On 18 March 2013 RCA/Legacy, a division of Sony Music Entertainment, will commemorate the 40th anniversary of the satellite broadcast of Elvis Presley from the Honolulu International Center Arena.
With the release of Elvis Presley ‘Aloha From Hawaii Via Satellite: Legacy Edition’ originally viewed by over 1.5 billion people worldwide, this deluxe double-CD package will be the first time that both Aloha From Hawaii via Satellite and the later release of the ‘dress rehearsal’ show have been coupled together in one package.
‘Aloha From Hawaii Via Satellite: Legacy Edition’ not only features this spectacular album remastered for the 40th Anniversary, but also a brand new version of the 1988 The Alternate Aloha album completely remixed and remastered from the original multi-track tapes, with 5 bonus songs recorded at 3:00am in a behind-closed-doors session.
Accompanying the two-CD set will be a booklet with rare photos and a new liner notes essay written by BBC presenter, producer and musician Stuart Colman. This new Legacy Edition was produced by Rob Santos and Ernst Mikael Jørgensen, who along with Roger Semon, are the respected directors of RCA’s Elvis catalogue for over two decades.
‘Aloha From Hawaii via Satellite’ was the first time that a full-length concert was broadcast around the world and it was the most expensive at that time. Over 6,000 fans were in attendance for both shows at the H.I.C. (now known as the Blaisdell Arena). Elvis’ love for Hawaii had first been demonstrated in March 1961, when he raised $62,000 with a concert at the Bloch Arena, toward the funding of the USS Arizona Memorial.
The ‘Aloha From Hawaii via Satellite’ show that was actually broadcast started at 12:30 a.m. in Hawaii on Sunday morning, January 14, 1973. In reality it was the second of two shows, as it was not generally known at the time that the Friday evening (January 12th) dress rehearsal had also been recorded, as a safety backup. Clearly at the top of his game, Elvis delivered a 24-song tour de force that pulled songs from every phase of his career. It was a painstaking process to develop material that did not duplicate very much of his Live At Madison Square Garden concerts of June 1972 (as heard on RCA/Legacy’s most recent ‘Prince From Another Planet’ album). Nor did Elvis want to duplicate very much of his then-current MGM theatrical release, ‘Elvis On Tour’, filmed in March-April 1972, the Golden Globe award-winning film which turned out to be the final motion picture of his lifetime.
Additionally, following the 12:30am show, at about 3:00am, the ensemble regrouped (without an audience) to record five additional songs exclusively for the U.S. broadcast, four of which originated on Elvis’ old ‘Blue Hawaii’ movie soundtrack of 1961: Blue Hawaii, Ku-U-I-Po, No More, and Hawaiian Wedding Song. The fifth was Gordon Lightfoot’s Early Morning Rain, emblematic of the contemporary folk-rock singer-songwriter boom to which Elvis was surprisingly well attuned in the ’70s.
‘Aloha From Hawaii via Satellite’ was broadcast to more than 40 nations, and broke viewing records in Japan, the Philippines, Korea, Hong Kong and Australia. ‘Aloha From Hawaii via Satellite’, the double-LP containing all 24 songs from the broadcast, was rush released to arrive in stores the first week of February 1973. It debuted in the February 24 Billboard 200 albums chart, and sold a half-million units in its first four weeks. The single from the concert, Elvis’ version of James Taylor’s Steamroller Blues, debuted in April and reached the Top 20, selling in excess of 400,000 copies.
In the U.S., the broadcast was in fact postponed so as not to conflict with MGM’s ‘Elvis On Tour’. When ‘Aloha From Hawaii via Satellite’ was finally aired in the U.S. on April 4, the Nielsen ratings had the show in 33.8% of homes and reaching 51% of those watching television. The double-LP immediately vaulted up the charts, taking the #1 spot in Billboard’s May 5 issue, knocking Pink Floyd’s ‘Dark Side of the Moon’ off the top spot. It stayed on the chart for 52 weeks, and was certified 5-times platinum by the RIAA. The album was Elvis’ first #1 since the ‘Roustabout’ movie soundtrack from January 1965.
It was another fifteen years before ‘The Alternate Aloha’ was release on CD in June 1988 (more than a decade after Elvis’ death).
In early 1973, Elvis Presley was performing at one of the highest peaks of his career, and ‘Aloha From Hawaii Via Satellite’ is proof positive of that. As Ernst Mikael Jørgensen writes in his essential research guide, ‘Elvis Presley: A Life In Music’ (St. Martin’s Press, 1998): “The immense pressure of being beamed live to one billion people didn’t seem to faze Elvis a great deal; showing little evidence of nerves, he was highly focused, and he executed a flawless set that sparkled with all the flash of his image. The unparalleled media attention and size of the audience, not to mention the worldwide number one album that followed, were perhaps the most effective statement ever engineered of one artist’s worldwide power.”