In 1965, while Elvis was busy filming “Girl Happy”, “Tickle Me” and “Harum Scarum”, the “Sound Of Music“ was captivating audiences around the world. By May of 1966 the movie was so popular that Australia decided on a promotion for it’s star, Julie Andrews. RCA produced a promotional “flyer“ (pictured) advertising in bold red print that …..
“May Is Julie Andrews Month“
In order to further the promotion, a remarkable record was manufactured and SP-55 was born (pictured).
This was a twelve inch 33 1/3rd rpm white label RCA Federation program long play disc with a plain cover, not for sale to the public. It was manufactured in May 1966 for the express purpose of enabling radio stations to promote several Julie Andrews’ albums which were available at the time. While Julie took her place of pride on side 1, the Aussies needed to promote something on the “Alternative side 2“ …… and that is where Elvis Presley comes into the story.
By the end of 1965 RCA had re-issued ten Elvis singles for a special series that would become known as “The Portrait Series“ (pictured). As you can see, the design used consisted of five drawings taken from photos of Elvis. Each design was used twice but with different colors. The sleeves were made of paper and not thin cardboard used on other RCA picture sleeves at the time. The trouble was these sleeves were HIDEOUS, as you can plainly see. They bore little resemblance to the most handsome man on the planet and looked more like the scribbling of a nine year old. Not surprisingly they didn’t sell at all, hence their rarity today.
On side 2 Elvis sings “Fame and Fortune” (edited to one verse only) “Hound Dog“, “I Want You, I Need You, I Love You“, “A Big Hunk Of Love“, “The Girl Of My Best Friend“, “Surrender“ and “Don’t“. The songs are linked by commentary from long time Sydney radio announcer Howard Craven (1917-2000).
I think it’s hilarious Julie is on side 1 and the King is “relegated“ to side 2 and billed as an “ALTERNATIVE“ to her on the label (pictured ).
While SP-55 was conceived to promote five Julie Andrews LP’s that were available in 1966, the decision to promote Elvis Presley’s “portrait series“ on side 2 appears to be an afterthought. It is an afterthought which created what is inarguably one of the rarest Elvis recordings in the world, and the only time that Julie Andrews and Elvis Presley were ever paired on a record together.
Items such as this, along with their stories of origin are not only fascinating but becoming increasingly rare. As the Elvis circle dwindles, so does commentary on them. Unless displayed and told, these accounts die with the owners – all the more reason an International exhibition must be assembled so this very important portion of his legacy will not be forever lost.