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:
Look closer. What is that on...
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?