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A ONE-MAN ELVIS BACKLASH : Elvis the Pelvis for Sainthood? He Begs to Differ

August 23, 1987|JAY SHARBUTT

They came to Graceland by the thousands, held candlelight vigils, dressed up like him. Millions of words were written about him, many articles solemnly analyzing the impact of "Heartbreak Hotel" on Western society.

"Nightline" did a show about him. "West 57th" had celebrities yammer about him. "The Morning Program" even went all the way to Memphis to join in the worship.

But friends and neighbors, the truth must be told.

Elvis Presley is still dead.

This means there will be no sequel to "Blue Hawaii." It means he will not play Las Vegas again. It means he will never ever cut another album. It means Diane Sawyer will never interview him.

But there is bad news. Because Elvis is still dead, you can expect that five years from now there will be a sequel to the avalanche of plumb dumb that attended the 10th anniversary of his death this month.

By neddies, they sure did carry on during that one. I was kind of disappointed he didn't suddenly materialize and do wondrous things, like making the blind see, the deaf hear and the lame boogie.

Just what did Elvis do in his lifetime? He swivelled his hips, played some guitar, practiced rock 'n' roll, or rockabilly as some call it, and got rich.

That's about it. Oh, sure, by most accounts he was a good ol' boy, respectful of his elders and generally decent even though he did get a little out of hand near the end of his span of years.

But he never never painted a masterpiece, never wrote a symphony, never inspired little ones to study Plato. He just sang "Heartbreak Hotel" and stuff.

For this and "Viva Las Vegas" you hold a candelight vigil?

It has been said that Elvis was a revolutionary musical force, that he ended forever the saccharine era of "How Much Is That Doggie in the Window" with such raw, driving, primal arias as "Hound Dog."

OK. But the first time I heard "Don't Be Cruel," I sure had the feeling I'd rather listen to the Michigan State Marching Band play "On Wisconsin."

This was not possible at the time, as I was at a church sock hop with my true love--I forget her name--and there was no room for all us teen-agers and the Michigan State Marching Band. But I digress.

I became the first and only kid on my block to hate Elvis music (wasn't too keen on Jerry Lee Lewis music, either, likewise Four Seasons music, likewise even Dion and the Belmonts music).

It must be said my background was not conducive to Elvis music. My mother had been a big band singer. My father--a radio announcer--played good piano, loved jazz, and used to hang out with guys like Fats Waller.

I grew up listening to the music of Cole Porter, George Gershwin, Johnny Mercer, Alec Wilder. I also heard some of the top sidemen in town playing on the radio shows that my old man worked. Fine music, fine musicians.

None of this prepared me for "Don't Be Cruel." But I kept a closed mind on the matter. I hated it then and still do now. It and other Elvis hits--well, musically speaking, there's nobody home.

Granted, even today there are those who will dispute me on that point. I suspect some might even threaten to hit me upside the head with a ball-peen hammer for saying "Hound Dog" is not a melody for the ages.

But there was no reason for all the fuss this month about Elvis. Yes, he sang rock 'n' roll.

But he never found a cure for it.

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