The studio guitarist’s guide to happiness and personal fulfilment, as related to us by Mitch Dalton This month: X is for extreme stress
Now, what could be more of a doddle, eh? The opportunity to pay a few bills for a fortnight merely by kicking back and blasting through the back catalogue of The King, The Pelvis, The Dude That Left The Building. EP himself. Uh-huh. Oh my. If only it were that simple. The reality is that the business of playing to upwards of one hundred thousand Elvoholics in six arenas turns out to be a tad more involved than one might initially contemplate. Believe me, the fact that The Great Gyrator checked out of Heartbreak Hotel some years ago is but a minor challenge in the grand scheme of things. That issue is resolved at a stroke by beaming footage extracted from two different Pelvic performances onto a giant video screen. Thanks to the technowizardry of our age, the soundtrack is erased but Elvis’s voice is left in situ. All that remains is to hire The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and a crack rhythm section to play the ‘live’ show on stage. I guess it is but a minor leap of lateral thinking to persuade the Presley Punters to ‘Just Pretend’. After all, it is but a small step away from seeing a microdot of Adele live but flanked by banks of mega screens. Such is the modern way of it.
No. The technical issues begin to reveal themselves at 10.30am on a bleak Sunday morning, almost as soon as the Riddem Boyz assemble in a giant shed on an industrial estate in West London’s deeply unfashionable West London.
We open out the music for the first tune, one of a mere 37 vinyl-tastic monster hits with which we are to carpet-bomb a suspecting audience. With but one day’s rehearsal. That’s correct. Thirty seven tunes. Six hours. Let’s just leave it there, shall we?
The first issue presents itself at approximately 10.31am. There are three arrangements to choose from: the original recording, a Las Vegas live show and the recent smash hit version of Elvis with Orchestra. Then there is the small matter of following the white jump-suited crooner on celluloid. This has been addressed by mapping his voice to a click track which we then follow with the aid of in-ear monitoring. Sadly, most singers back phrase when performing and allow the band to carry the time through the performance. The resulting clicks are thus a miasma of ever changing tempi, or no no tempo at all. The trick is somehow to smooth out the mapped vocal clicks and pull off a compromise that replicates how the original band performed.
Half past five duly arrives. Good news for chemists. There is no longer a Neurofen to be purchased in Park Royal. But our new American production best friends seem happy with our efforts. As indeed they should be. Parting the Red Sea is beginning to look like a breeze, in retrospect.
We reconvene the following day, this time with backing vocalists. And the following day, with orchestra. With the exception of our Principal Violin, they do not have clicks with which to concern themselves. There then follows an entertaining six hours of adjustment and re-adjustment as 70 confused souls attempt to follow their leader who is following our conductor who is following an out-of-time click track which is following an out-of-time Elvis.
There is further informed discussion as to how scary a musical near death experience we are in for at The Hydro, Glasgow on opening night, barely 36 hours hence. But who wants to quit Showbiz? My main issue revolves around the fact that The King performs a medley of ‘those’ rock and roll classics at the start of the second half of our performance. Possibly due to the fact that he might have become a tad jaded and a mite uninterested in this segment of the show after two million times, he blasts through ‘em faster than Usain Bolt with a Telecaster. I am left in the uncomfortable position of being barely able to play a 12-bar blues and various associated iconic solos for the first time in my professional life. All Shook Up takes on a whole new meaning.
As ever, the rest is mystery. We get through opening night. Admittedly, the Vegas ice is wafer thin and the Memphis cliff edge horrifically close. There are a number of what one might reasonably call ‘glitches’. But we survive, at an emotional and psychological cost yet to be quantified. And I get to play my shiny new orange Gretsch 6120. And play the solos to That’s Alright Mama, Blue Suede Shoes and all yer favourites. And I get to meet Priscilla Presley.
In the end, despite our Suspicious Minds, I... er... rather enjoyed it. And I’ll Be Home For Christmas. Sorry...
i am left in the uncomfortable position of barely being able to play a 12-bar blues