“Double Trouble” authors Dick Dekker and David Ward
talk to EIN and Elvis Day By Day
Elvis coming to Japan: “Jesus would be turning in his grave” (Japanese DJ)
With the release of their new book, ‘From Memphis To Tokyo – A Reference Guide To The Absolute Mastery of Elvis’ Japanese Vinyl’, by the “dynamic duo”, Dick Dekker and David Ward, the not so dynamic duo, EIN’s Nigel Patterson and Elvis Day By Day’s Kees Mouwen, went treasure hunting in the land of the rising sun to discover what gems can be found in this new discography about Elvis’ Japanese vinyl (and learning a few new Japanese words in the process).
EIN/EDBD: Hi guys, many thanks to you both agreeing to the interview and while we have only seen some previews, let us congratulate you on what looks like one of the most fascinating Elvis books of 2023. The page design and visuals look great and together with the amount of detail provided for each entry, ‘From Memphis To Tokyo - A Reference Guide To The Absolute Mastery of Elvis’ Japanese Vinyl’ is (more than) an Elvis discography that will appeal to many fans and collectors.
Getting to know the authors
EIN/EDBD: Firstly, can you introduce yourself, and since you’re both not new to writing on Elvis, can you share something about your earlier work?
David Ward: Well, I’m a British male as I was born in a wet and windy town on a Monday morn. Now every day I give three cheers, coz I’ve been in Japan for more than twenty years. Ahem. And I previously wrote an eBook on Elvis’ Japanese LP releases titled ‘From Elvis in Japan: Elvis Presley Japanese LPs 1956-2018‘. (see EIN review here)
Dick Dekker: I was born in 1961 in The Netherlands. My first love has always been vinyl records. I collect 10 and 12-inch records, and got my first Elvis record in 1974.
In the time before the internet, I did some articles for fan magazines. Later on I was lucky enough to help with other books, the most well-known is probably ‘Bootleg Elvis’. (see EIN review here) In 2021 I teamed up with Ferry van der Werf and wrote the book ‘From Memphis to Taipeh - A Reference Guide to the Colorful Magic of Elvis' Asian Vinyl’.
EIN/EDBD: To get to know you a little better; how did you become Elvis fans, and in particular, a fan of his Asian releases?
David Ward: My mum owned a couple of Elvis records and one of them in particular, a U.K. pressing of the single ‘A Mess of Blues / The Girl of My Best Friend’, caught my imagination, both the songs and the old black label RCA record itself.
I started collecting Elvis’ Japanese releases after seeing my wife’s record collection (none were by Elvis, although she is a fan). I had sold all my records years earlier to replace them with CDs and later realized how much I missed those vinyl records. I bought Japanese ones because they were the ones in the shops where I live.
Dick Dekker: I guess I became a fan like all of us, except for those who were already born in a jumpsuit. We probably all remember the moment it happened, mine was when I heard ‘Blue Suede Shoes’ on the radio somewhere around 1970. That record really grabbed me.
The first time I saw an (South East) Asian record, was in the early 90s. This is another moment that I still clearly remember. It was at a record fair. While talking to another Elvis collector about the few Elvis records that were available, he told me that there was a dealer with records with strange covers, all in poor condition. That was my time to say goodbye and run for that dealer. I had never seen such records and fell in love with them immediately! Needless to say that I bought them all and had a hard time to fall asleep that night.
EIN/EDBD: Is your house laden down with every piece of vinyl release featured in the book?
David Ward: Ha ha, no not at all. Japanese homes are very small, so record space is very restricted. I’m lucky in that I have additional space at my in-laws’ home. In any case, there are many records in the book that I’ve never even seen.
Dick Dekker: No, it’s impossible to have all variants, logically we started to work from our own collections, but thanks to kind contributions from many collectors we’ve managed to list no less than 1,020 variants in the book.
Setting the scene: Elvis in Japan (and Asia)
EIN/EDBD: Can you tell us how Elvis Presley was introduced in Japan and what impression he made on the youth and their parents?
David Ward: Japan’s introduction to Elvis appears to have been very low key. His first record was listed in a Victor Records catalogue in 1956. They got Scotty Moore’s name and one of the song titles wrong.
I’ve never heard or read of any parental or societal outrage about Elvis in Japan like we know from the U.S. and some European countries. The closest thing is a comment I read by a Japanese music writer who said she once heard a DJ commenting, after playing a rocking Elvis Christmas song in the 1950s, that “Jesus would be turning in his grave”.
EIN/EDBD: Can you tell us something about Elvis' success in Japan, from the 1950s to 2023?
David Ward: I think there were three peaks in Elvis’ popularity in Japan. His fan club was formed in 1957 by a university student, so he obviously caught the imagination of some young Japanese people back then.
But it wasn’t until the ‘Blue Hawaii’ movie came out that his records started to sell in significant quantities. His popularity peaked in the early 1970s with the huge success of ‘That’s the Way it Is’, and spiked again in 1973 with the ‘Aloha from Hawaii’ television show and LP.
EIN/EDBD: Why is / was he so popular in Japan?
David Ward: Unfortunately, only the latter applies now as most young people in Japan have no idea who he was. He does still have a small, hardcore following, though, and there is still an active Elvis Presley Society of Japan. I suppose the things about Elvis that appeal to Japanese fans are the same as anywhere else - his charm, charisma, and amazing voice.
Dick Dekker: I always wanted to frame the following dialog and hang it in my Elvis room for these kind of questions:
Them: “Why Elvis?”
Me: “You obviously don’t know Elvis!”
Writing the book
EIN/EDBD: What was the idea behind writing ‘From Memphis To Tokyo’ and how does it relate to David's 'From Elvis in Japan: Elvis Presley Japanese LPs 1956-2018' e-book and Dick’s ‘From Memphis to Taipeh’ (vinyl releases) book?
Dick Dekker: From my side, ‘From Memphis to Taipeh’ was a way to get through the corona misery. While working on the book, I’ve gotten many questions asking if Japanese records would also be included. When you have a look at ‘From Memphis to Tokyo’, the reason why they aren’t, is clear.
I knew about David’s great eBook and asked him if he was working on 7-inch records as well. If he wasn’t, I wanted to do a paper book on these Japanese releases. We ended up working together, which was the best thing we could do.
David is a great person, and very easy to work with. We both think that the product should be the best we can produce, it had to be a book we would also buy ourselves. It should be a labor of love, nothing else.
EIN/EDBD: How did you approach the research and writing and keep track of/track down every LP release? It must have taken years of research, with many stumbling blocks, in chasing down so many albums and singles and all the different variations! It seems to be "Too Much" to get one's head around?
David Ward: Initially, I entered the details of my records on the Discogs website before creating my own database. For this book we’ve also had a lot of help from collectors who brought many variants to our attention.
Dick Dekker: Like David said, the most important thing is to know other collectors. You can’t have or know everything. So, networking is the key-word here.
David Ward: In my case, I submitted data to the Discogs website - I was building up a database without trying to do so. And I’ve just been adding to that reference ever since. Once we decided to go ahead with the book, we pooled our resources and got others to help us with new items and filling the blanks. I will add that the book itself - the design and the TCB - is all down to Dick.
Dick Dekker: David lives in Japan and speaks Japanese, so he knows everything first-hand. To me Japanese writing are only crisscross lines.
David is also a gifted writer. Everything we discussed and talked about to determine the outline and content of the book, was written down by David in a way that not many people can do. His ability to find every missing comma got him his nickname “Mr. Eagle Eyes”.
My task was to gather and scan all records and make the book ready to print. And I think that with the help of many collectors, we did a good job.
EIN/EDBD: The book is over 700 pages, making it bigger than the ‘Elvis: From Memphis to Taipeh’ release. Is it complete?
David Ward: No book like this can ever be complete. No doubt after publishing we’ll find variants we haven’t seen or knew existed. However, I think it’s so close to being complete that there will never be a subsequent book, either by us or anyone else.
Dick Dekker: David is right, there will never be a book that is complete. But our book is as complete as we could get it. Literally until the last minute, we added new variants that crossed our path.
When we started working on the book, we only had the original Japanese record guide as a reference. Unfortunately, we didn’t succeed in tracing any of the authors. But, when we were almost finished, our luck turned! A good Japanese friend of mine introduced us to two of the original authors.
Because of the language barrier, it was so great that David speaks Japanese and he was invited to visit both at their homes. Then, as if the devil had a hand in it, another Japanese friend of mine came up with another big collector, whom David could also visit. During these three visits, David was able to scan some interesting items and came back with a lot of information. He was also able to scan the test pressing of ‘Your Cheatin' Heart’, the bonus single we made for the book.
The extra content really made us sweat to get everything in it get the book; adjusting tables, adjusting texts, adding pages ... you know the drill. And that crisscross through the book. But we’re happy we could add these items.
But in the end, there comes a moment for a project like this that you simply have to draw a line, because otherwise the book can never be printed.
Various Japanese releases of Hound Dog / Don't Be Cruel
EIN/EDBD: Do you think the book has an appeal outside the older / collector / Japanese fan base?
David Ward: I don’t collect records seriously from very many countries, but I’m always interested in releases from overseas. I wish there were more books like this for other countries. I’d buy them. Hopefully, the book works as one you can just browse for a bit and marvel at all the different OBI designs, for instance, or one that you can sit down and read. It contains a lot of information. Even the Japanese titles of the albums and individual songs are often interesting.
Dick Dekker: Record collectors all over the world love Japanese records for their impeccable quality, both for artwork and sound quality.
Just to give you an idea, for every book we sold to Japan, we sold about 20 to the rest of the world, so there are many fans and collectors of these releases out there.
EIN/EDBD: RCA German and Japanese vinyl are highly regarded for their generally superior audio (and packaging) compared to RCA USA and RCA Europe / U.K. release. Do you address this in the book?
David Ward: I’ve never been convinced that Japanese records sound any better or worse than those from the U.S., the U.K. or Germany, for instance. I think the vinyl they were using in the 1980s is extremely quiet, but a couple of people have told me it wears out quite quickly.
The different, and often superior, packaging of Japanese releases is an important part of their appeal, so this is both discussed in the text and, of course, shown in the many photographs in the book.
Dick Dekker: I think that these scans in the book David refers to will speak for themselves. To me the Japanese seem to want to be proud about the product they make and “we” are proud about the money we make with the product. That’s a different approach and it shows.
EIN/EDBD: Could you outline the key elements to the book (what readers can expect).
Dick Dekker: In the book readers can expect 357 different titles with 1,020 variants, 110 Promo-only LPs and over 3,000 pictures. There is a load of background information like retail prices, a way to find out when a record was pressed, company sleeves, free gifts and special offers, the meaning of stamps on records and covers, color differences on OBIs and covers, inner sleeves, differences in label designs, and much more. (see 'Table of Contents' below)
EIN/EDBD: A book with 700 pages on Japanese vinyl is a lot. What is the importance / significance of these releases?
David Ward: These releases show how enduring and far-reaching Elvis’ appeal is, for one thing. It’s remarkable that virtually every one of the official U.S. records was also released in Japan, a country where the people don’t even speak English.
Can you imagine a record company releasing hundreds of records in the U.S., the U.K., or Australia singing of an artist singing in a language other than English? Not to mention the many other Elvis releases that were unique to Japan.
Dick Dekker: And, additionally to what David said, the importance of the book is that it is both a guideline for collectors and while it also preserves the history of Japanese Elvis Presley releases.
EIN/EDBD: What makes Japan an interesting country for Elvis fans? What distinguishes Japanese vinyl releases from released in other countries.
Dick Dekker: The love the Japanese producers put into their releases. Making alternate, high quality and adoring covers for their records, is what’s fascinating most collectors.
David Ward: Yes, virtually every record has something about it that’s different to the equivalent release in another country, whether it be different artwork, different songs or extras like a lyric sheet. That’s what makes the Japanese releases interesting objects for both Elvis and vinyl collectors.
Below, looking at the Japanese pressings of the 'Elvis Presley Debut Album'...
EIN/EDBD: What did you discover when you wrote this book that you didn't know?
Dick Dekker: For me the main discovery was the immense amount of variants. We also came across a few OBI’s that we had never seen before. We found an explanation for the many color differences on obis and covers.
A few things that made me happy were, for example, the OBI for the HP-504 ‘Golden Records’ 10-inch LP, and also the generic ‘Christmas OBI’ (see above right 'OBI') that David came across is very interesting for us as collectors.
Finally, I would like to mention the ‘Ski OBI’. For a long time I only knew of the existence of just one copy which was in the possession of a collector in Sydney, but a second copy has now surfaced with a collector in Hong Kong.
However, the thing that will give many collectors some sleepless nights, is the possibility to exactly date, when a record was pressed.
David Ward: Dick is right, without doubt, the biggest discovery was learning to “read” the runout areas of the records. If you have two U.S. records, one with 2S/2S stampers and the other with 9S/10S stampers, for instance, all you can really say is which one came first. With most Japanese records, you can actually see when the record was pressed. Although not quite as culturally significant, and nowhere near as difficult to read, when I figured out how to do it, I could imagine how the scholars of hieroglyphics must have felt when they decoded them.
I’ve made meticulous records of the runout areas of hundreds of records since, and doing so revealed that many of Elvis’ records in Japan never went out of print. I’d always assumed that the 1950s records were only available for a short time before being deleted and then reissued a few years later in the early 1960s, because they’re quite rare. In fact, there are 1960s pressings of those first albums, showing that they were available right up until the reissues came out. They must have been pressed in very small quantities each time.
EIN/EDBD: What were some of the most pleasing record finds in compiling the book?
David Ward: Coming across records I’d suspected existed but had never seen before, such as the red label promo version of ‘Stay Away’. Also, seeing records that I never even knew existed, such as the RCA pressing of ‘Stay Away’.
Dick Dekker: As a collector, every new variant is exciting to find. To me it was thrilling to see a few OBI’s for the very first time. And as a 10-inch freak, it was great to find 2 new label variants and 2 new inner sleeves.
EIN/EDBD: Which things didn't make the book, what is missing?
Dick Dekker: Nothing we found didn’t make it into the book. The only thing we decided to do is that when a record was made by different makers (Victor Company of Japan, Victor Musical Industry or RVC Corporation) with identical labels, where only the name of the maker is different, we pictured only one label. We also tried to avoid printing the same cover art for records where only the Catalog number differs.
Otherwise, the book would have been twice as thick and very boring. Of course, the caption of the pictures tells you about this.
David Ward: Flexi-discs that came with magazines with Elvis on the cover. The discs contained cover versions of Elvis songs. Non-Elvis records with Elvis’ photo on the cover are also not included, even the ones released on Victor.
And sadly, we were unable to find the OBI for the ‘Elvis’ Golden Records Volume 2’, a Japan-only title from 1959. That was particularly “kuyashii” (a great Japanese word meaning regrettable and annoying).
EIN/EDBD: Does the book cover only official releases or both official and bootleg titles?
Dick Dekker: I’m not aware of any Japanese bootleg records. Some Japanese records were bootlegged / counterfeited in Europe, but these are not included.
David Ward: Dick is right, I haven’t seen them either. Bootlegs from other countries are, however, quite easy to find in Japan.
EIN/EDBD: How prevalent were RCA Japan Elvis “promo” records?
David Ward: We’ve found promos for the majority of Elvis’ Japanese releases, even 1950s LPs, EPs, singles and 78s. It’s likely that promo copies were made for nearly every title. The early ones are rare, but the promos from the 1970s and 1980s are not all that rare in many cases.
Dick Dekker: Oddly enough, some LPs are harder to find with an orange label than with a white promo label. Non-white promo labels are hard to find and therefore very desirable. Throughout the book we list many promo records.
EIN/EDBD: The book comes with a nice 45 RPM vinyl single; please tell us the story behind this?
David Ward: That was Dick’s idea. And a very good one. Had he not thought of it, we probably never would have found the original test pressing.
Dick Dekker: This single was originally scheduled for release in November 1965 but it was eventually cancelled for reasons unknown to us. We have found the original test pressing and put the scans of it in the book. This was a nice find and we thought it would give the book something special for the collectors.
EIN/EDBD: What is your advice for fans who are inspired by your book and want to add items to their collection. Can they use your book as the definitive reference or as a buyer's guide?
Dick Dekker: Yes and they should! I wish that I had a record guide like this when I was young.
David Ward: To help you start and find your way, our book is probably all you’ll ever need as a guide to Elvis’ Japanese releases for whatever you buy.
As far as buying Japanese vinyl goes, I’d say beware the “excellent minus” (EX-) grading of record covers when shopping online. This is a grading used by Japanese sellers and means “nice but stained”.
Our book will either tell you when it was made or show you how to find out for yourself. It will also tell you what came with the record, such as an OBI, insert, poster, and so on. There are hints in the text about how rare certain items are but it’s not a price guide.
EIN/EDBD: Will fans / collectors still collect Elvis from Japan vinyl in 10 years?
David Ward: I believe so, but you’ll start to see more and more trades between parties outside Japan. Like the old ukiyo-e works of art, most of the desirable Japanese Elvis records will have left the country before long.
Dick Dekker: Vinyl, Yes! If you would ask me if the they would still collect CDs in 10 years, I’d say “No!”.
EIN/EDBD: Do you jointly or individually have any plans for future Elvis books?
David Ward: I still want to do a book on Elvis’ movies in Japan, but it will be very costly to get all the posters, programs and other movie-related paraphernalia required to produce a good photo book. I may have to trouble my newfound Japanese friends again. I’d certainly love to work with Dick again. The project came together very smoothly.
Dick Dekker: Making a book like this, is very exhausting, that’s one thing I can assure you! So for the time being, we’ll both need a bit of distance from making books, I guess.
But David and I will keep in contact, that’s for sure and maybe there will be another project to work on in the future. It would be a pleasure for me. It was a great time working together and we became really close. Hopefully we’ll meet in person next year for the first time.
EIN/EDBD: Is there anything else you would like to say to our readers?
David Ward: Start your Japanese collection now. Prices will probably go up once the book comes out. It will show everyone that there is even more out there for the Elvis Japanese collector than previously thought. It’s going to blow the Elvis Japanese used record market wide open.
I can imagine plenty of dealers getting browned off by questions about runout areas too (laughing)
Dick Dekker: Like Melvin Presley said: Keep buying them records!
EIN/EDBD : Dick and David, many thanks again for your time - it is appreciated. We know many of our readers will have a keen interest in what you have shared with us today. And David, we look forward to your book on Elvis’ movies in Japan.
For more information on the book, and to order it directly from co-author,
Dick Dekker: email@example.com
Comment on this Interview
Interview by Nigel Patterson / Kees Mouwen.
-Copyright EIN October 2023
EIN Website content © Copyright the Elvis Information Network / Elvis Day By Day.
Book Review 'From Elvis in Japan': David Ward's 'From Elvis in Japan: Elvis Presley Japanese LPs 1956-2018' is the a very detailed and visually attractive Elvis “discography”. It covers Elvis LP (vinyl) releases in Japan between 1956 and 2018, the e-book is full of interesting information about each release and stunning images of the LP covers and discs.
The discography contains information on 131 Elvis LPs released in the “land of the rising sun”, a complete song index, and “value add” sections such as How to Read Elvis’ Name in Japanese, Japanese Albums with US Artwork, and English Lyrics (the translations are often outrageously funny!).
Japan also pressed plenty of unique compilations such as 'Elvis Presley Special 24', 'Elvis on Screen', 'Elvis Presley The Complete Singles (11 LP box set)' and 'Elvis Presley By Request of Japanese Fans'.
Go here and discover even more as EIN's Nigel Patterson reviews this fascinating look at Elvis' Japan releases.
(Book Review, Source:ElvisInformationNetwork)
(Interview) David Ward, author of 'From Elvis in Japan: Elvis Presley Japanese LPs 1956-2018': A new e-book by David Ward chronicles more than 100 Japanese Elvis LPs in great narrative detail and full color images.
Long-time collectors will be very aware of how different many Japanese Elvis records were.
In a fascinating and entertaining interview with EIN’s Nigel Patterson, David discusses:
- the extra effort RCA Japan put into Elvis’ LP releases
- what you can find in Japanese obi strips on Elvis LPs
- the Elvis LP obi strip doubling as a poster
- Elvis’ record sales in Japan
- the single you need to hold up to the light
- some very funny Japanese transcriptions of English lyrics, and a lot more.
There is also a shout out to Ernst Jorgensen!
Read David’s full interview - & check out the great covers..
Bootleg Elvis (Book Review): Illicit Elvis recordings released by underground labels on pristine black or colored vinyl! For many fans the thought and memories of that important part of the Elvis music scene still resonates in 2012.
And now one of the year's greatest book releases has been published, Bootleg Elvis.......a high quality, incredibly well researched narrative and visual history of the 900+ Elvis bootlegs released on vinyl.
EIN recently delved deep inside this formidable book to sample its veritable treasure trove of Elvis delights! Old and new fans take note!!
Read EIN's detailed review