HAIL TO THE KING – IN RUSSIA !

Elvis Presley – the King. And in Moscow on 15th June we organised a special tribute evening, to celebrate the great man.

The event was held at the Esse Jazz Café, one of the city’s premier music venues. The evening kicked-off with a short introductory speech about Elvis and his life (from yours truly). This was followed by film clips of Elvis, from a year when he was in his prime – 1956.

Then, on stage, in deference to Elvis’ rockabilly roots, the Hi Tones performed a great set as the climax to the evening’s entertainment. I’ve previously reviewed the group in this magazine; they’re one of the greatest rockabilly groups in Russia. Their set included Elvis numbers.

Some of those attending knew all about Elvis and came just to experience an evening dedicated to the King. But there were regular patrons of the café who didn’t know all about him and it was interesting to see their reactions and responses to what was presented. Hopefully the event turned on and awakened an interest for some of these people, to Elvis and rock’n’roll in general.

Overall, it was a brilliant night. Thanks to all those who came to the support the event, especially the Hi Tones.

It’s a safe bet to say that for many in our rock’n’roll community, they got turned on to rock’n’roll partly thanks to seeing and listening to Elvis. I’m talking about early Elvis; that memorable period in the 1950s when he was in his prime. In my view, the decline kicked in even before the later period of prescription drug dependence and physical deterioration. After he came out of the army, he seemed to lose a lot of that dynamic edge; still special of course, but not quite the same.

So, to conclude this article, what about the King ? The story of Elvis tastes like a very mixed cocktail, there are so many stories putting so many different slants on the man. So let’s get some of the negative ones out of the way first ………..

The “Shine slur” was one he was never able to fully shake off. This was the allegation that in the late 1950s, when asked about the growing civil rights movement in the USA, as a white Southerner he replied, “the only good things black people are good for, are shining my shoes and buying my records”. In fairness it must be said Elvis always denied the allegation.

And of course there was the much more indisputable fact of his addiction to prescription drugs, which sadly was the main reason he never toured the UK, because of the potential consequences.

One could go on ……….. his serial unfaithfulness to his wife while he was married, the appalling deterioration in his health and physical appearance towards the end of his life, etc. But all the above misses the central point ……….

Once you listen to those 1950s recordings and see the film clips of the time, they just blow you away. They are rock-solid proof he was, at his best, quite simply the greatest rocker (not just rock’n’roller) and youth icon of all time, bar none. He had everything in buckets; style, talent, looks, charisma, you name it. The word “unique” was never so appropriate as it was and is in the case of Elvis.

So here’s to the King. As long as we all keep playing his music, rock’n’roll will never die.

Richard Hume
Moscow