A new box set, Young Man With a Big Beat, celebrates the early career of Elvis Presley – in particular, 1956, the year he burst onto the mainstream music scene.
"1956 was the year that changed it all," says Elvis expert and producer Ernst Mikael Jørgensen, who compiled the new box set and is the author of Elvis Presley: A Life in Music. "What happened in ’56 was one artist – Elvis – being so dominant that he was Number One half of the year on the singles chart."
The new five-CD set includes a live disc that features 10 songs from a previously unreleased concert in Shreveport, Louisiana, in front of an audience of 7,000. It offers a glimpse of him coming into his own as a star for the first time.
"You hear Elvis singing the hits, and yet, it shows that other Elvis – that Elvis who was so different from the recording artist Elvis," Jørgensen says. "When he’s onstage he eases people. You can hear him go bananas when he twists his legs, he changes the lyrics, he mocks his own songs and his own talking."
A CD of interviews also comes with the set. Between the concert and the interviews, the package provides a lot of opportunity to hear Presley in his own voice, something Jørgensen hopes will remind fans that Presley was an artist first and foremost. "That is my passion – to try and steer people back to what it’s really about – the music. That this guy was an incredibly talented singer," he says.
The package is carefully constructed, with an 80-page timeline that chronicles Presley's year of dominance – how he went from being an up-and-coming country artist in November of 1955 to the biggest pop music star ever. "I chose the two main interviews – the one from March at the Warwick Hotel in New York and the one from Lakeland in Florida in August," says Jørgensen. "The first interview is very insecure. In the second, the interviewer reads to him from a newspaper that basically slams Elvis – it accuses him of everything bad under the sun, and you hear Elvis, who is a lot more secure in his speaking and in his views, trying to fight back all these accusations of being vulgar. That way, in the words of himself, you can see how he develops. At the same time, if you go through the photos in the book, you actually see how he changes his physical appearance towards the end of the year, how he becomes affected by going to Hollywood to do Love Me Tender and hang out with Nick Adams and Natalie Wood and get more style in there. So you see that transition and hear at it the same time and I think that is pretty fascinating."