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Thursday, 7 June 2012


Tragically he died far too young and one can only speculate what kind of man he would be were he still with us. Now though Elvis Presley has become a product like any other, but this belies the fact that he did more than most to change the face of what we call popular music.

I was only twelve years old when Presley passed over - and I was something of a fan in those days. I remember one school summer holidays there was a season of Presley movies on BBC1, jammed between the morning cartoons and I think Star Trek. Now as a kid I didn't see anything wrong with those films, admittedly few are watchable as an adult but Presley, unlike all those greasy long haired rockers, seemed an ideal to aim for. And even now, two years older than Presley was when he died, I'm still a fan of most of his early stuff as well as some of his later more assured performances. After all no one could deliver Suspicious Minds the way Presley did. And that first LP, Elvis Presley, is still one of the best rock/blues albums ever pressed.

Buying Presley material today is an awkward things since many albums duplicate tracks from other albums but there are several essential buys for anyone interested in the King. The DVD's Elvis 56 and the 1968 comeback performance are must haves and several of his feature films - King Creole, Jailhouse Rock, Flaming Star and if pushed GI Blues are amazingly good. On the CD front Elvis Presley, Elvis,the 68 show, Elvis Country are excellent. And out of the compilations the current Elvis 75 is a good option though I would plump for the two collections Elvis Number ones and Elvis Second to none as these contain the infectious remixes of A Little Less Conversation and Roustabout.

The tracks he cut with Sun records defined all the music that would follow.

I also think Elvis was a far better actor than he is often given credit - this list of missed opportunities in a badly managed film career sadden me. And it's terrible that for many young people their image of Elvis is the fat, flamboyant performer he became in his later years,  a kind of butch Liberace. It's criminal that he was allowed to continue to perform in 1976-1977 when he was obviously ill. Those around him at the time must have some weight to carry over this.

The Beatles may have eclipsed him musically - Presley never really wrote his own material.Though it can be argued that Elvis had a greater effect on popular culture than the Beatles and the way he delivered those early blues and country standards is still awesome and has never and will never be bettered. Familiarity breeds contempt but try and listen to Heartbreak Hotel, Hound Dog or I got a Woman with fresh ears - there is something magical going on within that voice. 

One of the first Elvis LP I owned was even an Elvis LP proper. It was called Tribute to the King and had some forgotten Elvis sound-alike crooning his greatest hits. Later I got a few of the real LP's and I realised that this was the real thing. In fact I remember having a record player for Christmas one year - one of those with an hinged lid that looked like a suit-case and the three LP's I had with it all came from Woolworths - a tribute to The Beatles, that Elvis sound-alike and Elvis' Christmas Album. You know I still think the Elvis Christmas album is the best Christmas set ever recorded - he slams through Santa Bring me Baby Back and almost cries out Blue Christmas. And whilst Mama Liked the Roses may be vomit inducing it is still a mighty fine holiday album.

God Bless you Elvis Presley

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