Why Elvis remains the bar…

Elvis was and remains many things to many people – the rebel rocker, the celluloid sellout, the patriotic soldier, the Comeback King and the Vegas Jumpsuit Guy.

And, he was all this and much much more.

In some forums, non-Elvis fans often insist that Elvis has no relevance or influence on today’s musicians.

I guess the question is – if Musician C is influenced by Musician B – who was in turn influenced by Musician A – isn’t C also therefor influenced by A?

Major Elvis fans:

Roy Orbison, Buddy Holly,  Jimi Hendrix, Bob Dylan, Led Zep, Rolling Stones, Bruce Springsteen, Beatles…..and many more

Singers today in 2009 still use the Elvis template for their careers – get famous singing in a specific genre, then try to mainstream your appeal by acting and ultimately singing more mainstream music.

So far, no other singers have managed to do it half as well as Elvis.

As for being a Vegas Lounge act, I will strongly disagree with this assessment.

Lounge acts are background noise, they are a supplemental to the casinos, a mild but not compelling diversion and in terms of money, a throw away – not what people are coming to see.

Elvis never toured or performed as a 50′s nostalgia act.


He didn’t recreated his early days, when he did his earlier songs, they had different musical arrangements and were generally done as medleys.

His stage wear in the 70′s was very different from his 50′s clothes – and this 70′s stage wear was largely copied by the major teen idols of the day – David Cassidy, the Osmonds, Leif Garret and even the Jackson 5 wore jumpsuits

When Vegas had headliners, it was the gamblers in Vegas who went to the show.

After Elvis became a headliner there, he was the point of the travel – Vegas’ hotels filled and when his shows were on, the casino’s emptied.

Elvis remade Vegas into a vacation destination that mere gambling couldn’t do.

I am not saying that everything Elvis did was gold

I am not saying ever song, every concert was perfect.

Elvis did become a parody of himself. Elvis was for several stretches of time not at the top and sometimes, not even relevant to the times.

But he remains very relevant to pop culture and to the way the entertainment business works.

Before Elvis, singles were the standard and if you were good enough – an EP – a 45 with 4 songs instead of the regular 2. Maybe an LP collecting your singles and some lesser album tracks would be released.

Elvis was the second singer to sell a million of a single, but the first to do so with consecutive single releases. He was the first one to have a single who’s A and B sides raced each other up the charts – Hound Dog/Don’t Be Cruel.

With Elvis, the studio discovered they could endlessly repack the same songs on singles, EPs, LPs, Gold Hits Collections – and to this day, 50+ years later there’s endless repackages of his top 40 hits.

Elvis – without advertising – sells catalog sales in greater numbers than many touring musical acts in 2009. He’s topped the dead celebrity earning list for all but 2 years it’s been produced – and his earnings often top the top earning living celebs.

So, Elvis changed the way music was released – and how funny that we’ve come full circle back to singles with the advent of digital downloads.

Elvis also changed Hollywood – before Elvis, actors didn’t get a piece of the back end profits. Sadly, Elvis never demanded script approval – a standard long before he was making movies.

But his films stand up against any other star vehicle of the time.

And seriously, what is 8 Mile other than an update to Loving You?

He had several comebacks in his career, and had he lived, he would have continued to do so.

Elvis was a thoroughbred horse who was for most of his career used to cart hay to the stables for the other horses.

His movies were used to fund more lofty films.

His record sales to underwrite developing other artists.

And it’s for this reason that he has not ever been given his artistic due.

No artist from the mid 60′s onward would let themselves be used as Elvis was.

He churned out 3 movies a year, with 3 soundtracks and 1 non-soundtrack movie through the sixties.

From 1956 to 1977, he put out 68 long play albums and hundreds of singles and EPs.

Between 1969 and 1977, he did over 1000 concerts, often one night after the other – and twice on Sundays.

Especially when he was in Vegas – sometimes there was an afternoon mantinee, a dinner show and a midnight show.

No other artist would do three concerts in a day.

Artists today take 3 years in between albums and often don’t tour – relying on videos for promotion.

To summarize with another horse analogy, Elvis was rode hard and put away wet.

Elvis remains the bar that others try – and fail – to measure up to.