Elvis was, in the early seventies at least.
The TCB (Taking Care Of Business) band he built around himself was a thing of wonder altogether, further expanded by the addition of The Sweet Inspirations and The Imperials on backing vocals and Joe Guercio’s thirty-piece orchestra. This really was dinner and a show.
Elvis was back on fire although this wasn’t much use to fans outside of the USA. Thanks to Colonel Tom Parker and his allegedly dubious residency status, the King was never going to tour Asia or Europe or anywhere else outside of the fifty states. On the other hand, The Colonel was never going to miss out on a chance to make a few bob. Accordingly, and apparently inspired by Nixon’s visit to China in 1972, Parker announced the Aloha From Hawaii television special event that same year, scheduled to take place in January 1973.
Long before Live Aid’s global Jukebox, Elvis and Aloha From Hawaii were broadcast live by satellite across the Southern Hemisphere and it was also shown, albeit with a slight delay, in Europe. The US had to wait as the Superbowl annoyingly got in the way. The King was never going to turn up in their local concert hall so this was as close as most fans were going to get.
The original double album taken from the show was Elvis’ last number one on the billboard charts and it is, presented again in remastered and reupholstered form, suitably spectacular. That crack band from the Vegas rebirth are on fire with special mention going to the stinging Telecaster of James Burton and the big hippie head on Ronnie Tutt behind the kit, beating the bejaysus out of his double bass drums.
Everything here is marvellous and so far over the top it’s nearly coming back down the other side. The man from Memphis rocks like bastard through ‘Burning Love’ and ‘Steamroller Blues’, sings his balls off on ‘You Gave Me A Mountain’ and ‘Love Me’, possibly impregnates the front row during the breakdown in ‘Suspicious Minds’ and goes positively supernova with ‘An American Trilogy’. If God were to sing with a covers band on the weekend for beer money and kicks then surely this is the sound that would come out of his/her/its mouth.
Sony have pushed the boat all the way out with a second cd capturing the full dress rehearsal from two days before, a third disk containing multiple takes of the extra songs included on the original US release and a Blu-ray showing the concert in all its sweaty, kung fu kicking, jump-suited, lei-sporting, ridiculously handsome glory. And handsome is probably too small a word to use here because Elvis Presley was so good looking that you’d wonder if he was of the same species as the rest of us at all. Has there ever been another human being who could carry off a white, rhinestoned jumpsuit with such casual panache? No, there hasn’t. Harry Styles my arse.
John Lennon once said that Elvis died the day he went into the army. Aloha proves that Dr Winston O’Boogie was, on that occasion at least, talking out of his trousers. Elvis was, is, and always will be the greatest.