CLOSE
Original image
Wikimedia Commons

Elvis Presley's Bizarre Album of Stage Banter

Original image
Wikimedia Commons

In 1974, Elvis Presley released Having Fun With Elvis on Stage, an album consisting of over thirty minutes of haphazardly compiled banter from his concerts. It includes no songs and it is completely devoid of context. Save for maybe one brief section, there are no insights into Presley's life. What's included is so incoherent, you don't really get an idea of his stage presence, despite the fact that all the audio comes from his shows.

The album was the brainchild of Elvis's manager, Colonel Tom Parker. Parker created a company called Boxcar to manage Presley's commercial rights (while securing the majority of profits for himself), with an eye to eventually turn it into a full-blown record company. Because of Elvis's deal with RCA, Boxcar could not release a normal Elvis record with music. Instead, Parker had to go around this by selling an album that was just his client speaking. Having Fun With Elvis on Stage was the only LP Boxcar ever put out, and it's roundly considered to be one of the worst albums of all time.

Surely there must be some redeeming qualities to this artifact. It has to at least be fun—it's right there in the title! Colonel Parker wouldn't lie to consumers. Maybe all the album's critics were squares who weren't hep to this avant-garde collage of found and pop art. I listened to Having Fun With Elvis on Stage and broke it into 34 different tracks based on where Colonel Tom seems to have edited in a new clip from a new concert (it's presented as two long tracks with no breaks). By doing this, I hope to determine just how much fun you can have with Elvis, on stage.

1. 0:00-1:18
The album starts off in medias res, with Elvis humming and saying, "Here we go again, man." He continues, “Before the evening is over, I will have made a complete and total fool of myself. And I hope you get a kick out of watching it.” He then growls and says "Whaa whaa whaa" before singing, "Well...well, well well" as if he's about to go into a song. There is no song.

How much fun do we have with Elvis?: It's early, so we're having a little bit of fun with Elvis. He seems relaxed, which is nice.

2. 1:19-2:27
The sound quality of the second section drops off considerably, and it seems as if we are magically transported to the end of one of Elvis's concerts. “They don’t like for us to stay on too long," he says, and the audience boos. "Wait a minute! They don't like for us to stay on for more than 55 minutes to an hour...But we don't care what they like!" The crowd goes absolutely bonkers. This is legitimately fun.

With the audience worked into a lather, Elvis goes, "I'd like to sing a little 'Love Me Tender' for you." Instead of singing, he starts squeaking directly into the microphone. I think the joke was supposed to be, "I'd like to sing a little 'Love Me Tender' for you quickly," with the squeaking mimicking a sped-up audio recording, but he forgot to say "quickly." The crowd laughs politely.

How much fun do we have with Elvis?: He's a little all over the place here, but we're having fun.

3. 2:28-3:08
Elvis slowly and quietly sings, "You ain't nothing but an...aardvark." He then lists a few more animals, some of which sound made up.

How much fun do we have with Elvis?: Not too much here, to be honest.

4. 3:09-7:40
Elvis seems to be genuinely shocked by microphone feedback and asks, “What was that?” He then starts negotiating with a woman in the audience about flowers. “What is that honey? An orchid? You want the blue one?” He gives another woman a scarf for her birthday. “Here’s the towel," he says, "Here’s the scarf, here’s the kiss." Crowd goes wild.

How much fun do we have with Elvis?: Sounds like we're having some fun, yeah.

5. 7:41-8:00
Not much goes on here. The audience is screaming some stuff and Elvis meekly goes, "Mmkay."

How much fun do we have with Elvis?: None.

6. 8:01-11:55
This is a great part of the album. "I want to tell you about how I started," Elvis says, before diving into the story of how he was driving a truck and studying to be an electrician when he went into a record store to cut an album. “They arranged to put me on television,” he says, listing Jackie Gleason, Ed Sullivan, and Steve Allen. He tells a funny story about having to sing to a dog on the Steve Allen Show and how they refused to show him beneath his waist (Elvis, not the dog). Here's a video of that performance.

How much fun do we have with Elvis?: Not only do we have fun, but we also learn something.

7. 11:56-12:19
"I’d like to do a medley of some of my biggest records for you." There is no medley.

How much fun do we have with Elvis?: There is no fun to be had here.

8. 12:20-14:09
"I want to sing a lot of songs and walk around and sweat," he says, which makes the audience lose their minds. He seems to be in Kansas City, because he says he's from "Memphis, Missouri," and then repeats the joke, but tells them it's "Memphis, Kansas."

How much fun do have with Elvis?: Some fun. If you are from either Missouri or Kansas it's probably more fun, though.

9. 14:10-14:36
Elvis says, "I'd like you to listen to our bass singer. He goes down to an E, below low flat, whatever that is. Low Flat, I ain't never heard of that. You ever heard of that, Ronnie?" We don't hear his bass singer.

How much fun do we have with Elvis?: This is getting un-fun.

10. 14:37-15:43
“I’m the NBC peacock," he says. He then starts crooning “well well well wells” again. This will not be the last we hear of his "well well wells." There's some crazy drumming and crowd laughter, and Elvis says, “You shouldn’t laugh at us handicapped folk." Sounds like there's some physical comedy going on that's lost on the listeners at home.

How much fun do we have with Elvis?: Eh.

11. 15:44-17:12
In this section, Elvis talks a lot about drinking water and the importance of staying hydrated. He even warns the audience that he may be taking frequent breaks to drink his glass of water.

How much fun do we have with Elvis?: Not "fun," per se, but his advice about hydration is important.

12. 17:13-17:46
This section of the album features some genuinely terrifying screaming from the audience. “It’s getting a little wild in here, boy,” Elvis says, before laughing maniacally. He then says he's about introduce the members of the crew, but Colonel Parker, "on the piano," is the only person to get mentioned before it cuts away.

How much fun do we have with Elvis?: This part is a little frightening.

13. 17:47-18:25
He hums and sings, “well…” some more before announcing, "That’s all folks!" Side A ends here.

How much fun do we have with Elvis?: Zero.

14. 18:26-20:34
Side B starts much like Side A ends, with Elvis singing, “Well well well well.” He then makes a joke about his "fruit of the loom” being too tight, which earns wild laughter. There's more drumming, like from before, which means he must be doing some physical comedy again. He sings a few more “well well wells” before, confusingly, announcing “That’s it folks" and ending a concert at the very beginning of Side B.

How much fun do we have with Elvis?: More than we have had in a while, but the "well well wells" are getting tiresome.

15. 20:35-21:29
A whole bunch more "well well wells." A woman says something from the crowd, to which Elvis replies, “After the show, honey...let me get another ‘well’ out.” He's become very self-aware of all his repeated use of the word "well."

How much fun do we have with Elvis?: Side B is not too fun so far.

16. 21:30-22:06
“I’d like to walk around for a second, get my breath back," Elvis says. He then talks with four women, raising his voice to imitate them.

How much fun do we have with Elvis?: Some? Honestly, this is all starting to wear on me.

17. 22:07-22:42
Elvis asks the audience to listen to his bass singer again, and again we don't hear him.

How much fun do we have with Elvis?: He imitates a B-52 bomber here, which is fun-ish.

18. 22:43-23:24
Here, Elvis struggles with his belt and mentions that it's Father’s Day before introducing the audience to his father. “He’s more of a ham than I am.”

How much fun do we have with Elvis?: This was sweet, which will have to count for fun.

19. 23:25-23:40
He talks about how great the audience is.

How much fun do we have with Elvis?: A little pandering, but we're starting to have some fun again.

20. 23:41-24:25
He's in Louisiana and mentions that he's got a tiger next to him (must be buttering up the LSU fans in attendance). A woman screams that she loves him, and Elvis goes, "Oh I love you honey but I gotta sing this song.” Once again, there is no song.

How much fun do we have with Elvis?: A little.

21. 24:25-26:47
"People've thought for a long time that’s something I do to be sexy,” he says. We don't know what he's doing because we can't see it.

How much fun do we have with Elvis?: Who knows? We can't see it.

22. 26:48-28:49
Here he goes with the "wells" again. “Honey, what are you screaming for? I’ve just sung 'well'...If that’s all I gotta do, I’ve got it made." Great, no sign of the wells stopping any time soon.

How much fun do we have with Elvis?: Well...

23. 28:50-30:32
“We haven’t played this place before, but you’re really a fantastic audience...“You wanna hear ‘Don’t Be Cruel'? Alright.” We don't hear "Don't Be Cruel."

How much fun do we have with Elvis?: Don't be cruel.

24. 30:33-31:16
“This next song is a song I recorded when I first started singing, about two years ago [pause for laughter]. My scarves’ got fuzz on it.”

How much fun do we have with Elvis?: No fun.

25. 31:17-32:34
Elvis gets so into his "wells" that he loses track. "Where was I?” he asks, and someone in the band goes, “WELL WELL WELL WELL.” “Appreciate it," Elvis replies, "I was wellin’.” Yes you were.

How much fun do we have with Elvis?: We haven't had fun in a while. For the rest of the album, I will just pick out choice quotes from each section.

26. 32:35-32:50
"I'd like to tell you that the last time we were here, we had a fantastic time, but this time it's much better, really."

27. 32:51-33:00
"This next song is one of my first records." [No song]

28. 33:01-34:01
“No rose, no scarf, baby.”

29. 34:02-34:37
“Hello Memphis. It’s a pleasure to be home here." [Continues to paraphrase Thomas Wolfe]

30. 34:38-35:08
"Thanks for the flowers and the little bear."

31. 35:09-35:30
“That won’t play." [Regarding a gold record someone has handed him]

32. 35:31-36:28
“It’s been a pleasure laughing with you”

33. 36:29-36:50
"You know what I can't do? Get my belt tightened."

34. 36:51-37:38
"Well..."

Original image
Ethan Miller/Getty Images
arrow
Pop Culture
How Jimmy Buffett Turned 'Margaritaville' Into a Way of Life
Original image
Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Few songs have proven as lucrative as “Margaritaville,” a modest 1977 hit by singer and songwriter Jimmy Buffett that became an anthem for an entire life philosophy. The track was the springboard for Buffett’s business empire—restaurants, apparel, kitchen appliances, and more—marketing the taking-it-easy message of its tropical print lyrics.

After just a few years of expanding that notion into other ventures, the “Parrot Heads” of Buffett’s fandom began to account for $40 million in annual revenue—and that was before the vacation resorts began popping up.

Jimmy Buffett performs for a crowd
Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

“Margaritaville,” which turned 40 this year, was never intended to inspire this kind of devotion. It was written after Buffett, as an aspiring musician toiling in Nashville, found himself in Key West, Florida, following a cancelled booking in Miami and marveling at the sea of tourists clogging the beaches.

Like the other songs on his album, Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes, it didn’t receive a lot of radio play. Instead, Buffett began to develop his following by opening up for The Eagles. Even at 30, Buffett was something less than hip—a flip-flopped performer with a genial stage presence that seemed to invite an easygoing vibe among crowds. “Margaritaville,” an anthem to that kind of breezy attitude, peaked at number eight on the Billboard charts in 1977. While that’s impressive for any single, its legacy would quickly evolve beyond the music industry's method for gauging success.

What Buffett realized as he continued to perform and tour throughout the early 1980s is that “Margaritaville” had the ability to sedate audiences. Like a hypnotist, the singer could immediately conjure a specific time and place that listeners wanted to revisit. The lyrics painted a scene of serenity that became a kind of existential vacation for Buffett's fans:

Nibblin' on sponge cake,
Watchin' the sun bake;
All of those tourists covered with oil.
Strummin' my six string on my front porch swing.
Smell those shrimp —
They're beginnin' to boil.

By 1985, Buffett was ready to capitalize on that goodwill. In Key West, he opened a Margaritaville store, which sold hats, shirts, and other ephemera to residents and tourists looking to broadcast their allegiance to his sand-in-toes fantasy. (A portion of the proceeds went to Save the Manatees, a nonprofit organization devoted to animal conservation.) The store also sold the Coconut Telegraph, a kind of propaganda newsletter about all things Buffett and his chill perspective.

When Buffett realized patrons were coming in expecting a bar or food—the song was named after a mixed drink, after all—he opened a cafe adjacent to the store in late 1987. The configuration was ideal, and through the 1990s, Buffett and business partner John Cohlan began erecting Margaritaville locations in Florida, New Orleans, and eventually Las Vegas and New York. All told, more than 21 million people visit a Buffett-inspired hospitality destination every year.

A parrot at Margaritaville welcomes guests
Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

Margaritaville-branded tequila followed. So, too, did a line of retail foods like hummus, a book of short stories, massive resorts, a Sirius radio channel, and drink blenders. Buffett even wrote a 242-page script for a Margaritaville movie that he had hoped to film in the 1980s. It’s one of the very few Margaritaville projects that has yet to have come to fruition, but it might be hard for Buffett to complain much. In 2015, his entire empire took in $1.5 billion in sales.

As of late, Buffett has signed off on an Orlando resort due to open in 2018, offering “casual luxury” near the boundaries of Walt Disney World. (One in Hollywood, Florida, is already a hit, boasting a 93 percent occupancy rate.) Even for guests that aren’t particularly familiar with his music, “Jimmy Buffett” has become synonymous with comfort and relaxation just as surely as Walt Disney has with family entertainment. The association bodes well for a business that will eventually have to move beyond Buffett’s concert-going loyalists.

Not that he's looking to leave them behind. The 70-year-old Buffett is planning on a series of Margaritaville-themed retirement communities, with the first due to open in Daytona Beach in 2018. More than 10,000 Parrot Heads have already registered, eager to watch the sun set while idling in a frame of mind that Buffett has slowly but surely turned into a reality.

Original image
Stephen Shugerman/Getty Images
arrow
#TBT
The Time Freddy Krueger Became a Nightmare for Will Smith
Original image
Stephen Shugerman/Getty Images

Fans of Will Smith’s music career may think they’ve heard every album and seen every music video from the actor’s days as one half of the hip-hop duo DJ Jazzy Jeff & the Fresh Prince. Thanks to one ill-timed and poorly conceived effort, however, there’s one performance that aired only a handful of times before being permanently pulled. It has never resurfaced on compilations, on MTV, or even on YouTube. And the fault lies solely with Freddy Krueger, who used something even more dangerous than his razor-fingered glove: a small army of lawyers.

A promotional image of Robert Englund as Freddy Krueger
Getty Images

Back in early 1988, Smith and his musical partner Jazzy Jeff (a.k.a. Jeffrey Allen Townes) released their second album, He’s the DJ, I’m the Rapper. It would eventually go platinum, selling 2.5 million copies through 1989 and spinning off the duo’s most successful single, “Parents Just Don’t Understand.”

In late 1987, Townes composed another single, “Nightmare on My Street,” that played with the premise established by the A Nightmare on Elm Street series. In the song, Smith’s dreams are haunted by a scarred bogeyman named “Fred”; a voice modulator mimics the raspy delivery of actor Robert Englund, who portrayed slasher movie icon Freddy Krueger in the Nightmare on Elm Street films. After his run-in, Smith tries calling Jeff to warn him of the threat but it was too late: The killer has gotten to his partner.

Zomba, the parent company behind the album's label, decided the song might be of interest to New Line Cinema, the studio behind the Nightmare film franchise. With the fourth installment, A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master, due to hit theaters in August 1988, Zomba executive Barry Weiss approached New Line with the possibility of collaborating and forwarded a tape of the song.

Weiss’s timing was spot-on. New Line had recently conducted research that indicated that 40 percent of A Nightmare of Elm Street's audience was black, and they felt that tying Krueger into the burgeoning rap and hip-hop industry would help cement his appeal to the demographic. But New Line and Weiss couldn’t come to a financial agreement. Instead, the studio went with The Fat Boys and granted permission for the song “Are You Ready for Freddy?” The video, complete with an appearance by Englund (in character), was released just a few months prior to A Nightmare on Elm Street 4 to raise awareness of the sequel.

Although New Line found their collaborators, Zomba didn’t appear willing to give up on the idea of a Freddy takeoff. “Nightmare on My Street” remained on the album, and Smith and Townes recorded a video intended for distribution on MTV. In it, Smith is stalked by a Freddy-like character who appears in a trench coat and has a wrinkled face. Smith’s lyrics make overt reference to a Krueger-esque appearance. (Fred is “burnt like a weenie.”) The eerie house Smith calls home even bears a passing resemblance to the house in the original Nightmare film.

If Zomba thought they could declare the song and video a parody and be safe from legal action, they were mistaken. Almost immediately, New Line's legal team sent a stern letter demanding the music label recall all copies of the song. When that didn't happen, the studio next sought a preliminary injunction to prevent “Nightmare on My Street” from being aired on MTV or elsewhere, citing copyright infringement and a concern that the video would detract from their collaboration with The Fat Boys.

"We own both a character, Freddy Krueger, and the theme music from Nightmare on Elm Street, both of which are protected under the copyright laws," Seth Willenson, New Line's senior vice president of telecommunications, told the Los Angeles Times in August 1988. “By using Freddy in the Jazzy Jeff song, they've infringed our copyright. We're protecting our rights the same way that George Lucas does, because as far as we're concerned, Freddy Krueger is the Star Wars of New Line Cinema."

Weeks before the release of the film, a judge in New York’s United States District Court would have to decide whether Zomba was entitled to a fair use exemption over a fictional child murderer.

Will Smith appears at the Grammy Awards
Matt Campbell/Getty Images

To Zomba’s dismay, judge Robert Ward didn’t buy their argument that “Nightmare on My Street” was nothing more than a Weird Al-style satire. Screening the entire first installment of the film series and the music video, Ward noted that the latter drew considerable influence in tone, mood, and characteristics from the feature. Fred’s voice was scratchy like Englund’s; his glove, though it featured phonograph needles instead of razors, was obviously meant to invoke Krueger’s weapon of choice. Where Zomba saw parody, Ward saw little more than a derivative work of a copyrighted property.

“It is in this month that many individuals will make their decision whether Nightmare IV is a film that they are interested in viewing,” wrote Ward in his decision. “Thus, the telecast of the lower quality DJ Jazzy Jeff video with the somewhat silly and less frightening Freddy could dissuade an unspecified number of individuals from seeing the film.” The injunction was granted, with a full hearing to be held at a later date.

That didn’t happen—both parties settled out of court. While the song remained on the record, it began to ship with a disclaimer that it wasn’t associated with New Line; the video, which had aired only briefly on MTV, was pulled, and the court ordered that all copies be destroyed. Whether or not that happened is hard to substantiate, but if the video is lurking in storage somewhere, it has never been excavated. “Nightmare on My Street” has never resurfaced.

If Smith and Townes were bothered by the outcome, they didn’t voice it publicly. Smith even dressed up as Krueger in a 1990 episode of his sitcom, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. But there is one additional bit of film trivia to come out of the case: In seeking to resolve the issue, New Line offered DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince a two-film option. If they accepted the roles, their salaries would be deducted from the settlement payout. One of those projects was 1990’s House Party, which the two declined. The roles eventually went to Kid ‘n Play.

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER
More from mental floss studios