WWE: What about the '68 material that's coming out in the Fall? Have you figured out how it will be presented?
ERNST: Not exactly, but it will come out and will be a lot of the stuff. It can't be everything because a lot of the stuff isn't worth listening to because Elvis sings one line over and over or something like that. The outtakes are not very good because it was reecorded in sections, you know, in eight or twelve bars and then when they got that done they recorded the next twelve bars and that's unlistenable. But it will include the little bits and pieces people want. It cannot be the complete thing because there would be too much duplication.
WWE: Are there any plans to issue the version of "Baby What You Want Me To Do?" which Elvis performed with the full band and orchestra during his "live" solo hits segment for the '68 TV Special??
WWE: What is BMG planning for this? Will it be 2 CD's?
ERNST: We don't know that yet. There will be releases this fall. Whatever they are, the NBC stuff will be dealt with in the Fall of 1998.
WWE: Are there plans to find the STEREO / MONO master tapes for the TV Special and use these to recreate a new version of the old '68 soundtrack LP?
ERNST: Yes, it depends on how much of an improvement we can make. If no one can hear there's a real improvement we're not going to do that. We're going to stick with what we have but if we think we can come out with a clearer mix we will. But remember, this will only go for the production numbers. All the sit down and stand up shows were recorded in MONO and there is nothing you can do about this. But it will be better sound quality because we found better tapes. But they can't change to something completely different because of the mono problem.
WWE: Why don't you do something like the BURBANK SESSIONS? (WWE note: these were two fantastic bootleg LP's that came out in the late 1970's and contained all four "live" shows in the black leather suit! It's also worth noting that the people behind these actually were the first to use the "sit down" and "stand up" show wording as well as referring to the '68 TV SPECIAL as "THE '68 COMEBACK"!!)
ERNST: Well, I'm not saying we're not doing the BURBANK SESSIONS. I'm saying that it will be that kind of release, but it will not be exactly like these were but it will of course be improved sound quality and a nice booklet.
WWE: What about the rumoured rehearsal tapes?
ERNST: The third sit down show! There are elements of doubt because we keep finding stuff but there's nothing that points to this how existing. The place it would have been would have been at the Elvis Presley Estate and they have searched for it and can't find anything.
WWE: Will there be two CD's or two separate packages?
ERNST: It will be more than one CD at the least but it hasn't been decided just what the final result will be.
WWE: To your knowledge, was the '68 TV SPECIAL press conference ever filmed or recorded?
ERNST: I've never heard or see it.
WWE: Was the Elvis / Lisa Marie duet of "Don't Cry Daddy" recorded by BMG?
ERNST: No, But it was recorded by David Foster who was the producer of it for the Memphis event in August and of course Foster is married to Linda Thompson.
WWE: Is there a chance that Lisa will record with Elvis for a future CD?
ERNST: That's a question you'll want to ask Lisa Marie, not RCA.
WWE: Does BMG plan to release the ELVIS ON TOUR rehearsal tapes that feature "Johnny B. Goode" found on the LOST ON TOUR bootleg?
ERNST: Not in the near future. As you know, eventually we will get around to doing everything the fans want us to do but there are so many other projects for the next 18 months. This is not one of them.
WWE: Will there be a STANDING ROOM ONLY CD released?
ERNST: Probably not. Remember...the STANDING ROOM ONLY album was, in the brief period that it existed, an album of "live" recordings from the April 1972 tour. The intention was to release a "live" album from the four shows that month. That was why STANDING ROOM ONLY was going to be and not what I originally thought - a combination of Las Vegas and studio recordings. And, at this time, there are so many other releases but I don't see why there couldn't be one.
WWE: Would BMG use the same "MADISON SQUARE GARDEN" type cover?
ERNST: I don't think so.
WWE: What was found at Vernon's house?
ERNST: There's a lot of tapes but most of them are tapes of Elvis' own record collection that they made to listen to when they all went to Los Angeles or drove on the bus. But, in between all of that there is Elvis and friends singing at various periods of his life but mostly from 1966.
WWE: Are there any songs that stand out in your opinion?
ERNST: They are on the same quality as "After Loving You"; "Blowin' In The Wind"; "If I Loved You"; "Oh How I Love Jesus"; and "Tennessee Waltz".
WWE: Can you list any of the unreleased songs?
ERNST: Oh sure. There's Elvis doing "FOOLS RUSH IN" to an instrumental backing in an oldies way like it was from the 40's or 50's that very neat. A lot of them are guessed at by Joe Tunzi because he got someone to tell him but it's not an accurate list but it's not way off. There's a few that he didn't have and he's put a few in that's not there.
WWE: But Elvis didn't do any Roy Orbison songs?
ERNST: We only have "Running Scared" that's on the 70's box set and I have him singing but one line of "Only The Lonely" but only one line.
WWE: The ALOHA FROM HAWAII CD will be coming out April 28. Will it have a different cover?
WWE : And a booklet?
WWE: What did you do to it?
ERNST: Remixed it and added 5 songs that were recorded after the show. Also, we did not edit anything in the show whereas the original album had some of the dialogue edited out.
WWE: About those 5 songs - were they recorded right after the show?
ERNST: There was an hour and a half or two pause after the show and they were recorded after the real show NOT after the rehearsal show like some people keep on insisting.
WWE: Were they recorded in a studio or on the same stage?
ERNST: Right there on the same stage.
WWE: Will BMG release the GUITAR MAN; ELVIS' GREATEST HITS VOL. 1; I WAS THE ONE or THIS IS ELVIS on CD in the near future?
ERNST: I think there's a chance that GUITAR MAN will be released at some stage but it's not in the plans just now. There are extra songs that could be used.
WWE: Why has Germany issued A TOUCH OF PLATINUM VOL. 1 CD with ALL of the songs from the first two discs on the box set and the U.S. version eliminated six?
ERNST: Because copyright laws are different in the U.S. and in Europe. In Europe, copyright is a percentage of the sales price. In America, it's a fixed amount per song and basically, if you look at the pricing structure of it, the PLATINUM box in America was $70 and A TOUCH OF PLATINUM is retailing for $29.95. If you multiply that by two you get to $60 so there's about $10 worth of material that's missing. That's how it works. Europe decided to do that. We just wanted to make sure that, if the idea was good enough (WWE: that is, to split the box up into two CD's) those people thought that $70 to get a lot of Elvis stuff was too much, then they could do it this way. We do expect that everybody who's a real completist has of course bought the PLATINUM box by now. Otherwise, they'll be in trouble because eventually it won't exist anymore.
WWE: Is the box set definitely deleted now?
ERNST: Yes, it is deleted.
WWE: Is the "Kentucky Rain" that's on the recnt LOVE SONGS CD different? It sounds different?
ERNST: It's the version from the 60's MASTERS box set. It's not an alternate take but a different mix.
WWE: How many "live" shows from 1969 - 1977 does BMG have?
ERNST: Soundboards or regular shows?
ERNST: It's a difficult question because, on a lot of it, we don't have complete shows. We have a bunch of songs and on others we have complete shows so it's almost impossible to answer in a precise way but, you know, we've got - I would estimate - probably 20 complete shows and then bits and pieces from another 20. But, as far as soundboard tapes, we might have 200 or more. Some of the soundboard ones that have been coming out on bootleg are identical to the ones we have and some are not so there's many sources of soundboards. I know ofat least five or six different people who have had soundboards and who have sold them.
WWE: Will you ever release any of the soundboard recordings?
ERNST: We don't want to put out the soundboards but of course that doesn't make bootlegs legal but I'd rather have them do soundboards than do studio outtakes but it's impossible to control everything that happened in the past. So many people have copies of Elvis tapes in the earlier days. It's more like when Felton (Jarvis) got in control there seems to be very little of that stuff coming out on bootleg.
WWE: I understand that you are working on a possible ESSENTIAL 5 or a STAX SESSIONS CD.
ERNST: Well, that's one of the ideas- for an ESSENTIAL 5 and we're working on several ideas at the same time and then sometimes we just leave it and pick it up at a later date. We are considering a release that we have not...I mean, we have to, over the next month or two, nail down exactly what we are going to do for the Fall and we are working on five and six different ideas at the same time, trying to finish them all and then we will use whatever we feel is right when we have the whole program together. (WWE note: We have just learned that ESSENTIAL 5 is tentatively scheduled for release in August! For more information, please refer to the "BMG page" for updates!)
WWE: Don't you think it's time for a new SUN SESSIONS CD?
ERNST: A new SUN SESSIONS CD is definitely something that would be a great idea. There's a number of things that would be very good ideas in trying to update because the catalog is such that, after thirty years on the shelf, certain albums don't move anymore. It's like the new things that are put together sell better than the original Elvis albums because it's again a question of getting value for your money but also those who are working in the record stores remember when they have to order new Presley product. They remember what came into the shop when they were there and that's the stuff that has been sitting there since 1960 or whatever. What sells best is what's been released in the last ten to twelve years.
WWE: Do box sets sell well?
ERNST: Yes, we're over 100,000 in sales for PLATINUM in America and as many in Europe. The GOLDEN CELEBRATION and the upcoming ELVIS ARON PRESLEY box sets are related in a way that they deal with Elvis' lifetime in general and they have a ton of rarities on them and they're all in a way irrational because there's really no system there. It's just good fun from various points of Elvis' career as opposed to systematic releases like the 50's, 60's, and 70's box sets.
WWE: What are the best selling Elvis CD's these days?
ERNST: The best selling catalog item we have now is Elvis' gospel material. They're selling like there' s no stopping it. At the end of the year, Elvis will at least get two new gold albums and one is going to be AMAING GRACE. It' s damned close to it right now. I think its' about 10,000 or 12,000 copies missing and then it's gold.
WWE: I remember seeing sales figures a few years ago on the Christmas reissues and there were very high.
ERNST: Yes. But they are all cut down now and what we are basically selling is IF EVERYDAY WAS JUST LIKE CHRISTMAS and I think that's the one we want to sell. That, to me, is a beauty of an album. It has everything you ever want on Elvis' Christmas stuff and I even love the corny pop-up version. Normally I think that's tacky but this one is actually a lot of fun I think.
WWE: Do you know if BMG has any plans for anymore vinyl releases?
ERNST: Not at this time. It is always being discussed. The vinyl market is not big but sometimes you can argue that it's big enough to justify a release. I still think that it would have been nice to do the 70's box set on vinyl.
WWE: You'll be visiting Scotty (Moore) today. What is this all about?
ERNST: I'm still working on collecting pieces of Elvis' early career. I helped Lee Cotton a lot in putting together his new book but it's still not done exactly the way I would hope it would be. But I want to know if not every show he played before he became fanous then as close as you can possibly get and I think we can get closer than Lee Cotten did in DID ELVIS PLAY IN YOUR HOME TOWN . I helped him with a lot of the gigs in that book but I've since found more and I think we're going to find even more. I am hoping Scotty will be able to add something.
WWE: Are you helping Peter Guralnick with another book on Elvis?
ERNST: Well, Guralnick and I are working on an idea for a book that we will eventually talk about but I'm not quite sure if I'm going to deal with that yet.
WWE: What year did you do your first RECORDING SESSIONS book?
ERNST: I think 1974 or 1975.
WWE: You originated this type of book on Elvis in the mid 70's and several versions of it have been printed but this will definitely be the most comprehensive yet, but the approach is different. This type of book has never been done before, correct?
ERNST: Yes, and I'm very proud of it. Really I am because you've been able to read those little bits and pieces in there (WWE: in the sample brochure that Cal Morgan, Ernst's and my former editor at ST. MARTIN'S PRESS sent me) and I'm proud that I was even able to write stuff like that. I hope it's interesting because there are a lot of stories that people don't know in there. I think there's even an obligation now that I know so bloody much about all of this I should write the stories I know. I mean, I can't have everything in there. Some things had to go because it was too obscure but the real interesting stories are in there like...we all know the story that the Colonel got mad at Leiber and Stoller because they submitted a song to Elvis but now we know what they did and that it was not one song but two songs. It's in June of '57 after they had done "Jailhouse Rock" where Leiber and Stoller suddenly get excited about Elvis although they thought at first he was going to be a loony and they realize that this guy is something. So Mike Stoller pops over two acetates to the publisher direct and not going through Freddy Bienstock and the Colonel. The Colonel got very mad at that. The songs are "Don't" and a song that Elvis never recorded that the Coasters later made a hit out of called "I'm A Hog For You Baby (Can't Get Enough Of Your Love)". When Elvis was in the Army and he was looking for material for ELVIS IS BACK, he returned to that song either because he had heard that thE Coasters had now recorded it or maybe because he liked it but there may have been others who said that the lyrics were a little too problematic.
WWE: So, did Elvis do any of it at the recording sessions with Leiber and Stoller?
ERNST: No, he didn't. He never got to do it. But they submitted it to him. They wrote it for Elvis and NOT The Coasters.
WWE: The Colonel did not like songwriters to meet Elvis, correct?
ERNST: Correct. It goes all wrong in the period when Elvis is in the Army where they come up with this idea of doing "Walk On The Wild Side" and there's another story that nobody knows that Leiber and Stoller were to write several songs for GI BLUES but because they had a falling out with The Colonel the songs that they submitted were removed and some of those less wonderful songs that ended up on GI BLUES were included instead.
WWE: Did you ever meet with Leiber and Stoller?
ERNST: No, but I did a phone interview with Mike Stoller which was very good.
WWE: Did you talk to many other songwriters of Elvis songs?
ERNST: Yes, quite a few. I mean, it was difficult to talk to, for instance, Bill Giant or, for that matter, Tepper and Bennett (I talked to one of them) but, it's like, I cannot use a lot of space in my book to discuss "Ito Eats" and "Yoga Is As Yoga Does" because it becomes out of focus. I've spoken a lot to Ben Weisman because, first of all, he's such a sweet guy, but also because he had so many of those movie songs. I know you can argue the same for Giant-Baum-Kaye but I think Ben Weisman is a good example of that kind of writer and I think Ben was more skilled to deal with than Giant-Baum-Kaye. I think his bad songs are better than Giant-Baum-Kaye's bad songs. I mean, they're all pretty bad but Ben Weisman did write some very nice songs for Elvis that I really like and Ben has always been very frank with me like saying quite openly what the game was and I appreciate him doing it. He sent me the demos of most of his songs. I have a demo version of P.J. Proby singing "Slowly But Surely" which is better than Elvis' version!
WWE: Did you ever interview Don Robertson?
ERNST: No, I never have but I have an interview with him by Peter Guralnick. His songs are marvelous, even some of his movie songs. I get completely lost when they do "Marguerita"! I think it's marvelous. I know I can't say that to people because they'll think I'm nuts but I love it. But i think it's a bit of a shame that a few of his are badly recorded because two of those that I really love sound a little bit pale because they were recorded for IT HAPPENED AT THE WORLD'S FAIR. I mean, "They Remind Me Too Much Of You"!! How sad and lost can you feel? And I know that this song was in principle a rewrite of "Anything That's Part Of You" but it's still wonderful!
WWE: Why hasn't there been an ELVIS SINGS DON ROBERTSON CD? Or would it just mean nothing to fans!
ERNST: It would mean nothing to most people. No one is going to know who Don Robertson is. That's the problem.
WWE: I remember in one of your earlier editions of your book that you had mentioned the possibility of a session where Elvis was supposed to have done "Since I Met You Baby" and "I Almost Lost My Mind".
ERNST: Yes, there was always that rumour and it is connected to...it's definitely...do you know the Donna Lewis diaries?
WWE: No, what are they?
ERNST: This girl who lives in Memphis or lived in memphis and spent a lot of time at the gate and made actual notes of when he came and when he left. I think in her book there's a mention of songs that existed on atpe around 1969. We thought at the time that these were professional recordings but it turned out that some of the stuff...I mean, if you listen to "Tennesse Waltz" on the PLATINUM set, I mean it's pretty good for a home recording. And "Suppose" as I told you the other day is recorded at home and then overdubbed at a recording studio. So when Red West learned how to use the tape recorder he could make pretty decent recordings if Elvis and Charlie and the others would just behave!
WWE: Well, thank you Ernst for a great interview which I think is one of the longest you've ever given! And good luck with your book.
ERNST: Thanks. We'll do it again soon, ok.