Tuesday, January 10, 2012

A Hunka-Hunka Elderly Gentleman?

How's this for bizarre - if Elvis were still alive, he would've turned 77 this past Sunday.

SEVENTY-SEVEN?!?  Doesn't that just seem so wrong?  I suppose it's the phenomenon of a person of cultural significance dying at a young age, but wow.  When I heard that, it just sounded so odd.

Maybe it's because it also seems wrong that the birth of "rock n' roll" is nearing its SIXTIETH anniversary.  That puts it in perspective, doesn't it?  When put this way, then Elvis would have to be that age.  And I know that a lot of this disbelief of mine stems from my own age and perception - I am now older than Elvis was when he died (he was 42; I am now 43) and I can so clearly remember that day.  We were watching TV and my across-the-hall neighbors (and "BFFs") Chhaya and Hemal came over to tell us that the guy from our "cheer" had died.

We didn't understand what they meant at first - "the guy from that cheer"?  So we asked them and they said, "Yeah!  You know, that cheer:

Turn on the radio
Whaddya hear?
Elvis Presley
Doin' a cheer
Go get 'em uh-huh...."

(Did anyone else use that cheer growing up?  Or was this a Green Bay thing?)  

Of course that evening, August 16, 1977, it was all over the news.  In my amalgamated memory, the rumors and conspiracy theories started right away - I don't know if that's true or not, but it certainly reflects the mania surrounding his life and death.

I'm not a big Elvis fan.  Remember in Pulp Fiction, where Mia (Uma Thurman) says that everyone can be classified as either an Elvis fan or a Beatles fan?  I am most definitely the latter (more on that in a later post!).  However, there is a period in Elvis' life that fascinates me - his '68 Comeback Special, where he cleaned himself up and looked fantastic in that black leather outfit.  He was 33 at the time and it had only been 10 years since his heyday, but if you think about that decade - 1958 to 1968 - in popular music terms, it may as well have been a century.  SO much changed in that time - we went from Buddy Holly to The Doors!  Can you think of another decade in the history of pop music where the culture changed so drastically?  It's weird to think that he was pretty much washed up by the time he was 35, especially in this age, where 69 year-old Paul McCartney is still revered.

When I think about Elvis I sometimes feel bad for him and other times realize that he was a product of his own excess.  We've seen it before - Michael Jackson surely springs to mind - but when you have a meteoric rise to fame like these guys, I have to wonder what it would do to me!  I think we'd all like to think we'd hold it together and keep it real, but when you're surrounded by sycophants I think it's easy to start believing your own hype.  You'd have to be a very strong, very grounded person to rise above all of that nonsense and from all that's been written about Elvis, it sounds like he was just kind of a lonely kid.  I'm not excusing his behavior but it sort of makes sense.

OKAY!  Enough of my pontificating - let's get to the wonderful ephemera!  I got this magazine from my friend Suze, who just cleaned out her studio and bestowed upon me a glorious pile of goodies.  When I saw this magazine by heart skipped a beat - it's from 1956, which would make it almost 56 years old.  YIKES!! I think it's in pretty good condition, considering that it appears to have been read and re-read a zillion times. Of course Elvis is on the cover (why wouldn't he be?) but there are also articles about Bill Haley and his Comets, Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers, Little Richard, Fats Domino, Pat Boone, etc.  I love these digests of a particular point in time.

I've only done two "rock n' roll"-esque collages - these ATCs, which I did a few years back.  Now that I have Elvis material, though - I may have to try my hand at another!

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