This month's edition of Goldmine magazine features Elvis.
An interview with Elvis' producer Ernst Jorgensen
By Gillian G. Gaar (GOLDMINE, Aug.9, 2002)
Producer and Elvis Presley catalog expert Ernst Jorgensen has been instrumental in the revival of Presley's recordings for nearly a decade. The boxed sets he has coproduced (with Roger Semon) have been nominated for Grammv Awards, have sold more than a million copies and include The King Of Rock 'N' Roll: The Complete 50's Masters, From Nashville To Memphis: The Essential 60's Masters. Walk A Mile In My Shoes: The Essential 70's Masters, Platinum: A Life In Music, Elvis: Live In Las Vegas and That's The Way It Is Special Edition.
He is also the author of the definitive account of Presley's recording sessions, Elvis Presley: A Life In Music. He lives in Denmark. Recently Jorgensen sat down with Goldmine to talk about his work as coproducer (again with Semon) of the new Elvis box set, Today; Tomorrow & Forever
Goldmine: How far in advance do you plan these sets?
Ernst Jorgensen: I keep anniversaries in mind, and ideas come from the material we uncovered in the original cataloging process back in the early '90s and whatever I've found since. And if you know you're doing a particular thing three years from now, you may save a few goodies. One example is "Are You Lonesome Tonight," that we could've put out on a number of earlier releases. But I loved it so much I thought, "We'll save it for when we do something more elaborate." Same thing goes for the duet with Ann-Margret.
Goldmine: The track from the "Million Dollar Quartet" session - hasn't that material been issued before?
Ernst Jorgensen: The interpretation of what is "unreleased" is up for debate on a handful of cuts. What is unreleased about the Million Dollar Quartet is that we recently found a segment left out of the original release - Elvis fooling around with the Par Boone song ["Don't Forbid Me"]. So you can say the first part is unreleased, and we kept it with the following piece to give an idea of where it belonged. Not until recently did I find tapes to substantiate that the three original Million Dollar Quartet tapes actually do tie together, but the ones we had, which were copies, not originals, were cut off for various reasons. So this is like a missing link to how the Million Dollar Quartet fit together. The other track you can debate whether it's previously unreleased or not is "Memories," from the NBC TV special. Here for the first time we get it in stereo, because the stereo tape, or the multitrack actually, had been lost for years. It's even in mono on the original album.
Goldmine: What tracks on this set are of special interest?
Ernst Jorgensen: There's an outtake of "Harbor Lights." Everything that has to do with Sun is considered extremely rare. And there's an outtake of "Pieces Of My Life," from the Today sessions. We have released a lot of stuff from the Today sessions but only recently found the outtakes to "Pieces Of My Life." It's one of those songs where stripping off the backing track makes it more important somehow. And the 1956 show, I think this is pretty much what it sounded like had you been in the hall. It's rough, it's slightly distorted in places, it's full of energy, it's a lot of fun. I think it's important in that so little has been released of Elvis' early live performances, and if I could find anything more, we would definitely buy that as well.
Goldmine: I like this intimate version of "In The Ghetto."
Ernst Jorgensen: Yeah, it's interesting. Did you know that when they recorded it, [producer] Felton Jarvis added overdubbed backing vocals and Elvis called him and told him to take them off and then called back and said, "No, keep them on." And in a way that is actually the dilemma here, because the master is absolutely wonderful, but I think it becomes even more emotional when there is only Elvis and the group playing.
Goldmine: That's similar to the songs on the fourth CD.
Ernst Jorgensen: Yes, because that was the nature of the recording process. You recorded with a very small basic group and then you'd add all the other stuff later. And this is the other thing that I think is the fun part of this set. It is looking a little bit into Elvis' music world, and you get all these funny little ad-libs along the way and get the feeling that music is being created. I think the introduction of eight- and 16-track machines around '68 to '70 made all producers think, "We can always correct this, we can always add this." And most recording from that period, especially all the popular country music, has the tendency to have way too much extra music added, coming out of the idea that because we can do it, we will do it.
Goldmine: Do you have any Favorite tracks?
Ernst Jorgensen: I always loved "Are You Lonesome Tonight," because I thought that nobody could get away with it. The lyrics, they're too much. But in Elvis' version, he actually makes you believe them. I think the outtake of such a classic is wonderful, and there's also the fact that he was singing very well in 1960. He was actually fabulous. I also think it's fun to have the few songs from Jailhouse Rock, because these are newly found. We didn't have the outtakes until recently
Goldmine: What would you do on another box set?
Ernst Jorgensen: It wouldn't use the same concept, because as a producer you want to change things around. I don't think I would want to do another one like this. I think Platinum was good, and I think this is even more fun. I think this is as much fun as you can have with the kind of concept that we're using. And I think it gives a wonderful insight into Elvis' musical universe. I think people who are historical record producers are preachers to some extent, so they always hope that people that are curious will pick out their favorite songs and their favorite Elvis period and go and get more material like that. We still sell the box sets that we did in the '90s - the 50's, 60's, 70's box sets - and I really like that.
Goldmine: What's next as far as reissues?
Ernst Jorgensen: There is no "next" at this time, in that we have the box set and we have the #1 record [a collection of 30 of Presley's #1 hits, set for release in September; visit www.elvisnumberones.com], and we want see bow those releases go. There's always an analysis afterwards, where do we want to go next, based on the results we've had. But if you asked me if I have a lot of ideas of what I want to do, definitely but I'm not telling you because I'm not supposed to!
Source: Goldmine / Updated: Aug 15, 2002