Monday, August 20, 2012

Elvis lives

click photo to enlarge
“He was the firstest with the mostest.” said of Elvis Presley by Roy Orbison (1936-1988) U.S. singer and songwriter

There are many who would agree with Roy Orbison's words. For musicians, the music business and teenagers in the 1950s and early 1960s Elvis Presley was the biggest name and the game changer in popular music. He was the creator of a new sound, a new image and a new status for the popular singer. With hindsight it's clear that Elvis was part of a continuum of musical change and absorption that fused aspects of country music with facets of rhythm and blues. But if you were a teenager growing up with the radio and the jukebox as your source of new music Elvis was simply the artiste who swept away the old and heralded the new.

From my perspective, as a teenager in the second half of the 1960s, Elvis was a clear, important and strong influence on the music that I liked. Perhaps that accounts for my feeling that his best music dates from his 1954 versions of "That's Alright" and "Blue Moon of Kentucky" through to 1963's "Devil in Disguise". Thereafter, for me, the songs were much weaker; more mainstream ballads than rock and roll, and sometimes downright awful. His ventures into films, though commercially very successful, left me unmoved. In fact, his career path through the second half of the 1960s to the time of his death in 1977 followed that of many pop singers - general decline with the occasional peak, and a future in live performance rather than sales of hit records - but with the exception that his audiences remained massive and his records continued to sell better than most.

And that brings me to the enigma of Elvis: why he continued to receive such adulation, not only in the latter part of his career, but even after his death. Everything connected with Elvis has sold for decades, and continues to do so. His house became something of a shrine. People refused to believe he was dead. There were numerous reports of "sightings" after he had died. And people still display their allegiance to this long departed singer even now in 2012, thirty five years after his death. His followers are greater in numbers and more adoring of his achievements than those of any other long gone popular musician. It's hard to think of another who has received devotion anything like that accorded to Elvis. Today's photograph shows a fan declaring his allegiance at the recent Boston Classic Car Club Show in Kirton, Lincolnshire.

One of the non-musical characteristics of Elvis that I liked was his self-deprecation. In an interview he said, with only a touch of overstatement: "I don't know anything about music. In my line you don't have to." What's not to like about a major star who can be so ingenuous!

photograph and text © Tony Boughen

Camera: Canon
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 65mm
F No: f7.1
Shutter Speed: 1/125 sec
ISO: 100
Exposure Compensation:  -1.0 EV
Image Stabilisation: On