Saturday, 16 May 2015

Rags To Riches - New Years Eve 1976 Pittsburgh PA

In the main 1976 had been a very poor year for Elvis. His reluctance to enter a recording studio had made it necessary for RCA to move it's mobile recording unit 'Big Red' into the grounds of Graceland and Elvis' den, what was to become known as 'The Jungle Room', became a makeshift studio in order for Elvis to fulfil his contractual obligations.

The live shows of 1976 were amongst the poorest of Elvis' career with the setlist probably at it's most rigid since 1969 but still the venues sold out but even stuck in this malaise Elvis still sometimes managed to produce an excellent show within a below par tour or even a moment of genius within a mediocre show although in 76 this had become more the exception rather than the norm.

Elvis only appeared in Las Vegas once during 76 and this was the shortest full Vegas engagement of the 70's with just 15 shows over 11 nights and the standard of show was generally high. After closing in Vegas on 12 December Elvis had a fornight off before emabrking on a short five show tour which began in Wichita on 27 December and would finish in Pittsburgh during the early hours of New Years Day.

Perhaps bouyed by the fact that he had performed his final Las Vegas show as no extension had been signed, Elvis' next five concerts were unquestionably the best of Elvis' shows in 1976 and there is footage of most of the show in Birmingham, Alabama on 29 December concert, a show which was a bootleg favourite for many years and has since been released officially on FTD in a two disc set with the previous nights show in Dallas - both excellent shows. The New Years Eve show at the Civic Center Arena was probably the best of the five with Elvis on stage for almost two hours!

On a Friday evening,16,409 people in Pittsburgh saw in 1977 with 'The King' and after three opening acts and a lengthy intermission Elvis walked on stage at 23.35 to a mass of flashbulbs and screams - you would have been forgiven for thinking it was already twelve!

When twelve did arrive the house lights went up and Elvis lead the audience in a rousing rendition of Rabbie Burns' 'Auld Lang Syne' wished the audience and band members 'Happy New Year' before resuming the show but nor before introducing his father, daughter and sound engineers!

By this stage the Elvis Presley shows' penultimate number was usually 'Funny How Time Slips Away' but on this particular evening he had sang this just before midnight and so since he was already at the piano having sung 'Unchained Melody' he decided to give the only live performance of 'Rags To Riches'.

The master of this song was recorded in RCA's studio B in Nashville on 22 September 1970 in an additional session to create some extra cuts to compliment the June sessions. In addition to 'Rags to Riches' Elvis also recorded 'Snowbird', 'Where Did They Go, Lord' and 'Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On' at this session.

The original audience recording of this New Years Eve show was for many years one of the most sought after bootlegs and after the introduction of the FTD label they quickly bought the original recording from fan John Herman who had recorded it that evening, how much RCA paid is anyone's guess and it remains the only audience recorded show in the FTD catalouge. Released officially by FTD in 2003 it was titled simply - New Years Eve 1976. This however must only bring one to the natural conclusion that a soundboard version does not exist.

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