Gotta Find My Baby!

October 31, 2022

Elvis On Tour

ELVIS ON TOUR (US, 1972)

Original title: Standing Room Only
Filmed:
March / April 1972
Released:
November 1, 1972
Running time:
93min
Production company:
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Budget:
US$ 2 million
Box office:
US$ 4 million
Main cast:
Elvis Presley
The Sweet Inspirations
JD Sumner & The Stamps Quartet
Soundtrack:
"Burning Love" (single)
[b/w "It's a Matter of Time'"]
(August 1, 1972)
"Separate Ways" (single)
[b/w "Always On My Mind"]
(October 31, 1972)
"6363 Sunset Boulevard" (CD)
(FTD, March 2001)
"Elvis On Tour - The Rehearsals" (CD)
(FTD, December 2004)
"Standing Room Only" (CD/LP)
(FTD, 2009)
"Elvis On Tour" (Box)
(December 2, 2022)




Elvis On Tour, originally titled Standing Room Only
is Elvis' 33rd film, his second out of Hollywood contract, the third of four documentaries about his career and his last film production. In it, MGM explores the backstage of Elvis' April 1972 performances, the pace of recording and rehearsals, and the fan hysteria that made him the King of Rock.

Where are the thinking heads and fancy graphics? Elvis On Tour didn't feature any of these in abundance; Instead of filling time with nothing, this back-to-basics documentary is a masterpiece, an honest glimpse into one of Elvis Presley's mega-tours that took the star on a 15-day journey through 15 cities and thousands of fans screaming for him just a few years before his death.

This is the King in the raw, and while the film is constructed primarily from concert footage, it relays much more about its subject matter through the way it frames the star and captures the essence of what must have been something far greater than anything else a collector could ever obtain.

Elvis On Tour works as a 93-minute entertainment with Elvis performing several of his biggest hits, but it's another the strength of the film - the fascinating journey into the world behind the jumpsuits, the gaudy sunglasses and the hyper-excited fans - that really makes it not only worth watching but cherishing as well.

The Golden Globe winner thrives on the energy of the King's music, and with it gets his power to dig beyond the superficial, primarily by showing Elvis being Elvis.

Robert Abel and Pierre Adidge captured his dedication to his craft, the struggles he faced in fame, and, below the surface, his declining health - all through the prism of his music.

Elvis On Tour is visually appealing and emotionally challenging, being a snapshot of the King's life at a time when he was an international icon of music, sex appeal and movie star. The film also captures the darker side of fame that would contribute to his deteriorating health. Yet his fame grew beyond the man; his name and everything he stood for, it seems, has become bigger than his talent. Even when he had to use a sheet to sing "Burning Love", it didn't matter to the crowds of fans who would openly cry at the mere sight of him.

"I never got over what they call 'stage fright'."

If there's a more revealing quote that identifies the man behind the fame, it's yet to be discovered. Consider a man bigger than the president of the United States, bigger than the greatest sports hero. Elvis Presley was adored by millions, but he never adjusted to being on stage and performing in front of people.

"The first time I stepped on stage, it scared me to death. I really didn't know what the screaming was about. I didn't realize my body was moving. It's a natural thing for me. So I asked the presenter, 'What did I do? What did I do?'. And he said, 'Whatever it is, go back there and do it again.'"

Elvis On Tour captures the essence of a man determined to put on a great show despite his fears and uncertainties. The film portrays him not as a spoiled celebrity, but as a "good guy" who loved music and apparently preferred singing Gospel with a group of friends to his stage work.

With various elements put together by future director Martin Scorsese and with a dynamic split-screen style that dominates the eye, the visuals are almost as lively as his music, and it does a wonderful job of capturing the chaos surrounding the King on the road and offstage throughout the film. The juxtaposition of Elvis in action and fan reaction provides a captivating point of view and further reinforces the unique atmosphere of each show in his career. The image also offers a more traditional structure during some of the relaxed moments, but the split-screen effect works wonders for the documentary.

The soundtrack hits all the right notes and is quite satisfying, with the music enjoying a rather smooth performance that spreads across the entire stage. It's a very immersive experience, even if it lacks the sharpness and clarity found in the best soundtracks. Beyond the music, however, there is a mushy, indistinct tone; screaming fans come across as particularly problematic, sometimes sounding like the famous "canned reactions" of sitcoms.

But most of all, Elvis On Tour is a complete package of sight, sound, entertainment and historical relevance. Not only for big Elvis fans, but also as a fantastic jumping in point for music lovers who are only now discovering the man behind it, this is arguably the most important entertainment industry documentary of all time.

On its theatrical release on November 1, 1972, Elvis On Tour grossed half its budget. By the time it left the main theaters in the USA, the film had doubled its budget and reached the 13th place on the most watched charts, being nominated and winning a Grammy for Best Documentary in 1972.


AN IN-DEPTH ANALYSIS


Elvis On Tour currently exists in VHS, DVD and Blu-Ray versions. For the DVD/Blu-Ray released in 2010, the first time the work was adapted for this type of media, the original opening track ("Johnny B. Goode") was replaced by "Don't Be Cruel" for copyright reasons. For this same reason, since the film's release in 1972, the well-known symphony from the beginning of the shows, "Also Sprach Zarathustra" is omitted from the audio - in its place we hear a generic MGM waltz.


As we listen to some of Jackie Kahane's stand-up, comedian who accompanied Elvis until his last days, the King of Rock arrives in Richmond (Red Pinwheel) for the show on April 10, 1972.

Soon after, we follow Elvis behind the scenes in two other different locations thanks to the split-screen system: San Antonio on April 18th (White Pinwheel) and Greensboro on April 14th (Royal Blue Fireworks).

When the intro is finally heard, we are taken up to the stage of the April 9 show at Hampton Roads (Blue Nail). For eight minutes, Elvis presents us with the perfect "See See Rider" and "Polk Salad Annie".


In the sequence we see a very focused Elvis during the recording of "Separate Ways". "Always On My Mind" would come out of the same session, and the footage gives a glimpse into what the studio routine was like and how both Elvis and the band behaved and complemented each other to create the perfect song.



A trip sequence takes us to San Antonio as Elvis heads to the concert venue. The fan hysteria is perfectly captured, as is a moment of relaxation inside the King's limousine, and then we arrive backstage.


Here, Elvis sings "Proud Mary", "Never Been to Spain" and "Burning Love", in addition to introducing the band that accompanies him. What follows is the madness of the fans on the way out of the King of Rock and one more moment in his limousine.


It is at this moment that we have a visit to the past, where we see photos and videos to the sound of the classics that made his name. Parker was not happy with this sequence, as he felt that Elvis should not be shown as a "jewel of the past" but as "a treasure of the present", without "unnecessary visits" to the before. As with the "'68 Comeback Special" and "That's the Way it Is", the Colonel was dead wrong.

In the sequence Elvis talks about the influence of Gospel in his life and sings some numbers from his recent LP "He Touched Me" with JD Sumner and The Stamps.



The film then returns to Hampton Roads for the rendition of "Love Me Tender" mixed with footage of kissing scenes in his films as the edit shows us parts of the song sung in San Antonio and Richmond. The Colonel, again, did not like what he took as "a mockery of Elvis' film career". In fact, that was the point—showing how most of his films repeated archaic formulas. Some images from the shows featured in the film, in addition to rehearsals, are seen while a fan gives her emotional statement.


Between a lady not happy with Elvis' pelvic movements and panties thrown on stage, the King is shown in some of his best moments.


We then head to Greensboro on April 14, where Elvis sings a magnificent rendition of "Bridge Over Troubled Water" to an audience that watches him in near-total silence. Elvis seems surprised by how crowded the venue is as he talks to his fans before starting "Funny How Time Slips Away". The show also offers us one of the best versions of "An American Trilogy" before we see another travel sequence and a brief family moment at Graceland to the sound of "Suspicious Minds", which at that point spoke a lot about what was happening with Elvis and Priscilla.


The press conference for the Madison Square Garden shows, one of the only footage not captured in April, takes center stage, being the first time Elvis has spoken openly - and visibly uncomfortable - about Priscilla not accompanying him.

It doesn't seem right to anyone familiar with the setlists often used at concerts and their positions within them that "I Got a Woman," from the Hampton Roads show, appears just now - but it does. It is followed by a very rocky "A Big Hunk O' Love" with perfect solos by Glen Hardin and James Burton.


A captivating "You Gave Me a Mountain" is followed by "Sweet, Sweet Spirit", sung in solo form by JD Sumner and The Stamps at the request of Elvis, who simply listens in extreme admiration. The classics "Lawdy Miss Claudy" and "Can't Help Falling In Love", also from the show in Hampton Roads, bring the film to its conclusion.


Here we can see for the only time the announcer of the famous phrase "Elvis has left the building" - Ed Enoch - and the rush to which Elvis and his entourage were subjected at the end of every show. We also see the extreme adoration for the King of Rock in the attitude of the fans, who remain in the place of the performance in tears even after many minutes of the end.


Under the end credits, we see footage of rehearsals and recording sessions set to "Memories" from the '68 Comeback Special.



SOUNDTRACK

The soundtrack for Elvis On Tour spawned one of the most controversial stories in the King of Rock's career. After canceling the LP "An American Trilogy" for containing live tracks that would be repeated on the album referring to the film, RCA went through a series of setbacks until they decided to invest in the shows at Madison Square Garden and cancel the album "Standing Room Only".

After the cancellation, RCA released the singles from the work related to other records. "Burning Love / It's a Matter of Time" was linked to the budget album "Burning Love and Hits From His Movies, Volume 2", and "Separate Ways / Always On My Mind" to "Separate Ways".

In 2001 FTD released portions of the recording sessions  from March 27-29, 1972 on "6363 Sunset". The recording company also released some March 30-31 rehearsals on "On Tour - The Rehearsals" in 2005. Sony Legacy will release the first official movie soundtrack box set, titled "Elvis On Tour", on December 2, 2022.


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