June 27, 1968: Elvis Presley tapes iconic comeback special
Trying to make a comeback in any field can be quite difficult. For every Robert Downey Jr. out there, there’s always a Lindsay Lohan. How exactly will old fans perceive them years later? Well, one iconic singer tried finding out for himself.
Don’t be cruel
Elvis Presley dominated the charts with hits such as “Hound Dog,” “Jailhouse Rock,” and “Are You Lonesome Tonight.” Like most musicians, his popularity started to decline. For Elvis, his failed Hollywood career led to people finding music elsewhere. During his time working in movies, he only had one top ten hit with “Crying in the Chapel.” “Elvis was viewed as a joke by serious music lovers and a has-been to all but his most loyal fans,” historians Connie Kirchberg and Marc Hendrickx stated in their 1999 book Elvis Presley, Richard Nixon, and the American Dream.
Love me tender
Elvis’ manager Colonel Tom Parker came up with a way to rejuvenate his career. In October 1967, Parker talked with NBC about having a Christmas special starring the musician. As expected, Elvis hated having to sing a bunch of Christmas songs. Fortunately, Parker persuaded Elvis to do the gig by allowing him to perform the hits everyone loved. This show was crucial for Elvis’ comeback as the King of Rock and Roll. At that point, he hasn’t performed live since 1961. On June 27, 1968, Elvis taped the Christmas special at the NBC Studios in Burbank, California.
It’s now or never
On December 3, 1968, the special debuted with huge numbers for NBC. If that wasn’t enough, the live album debut that same month at number eight on the Billboard Top 200 chart. This was his first top 10 debut since 1965. Following the special’s release, Elvis was getting offers from all over to perform. “It just fired him up to be in front of people again. He had a charisma where he and the audience became one thing. Not just the little girls, but also women and everybody got caught up in it,” guitarist Mike Deasy told Rolling Stone. After years of declining popularity, the star was finally back on top of his game.