1001 Albums You Must Die Before You Hear – Having Fun With Elvis On Stage

1001 Albums You Must Die Before You Hear
#53: Elvis Presley – Having Fun With Elvis On Stage (1974)

MATT KELLY actually really likes the Elvis Presley album on which Elvis Presley doesn’t, uh… sing.

Yes, it’s 37 minutes of “the King” hanging out on stage chatting to his audience with the songs removed. But you know what – fuck y’all, I like it.

As Elvis wishes concertgoers happy birthday, hands a fan his scarf for coming all the way from England to see him play and tells stories about his pre-fame days when he was a struggling truck driver, we see the human being behind all the pizzazz. Whatever he was like behind the scenes, here he comes across as a humble, simple person who really wants to entertain and connect with his audience. He even trolls the audience with repeated fake intros to ‘Hound Dog’ that turn into something else.


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It’s also easy to forget now in the 21st century how meaningful it was to Southern audiences to hear someone being unapologetically Southern on stage outside of the country/western pigeonhole the region was stuck in before Elvis. And I just love the bit where he tells the audience that, “They don’t like it when we stay on for more than 55 minutes or an hour” and then whispers conspiratorially into the microphone, “But we don’t care what they like” to roars of approval. A certain type of Elvis fan may very well adore this focus on his stage persona.

So why have I put it on my worst albums list? Because I’m very aware that the above interpretation is not going to be a universal experience. Viewing this as a fascinating document of the non-musical aspects of Elvis that so dominated three decades of 20th-century pop culture is something for music nerds like me. If you’re a normal person who wants to hear a singer actually sing their songs, this is either going to be maddening or entertainingly surreal.

One thing you’ll notice besides the corniness of Elvis’s jokes is that there is little rhyme or reason to how the clips have been assembled and some of them are very very short, just a few seconds. Strung together without any clear transitions or beginnings/endings, it can seem like one continuous scene in which Elvis is losing his mind. The album opens:

“Here we go again man. It’s like my horse has left. MMMMHMMMM. Come on, you can do it. Come on. MMMM. That’s it, it just tapers off. Before the evening is over I will have made a complete total fool of myself. OW. WA. WA-WA.”

In fact, I really hope you like disconnected humming and vocalizations because about 25% of the album is Elvis going “MHMMM. Weeeeeelllll. Mmmhmowaaa.”

Additionally, a lot of the bits were in the context of coming before or after a particular song or a reference to something happening visually at the venue,  and without that information, it can be nonsensical – it’s even been called an accidental avant-garde comedy masterpiece.

So although it has a certain charm for trainspotter-type rock historians, no sane person probably wants to sit through 37 minutes of, “This was one of my biggest records. Well no really this record was about the same size as all the others” and, “You guys wanna hear ‘Hound Dog’?” right before you do not hear ‘Hound Dog’.

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Matthew Kelly is the most important person in the music industry – the type of obsessive nerd without whom it would have no reason to produce box sets and nine-hour long documentaries.

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