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|THE REBIRTH OF THE KING REVIEWED
January 01st, 2018 - Trevor O Sullivan / Elvis Express Radio
|Recently (December 29th 2017), BBC Television screened a brand new documentary, 'Elvis: The Rebirth Of The King'. The promotion for the new production promises to make
viewers rethink what they know about Elvis during this period.
While we here at Elvis Express Radio have been looking forward to this documentary, we became alarmed when we saw the promotional advert which filled us with dread... Instead
of Elvis, the advert had a colour image of a bloody IMP! Yes, an IMPersonator. Within days, several fans (including E.E.R) contacted both the BBC and Erica Starling Productions
who were quick to thank fans for pointing out their goof, confirming they had made a mistake (no, really?).
The cock up was rectified and the offending IMP image was replaced with a black and white image of Elvis from 1977. Somewhat counter productive for a documentary that is setting
out to argue against the public/media image of the "Vegas Elvis" and to show that he reached his peak, both as a singer and performer in the first few years of his Vegas period. He
became, in those short years, the greatest performer on earth.
Here we bring you a review of this all new documentary as seen by Trevor O' Sullivan
Some summations on the BBC FOUR documentary The Rebirth Of The King. [SPOILERS]
I thought it was a clever concept to focus on this period of the Elvis story. It’s impossible to do justice to the whole story in one hour. Like the superb Gillian Gaar book Return Of
The King : Elvis Presley’s Great Comeback the redemption after years of damaging movies and isolation was well told. Sure there were little niggles here and there but for the
general public it showed the man in a good light. It was in no way a sensationalised story of a caricatured Elvis and these are the parts I enjoyed
Grail Marcus who is a great scholar on Elvis and his part in culture nailed all his speaking parts. He spoke eloquently about how Elvis raised the song Baby What Do You Want Me
To Do above it’s station. He found his rhythm in that amazing sit down segment of the 68 comeback and it was pure rock n roll. His contribution about If I Can Dream was excellent
The story of the Memphis Recordings was very nicely told. Showing three of the musicians talking about their experiences of the session and playing In The Ghetto was quite
touching. Moments like that are so important for historical posterity as they are all dying off every year. The Hollyday Sisters have not featured much in Elvis documentaries so it
was nice to see their input also.
Mark James spoke about how strong Chips Moman was over Colonel Parker not taking all the publishing rights to Suspicious Minds. We heard Norbert Putnam talk about how the
song was then elevated to an even higher level purposefully by the musicians for its on stage incarnation.
All of this was interspersed with footage and photos which we may have seen before but it’s doubtful the general public have. This was a documentary for a large audience and not
just the fan base and we often forget that.
The narrative of Roy Hamilton’s influence on Elvis was an interesting one. It was probably overemphasised slightly but it showed a willingness to do something different. Once again
the documentary showed how important strong figures like Steve Binder and Chips Moman were. They may have won their battles with Colonel Tom Parker but he ultimately won the
war and they never worked with Elvis again.
The documentary was also the first to cleverly use the massively revelatory On Tour audio where Elvis expresses his dissatisfaction with the movie career. And it showed how out of
touch Elvis was with the He’s Your Uncle Not Your Dad song against the backdrop of The Beatles and Flower Power.
It was good to see some nice amateur footage of Elvis on stage interspersed with the clips from That’s The Way It Is and On Tour. Also the footage like Elvis on the set of It
Happened At The Worlds Fair, with Lisa at Christmas, signing his Vegas contract and behind the scenes of GI Blues may have been seen by the fans but they will have been brand
new to many who tuned in.
There were some great lines from the narration which to me was something I’d expect from a BBC documentary which have always treated Elvis respectfully. It called him ‘the
greatest performer on earth and the most emotional interpreter of the American songbook that ever existed’. High praise indeed. It spoke about how even in his final moments when
singing Unchained Melody he could still dig deep and find the artist within.
The programme also had some nice input regarding the design of the jumpsuits from Gene Doucette. And as it got to the decline of Elvis we got to hear from the always dramatic
Larry Geller who told the horrific story of Elvis getting his head dunked in ice water and The Colonels insistence that the show must go on. The image they used of the chicken
dancing on a hot plate which was a Colonel Parker carnival trick was again shown to hit home the point.
The sad footage of Elvis looking up to the sky before he goes on stage in Rapid City was used and it was tough to watch as the narration proceeding that talked about a man who
was dying inside. Greil Marcus then spoke about how Elvis had lost his motivation because he didn’t even have to try anymore. The crowds just lapped it up anyway. He was bereft
of a challenge. In fact the narration called Elvis near the end the worlds first Elvis impersonator which I didn’t like and thought was cruel but to many Elvis is a parody at the end.
Alanna Nash summed it up when she said he was burnt out from a horrific schedule and that Elvis never had the upper hand in the relationship with the Colonel and he wasn’t
strong enough to stand up to him.
The fina words of the documentary said ‘Elvis reached heights that may never be matched’. For us they won’t be matched and nothing will ever surpass what the man did. Overall I
think this was a positive take on a period of Elvis career that has been skipped through as being all downhill. It’s a stupid caricature and so I was glad to see it addressed that Elvis
in Vegas was a glorious era at its peak. And from where his career was in the mid to late sixties it was also truly a tremendous comeback. A Rebirth Of The King. Just like the docu
said. UK TV has always given Elvis peak time programmes and often at Christmas too. Let’s hope the HBO documentary is a success in the US. These are the type of serious
programmes we need. Showing Elvis directing the musicians to perfect Bridge Over Troubled Water like in this one and not Geraldo Rivera obsessing over how many pills Elvis
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