Elvis Presley - The 1977 CBS Television Special By Darrin Memmer

Mar 13, 2001
Elvis Presley - The 1977 CBS Television Special By Darrin Memmer
First a short word on the design of the book, which is a bit larger than a custom pocket, counting 132 pages (actually our version has 134, because pages 121 and 122 were included twice). The printing of the text is good, as is the layout: clear paragraph divisions give a good overview. Unfortunately the pictures (most of them by Bob Heis) are printed in a very poor (b/w) quality. The front and backside pictures are good, but we wonder if pictures of Elvis in this shape are inviting one to buy the book. The font used on the cover looks like someone just discovered a photo-editing program and tried some special effects. Writing a book with this controversial subject is a little dangerous. What is the target audience? The fans that like anything Elvis, the fans that are less positive about Elvis' latter years, or even the general public? We'll try to put our personal thoughts about the subject aside and give an honest review of the content and try to answer the question if it fits a special group. After a short homage to Bob Heis the book starts with an introduction to the TV-special. The writer backs up Col. Parker for making the right decision, since the special was motivating and inspiring to Elvis and it gives us the only official footage of Elvis in his last four year. The author explains that Elvis was very nervous for the special, and he "proves" that Elvis was nervous for his shows most often. After pointing to EPE's explanation why they do not release the footage, the author gives the reason for writing this book in the last two paragraphs of the introduction: "Elvis biographers, critics, and Internet reviewers tend to write in a hypercritical manner when describing the CBS filmed shows. The manner in which they take insignificant onstage occurrences, audience banter, etc. and apply intense scrutiny and meaning is ridiculous. Cockeyed claims of an Elvis decline and downfall are built on the foundation that the CBS Special was a total disaster. It has been a well-constructed facade, folks. Elvis Presley's last television special was originally broadcasted by CBS network on October the 3rd, 1977, and entitled "Elvis in Concert". In order to provide a historical perspective of Elvis' performance in the two concerts that comprise the CBS Special, I have included in this biography Elvis' on stage dialogue, lyrical recall, and audience interaction. With context comes the unmitigated truth about the CBS Special… finally!"In one thing the author succeeds. He writes out the complete shows in Omaha and Rapid City. This includes indeed the lyrics, the chat, the audience reaction and even timing of both songs and applause. It is unnecessary to say this gives a very boring read, especially to those that are familiar with the footage and/or recordings. Both shows are analysed in detail in the next chapters. In this detailed analysis the author compares the lyrics with other versions, most often originating from other 1977-concerts. In this way the author defends the version of "Are You Lonesome Tonight?" in Omaha. Elvis messed up and started again, and in this version he recalled both the first and third verse completely, even 17 years after recording it originally! Probably half of the western population can recall the lyrics of those verses, without having it recorded at all. Of course also the spoken part gets a lot of attention, spread out over several pages, pointing towards the "laughing version" of 1969 and other versions of the song, forgetting a different atmosphere (not to mention Elvis' physical state). Obviously recalling the lyrics are very important to the author, but he completely ignores they way they were sung most of the time. The banter gets under the microscope thoroughly too, several "mistakes" are compared to earlier versions of the same, like "alblum" in 1970. Between the two chapters dedicated to Omaha and the two for Rapid City Memmer describes (and writes out) the presentation to Elvis of a plaque, because he was the first to attend in the newly built auditorium. Actually this is the most interesting chapter in the book. The book is closing with two chapters about the TV special itself. Indeed, one is writing out the whole thing, including descriptions of the commercials. To be honest it is more interesting than the chapters where the concerts are written out, cause the author makes some sensible remarks about wrong cuts and such. Maybe they should have been put in the analysis of the special. We included two paragraphs of the introduction, and will include two of the last chapter too; they speak for themselves: "Elvis Presley biographers have had the opportunity for more than two decades to come forward with the truth about the CBS Special and have failed to do so. The wannabe experts on the Internet have had time as well and they constantly reiterate the kooky claim that the CBS Special was a "disaster". Why believe such poppycock? The CBS Special has finally been given an intellectually honest review - and this biography is the end result. Elvis Presley's voice was full-toned, rich, and powerful throughout the June 1977 tour, including the two shows filmed form "Elvis in Concert". Due to his vocal range, one moment Elvis could sound like an opera tenor and the next moment a smooth gospel baritone. The fact is that Elvis provided CBS with a wealth of excellent "on stage" as well as "behind the scenes" material for their fall TV special. You know the truth…. at last".To end with the answers of the question we asked earlier in the review "What is the target audience?"; we can answer that now. At least not for a general public, it is much too detailed and boring for them and they might even suspect that the content isn't really open-minded. Not for the "disbeliever", they won't be convinced because of a lack of arguments. Possibly not for the "real fans" too, they'll learn nothing new and for them the read is probably even more boring, because they might have seen or heard it themselves a zillion times. So the answer must be "the author himself". What starts as an almost endearing try, soon turns out to be pretty pathetic. To us this ignorant book with its arrogant conclusion is a waste of money, if not of paper. If you want to find out yourself, you can find more info on JD and me. We don't claim this review is intellectual, but at least it is honest.

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