Review: Young Man with a Big Beat

My copy of Young Man with a Beat has just arrived – and despite the email notice earlier this week that the bonus 45 replica wasn’t shipped with the package, my excitement isn’t dimmed.

The box is GORGEOUS. The official label seems to have taken notice of what the bootleggers have been doing for years.

The packaging is a nostalgic trip back to when records were 12 by 12 inches and the liner notes printed large enough to be read. The design draws heavily from the first Elvis LP – Elvis Presely with the Pink and Green iconic cover that’s been duplicated by several artists such as the Clash to kd lang.

Sliding the contents out of the sleeve – and here’s my first minor quibble:

The back of the box has the full track listings and they’ve rubber cement stuck a printed glossy page with the advertising copy to it. The page flops around, so you end up having to remove it to prevent it from being torn and getting worn and torn – it would have been better to have had the sheet as loose page, which then fits nicely inside the box. While this is a very minor matter, having to carefully remove what texturally is viscous snot is an irritation.

Inside the box there are three items – the book, the folder holding 5 cds and an envelope of goodies.

The replica goodies include:

  • a ticket stub for the October 11, 1956 Cotton Bowl Stadium show, about the size of a 50 cent piece or a loonie.
  • a half glossy page for the Freddy Martin headliner with added attraction Elvis Presley
  • five card stock 8×10 black n white photos, 2 concert, 1 football, 1 playing pinball and one relaxing with a rifle.
  • a one page advertisement to order Elvis 45s
  • Correspondence from Tom Parker to RCA regarding the $5,000 Parker paid to Phillips on behalf of RCA to secure Elvis’ contract
  • Feb 5, 1956 concert poster – In Person Elvis Presley and his “Blue Mooners” with guests the Louvin Brothers, Carter Sisters and Mother Maybelle.
  • Promotional poster for the Young Man boxed set.

These are neat items and the ticket stub needs attention paid to it, being so small, it’s easy to loose. I don’t think I’d ever heard Scotty, Bill and DJ referred to as anything but the Blue Moon Boys; which is very different from Blue Mooners….

The book is LP sized and 82 pages of reprints of newspaper articles, magazine and record covers, and paperwork relating to Elvis’ management and studio sessions, along with familiar and rare photos in a month by month format so we can follow along with the King during his most eventful year.

Trivia: Elvis Presley accounted for half of all of RCA’s sales in 1956 and he was number 1 on the billboard charts for over half of the year.

While Elvis was not the first to sell a million copies of a single, he was the first artist to sell that many for back to back singles. Elvis’ sales were so unprecedented that the industry would later created the RIAA in order to certify sales for marketing purposes. Elvis has more RIAA certifications than any other artists, even though his best sales year occurred before the RIAA.

The gatefold holder for the CDs is well made and the CDs are not hindered with a centre post, so sliding them in and out is very simply and won’t result in damage to the heavy stock package. The lurid pink inside contrasts nicely with the black matte and recalls Elvis’ stage wear colours.

As for the discs, the first thing that I played was the RCA Victrola radio advertisements, which have never been released before. Elvis extolls the virtues of the Elvis Presley Autograph portable photograph players – all four speeds – and they you will recieve a number of free Elvis EP albums, depending on which model you get.

Other than the advertisement for Louisiana Southern Made donuts, Elvis did not do product endorsements. Although, RCA did do test photos of Elvis with RCA record players, the non-portable furniture sized ones – the ads never ran when the label realized that teens didn’t buy furniture sized record player or televisions sets and Elvis was not an inducement for parents.

Elvis was used to sell Elvis alone.

Onto the cds! Click here for a complete track listing.

Discs 1 & 2 contain his first and second LPs and the singles that didn’t make the albums as well as the Love Me Tender songs.

Disc 3 contains three concerts, last appearance on May 6, at the Venus Room at the Frontier Hotel, The May 16 Little Rock, Arkansas and the never before released – not even on bootleg – final Lousiana Hayride performance on December 15, 1956; which includes the only known live recording of Paralyzed.

Although the highlight of the show is the final concert’s “Don’t Be Cruel” – not just because Elvis is clearly having such fun toying with the audience, often calling out “friends, friends” because the crowd is screaming so much that they aren’t even paying attention to Elvis, but because he performs Don’t Be Cruel in the style he did Paralyzed during the Million Dollar Quartet sessions – Elvis doing Jackie Wilson doing Elvis.

Elvis mentions in that recording, that he saw an act in Vegas – Billy Ward and the Dominos, which featured Jackie Wilson at the time.

The sound quality of this set of the Vegas appearance is vastly superior to the same recording released on the gold box 50th Celebration set. And certainly a strange Elvis concert in that you can hear every note and word as the audience only politely claps to cover off their embarrassment for Elvis, who was not used to flopping in front of audiences anymore. Not even Bill Black and his antics saved this show. Vegas was just not interested in his hillybilly corn pone humour or gyrations, but, it would be soon enough.

Disc 4 is the weakest disc in the collection and includes alternative takes to six songs. A better choice would have been the first take of significant songs or any alternative track that significantly differed from the master take. At the very least, the movie versions of the Love Me Tender songs to complete the studio versions on disc 2. It also includes the complete Warwick Hotel interview from March 24.

Disc 5 features the complete TV Guide Presents Elvis, an interview with Col. Tom Parker, The Truth About Me interview in two versions and the two Victrola radio ads.

It’s surprising to realize how unguarded and sincere Elvis was with the press; who for the most part, really didn’t seem to know what to make of Elvis. Partly because he was such a polite, humble, sincere guy with middle class aspirations who seemed at odds with the on stage greasey, long haired, lanky and gyrating sex demon who drove girls to claw their faces and clothes as they screamed and carried on, just watching him.

A worthy addition to any Elvis fan’s collection and a solid entry for general music fans.

4 thoughts on “Review: Young Man with a Big Beat

  1. Pingback: Check out a review of Young Man With The Big Beat « The Mystery Train Blog

  2. Congratulations on being so prompt with the review. I will be listening to it today and doing a review myself later. Your mix of photos, text and clips is really good. Am suspended in disbelief this morning. It is like BMG have reinvented themselves as The Bear Family Record Label.

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