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|THE NATION'S FAVOURITE ELVIS SONG HAS MADE ME SEE THE LIGHT
By Mike Ward (TV Critic for the UK paper, The Daily Star)
Elvis Presley, it’s finally struck me, in a moment of startling realisation, really was extraordinarily special. His squillions of adoring fans have been right all
along. Why has it taken me all this time to twig? What kind of cloth-eared ninny am I?
Before you go: “Hang on, what show are you talking about, Mike? Did I miss it? When was it on? Why didn’t you tell us, you four-eyed fatso?”, let me just
explain I’ve been watching a sneak preview.
The programme isn’t actually being broadcast on ITV until this Friday night, November 8, at 9pm. So hey, no need to panic.
I’ll remind you again on the day, in that thing I write in the paper.
But yes, daft as it sounds, watching this preview really has had a powerful effect on me.
It’s not because we’re talking about a particularly ground-breaking piece of television here (as you’ll see, on face value it’s just another of those countdown
shows – old clips, assorted talking heads, a Top 20 that nobody had particularly asked for, based on who knows what criteria exactly…), but simply because it’
s bombarded me, for 90-odd minutes, with remarkable, mesmerising footage of a performer I grew up thinking was a bit naff.
Now, to anyone who’s a proper hardcore fan of Elvis Presley, let me instantly apologise for thinking / saying that. I do appreciate it’s bordering on sacrilege.
And like I say, I’ve seen the light now. Hallelujah.
But you have to understand that’s just the way it used to be. To me, and to my mates, Elvis Presley wasn’t the radical, smouldering, snake-hipped young rock’
n’roll icon that a previous generation would remember him as.
Mention the name Elvis to us and we’d just think of a deceased, overweight cabaret artist who used to stomp around the stage in a daft white jumpsuit.
Cheesy, wheezy, embarrassing and deeply uncool. There was just no connection to us kids. Why would there be? Hey, we were into cool, cutting-edge stuff,
Like I say, if you’re a proper Elvis fan, I’m really sorry for such idiocy. Sorry, sorry, sorry, sorry, sorry. But look, I’m just recalling the ignorance of youth here.
Youth and the sort of narrow-minded music snobbery that often goes hand in hand with it.
The trouble is, it’s sometimes hard to shake off that kind of blinkered attitude. So, over the years, my views on Elvis haven’t really changed, mostly because I’
ve had no particular reason to reconsider them.
We all do this a lot, don’t we? Yes, we do, don’t lie. We’re forever pigeon-holing the people and things we come across in our lives – making a knee-jerk
decision as to what we feel about them, then stubbornly refusing to budge. It’s because it’s easier that way.
Let’s face it, there aren’t enough hours in the day to keep reassessing stuff. And besides, we like to tell ourselves that sticking rigidly to an opinion, come
what may, is a sign of strength. Even though it usually just means you’re a narrow-minded jerk.
So, yes, suddenly being bombarded now with so many clips of Elvis – performing songs such as Jailhouse Rock, Heartbreak Hotel, Suspicious Minds, Always
On My Mind, The Wonder Of You etc. – has been a chance for me to finally challenge my lazy, petty prejudices.
And I’m so glad I did, because if you really love music (and anyone who doesn’t is deeply dubious, if you ask me), you should be opening up your mind to
every kind of music imaginable. Sod what’s cool. Bugger fashion.
The simple fact is, those were, and are, superb pop songs. And when Elvis Presley performed them, he injected them with a kind of magic.
Watching the old concert clips, even the later ones, when the guy clearly wasn’t at the peak of health, I now see a man with a unique gift for keeping his
Even at a stage in his career when he could have got away with just going through the motions, he looked as though he was giving it absolutely everything,
feeding off the crowd’s adoration. It was as if he wasn’t so much singing the songs as living them, even if it physically hurt.
There’s one particular clip of him performing Suspicious Minds that almost reminds me of one of those wild religious US preachers, whipping his audience into
a near-frenzy. In the wrong hands, that could be scary. In Elvis’s, it just looks like the greatest gig you could ever wish to attend.
I’m not suggesting I’ve become the world’s greatest Elvis Presley obsessive overnight. I shan’t be making a pilgrimage to Graceland anytime soon.
It’s just that, thanks to immersing myself in so much superb old footage, I really do think I get it now.
And I can’t help thinking we should all take time to do this, now and again. Stop to reassess something or someone you’ve had a pig-headed opinion on for
too many years. Open your mind and just see what floods in.
Next up, I might try changing my mind about Gordon Ramsay.
Admittedly, that could take a little longer.
* The Nation’s Favourite Elvis Song (ITV) is on Friday November 8 at 9pm.
I'LL be honest with you, it’s quite rare for me to experience a blinding epiphany while watching an ITV entertainment show.
But that’s pretty much the effect The Nation’s Favourite Elvis Song has had on me. I’m not kidding.