Elvis – The ’68 Comeback Special

Elvis – The ’68 Comeback Special

Elvis, starring Elvis Presley, was the title of a 1968 United States television special. Sponsored by The Singer Sewing Machine Company, it aired on December 3, 1968 on the NBC television network. The special is commonly referred to as the ’68 Comeback Special, because of subsequent developments in Presley’s career, but the soundtrack album was released simply as NBC-TV Special. It was directed by Steve Binder and produced by Binder and Bones Howe.

Presley’s manager, Colonel Tom Parker, wanted the show, which was scheduled as a Christmas season broadcast, to be little more than Presley singing Christmas carols. He believed the special could simply be a TV-version of the Christmas radio show Presley had contributed to the year before. Binder argued that the special was an opportunity to re-establish the singer’s reputation after years of formulaic movies and recordings of variable quality. He and Howe hired writers to script a show with specific themes: they envisaged large set designs, dance sequences and big productions of Presley’s hits. However, Binder was open to any variations on this that would showcase the singer’s talent, and Presley was apparently very happy to go along with this flexible approach. Binder has also said that as the special production progressed, and there was no sign of any Christmas material, Parker constantly moaned to Binder: “Where’s my Christmas music?”

The special eventually included an extravagant musical sequence featuring Gospel-style numbers, a semi-autobiographical “mini-movie” centered around the song “Guitar Man” and other re-recordings given lavish set designs. Network censors wanted to remove one segment set in a bordello which featured the song “Let Yourself Go,” but it was aired. The special ends with Presley appealing for world peace with the song “If I Can Dream.”

Studio recordings for these segments were made at Western Recorders in Hollywood, California between June 20 and 23 and featured an orchestra and the The Blossoms as background vocalists: Fanita James, Jean King and Darlene Love. Other musicians included drummer Hal Blaine, pianist Don Randi, guitarist Tommy Tedesco and harmonica player Tommy Morgan.

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