(MAY 17, 1998)
* TTWII / ON TOUR VIDEO & AUDIO OUTTAKES!
* THE "LINDA THOMPSON" TAPES!
* FUTURE ESSENTIAL SERIES CD'S!!
* THE NEW '68 CD'S!
* MUCH, MUCH MORE!!
WWE: Does BMG have any unreleased studio songs and / or unreleased concert songs like the "live" version of "RETURN TO SENDER"?
ERNST: If there were we will release them! We are not sitting on anything that we are hiding from people. I mean, there are not a lot of secrets. If I found something now that I'm not going to release until next Spring I might not tell you now but it's not a game of hiding anything. We do not have studio recordings available. They would have been released a long time ago if there was really anything great. What we gave people recently was "A HUNDRED YEARS FROM NOW" because we found that but thre's nothing that we have that compares to that just now.
WWE: Did Elvis ever record a song called "LOVE IS FOR LOVERS" for KID GALAHAD?
ERNST: This was one of those hundreds of songs that were submitted to Elvis movies that he never recorded. It's legit that it was written like so many other songs like "PLAYING WITH FIRE" for BLUE HAWAII but the mere fact that the songwriter thought the song would end up on the session doesn't mean that it was ever recorded. "PLAYING WITH FIRE" was dropped at the last minute and "LOVE IS FOR LOVERS", like so many other songs, never made it into KID GALAHAD. I have a list of twenty songs that were submitted for KID GALAHAD that never made it.
WWE: Are there any plans of releasing the entire 1966 home recordings?
ERNST: Not entirely but releasing more - yes.
WWE: Are there any more longer versions of songs that are still unreleased? How long is the complete "MERRY CHRISTMAS BABY" and "DON'T THINK TWICE IT'S ALRIGHT"?
ERNST: There's a lot of songs in the studios (especially in the 70's) that went on and on and on where they just keep repeating and repeating and repeating where they played for a minute or so more than what was on the record but we're not going to release necessarily say "WHEN I'M OVER YOU" just because there's a whole minute more of Elvis fading it out. That doesn't make the song better. It makes it worse because it becomes too long. I even have people complaining about what I think is a very cool version of "PLEDGING MY LOVE which is on the PLATINUM set. They say it just goes on endlessly and, in a way, it does.
WWE: Will we ever see a release of the full length versions of the 1971 songs "DON'T THINK TWICE" and "MERRY CHRISTMAS BABY"?
ERNST: The problem is that the guitar solo on "MERRY XMAS" is not on the original long version. It only exists on the edited version so if we wanted to use the whole thing it would have to be without the guitar solo.
WWE: Some other alternates from these sessions have quite a blues feel. Did Elvis record more bluesy versions of songs?
ERNST: No, there is nothing more that has that blues edge to it.
WWE: Will BMG ever issue a blues CD compilation compiling all the two dozen or so blues songs that Elvis recorded?
ERNST: Yes. I'm sure we will at some time. It's not in the immediate planning stages. Again, it would be nice to have something that people have never heard before and if we found something new and different we would, I'm sure, issue a blues compilation.
WWE: Will the original MADISON SQUARE GARDEN and LIVE IN MEMPHIS albums get the same treatment as the beautifully remastered just released ALOHA FROM HAWAII?
ERNST: It's not something that has a priority just now but that's going to be a "maybe". We don't know that at this time. We have a full release plan for the next eighteen months and it's definitely not going to be a part of that. I think the chances are better for the MEMPHIS show because in principle it will complete something that is uncompleted but none of them are priorities. The real MADISON SQUARE GARDEN show... well, the afternon show is, song wise, very close and on the MEMPHIS recordings those songs that are cut out are a very mixed lot. There are several of them that are not even close to being the greatest live versions of the songs they are. I mean, I think we used the best one in using "STEAMROLLER" on PLATINUM.
WWE: Were either of the MADISON SQUARE GARDEN shows recorded professionally on video?
ERNST: Only from the audience. I've seen some of it but there is no such thing as a professionally done film or video. But these do give a glimpse of what it looked like and it was a mighty fine show from a performance point of view - glamour, presence. It's a very efficient show as opposed to a musically daring show. It's basically a manifestation of how much power Elvis had at that time and how professional the whole thing was.
WWE: I've had so many questions concerning TTWII and ELVIS ON TOUR! Let's start off with this one! Does BMG plan to ever release the COMPLETE, unedited video footage of THAT'S THE WAY IT IS and ELVIS ON TOUR?
ERNST: What will have to happen on these issues is that the owners of the material - which in other words are TIME WARNER, the Elvis Presley Estate, and RCA - will have to get on the same wave length and if the three parties can figure out how to do that (which I hope they will) this is definitely something that I keep pushing for. It's easy to push with the Estate because we have a day-to-day relationship with them and it's easy to have a dialogue, but we really don't have a day-to-day working situation with WARNER who is one of our competitors in the music business and they have just acquired this catalog (WWE: in other words, the MGM material!) but for them to fully understand what they have and get into what Elvis is about and all the legalities and the practicalities of it will take time. RCA won't need to do this with them but we would want to, we would like to, be part of something which is bigger than just a record release. But if, of course, we can't get to terms with our partners in timing, it may cost them a lot more to do that because they have to deal with film and it's a lot more expensive. If they say -"hey, this is going to be too much money" - it will be a record release only. That's what we are looking at. I mean, it could be either or. But definitely from RCA's point of view we will revisit both of those movies because I think there's enough material in there to make that worthwhile.
WWE: We see the Phoenix audience in the film. Did MGM film or record the whole show?
ERNST: They filmed it with a hand held camera but they didn't record it.
WWE: The perfect thing would be a video and a CD.
ERNST: Yes, that would be the perfect thing or maybe even redoing both of them and sell them as TV shows and just cut out the crap. Well, not the crap but take out what was only interesting at the time and substitute it with "More Elvis, More Music".
WWE: Are there any plans to release TTWII in a STEREO version and on DVD?
ERNST: That's not a question for me. That's the Estate.
WWE: Will the 1972 version of "BRIDGE OVER TROUBLED WATER" ever be released? The one in ELVIS ON TOUR is vastly superior to all 1970 versions in arrangement and Elvis' voice but there is noteable distortion at the end of the song.
ERNST: Well that's definitely likely in a revamp of ON TOUR at some stage. We will definitely be looking into all those shows and "BRIDGE" could be one of them. I mean, it's just too early to say. If there's distortion at the end of it that may rule it out unless we can find a way of getting around it.
WWE: When will BMG ever release "CRYING TIME" (the full track) from TTWII?
ERNST: If that ever happens, it will happen in a revamp of TTWII but, like in the previous question, that's too much to talk about at this early time.
WWE: If someone (RCA and the Estate) could put together a video / audio pacakge (s) that would include material from August 1970 -possibly call it ELVIS' SUMMER FESTIVAL 1970!! - with a great booklet, etc. - this would make a great companion to THE LOST PERFORMANCES and THAT'S THE WAY IT IS!
ERNST: Whoever thought of this is on a serious dream! (WWE: my friend Wolfgang Pesch! Thanks Wolfgang!) But I mean, I can sympathize with him. I think like he does but there's a business situation to be settled and it's not real imminent. Like, the next 18 months is not part of that but,after that, anybody can start guessing about what will happen in the year 2000, etc. which would be psychological deadlines but they are not mandatory and we could release it at any other time and still get focus on it.
WWE: So, anything that has to do with TTWII and ON TOUR has to go through the Estate and TIME WARNER because they jointly control the material?
ERNST: Well, we cannot put out the video. We can put out whatever record (the audio) with whatever material on it we want on it but we like to do it with those people because it's going to make a bigger splash if we're all in there than just one of us. In principle, what we are always looking for is to maximize exposure on Elvis because that's our job and that's where the pride and the professionalism shines through. This is what you would want to do - dream big!
WWE: So that I understand this fully - if BMG just wanted to put out the audio you could with no problem?
ERNST: Correct. We could just release it. But we don't necessarily have every TTWII and ON TOUR outake in as good as sound quality as we could get but we have more than enough to...There's no way we could release the complete material because there's way too much material and way too much duplication so we could easily do a big box set on each but we're not going to do that because it's going to be the same "YOU DON'T HAVE TO SAY YOU LOVE ME's" and "YOU"VE LOST THAT LOVIN' FEELIN'S" and you'd get sick of them!
WWE: Do you have any intentions to release any complete, unedited "live" soundboard shows?
ERNST: No. We may, from time-to-time, take recordings from soundboards that we think tells a story that we cannot tell by using any other track and if you want to put an example to that I think at some stage we will release "WHEN THE SNOW IS ON THE ROSES" (WWE: This song is only found on the early 70's bootleg LP THE HILLBILLY CAT!!) because it's pretty and it's just not something we want to have a whole disc out of. We don't want to have the same songs that everybody's heard a million times out in poorer sound quality. That's NOT taking care of the image of the artist. So, it's going to be a balanced thing where we say, well, we'll use this and we'll use that. If we want to use "AMERICA THE BEAUTIFUL" we've got to get it from a soundboard because there are no others. So that's where it's at. Also, it's not simple legally (or from an administrative point-of-view) to just go in there and get a soundboard and make sure it's from the show it says, figure out who's playing on it, start paying them, and make sure everybody agrees to that. It's just a nightmare and, for what is basically substandard audio, that's interesting if it's a song people don't know but it's not interesting if it's songs people have heard better versions of and better sound quality!
WWE: Of the 200 or more soundboard recording you do have, is Elvis' first 1969 Vegas show among them?
ERNST: Well, it is - but the date sometimes used for the first show is a fake date. That's not when that show is from. The first show was July 31 and there is a bootleg CD that's out that claims it's from this show. We have the same tape with the same date on it but the problem is that that date is wrong. This is not the show from July 31. He sang different songs on the 31st show and made different comments. There is no soundboard of the first show.
WWE: Why were some of the concerts recorded from the soundboard? Was that an RCA decision or the engineer who was running the sound system?
ERNST: It was the Colonel who recorded them all just to able to go back to them and say, if people ever questioned what happened on a show, they would have almost like a legal document of that. That was one use. The other use was ,whenever new musicians had to be brought into the band, Felton could send them a tape of the last, say, ten shows and say here's the songs and learn them. The Colonel was a very methodical man and so was Tom Diskin. They just did that because they did things proper and solid and consistent and the Colonel kept copies of every record that came out, every letter he ever sent. They also kept tracks of this. They eventually came up with this idea (of recording every show) because at the beginning they didn't .
WWE: Did RCA ever record the 1976 Pittsburgh New Years Eve Show or the last concert June 26, 1977?
WWE: Were the 1977 concerts that "UNCHAINED MELODY" and "LITTLE DARLIN'" came from recorded in their entirety?
ERNST: No. Felton recorded a few songs over a two month period.
WWE: Is there any chance that the two shows that make up ELVIS IN CONCERT will be released in their entirety?
WWE: Was the "live" Dallas show on the ELVIS ARON PRESLEY box set taken from a soundboard?
ERNST: Yes, that's a soundboard definitely. However, this was NOT the COMPLETE Dallas show as , what was released, was really taken from more than two shows but the main one is is the Dallas show.
WWE: Well, if it was ok to release this show (a soundboard) in 1980 , why isn't it ok to release this type of material now?
ERNST: I don't know what the legal situation was back in 1980. I don't know that. I mean that's a question Joan Deary can answer or doesn't want to answer at this time. But it was put out and I have listened to so many soundboards from bootlegs and from what we have and the show she picked ,and that's no surprise, was definitely among the best- if not the best- that there ever was from a sound quality point-of-view. That's why she picked it. She had very good ears for stuff like that. A lot of care was put into it by her and Dick Bogart to assemble this into a show that ran well and that was a good technical quality as you can get it from the source that they had. From a reportoire point-of-view that's still skimpish. I mean, there's a few things in there that are fun to have like "live" versions of "T-R-O-U-B-L-E"; "LITTLE DARLIN': and "BURNING LOVE' but it doesn't change a lot of what has been documented on Elvis. I think at the time it made sense for us to go that step beyond the '74 show in Memphis and Joan Deary's plan was that the GOLDEN CELEBRATION box would have included a '76 show again following the logic that let's pick the best we have from '76 and make a document of that. I think that was perfectly sensible thing to do but it ended up being a compromise between what Greg Geller and Joan Deary wanted and that '76 show got dumped in favor of some of the earlier material. Some people would disagree that we don't need all those TV shows or the Tupelo concerts because they can't hear what's going on anyway.
WWE: Will there ever be a "live" retrospective of the best of what Elvis did during the concert years?
ERNST: Well, if we would do that we could do it from the tapes that we recorded in really good quality so that would be '69, '70, and '72. We're not going to go in and do that with soundboards. If we were doing a "live" retrospective, we'd either focus on Las Vegas or if we could ever find tapes that supposedly exist with "FOOLS HALL OF FAME" and "ONLY YOU" from the 50's we could release that and if we could get more HAYRIDE material we could make it a document going from the early days to the later years. At this time we don't have such material so the only option I see as realistic is to make a Vegas retrospective. It's not in the cards now but I agree that it's a worthwhile project to do something "live".
WWE: Will BMG keep the anniversary them going in 1999 and issue a '69 "live" Vegas set?
ERNST: We're not completely logged into 1999 yet on exactly what we're going to do but at this time it's not something that we're discussing. It's not very likely but it could happen.
WWE: What other rehearsals does BMG have? Is there a complete listing of songs from these in your book?
ERNST: No, because you see the problem with rehearsals and the information I have on them is that I know what was rehearsed. I also know that it's more than likely that it was all taped but we don't have them. We think we know where they are but,when we make a request for discussion with that the person who has control of it (if we are right), he is not interested in discussing it with us which is definitely something you cannot blame the person for. This is just some thing he thinks shouldn't be made available to the public and we disagree but what can you do.
WWE: Any plans of issuing restored version of FROM ELVIS PRESLEY BLVD or FOR LP FANS ONLY?
ERNST: Not at this time.
WWE: When BMG reissues GUITAR MAN, will they include the additional tracks that were rerecorded but not included on the original LP?
ERNST: Yes. I think that's the only way to rerelease it. There's not enough tracks on it to merit reissuing it with just the original track listing and there is quite a lot more and some of it is definitely on par with what is on the album and some of it is less.
WWE: Will HAVING FUN WITH ELVIS; HE WALKS BESIDE ME; or THIS IS ELVIS come out on CD soon?
ERNST: None of those are very likely.
WWE: Any plans to upgrade THE MEMPHIS RECORD and THE SUN SESSIONS albums?
ERNST: Well, you know upgrading of classic Presley - the material everyone thinks is the cornerstone of his reportoire - will always be something we're considering and will be done on a regular basis like ALOHA has just been done. There are always plans for a SUN SESSIONS upgrade. Just like this year is ALOHA and NBC and next year or the year after will be something else whether it be TTWII or SUN or MEMPHIS is a decision we'll make when we get closer to the time. When we do this, we like to have been a significant leap in quality and commerciality before we do them. So, for arguments sake, it we find one rare recording from '69 that would be perfect. If you upgrade, it has to be of significance so that people will say, yes, this is really worthwhile, but it's an album we had already but this is so much better that we want to have a new one.
WWE: Why didn't you use modern technology (No Noise, Cedar, etc.) to help clean up parts of the Silver and Golden box sets?
ERNST: Well, what the decision of the label was that the albums as they were were big events at the time and it was a decision on either redoing completely so that the track listings and everything would be updated, that everything that was duplication would be taken away or release them as they were because of the document they were at the time. You could argue that we could have spent a fortune because it would have cost a fortune to try and improve them but No Noise and all of this technology is not miracle machines. It's difficult to work with and I might not agree that what you think sounds better is what I think sounds better because I see a lot of people using it and eventually I see them killing the music because they take away so much they take away a part of the music or the beauty of the music, the sound of the music. That's not to say that it couldn't have been done here but that's not what RCA wanted to do. They just wanted to make them available and concentrate on spending all the money on restoring on future releases that would be more in line of with what us expected of a release today.
WWE: Why does the sound quality on the 70'S MASTERS box set vary? Is it because of the original mixing process or have the tapes just deteriorated over time?
ERNST: First of all the original recordings from 1973 were done a lot better than in 1976 because it was in a studio controlled environment and then it becomes a question also sometimes of remixes. We had to remix a lot of stuff from '73 because the album master was in very poor shape.
WWE: Why is the sound on the the "T-R-O-U-B-L-E" used on the 70's box set not that great?
ERNST: Because the tape had deteriorated over the years and we didn't know if we should try and reconstruct the whole thing or keep it as it is with a little flaw and we made a decision to do it as we did. I mean, there's a split second missing at the opening of "DOWN IN THE ALLEY" on the 60's box set that, in hindsight, we should have corrected.
WWE: Since the 70's box set does not contain all of the masters from that decade, can we expect a double CD at some time with the missing masters
ERNST: No. It is not commercially interesting and all of the material is available on CD anyway.
WE: Do you know when BMG will start using the Box Set tapes for the regular single albums as they have done with the Golden Hits series and film albums as most of the albums still have that old copy master recordings prepared in the 80's using early digital technology?
ERNST: Whenever there is a marketing opportunity to re release these albums in an upgraded form. That's when we'll do it and at this time there are no immediate plans to dig into more albums but over time I'm sure it will happen.
WWE: Has the PLATINUM box set gone GOLD yet?
ERNST: It is not officially GOLD yet. To get a certification there needs to be an audit and for all practical reasons of getting all that information together we tend to certify more than one album at a time so we go in from time-to-time like we did in 1992 and look at what now can be certified and we cannot do that very often but we can do it from time-to-time.
WWE: Why didn't the ESSENTIAL series follow by year instead of jumping to the 70's right away?
ERNST: Because we felt that there would be more excitement going to the 70's because the 60's material has been bootlegged so dramatically and also it was to some extent covered (but not in as much detail as we would have wanted it to be) on COLLECTORS' GOLD. And thirdly, we would ideally hope to get more ELVIS IS BACK material for such a release.
WWE: Will we ever get an ESSENTIAL CD with the 1969 American Studio sessions?
ERNST: There are no plans to do this. There is not enough material. (WWE: Sorry, I should have questioned Ernst more about this because there IS obviously more material!!)
WWE: What about the Graceland sessions? Could they be used as part of the ESSENTIAL series?
ERNST: They could potentially but artistically I'm not convinced that it's the right thing to do. We've taken some of the highlights and used them on other packages. I mean there's several on PLATINUM and they are by far the best stuff there is.
WWE: ESSENTIAL 5 (THE STAX SESSIONS) is coming out in August. Can you tell us what's on it?
ERNST: There are some songs from those sessions where there are no outtakes and then there are some that are incomplete and then there are that are just not very good. Some songs that will be on the CD are "LOVIN' ARMS" and "GOOD TIME CHARLIE'S GOT THE BLUES" and it will work basically the same as ESSENTIAL 4 with little tid bits of Elvis added in singing this, that, and the other..a few jokes here , a few jokes there so it very much follows the very successful album A HUNDRED YEARS FROM NOW which did real well and was received most generously by fans especially knowing that a rough version of the album had been bootlegged before so you would have thought the excitement had been taken away from it but quite the opposite happened. For once we don't get the stupid letters saying - "oh the bootleg is so much better". People really like this album and we are happy they did. We were nervous about the whole thing and were very angry on that partiucular bootleg scenario because we thought it was ripping off the fans by saying you get the poorer version now by paying so and so and then you have to buy the real version later. I thought that was more annoying than some of the other bootleg scenarios.
WWE: What about the TIME LIFE CD's? Can you give us more information about future volumes?
ERNST: There's going to one that has an alternate take of "NIGHT RIDER" the 1962 master. You see, I deliver them a track whenever they ask and I've lost track of how far they are. It's of course as you know got nothing to do with what we do. It's an agreement between RCA and TIME LIFE on this major TV promoted product mainly aimed at the general public. They wanted to say that there was an unreleased take on each one. It's a one song per release that I discuss with them and we agree what is needed and a balance of what he needs and what RCA thinks is appropriate to let go.
WWE: What is "NIGHT RIDER" like?
ERNST: It's an alternate take. Apparently they weren't happy with the one that came out or why would they otherwise go in and rerecord it but then ended up happier with the one they ahd with this one. I think it's all very marginal because I think the one that is going to come out on the TIME LIFE is a very good version of "NIGHT RIDER".
WWE: What about the "Linda Thompson tapes"?
ERNST: They are from November 1973. It was done at Linda and Sam's house. There are five complete songs and then some talking and then there's a few songs by Linda and Elvis harmonizes with her on these. They are mostly school songs but the others are regular songs as per Joe's (Tunzi) book. Some are out on bootleg. The quality is rough but could be released but only Linda could give permission to have it released and at this time it has not been made possible to make an arrangement with her.
WWE: Was there a cancelled 1976 studio session?
ERNST: Only in that the session in October and November was supposed to be longer and more productive. They cancelled it after a few days but there were no other plans.
WWE; Did Elvis have any studio or Graceland recording sessions booked from August 16, 1977 on that he didn't do because he died?