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Elvis Presley is printed on Christmas ornaments to commemorative Barbie dolls & so much more in the 36 years since the icon’s death. But in late 1968,
Presley’ career was in decline after several years of corny movies and a slow drift from his rock ‘n’ roll roots.

45 years ago today, Elvis 'Comeback Special aired for the first time at 9pm on December 3rd, 1968 NBC TV aired
"SINGER presents ELVIS." The
programme gave NBC its highest viewer ratings of the year and the media, public and fans alike, knew that ELVIS was BACK! The year of 1968 ended with the
most sensational music ‘comeback’ of all time.

The explosive NBC TV special, titled simply resurrected the Kings career. Over time it’s become known as the
’68 Comeback Special' because it served just
that purpose, mounting a successful career resurgence for Elvis in the face of increasing irrelevance.

The TV special revealed the passion & intensity of Elvis as he broke free from the movie soundtracks, stood up against the Colonel’s idea of a "family TV
special" and reclaimed his crown. Nothing would ever be the same.
"It was the finest music of his life. If ever there was music that bleeds, this was it." said
music historian, Greil Marcus.

But it all oh so nearly went wrong because it was originally planned by manager “Colonel” Tom Parker to be a sickly Christmas-themed affair, featuring Elvis
singing traditional Christmas carols sitting by a fireplace and no doubt singing to reindeer's at some point? But THANK THE TV GODS for young Director
Steve Binder who pushed hard to create a special that would reignite Elvis' career.

Parker was against every idea Binder suggested but for one of the only times in his career, Elvis went against Parker and followed the young Directors lead
and the rest as they so often say, is History!

From the show’s opening shot, a close-up of Presley snarling his way through the first few lines of the blues scorcher
‘Trouble,’ the ’68 Comeback Special
demands attention throughout. Elvis is in top form throughout the special, attacking his early rock hits with abandon and dialing back to heartthrob mode for
ballads like
‘Love Me Tender’ and ‘Can’t Help Falling in Love.’ A gospel sequence finds him in a red velvet suit and white shirt, praising the Lord while
mini-skirted dancers shimmy at his side. He stars in a massive production number as the Guitar Man, making his way through a microcosm of his own career in
less than 10 minutes.

But it’s the show’s live segments that remain seared in the memories of rock fans around the world. Clad in black leather from head to toe, Presley sits in the
round with a group of musicians who helped define his early sound, including guitarist Scotty Moore and drummer D.J. Fontana. They perform spontaneous
live versions of classics like
‘Lawdy Miss Clawdy’ and ‘One Night,’ with Presley himself contributing rhythm guitar and ferocious vocals that remind you why
he was considered a borderline sexual deviant when he first appeared in the prim-and-proper pop culture of the ’50s. (These segments were a precursor to
the similar ‘Unplugged’ format popularised by MTV more than 20 years later.) Elsewhere, Presley prowls a 10-foot stage like a panther while a massive rock
orchestra and backing singers (including Phil Spector muse Darlene Love) play off-camera.

Backed against the wall of irrelevance by years of poor movies and weak movie music, Elvis managed to redefine his image and forever claim his spot in rock
history with just a single hour of television. It’s sad that the next 10 years would mark another slow decline into boredom as Parker ties Elvis down to insane
back to back shows in Las Vegas from 1969 to 1976 and also tedious tours to little towns and the same old cities leading up to his untimely death on August
16, 1977.

The 1968 ‘ELVIS’ television special shows the viewer, the single most significant figure in rock music history, shattering every expectation and staking his claim
as one of the truly greatest performers of all time. And even though he is gone, we have this amazing power house of an historic music television special at the
touch of our fingers to watch whenever we want........I think I'll be doing just that tonight.
ELVIS '68 AT 45
by Lee Dawson December 3, 2013