Elvis - 30 years on ... and the world turns ...

By: Mark Cunliffe
Source: Elvis Australia
August 16, 2007 - 10:00:00 AM
Elvis Articles, By Mark Cunliffe


It's hard to believe but here we are, 30 years on from a day carved indelibly in the memory of every Elvis fan old enough to be around when the stunning news of Elvis' death was announced.

30 years gone, but paradoxically, 30 years where he has been with us ever more visibly and all encompassingly than when he lived.

Today Elvis is bigger and more entrenched in popular culture and conscience than back in 1977, when his legendary status was acknowledged but barely understood by the world at large. Today Elvis' iconic status and continued relevance is universally acknowledged. It's not just Elvis fans commemorating this 30th anniversary, not just the native English speaking countries of the world. Today the whole world joins us in remembering Elvis Presley, universally acknowledging him as the King. From USA, UK, East and Western Europe, South America, to Thailand, Japan and down to Australia, the media coverage is pan global and prolific. Today, the world commemorates and celebrates the living legend that is Elvis Presley.

And yet today's view of Elvis is so different from that of 30 years ago.

Indeed it is so different from even 10 years ago.

And the Elvis world itself has changed too, beyond all recognition in fact. Today, on the 30th anniversary, it's perhaps a good time to reflect on how things have changed over the last 30 years.

Another time, another place: a personal perspective of history

To understand just how monumental a perception change has taken place we need to go back to how things were in 1977. When Elvis died I was a 14 year old teenager living in a rurally remote part of the U.K. Getting up to date news of Elvis was limited. We had the bible of Elvis - the Jerry Hopkins biography of the King, and more recent information could be got via reading the fan publications Elvis Monthly and Elvisly Yours in WH Smiths (but not purchasing them). It was only once the tabloids (The Sun and The Daily Mirror principally), after years of ignoring Elvis, suddenly found in 1977 that pictures and stories of fat Elvis sold papers, that the worrying stories of Elvis' eating habit and health problems started to appear on a regular basis.

Elvis was still hitting the pop charts with regularity. Suspicion and Girl of My Best Friend had been released as singles and had climbed high in the UK pop charts, as had Moody Blue (memorably danced to by Pans People on BBC's Top of the Pops) and Way Down (Way Down shooting to number 1 apon his death). If people had an Elvis album, it tended to be the releases of the budget Camden Record label (these were still austere times compared to now), and if records stores stocked any Elvis album, it was a mere handful.

Greatest hits and best of albums were a rarity.

Our exposure to Elvis film footage was cutesy of the BBC, principally through their broadcasting of the 68 Comeback Special, That's The Way It Was, and the Aloha Special, and the screenings of many of Elvis' movies in the kiddies morning time slot during the school holidays. The video player was still a new thing, and if Elvis VHS videos cassettes existed, they were not readily available.

Being an Elvis fan back then was not such a great thing amongst our peer groups.

Teenagers like my older sister were dismissive of Elvis, preferring the hard rock of Led Zeppelin and Deep Purple, and if older music was listened to it was that of the Beatles and Beach Boys and their ilk.

Class mates were more into the current bands and stars.

To admit being an Elvis fan invited scorn and ridicule, and even occasional sympathy at such poor judgment.

And yet, there was something about Elvis that touched people, whether fans or not. Whether fan or not most people remember where we were when we heard Elvis was dead. I myself was in bed trying to sleep when my mum popped her head around the door and told me that it had just been announced at the end of the ITN Ten O Clock News that Elvis was dead. It was hard to believe.

Following Elvis' death

Shortly after Elvis'death the Elvis in Concert CBS Special was screened. Elvis was clearly overweight but mesmerizing. The newspaper serialization of Elvis 'What Happened?' provided weeks of detailed exposure into a life hitherto unknown. For years after, the contents of the 'What Happened' book set the tone of any coverage of the King and the fat Elvis of 1977 came to personify 1970's Elvis in a negative way in the popular conscious. Jumpsuit Elvis came to epitomize his decline and much of his musical legacy and contribution to 20th century popular culture remained under-valued, and in many cases, unrecognized by the population at large. Elvis remained unfashionable especially amongst the young.

The Rise and Rise of the King

This state of affairs may have continued but for the emergence of Ernst Jorgensen, who together with Roger Simon, systematically set out to preserve, restore and re-establish the musical legacy of Elvis. The success of their endeavors was to be the catalyst for transforming the way Elvis was viewed, although other factors also came together to aid this. The release of The King of Rock N Roll: The Complete 50's masters box set got the ball rolling. Reviews in popular musical publications such as the influential Q magazine set the tone, with 5 stars ratings and awed respect being given to body of work the box set contained.

Such sentiments were echoed in mainstream newspaper and youth lifestyle magazines.

The follow up box sets of From Nashville to Memphis: The Essential 60's Masters, Walk a Mile in My Shoes: The Essential 70's Masters, Elvis in Las Vegas, Elvis: Close Up, Platinum: A Life in Music all got widespread media coverage and highly positive reviews. Almost imperceptivity, popular opinion on Elvis started to change. Acknowledging the genius and beauty of Elvis' music not only became acceptable, it became de rigueur. At last Elvis work was being seen for what it was. Masterful, inspired, moving and invigorating to soul and spirit.

Elvis was back, and now it wasn't just die hard fans exulting his god like status.

That change in status was confirmed and advanced when Nike used the remix of A Little Less Conversation in their global football advert. When Elvis: 30 number 1 hits was released a new generation in the world was ready to embrace the King and the CD sold millions.

The King Lives

Today, Elvis is more alive than ever. He has a cd release schedule that dwarfs anything that was ever released while he was alive. It also buries the release schedule of the global stars of today

Back in 1977 the numerous greatest hits, love songs, live collections simply didn't exist. In the UK, Arcades 40 Greatest Hits was really just the beginning. The Camden Records series did pull together songs from one or more movies, and the Legendary Performer series was beginning to accommodate fans desire for collections of rarer material. Compare this with what Elvis material is now available 30 years on and how it is packaged and there is simply no comparison. Boxed sets, book sets, dgi fold with booklets, dvd's containing 20 plus songs, compilations that cover off every theme and stage of Elvis career, plus the tremendous availability of alternative takes and rare concert performances by the Follow That Dream Label. In short, compared to the desert of material available in 1977, today we're drowning in Elvis releases and CDs!

And it's not just CDs. Look at all the DVD releases. Not just the celebrated 68 Comeback Special and Aloha Special Editions, or the That's The Way It Is Special Edition. There seems to be hundreds of Elvis DVDs available, a stark contract to 1977 when viewing Elvis at home via VHS video tape was not an option. Back then, one was totally reliant on what was broadcast on terrestrial TV to get to see Elvis in the 'flesh'.

As for print media, there are now hundreds of books about Elvis that are available.

And new ones seem to get released every other week. The content of the book range from respectable biographies, reminisces from friends and family, books of photo's, to detailed investigations and profiles of specific parts of his life and career. Compare that to 1977 when what was generally available could be counted on one hand (indeed one finger in my own case!). You also get good coverage of all things Elvis in the newspapers today, and not just the tabloids as it was back in 1977. The broadsheets are just as prolific in their coverage and certainly provide more depth (check out the Daily Telegraph (UK), The Times (UK), Herald Sun (Australia) newspaper websites now to see the extensive pre-coverage of Elvis' 30th anniversary).

Most newspapers will be doing something to highlight Elvis' 30th anniversary.

The biggest difference though is the emergence of the internet.

And in this medium, compared to all other stars in the world, Elvis is King. The proliferation of the personal computer (both at work and at home) and the emergence of the internet as a prime means of communication and information have changed the Elvis landscape forever. Countless Elvis websites have sprung up providing a wealth of information and news on a scale unimaginable back in 1977.

You get more Elvis news in a week online than you used to get in a year back in 1977 before Elvis died.

And it's not just news that's available.

An unbelievable wealth of Elvis products is readily available from cds, dvd's, books, clothes to other memorabilia. and the You tube phenomena has produced a staggering collection of Elvis clips and footage, many not available from official Elvis releases. What's more, official Elvis Presley fan clubs from around the globe reach their member via their websites, making them and what they offer so much more accessible.

King of the Whole Wide World

With the high volume of CD, DVD and book releases, the regular flow of Elvis news from sites like Elvis Australia, and the prominent level of coverage Elvis gets in mainstream media it's sometimes difficult to remember that Elvis is actually dead. Indeed, in many ways Elvis is more alive today than he ever was.

Today, on the 30th Anniversary of his death, it has never been better to be an Elvis fan. The mesmerizing magic of Elvis and the world's fascination with him is stronger than ever. His music and contribution to popular culture is readily acknowledged and recognized, and the most amazing array of Elvis products and information are available. The stigma at being a fan is greatly diminished and everywhere there seems to be people willing to admit a fondness for his music. Indeed, with the younger generation he is cool once again.

The 30th Anniversary celebrations, centered on Graceland, will be a media event across the globe. It'll feature as a news item across most print and television media, and in many countries, the opportunity to broadcast special programs on Elvis and reshow some of his movies and concerts will be taken. It'll be viewed with interest by existing fans and undoubtedly draw new fans into the fold.

And what of the future? What of the next 30 years?

Both Elvis and the Elvis industry have come along way since 1977. Undoubtedly in the next 30 years Elvis reputation will continue to grow. His legendary status is now secured and his ability to touch people's hearts and souls is unlikely to diminish short term. There's something about Elvis that was and remains special, in a way no other entertainer or personality can or will be. Colonel Tom Parker, back in 1956, realized one fundamental truth when he actively sought out opportunities to get Elvis the wider exposure RCA, television and movies would deliver. Expose Elvis to an audience and Elvis would do the rest. This hasn't changed. Whenever people see Elvis they are touched and moved in away that defies explanation. The millions of fans Elvis has and his high presence in today's popular conscience is testament to that.

So, today on Elvis 30th anniversary that is much to celebrate and look forward to. Elvis has been resurrected and embraced by a world that has finally seen the light. The world is now ready to join with us in commemorating the most extraordinary charismatically talented entertainer this planet has ever produced, or indeed, will ever produce. Thirty years after his death, how the world has turned.

Elvis - 30 years ago and now

A brief summary of the main changes and developments since Elvis' death.

Then

Now

Known to the world as

Elvis Presley

Elvis

Title associated with Elvis

The King of Rock and Roll

The King

The Elvis in demand

1950's rock n roll rebel

1970's jumpsuit King

Songs Elvis most closely associated with

Songs from his early music

A mix of songs from his early music and 1970's music

Elvis in the pop singles charts

Continued to achieve respectable chart positions throughout the 1970's.

His 4 single releases of 1977 (Suspicion, Girl Of My Best Friend, Moody Blue, Way Down) all rose high in the UK charts. Way Down went to number 1 after death.

Still making an impact.

The remix of A Little Less Conversation went to number 1, the re-release as cd singles of Elvis 18 number 1's on successive weeks in 2005 secured Elvis UK chart positions for 4 months, with 3 getting to number 1 and 14 rising to the top 5.

This week, a further 18 singles that didn't get to number 1 first time around are being released, one a week, in the UK.

HMV are also releasing a CD of My Baby Left Me with a cd video clip of Elvis performing live at the afternoon Tupelo show in 1956.

Media coverage

Limited

Extensive

- Newspaper

Tabloid - with focus on weight and eating habits

Post death extensive focus on What Happened revelations.

Serializations of What Happened, and other books exposing various aspects of Elvis' life.

Tone: gossip and salacious

Tabloid and broadsheet. Focus on musical achievements, enduring popular success, fan pilgrimages to Graceland and Tupelo.

Paper and internet medium.

Reviews of new cd and dvd releases.

Tone : respectful and factual

- Magazines

Fan magazines such as Elvis Monthly and Elvisly Yours

Music magazines like Q and youth lifestyle magazines increasingly profiling Elvis. CD/DVD releases getting extensive positive coverage.

Fan magazines now available on internet rather than high street.

- TV

Terrestrial broadcasts during 1970's of 68 Special, TTWII, Aloha From Hawaii plus movies

Repeated broadcasts of 68 Special, TTTII, Aloha From Hawaii plus movies, documentaries, tribute shows, items in news broadcasts.

- Radio

Some air play, mainly on shows playing 'old' music

Occasional air play.
Devoted internet radio channels.

- Dvd/video

Nothing available

Virtually everything available on dvd (bar On Tour and CBS Special), plus continuing re-releases with additional features.

Wide range of footage of Elvis in performance available on fan websites and You Tube

Release of Special Editions with additional footage continues.

Still some footage from TTWII and On Tour that has not be officially released (but available on bootleg)

Fan footage from concerts increasingly available.

- Internet

Not in existence

King of the Internet.

Countless fan web sites, fan news websites, product websites.

Good coverage on internet newspaper websites especially in build up to 30th Anniversary.

EPE website

Records/cd's

Limited availability

Wide availability of budget compilations (e.g. Camden Records)

Limited greatest hits/ best of compilations (Arcade 40 Greatest springs to mind as being the only one?)

Very limited alternative recordings available (the Legendary Performer series was just starting to make some of these available)

No remastered re-releases

Limited album releases 1977 (Moody Blue)

4 single releases pre death (Suspicion, Girl Of My Best Friend, Moody Blue, Way Down)

No fans label

No boxed sets / compilations

Wide availability on internet and in high street retail stores

Some budget compilations plus original albums

Extensive greatest hits/best of packages covering all parts of musical legacy

Extensive availability of alternative recordings through mainstream releases and the Follow That Dream label

Comprehensive re-mastering to maximize sound and production values

Prolific annual album release schedule, both mainstream and Follow That Dream label

This week, 18 singles that didn't get to number 1 first time around are being released as CD singles, one a week, in the U.K.

HMV are also releasing a CD of My Baby Left Me with a cd video clip of Elvis performing live at the afternoon Tupelo show in 1956.

Dedicated fan label (Follow That Dream) with high release schedule

Countless boxed sets

Elvis merchandise

Limited availability, mainly through fan publications

Extensive availability, predominantly via internet such as Elvis Australia's online shop.

Books

Limited to the Elvis biography by Jerry Hopkins.

'What Happened?' published shortly after Elvis would set the tone for a succession of books focusing on the more salacious aspects of Elvis life.

Extensive, both mainstream release and fan releases.

Career overviews plus books that focus on specific part of Elvis career and life. Countless books from Elvis' personal friends and family and many photo album style books.

Commemorating Elvis' death

Good media coverage of Elvis' death and funeral.

An annual event at Graceland initially marked buy only fans.

Today, 30 years later, a global event, with the fans homage a trigger for media of all type to celebrate all things Elvis.

Standing in popular culture

An identification with the beginning of teen culture but little more.

More deeply engrained and encompassing than ever. Elvis simply is.

Elvis Presley Article More articles by Mark Cunliffe

Specially for the 30th Anniversary ;

Elvis Presley Article Why Elvis? By Paul Simpson
Elvis Presley Article Elvis Presley - 30 Years On and Still The King By David Troedson
Elvis Presley Article A personal Presley pilgrimage By Scott Jenkins
Elvis Presley Review Elvis Presley & The Events of 1977 By David Troedson

Elvis Presley Article Interview with Lisa Marie Presley
Elvis Presley Article Father and Daughter Together Again
Elvis Presley Article Married at 21, Priscilla Presley Recalls Her Time With Elvis


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Elvis Presley Video Tupelo's Own Elvis Presley DVD

Tupelo's Own Elvis Presley DVD + 16 page booklet.

Never before have we seen an Elvis Presley concert from the 1950's with sound. Until Now! The DVD Contains recently discovered unreleased film of Elvis performing 6 songs, including Heartbreak Hotel and Don't Be Cruel, live in Tupelo Mississippi 1956. Included we see a live performance of the elusive Long Tall Sally seen here for the first time ever.

This is an excellent release no fan should be without it.

The 'parade' footage is good to see as it puts you in the right context with color and b&w footage. The interviews of Elvis' Parents are well worth hearing too. The afternoon show footage is wonderful and electrifying : Here is Elvis in his prime rocking and rolling in front of 11.000 people. Highly recommended.