It was a worldwide ratings smash and the soundtrack album went to number one on the 'Billboard' album chart. The American broadcast attracted 51% of the television viewing audience and was seen in more American households than man's first walk on the moon.
In all, it was initially seen in approximately forty countries by 1-to-1.5 billion people.January 9, 1973 - a chartered Boeing 747 landed at Honolulu Airport on the island of Oahu. When Elvis Presley disembarked from the plane it was to prepare himself to be the centerpiece of a historic occasion, the first artist to hold a concert which was to be directly transmitted to over 40 countries by satellite.
Elvis and his entourage, 'The Memphis Mafia' and their wives, were met by 'Colonel' Tom Parker and Sonny West at the airport. Elvis was led on board a helicopter which flew him to the landing pad outside Hilton's Hawaiian Village, by the most overpopulated beach in world, Waikiki. Around 1000 people stood outside the fenced off landing pad to pay tribute to the artist who had made 3 of his movies on Hawaii, held a charity concert, and who was now going to hold another concert where the takings would go to charity.
Elvis rented the whole of the top floor of the Hilton, and the following nights were used - in all secrecy - to rehearse at the Hilton's Hawaiian Dome. The musicians, who arrived a couple of days before Elvis, rehearsed for a whole week in Honolulu International Centre where the satellite show was going to be staged.
'Colonel' Parker got the idea for the show when he saw President Nixon's visit to China directly transmitted via satellite. To a journalist on the Hawaiian newspaper The Advertiser, Eddie Sherman, goes the honour that all of the takings from the show were to go to a fund which he himself had established the previous year.
The fund was established in honour of the Hawaiian singer and composer, Kuiokalani Lee, who died of cancer on 3rd December 1966 aged just 34. Lee had composed 'I'll Remember You', a song Elvis recorded on 10th June 1966 in Nashville and which he also used in the satellite show.
When Kuiokalani Lee's widow heard that Elvis Presley was doing a show in aid of her husband's fund, she became so worked up that she had to find a doctor and get some sedatives ...
The aim was to raise $25,000 for the fund. The result turned out to be $85,000. Parker decided that the satellite show was not going to have set ticket prices, and that the 200 who paid the most for their tickets should get a seat in the so-called 'golden circle'. Elvis and Parker themselves bought tickets at $1,000 each. The star of the TV show 'Hawaii Five-O', Jack Lord, followed up and paid the same for 2 tickets. A number of other celebrities paid for tickets at $100 and $500 which resulted in the ticket takings wildly exceeding expectations. The opposite extreme also happened - a lady who brought 5 children got her tickets for $3.75.
Colonel Parker decided that if the demand for tickets was great, the audience would be given an opportunity to buy tickets for the rehearsal show on the 12th as well. This show was made because a backup show was necessary in case something went wrong during the live transmission.
The tickets for the TV show went on sale on January 7.
At this time 4000 of the 6000 tickets had already been sold through postal orders. The remaining 2000 were sold the same day, and the tickets for the rehearsal show were then put on sale - and sold out shortly after.
Even though the transmission had been planned to the minutest detail, several problems arose during the days and hours before the satellite show was going to take place. One of the least serious, although problematic enough, was that Elvis had given away the cape for his stage costume to Jack Lord. Bill Belew, the costume maker, was contacted in Los Angeles and asked to make another one. Belew answered despairingly: 'But we've used up all the rubies we need to get more from Europe'. A new cape arrived in time ...
... but other problems arose: the stage was enormous, built especially for this occasion. It demanded so much space that the audience had to be limited to 6000, whereas the hall could normally take 8400. For production reasons the producer, Marty Pasetta, had placed Elvis' musicians on a raised stage far behind Elvis, something Elvis didn't accept: 'Sorry, Mr. Pasetta, I want my musicians with me on stage'.
Standing alone, literally face to face with over 1 billion TV viewers, was tougher than Elvis liked to consider.
The rehearsal show revealed that the concert was shorter than calculated, and Pasetta asked Elvis to include another 3 new songs in the satellite show, something Elvis agreed to with a slight nod. He was used to doing things as they came along during concerts, and 'Johnny B. Goode', 'I Can't Stop Loving You' and a medley of 'Long Tall Sally' and 'Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On' were added to the rehearsal programme.
The technical problems which arose, threatened to upset the whole transmission ...
... all the electrical equipment needed more electricity than was available in the building.
Two hours before the show was due to start, the lights in the hall started flickering - disappeared - and then returned. The navy was contacted and, with sirens wailing, they came to the rescue with equipment to upgrade the electricity supply - only minutes before Elvis was due to come on stage.
When Also Sprach Zarathustra heralded the arrival of the King at the HIC arena half an hour after it had become Sunday 14th January on Hawaii, it wasn't only the 6000 in the hall who felt a quivering excitement in all the nerves of their bodies. Elvis, who was always nervous before a concert, was probably more aware than ever that he faced a task in which every mistake would be observed by millions of people all over the world.
Ronnie Tutts' intense activity behind a 10 piece drum kit drives the excitement to a climax when Elvis enters the gigantic stage and causes an anticipated release of excitement.
The monarch of the entertainment world hands trembles lightly as he grabs the microphone: 'Oh see, see see rider, Oh see, what you have done...' and the rest is history. Probably Elvis' finest moment.
Buy Aloha from Hawaii DVD a two-disc set featuring all the performance material formally shot in conjunction with Elvis' 'Aloha from Hawaii' television special - an historic concert event seen in more than 40 countries by 1.5 billion people when it initially aired in 1973. The original American broadcast version of the show is included for historical context. The Aloha From Hawaii single DVD disc version is also available.
Aloha From Hawaii Press Conferences : 1972
Aloha From Hawaii : The Concerts
Elvis Presley : Arriving In Hawaii : January 9, 1973
Elvis Presley : Aloha From Hawaii Rehearsal Concert : January 12, 1973
Elvis Presley : Receiving an award, backstage : January 13, 1973, before his Aloha Concert
Elvis Presley : Hawaii : January 14, 1973
Aloha From Hawaii Soundtrack
- Also Sprach Zarathrusta
- See See Rider
- Burning Love
- You Gave Me A Mountain
- Steamroller Blues
- My Way
- Love Me
- Johnny B. Goode
- It's Over
- Blue Suede Shoes
- I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry
- I Can't Stop Loving You
- Hound Dog
- What Now My Love
- Welcome To My World
- Suspicious Minds
- Introductions by Elvis
- I'll Remember You
- Long Tall Sally / Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On
- An American Trilogy
- A Big Hunk O' Love
- Can't Help Falling In Love