During the vibrant era of the Swinging Sixties, Elvis Presley’s influence transcended American borders and his music captivated fans all around the globe. If you think Elvis’s records were limited to the United States, think again! In this article, we’ll take a journey through the enchanting world of Elvis’s foreign records during the Sixties, revealing unique track mixes, album covers, and the fascinating process that made it all possible.
Elvis’s Global Impact
Elvis’s popularity was not confined to the United States. As an ardent collector of Elvis vinyl records, I’ve amassed a remarkable collection of Presley LPs from countries worldwide. Some of these gems were acquired during my travels to Canada, the United Kingdom, and Italy, while others were imported from eclectic record shops in the US. These foreign albums held both familiar tracks and delightful surprises, with distinct mixes and captivating album covers.
The Global Release Strategy
In an insightful article published on October 19, 1963, in Billboard magazine, the process behind the international release of Elvis’s albums was unveiled. Titled “World-Wide Presley Release Calls for Careful Planning,” the article shed light on the meticulous planning and coordination required for Elvis’s regular American LP releases to reach fans across the world. Let’s delve deeper into this fascinating process.
The Journey Begins
The journey of a Presley LP overseas commenced in December 1962 when RCA Victor’s international licensees discovered the upcoming release through a “tentative album merchandising schedule.” These foreign companies expressed their interest and received a detailed “listing notice” from RCA. This notice provided information such as track titles, running times, composers, and publisher details. It also included essential identifiers for the licensees to order local production parts, such as tape and matrix numbers.
Different Approaches, Same Love for Elvis
Each overseas company reviewed the “listing notice” and decided whether they wanted to release the Presley soundtrack. In the case of Elvis’s movie soundtrack LP, “It Happened At the World’s Fair,” all licensees expressed interest. The next step involved contacting RCA’s New York office to determine the requirements for producing the album overseas, such as tapes or vinyl stamper molds. Additionally, licensees had to choose between stereo or monaural format, catering to the preferences of their local markets.
Diverse Production Methods
The production requirements varied among licensees. Most Western European companies were considered “fully equipped licensees” as they only needed tapes of the tracks. RCA promptly shipped the tapes as soon as they were “lacquer-approved.” This efficient process ensured that the “World’s Fair” record reached European consumers swiftly after its US release. The popularity of American music in Western Europe during the early sixties demanded a quick turnaround. However, licensees in other regions, relying solely on vinyl presses, had to wait for RCA to supply them with stamper molds. This delayed the album’s availability in their respective markets.
The Art of Album Covers
LP covers played a pivotal role in capturing the attention of fans. Most foreign companies followed the “offset” process for printing album covers, requiring them to obtain a set of negatives from RCA. Nevertheless, countries like Japan, Australia, and several South American republics faced challenges due to high import duties on negatives. As a workaround, RCA sent photos of the album covers, causing further delays as local production of negatives was necessary.
Collaboration between RCA Victor, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, and the various foreign licensees was essential for successful releases. Weeks before the US release of the “It Happened At the World’s Fair” album, all overseas licensees received the necessary materials to produce the LP in their countries. Simultaneously, promotion departments worked diligently to create publicity releases and promotional items, coordinating the album’s release with the local screenings of Elvis’s motion picture.
Elvis’s Global Journey
Elvis’s international impact was nothing short of extraordinary. Within a few weeks of its US release, the “It Happened At the World’s Fair” LP found its way to Canada, Denmark, Great Britain, France, Germany, Italy, and Norway. These countries, equipped with audio tapes and negatives, swiftly produced and distributed the album. Australia, New Zealand, Mexico, and Sweden followed suit a month later, while the album reached the Philippines and South Africa by June. However, it wasn’t until October that most South American countries joined the wave of Elvis’s “World’s Fair” album releases. As the 1963 Billboard article highlighted, Latin Americans, deeply rooted in their own music, did not place as much importance on timely US releases.
Rewarding International Fidelity
Elvis’s international loyal fan base supported his records wholeheartedly. Though plans for a personal appearance tour in the 1970s never materialized, Elvis’s global success continued to shine. An August 1964 issue of Billboard featured a photo of Elvis receiving a “gold record plaque” from A.G.J. McGrath, director of Teal Record Company, RCA’s South African licensee. The plaque celebrated the remarkable sales of Elvis’s single, “Kiss Me Quick,” in South Africa.
The Enduring Magic
The coverage of Elvis’s international record sales in the 1960s, as documented by Billboard, showcases his unwavering popularity abroad even as his star gradually dimmed at home. It’s a testament to the enduring magic of his music and the timeless connection he forged with fans worldwide. Elvis’s foreign records remain treasures for collectors and enthusiasts alike, reminding us of the global impact of the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll.
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