vs. The Beatles: Nigel eats humble pie!
Nigel Patterson, 2004
As both Elvis 2nd To None and Let It Be Naked (LIBN) have now enjoyed their primary chart run, it is an appropriate time to reflect on the past few months in the context of my earlier article.
article 'World Title Fight 2003: Elvis Vs. The Beatles' produced
one of the biggest responses we have ever received. Comments
were roughly split one third in support and two thirds criticising
more than 100 responses received I want to thank everyone
who took the time to express their views. There were many
very well thought out and argued comments and many emotional
of all, I happily "eat humble pie" in that Let It Be Naked did not
debut at #1 and in fact has been nowhere near the chart and sales
success anticipated in Beatles circles.
didn't many fans make sure I knew it!
they were less inclined to debate me on the other points and facts
in my article.
of Elvis 2nd To None and Let It Be Naked As one person commented:
it means is that Elvis and The Beatles are passe and only TV promoted
compilations of their biggest hits will be successful in today's
another suggested much of the material recorded by both Elvis and
The Beatles is now "dated".
is considerable food for thought in these observations. It was interesting
that the majority of people criticising me hooked on to the failure
of LIBN to debut at #1.
people wanted to address the "facts" in my article, preferring to
attack the 'person' not the 'arguments'. Several people raised long
standing issues with the RIAA and how its figures are compiled.
While I have previously acknowledged weaknesses in the RIAA arrangement
the central issue in the debate is not the RIAA, but lax record
keeping by RCA.
many respects the RIAA argument is a spurious one, particularly
as BMG has successfully found many of the "lost" sales, including
tens of millions for the 1956-57 period. Another argument regarding
RIAA measurement that effectively doesn't count sales between thresholds
is also spurious as it applies to all recording artists.
Elvis releases number many more than most other artists, but at
best this would only account for tens of millions not the hundreds
of millions needed to bridge the gulf between claimed sales and
accredited sales. And of course for every Elvis album that sold
499,000 more than Gold status (500,000) in the USA, there is another
Elvis album that sold only 1,000 beyond that threshold.
on the RIAA issue, a number of fans suggested RIAA statistics exclude
various distribution channels used to sell Elvis releases. This
is not the case as the following excerpt from the RIAA site indicates:
artist's GoldŽ or PlatinumŽ award represents sales through retail,
record clubs, rackjobbers, and all other ancillary markets that
legitimately distribute music. Once a title's sales has been audited
and verified as having reached requisite levels, a formal certification
report is issued and sent to the title's record company."
old chestnut was also raised as part of the commentary, one that
has been dusted off periodically since the late 60s. It is the specious
argument that we cannot compare Elvis with The Beatles as he was
one person and they were four.
people suggested this is like comparing apples with oranges. Another,
more reasonable way of looking at it is that we are comparing one
'recording artist' with another 'recording artist'.
of my critics expressed considerable angst and venom in their missives.
While I understand the emotional element in the debate, I cannot
accept the attitude of those fans who choose to avoid critically
assessing the BMG sales claim in the light of publicly available
one's head in the sand and hoping is a strategy, but is it the best
one? What is wrong with questionning the validity of a claim not
supported by factual evidence? In legal terms, my argument centers
around "burden of proof". Now while BMG is yet to, and quite likely
never will be to able to prove the 1 billion figure, this of itself
does not mean Elvis hasn't sold 1 billion units. But it does mean
there is currently (and has been for a long time) a serious hole
in BMG's claim.
can't the validity of BMG's claim be examined and questioned? I
called this article "Chasing False Echoes" as unfortunately many
fans 'blindly' accept the recurring corporate rhetoric about Elvis's
sales. My personal view is that the figure is generously inflated
and that it makes great copy. BMG's presentation of the plaque to
EPE signifying 1 billion sales has no official status with any record
sales accrediting agency.
if there is an in-house award representing 14 million sales of the
album Moody Blue, why isn't this reflected in RIAA data? Only 2
million sales of Moody Blue are accredited by the RIAA. Personally
I agree the album would have sold several million more copies in
the USA, but again where is the 'unrefutable proof'? I can claim
I ran the mile in under 4 minutes, but unless I can prove it, it
remains simply my unsubstantiated claim or rhetoric. Formal audit
and verification procedures like those used by the RIAA at least
give a process some degree of rigor. Rhetoric lacks rigor!
work of BMG in securing accreditations for historical Elvis releases
is to be commended as is the work of people like Bryan Gruszka,
Tony Galvin and Brian Quinn in researching "lost sales" and publishing
persuasive cases for the quantum involved. While I respect their
efforts I do not necessarily agree with all of their findings.
briefly mention a tangential issue to my article. It is a sad reality
in 2004 that Elvis still lacks a degree of credibility with many
music critics and music lovers. This "music-intellectual snobbery
against Elvis" was the subject of recent discussion on the Elvis
the music-intellectual snobbery against Elvis, which originated
in the [50s], have a deep-seated secularism that dismisses anyone
who incorporates Gospel into commercial music?"
back to World Title Fight 2003. Was there a knock-out punch? Obviously
not. What this means is that Elvis, The Beatles, the RIAA, fans
and me will undoubtedly continue a lively sparring on a topic that
is almost like sport, politics or religion....the truth of our belief
is beyond substantive proof.
I eat 'humble pie' regarding LIBN I stand by the other threshold
points and facts in my article.
Information has been released about BMG's Elvis releases to celebrate
the 50th anniversary of the release of That's All Right, Mama in
2004. They include the albums 'Elvis Ultimate Gospel' and 'Elvis
At Sun'. When will the endless recycling of Elvis product end?
Peace' has only been out for a month and a new gospel CD is already
slated for March 2004 release! 'Sunrise', an admirable double album
of Elvis' Sun material was released three years ago. In my opinion,
unless 'Elvis At Sun' includes significant historical material it
is not needed and can only further erode credibility of the Elvis
catalog both within and outside the Elvis world.
for fans hoping for new material from 'Elvis On Tour' (EOT) it's
not going to happen. The rights to EOT are owned by the Ted Turner
organisation and they had their fingers burnt with the lacklustre
showing of 'Elvis That's The Way It Is'. They appear to be unwilling,
despite coaxing by EPE, to invest the time and money to digitally
upgrade a product they consider has limited appeal and sales potential.
Of course, had the Turner group put some real promotion behind 'Elvis
That's The Way It Is' the story could have been very different.
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Elvis vs. The Beatles (Part 1)
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