Waitrose & Partners Weekend Issue 612

11 AUGUST 202 2 43 WEEKENDING The King is back The late Beatle John Lennon may not have been right about everything, but when he said: “Before Elvis, there was nothing,” he summed up the feelings of a generation. Make that several generations. Without Elvis Aaron Presley, there is no pop music as we know it. When a Memphis radio station played his first recording, That’s All Right Mama (1954), teenagers besieged the studio demanding to hear it again. Something primal had been unleashed upon the world – rock and roll. Elvis is one of themost popular and important entertainers in history. But down the years, he’s also been one of the most polarising. British punks sneered and cheered when his death in 1977 was announced at London’s Vortex Club, prompting the young Danny Baker to berate them from the stage into sheepish silence. On the 1988 track Fight the Power, Chuck D&Flavor Flav, of radical act Public Enemy, rapped: “Elvis was a hero to most, but he never meant **** to me.” But for the rest, Elvis remains The King and right now, we are on the crest of a new regal wave of Elvismania. Elvis is the subject of Australian filmmaker Baz Luhrmann’s latest blockbuster biopic. Some find the director’s work cheesy, but many love its exhilaration and verve. Writing about the newmovie, Weekend film critic Mark Kermode declared: “Baz Luhrmann’s Elvis is a turned-up-to-11 treat… a riotously audacious work, a kaleidoscopic portrait of the king of rock and roll and his puppetmaster promoter.” That puppet master was Colonel Tom Parker, through whose eyes in the filmwe see the Elvis story play out. It’s an interesting gambit – a huge talent viewed through a largely unsympathetic character, played here with a combination of Falsta an presence and sly hucksterismby everyone’s favourite movie nice guy, TomHanks. The filmalso shows the vital presence in Elvis’ life of his wife Priscilla – sensitively it’s now or never The singer with wife Priscilla and daughter Lisa Marie in 1968 (above left); Elvis circa 1954 (above); Austin Butler as the singer in Baz Luhrmann’s film ( left) It’s been 45 years since Elvis Presley died aged just 42 – Stuart Maconie reflects on his enduring legacy portrayed by Olivia DeJonge. He first met her when she was 14 and the couplemarried seven years later, in 1967. Their daughter, Lisa Marie, described themovie as: “Absolutely exquisite – Austin Butler channelled and embodiedmy father’s heart and soul beautifully.” Luhrmann andHanks’ take is that, while there would clearly have been no Colonel Tomwithout Elvis, there would have been no Elvis without Colonel Tom. It’s a controversial but interesting viewpoint. Received wisdomhas it that Colonel Tom steered Elvis’ career in a way that was hugely financially beneficial to Parker, but creatively damaging to the star. Parker, it’s thought, welcomed Elvis’ two years in the army to buy himself time to get a grip on his charge’s meteoric career. But in so doing, he neutered the native, almost feral energy of the boy fromTupelo, Mississippi. Similarly, it’s speculated that it was Parker’s fear of having his alien status discovered (he was born Andreas Cornelis Dries van Kuijk inHolland and came to the US illegally aged 20) that led him to ‘Nothing could really dim the fire of Elvis at his best’ discourage Elvis fromever touring the world. What is beyond doubt is that while The Beatles, Bob Dylan and others were changing the landscape of rock in the 60s, Elvis was being artistically bled dry by Parker, mired in a series of forgettable cornball movies. Then, at last came one brief revival of that original danger and energy. Singer Presents... Elvis (referred to as the 68 Comeback Special) is a glimpse of the king of rock and roll as he once was – clad in black leather, sexy, menacing, funny, and cool – before the unbearable pathos of the Vegas jumpsuit years. Nothing, though, could really dim the fire of Elvis at his very best, as glimpsed in Luhrmann’s pacymovie, with its sensational concert recreations. If the filmgets you all shook up, make haste to Great Yarmouth, Norfolk for the Elvis Festival (9-16 September). Or to Porthcawl, SouthWales, for the ElvisWeekend (23-25 September). Or the Elvis TributeWorld Tour this October. Maybe, 45 years after his death, we will finally see the return of The King. @StuartMaconie Photography: Reinhard-Archiv/ullstein bild via Getty Images, Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images, Warner Bros. Pictures