The "desert" was the Las Vegas Hilton on the night of Sept 2, 1974. It was the close of his latest season in America's gambling capital. The "storm" referred to was an onstage outburst against press stories linking him to drugs (particularly heroin use) and a paternity suit lodged against him. Elvis was paranoid and made his troubles part of the show, using the stage to exonerate himself. This show is the stuff of legend. It was first mentioned in Roy Carr and Mick Farren's Elvis - The Complete Illustrated Record published in 1982. They quoted extensively from it.
"During a 1974 Las Vegas season, Elvis went so far as to stop the show to deliver a tirade against press stories which dealt with a paternity suit against him and alleged that he was using heroin."
That tirade has finally been made available on Disc Two. "From three different sources," ranted Elvis, "I heard that I was strung out on heroin... I've never been strung out in my life..." Then Elvis explodes, "If I find or hear the individual that has said that about me," he threatened, "I'm gonna BREAK your GODDAMNED neck, you SON OF A BITCH! These reports are dangerous," he emphasised, "are damaging to my little daughter, to Priscilla, to my father, my doctor, my friends, everyone on stage and," he motioned to the audience, "to you...." Then he pointed at his invisible accuser, "I will pull your GODDAMNED tongue from the ROOTS!!!" he thundered.
Inexplicably, he chose to sing Hawaiian Wedding Song to calm himself. The show closed with his trademark Can't Help Falling In Love as the horns blare his closing vamp.
Elvis' record company put out his last live album in 1974 (until his death in 1977 when a posthumous live album was released). They released Recorded Live On Stage In Memphis in June. It was taken from a March 20, 1974 show in Memphis. He was deemed to be too unstable to record live as this September show proved. Also the way his shows were structured, with medleys of old hits, they became repetitive. Recorded Live On Stage In Memphis sold much less than his two previous live albums, reaching No. 33 on the charts.
The lost years from 1975 to 1977 are now much in demand by collectors eager to listen to every Elvis show. For some, it is to savour every little bit of a unique talent who died young. For others, to listen, with hindsight, for clues of what other direction he could have taken to pull himself out of the dumps. These were the years when the music press avoided covering Elvis, for fear of embarrassing a cultural hero or because some felt he was irrelevant. It was left to the tabloids to spin their yarns about his excesses and to print pictures of the "fat Elvis."
But a listen to Desert Storm will open your ears to how, despite the repetitive nature of the songs and the shows, each performance was unique. Whether he ranted about drugs, his divorce, his numerous girlfriends, his music or even his karate, Elvis had a magnetic personality and he poured emotion into his singing. He couldn't hide his boredom. Listen to his hurried Hound Dog on Disc One.
He's also inspiring when he sings You Gave Me A Mountain about the hugeness of his problems and his determination to overcome them. He was also downright embarrassing when he introduces his ex-wife next to his girlfriend and then discusses their divorce right there on stage. This was the lead in to the next song Softly As I Leave You.
While the individual performances were polished and had the structure of a routine, Elvis' mercurial, moody nature kept his band and singers forever on a knife's edge not to be caught out. The tension and drama is what you're listening for, long after the tunes have been memorised.
To date, Elvis' record company has not put out a live album that captures this aspect of the man. And they should. After all they did officially release Having Fun With Elvis On Stage on October 1974 which contained nothing but Elvis' comedic in-between song banter.
recording quality of Desert Storm is first class and the sleeve boasts
it was taken from the "master tapes." The shows from 1975
to 1977 may not sell a lot but surely they are required uneasy listening
to study the ever-popular tortured artist effect. Only in Elvis' case,
it was true. - Michael Cheah
on the link to order Elvis Presley albums.
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