Thursday, July 15, 2004

Burning Love

Elvis is back in the building today.
Salon's Charles Taylor reviews the DVD release of Presley's December 1968 "comeback" special today. This was a great moment in rock history--first because, as I wrote several years ago, it marked Presley's own attempt to resurrect Rockin' Elvis, the 50s persona that joined the Army, never came back, and was quickly replaced by Movie Elvis. It's a great moment second because it represented a small assertion of independence from Colonel Tom Parker. Parker, in his classic do-the-minimum-because-people-will-buy-it mode, wanted Elvis to sing some Christmas songs on a bare stage, and he opposed the inclusion of the song Elvis chose for the finale, "If I Can Dream," fearing its brotherhood message might offend some of the customers. Thankfully, Parker lost both battles. (The more you read about Presley's life, the more you realize that blame for the cheapness and triviality that characterized so much of his work must be laid at Parker's door.) And it's a great moment third because it signaled a brief renaissance in Elvis' career--not long after, he'd start making records in Memphis again, and some of them would be among the best of his career. The one Elvis record I would keep if I could only keep one comes out of this period: "Suspicious Minds."
In his review, Taylor notes that Elvis is "impossibly beautiful." I remember sitting in a darkened theater at the visitor's center across from Graceland, watching a short biographical film of Elvis. Midway through, a brief clip from one of his early black-and-white movies came on, a head shot, filling the screen. Instantly, I thought, "My God, that's the most beautiful man I've ever seen"--which was a surprising-enough revelation to have, and never mind what came next: the realization that I'd had it, a powerful, visceral reaction to the physical attractiveness of another man.  The net effect was to squash me back into my chair like I was in an airplane pulling multiple G's .
But just so you don't start wondering about me, let me point to the current cover of Vogue, which features a three-generation Presley photo on the cover: Priscilla, Lisa Marie, and Lisa Marie's daughter Riley Keough. Yowsah. That smoldering look has made it down to another generation. Book it, Riley: Damn few people can say Grandma looks that good.
(RCA Records #74-0769, chart peak #2, October 28, 1972)


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