'(Cancelled) The Request Box'

A Southern Comfort/Audionics release

The Preview & Tracklist

'The Request Box (Cancelled)' - new Import release: A new reissue of the 'Request Box Shows' released 18 years ago by the Bilko label have been announced.

'(Cancelled) The Request Box' will be a double CD featuring the rare recording of Elvis' August 19th & 20th 1975 performances in Las Vegas, where although in poor health Elvis introduced the positive idea of a Request Box for audience song choices.

The season was cancelled after only 5 performances.

From the sensational combination of the two labels Southern Comfort and Audionics, the release date is set for the end of February. 

Although only available from audience recordings this upgrade is taken from the original tapes (this not yet another cheap copy) using one of the best audio engineers around. More than has been previously released, the August 19th Dinner show is complete with over half of the Midnight show also included. The 20th Dinner show is also complete with a bonus segment from the Midnight performance. Both CDs run the full 80 minutes.

Previously EIN featured the sleeve notes from 'The Flying Dutchman' (below) but now we also have the cover art - as well as the excellent additonal story of Elvis in 1975 by Philip Samm. Here are two extracts to whet your appetite....

THE REQUEST BOX SHOWS – 1975 Revisited

As history would reveal all too clearly, the best was behind him. Worse though, as 1975 dawned and Elvis approached his fortieth birthday, it seemed that he was only too well aware of this, also, as most observers and biographers have recorded. And while it is speculative to do so, it is not too great a leap of imagination to suggest that he must have been reflecting – as we all do during such significant birthdays / anniversaries – not only on his mortality, but also on his great past achievements. Achievements made all the more poignant when compared with his flagging career in recent times, characterised as it was by relatively minor peaks and some seriously deep troughs – notably, bouts of ill health and some erratic, lacklustre live performances. Sadly, overall, 1975 was to prove as artistically unrewarding as the previous year.

... ....    

So, while 1975 had started badly, it had picked up the beat for a while before ultimately floundering again. Yet something unusual and noteworthy did occur during the summer months when, departing from past experience, he began to accept and respond to requests from the audience for certain songs. This actually began at the Asheville gig in July when he had asked for a box to be placed in the lobby asking the audience to make requests. He also responded to songs shouted out to him. In quick succession he ran through the likes of An American Trilogy, Heartbreak Hotel, Jailhouse Rock, Something, Return to Sender, and Wooden Heart. These particular recordings can be heard on the bootleg release Pieces of My Life where it is hard to believe that he was not being received extremely enthusiastically, judging by the audience reaction. Incidentally, he also sang Shake a Hand and Pieces of My Life (fantastic versions of both songs recently recorded for the Today album) during this show, again the only time they were performed live. The latter song was in response to his father’s request. It doesn’t take much imagination to see the song as partly autobiographical, if you substitute the whisky for drugs. And Elvis’s pained performance of this song makes it obvious how closely he related to it.All of which brings us to the fateful August shows. Prior to the season, first hand accounts chronicle how unwell he was. He should never have started the season. His weight had gone up again and his medications still caused problems. On route to Vegas his plane had to make an emergency landing in Dallas because he was having a problem breathing. This was resolved after a few hours but signalled an ominous start to the season. However, while the critics savaged his performances once again - with some justification, it seems - on the face of it, he did appear reasonably happy the first night or so, joking with the audience and changing lyrics here and there, much to delight of the crowd. And it was during this time that Charlie was given the task of taking a ‘box’ – actually a champagne bucket – into the audience, inviting fans to make their requests. This produced his one and only live attempt at Crying in the Chapel though he also had a stab at Loving You and Young and Beautiful. Oddly enough, the aural evidence available of these shows belies how serious matters were regarding his health, for some of the individual performances actually come over as being spirited and enjoyable. For example, the August 20th performance of Green Green Grass of Home reveals it to be a pleasingly strong version – which is also true of some of the others songs from this date.

Now very little has been written about this development and nothing to explain precisely how it came about – or why it stopped, for that matter (when he returned to Vegas in December the practice ceased). Of course, while we have the tracks he responded to on CD, the other question was how many of the requests received were simply discarded? I guess we’ll never know. But as we know only too well, this season was short-lived and aborted after only three nights. Even Linda was staggered by how weak his performance was – he seemed to have no stamina. On the second night he actually lay down on stage early in the show! And he only completed the two shows scheduled for the third night under heavy pressure from the Colonel; but by early the next morning Elvis had left for Memphis and the rest of the season was cancelled.

© Philip Samm - 2007

The Flying Dutchman's Story

It was the early evening of August 20th when we landed at the Las Vegas Airport. For years my lady and I had dreamt of this moment. We were finally going to see Elvis!

We're part of a group of 250 fans travelling from the UK and Europe, organized by the Official Fan Club of Great Britain. Specially chartered coaches - 5 of them - drive the large group to their 'home' for the next seven days - the Holiday Inn on Las Vegas Boulevard.

Early the next morning we take a taxi to the Hilton Hotel in order to confirm our reservations for three Elvis shows on the 24th, 25th and 26th. On the way we spot several large billboards that scream out NOW ELVIS!

It's like driving through a Hollywood movie set. Frikkin' incredible! When the taxi pulls up in front of the Hilton Hotel entrance, a feeling of total disbelief overpowers us. Is this really happening? We enter the hotel lobby, look around and freeze. Everywhere we look, hotel employees are pulling down posters and large banners from the walls. What the hell is going on here?, we ask ourselves. Around us are many fans who are crying and comforting each other. In just a few short moments, the sheer joy and excitement that had engulfed us has turned into the feeling of being at a funeral. We walk towards some sobbing fans and ask what is going on.

"All shows are cancelled", we're told. "Elvis has taken ill and has left Vegas...!" What?! We feel numb...paralysed. The next few minutes are wiped from my memory. Never have we been so disappointed. Broken hearted, we take a taxi back to the Holiday Inn where the sad news is beginning to sink in. There are crying fans everywhere.

"How ill is he? Is there any news about his condition?" I'm on the phone with Todd Slaughter from the UK fan club, still in his hotel room. "Not a word from his management. I just learned about it from watching the local TV news", he replies. "I'm going to make some calls and get back to you a.s.a.p., okay?" Hours pass by and there's still no official news from the Presley management. No telegram, no phone call - nothing.

The Colonel knew we were in Vegas. He and Todd had been in contact about the 250 fans coming over to see Elvis in concert. Just like in previous years, when the Colonel would arrange good seating for the fans visiting the showroom. They would be on the telephone with each other on an almost daily basis. The Colonel liked Todd and vice versa. And most of all, the Colonel knew the importance of having a strong and well-organized fan club with thousands of members in England.

After the initial shock of not being able to attend any shows that week, we worry about Elvis' health. When evening falls, still no news. Except that he's been hospitalized at the Baptist Memorial in Memphis. That same evening, Todd asks me if I would be willing to travel to Memphis the next morning to try and find out exactly what is happening? Some reports say it is fatique, while others talk about a serious liver infection. Still no official word from Parker or anyone else connected to the management team...

The next morning I'm back at the Las Vegas Airport waiting for my flight to Memphis. With me is a large shopping bag filled with presents for Elvis from various fans. Among them are a pair of wooden shoes and an Edam cheese... Some six hours later I find myself in a taxi driving to Baptist Memorial. I ask the driver if he had heard about Elvis being hospitalized yesterday? He nods and asks where I'm from. "Holland", I answer. "You flew in from Holland to see Elvis in hospital?" "No, I flew in from Vegas hoping to see him". He gives me a puzzled look. Nervous beyond words, I enter the hospital. My mind is racing: what if I actually come face-to-face with Elvis? What do I say? I feel dizzy and my breakfast is playing up seriously. At the desk I ask for Maurice Elliott (Vice President of the hospital), who'd been made aware of my arrival in Memphis via a phone call from Todd earlier that day. We shake hands and he asks me to follow him to the elevator.

"How's Elvis? Is he okay?" I stutter my way through various questions. "He's resting", is his reply. "He's doing okay." The two of us leave the elevator and walk towards a room that has two XXL policemen sitting outside. They have walkie talkies and revolvers - the kind that would floor an elephant. After Mr. Elliott explains to the guards the purpose of my visit, one of them makes a call to 'somebody' inside the room behind him. My body shakes and I start having breathing problems. What if... What if he... What if he opens the door? After a few minutes the door does indeed open to Elvis' private room. It's... It's...Charlie Hodge. Jeez, he's small. I stretch my neck to try to peek through the still half open door, but it's too dark inside to see anything. Charlie closes the door, shakes my hand, gives me his best smile and tells me Elvis is asleep. "But he told me to tell all the stranded fans in Vegas he deeply appreciates their concern and is sorry about not being able to perform his shows. He loves 'em all and hopes to see them in the near future. Right now he needs to rest for a couple of weeks." I hand Charlie the bag with gifts, stutter a few more words and tell him to give Elvis our best wishes, tell him we love him and... Charlie is back inside the room.

Disappointed but relieved by the news Elvis is doing okay, we head for the elevator. In the lobby I thank Mr. Elliott for his hospitality and help. I arrive back in Vegas later that night. Passing through the hotel lobby I spot fans wearing Elvis Summer festival foam hats. On a table are stacked a bunch of 1975 Hilton menus for grabs - the one used as a giveaway for this August engament. It's a cheap-looking thing, sporting an unflattering 'Aloha' picture. In the bar, after having hugged my lady, I break the news to the waiting fans. "Elvis is doing okay. He feels ever so sorry he's not able to perform and sends us all his love and best wishes. Hoorah for Elvis!"

Due to being extremely tired from the trip over to Memphis, I feel sarcasm taking over my feeling of sorrow about the whole thing. When Todd tells me that, earlier that afternoon, boxes with souvenir menus, foam hats and 1972 'Elvis Now' pens were delivered to him with compliments from the Colonel, I cant help but laugh out loud! What a classy gesture from the Colonel! Hand the fans a few free peanuts and they'll come running back for more.

Don't forget, this was 1975. We were all a little naive and blind about the things that were happening and events that awaited us in the two years that were to come. That summer of '75 was a sad experience for all of us on that fan club trip. What remains after 33 years are the shows - complete or in part - that were captured on cassette decks by fans in the audience. These recordings reveal Elvis was still in control and singing magificently. At least that much we can still enjoy. Will the full story of why Elvis left Vegas in such a hurry after just three nights ever be revealed? Time will tell.

- The Flying Dutchman


(Right: Inside sleeve, great Elvis images of the time by the Flying Dutchman)

Complete August 20, 1975
Dinner Show

Opening Vamp - C. C. Rider / I Got A Woman - Amen (Medley) / Hound Dog / It's Now Or Never / And I Love You So (With 2 False Starts) / Blue Suede Shoes / Green Green Grass Of Home / Fairytale / Softly As I Leave You (With Sherrill Nielsen) / Band Introductions / Johnny B. Goode / Drums Solo (By Ronnie Tutt) / Bass Solo (By Jerry Scheff) / Piano Solo (By Glen D. Hardin) / School Day / T.R.O.U.B.L.E / Why Me Lord / Until It's Time For You To Go / Burning Love / Can't Help Falling In Love / Closing Vamp

August 19th, 1975 Midnight Show
Opening Vamp - C. C. Rider / Bathroom Story / Blue Suede Shoes / Young And Beautiful / Are You Lonesome Tonight / If You Love Me (Let Me Know) / Softly As I Leave You (With Sherrill Nielsen) / Its Now Or Never / Polk Salad Annie / My Boy
Running Time: 79:47

August 19, 1975
Dinner Show

Also Sprach Zarathustra -  C.C. Rider / I Got A Woman - Amen (Medley) / Monologue / Blue Suede Shoes / If You Love Me (Let Me Know) / It's Now Or Never / My Boy / Love Me / Loving You / Suspicious Minds / Band Introductions / Johnny B. Goode / Drums Solo (By Ronnie Tuff) / Bass Solo (By Jerry Scheff) / Piano Solo (By Glen D. Hardin) / School Day #1 / School Day #2 / Introduction Of Neil Sedaka / T.R.O.U.B.L.E. / Why Me Lord / How Great Thou Art / Let Me Be There / Crying In The Chapel / Can't Help Falling In Love / Closing Vamp

August 20th, 1975
Midnight Show (Final Night)

That's All Right - C. C. Rider (Medley)
Running Time: 65:49

(Left: The sleeve of the original Bilko release)












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