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Music / Elvis (NBC TV Special)

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Elvis is the debut live album by Elvis Presley, released in 1968. It is often nicknamed Elvis NBC TV Special, for there are two other albums by him with the same title. It's the soundtrack for the NBC special Singer Presents...Elvisnote , which premiered on December 3, 1968.

By the end of The '60s Elvis' career was pretty much in a slump. For most of the decade he had appeared in rather bad Hollywood films and released hit singles that were a watered down version of everything that originally made Elvis great. Many young people felt he had lost "it". In an attempt to revive Elvis' career he shot this special at the NBC Studios in Burbank, California in June of 1968. It was a mix of live performances and production numbers.

It proved to be a huge media spectacle. Not only was this his first live concert since 1961, but it showed Elvis could still rock the crowd and reminded the world why he was such a Rock & Roll superstar. He was very enthusiastic about the concept and it really shows from his energetic performance. Although it sometimes shows him perform with a backing band and background dancers, most of the concert is a one-man special.


The special was a major triumph, attracting 42% of the American viewing audience when it debuted, making it the single highest-rated program of the 1968-69 network TV season. The show convinced many that Elvis was still the "king" and revitalized his career. Many music fans see it as his finest last hour before his Las Vegas period (which in many ways followed the template laid down by this show) set in and the quality of his concerts seriously went down the drain, not to mention his dignity.

Because of the way it revived his career, the show is almost always called The '68 Comeback Special.



Side One

  1. "Trouble/Guitar Man" (3:26)
  2. "Lawdy Miss Clawdy"/"Baby What You Want Me To Do"/"Heartbreak Hotel"/"Hound Dog"/"All Shook Up"/"Can't Help Falling In Love"/"Jailhouse Rock"/"Love Me Tender" (14:52)

Side Two

  1. "Where Could I Go But To The Lord?"/"Up Above My Head"/"Saved" (7:31)
  2. "Blue Christmas"/"One Night" (5:33)
  3. "Memories" (3:16)
  4. "Nothingville"/"Big Boss Man"/"Guitar Man"/"Little Egypt"/"Trouble"/"Guitar Man" (6:42)
  5. "If I Can Dream" (3:19)

Where Could I Trope But To The Lord?

  • Alliterative Title: "Heartbreak Hotel".
  • Call-Back: The special and album open with a medley of "Trouble" and "Guitar Man", and both songs return in the climactic production number.
  • Christmas Songs: "Blue Christmas".
  • Cover Album: "Memories", "Nothingville" and "If I Can Dream" were the only songs written specifically for the special, and most of the older Elvis songs revived here were already a Cover Version he'd done of an earlier song.
  • Damned by Faint Praise: Elvis claiming that "I like a lot of the new groups, you know. The Beatles and The Beards and The...whoever."note 
  • Eleven O'Clock Number: "If I Can Dream", a rousing "I Want" Song pleading for peace and equality, closes out the special and the album.
  • Face on the Cover: The cover photo is a still of Elvis performing "If I Can Dream" in front of a neon sign spelling his first name.
  • God-Is-Love Songs: "Where Could I Go But To The Lord?".
  • Gospel Music: Elvis performs a medley of three gospel songs: "Where Could I Go But To The Lord?"/"Up Above My Head"/"Saved". During the performance he is backed by a group of Afro-American singers and dancers, including the prolific vocal trio The Blossoms (Darlene Love, Fanita James, Jean King). Elvis loved the genre and explains during his intro:
    Rock and roll is basically gospel, or rhythm & blues. It sprang from that, people have been adding to it.
  • Hell-Bent for Leather: Elvis performs in black leather with skin tight pants.
  • Hitler Cam: At the end of the TV performance of "If I Can Dream", the camera tracks forward and lowers to frame him this way as the song finishes.
  • Improv: "Love Me Tender" has a funny adlib:
    You have made my life a wreck... err... complete!
  • Live Album: Probably the best and most famous live album by Elvis available.
  • Medley: Most of the material performed by Elvis is done in medley form, presumably to get as much hits in as possible.
  • Mic Drop: Technically the exact opposite move, but Elvis triumphantly raising his mic and his arms over his head at the end of "If I Can Dream" has the same effect.
  • Miniscule Rocking: While it's the opening piece in the big production number toward the end, "Nothingville" on its own is barely a minute long.
  • New Sound Album: Elvis returning to his roots.
  • Non-Appearing Title: The album is just titled after his first name.
  • One-Man Song: "Guitar Man"
  • One-Woman Song: "Lawdy Miss Clawdy".
  • One-Word Title: "Trouble", "Nothingville" and "Memories"
  • Pacifism: "If I Can Dream"
    There must be peace and understanding
  • Pop-Cultural Osmosis: The neon letters spelling Elvis' first name have been parodied so much in popular culture, for instance Krusty's Comeback Special in The Simpsons episode "Krusty Gets Kancelled", that people who never saw this special might not be aware of its origin.
  • Questioning Title?: "Baby What You Want Me To Do" and "Where Could I Go But To The Lord?"
  • Rockers Smash Guitars: Subverted by the reprise of "Guitar Man". During the TV concert Elvis sings the song while being confronted by an actor who wrecks his guitar, causing a fight between Elvis and a gang to break out.
  • Shout-Out: Between songs, Elvis grabs his mic stand, holds it like a harpoon, and shouts "Moby Dick!"note 
  • Small Town Boredom: "Nothingville"
    Phony little two-bit town where nothing's real
    Treat me like a country clown in Nothingville
  • Step Up to the Microphone:
    • Well, Step Up to the Camera. The gospel medley opens on a close-up shot of the special's choreographer, Claude Thompson, who does a solo dance to "Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child", before Elvis starts his portion of it.
    • Also, "Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child" is a solo sung by Jean King of The Blossoms.
  • Unplugged Version: The jam-session segment of the show, in which Elvis plays a mix of his older hits and blues classics with his old band members in an informal setting surrounded by a small audience, is considered a forerunner of this. Electric guitars are used, but drummer D.J. Fontana is keeping the beat on a guitar case (while Elvis's buddy Alan Fortas is rhythmically slapping the back of a guitar itself).

Thank you. Good night.

Alternative Title(s): Elvis 1968