Saturday, October 6, 2012


I was not going to even mention this title, it is really not worth mentioning, but, hey, its been a slow month for Elvis-related news and, frankly, this book cover had me laughing my ass off.  I thought these kinds of ridiculously tawdry titles (Elvis! The Mob!! MURDER!!!!), full of outlandish, unverifiable claims, weren't even published in this day and age. 

The lack of a publisher's name on the book spine leads me to believe this is self-published.

I just found it amusing. 


Performance anxiety. Creative block. Call it what you will. I'm stuck.

This used to come so easily.

It's Maile's fault. I think I am moving too fast for her.

Look, it has been a long time since I had an Elvis buddy, a special someone with whom you share a love of all things Elvis, that you can unabashedly obsess over the merits of take 1 of 'Frankie & Johnny" vs the master take used for the soundtrack, that you can analyze and pontificate at length over every single live performance given by Elvis in search of, well, a good performance of a song, yes, maybe some rarity that Elvis performed on stage only a few times, but also clues to Elvis' frame of mind, a glimpse into the metaphysical darkness of existential events (what? Even I don't know where that last bit came from but I am leaving it in).

A long time. 

So it is a bit understandable that I would be overly excited at meeting someone who is not afraid to admit to being an Elvis fan, who listens to Elvis' music on long car trips, who traveled to Graceland of his/her own accord ferchrissakes. And I am positively hyper at the prospect of being able to bequeath onto this new Elvis buddy x-years worth of bootleg collecting.  

My last Elvis buddy (lets call him "G") was the brother of an early ex-Mrs Blofeld's Cat. 

(Actually, there was an Elvis buddy after G, a woman, but, although she was very nice, she was one of those certifiably loony Elvis fans, like she was married to a guy (also a crazy Elvis fan) who modeled his appearance on Elvis, from the pompadour to the 1970s sunglasses and paunch but he was too short to accurately complete the illusion).

In the years I knew G, he was in his most formative, impressionable years (late high school to early college years), somewhat directionless, fatherless. Through a shared a love of movies, an ongoing intense debate as to who was better: Pacino (me) or DeNiro (he), and a taste for the ganja (he was my supplier so he earned a few bucks off of me that way), I was able to introduce him to some culture in my own ways: books to read (I worked in publishing back then, a house with a line of very fine editions of the classics of literature: smoking weed is great but reading Dostoyevsky after smoking some weed is better); jazz music (which, given that G was a confirmed grunge fan, I consider this a personal triumph; I was no expert in jazz, I was learning myself at that time via some jazz encyclopedias from my publishing house and this coincided with cassette tapes being phased off the shelves of the franchise record stores when CDs started to come into vogue so you could always get cassette tapes of jazz really, really cheap); and yes, Elvis and his music (it started with the more outrageous Elvis material, like Elvis' monologues on stage when he was out of his mind but I was able to paint this within the framework of a larger Shakespearean tragedy which made it more interesting to him). 

In order to introduce G to Elvis and jazz and literature, I would make radio shows (actually, these were mix tapes but I'll be damned if I call them that) comprised of carefully programmed music.  Please understand that these shows were thought out, planned, scripted, everything had to flow, be thematically coherent. 

Sadly, any copies I may have had at one time of these radio shows have long since been lost.  All that remains are my notebooks with some draft tracklistings which provide a glimpse of how much I toiled on getting the theme and the flow right (lots of cross outs and lines with arrows indicating move this track up here, that track down there, drop take 7 of "You Don't Know Me" off completely).  

Some greatest hits: one show featured carefully chosen Elvis movie songs bookended by excerpts of Quentin Crisp reading from THE NAKED CIVIL SERVANT - these excerpts served to introduce the Elvis song and would comically comment on, say, take 1 of "Frankie & Johnny" or take 9 of "How Would You Like To Be".

Another show was an all poetry special, which featured Elvis songs bookended by the likes of Kerouac and other beats reciting their poetry, Charles Bukowski reading his poetry or William Shatner reading his poetry (!) and yes, Elvis also reciting some poetry ("As I awoke one morning...")!!  Another radio show featured one of Elvis' complete performances, one chock full of his monologues, say the College Park, Maryland show from 1974, chopped up and wrapped with classic jazz music tracks. 

In a way, it was a glorious creative time, in retrospect. 

But I think I am moving too fast with Maile.  

My god, what did I do, I mentioned to Maile that we should each make for the other a mix tape (yes, I used that very phrase, "mix tape"; I am a dork) of our respective favorite Elvis tracks

Of course, my mind is on another radio show. My older self is wanting to recapture some part of my younger self that may be long gone. 

I've already made the mistake of just blindly, hurriedly, excitedly ("Wait till Maile hears this, she will love it") making CDs for Maile already, straight copies, and so I have exhausted a good supply of outtakes and live performance tracks. 

Adding to my creative impotence at the moment is a sense I have that Maile is hesitant. Maile is an Elvis fan, one of those true bloods who loves his music, who remembers fondly watching Elvis' movies when just a child. But Maile is not interested in a trip to the dark side. Maile is not interested (yet?) in listening to, say, a tape recording circa 1976 of the last phone conversation between Elvis and Red West, after Elvis had fired Red, or, rather, had his dad fire Red, and Red is trying to to get a woozy, drugged Elvis to admit that what Elvis did was really shitty. Or listening to a phone conversation between Arlene (obviously a former one night stand) and an Elvis who is clearly not interested in talking to her. And forget about College Park, MD 1974 and most of 1977. Believe me, I can understand that only the truly demented Elvis obsessive would have any interest in hearing Jackie Kahane's act or hear the Sweet Inspirations opening set.

So I am working to put together a CD of some Elvis tunes that are on constant play on my Ipod, cherry-picking from the bootlegs so hopefully this will be material Maile hasnt heard before (although with my Elvis collection in such disarray, some on CD, some of which is just digital files on who knows which one of dozens of different portable hard drives) this is taking too long a time

And still I think about introducing Maile to the dark side.

One show I have been listening to of late would be a perfect start. The September 3, 1973 closing show in Vegas. Elvis has not yet descended to the deranged (as he did in September 1974) but he is becoming unhinged.

How else to explain Elvis coming out on stage in this fashion:

Now, look closely. See anything, uh, strange? Yes, I know the sight of Elvis riding on the back of a fat man is strange, but is there anything else peculiar?

Look closer. What is that on...

Yes, there is a monkey on Elvis' back. He is giving a performance with a monkey on his back. Would Maile be curious to know why? How can Maile not be curious to know whether Elvis is even aware that there is a monkey on his back?

And that is just the start of the show. 

I dont want to give away the high points of the show, but one visual bit of business (of which no photos can be found) that wont be appreciated by listening to the recording is that when Elvis starts singing "What Now My Love", a bed (!) is rolled out on stage and Elvis lies down on the bed and sings the song from there.

Believe it or not, there is a good set list for this particular evening but that is actually secondary to what happens on stage.

Would Maile want to know who this "Mario" person is that Elvis mentions during the show? and why exactly does Elvis decide (in mid-song!) to throw down a challenge to Conrad Hilton (the owner of the Hilton Hotel where Elvis happens to be performing) as well as all of the staff? 

How can Maile not be intrigued enough to take a trip to the dark side?

Notes on Double Trouble

I've finally seen it: the infamous scene in which Elvis was forced to sing a version of "Old MacDonald's Farm." It's one of those stereotypically bad scenes that is referenced by those who write about Elvis because it was so outrageous and embarrassing for him. As I watched it, I was embarrassed for him. It wouldn't have been so bad if he and co-star Annette Day were just sitting on the back of a pickup with a bunch of animals. People in movies tend to do that from time to time. It's just when he sings "ee-i-ee-i-oh" and flaps his arms like a chicken and makes horns with his hands to mimic a cow that you cringe on his behalf. (Elvis, wherever you are, I felt your pain.)

This scene appears in Double Trouble, Elvis's twenty-third film, released in 1967. In this adventure, Elvis plays Guy Lambert, a singer who finds himself dating a 17-year-old girl who just won't leave him alone. He tries to break it off with her when he learns her age, but to no avail. They sail from England to Belgium where she is supposed to attend boarding school and where he has gigs with his band. The music quickly gets moved to the back burner as Guy discovers that Jill's (Day) uncle has hired hit men to kill her before she turns 18 so he can get her inheritance. In addition to dodging hit men, Guy and Jill are also being followed by jewel thieves who stashed their cargo in Guy's suitcase during the trip to Belgium. After running to and fro and managing to ditch one of the hit men in an old well in Antwerp, Guy is arrested by the Wiere Brothers, who made cameo appearances as a comical trio of police officers. In the end, everything turns out all right, I guess (kind of an odd ending - you judge for yourself).

Since I commented on the costuming for Spinout in my last post, I'll mention here that Annette Day looks like Little Bo Peep in some scenes of the film, which makes it even more awkward that she's supposed to be a teenager dating an adult man. I didn't notice as many multi-layered costumes for Elvis this time, but his hair bothered me. He was sporting the same do that he had for Frankie and Johnny (1966), which featured a small tuft of hair sticking out in the center of his forehead, like all of the caricatures you see of him. It wouldn't have been so bad if the rest of his hair wasn't all slicked back. The tousled look was good for him, as was the style of having all of the hair slicked straight back. This one was not his best.

Some of the parallels between Elvis's life and this and some of his other films strike me as interesting. First, the idea that an adult man would never dream of dating a teenager. Priscilla was no longer a teenager when this movie came out, but she did live with him when she was one. Second, the man who is single and carefree and is finally convinced (or forced) to settle down and marry. Again, cue reference to Priscilla. Of course it's entirely possible that the writers (if you can bestow that title upon them) were just trying to create what they thought to be a believable story, but you have to wonder if they had any inspiration or, perhaps, encouragement by a certain Colonel - not just for Double Trouble, but for others too. Just food for thought.

(Aside to Blofeld: I bet the outtakes from the Double Trouble soundtrack recording sessions are entertaining. I imagine some 4-letter words during the "Old MacDonald's Farm" tracks. Am I right?)

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

What's with Elvis's movie wardrobe?

After just having finished Spinout, I have to ask: what's with Elvis's movie wardrobe? In at least two scenes, it looks like he's wearing three shirts - a turtleneck, a crewneck, and a vest - all under a jacket. Perhaps the turtleneck is actually a Dickie, but it still looks silly. This wardrobe style seemed to be the norm from the mid-1960s Elvis movies on. Why the need to cover up so much? It looks particularly dumb when he's singing by a swimming pool and most of the other people are in bathing suits and he's in a button-down shirt and long pants. In Blue Hawaii we saw him shirtless and in tight short shorts. In Girls! Girls! Girls! he wore short-sleeved polo shirts. In Kid Galahad he was bare-chested and just wearing boxing shorts during all of the boxing matches. It is true that his weight yo-yoed a lot in the mid-'60s, but in Spinout he looked pretty darn good to me. Why not show off those muscular legs? I'm sure I'm not the only person who thinks that some of these fluff movies would have been much improved if we saw fewer bikinis and more swimming trunks.