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Sunday, 13 August 2017

The Saddest story ever told - Elvis Presley: 40 years dead and still bringing in the bucks

This week marks 40 years since Elvis Presley died an inglorious death in the admittedly plush toilet of his Graceland home. That the little boy's room within which Elvis drew his last breath may have been the height of lavatorial splendour matters not, for he still died in the bog. What a sad end for a legend that still burns bright (arguably burns brighter then ever) today. Elvis was just 42 years of age.

The official cause of death was heart attack, but it has since become clear that it was a lethal cocktail of prescription drugs that killed the King of Rock and Roll -

 'The painkillers Morphine and Demerol.Chloropheniramine, an antihistamine.
The tranquilizers Placidyl and Valium.Finally, four drugs were found in "significant" quantities: Codeine, an opiate, Ethinamate, largely prescribed at the time as a "sleeping pill," Quaaludes, and a barbituate, or depressant, that has never been identified.




I was 12 years old when Elvis died - I can still remember the report coming over the television, what I was doing at the time. They say everyone can remember where they were when they heard President Kennedy had been assassinated, well the  King was my generation's Kennedy. Everyone remembers what they were doing when the news broke of Elvis Presley's sad and untimely passing. And now 40 years later in 2017, the ripples that young man made back in the mid 1950's, when he visited Sun Records to cut his first disc are still being felt today. These days Elvis fandom sometimes borders on the absurd; there are some people that even worship the man and attend one of the many Churches of Elvis...I kid you not..

When auditors looked into Elvis Presley's finances after his death they were shocked to find that his total worth was less than 10 million dollars -  and yet in his lifetime he'd generated many hundreds of millions. To put this into perspective when John Lennon died he left more than a hundred and fifty million dollars...then again Lennon's finances were being looked after by Yoko Ono, the daughter of a Japanese banker, while Elvis had old carnie Tom Parker in charge of his money. Of course Elvis has made much much more since his death - in 2016, an album of Elvis songs backed by The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra sold over a million copies. In fact it is estimated that now, 40 years after his death, Elvis pulls in over $50 million a year for his estate.

"There are now at least 85,000 Elvis’s around the world, compared to only 170 in 1977 when Elvis died. At this rate of growth, experts predict that by 2019 Elvis impersonators will make up a third of the world population."

The quote above, although intended humorously does make a good point - Elvis Presley continues to touch people's lives, even today. But amongst all this ridiculous nonsense, the jump suited middle aged men (and women) who claim to channel the spirit of Presley into their performance it is often forgotten just how groundbreaking Elvis truly was. His first album, 1956's Elvis Presley, is still an incredible listen and remains one of the finest rock albums every recorded.

The Elvis Presley industry is kind of distasteful - like a rock and roll Disneyland, and it's all about the money, not the sublime artist who actually drives it. Though in fairness his back catalogue has been given some respect with some great box sets available - every fan needs to own the 50's, 60's and 70's sets that came out from RCA several years back.

For all the heights in the Presley story there are so many missed opportunities - if only he'd given Tom Parker the elbow, if only he'd taken a few years off mid-seventies, if only he'd continued in the vein of his excellent 1968 comeback performance, if only he'd recorded a pure blues album, if he'd made less of those corny movies and actually paid attention to what he was recording in the studio.

You know I'm a fan, always have been and always will be, and whenever I think of the Elvis Presley story I realise that for all the fame, all the riches, it is actually one of the saddest stories ever told.

Rock on Elvis Presley.



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