Elvis Presley – Just Pretend – From First Take to the Master

Elvis Presley - Just Pretend – From First Take to the Master

In the pre-digital age the only way of determining which songs were popular was purely through record sales which meant that ‘b’ sides or album tracks were often forgotten and there was little way of telling which was a fans favourite and such like. It was possible to hold postal voting polls through fan publications such as ‘Elvis Monthly’ but such things are a hostage to circulation or even people’s willingness to post a letter!!

These days with the coming of social media it is possible to draw the opinion of even the most reclusive fan by a single click of their computer mouse or a touch of their finger on a mobile device. Fan forums and outlets such as Twitter or Facebook have meant that polls pop up every other day canvassing our opinion from Elvis’ favourite item to our favourite movie line or song he recorded.

One of the songs which always seems to be amongst the favourites amongst fans these days is ‘Just Pretend’ a song which was probably never intended to be anything other than an album filler. The song itself is worthy of so much more and as such it is perhaps no surprise that it is popular amongst Elvis’ vast legion of fans particularly with Elvis magnificent vocal showing all of it’s power.

Recorded in RCA’s Studio B on 6 June 1970, although with how Elvis structured his sessions, it is likely that it was actually recorded in the morning of 7 June. To elaborate, Elvis usually began his recording sessions very late in the evening continuing until about six or seven in the morning and being that “Just Pretend” was the third of six recorded that night (excluding the “I didn’t make on playing guitar” jam) it is reasonable to assume it was recorded after midnight.

It took Elvis just three takes to achieve the master recording, although it could be said two as the first lasted no more than a few seconds, and another one was in the can. Overdubs were added over two sessions, the first of which on 22 June saw the vocalists added. The vocalists, Jeannie Greene, Mary and Ginger Holliday, Millie Kirkham and Temple Riser worked through a massive thirteen of Elvis’ Nashville masters that day including “Just Pretend”.

The second overdub session on 18 July saw a twenty four piece orchestra, the largest of all these overdub sessions, and a large score arranged by Bergen White and Gene “Cam” Mullins. This orchestra comprised of two trumpets, ten violins, three violas, three cellos, three saxophones, a clarinet, a baritone saxophone and a percussionist. Who needs the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra especially considering “Just Pretend” was part of the “project”??

With all of this in place Elvis placed it on his set list for his next engagement, in Las Vegas, beginning on 10 August 1970, probably as part of an agreement with MGM to include several of his newest recordings for filming of That’s The Way It Is’. Elvis sang it twice during the six shows filmed but then dropped it completely until December 1975 apart from three known outings it received in between. Twice during his next visit to Las Vegas, specifically the midnight shows of 19 and 22 February 1971 before a surprise inclusion during his final show of 1972 in Hawaii on 18 November.

Elvis included the song for one final hurrah during his rearranged December 1975 Las Vegas engagement and it was performed at almost all of the shows before it’s final rendition during the closing show of 15 December.

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