FTD Press Conference 2002 with Ernst Jorgensen and Roger Semon

By: www.elvis.com.au
Source: www.elvis.com.au
August 15, 2002

One of the highlights of Elvis week 2002 in Memphis was a session held by Ernst Jorgensen and Roger Semon to discuss their FTD project. A fascinating meeting where Ernst revealed some interesting inside information, including what material he might have left in the vault, and talked about future releases. Note - Two tracks previewing the new FTD release recorded on Dec 13th 1975, live in Las Vegas, were played. These proved that it is definitely not the same concert as released on the 'Just Pretend' bootleg recorded on the same day.

Ernst Jorgensen and Roger Semon
Ernst Jorgensen and Roger Semon

Ernst Jorgensen - Very briefly the history of the 'Follow That Dream' label. It's actually something that went back to the early nineties when there was a decision to create a collector's label for the fans. But for a number of reasons, a lot of personnel changes at the record company, & decision changing, we ended up not being able to launch it until 3 years ago - So it's been a long time coming.

E.J - 'Nashville Marathon' is the newest release. It is a very typical release for what we try to do with Follow That Dream. We can establish a focus on a very narrow era of Elvis' career, giving a glimpse of what it would have been like to be at those recording sessions by basically selecting as many of the rarities that we have on tape. A lot of people keep asking us why don't you release 'so & so'. For instance 'Why is 'Patch It Up' not on this record or another take of 'I Washed My hands In Muddy Waters'?' But really, for those who care enough, it is possible to think (about) what we really have. If you look at what we release and certainly what we don't release, it gives a very good picture of what exists and what doesn't exist.

E.J - From both Joe Tunzi's and my recordings session books it's obvious that on some records there is only the one take that we know of. If the Master is Take One, in most cases that means that there is only that one take. Not in every case, but almost always. A lot of the great rock performances that we get from Elvis in the studio are actually take one, which is very annoying!

E.J - So this 'Nashville Marathon' as an example gives you a very good idea of how we deal with this. We try not to duplicate takes and this package comes out the way it is with a soft tone to it, very much in ballad spirit, because that is what's left. Quite frankly it's also what those session were. There were a lot of ballads in that session. The country stuff were more 'spur of the moment' recordings and many of these exist only in a few takes that have been released previously.

So when we do a package like this, it's June and September of 1970 in Nashville, we try and put out the good stuff, the best we have. We don't deliberately leave anything out. There's no reason to go home and speculate 'Well they're keeping that version of 'Funky Fingers' to themselves' (or whatever else the rumours were on these recordings). That's not the idea. We might hold back one or two goodies if we have a 'T, T & Forever' box-set coming out at some stage . . . but it's not supposed to be a guessing game and it shouldn't leave you wondering 'Why are they holding all this stuff back'.

E.J - Some people say 'Well for every release the versions of the songs will have to be poorer and poorer', it's not like that with Elvis. In general the overall standard of outtakes on most of Elvis' sessions is astonishing. I think that, had we not known already which ones were the Masters, there would have been a lot of songs where we wouldn't have been able to guess which one they would choose. We hope to have only good music here, of course there are a few goofs but that is part of what makes it charming.

E.J - Before we go to questions let me explain that the way Roger and I work together is that we decide only a few months before each release what the new one is going to be. We both search websites, message boards (which is not always a lot of fun!) to get an idea of what the collectors are really looking forward to. We sit down and talk about it- this is a side to what we do.. We work for RCA records, which is our full time job, so there is a limit to how much time we can spend on answering questions or doing things and of course there is a financial limit on how much time we can spend in the recording studio. We do the best we can under the circumstances and we always keep a balance between what we do and what we suggest to RCA that they do.

Any questions? -

Q - What about the 'On Tour' material?

E.J - 'On Tour' is a little bit complicated. Obviously everybody, including Roger and I, thought that this would be the year. Especially when Turner recreated TTWII it was with hope of critical acclaim and financial rewards for Turner and although I think TTWII has done fairly well it was never a big commercial success. And talking about an investment and recreating TTWII for 1.3 or 1.4 Million dollars, financing 'On Tour' on the back of something that didn't sell well - and to a lot of commercial peoples' thinking it's somewhat better than 'On Tour' - it's a younger Elvis, a leaner Elvis in TTWII.

They are very nervous about putting out 'On Tour' and spending the same kind of money.

So they are trying to find a way to make 'Elvis On Tour' available in digital format but it's not going to be a restoration from scratch like TTWII.

The reason why we haven't put out anything on either FTD or RCA at this time is that we would ideally like to do it with them. So we are giving them a little more time but eventually if they don't come around, we will release the material that we have which is pretty substantial. Nothing that you can't guess what it is.

There is a lack of confidence in 'Elvis On Tour's commercial potential but it's a shame. Maybe Elvis doesn't look as good as in the TTWII material, but the stuff I have seen (is good).. There is an hour's worth of Elvis in a recording studio and a lot of people would like to see that.

E.J - I think there is a very good chance (of the DVD material being released through FTD) but it takes time. And the one thing that is a killer here is that when you do something on CD you know what you have to pay to the artist, record company and copyrighter but the DVD being a new medium - you have to negotiate from scratch. And I'm not exaggerating when I say there will be people coming in asking for $1000 for the use of a song as an advance but they will be someone coming in asking for a million. This is what happened with 'Are You Lonesome Tonight' on TTWII. At the last minute the owner came in asking for so much money. Everybody needs to be paid the same, otherwise everybody will increase their price and make it unworkable.

Q - What about 'Elvis In Concert'?

E.J - I think in a way, as long as the estate is not really releasing the video, that we want, as much as we can, to be in sync with the estate. At this time out of so many options we have, 'Elvis In Concert' & the rest of the audio material isn't necessarily the most interesting stuff that's left.

Q - What idea of the 'Double Features' upgrade for instance 'Viva Las Vegas' and 'Roustabout' using all alternate takes?

E.J - It's a good question. We are not quite there yet in sorting out what we do in the future. We are heading off later in the week to New York for discussions of what's next.

After the TT&F box set and A.L.L.C we now need to map out the future. But for instance on 'Roustabout' we just don't have the outtakes. 'Fun in Acapulco' looks better but that's a different situation. If we start out a series like that it will only go by where we have the material. There are of lot of tapes that are still not found.

Q - What about fifties material?

E.J - We have very little fifties material. We are looking all the time. We follow every lead that we get. We also do it in a very systematic way, tracing people down who were there in the first place. Some are very helpful; some are not so helpful. Some are a little insecure about having the tapes and sometimes it may take 2 or 3 years to convince them what the right thing is (to give us the tapes).

Q - What about 'Country Bumpkin' song rumour from 1975.

E.J - We have all the tapes from 1975. Elvis was so fired up about recording the song that he had Felton's wife run out and buy the song and transcribe the lyrics and got everyone worked up to a frenzy but then he dropped the song. We have all the tapes from 1975 so there is no hope of finding it. There is no 'Country Bumpkin'.

Q - When it comes to negotiating for something that is really rare, like maybe the soundboard of his last concert - is your budget unlimited?

E.J - We find ourselves in all kinds of situations. People who are almost too innocent about what it is and we actually help them get a decent price for it. But at the same time if some other people are thinking seven digits we keep contact but we can't buy at that price. Neither Roger nor I can advocate RCA's bottom line and we talk very freely about what things are worth. There are no outtakes that are worth $100,000- that's not what sells. It would be a lot easier to put out a new version of the Christmas Album that's how you make real money.

So we try to find a price that is agreeable where we can see the money coming back from doing a FTD release, with a very limited run, or save it for a box set.

We try to open up for people to discuss this with us (and) we never threaten them with any legal stuff even if there might be a case. Like 'How on earth they might have an original RCA tape?' - we don't ask those questions.

But there have been a few deals that we have never been able to make but it's always been deals where we haven't heard the material either, so it all could be a fabrication.

Q - Does that 'Last Concert' Soundboard exist?

E.J - Not that I know of - but how do you prove that something does not exist?

I read a lot of the message board stuff that, well, 'We offered this to RCA but they weren't interested' but there is not one such story that's true. There's nothing where somebody came with something of value that we didn't negotiate. So every time you read something like 'RCA didn't want to know about it' - that's not true. We talk to everybody who has something to offer.

Q - Will the 1974 Memphis Concert be coming out fully restored?

E.J - We will eventually get to that - but it's a question of which order.

Obviously the thing that hurts this release is that, if we can't put it in the regular market for retail, we are creating for the fans something with like 6 unreleased songs which may be not the most exciting project. But it will happen. It may even be a commercial release but that's RCA to decide on. We give them a lot of ideas to choose from and they pick what they think they can sell to the retail world.

Q - When will the FTD Web site happen?

Roger Semon - I think realistically we have been working on the website for a considerable time but it is a question of priorities for us. The RCA work in itself is quite demanding - Press interviews etc . The Website is something that we are passionate about from the very beginning but the reality of FTD is that everything is very carefully budgeted and it's quite expensive to put a record out despite what people may think.

So amongst all of that, trying to please RCA, trying to please you guys, the Website has taken a back seat really. Any Website that we originate has got to have a purpose to it and for a FTD Website it will need to communicate and be the first font of knowledge.

I think realistically we trying to get it up by the end of this year and hopefully it will include lots of snippets of information about forthcoming releases, current releases and share things with the fans that they will not see day to day. From my point of view things like Artwork and sleeves that never made it because they didn't pass the litmus test at RCA or Ernst said 'You must be joking, forget it'. Sharing stuff like that helps you understand what it is we actually do.

Q - Why didn't you use better pictures for the 'Spring Tours' FTD cover since the ones you used were pretty sad and weren't even from those shows?

R.S - In reality there are so many pictures of Elvis that we all know and I think that the challenge for the RCA commercial releases is that everybody wants to see a stunning looking Elvis. But the beauty of FTD is that it allows us to do things that are maybe slightly different from the norm. Everything is put together within a given time frame and with 'Spring Tours' these were from the particular pictures that became available to us at that time. Other questions that people ask are 'Why is it in a digipak?' and 'Why aren't there extensive sleeve notes?' But the fact of the matter is, is that FTD is generally made to appeal to an audience that is reasonably educated to the background of the releases, where they come from and what they are trying to do. We also made them in Digipak format to distinguish them from the regular commercial releases.

E.J - There's one thing I'd like to add. There is a little element within the Elvis world of 'See what I've got and you can't have it' and sometimes we can't find the right people. We met a guy yesterday who popped some photos at us from events where we thought nobody would have a picture of anything like that - and of course that helps us when we find stuff like that. On Spring Tours '77 we tried to fine Sean Shaver since he has got the photos and we communicated with his answering machine and his e-mail but we didn't get any replies. We had committed to the release and we tried other avenues.

There are so many pictures with so many collectors but we don't have them ..

R.S - If anyone knows Sean Shaver - I have endeavoured to contact him and share things with him over the years but it has never materialised. If he wants to contact me I tell you that my phone is always waiting for the ring. Talking historically, going back 7 or 8 years, there has been a dialogue going between us but unfortunately nothing ever materialised. It's his prerogative

E.J - This is an invitation to anybody who knows anybody, we'd like to talk to them if they have any photos that we can use for certain packages.

Q - How are FTD sales going?

E.J - They are pretty stable they sell about the same. That is very encouraging, the label is very healthy and RCA like the money that they get from it. So there's no reason why FTD won't continue for several more years.

I tell you one thing though. I think that everyone knows that 'Jungle Room Sessions' is probably the most popular one. But the one that is number 2 is a little bit of a puzzle to me. The second title is, in fact, the one that got murdered in so many reviews and it's the 'Tucson 76' show! I don't think anyone thinks that it is a greatest show in the world but it is the second best selling in the series. I can't explain it, but that's the fact!

Q - What about more movie outtakes and clips?

E.J - The problem with movie outtakes is that there is no audio with it. It's different camera angles that exist, as a negative maybe, but there is no audio with it. The question is whether there is another song scene. We can only guess from the music tapes as to whether there could be a scene filmed of Elvis and Ann-Margret singing 'You're The Boss' or 'Today Tomorrow and Forever'. But with that movie we are told that there isn't such material, that they were never filmed. But some companies have outtakes. With Paramount it is as if that they have nothing at all, Fox has a few outtakes, MGM has some from the films but what it is I don't think anybody is ever going to know. I've seen the water fountain scene from Jailhouse Rock in various takes but it is a little bit annoying as there is no sound to it and it doesn't make a lot of sense actually-

Q - Do you have any photos of Elvis' last recording session at Graceland? Do you know of any taken?

E.J - No!
R.S - (laughs) Not yet!!

Q - What about the 'Girl Happy' tapes and the fact that some of the songs are cut short? Like 'I've Got to Find my Baby' and the extra verse?

E.J - There are longer versions of the songs in the movie that were extra overdubs and things but RCA don't have those dubs. With 'Girl Happy' we have most of the material but there are a few little bits and pieces missing. So if we would ever go back and redo 'Girl Happy' as an extended 70 minute CD we would have the chance to look into correcting things like that and adding things. MGM have a few bits that we don't have that we can get from them but it has not been a priority yet. But it's things like that we can look into if we ever develop packages like that.

Q - What about the previewed FTD unreleased 1973 'Lake Tahoe' show?

E.J - It was a very good idea at the time and it still is a good idea. But every time we schedule it someone comes up with another better idea. However let me play an excerpt from the up and coming FTD CD, which could have been the Lake Tahoe show, but instead it's this. - (Las Vegas 1975)

E.J - With this I got a call from some person that I knew who knew someone who, for some reason, happened to have this tape. In principle it is a soundboard but it is substantially better in audio quality than the Tahoe Show. So we get motivated by when we find this stuff and we just want to share it. And it is the whole show.

It sounds awfully good in comparison to 'Tucson', 'Dixieland Rock' or for that matter many of the bootlegs that are out there. This is a mystery. Maybe it is something that we never imagined actually took place in Dec '75. But it matches with a letter that is from the Colonel to RCA. When, in the fall of 1975, Col Parker writes that Elvis would want his new album to be a combination of Live recordings and Studio recordings. Our thinking is that maybe in December of 75, when they would have done the recordings had such as an album had to exist, they did try (or at least made a greater effort) to document what was there (live) on tape. Because soundboards are cassette tapes which is why they have a lot of hiss, that we try to tone down, but with this we found something new that we thought we had to share, fast, with you. That's why we don't make any long term plans of what we're going to do.

With something this exciting we try and get it out fast. So we will release 'The Tahoe Show' but I'm not going to put a date on it.

Q - What can we expect in the future?

R.S - Quite a few people I have met while I'm here have suggested that FTD develop into the DVD market. There is footage of Elvis in the studio and bits and pieces like that, that most people outside of the Elvis world would find quite boring but would be great to share with fans in a cohesive way. Maybe with the technology of the Web site, when that develops, we could share little bits and pieces with you.

But obviously the video business overall with the explosion of DVDs, which is the fastest growing format in the world ever- But the other thing with it is that it is still quite expensive to author DVDs (chapters and graphics). It can cost anything (to do something properly) from $15,000 to $30,000 so that you have got to know that are in for 'a banker' before you do it. In reality even with the major movie houses with Elvis DVDs they have gone for the very basic. I think in the future maybe one day we will be able to negotiate with these companies to make these DVDs what they really should be.

E.J - Before we finish this session just let me just go over briefly our FTD releases and the future. With the 'Burbank '68' we do have more stuff than that but at this time I am not sure of whether we have enough to make a satisfying CD on it's own. So maybe we will mix it with something else to make it a satisfying CD. But 'Burbank '68' I love it - especially as it was the first one.

'In a Private Moment': We do have more Home Recordings but nothing that is really, really exciting. We kept the most interesting 'Hide Thou Me' for the 'T T & F' package but it's not like there is a lot of home recording stuff that we could put out. We have been negotiating with Linda Thompson a number of times to get the, often bootlegged, 1973 material. But it is too expensive and we will not pay a fortune to acquire something that everybody has already put out on bootleg. We think that is unfair.

'Out In Hollywood' and 'Silver Screen Stereo': I kept a number of the original reviews of 'O I H' and they were not good (LOL). It seems that maybe with 'S S S' we had more to chose from and we actually found a lot of people saying that.. 'This may not be some of Elvis' greatest music but that it was a fun CD to listen to'. It's supposed to be fun and I hope that those people who don't care for them will not buy them and therefore not annoy themselves!

There will be more and we will keep releasing these. While it is difficult for us to hope that we will find those fifties outtakes, we have been fairly successful in digging up additional movie outtakes in the last 2 years.

Q - Where did the recent 'Kid Galahad' and 'Viva Las Vegas' outtakes come from - the audio quality was sensational?

E.J - We find them at movie houses and from private people. We have had all the RCA vaults under control as early as 1991. It's all a matter of getting the right tape. We did get most of the 'Viva Las Vegas' material through the same people. We don't know how they got them but we know how we got them!

We have considered releasing the 'V.L.V' with the new stereo tapes but we have to be careful with the finance side of things since a lot of people will be saying 'I'm not going to afford to buy it one more time - this is a rip off'. So we have to be careful with the budget and think of it as a limited release selling only a few thousand.

'Too Much Monkey Business': It's actually selling much better than some people would think. But at this time we are not terribly tempted to release any other element like this. This we did because we had quite a lot of additional songs, whether you liked them or not.

'The Memphis Sessions': These are to some people some of the most precious stuff but it's also the stuff that has been bootlegged the most. So a lot of fans have an idea of everything that we have. We don't think we have another full Memphis CD of outtakes that is a commercial satisfying record. We may have another 5 outtakes of 'In The Ghetto' but there are a lot of songs where no outtakes exist because Evis wasn't in the studio. We don't think that there is a question of any missing tapes any more. I think we have all the tapes that ever were. And that there were never any outtakes of 'The Fair is Moving On', 'Don't Cry Daddy'-. because it all seems very well documented. So unfortunately the handful of outtakes we have will not make up a complete CD. Of course what is good will be released but we have to find another way of doing that.

'One Night In Vegas' is something that we are very committed to in what it represents. This is an RCA Live recording and it's obvious that there is a 1969 show (or two or three) we can put that out. We have February 1970 - not complete shows but enough to make it feel like a complete show. We have a big chunk from Feb 1972. We have the 'On Tour' stuff, of San Antonio and that. So releases like this will be forthcoming from every professionally recorded occasion that we have. And I kind of like this CD! (LOL).

'6363 Sunset' which is very much a first look at 'Elvis On Tour' and the possibilities from the material in there. There is a lot more of RCA rehearsals available, maybe even enough for a whole album.

'Jungle Room Sessions': Everyone is screaming for 'Jungle Room Sessions Vol 2'. The problem here is that there will be no fast songs on it. There'll be no 'Fire Down Below', no 'Way Down', no 'For The Heart' - it would be a very, very low key record and there'd be quite a few takes of 'She Thinks I Still Care' (we could make that into an album!). But there are still good performances in here and we will find a way. But to think that there is a whole CD is stretching it - maybe not for some fans! But Roger and I have our standards of what we think is a presentable, playable CD and it can not have 17 takes of the same song!

With 'America The Beautiful' it did exist but it's been recorded over. Unless there is some tape that we don't know of but there is no reason to think that because all the tapes are logged from 1 - 24. We have all 24 except for the one with the dirty version of 'Hurt' (that isn't really that dirty is it?). Mary Jarvis actually burned that in her garden because Felton told her to. So that is the only heartbreaking snippet of 'America' that we have. But on this new 1975 concert we have the best version of 'America' technically that we have ever had, so we're getting very close to what a studio version would have sounded like.

And there is no 'Feelings' on any tape here despite what you might hear!

'Dixieland Rocks' etc - The Live shows are in general from soundboards. Our ambition is to, good or bad, document every major Las Vegas , Lake Tahoe season or concert Tour by one CD - not by a row of CDs. Although we pretend that we don't care about bootlegs we try to, if we can, release a show that is better than what is already out on a bootleg or different. But we are not going to be locked into that. If the right show is the concert that is already out on bootleg, from a source very similar to ours, we will still put it out if we think that needs to take place.

'Spring Tours '77': We are here to document Elvis' live work in the seventies. So 'Spring Tours '77' is obviously, to a lot of people, an announcement that not everything was like it should have been. But we are writing about history here. This is an historical series.

E.J - I don't know about the truth regarding lists of rehearsal songs, for instance 'Treat Me Nice', for various engagements that you might see in Tunzi's books and other places. The one thing that has never been proven is that there is a tape to go with these. These lists could have been made for completely different reasons, basically as track lists of what they may have been going to rehearse that day. But even if they are typed up it doesn't mean that Elvis did it. It could mean that maybe Elvis went 'Oh, 'Treat Me Nice', no we are not going to do that one' and they went on to the next. So until there is proof that all these rehearsals exist on tape those lists are just basically for dreams.

E.J - Soundboards we basically have from 1974 and onwards. We have a few scattered shows earlier than that but I don't think Bill Porter (sound engineer) recorded them all before that. We have been in dialogue with Bill Porter and he has a little collection himself of shows but with no surprises on or anything. So unless somebody is hiding all these soundboards!.. We don't have every show; we have maybe less than half. We don't have New Year's Eve if we did, 'fer Christ's sake, we would release it!

Q - Is December 1976 one of your planned releases (from the great 'Burning in Birmingham' Tour)?

E.J - We have the three and one of them could be the basis of a CD and the highlights from the others. None of them are complete on soundboards because the tapes weren't long enough for those shows. Or there is a possibility to do one of them as a show. The problem is that the one that is out on bootleg is actually the best sound quality. So should we then release the one that is not out on bootleg and take the best of the other one? These are decisions to be made. Some of us know enough about the bootlegs.. they don't sell that much.. so it shouldn't be an excuse for not releasing anything. So we will definitely do that in the future.

EJ - Finally let me tell you that the new release will not be an October release it will be in November simply because of the fact of the timing with RCA's # 1's record. We think it's a little silly to bring them both out at the same time. So it will be 4 weeks later, sorry about that. .

Q - Ernst I read that you might be planning to bring out an updated version of your 'Complete Recording Sessions' book?

E.J - No, that's not the case. Almost everything is already in the first issue of the book. If we are thinking of anything it will be a kind of additional booklet that can include stuff like more info about the outtakes, where they were released, what has not been released-. But I want my book to be about stuff that I know exists rather than just lists of soundboards that maybe don't exist.

E.J - Thanks for coming and for the interest.

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