Thursday, August 16, 2007

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The US Postal services created a ballot before the issue of a commemorative stamp of Elvis Presley. Voters could choose between an image of the early or late Elvis, the early version won and was released in 1993.

Elvis Aaron Presley 1935-1977 died thirty years ago today, August 16, 1977.

From the coroner's account he died from heart failure. His personal doctor was later put on trial for handing out an unacceptable amount of certain prescription drugs to the singer over a number of years. The doctor was later acquitted.

Ever since the untimely death of one of the greatest cultural icons of the twentieth century, speculations have been made as to what could have "saved Elvis"...

Things that might have helped could be:

- Finding another manager than the notorious "Colonel" Tom Parker, Parker ended up handing himself close to 50% of Elvis' earnings (the customary salary for managers back then was 10%) He also reportedly had a gambling addiction which meant he often sat in a Casino in Vegas burning up money while Elvis was on stage a few miles away making them (during his time performing in Las Vegas he would do two shows a day) Still, Col. Parker was probably as good/bad as they came, and in the early stages of his fame, Elvis was genuinely afraid the Mafia might take over his career since rumours were out they had done that with Frank Sinatra. An old hand like Parker who knew the angles of show business was unlikely to let that happen, so maybe Elvis felt safe with him.

- Sacking the large, and always growing, troupe of sycophants known as "The Memphis Mafia" - Old friends of his, mostly from his school and childhood days who hung out with Elvis twenty-four hours a day and got paid in Cadillacs, gold chains, houses, etc (plus a meagre $500 a week) Still, Elvis was an only child, very close to his mother (making him a "mamma's boy" to the other kids) and his extravagant tastes in clothes and hair from early on got him more ridicule than close friends. After he reached national and international fame a normal life and personal relations became impossible. Hanging with the "Mafia" became the way of life which probably suited Elvis the best. Here he could party around the clock and have fun, be the undisputed center of attention, and there was never any doubt as to who was the star of the outfit since Elvis also used his entourage as whipping-boys and scape goats if he was in a bad mood.

- Taking more control of his music, and of himself?
Anyone interested in the phenomenon of Elvis Presley usually arrive at the same question: Why the ten years in Hollywood with all those lousy films?...why the lame "family oriented" music when Elvis had electrified an entire culture by being a rebellious rocker? Again it was probably a combination of Colonel Parker's talent for making money and the realisation that movies were cheaper to send overseas for the international audiences than Elvis and a full band. Elvis also had a great time playing a Hollywood star - In his view that was as high as you could climb, and the idea that the poor son of some hillbillies could reach that position probably made him never want to leave. Appealing to an audience of teenagers who want to rebel is alright for a start, but if you want to make the big bucks you make records mom, Sis, and granny likes, and if Frank, Dino, Sammy and countless others did the same, why should Elvis do otherwise?

The drug addiction, mainly Amphetamines to stay up on and tranquilizers to go to bed on, was something Elvis started doing in the US Army (which began issuing "speed" to soldiers during WWII to keep them going for days without sleep) Few people in the music business have done anything without drugs (Cliff Richard and Pat Boone might be exceptions...) so why should Elvis have been different? In his case it also became part comedy since his traditional values forbade him to be a "junkie" so he had to rely on a wide range of "medicines" which were nothing but thinly disguised uppers and downers.

The image of the burned out Elvis of his last years has immersed itself thoroughly in his legacy. Grossly overweight, panting and sweating, forgetting the lyrics for songs, making jokes about himself on stage and grinning like a moron is unfortunately the way we remember Elvis at the end. A showbiz wreck who spend most of his time in bed reading spiritual books and expressing to those close to him a deep feeling of being lost and without purpose in life. His eating disorders, as we would probably see it today, often involving the famous Elvis sandwich (a split banana on peanut butter- covered white toast - Deep fried...) This was probably something he inherited from his beloved mother who also grew big when things got too hard or too sad.

In short: If you wanted to save Elvis, you probably needed to save him from himself first, and that could have been very hard work.

Well, a legend, a pioneer, "a great American", etc, and apparently the claims that he was racist have been proven wrong

Further reading:
Elvis.com - The official site
Elvis.com.au - Home of the Australian fanclub, much usefull information here.

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What's up at YouTube:
Elvis performing his breakthrough song Heartbreak hotel in 1956

Elvis performing Unchained melody in 1977
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Retro babe Ann Margaret was said to have been the great love of Elvis after they met on the set of Viva Las Vegas
Panzer Tiger I
Yep, it's back to the old steel caskets...The "C11" marking on the turret of this mid-production Tiger indicates that it probably belonged to the elite "Grossdeutschland" division.
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(unfortunately) Also my people
(regrettably) Also my war

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