...we've got the means to make amends. I am lost, I'm no guide, but I'm by your side. (Pearl Jam, Leash)

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Memorable Moment in Music: "Ladies & gentlemen, Elvis has left the building"

[last picture ever taken of Elvis, 12:28am, Aug 16, 1977]

Tomorrow marks thirty years since the memorable (and sad) moment in music when Elvis Presley was found dead in his Graceland bathroom at the age of 42, the day before he was to start a new tour. For years he had been sadly deteriorating from the fresh faced, doe-eyed, swivel-hipped innocent of the Fifties, all enlisting for the Army and being photographed in his tightie-whiteys; so average, so loveable.

In recent years his music was swirling to new heights of camp (albeit, camp that I absolutely adore - "I'm just a hunk-a hunk of burning love?" That opening drumbeat? "The flames are now lickin' my body?" Fantastic):

(pretty sure that's like an early music video; studio cut, live images)

By 1977, Elvis was in really bad shape, and that ferocious swagger and cocky snarl you see above in the glitz and glimmer was all but gone. It was a feat just to get him through every show, propped up on bloated legs by a combination of amphetamines, barbiturates, and sequined bell-bottoms. Guralnick writes in his 2000 book Careless Love: The Unmaking of Elvis Presley, "There was no longer any pretense of keeping up appearances... The idea was simply to get Elvis out onstage and keep him upright for the hour he was scheduled to perform." His final concert would be the night of June 26, 1977 in Indianapolis.

The last recording Elvis made was a vocal overdub on "He'll Have To Go" done on October 31st, 1976 in the "Jungle Room" at his home at Graceland. The last song Elvis performed in private was a rendition of "Blue Eyes Crying In The Rain," done on his piano in Graceland hours before his death. [ref]

The morning of August 16th, his fiance Ginger Alden found Elvis dead in his Graceland bathroom with fourteen drugs detectable in his system, ten in "significant quantity." According to the medical examiner, Elvis had stumbled or crawled several feet before dying. What a sad ending to such an amazing, epic life that gave us some of my favorite music ever. No one can cast a bigger cultural shadow than The King. Through a combination of musical virtuosity, that irreplaceable voice, and something in the DNA of our culture - the fabric of my musical knowledge - he was without equal. Elvis is just Elvis.


Market Square Arena, Indianapolis, IN
June 26, 1977 - Final concert [
2001 Space Odyssey theme (opening) / C.C. Rider
I Got A Woman/Amen
Love Me
You Gave Me A Mountain
Jailhouse Rock
O Sole Mio/It's Now Or Never
Little Sister
Teddy Bear/Don't Be Cruel
Release Me
I Can't Stop Loving You
Bridge Over Troubled Water
Introduction of band members
Early Morning Rain
What'd I Say
Johnny B. Goode
Larry London drum solo
Jerry Sheff bass solo
Tony Brown piano solo
I Really Don't Want To Know
Bobby Ogdin Electric Clavinet Solo
Jazzing in Vegas
Hound Dog
Can't Help Falling In Love
Closing vamp / "Elvis has left the building"


I found myself at bit melancholy at watching a few more videos of the Elvis from the Seventies, starting with when he actually looked kinda hot in that white jumpsuit (ha! never thought I'd say that):



Some extras because I absolutely love this song and never tire of it:
Always On My Mind - Ryan Adams & The Cardinals
[bonus track, Jacksonville City Nights. 99% sure this is a duet with Norah Jones]
Always On My Mind (live on NPR) - Iron & Wine/Calexico


"Ladies and gentlemen, Elvis has left the building."

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At August 16, 2007 12:07 AM, Anonymous Sal said...

God bless Elvis. The man was taken away at the height of his powers in the late fifties, and managed to regain his independence for some stellar Memphis music in the late sixties, only to slowly self-destruct in the seventies. I can't imagine it was ever easy being Elvis.

But that voice! When it came to technical skill, Elvis was underrated as a singer. He took audiences on a ride with him over every single note. Check out the tune, "Any Way You Want Me (That's How I Will Be)" - fantastic.

I love Elvis . . . and I don't need a commemorative plate to prove it.

At August 16, 2007 8:33 AM, Anonymous Chad said...

I had just turned seven and remember sitting in my grandparents big Ford LTD and my grandmother had stopped at the post office leaving me in the car with the radio on. The news came across saying Elvis had passed away and so did an era.

At August 16, 2007 9:53 AM, Blogger Dainon said...

Man, this post of yours made me sad. Real sad. But I'm glad you paid a good 'n proper tribute. Thank you and thank YOU, Elvis.

At August 16, 2007 4:05 PM, Blogger Renato said...

great post! it made me sad too, but i was saved by the ryan adams' version of that song. the king will always be alive with tributes like that.

PS: good news at www.brucespringsteen.net, thought you'd like to know. :)

At August 16, 2007 7:30 PM, Blogger aikin said...

was he reading the lyrics in the "Bridge" video?
oh my....

Regardless, if you close your eyes, his voice was still awesome. I've often wondered if, had he lived, would he have worked with younger artists, like Jerry Lee Lewis recently did.

thanks for the post!

At August 16, 2007 9:13 PM, Blogger Mr. Santino said...

I saw Elvis in Amarillo, TX. Don't worry, he's regained the swagger, and who cares if it only arrives on the heels of a big swig of whatever bottle he kept hidden in a brown paper bag? Still the sideburns, still the bell bottoms, still the swaying hips, still Elvis.

At August 17, 2007 10:04 AM, Blogger Murgs said...

Thanks, Heather...
I think that given how horribly Elvis passed, too many people treat him like a joke. He was, and for my money still is, one of the greatest, most original performers ever. He'll always be "The King"...

David M.

At August 17, 2007 11:29 AM, Blogger Holden said...

You know it seems really obvious why he died: he didn't play "Burnin' Love" at that last show. :)

God, what a great song....

At August 17, 2007 7:52 PM, Anonymous girl across the sea said...

Hi long time reader...really enjoy your blog! I was driving with my mom and big brother when we heard the news on the car radio...we pulled into the first driveway and sat for at least 1/2 an hour in a shock listening to the news of his death...

What a huge loss

THANK YOU so much for the live concert...mom's birthday on the 20th...she'll love this!!

At August 18, 2007 3:24 PM, Blogger TCB Walsh said...

Outstanding, poignant tribute. There's no one like the King. I highly recommmend a trip to Memphis to soak it all in. BTW, it's ELVIS WEEK at my site Rock Turtleneck - check it out at rockturtleneck.blogspot.com


At August 21, 2007 1:18 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Not sure that I get the whole Elvis thing. Dude could sing...but then again so can any American Idol contestant. Come to think of it, the American Idolers don't get to read lyrics like the King did in c couple of your vids.

At August 23, 2007 4:51 PM, Blogger staggerlee said...

Great post, Heather. I re/discovered the great early-70s Elvis this summer when I had to do an impersonation gig (don't ask). It was a revelation to see him looking so sexy-snarly-hunchy in that white sequined jumpsuit (the outfit we usually think of as the "bloated joke Elvis" suit) and putting out that Memphis soul - "Burning Love", "Kentucky Rain", "Suspicious Minds"... man, you can see why he lit a fire in the gals' pants. He just had IT, whatever that IT is. Shovelfuls, dumptruckfuls, of IT.

At October 21, 2007 3:38 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

What a sad way to end his life.

At April 12, 2008 5:13 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

WOW You Really Nice Blog, But Cry, Sad, Cant Hear Elvis ,
Last Show, Please Can You Put It Up Again, Thanks


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