July 31, 1969 marked a historic milestone in Elvis' career. Bolstered by the runaway success of the '68 Comeback show and energized by productive recording sessions at American Sound Studios, which would spawn such timeless hits as "Suspicious Minds", "In The Ghetto" and "Don't Cry Daddy," Elvis launched his return to live performance at Las Vegas's International Hotel in the summer of 1969.
For his book Elvis: Vegas '69 Ken Sharp interviewed several journalists about their experiences of being there and witnessing Elvis' amazing on-stage rebirth. These included Hollywood correspondent Ann Moses and UK journalist Ray Connolly.
(Right: Ann Moses and Elvis)
Ken Sharp has kindly provided EIN with these two fascinating interviews to publish for Elvis Week 2010.
|Images below are from the sensational book 'ELVIS Vegas '69' by Ken Sharp. Go here for more Elvis 1969 images and review of 'ELVIS Vegas '69'.
For his book Elvis: Vegas '69 author Ken Sharp did over 100 new interviews creating a 60,000 word text for his in-depth book including talking with Priscilla Presley, Elvis's TCB bandmates, the Sweet Inspirations, the Imperials and the Memphis Mafia.
He also interviewed several journalists about their experiences of being there and witnessing Elvis' amazing on-stage rebirth. Ken Sharp has kindly provided EIN with these two fascinating interviews to publish during Elvis week 2010.
First an interview with Hollywood correspondent Ann Moses, the second with London journalist Ray Connolly.
Ann Moses was the editor of Tiger Beat magazine and Hollywood correspondent for New Musical Express.
Ken Sharp; Tell us about your work covering Elvis pre-69.
Ann Moses: I was constantly being contacted by the marketing people at RCA. They wanted coverage in Tiger Beat but Elvis was not popular with Tiger Beat readers. They were more interested in Davy Jones of the Monkees or David Cassidy. But as a courtesy I’d occasionally cover an Elvis news item in my column like his movie Speedway. I was a big Elvis fan in the ‘50s but by the late ‘60s I was more into groups like the Beatles, the Rolling Stones and Jefferson Airplane. Then one day RCA sent me two tickets to Elvis’s Comeback TV special. I had a feeling that it was gonna be big. After seeing that show, I was totally back into Elvis. He was hip again.
Ken Sharp; Lead us up to your attending Elvis’ ’69 opening at the International Hotel in Las Vegas.
Ann Moses: Elvis had a legion of fans in England and they were starving for news. I was given VIP passes for Elvis’s opening in Vegas in ’69.
I saw the Beatles at the Hollywood Bowl and the Rolling Stones as the Cow Palace in San Francisco and had been in some pretty remarkable and exciting circumstances. But there was something about that night that was so special. The overall excitement in the room was overwhelming. It was like you were holding your breath.
Ann Moses - "one of the greatest shows I’d ever seen".
Ken Sharp; What are your memories of the show?
Ann Moses: Being so close to the stage and hearing that voice live was sensational. Every aspect of his performance was dead-on. Everyone was dumbstruck and didn’t want the night to end. It was one of the greatest shows I’d ever seen.
Ken Sharp; I understand the press conference that followed the show was not planned ahead of time.
Ann Moses: Yes, that’s true, it wasn’t planned and came as a bit of a surprise to me and I ‘m certain the other members of the media that were attending the show. I remember getting a tap on the shoulder and someone told me, "There’s gonna be a press conference."
He was really comfortable with the media because he was still so fired up from that show. Any lack of self confidence was gone after that show. He knew he had nailed it. He was just beaming. The media weren’t asking the tough questions. They were asking him how it felt to be back on stage and he was just gushing with emotion.
(Right;Ann Moses and Elvis)
Ken Sharp; What’s your take on Elvis’ legacy?
Ann Moses: Before his comeback in Vegas, a great deal of the media were so bored with his trite movies. If you tuned in a film like Girls! Girls! Girls! that only showed off the smallest amount of his God given talent. After that show in Vegas in ‘69, the media’s perception of Elvis drastically changed. He proved his legitimacy as an artist.
Ray Connolly - Music writer for the London Evening Standard
Elvis Concert Review from London Evening Standard August 2, 1969 - By Ray Connolly.
Elvis Presley came back from celluloid wilderness of Hollywood over the weekend to make his first public appearance in nine years. For a reputed fee of 2225,000 the god of rock and roll returned. to the stage in a blaze of advertising at the brand new International Hotel in this hot and lunatic town of Las Vegas. I've already seen the show three times and I can tell you he is sensational - better than any of us could ever have imagined. Twice nightly for 28 days he will be appearing for the rich and their womenfolk.
"It is," Elvis says, "the most exciting thing I've done in years." But it was the first appearance on the first night that had all the drama. He was out of this world, better by far than I - always the greatest Presley fan in world - could possibly have hoped for, and a lesson in himself to the entertainment media of our generation.
For a full hour he worked and sweated, gyrated and shuddered, warbled and sang, and grunted and groaned his way through 20 songs. It was a sensational comeback. Looking as slim as a ramrod, and not a day over 23 (he's actually 34 now), he ambled back on to the stage after a nine year absence like a sheepish young lad going to meet his girl friend's parents for the first time.
Hardly daring to look or acknowledge the audience, which was composed mainly of over-thirties, since young people could never normally afford the price, he went straight into "Blue Suede Shoes" and had completed "I Got A Woman" and "That's All Right, Mama" before finding it necessary to begin any chatting.
For over an hour he flogged himself to near exhaustion moving wildly and sexily around the stage all the time, and now and again reaching for a handkerchief or a glove from the ecstatic and many-splendored ladies in the front row ... It was indeed a memorable night. The night when Elvis Presley, the founder of much of modern day pop music, discovered that he is still one of greatest performers and went back to doing what he always did best.
Ray Connolly talks with Ken Sharp about the amazing 1969 trip.
Ken Sharp; How did a London based journalist come to be at Elvis' 1969 Vegas shows?
Ray Connolly; A guy called Chris Hutchins organized my trip to Las Vegas to see Elvis, which I would review for the London Evening Standard. He was Tom Jones's PR and he knew the Colonel and told me he could get me to Elvis. For some reason I couldn't fly over to Las Vegas until the day of the show. I had an invitation and was on the plane flying from the UK to New York where I was to change flights and get one to Vegas. But the plane developed landing gear problems as it approached Kennedy airport and we had to circle for hours dumping all the fuel before they dare risk a landing which was miles away from the terminal and encircled by fire engines and ambulances. I thought, "This could be it, I'm not gonna see Elvis and I could die as well."
The plane eventually landed but it was terrifying moment and I missed the flight to Vegas and therefore missed the opening preview show, which was attended by all those celebrities like Cary Grant.
|I was at the show the next night and saw him an additional three times while in Vegas. Seeing him at the International was exciting but I was thinking, "Why's that orchestra behind him? He doesn't need it." But clearly that show was a triumph for Elvis. His music was fantastic and he had a great rhythm section. He did an awful lot of his early stuff and seemed to give the Sun stuff more respect than something like "All Shook Up" or "Don't Be Cruel," which he raced through. You could sense immediately his link with the audience. He felt at home. It worked tremendously well. It was as if everyone in the audience were his friends.
Ken Sharp; What about meeting Elvis in person?
Ray Connolly; Chris Hutchins was a friend of the Colonel. Colonel always liked him. He got me and Don Short who wrote for The Daily Mirror into the show and to meet Elvis. Chris had always said, "You'll get to meet him" and after three days I was thinking it wasn't gonna happen. Suddenly the call came around 11 PM, "Elvis will see you now."
Me, Don Short, Chris Hutchins, and Terry O'Neill, who was a famous English photographer who later married Faye Dunaway and had a fling with Priscilla Presley, we all dashed upstairs. I had no time to bring a tape recorder, and went into a small sitting room in his suite. We were there for about 25 minutes. What was surprising was how nice he was. He was very thin and was wearing a black jumpsuit. He would answer any question you asked but the Colonel was standing in the back of this room and it was kind of intimidating.
It was bizarre. He was surrounded by his pals, no women in there. All these guys were sitting around and Elvis was drinking from a bottle of 7-Up. My big memory is asking him "Why did you do all those crummy films?" He just looked at me and told me he was in a rut and signed a contract and couldn't get out of it.
It was right to the point. That was Elvis's big problem, he threw away the '60s by doing those crummy movies. But appearing live was an up moment. He told me he was really excited about being back onstage.
Elvis commented, "We didn't decide to come back here for the money, I'll tell you that. I've always wanted to perform on the stage again for the last nine years, and it's been building inside of me since 1965 until the strain became intolerable. I got all het up about it, and I don't think I could have left it much longer. The time is just right. The money - I have no idea at all about that. I just don't want to know. You can stuff it "
At that point, he looked back at the Colonel and there was a guffaw around the room. Then the Colonel said, "He can flush all his money away if he wants to, I won't care." And he did actually.
I'm looking at the very quick interview I wrote that night for the next edition of the morning's paper and Elvis said, "Sometimes when I walk into a room at home and see all those gold records hanging around the walls I think they must belong to another person. Not me. I just can't believe it's me."
At that time I was quite friendly with the Beatles. I was in Apple a few days before I left for Vegas and told Mal Evans, one of the Beatles' assistants, that I was going to Vegas to see Elvis. He was obsessed with Elvis, just like me. When we got to Elvis's room he had a telegram on his door from the Beatles and Mal. It said, "Congratulations on your opening night." Elvis seemed touched by that. He remembered meeting Mal and said, "Yeah, he's the guy in Help that kept swimming." Don (Short) asked him about the Beatles and he sang a little bit of "I Saw Her Standing There," (sings) "She was just seventeen, you know what I mean" and pretended to play guitar.
There was a lot of banter going on. I told him I liked the Elvis is Back album and wished he would do one more like that. He said, "I do too." The sad thing is Elvis had all of these great plans and he didn't fulfil them because he got in another rut. He was gonna come to Europe. He was gonna make an R&B album....
Ken Sharp; You also got to discuss Elvis's shows with Dylan and John Lennon..
Ray Connolly; About two days after Elvis's Vegas shows, I was back in New York and went into Albert Grossman's office because I was trying to see Bob Dylan and he managed him. He said that he was in Woodstock. For some reason he suddenly put me on the phone with Dylan and I didn't know what to say to him because I hadn't planned to interview him. I told him I'd just been to see Elvis. From that moment instead of me being a Bob Dylan fan we were both Elvis fans. Dylan asked me precisely, "What did he do? Did he do the Sun stuff? Did he do 'That's All Right, Mama'? Did he do 'Mystery Train'? Who's in the band?" Dylan read the New York Times review but he wanted to know what I thought of it. All these questions.
Two days later I'm back in England and I'm on the phone with John Lennon and I get exactly the same questions from him about Elvis. Lennon asked, "How was the show? Did he do any of the Sun numbers? Did he play 'Mystery Train'?" It showed me more than anything that rock stars are basically fans who do it themselves.
EIN NOTE: For his book "Elvis: Vegas '69" author Ken Sharp did over 100 new interviews including talking with Priscilla Presley, Elvis's TCB bandmates, the Sweet Inspirations, the Imperials and the Memphis Mafia. GO HERE to find out more - an essential Elvis book @ only US$58.
Interview by Ken Sharp - EIN presentation by Piers Beagley.
--Copyright EIN August 2010
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'ELVIS Vegas '69' by Ken Sharp - last year's 40th Anniversary book tells the remarkable story of Elvis' return to the concert stage told through first-hand accounts by those lucky enough to be on hand to witness Elvis' miraculous artistic and creative rebirth.
At only US$58 including P&P in the US. CLICK HERE for 'ELVIS Vegas '69' purchase details
Go here to EIN's eye-witness review of ELVIS LIVE August 23rd 1969 by Joan Gansky - Click here.
Go here for EIN review of KEN SHARP's fascinating book 'Writing For The King'
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