If I Can Dream

The '68 Elvis Comeback Special

The opening shot of the comeback special. flickr.com

It's no secret that Elvis Presley was not particularly well served by the machinations of his manager, Colonel Tom Parker. It was in 1968, however, that Elvis broke free from his spell, if only for a short while, defying Parker's vision of Elvis' adult years and, in the process, engineering rock music's most stunning (and satisfying) comeback.

NBC and sponsor Singer (of the sewing machines) had long wanted to present an Elvis Christmas special, and the King had no problem delivering some of his big Xmas hits, particularly "Blue Christmas." With the assistance of director Steve Binder, however, Presley began to envision the hour-long TV special as a way to reclaim his rightful place atop pop music's throne, one he'd largely forfeited after his return from the Army in 1960. Years of mediocre-to-horrible films, their equally suspect soundtracks, and the ongoing progress of popular music had left Elvis in the dust, both creatively and commercially.

The special changed all that immediately, re-establishing the King as a fine interpretive singer, a sexual presence (that black leather suit has practically become an icon all its own), a performer par excellence, and a real musician to boot. That last was especially borne out by the intimate jam session filmed for the special; some still believe it to be the finest set of music he ever played. Taken along with the special that surrounds it, it stands as one of the most amazing career resurrections in entertainment history.

1968 Timeline: Elvis '68 Comeback Special

January 12:
May 14:
May 17:
The T.A.M.I. Show
June 6:
June 11:
50,000,000 Elvis Fans Can't Be Wrong
June 17:
June 19:
June 20
June 21
June 21:
June 22
June 23

NEXT: The timeline continues, singles, soundtracks, and more

June 27:
June 28:
June 29:
June 30:
August 20:
December 3:
Singer Presents Elvis
December 10:

Original Broadcast: Elvis '68 Comeback Special

Sitdown show:
Standup show:
Gospel production number:
Sitdown show:
Guitar Man production number:
Closing number:

Sitdown show #1 (6 pm): Elvis '68 Comeback Special

Sitdown show #2 (8 pm): Elvis '68 Comeback Special

Official Singles: Elvis '68 Comeback Special

November 5, 1968:
February 25, 1969:

Official Soundtrack Album: Elvis '68 Comeback Special

November 22, 1968:

Elvis NBC TV Special (RCA LPM 4088):
Side 1:
"Trouble / Guitar Man"
"Lawdy Miss Clawdy"
"Baby What You Want Me To Do"
"Medley: Heartbreak Hotel / Hound Dog / All Shook Up" "Can't Help Falling In Love" "Jailhouse Rock" "Love Me Tender"
Side 2:
"Medley: Where Could I Go But To The Lord? / Up Above My Head / Saved"
"Blue Christmas"
"One Night"
"Medley: Big Boss Man / Guitar Man / Little Egypt / Trouble / Guitar Man"
"If I Can Dream"