Elvis Presley Sings “American Trilogy” From Aloha Hawaii

aloha_from_hawaii_via_satelliteListen to this track from rock ‘n’ roll Monarch, and Tupelo, Mississippi favourite son Elvis Aaron Presley. It’s “American Trilogy” as performed as a part of one of the first concert-length satellite broadcasts in history, and captured for posterity on the concert film Elvis – Aloha from Hawaii.

The show itself was one of the most expensive projects of its time, costing a whopping 2.5 million dollars (about 13.5 million in today’s money), and broadcast internationally on January 14, 1973, one week after Presley’s 37th birthday. The album was released a month later.

The show itself came out of the idea that Elvis couldn’t play every major city in the world, and that a satellite broadcast would make up for it. This show was broadcast from Honolulu, with the same crack backing band that had defined his show from the late ’60s, including James Burton on lead guitar, and backed up by gospel vocal group the Stamps.

This was an historic show technologically, and Elvis and his band rose to the occasion. But, in my books, it was historic for other reasons besides, and in a bittersweet sort of way. Read more

Classic Rock: Got live if you want it!

This month’s post by author, Calgarian, Habs fan and armchair music historian Geoff Moore is all about the way that live music  from Rock God Mount Olympus was once lowered down to the masses; two platters the size of dinner plates robed in all of their cardboard, gatefold glory!  It’s the double-live album, folks.  An artifact of a bygone age.  Let’s take a trip into the deep, dark, circular, crackly-pop past…


The single format seems to have spun back into fashion. Downloadable solitary songs and back catalogue tracks ripe for cherry picking compressed to ooze through earbuds have driven down sales of the tactile CD format (which slew vinyl) so much so that chain music stores, the few still standing amid the smoking ruin of the recording industry, now devote their premium floor space to games, ersatz merchandise and DVDs.

But there’s no rush to be had browsing Kurt Cobain figurines or Diff’rent Strokes Season 1 – 2 sets for everyday people of a certain demographic who are already smothering inside a post-recycled fibre Lululemon bag of ageism. It’s an unsettling epiphany to realize the market has passed you by.

So let’s venture out into the wind-scoured badlands and dig some dinosaur fossils. Dust off some extinct 70s major label marketing leviathans, an armful of those double live gatefold LPs that dropped into record racks like the Acme anvil that regularly accordionized the spine of a certain biped coyote.

Some bands were just that much more superior on stage – we tip our hats to seminal single live albums by the J. Geils Band, Ramones, Cheap Trick and Bob Marley, who also released the brilliant Babylon by Bus(1978) just three years later.

Artists at their peak dropped a souvenir document on their fans with appropriate gravitas (including a weighty triple set from an ex-Beatle with a chip on his shoulder, maybe) to buy themselves a little breathing room before going back into the studio to wax their next, hotly anticipated, masterpiece.

The watershed, of course, was 1976. But before the flood generated by Frampton Comes Alive! there was Before the Flood (1974) which documented Bob Dylan’s electrifying 1973 reunion with the Band – who had already released a New Orleans New Year’s Eve show as Rock of Ages (1972). These two albums, along with Van Morrison’s It’s Too Late to Stop Now (1973) and Neil Young’s Live Rust (1979), still sound as immediate the fragments of the very evenings they preserved.

Frampton Comes Alive! is the double live equivalent of boxer and grill shill George Foreman, who names his sons George, it begat a bandwagon train of lesser selling but arguably better sets from other rockers seeking a wider audience: Dave Mason’s Certified Live (1976), Bob Seger’s Live Bullet (1976) and Lynyrd Skynyrd’s One More from the Road (1976), southern scion to the Allmans’ edited and abridged landmark At Fillmore East (1971).

The weary brave gracing the cover of ‘Surf’s Up’ is reborn on the cover of The Beach Boys in Concert (1973), exposing his torso and upturned face to the warmth of the sun, his arms outstretched. And rightly so. While Brian is absent (likely in his sandbox hoovering acid faster than Oswald can synthesize it) and ‘Holland,’ the LP the tour was promoting, was no ‘Pet Sounds,’ … In Concert is probably the last relevant Beach Boys album.

They were a fully functioning American band with fresh, solid material to perform. And so was Grand Funk Railroad two years later when the Flint, Michigan group was Caught in the Act (1975) at their absolute peak of popularity. Live Bootleg (1978) captures Aerosmith at the highest point of their career, just as the train wreck kept a-rollin’. Supposedly undoctored, raw Bootleg may have been a barroom chin chuck to Kiss Alive (1975) which most certainly is not, right down to the cheesy, posed cover portrait.

Kiss Alive II (1977) could only have been conceived by Casablanca’s marketing department, three sides of ‘live’ and a side order of new studio tracks. ‘Still Dangerous’ is currently being trumpeted at Thin Lizzy.org as ‘the real’ Live and Dangerous (1978), touting additional tracks, no overdubs and no post-production, a stark contrast to its original beloved incarnation.

The 70s cannot be revisited without acknowledging a penchant for wretched excess during the decade. ‘From Hell’s heart, I stab at thee’ for releasing a 12:46 version of ‘Moby Dick’ and a ‘Dazed and Confused’ that sure lives up to its title at 26:52. There’s not enough hashish left on the planet to re-absorb Led Zeppelin’s The Song Remains The Same (1976), although the soundtrack’s packaging was exquisite. It seemed dated upon release though, perhaps because the live footage was from 1973 and the band had moved on – Physical Graffiti and Presence were already in record stores. But one documentary soundtrack always worth revisiting is Joe Cocker’s Mad Dogs and Englishmen (1971).

Other scree reached us from Olympus. Love You Live (1977) apparently was a Plan B olio for which Andy Warhol phoned in the cover art. The Stones had planned to release four sides from five nights (according to speculation and rumour at the time) at Toronto’s El Mocambo Tavern, but Jagger’s strategy was disrupted by the Mounties and Mrs. Trudeau who were just doing their jobs. Se we settled for side three, damn them!

Bowie sandwiched his plastic soul and coke-addled Nosferatu phases between David Live(1974) and Stage (1978). The Doors are like your high school wardrobe, something you soon grow out of. Absolutely Live (1970) has aged about as well as the Lizard King himself, it’s just sort of stuck in the tub.

The double live died (Sounds like a discarded Ian Fleming title, eh?) as the 80s progressed (although the Stones and the Who never got the memo). Twenty-five years ago when digital technology was in its infancy a single audio compact disc was an expensive enough consumer proposition and record marketers began to realize that lightning rarely strikes twice.

The exception being (and there always is one) Springsteen’s mammoth Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band Live 1975-1985 which came down on record store racks like Sunday morning or like that skit-squashing animated foot in Monty Python’s Flying Circus.

The double live set was sort of a place marker in an artist’s career, a consolidation of achievement to that point in time. For a low charting or regional act, the double live album served up a buffet of their best for the uninitiated and unconverted.


Geoff Moore is a novelist and ad man,  living and working in Calgary. I get the feeling he misses the wonderment of gatefold packaging…

The Band Say “Happy Thanksgiving and Goodbye” With The Last Waltz

Here’s a clip of The Band with Bob Dylan performing “Forever Young/Baby Let Me Follow You Down” from The Last Waltz, performed, filmed, and recorded 32 years ago today in 1976 at the Winterland Ballroom in San Francisco.  The Band were saying goodbye to sixteen years on the road, one-half of the time since this appearance was filmed.  Guitarist Robbie Robertson would never play with his four Band-mates together again.

The Band and Bob Dylan of course shared a common history, in that they had accompanied him on his turbulent 1966 tour where he’d gone electric, scandalizing his folk  fan base by bringing along what many considered to be a second rate rock ‘n’ roll band playing second rate music.  One of the songs on that tour was the Reverend Gary Davis‘ “Baby Let Me Follow You Down”, which done here has the crowd enthralled instead of appalled.  It’s amazing how a decade can change someone’s mind.

Also, Bob and the Band had recorded an album together two years before this performance called Planet Waves.  One of the songs on that record was Bob’s “Forever Young”, written for his children.  Of course here, maybe it has farther reaching connotations.  By 1976, the last embers of the Sixties were pretty much going cold.  And the Last Waltz, although set up as a farewell concert to the Band, was in the end a farewell to that era too.  Many of those who appeared in the film would come face to face with middle age, and with a new generation of record buyers who had not grown up with them, and did not recognize their stature.  Others wouldn’t live much past the end of the era – Muddy Waters, Paul Butterfield, and Band singer and pianist Richard Manuel would all die within ten years after the film was released.  For them, it was a last hurrah in the spotlight.

Like most things in life, there was not a clearly demarcated passing of one era to another.  Many of the performers at the Last Waltz would make remarkable, career-defining music afterward.  Joni Mitchell, Neil Young, Van Morrison, and of course Dylan are the most obvious candidates here.  Yet the spirit of the times out of which they emerged as artist would be a memory before the end of the decade.  In many ways, that what this film is from where I stand – a document of the end of a special era, giving way to a series of new eras, equally special, yet never the same again.

For me this is what makes this clip, and the movie itself so compelling.  It’s as if they knew that the moment they were in was an important one.  They knew that they had to preserve it for posterity.   And thank god they did!

Happy Thanksgiving!


Cheap Trick Perform “I Want You to Want Me” Live at Budokan

Listen to this track by Rockford Illinois power pop gurus Cheap Trick with one of their singular achievements: the live and definitive version of “I Want You To Want Me”, which appeared on the 1979 release Cheap Trick At Budokan, actually recorded in the spring of ’78.   Maybe this is an obvious one for me to talk about.  But, it’s obvious for a reason – it is sonic perfection.  The real question is why it took me this long!

Cheap Trick: Big in Japan. The Nippon Budokan, the venue in which this song and the album off of which it comes was recorded, was built in 1964 for the Summer Olympics, and for the judo events in particular. But soon after, it was put forward as a venue for music. When the Beatles were booked to play there in 1966, there was a controversy. It was argued that four shaggy, bobbing heads and the sound of beat music was an affront to traditional Japanese values. But, by the next decade, it served as a site to many a rock show, including those by Bob Dylan (who also recorded a live record there around the same time as Cheap Trick), Deep Purple, Led Zeppelin, and many others. It remains to be an active music venue today.

Listen: this is the greatest live rock track ever recorded by anyone.

You’ve got vocalist/rhythm guitarist Robin Zander’s teen idol croon, gonzo lead guitarist Rick Nielson’s short-and-perfect fills and kick ass get-in-get-on-with-it-get-out eight bar guitar solos, and rhythm section Bun E. Carlos’ drumming and bassist Tom Petersson’s meat and potatoes rock stomp.  If you don’t like this, you must hate rock ‘n’ roll.

By the mid-1970s, and after touring relentlessly as an opening act for the biggest acts of the day,  Cheap Trick had made a big mark in Japan where the band came to be beloved on a Beatlemania scale before recording this live record.

Everything about this track, this performance, is great including the sound of the audience, mostly made of up gaggles of crazed Japanese girls,  who virtually become a part of the band on this song with their “yeah! yeah! yeah!” call-and-response participation.  There isn’t enough of that in today’s pop music, kids.    Or maybe there is and I haven’t heard it.  But, you can feel the enthusiasm coming from this track, recorded as it was thirty years ago!

The show and the live album was something of a tribute to the ‘Trick’s Japanese fan base.  And with its release, they shot into the North American market with a platinum album and a hit record in this song too.   Their cover of Fats Domino’s “Ain’t That A Shame” would follow on its heels, and their next album Dream Police pushed their momentum along as well.

Although they would never gain the heights of  Aerosmith or U2 in the rock world, they certainly kept a dedicated fanbase, and had enormous influence on the grunge scene by the late 80s and early 90s.  The chunky power chords, economic riffs, and inventive melodies that the ‘Trick employed were highly valued  by writers like Kurt Cobain. Of Nirvana, Cobain told the press: “We sound just like Cheap Trick, only the guitars are louder…”.

For more music, check out the Cheap Trick official site.