Totally disagree with this review. It was a great film and succeeded in its aim: to reclaim Elvis from the self-parody he had become. To boot, it had an Oedipal mom, ineffectual dad, tyrant dad. Shakespeareanly tragic. See it for the ending, if for nothing else.
We all remember fat Elvis at the end, and the hokey movies of the sixties. I think to begin to understand Elvis’s appeal you have to go all the way back. No doubt he brought great sexuality to his performances but easily overlooked is the voice. Here’s a 1950s recording of “That’s Alright Mama”. The guy had a great voice.
Elvis did have a fantastic voice, one that could go convincingly from being a hunk of burning love to someone crying in the chapel. He may have had blue suede shoes but he didn’t have a wooden heart.
I clearly remember hearing of his death. I was pushing a trolley down the endless isle of a sparkling, sterile new supermarket when they broke into the muzak with the news announcement. We all stopped, stood – they started playing Are you Lonesome Tonight, and I think we all wanted to cry.
“As for his influence on today’s major artists, only Jack White and, arguably, Eminem have a clear debt to Elvis”
What about Bruno Mars?
Crying in the Chapel is my favourite Elvis song of all. Two years ago I bought an Elvis Sings Gospel CD as a kind of “post modern joke” thinking it would be all cheesy and yukky. What a laugh! But it’s beautiful. He sings a load of Faith Songs,many very old,a few more contemporary,not only very well but with complete and obvious sincerity. I play it a lot. OK so his faith didn’t make him a Perfect Person but it was real for sure and a lot of us find the gap between how we should be and how we are very wide.
I was a little kid when Elvis was The King. It was my big sister who had “Elvis” and “Cliff” scratched into her school pencil case lid. They got equal top billing. Elvis had SO MUCH TALENT but it all got ignored and dissipated by such BAD management. Now we wonder why didn’t Elvis just stand up to his “manager” and demand his passport. But Elvis grew up in a world we’ve forgotten and only some older than me even glimpsed. A world where good manners and respect were drilled into you. Everyone of note who met Elvis in the 1960s,like say Joyce Grenfell,remarked how polite he was,in that charming American way. The thing is those rock and roll rebels weren’t really so outrageous as the media,at it back then too,hyped them up to be. Now it’s good that artists are more shrewd and have access to lawyers ( the words criminal and lawyer fit together so well).
Elvis had great acting ability and his career could have been developed that way but sadly he was kept making dross for the rest of his life,and he knew it,which is even sadder. Just my take on the tragedy of Elvis. Its like a Greek tragedy really. They say you should never get what you wish for.
I have always thought the lack of current/new fans of Elvis is due to his rather spotty albums. If your parents were Beatles fans and you get curious about the Beatles and randomly grab a Beatles album to check out, it is a good record. If you do the same with Elvis and grab one of his lame soundtrack albums, or one of his patchwork latter albums, the potential young fan is going to wonder what mom and dad see in this guy. For whatever reason Elvis threw away what could have been some of his most creative years. The copyright requirements if he recorded one of your songs kept top songwriters away. Touring with overblown bands, do you really need two groups of background singers?, playing mostly lame covers and rushing through your greatest hits, makes it seem as if he almost learned nothing from the 68 comeback. His legacy is bottom heavy in forgettable releases, and as a result new fans are tough to foster.
Several solid points in your observations. His early music was much more compelling and brought a new fresh approach to the blend of R&B and country. Later material was much less inspiring.
Most of the uninitiated will surely check out one of Elvis’s compilation albums of hits, of which there are a several to choose from, rather than a studio release. The remix of ‘A Little Less Conversation’ was a massive hit, as was the hits collection of that time, along with a string of singles re-releases. So whilst it is natural for the popularity of artists to wane as decades go by, Elvis can certainly be repackaged and remain commercially viable for new generations.
True, but he released plenty of terrific albums: Elvis Presley, Elvis (1956), For LP Fans Only, A Date With Elvis, the 2 Xmas and 3 gospel albums, the 4 golden record volumes, Elvis Is Back!, From Elvis in Memphis, the 68 comeback special soundtrack, From Memphis to Vegas…, Elvis in Person…, Elvis Country, On Stage, That’s The Way it Is, Today, Promised Land… Even some of the movie soundtracks, like GI Blues, are pretty good. More great records than the Beatles (let’s face it, their later albums are patchy too, like the White Album and Abbey Road), or other rock acts who focused more on cohesive album releases, often with pretentious concepts. But then if you release 60-odd albums in your career then there are obviously going to be some which are more throwaway or patchy, especially when he was going through the motions or in the doldrums. For me it seems an extraordinary legacy, especially when he wasn’t even primarily an ‘albums’ artist, and current pop acts might release one album as a supposedly defining statement every four or five years.
He’s been dead 45 years and many of the early fans are also now dead. I suspect it’s as simple as that. Let’s see if Elton John is outperforming him on Spotify in another 45.
I was going to say Elvis has never been a gay icon is just not Queer enough for the present epoch. Then I thought it prudent to to Google my hypothesis first, and immediately found..
“Elberace (Gay Elvis): A Hunk of Mincing Love – James Haslam’s queer cabaret subverts and disrupts the hetero- and cis- dominated world of Elvis Tribute Acts (ETAs).” (https://www.gayelvis.com/)
Not a great start to my week. The King would be rolling (and rocking) in his grave..
I’ll tell you how we “forgot” Elvis… It’s just post-Elvis generations 😀 My mum hasn’t forgotten Elvis (she was born in the 50s) I was born in ’84 so Elvis has always been very much on the periphery of my lived experience and I am very much not interested. I imagine anyone born in the 2000s would potentially know of him but for obvious reasons just wouldn’t care unless very invested in music history…
Yes, I was born in the 70s, I never understood why Elvis was famous, he just seemed like a relic. He still does.
Disagree with all your points and think that the movie showed how talented, how revolutionary, how talented,in fact, exceptional, Elvis was and how much his upbringing influenced both his character and music.
Was Elvis the ultimate Elvis impersonator? His 1968 comeback refers, I think, to an individual song he sang that was a tribute, not a direct tribute though, to Martin Luther King: a song that he sang live on national television that was watched by tens of millions of people; an original, quite wonderful and moving song that was, I believe, written for him by a black artist; a song that may have only come around because Elvis had ventured to suggest how he might respond to the events he would have watched on television and in particular the assassination of MLK; a song that Elvis knew he could especially sing as some sort of healing moment. He surely struck timely a nerve: some kind of reset button that only a mere thing like a song in its own small way could. The evidence for that? I don’t know. I watched a documentary on Elvis, late at night, just last week and so much of what I watched is partially hazy. I only caught it from a third of the way in, from that 1968 event. But the evidence for that song he sang live on TV (the title of which I don’t recall; did I ever recall it? I made tea, swatted a fly, looked at my stupid phone while the doc was on: does Elvis not deserve anyone’s full attention today?), but the evidence for that song he sang striking some kind of chord in Americans nationwide was the recognition immediately after that he had made a riveting and unexpected comeback. Perhaps where there was instant love for him, there was also instant dislike for him, also. Did Elvis, from the South, ever detect resentment against him? At the end of the Sixties? Did he take a little risk by singing that song on television as he did in 1968? Did he ever wonder if some Americans might have, having watched him sing it, vehemently shouted at their TV sets: “Who does he think he is?” Was Elvis too sensitive a soul? As another commenter on this thread alludes to, the media of Elvis’s time may well have been very adept at glossing over the good manners, the charming politeness and respect that a lot of young men like Elvis would have been brought up with. If Elvis was more sensitive than most, then that make-up he carried with him through to 1968. Perhaps Elvis had the biggest trouble of all Elvis impersonators when he had to, when it later mattered, strive to impersonate himself: his true charismatic, talented, magnetic self. How the world today could do with such a great artist and entertainer today! Did Elvis’s comeback period only last from 1968 to 1970? In truth? Before the Las Vegas merry-go-round took its toll? I’ll watch the new movie with interest now. I hope it does not rush past the 1950s just to get to the cooler 60s and 70s. The 1950s is viewed today as a strait-laced decade. Which is why Elvis was so important if anything. But the man was very talented, musically, yes.
I enjoyed reading the above article.
I can’t cop Baz World. Dorian is right to call them music film clips, but worse, they are boring. I’ll probably watch Elvis, but my expectations will be low.
“As I left the cinema, exhausted…”
Thats what put me off – 2 hours and 40 minutes (plus adverts and trailers) – too much!
“This is Spinal Tap” was a glorious 88 minutes.
Memo to modern directors: “Cut it down!”
A bit more context about Elvis and the passage of generations and their idols into history is appropriate. From Gary Giddins’ book Bing Crosby: A Pocket Full of Dreams: “Four of the last century’s most treasured singers died in quick succession in the late summer and fall of 1977: Elvis Presley on August 16, Ethel Waters on September 1, Maria Callas on September 16, and Bing Crosby on October 14. All were American-born and all were celebrated beyond the idioms with which they are primarily associated. Of them, Bing’s stature seemed especially secure: his obituaries triggered so many records sales that MCA (Decca) could not handle the orders and farmed them out to other plants, requiring more than a million discs per day. Yet on the twentieth anniversary of their deaths, only Elvis’s memory was widely acknowledged in mass media.”
The fan base dies, and those in control of the media etc promote what they grew up with and that has sales potential. Elvis remains part of the rock mythology/hagiography, and so is subject of a major motion picture. Of the others, sadly barely a trace is to be found.
As for Baz, I suffered through his ugly mess of a Gatsby and consequently will give his Elvis a pass.
In Tennessee we still have Elvis license plates. They’re a specialty plate. It’s like an extra 50 bucks to get one. They’re pretty rare. Dolly plates outsell Elvis 50 to 1.
Not seen the film and always felt Elvis was overrated having been born when Elvis was in the army. .If had been born in a different era would anyone see him as much better than Shakin Stevens.At least Billy Idol could claim to write his own songs and have ideas for great videos
Elvis must have influenced Jim Morrison.And one wonders if he would have gone into rock without Elvis’s influence as Morrison always wanted to be really a poet and film director.
I actually have read books by the 2 rock critics mentioned in the article Grail Marcus and the late Lester Bangs – both great writers despite what they rate in music often misses me.Bangs might have been the best prose writer of his generation whilst Marcus is full of interesting insights.