Episode #22: ‘Music That Bleeds – Elvis’s ’68 Comeback Special’.

“There is something magical about watching a man who has lost himself find his way back home,” ‘Eye’ magazine’s John Landau commented when reviewing Elvis’s 1968 ‘Comeback Special’. “He sang with the kind of power that people no longer expect of rock ‘n’ roll singers. He moved his body with a lack of pretension and effort that must have made Jim Morrison green with envy.”

Undertaken by the King as a make-or-break project that would either salvage his career or confine it to the backwaters where it currently resided, the show captured him laying everything on the line – vocally and emotionally. This in spite of manager Colonel Tom Parker’s insistence on an NBC Christmas special that might have appealed to only those still brave enough to watch his legendary client’s lousy films.

Director Steve Binder provided the vision, production partner Bones Howe attended to the music, and the result was a small-screen smash that grabbed viewers’ attention right at the start with a menacing close-up, striking Elvii-filled backdrop and a voice that attacked the songs with raw beauty. Topping the ratings, this show and the accompanying album made Elvis musically relevant for the first time in years.

Binder and Howe are among the interviewees in this 50th anniversary tribute to a timeless TV classic, alongside executive producer Bob Finkel, guitarist Scotty Moore, drummer D.J. Fontana and special guest Allen. J. Wiener, author of ‘Channeling Elvis: How Television Saved the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll’.

“It was the finest music of his life,” Greil Marcus wrote in his book, ‘Mystery Train’. “If ever there was music that bleeds, this was it.”

Featured tracks:

  • Trouble/Guitar Man
  • Trying to Get to You
  • Heartbreak Hotel
  • Stuck On You
  • A Little Less Conversation
  • When It Rains, It Really Pours
  • I Got a Woman
  • Lawdy Miss Clawdy
  • One Night
  • That’s All Right
  • Let Yourself Go
  • Blue Christmas
  • Memories
  • Saved
  • If I Can Dream