Elvis On Stage... And How To Record It.

By Rick RennieApr 23, 2000
Elvis On Stage... And How To Record It.
Well....Here goes my story. I first got to see Elvis in August, 1969, but not yet learning to be too sneaky, my tape recorder was confiscated until after the concert and they already had me pegged for the second show that night. I am still searching for a tape of August 2, 1969 shows with no success yet, after 31 years. In February of 1970, I had learned from my past mistakes and was able to get my recorder in for two dinner shows on the 3rd and the 5th. They were ok, but I still wanted better. Cassette recorders were fairly new at that time and there weren't many good ones available. Finally, I settled on the Sony Carry corder. It came in a nice briefcase-like container, along with two satellite speakers and a nice omni-directional stereo microphone to make nice stereo recordings. I just had to have enough nerve to place the mike on my table for the shows I attended, I taped every show on August 19-21. 1970 and the shows from my hometown of Portland Oregon in 1970 and 1973. I also taped the 3 am show at Lake Tahoe on May 13, 1973, a special Mothers' Day show. I was very excited when Elvis sang some songs that he had not recorded, like "Sweet Inspiration" and "Cryin' Time", or when he sang something that he didn't usually sing in concerts, like "Memphis" and "Faded Love". It was also fantastic to capture the magic of complete concerts, which RCA had not given us. There was so much more to an Elvis concert than RCA was showing us and my tapes captured part of it. I only wish I had also taken films or photos of the shows. When I first saw him in 1969, I had thought that it might be just a one-time thing, like his 1961 Hawaii show or his Memphis shows turned out to be then. So I was sure that I got a reservation to his shows right at the beginning. When he appeared on stage, it was magical! I nearly couldn't believe that I was actually seeing this giant who had become mainly only a screen legend to me for several years. And he looked so marvelous in his outfits and the way his hair fell into a modern hairstyle after only a few short minutes of that old pompadour that he walked on stage with. He sang contempory songs mixed in with his hits too and all of them sounded better than the originals, or at least as good. I can't tell you how impressed I was with his overall performance, but I was in awe. And so was anyone who saw his shows. The sound I got from my new recorder was very acceptable and I was to learn that it also did nearly as well in a larger venue such as the 13,000 seat coliseum in Portland. It felt really great to have these experiences captured on tape. The show at Lake Tahoe was probably the smallest venue I saw Elvis at and the sound was excellant. But I have heard that BMG is planning to release that show on the new FTD label soon and I'm wondering just how much they will "butcher" the show for us. It is their usual procedure, it seems. Even my original tape differs from the bootleg cd I've heard, in that Elvis returned to the stage at the end of the show and the band began playing his entrance theme again. But he only shook hands with a few fans and kissed a few girls and then disappeared behind the curtains. Still, I had never seen him do this before and someone edited it from the cd that was released. I just thought it should have been kept and that it was special. For the next three years, I attended five concerts with other people and did not record the shows, unfortunately, but I did get inferior tapes of them from others who did tape them. But none are as good as the ones I did. My bootlegs were all sent to a fan in Holland that my then girlfriend was writing to in the early 80's. He put two of them out on lp (A Dinner Date With Elvis and One Night In Portland) and sent her several copies of each one in trade. I was just thrilled to see my shows see the light of day for the fans. Later, I saw them and had to buy them on cd, along with several others. I was really never concerned with making money from them as I was with getting them out to other fans to enjoy as I did. For years, they seemed to be some of the finest audience tapes available and I am very proud of them. Some captured a period that seems to be lacking so far. Another favorite story of mine is from the August 19, 1970 DS and why I felt the need to edit it. Elvis seemed very unusual that evening. A lady at my table even made comments that she thought he seemed drunk. Of course, I had no such thoughts at that time, but in retrospect, he did seem influenced by something. It was during his rendition of "Love Me Tender" that he got out of control and went on much too long with the socializing part of it. The audience became bored with it and at first began clapping in unison for him, to get on with the show. But he ignored them and just continued with what he was doing. Then, the audience began to "boo" him. I did not want my friends to hear this, because some of them already thought I was crazy liking him so much, so I edited out the "Love Me Tender" section and I have since misplaced the original. Even though he was stoned on something, he went on to perform a great show, although you can hear him fall on his face and mess up "Polk Salad Annie" in this show. Still, at that time, I never suspected anything. I didn't even question how he was behaving. ElvisNews.com likes to thank Rick for his contribution to our magazine. And of course for his recordings (we enjoyed for so long) and the story behind them.
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