Elvis 77: Final Curtain

 

Final Curtain: The Boxed Set

I was lucky enough to have received this set for Christmas and have been overwhelmed with the amazing quality that I looked for the official hologram sticker to keep and had to remind myself it wasn’t an official product!

 

While I haven’t finished reading, listening and watching either, I was impressed and surprised. The image of Elvis as a bloated jump suited parody is far from the reality of 1977.

Elvis’ weight fluctuated with his moods – and again – compared to the average weight of people now, Elvis’ peak weight wouldn’t draw a second glance. He continued to have inspired performances right up to the final show.

I watched the bonus disc of newscasts first and found it interesting to compare the style of news programs then and now.

One thing that was really driven home to me is how much more is known about Elvis than during his lifetime, or maybe how lazy news researchers were to get so many basic facts wrong. Including one newscaster who referred to Priscilla as Elvis’ childhood sweetheart and said Elvis got into recording as a lark when he did a demo at Sun when he was 25!

I have a disc of TV broadcasts from Memphis the week of Elvis’ death and the contrast between the more national broadcast and the local ones is startling. You really can’t watch the Memphis ones without crying in response to the anguish the news casters showed, while the national broadcasters are in that Dirty Laundry mode of not really responding to the terrible news they are informing us of.

But, I think Elvis’ last months of his life and career are as important as the first few months and year of his career – watching Elvis go from struggling to bring a new sound to the world to struggling to just maintain at the end.

Elvis remains so culturally powerful and relevant because his life was one of such dramatic contrasts, that he can stand as a symbol for any meaning or lesson needed to be highlighted – American Dream turned American Nightmare, personal humility with a public image of excess, and perhaps most importantly, an object lesson about managing power.

Elvis, had he maintained control over his career and life, would have had a very different path. More then likely, on his own, he would not have served as a regular soldier, he would have gone the entertainer route. Perhaps even remaining in the US for recruitment campaigns. He also probably would have continued down the Flaming Star/Wild in the Country path of movies and not the Presley musical travelogs.

Elvis, as the biggest celebrity, could have written his own career, but, for really unknown and unclear reasons, instead, he took the path of least resistance and allowed Parker to manage his career and his father to poorly invest his money.

Perhaps this is what the most amazing thing about Elvis was – he was willing to allow other people power regardless of the consequences and cost to himself. That’s a level of selflessness we are not likely to see again.

I think it’s telling that Elvis’ concert riders were a case of a particular brand of bottled water, while other performers at that time and more so now, have pages and pages of demands from Van Halen’s infamous no brown M&Ms, to divas who demand re-painting of dressing rooms, all manner of specific flowers, foods and other over the top demands.

Elvis’ career accomplishments seem to have been in spite of his management, and I have to wonder what more he could have accomplished or how much longer he would have lived, had Elvis wielded the power his talent earned him.

 

Always the Crowd Pleaser

It’s sad to think that maybe it was the unconditional love of his fans that made Elvis desperate to never disappoint us – and perhaps it was that fear that caused him to listen to the powerful appearing Col Parker. Never realizing that it was Elvis’ own power co-opted.

 

Elvis – Book Overview

Elvis Books to have

I have many many many Elvis books ranging from serious biographies, to gossip/tell all, picture books and a lot of in-between.

I started thinking about what books that I would recommend, so here’s my list and I am curious about what books everyone else has read that they would recommend and why.

There may be better ones out there, but I can only go by the 300 books that I own and have read. there’s over 2000 books about Elvis, so I have only made a small dent.

1. Peter Guralnick’s lastTrain to Memphis/Careless Love ( I count these 2 books as one since they are part 1 and 2)

I think this is a well researched and balanced pair of books that provided a lot of insight into the work Elvis put into his career and into the people who helped make – and unmake – him

2. Elaine Dundy’s Elvis and Gladys

Excellent research and detailed accounting of his childhood – one of the first books to really focus on this area – details several controversial subjects in a non-exploitative manner – you got a real sense of the time period and people Elvis came from and a real sense of Gladys as a person

3. Alanna Nash – Elvis and the Colonel

The most important professional relationship Elvis had as well as the most misunderstood and controversial.

Alanna is probably the only biographer of Parker and she digs very deep into his Dutch shadowy past.

Parker was a brilliant promoter who was determined to make Elvis the biggest star and the highest paid – and for many years, Elvis was the top earning singer and actor.

Parker and Elvis had a unique partnership, with Parker having all the business smarts and Elvis having the artistic smarts and neither one really understanding the other. A recipe for a disastrous success.

4. Word by Word – Jerry Osborne

Transcripts of all known Elvis interviews, press conference and public utterances. Even a reproduction of the only public writing Elvis did – an article for Motorcycle Enthusiast magazine in the 1950’s.

5. The Death of Elvis by Charles C Thompson II and James P Cole

This book contains details of the leaked autopsy, interviews with the medical team members, review of what the hospital did and didn’t do – not for the faint of heart

Elvis books to avoid

As for Elvis books to avoid, there’s actually a lot of them. Many Elvis books do little to advance any understanding or analysis of Elvis.

So, rather than specific books, here’s the categories of books that I would recommend avoiding:

1. anything by any member of the Stanley family.

If you’re familiar with Elvis’ story, you pretty much already know why.

If you’re not, the short version is that Davada “Dee” Stanley and her three sons, Bill, David, and Rick Stanley between the four of them have published about 10 books in various combination and solo efforts. Plus a terrible movie, Protecting the King.

In 1980, the four of them penned their first effort Elvis: We Love You Tender.

Dee was quoted to say that it would make the bodyguard book (Elvis What Happened) look like a kindergarten reader.

So, their books and various claims have all been launched from that poison pen.
2. By any woman claiming to have had his child or long term relationship but is unable to provide even a photo of herself with Elvis

Goes without saying – even that Vegas stripper Tempest Storm who claimed a one nighter with Elvis prior to his army induction had a photo with him.

3. Anyone who had a short term association or arms length employee relationship

Yet claims to now want to reveal the true Elvis, set the record straight or make right all the negative rumours.

They generally paint a worse picture of Elvis than the one they claim to be correcting – but really, how would a person who knew him a few months or in a narrow context know him better than people who were regularly around him at work and at play?

And incidentally, these arm’s length folks are pretty much never mentioned in any books by Memphis Mafia guys or serious writers who do research and interviews and put effort into their books.
4. Books by any person who didn’t know Elvis and didn’t do interviews with people who knew him and have no particular training in pop culture or music analysis

They tend based their book on a fantasy relationship and or a mystical connection

A big tip off for books in the third and fourth category is that if the book has photos, they are all publicity photos, concert images or fan taken candids.

Never anything that suggests an actual meeting took place and the writer certainly didn’t take the photo.
Anyways, that’s my rule of thumb for book buying.

On to more reviews!