The public spectacle of Elvis sleepwalking his way though the seventies is one of the more cliche metaphors of that decade. But the second half of 1974 is what many consider his absolute nadir. To help celebrate the 30th anniversary of the death of The King Of Rock And Roll, we present a compilation of live recordings taken from this period. Concentrating on his amazing rambling on-stage monologues, this collection documents one of the most difficult period of Elvis's life.
Though he did no studio recording that year, 1974 was Elvis's busiest since his return to live performing. In addition to his two Las Vegas engagements, he did four full tours. Elvis' exhaustion and loss of focus was apparent midway through the year. At the end of his late summer Las Vegas engagement, he rambled on for a half an hour, trying to explain away his divorce, his health problems, and rumors of his drug abuse. Along the way, he revealed details of his financial settlement with Priscilla, insulted her current boyfriend, described his liver biopsy in graphic detail and threatened anyone spreading rumors of his addiction with extreme physical violence. At one point on the recording, he even yells "fuck you" at a heckler.
After taking September off, Elvis hit the road again. Things quickly went from bad to worse. The monologues tapered off, but only because we was so out of steam he could barely talk. Reports have him staggering in and out of limousines, forgetting the lyrics to songs he'd sung for years, and doing whole shows hanging on to his mike stand, almost motionless. He apologizes to the audiences, says he's recovering from one of the many illnesses he claimed to have during these months. But in truth, two decades of drug abuse were finally taking their toll.
After the end of the fall tour, Elvis canceled his January engagement in Vegas and checked himself into a hospital. It's interesting to note that Elvis's savvy management was able to spin their artist's difficulties into salable product. During the summer of 1974, they released an "all talking" album made up entirely of some of the less objectionable 'tween song patter from that year. Ironically, "Having Fun With Elvis On Stage" sold no worse than than any of his other albums from the period.
I originally made this compilation for a co-worker who's a freak for The King. Though I didn't let on that this was Elvis at his worst, she probably wouldn't have noticed. After all, to quote Elvis' second favorite book (after the Physician's Desk Reference):
"Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always preserves."
-- 1 Corinthians 13:2
Happy birthday, Death Of Elvis! See you next year!