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The Day Elvis Came Closest To Japan

The Day Elvis Came Closest To Japan
By ElvisMatters / Peter Verbruggen, Feb 21, 2008
No one will disagree with you if you state that the live shows Elvis performed on 12 and 14 January of 1973 at the Honolulu Center in Hawaii belong by far to the best performances of his career. They were the crowning glory of the King’s work, 35 years ago. He looked stronger and more handsome than ever: an athletic body, a breathtaking outfit, a voice that touched the very soul of everyone present, and a band that was sharper than a swiss pocket knife. Aloha From Hawaii would enter history as a milestone in the history of popular music: for the first time, an entertainer performed ‘live’, through satellite, for an audience of one billion viewers. A book was thus the logic next step.

It was no coincidence that, of all places, Elvis came to Hawaii, the sun-drenched island in the middle of the ocean. It was, off course, his favourite holiday destination, but there was more to it than that: the show was broadcasted through satellite, and, taking into account the phenomenal costs that were made, it had to attract as many viewers as possible, to give the sponsors what they wanted.
One of the countries that was aimed at, even more than the United States of America, was Japan (it is probably not surprising that the Japanese car brand Toyota was head sponsor). The reaction of Japanese viewers was unprecedented. No less than 87 percent of the people that had a television watched the live show in their living room- a record. After all, Elvis was (and is) immensely popular in Japan.

The local newspapers saved neither cost nor efforts to report on the Aloha concert. On the press conference of 20 November 1972 in the Hilton Village in Hawaii, there were more Japanese reporters present than American. Moreover, the Japanese television was the only one that was allowed to shoot extra images that would be used in the double deluxe DVD set of Aloha.

As a result, it was not at all surprising that the Japanese press paid a great deal of attention to that ‘Concert of the Century’. One of the journalists that was in Hawaii to cover the live show of 14 January, the last rehearsal of 12 January and the so called pre-rehearsal shows of 17 and 18 November 1972, was Yoshiji Kizaki. He took numerous pictures during the five shows in Hawaii and was present at the press conference. All this time, he kept these pictures for himself. Until now. After (extensive) lobbying by the Japanese Fan Club, Kizaki finally gave in. He dove into his old photo files and selected his ‘forgotten’ pictures: every single picture was an example of pure craftsmanship, taken out of love for his profession and out of love for his idol. Kizaki was a professional music reporter, but just as millions of other Japanese, crazy about Elvis Presley.
You can see the result in the book ”Elvis Aloha From Hawaï – The Day Elvis Came Closest To Japan”. It is actually astonishing that these images were kept hidden for all these years. As this edition was meant to be a photo report, there is hardly any text. And the text that is published is written both in English as in Japanese. Moreover, the Japanese fan club has provided a double cover: the book can be read from front to back, just as well as from back to front.

But let us begin at the beginning: 17 November 1972, the day of the first pre-rehearsal show in Hawaii. Elvis wore the so-called Black Way Down suit, from which he would remove the belt halfway the show– just as he would do during the television broadcasting. The next day, he does two shows: one in the afternoon, the other one at night. As we can derive from the colour photos in the book, here too Elvis starts the show with a belt, but ends the show without. There’s no shortage of pictures of these three concerts, even close-ups of Elvis, right next to his musicians: together with John Wilkinson, face to face with James Burton, and every once in a while next to pianist Glen Hardin, who in other concert pictures usually sat outside the screen. As Kizaki was also present at the Hilton press conference, this event is also covered. Beautiful close-ups, but also pictures of the press conference in general, to give the viewer an idea of what it was like.

The greatest part of the book consists of pictures of Elvis, wearing his infamous American Eagle suit. Kizaki keeps his lens carefully pointed at Elvis during the entire show. The assignment he got from his chief editor was clear: ‘I want Elvis, nothing else’. The pictures of the sound check (without Elvis) and the images from outside the stadium, Kizaki probably took for himself – even though fortunately they are concluded in the book. Our favourite picture? Let’s sum up three: at page 74 you see an unexpected, full-page image of Elvis, standing with his back towards the audience, next to John Wilkinson and James Burton (collectors of the signatures of the musicians of Elvis have a perfect image). The second one can be found on page 16/17: the great colour picture with the cape wide open (this is typically E-L-V-I-S) and the subdued double close-up at pages 76/77.

A review of all the cuttings that were published by the Japanese press on ‘Cat King Elvis’ and Elvis’ autograph ‘To Yoshiji from Elvis’ are a welcome bonus, but that does not weigh up against the fantastic images that makes this work a must-have.
The book is available throught the ElvisMatters shop; Gold members pay: 33,96 EUR, Silver members: 35,96 EUR and Normal members: 39,95 EUR.

Source: ElvisNews

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