Aloha from Hawaii via Satellite
|Aloha from Hawaii via Satellite|
|Directed by||Marty Pasetta|
|Produced by||Marty Pasetta|
|Edited by||Stephen McKeown|
|Music by||Elvis Presley|
|Distributed by||NBC, RCA Records|
Aloha from Hawaii via Satellite was a concert starring Elvis Presley that took place at the Honolulu International Center and was broadcast live via satellite to audiences in Asia and Oceania on January 14, 1973. The show was presented with a delay in Europe. In the United States, to avoid a programming conflict with Super Bowl VII and Elvis on Tour which was playing in cinemas at the time, NBC opted to air a ninety-minute television special of the concert on April 4.
Presley returned to performing tours throughout the United States in 1970. Richard Nixon's 1972 visit to China inspired Presley's manager, Colonel Tom Parker, to promote a live broadcast concert featuring the singer and he arranged a deal with RCA Records and the NBC network to produce one. The show benefited the Kui Lee Cancer Fund.
Marty Pasetta produced the program. A filmed rehearsal concert took place on January 12. The show earned good ratings in the countries targeted by the live broadcast. The television special presented in the United States became NBC's highest-rated program of the year, and it garnered a favorable reception from critics. Its soundtrack album became Presley's last chart-topper on Billboard's album chart.
After a seven-year hiatus from live performances to focus on his acting career, Elvis Presley returned with his 1968 NBC television special Elvis. Following the critical success of the special, by 1969, Presley returned to record non-soundtrack albums with his release of From Elvis in Memphis. His manager, Colonel Tom Parker, arranged for him to play a concert residency at the newly built International Hotel in Las Vegas, Nevada. For this engagement he assembled a band, later known as the TCB Band: James Burton (guitar), John Wilkinson (rhythm guitar), Jerry Scheff (bass-guitar), Ronnie Tutt (drums), Larry Muhoberac (piano) and Charlie Hodge (rhythm guitar, background vocals). The backing vocals of The Sweet Inspirations, The Imperials, The Stamps and Kathy Westmoreland accompanied the band. It was also supported by the 30-piece Joe Guercio orchestra. Presley began to tour the United States again in 1970 after a thirteen-year hiatus.
His early album releases for 1972, Elvis Now and He Touched Me, charted at number 43 and 79 on the Billboard Hot 100 respectively. During the same year, he embarked on a 15-city tour that was filmed for the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) documentary Elvis on Tour. When the recording equipment failed because of an overload during the fourth night of performances, the planned soundtrack album was never released. The film would earn a Golden Globe Award for best documentary.
Presley appeared at Madison Square Garden in New York City in June 1972. The release of the live album the same month charted at number 11 on Billboard's Hot 100. A month after this appearance, Parker mentioned to the press that arrangements were being made for Presley to play a concert via satellite to live audiences worldwide. Parker declared that "it is the intention of Elvis to please all of his fans throughout the world". Parker's reluctance to allow Presley to undertake international tours in person has been attributed to his status as an illegal alien in the United States. Parker concealed his origins as a Dutch national.
On September 4, the final day of Presley's fifty-nine-show-engagement at the Las Vegas Hilton, Parker announced at a press conference that the live NBC television special, called Aloha from Hawaii, would take place in January 1973 in Hawaii. Parker got the idea in February 1972, when he saw the live broadcast of Richard Nixon's visit to China. Parker approached NBC's president Tom Sarnoff with the proposition. They set a tentative release date for November 18, the end of Presley's tour. The date had to be moved at the request of Jim Aubrey, who wanted to avoid the special overlapping with the theatrical release of Elvis On Tour, scheduled for the same month. RCA Records Tours, founded by RCA Records at Parker's request to manage the promotion of Presley's tours, would receive US$1 million (equivalent to $6.1 million in 2021) from NBC for the special. The label would be paid US$100,000 (equivalent to US$610,400 in 2021), while Presley and his manager would receive US$900,000 (equivalent to $5.49 million in 2021) to be split between them. Presley's managerial contract, signed in 1967, stipulated that Parker would receive fifty percent of the total profit of his negotiated deals.
Eddie Sherman, a Honolulu Advertiser writer, contacted Parker with the idea of giving the proceeds of the concert admissions to a charity he had recently established. Sherman had worked with Parker to promote Presley's 1961 benefit concert for the construction of the USS Arizona Memorial. Since Parker could not charge a television audience for tickets, Sherman proposed taking donations for the Kui Lee Cancer Fund instead. Sherman started the fund to benefit cancer research at the University of Hawaii. Kui Lee, a singer-songwriter from Hawaii, died in 1966 of lymph gland cancer. Presley recorded Lee's "I'll Remember You" in the summer of 1966 and included the song in his live sets starting in 1972. Presley contributed with the first donation of US$1,000 (equivalent to US$6,100 in 2021); while the audience could determine the amount of their donations.
Sarnoff suggested Marty Pasetta produce the special. He had experience producing television specials for Perry Como, Bing Crosby, Glen Campbell, and Don Ho's five specials, filmed on-location in Hawaii. Pasetta had also produced broadcasts of the Oscars, Emmys, and Grammys. For his new special, Presley was interested in a producer who could capture the atmosphere of a live concert. Pasetta attended Presley's concert in Long Beach, on November 15. He was unimpressed by Presley's performance, feeling his presence was "staged, quiet". He expressed his doubts to the network that he would be able to produce an hour-and-a-half special. They told Pasetta to discuss his concerns with Parker.
Pasetta took sketches of his ideas for the stage to Parker. He envisioned the band placed on a riser behind Presley. The stage was to be built low to allow the audience proximity to him, with a runway to allow Presley to move towards them. Mirrors would frame the stage, while the background would feature flashing neon signs that read "Elvis" in the language of the countries where the concert was projected to be broadcast, and the accompanying album would be released. A figure holding a guitar was to be added to the background lights. Parker dismissed the idea telling Pasetta that Presley would not approve of his plans. Pasetta insisted on taking his ideas directly to Presley; Parker did not object. The producer told Presley he was not pleased with his performance in Long Beach and laid out his plans for the stage and the details of the Hawaii production. He finished by telling the singer he would need to lose weight for the special. Impressed by Pasetta's frankness, Presley became excited to work with him, and the meeting lasted four hours. Presley returned to his home, Graceland, in Memphis, Tennessee, and began to exercise to deal with Pasetta's weight concerns. Presley increased his practice of karate, consumed vitamins and protein drinks, and used weight-reduction pills. He lost 25 pounds (11 kg) in a month. Pasetta returned to Los Angeles, where he began work on the stage that would be shipped to Hawaii; further set decorations would be added on location. The large stage covered the space used for 3,500 of the Honolulu International Center's 8,800 seats. RCA Records commissioned the Berlitz Corporation to translate the phrases and scriptures Presley would use. The date for the live concert was set for January 14, 1973. The broadcast in the United States was postponed until April to avoid a conflict with Super Bowl VII that was to be played on the same day.
Presley approached his costume designer, Bill Belew with an idea for his concert suit. Belew began to work for Presley in 1968, with the creation of the leather suit he wore for his NBC special Elvis, and created the one-piece jumpsuits the singer wore during his Las Vegas appearances. Belew's designs featured gabardine stretch fabric with Napoleonic collars, rhinestone decorations and bell-bottoms. For the upcoming special, Presley asked Belew to create a patriotic design. Presley felt the broadcast of the show via satellite was a product of American creative thinking. Since it was going to be viewed in foreign countries, he told Belew, "I just want the suit to say America". This was one of the few occasions when Presley made a special request of the designer. Belew usually relied on his own creativity. Initially, the designer suggested a pattern based on the outline of the map. Then they considered the flag, but settled on the bald eagle, since Belew recalled seeing the image in a US embassy. The white jumpsuit featured a bald eagle made with patterns of gold, blue and red gems on the chest and back. Belew created a four-inch white leather belt featuring five ovals with the Great Seal of the United States. Initially, Belew made a calf-length cape for Presley. He planned to be covered by it at the start of his performance, and then reveal himself as the show started. Presley discarded the 12-pound (5.4 kg) cape during the rehearsals, as he felt it was too heavy. Belew created a hip-length cape. Producing the entire costume required most of Belew's staff because of the amount of embroidery and the attachment of several pieces of jewelry. It featured 6,500 individual stones.
The suit, stage, and equipment were shipped from Los Angeles to Hawaii in early January 1973. Pasetta and the crew traveled there to film the scenery to be added as inserts to the television special for its release in the United States. Presley arrived on January 10. After seeing the stage in the venue, Presley asked Pasetta to remove the scattered individual raisers that were put in place for the TCB Band and backup singers. Pasetta agreed, and while work on the stage continued, Presley rehearsed at the Hilton Hawaiian Village. The show's opener was shot at the Hilton hotel's helipad, with a thousand Presley fans in attendance. During the rehearsals, Presley gave the costume's belt to Jack Lord's wife. Presley's associate, Joe Esposito called Belew. Alarmed, the designer told Esposito he had no more rubies, and that he would have to obtain them from Europe. However, he found them locally and worked overtime with his team to produce a new belt. Belew flew to Hawaii with the replacement belt and stayed for the shows.
Rehearsal and concert
The rehearsal show took place on Friday, January 12. Fans "stormed" the arena as the doors opened at 7:00 p.m., two hours before the start of the show. The audience was standing or sitting in the aisles. Initially, the number of attendees was set at 6,000. The rehearsal was filmed and had technical issues. Honolulu mayor Frank Fasi declared January 13 "Elvis Presley day", to commend him for his contributions to the Kui Lee Cancer Fund. The review in the Honolulu Star-Bulletin declared: "(Presley) put on an hour-long show last night that was perfect" and described the positive reaction of the female fans to Presley's presence.
The Aloha from Hawaii concert took place on January 14, at 12:30 a.m. local time to match the prime time of the broadcast locations of the concert: Hong Kong, Japan, South Korea, South Vietnam, the Philippines and Australia. Admission was more restricted for the Saturday show. Parker arranged entertainment for the fans turned away after the limit was reached, featuring high school bands, clowns, and robots. New technical issues arose as NBC's recording equipment, combined with RCA Records' equipment brought by engineer Wally Heider, overloaded the power sources. The issue was fixed, but two hours before the start of the show, the sound system picked up a hum caused by the stage lights. The sound engineers borrowed thick lead sheets from the United States Navy to isolate the equipment. Teenage fans were present in the first rows, while most of the audience was reported to be people in their forties. Among the audience were Mayor Fasi, Jack Lord, and Kui Lee's family.
Presley's set-list consisted of 22 songs. He made his usual entrance as the band played the 2001: A Space Odyssey theme "Also sprach Zarathustra". The set featured classics from Presley's repertoire, including "Blue Suede Shoes", "Hound Dog", and "Love Me". Presley also performed the ballads "You Gave Me a Mountain", "My Way", "I Can't Stop Loving You", "What Now My Love", Kui Lee's "I'll Remember You" and "An American Trilogy", among others. Presley threw his belt to the crowd at the end of "An American Trilogy". He closed the set with "Can't Help Falling in Love". At the start of the number, Presley was covered with the short cape by his assistant, Charlie Hodge. As he finished, he displayed the cape by opening it and raising it with his hands as he took a knee. He threw the cape into the first rows and then gave the audience the Shaka sign and received a golden crown from fans as he walked away.
After the audience left the building, Presley returned to the arena to record additional material for the United States version of the television special. “Blue Hawaii“ was recorded with several takes, "KU-U-I-PO" and "No More" in three takes, “Hawaiian Wedding Song" is also followed with several takes, and "Early Morning Rain" closed the session. All songs except "No More" were used in the special. Pasetta then worked to edit out ten minutes for the planned European delayed broadcast on Eurovision Network. at 12:30 p.m. Central European Time.
The proceeds of the show exceeded the planned US$25,000 (equivalent to US$152,600 in 2021), and US$75,000 (equivalent to US$457,800 in 2021) was raised for the Kui Lee Cancer Fund. The next day, Honolulu Advertiser columnist Wayne Harada called the show a "thrilling, compact hour-long on music and screams" in his review. He deemed Presley's performance of "I'll Remember You" as "easily the most sentimental" for the Hawaiian audience and remarked on the warm reception for "An American Trilogy".
Initial reports estimated the show was seen by 1.5 billion people in 36 countries. Parker had presented the same figures at the press conference promoting the broadcast. The communications satellite Intelsat IV F-4 was used for the transmission of the live feed to the target area. In Australia, Channel Nine presented the show with the assistance of the Overseas Telecommunications Commission (OTC). The concert closed the "Elvis Presley Week" television event on NTV in Japan and garnered 37.8% of the total television viewers; viewership reached 70% in Hong Kong. In South Korea, it attracted an estimated 70–80% of TV viewers, while tentative data from the Philippines indicated 91.8%. As the event occurred during the Cold War, China and the Soviet Union were excluded from the broadcast. Contrary to Parker's claim, the concert would be presented with a delay of days or weeks to the 21 European countries where it was finally seen; countries that were a part of the Warsaw Treaty Organization were excluded. The figures for total viewers proposed by Presley's manager were questioned, as critics pointed that the sum of the total population of all the countries targeted by the broadcast was roughly 1.3 billion.
NBC aired the ninety-minute television special on April 4. The Stokely-Van Camp Company and Toyota presented the show. It opened with an animation of the satellite "beaming" Presley to different parts of the world, with audio signals in Morse code saying "Elvis: Aloha from Hawaii". Pasetta added clips of Presley's arrival by helicopter to the Hilton hotel and the show outside the arena to the concert sequences. The additional recordings Presley made after the show were also integrated. Pasetta used split-screens to show Presley and the scenery images he had filmed of Hawaii. The track "No More" was not used. The Nielsen ratings indicated 33.8 points and a share of 57%.
Billboard praised the special's camera work, declaring that Presley "dominated the tube with showmanship" and concluded that at 38, Presley "still knows how to sing rock". The Los Angeles Times review remarked on Presley's "polished skills" while calling his antics "an amusing parody" of his early career. It called the performances of "An American Trilogy" "stunning", and "I'll Remember You" as "poignant". In contrast, The Boston Globe's negative review rated the show with two stars out of five. The reviewer felt the set decorations were "trappings" and that Presley's performance was "buried in folderol". The piece drew a comparison with his appearances on the Ed Sullivan Show and declared "the electricity was gone" and that "he was mocking himself and his milieu".
The New York Daily News praised Pasetta's work on the production and Presley's performance that used "fewer tricks" but delivered "a skillfully paced concert". A negative review in the Chicago Sun-Times said the program consisted of "a 90-minute documentary of Presley's sweat glands at work, masquerading as an entertainment special". It criticized Presley's lack of "body movements" and his "feet-apart stance that was more appropriate to address a pinball machine". The Charlotte News review said that while Presley "pushed himself to the limit" for the performance, the ninety-minute presentation was "entirely too much". The piece criticized NBC's choice to broadcast a special by Ann Margret immediately following Presley's show. The Cincinnati Enquirer reviewer felt "captivated" by Presley's "singing and stage talents", but lamented the "unnecessary segment" depicting Presley's arrival and reception by fans. Meanwhile, the newspaper's rock critic felt that the abundance of close-ups of Presley "knock out about half of the mystique".
RCA Records released the soundtrack album worldwide in February 1973 in quadraphonic sound. RCA employed two record plants to press the album. The LP's sleeve contained the phrase "we love Elvis" written in different languages. The double-LP reached number one on Billboard's Hot 100. It became Presley's first Hot 100 chart-topper since 1965, his last during his lifetime and sold half-a-million copies in two weeks. Within three weeks of its release, it was certified gold; it then went to be certified 5× platinum.
The 1967 Our World black-and-white television special was the first live international concert presented via satellite. Aloha from Hawaii was the first live satellite broadcast to feature a single performer. The production cost of the special was a total of US$2.5 million (equivalent to $15.26 million in 2021), setting a record at the time of its broadcast. The show was NBC's highest-rated program of the year.
Belew made two costumes for the show, each worn in one of the concerts. Both of Presley's costumes are kept by Elvis Presley Enterprises; one of them is on display at Graceland mansion. The short-cape worn by Presley during the special was caught by Honolulu Advertiser sportswriter Bruce Spinks. Spinks sold it to collector Andrew Kern. After Kern's death in 1995, his mother followed his wish to donate the cape to be displayed at Graceland. The second cape was sold at an auction in 1999 for US$105,250.(equivalent to US$171,200 in 2021) In 2014, the long cape was listed by RR Auction. The bids reached US$90,000 (equivalent to US$104,700 in 2021), short of the reserve price. The seller and buyer had to negotiate a final price.
In 2007, a life-size bronze statue of Presley commissioned by TV Land was unveiled at the site of the concert. It commemorated the thirtieth anniversary of Presley's death. In 2013, a five-day celebration for the fortieth anniversary of the concert took place in Hawaii. On January 14, a special screening of the concert was played at the same venue, now named the Neal Blaisdell Arena.
Aloha from Hawaii was first released on VHS in 1984. In September 2004, Aloha from Hawaii: (Deluxe Edition) was released on DVD. The two-disc package includes the concert, the rehearsal, and the extended US special. Additionally, the set contains the complete sequence of Presley's arrival and the entire post-concert session. The picture and the sound were digitally remastered from the original master tapes. Allmusic gave the release four stars out of five, and declared "the January 14 show remains genuinely exciting 31 years later", and praised the audio and video remastering. A single-disc special edition version of the concert was released in 2006.
Charts and certifications