Elvis May Be Gone, But The Hits Keep Coming

By Woody Baird, The Associated PressAug 11, 2004
It’s been 27 years since Elvis Presley died, but the hits keep coming. ‘‘And he’s still getting No. 1 hits,’’ said Joe DiMuro, whose job is coming up with new records for a singer who isn’t making any more since he died on Aug. 16, 1977. ‘‘His music, his image can be packaged in a way that makes him as relevant today as it did 30 years ago,’’ DiMuro said. ‘‘There’s always a new market for it.’’ And, of course, there’s always the old market. Fans like John Beach — who will be among the several thousand Elvis faithful coming to Memphis for the death anniversary — are always hungry for more records, CDs, videos and DVDs, no matter how many times they’re reissued or reworked. ‘‘They’ve got us over a barrel,’’ said Beach, president of the Elvis Presley Fan Club of Florida. ‘‘Like with ‘That’s All Right,’ we could have four or five copies, and if they come out with another one, we’re going to go out and buy it, too.’’ ‘‘Elvis Week,’’ which officially begins Saturday, hits its climax Aug. 15 with a fan procession past Presley’s grave and a candlelight vigil that runs through the night. In the week preceding the vigil, fans will attend club meetings and dances, tour Graceland — the Memphis home where Presley died of heart disease and drug abuse at age 42 — and generally revel in all things Elvis. And, of course, they’ll shop. Among the new stuff for them this year are the CD ‘‘Elvis at Sun’’ and two DVD boxed sets of Presley’s most famous TV specials, all of which already are selling briskly. Presley’s first record, ‘‘That’s All Right,’’ was no big hit when he recorded it at Sun Studio in 1954. But reissued this year, it quickly became the top seller in the United States on Billboard’s singles chart. ‘‘It just turned No. 1 around the world 50 years after it was recorded. That’s exciting,’’ Beach said from his Jacksonville, Fla., residence. Such success is no surprise for DiMuro and his colleagues at BMG Strategic Marketing Group. They, along with Elvis Presley Enterprises, the business arm of the singer’s estate, are in the business of keeping Elvis in business. They scored big over the past two years with remixes of Presley singles ‘‘Rubberneckin’’’ and ‘‘A Little Less Conversation’’ and with the CDs ‘‘Elvis 30 No. 1 Hits’’ and ‘‘Elvis 2nd to None.’’ Since most of Presley’s music is already well- known, the basic idea is to repackage the material while upgrading the sound with digital technology. ‘‘The overall approach the last couple of years has been to create new genre format records,’’ DiMuro said. ‘‘We just did an Elvis gospel record this past spring which has done over 150,000 units.’’ That puts the Presley CD in the top 15 of the several hundred Christian music albums produced so far this year, says the Gospel Music Association. Another way to produce a new hit is to rework an old recording in the studio, as was done with ‘‘Rubberneckin’’’ and ‘‘A Little Less Conversation.’’ ‘‘The vocals are always intact,’’ DiMuro said, ‘‘but sometimes we change the cadence of the song, the tempo of the song. We may do a dance club remix. We may do more of a contemporary remix that will be featured at Top 40 radio stations.’’ Regardless of how it’s done, DiMuro expects the flow of new Elvis releases to continue. After all, Presley recorded more than 900 songs, plus BMG has plenty of studio outtakes and unreleased versions of many Elvis records. ‘‘That’s a lot of music,’’ DiMuro said. ‘‘We have a lot of material to work with.’’ And the fan base keeps growing. ‘‘What we’re finding out is when we do these types of remixes and repackages and different advertising campaigns, we’re reaching a younger demographic,’’ DiMuro said. The older demographic, which includes Beach at age 54, is as loyal as ever. Even though he already had several taped versions of Presley’s TV specials, he snatched up the DVDs as soon as they came out. ‘‘I got two of each,’’ Beach said. ‘‘One to play and one to keep.’’ The DVDs include practice sessions and previously unreleased material with Presley on stage and off. The original shows were 60-minute broadcasts. The ‘‘Comeback’’ reissue, retailing at $49.98, is a three disc set running seven hours. ‘‘Aloha,’’ retailing at $30.99, is a four-hour, two-disc set. ‘‘You’ve got to find creative ways to keep them entertained,’’ DiMuro said, ‘‘to keep them coming back."

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