Johnny B. Gone: Warner Brothers confirms replacement of Elvis On Tour’s opening song

I was really hoping this would go the other way, folks, but Warner Brothers has released the following statement in response to an inquiry from a source of mine about the replacement of “Johnny B. Goode” with “Don’t Be Cruel” in the opening of Elvis On Tour.

Regarding the change on the opening song on the ‘ELVIS ON TOUR’ blu-ray and DVD release to Elvis’ ‘Don’t Be Cruel,’ after many months of effort, Warner Home Video was unfortunately not able to obtain the rights to include the song ‘Johnny B. Goode.’ Therefore, there was no choice but to change it so this amazing example of Elvis’ work could be released.  With full approval of Elvis Presley Enterprises, a song was chosen that reflects the essence of Elvis and the nature of his performances during this time. That is the only change on this new release other than the amazing clarity the video now has and the incredible sound of Elvis in concert.” –Warner Brothers statement

I still support the Elvis On Tour release, though I strongly feel this alteration should have been communicated to the fans much sooner. I’m going to save further thoughts and comments about this for my reviews of the theatrical event and Blu-ray release.

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Update July 31, 2010: According to a post I later read on the FECC forum, an EPE associate also placed the above Warner Brothers statement on the Elvis Insiders forum (I’m not a member) on July 26. Three days later, ElvisMatters obtained further clarification from Warner Brothers on this situation:

ElvisMatters contacted Tom Lucas, VP Marketing manager of Warner USA, and asked for an explanation. The moment Warner decided to release a restored version for ‘Elvis On Tour’, they contacted all the composers and publishers for the songs that are included in the movie. In case of ‘Johny B Goode’, they never received any reaction from composer Chuck Berry or his publisher. Warner tried to contact them for a very long time, but never received any reply or contract. It is not the case that Warner did not want to pay enough money to include the song, they simply did not receive an offer to pay for it. Warner had two options left: forget the whole project and put it back in the vault, or release it with another intro. The fact that they choose ‘Don’t Be Cruel’ and the editing that was used on it, is food for another discussion.” –Source: ElvisMatters

21 thoughts on “Johnny B. Gone: Warner Brothers confirms replacement of Elvis On Tour’s opening song

    • True, but the Aloha Deluxe Edition DVD set was released six years ago, though (with a subsequent 1-disc version not long after).

      Plus, it was released by different companies (BMG & Elvis Presley Enterprises), rather than Warner Home Video as is the case with Elvis On Tour.

      “Johnny B.” and a number of other songs were actually left off of the first DVD release of Aloha (the one prior to the Deluxe Edition) for the same reason.

      I think the explanation of why the song was left off is sound, though the execution leaves a lot to be desired.

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  1. Aloha Deluxe and Special Editions didn’t have problems back during its release. Aloha did have a problem during its original release back in 2000 though. Three songs was taken out of Aloha (Johnny B. Goode, I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry and I Can’t Stop Loving You). These songs was taken out because of Copyright Issues at that times. Now, it has been 10 years after the first original release of Aloha and Johnny B. Goode is out of Elvis On Tour because of Copyright Issues. So there could be some copyright issues that happens every 10 years or so.

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    • Hey Kelly,

      Thanks for writing. I don’t claim to know how the song arrangements work, but it would seem to me that there are a couple of different factors here.

      For one thing, it was Elvis Presley Enterprises (and, nominally, BMG) that released the deluxe edition of Aloha, while it is Warner Home Video that is responsible for Elvis On Tour. Therefore, it would seem any agreements reached for Aloha would not necessarily carry over to Elvis On Tour.

      On top of that, even if they were released by the same company, they are both separate projects anyway. I would suspect that they would be negotiated separately.

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      • Your arguments are some what good but what you need to understand with Elvis On Tour and Aloha is this.
        Both have one thing in common and that is Elvis. Ok, who owns Aloha footage and audio? Elvis Presley Enterprises. Now, who owns Elvis On Tour? MGM and Elvis Presley Enterprises. MGM owns the footage itself but the audio is owned by EPE. That is the factor that you should add to your argument. EPE may of had trouble in getting the rights to it just as they did back in 2000. That could be what happened here with Elvis On Tour. EPE does say that MGM has the rights to the movie for a release but what EPE doesn’t tell you is that they own the rights to the music in the film. Now, we have Don’t Be Cruel at the beginning of the film instead of Johnny B. Goode.

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      • Kelly: Warner Brothers owns Elvis On Tour, not Elvis Presley Enterprises. EPE does not own the audio to Elvis On Tour.

        Their only involvement is in the use of licensing of his name & likeness as part of the promotions. They’re also able to help with the marketing effort because they have more contact with Elvis fans for obvious reasons than Warner does. In addition, they own the publishing rights on some of the music (though, unfortunately, not “Johnny B. Goode”).

        It’s irrelevant whether EPE owns the Elvis On Tour audio, though, since any agreements reached for Aloha From Hawaii wouldn’t apply to Elvis On Tour.

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  4. I’m glad I’ve held on to my VHS copy of Elvis On Tour. That one (also released by Warner Home Video, in 2000) does include Johnny B. Goode.

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  7. I’m still unclear who needed to give premission to use Johnny B Goode (Chuck Berry?).

    Does anyone know?

    Thanks

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  9. In all of this has anyone noticed that the Theme from 2001 is also missing from the DVD/Blu-Ray? They use a generic piece of music that “almost” sounds like it, but it’s not the same piece of music.

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    • Hey Alex,

      Thanks for posting. The use of a replacement song for “Also Sprach Zarathustra” (AKA “The Theme from 2001: A Space Odyssey“) in the Elvis On Tour Blu-ray and DVD releases correctly represents the original theatrical version. Though played at the actual concerts covered in the film, the real “Also Sprach Zarathustra” was also not used in the 1972 movie.

      I have read a number of theories, but have never been able to track down a definitive answer as to why the real composition by Richard Strauss was replaced in the movie. The song is listed as being in the Public Domain on 1972’s As Recorded At Madison Square Garden, so presumably it was not a rights issue. Perhaps MGM, which released both 2001 and Elvis On Tour back then, did not want to use the song since it was associated with their other film. Again, though, that is only speculation.

      In any event, dropping the fake “Also Sprach Zarathustra” for the real version would have been one alteration to the movie that I would have gladly cheered for the Blu-ray and DVD editions – especially since the recent release is not the unaltered theatrical version anyway. The fake “Also Sprach Zarathustra” is not up to par.

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  10. Well as an Elvis fan i’m so thrilled to have this great dvd in my collection.

    I also have on DVD the promo DVD that came out back in 2000, i was told from the seller on ebay that only few got pressed, and not only dose it have Johnny Be Good at the begining but also has a full extra clip of him on stage with his gold jacket on singing Good Rockin’ Tonight he said that the clip was taken from the documentary Elvis Memories, I checked this out and the seller was telling me the truth but having that performance in it is great to see along with Johnny Be Good at the begining

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