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Rock Hall Anniversary: Elvis Presley 68’ Comeback Special

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After spending much of the 1960s doing films, Elvis Presley made a big return to music in December 1968. And he would do it in a television special.

Titled simply Elvis, but commonly referred as the 68’ Comeback Special, it was the show aired by NBC, where Presley was famously decked out in black leather, and performing his classics including “That’s All Right”, “All Shook Up”, “Heartbreak Hotel”, and “Hound Dog”. Other songs he performed included the spiritual “Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child”, a cover of Lloyd Price’s “Lawdy Miss Claudy” and the holiday single “Blue Christmas”.

The TV special would not only be noted for the music, but also of some of his personal stories, including his religious upbringing, and an incident in Florida where police threatened him with prosecution for “vulgarity”. He also references leading acts of the time like the Beatles, noting how things in rock have improved in areas including the standard of musicians. The 68’ Comeback Special would also be noted for the fact it was filmed in a “theater-in-the-round” atmosphere, whereas Presley was seen performing on a raised stage, with the audience in a circular stance cheering him on, as well as the famous ELVIS sign in red light bulbs, which would later by paid homage to other artists including Robbie Williams.

Upon it’s airing on December 3rd, 1968, the 68’ Comeback Special was the highest rating TV special of the year. It would also be credited in reviving Presley’s music career, which would result in notable moments including a stint in Las Vegas, a number one hit with 1969’s “Suspicious Minds” and the 1973 satellite-aired Hawaii concert. Originally aired edited, longer versions of the TV special would later be reissued, once in 1984 on video, and then ten years later on DVD and in it’s entirely.

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