August 16th, 2017 – it was forty years ago … so what better way to reminisce than by playing Elvis’ first SUN singles in the format that they were first released. Long Live ELVIS!
While SONY repackages ‘A Boy From Tupelo’ for the 40th Anniversary presenting the “birth of Rock n Roll” and the sound of Elvis’ creative explosion in a beautiful 3-CD set, the REAL SOUND of Elvis’ first sensational recordings can only truly be heard via the format they were first released on.
That sound of beautiful fast-spinning 78rpm black vinyl.
Beautiful labels, not a scratch-mark in sight and even that etching in the run-out grooves.
Historians point out that this musical break-through sounded pretty special.
I was not around at the time of the original 78rpms, so for me there was always something special about the sound of 45RPM singles where the music powered out of those grooves and pushed the stylus and cartridge to the max. The music blasted out of those early valve amplifiers and, let’s be honest, pretty poor quality loud-speakers yet still sounded amazing.
MOTOWN singles had a brilliance that could never be repeated on other formats. The boosted equalisation making the top end sparkle through the radio while the boosted bass pumped the dance floor. Motown singles on their 33rpm vinyl compilations sounded dull in comparison.
Similarly Elvis’ early RCA singles had brilliance and shine that was lost once complied onto the lower-energy RCA 33RPM long-players with “microgrooves”.
Hound Dog on 45rpm has an edge that is hard to beat.
My first Elvis single was ‘Little Sister /‘His Latest Flame’ (second-hand from a fair) and it still sounds great today, mono, static crackles and all.
The compression and equalisation they added to the vinyl master stampers – basically to make the sound rip through tiny car radios of the time – added an extra energy to any recording.
(I remember back in 2003 that David Bendeth’s engineered ‘Elvis #30 1 Hits’ was one of the few CD releases that produced the power & sparkle of my vinyl versions.)
In the CD era there was an obvious move away from the compressed, over-equalised sound of 45rpm vinyl releases to the “pure studio masters” where unfortunately that special “power” of the original vinyl can easily get lost in the search for more purity.
But if 45rpms pump out an energy and sound that can rock-the-house then imagine how Elvis original 10” 78RPM singles raise everything to another level all together.
If you have a turntable that can play them (and it is good to see modern turntables once again having 78rpm as an option) then 78rpm sound pushes that needle even harder.
With more room for wider-grooves the bass truly pumps and the audio has a fuller / louder sound.
Purists might argue that perhaps these should be printed on shellac as the originals might not have been on the black vinyl of today but I DO want to play these on my regular diamond stylus, so vinyl is the right medium for me.
Until now I have only owned Elvis’ original SUN singles on replica 45RPM – the set that FTD’s Roger Semon & Ernst Jorgensen put out through Castle Music / RCA back in 2000. That came with a lovely bonus 4-track EP ‘Tomorrow Night’. These sounded fine but as replicas were totally let down by the USA BMG 2000 logo printed around the outside of the original labels.
But this new set spinning at 78RPM is something else entirely different. The original five 10″ 78rpm singles printed as close to the original as you would want.
They look great and even better they sound FANTASTIC.
Played via a modern valve amp or just pumped up LOUD they are the true sound of Elvis kicking ROCK’N’ROLL through the shuttered window of mid-fifties, middle-of-the-road, Perry Como loving, Middle America!
As Sun Records Marion Keisker noted, “We hadn’t even cut a master when Sam took up the dub to Dewey Phillips. He played it and we were back-ordered on a brand-new artist with a brand-new type of thing before we could get mastering done and get some pressings from Plastic Products. It was that immediate.”
and what did Dewey Phillips play that marvellous day – a 78rpm acetate!
Looking back from the pure energy of ‘Hound Dog’ you can sometimes wonder why the rockabilly sounds of early Elvis were that radical. However spinning any of these SUN singles at 78rpm they sure sound like something else.
I was always a little underwhelmed by ‘I’m Left, Your Right, She’s Gone’ as a key A-Side but ‘Baby Let’s Play House’, ‘Good Rockin’ Tonight’, ‘Milkcow Blues Boogie’, ‘Mystery Train’ – and “that other one” sure sound like life-changing, teenager life-affirming, rebellious rock’n’roll that would shake the foundations of that staid post-war purity.
THESE ARE THE TRUE SOUND OF ELVIS and ROCK’n’ROLL!
To be honest they look so brand new and without a single scratch mark that I cannot believe they would be passed off on Ebay as ‘Sun Originals’ – and more the fool who would buy them without wondering why sixty years on they looked so brand new. These are made to be played – and played loud!
What a wonderful way to spend the day on August 16 2017.
1. The first supplied ‘Good Rockin’ Tonight’ 78rpm in the set was printed with the sides swapped – but dealers will send out free replacements.
2. The only negative – you have to get up every 3 minutes to change sides!
3. As a collector I also bought the clear vinyl set (see above). While these are obviously a sales gimmick and not the real thing, they sure sound sweet and the quality of the vinyl printing is absolutely sensational. Not one click on any of them.
4. Get them now as I have been told that dealers only have a few copies left – check Ebay. EIN does not have a shop, so sorry we cannot help out.
Overall Verdict: If you are a vinyl collector, want to celebrate the origins of Rock’n’Roll and want to spin some fabulous sounding replica SUN Elvis 78rpms, well order them now, “That’ll flat-out get it” and “Tell ’em Phillips sent ya”
Review by Piers Beagley.
-Copyright EIN August 2017
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