Wednesday, 2 September 2009
A King's legacy spruces up an office wall
August 27, 2009
By john mackie, VANCOUVER SUN
Bruce Allen has made untold millions managing the careers of music stars like Bryan Adams, Michael Buble and Loverboy.
But his real musical love is Elvis Presley. I mean, this is a guy who paid $18,000 US for The King's personal barber chair.
Red Robinson is big on Elvis, too. The legendary rock and roll DJ introduced The Pelvis at his Empire Stadium show Aug. 31, 1957, and collected every Elvis record he ever came across - about 400 LPs and 300 45s.
Robinson recently sold his 4,000-square-foot house in Deep Cove and relocated to a 1,500-square-foot condo in Coal Harbour. He needed to do some serious downsizing, and asked Allen if he wanted to buy his Elvis records.
Naturally Allen said yes. But he didn't want to just put them on a shelf, or box them up in his storage locker. So he decided to do The Elvis Wall.
Basically Allen filled up an entire wall beside his office with Elvis records. They're arranged six records high and 28 across in a glass display case, and they make a very impressive sight.
There are familiar records (the iconic 50,000,000 Elvis Fans Can't Be Wrong), obscure records (the soundtrack to the best-forgotten flick It Happened At the World's Fair) and unauthorized "bootleg" records (Elvis Rocks Little Rock, a live recording from 1956).
Some albums have two covers - the 1966 movie Spinout was called California Holiday in some countries, and Robinson bought both. (They're identical, except for the titles.) The 45 covers are amazing, capturing the movie star Elvis in out-takes from Jailhouse Rock, Kid Galahad, and King Creole.
Many of the records are quite rare, and worth big bucks. There is a bizarre promo 45 called Perfect for Parties, where Elvis chats up records you could play at parties. There is also an odd EP called Elvis Sails, a momento from Elvis' induction into the U.S. Army in 1958.
"NBC went on the troop ship that was taking him to Germany and interviewed him," explains Robinson, who will emcee the Elvis tribute at the PNE Aug. 31.
Robinson thinks the most valuable album in the collection is a mono version of the soundtrack to the 1968 movie Speedway.
"They only pressed 300 and said, 'Hold it, people want to listen to it in stereo,'" Robinson explains. "There were only a few made, and it's worth thousands of dollars."
In the middle of all the records is Andy Warhol's 1963 print Double Elvis, featuring Elvis firing a gun in cowboy garb.
"It's not real, it's a copy," admits Allen, 64. "If you had an original it would be a couple of million bucks."
Robinson declines to say how much he sold the collection to Allen for. But mounting the records on the wall has been a big hit with visitors to Allen's office in the old BC Electric Railway station at Carrall and Hastings.
"People come down and take pictures," Allen notes. "It amazes people when they see all the different covers."
The wealth of covers even impresses Allen's star clientele, which includes Adams, Buble, Martina McBride, Anne Murray and Jann Arden.
"It's pretty funny," says Allen. "When my artists walk down here and look at it, in many ways I think it's quite humbling.
"In another way, if they want to see somebody who was exploited, there was a guy that was exploited, big-time. It's not really something to be proud of, all this stuff up there, cause there was a lot of bad product that RCA put out. The Colonel didn't really protect him."
The Colonel was Elvis' manager, Colonel Tom Parker. After Presley's death, information came out about all sorts of bad deals the Colonel had made for Elvis.
"The repackaging is kind of endless," says Allen. "The most exploited artist of all time, without a doubt."
He points to Presley's Moody Blue album.
"When he died they wheeled that out right away," he notes.
"It's very interesting the difference now between Michael Jackson dying and [Elvis] dying. I talked to the RCA [records] guys and they said they were all at a convention. They came in and they said 'Listen Elvis just died, everybody go back to their offices.'
"And they had trucks just riding around the United States, full of records, to drop them off wherever they could. They just pressed and pressed and pressed and then pressed some more. It was just ridiculous."
Robinson didn't just sell off his Elvis records, he sold off his entire 25,000 record collection. But the 72-year-old still has plenty of memorabilia left from nearly five-and-a-half decades in the music biz.
Much of it can be seen by the public at the Red Robinson Theatre in the Boulevard Casino in Coquitlam. His office is down the hallway from Allen, and is adorned with all sorts of vintage pictures of Robinson with the stars he met, from Elvis and Buddy Holly to the Beatles, Ricky Nelson and Tom Jones.
The niftiest item, though, might be "Little Ray," a 17-inch high "animatronic" doll of the late Ray Charles.
It looks like a giant bobblehead, with Charles in his trademark sunglasses, smiling, clad in a shiny silver jacket that looks like it's made out of alligator skin. Charles is seated at a piano, and when you press a button, his head bobs, his fingers tickle the ivories and the doll plays What'd I Say and America the Beautiful.
It's so ridiculous, it's sublime.
Article Source: http://www.vancouversun.com/entertainment/King+legacy+spruces+office+wall/1936453/story.html