In 2008, my wife gave me a gift that revolutionized how I listen to Elvis. She had been wanting to get me an iPod for some time, but I kept putting her off. “I mostly listen to CDs,” I told her.
Once I had that iPod in my hands, though, an obsession slowly took hold. I found that listening to Elvis in shuffled mode gave me a much broader view of his career than simply relying on whatever CD I happened to spin. Over time, it also allowed me to rediscover songs from CDs that I otherwise did not play very often.
I have been collecting Elvis music since 1987 and have purchased hundreds of his CDs. The iPod has allowed me to truly experience the power of that collection, rather than just having it sit on a shelf.
In iTunes, I created a series of smart playlists to make various shuffle themes for my iPod. I think of these as my own private radio stations. They are not completely random, as I build out the smart playlists with certain rules.
For example, one of the rules in my Elvis Mix avoids 1-star songs. I only want to hear those in the context of their original albums.
In my Best Mix, I have Elvis set to play about 10% of the time. Otherwise, he would dominate that list due to how many Elvis songs I have. I also control the percentages of songs in certain genres that play. I tweaked this through the years until I made a Best Mix shuffle that suits my quirky taste.
Over time, I slowly began backing up more of my Elvis collection to iTunes. By May 2010, I had over 1,200 Elvis songs in iTunes for my iPod. This included the 711 masters released during his lifetime. At that point, rather than continuing to pick and choose from my CDs, I decided to go back and back up every unique track from every Elvis CD I owned.
I began on June 1, 2010, and figured I would be finished by the end of that year.
I finished yesterday, March 15, 2013.
This extended time period was not due to lack of diligence on my part. In fact, if anything, I have been too diligent. With only a few breaks, this has consumed more of my spare time over the last few years than I care to admit. Other things that I could have been doing, such as writing, have suffered.
So, why did it take me so long? For one thing, it turns out that I have many more Elvis songs than I realized.
I also did not simply throw in each CD, allow iTunes to look up the track names, and be done with it. If only it had been that easy. The first feature I turned off was the auto-look-up of track names, because I found this often had errors or formatting inconsistencies. Instead, I hand-typed all of that stuff in. If there were going to be errors, at least they would be my errors.
For each song, I researched its first album appearance and other tidbits, such as recording location and take number. For this, I primarily used the comprehensive Elvis Recording Data/Session Notes section of the Elvis In Norway site.
For live songs and other tracks without clean breaks in between, I added fade-ups and fade-downs. I also removed any uninteresting “false starts” and chatter from studio outtake/alternate tracks. When a false start proved to be of interest, I split it out to its own separate track.
Along the way, I also replaced those 711 core masters with new versions in better sound quality.
After all of that, I have 3,510 unique Elvis tracks, representing nearly 160 hours of music.
In an amazing coincidence that I really cannot believe, it turns out that I also have exactly 3,511 non-Elvis tracks backed up to iTunes, representing 208 more hours of music. I have often said Elvis represents about half of the tracks on my iPod, but I had no idea that was so precise. Over time, the non-Elvis tracks will likely grow at a faster rate now than the Elvis ones, though. [However, I am not going to start a similar project for my non-Elvis CDs. Never again.]
To keep my smart playlists working the way I like, I also rated each track. The analytical side of me has all kinds of number-crunching ideas around this, but here is a fun breakdown for starters:
- 5 Stars: 938 tracks (27%) [example: “Always On My Mind” (1972)]
- 4 Stars: 909 tracks (26%) [example: “It’s Now Or Never” (1960)]
- 3 Stars: 853 tracks (24%) [example: “Love Me Tender” (1956)]
- 2 Stars: 556 tracks (16%) [example: “Wear My Ring Around Your Neck” (1958)]
- 1 Star: 254 tracks (7%) [example: “A Dog’s Life” (1966)]
It astonishes me that, thanks to my iPod, I can now fit the entirety of my Elvis music collection in the palm of my hand. I can literally take it with me anywhere and listen to any song at any time.
With those 3,510 tracks, I could listen to Elvis for six days straight, without sleeping, and never hear a repeated track.
I would never do that, though. I am not that obsessive of a person.
The fact that my next post will be coming out in about six days is a complete coincidence.