Monthly Archives: May 2006

CIRQUE Du SOLEIL, ELVIS STYLE

When it comes to guiding the career of Elvis Presley, Robert Sillerman is about to make Col. Parker look like an amateur.  Mr. Sillerman’s company, SKX, owns EPE, through which he has made a brilliant move —  a joint venture with Cirque du Soleil to develop something called ELVIS PRESLEY PROJECTS.

 

First, just in case you are not familiar with Cirque du Soleil, let me fill you in.  It is one of the most amazing entertainment spectaculars in Las Vegas, a city filled with dozens of them.  Cirque du Soleil has distinction because there are four different, permanent shows going on at some of the biggest hotel/casinos on the strip:  Mystère at Treasure Island (since 1994), O at the Bellagio (water circus), KA at MGM Grand, and Zumanity at New York, New York.

 

Show number five will be LOVE, celebrating the musical legacy of the Beatles.  It starts June 2 at the Mirage Hotel.  This is going to be great, at least if the show is like what’s on the two video clips at the Cirque du Soleil website.

 

Do you think Mr. Sillerman figured that if they could do it with the Beatles, they could do it with Elvis, too?  Good call.  I love it.  This is the most exciting news.  Reading deeply into the press release, you learn that each ELVIS PRESLEY PROJECT will contain three elements;

 

  • Permanent shows at fixed locations.  Las Vegas is apparently out of the running in the near future, so you have to wonder where the first one will be.  My guess would be Toronto (easily reached by millions of Americans) or Tokyo (a hotbed of Elvis interest).
  • Touring shows.  Cirque du Soleil currently has six touring companies, all doing shows with their own themes.  They travel all over North America, Europe, and Asia.
  • Elvis Experiences – multimedia interactive entertainment that incorporates the likeness and music of Elvis Presley.

 This is the one that has me psyched.  ELVIS EXPERIENCES.  Bring it on.  How much are tickets?  I have no idea what this multimedia interactive experience will be, but with the geniuses at Cirque du Soleil creating it, I know it will be great.  Here’s what Mr. Sillerman says:  “Cirque du Soleil remains one of the most stunning and exciting experiences on the planet and brings the creative genius needed to produce shows and multimedia events that capture the true Elvis Presley.”

 

It is possible to get a sense of how different and wonderful the permanent (and touring) Elvis shows could be.  Just click on the Cirque du Soleil / Beatles website: www.cirquedusoleil.com/CirqueDuSoleil/en/showstickets/love/intro/intro.htm.  When it opens, watch the “Sneak Preview.”  When you finish that, click on the “About The Show” link and then click on “Costumes” for another video.  Finally, there are thirteen still photos you will want to check out.

 

It may be a bit harder to build a show around Elvis than the Beatles.  They had such strange, wonderful, complex songs during the last few years of their career.  You will see on the video clips how songs like “Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds” and “Octopus’s Garden” are perfect for Cirque du Soleil adaptation.  It may be more difficult with “Don’t Be Cruel” or  “Hound Dog,” but you know they’ll come up with something very cool for “All Shook Up” and “Viva Las Vegas.”

 

Thank you, Mr Sillerman.

 

©  2006   Philip R Arnold    www.elvisblog.net

THE 50 MOST AWESOMELY DEAD ROCK STARS

It’s doubtful that many Elvisblog regulars have ever read Blender Magazine.  Until a week ago, I had never even heard of it, but that’s not surprising.  It’s a rock & roll magazine aimed at a much younger audience.  Some of the acts it has featured lately include the bands Gorillaz and People In Planes and the singers Christina Malian and Ghostface Killah.  Have you heard of any of them?  Me neither.

 

Blender Magazine likes to compile strange rock lists.  A few months back they had “The 50 Worst Things Ever to Happen to Music.”  #10 was Colonel Parker getting his hooks in Elvis in 1955.  They call him the Slobodan Milosevic of artist management.  Later came “Rock’s Most Awesomely Differently Abled,” which is a painfully contorted title for a list of rock stars who overcame serious maladies and physical afflictions.  (For example, Neil Young survived polio as a child)  The magazine seems to be fond of the word ‘awesomely’ because they currently feature a list of “The 50 Most Awesomely Dead Rock Stars.”

 

So what does most awesomely dead mean?  The lead-in to the list says this:  “For many musicians, death in not a final reckoning – it’s the best career move they ever made.  So which immortal souls are raising the most hell in 2006?”  Most awesomely dead seems to be a loose characterization for still having one’s name in the press, still racking up record sales, and still making lots of money.

 

Well, Elvis certainly fits that description, but he is not #1 on the list.  He is #3.  Surprisingly, the commentary about him by Blender sounds like he should be their champ:  “Dead, he earns 10 to 20 times more than he did alive.  With licensing, merchandising and CD sales … the Elvis industry is worth $45 million a year.  Graceland draws 600,000 pilgrims a year, there are 500 active fan clubs and 35,000 professional impersonators.  Elvis, the blue chip stock of dead rockers.”  That doesn’t sound like #3 to me.

 

Who beat Elvis?  #2 is rapper The Nororious B.I.G.  Give me a break.  What has Biggie accomplished since he was gunned down?  One album that sold 10 million copies followed by one that sold 2 million.  That’s it, plus he is considered the inspiration for the next generation of New York rappers.  How can anybody think this beats Elvis?  Totally stupid.

 

Number 1 on the list is Johnny Cash.  A few years ago, he was probably way back in the pack, but his legacy is on a roll right now.  His posthumous Unearthed CD box set scored big on the immediate sympathy wave.  Later, his career-spanning compilation, The Legend of Johnny Cash became a chart staple.  Of course, his big bang was the recent biographic movie “Walk The Line.”  Blender describes it this way: “Walk The Line” does a good job of sexing up the craggy Cash and his late wife June while boosting his early music.”  They also declare he thrives as a touchstone of cool.

 

OK, I’m not going to fuss about Johnny Cash beating out Elvis as the most awesomely deal rock star in 2006.  But, I’ll bet if Blender Magazine does this list again in five years, Elvis will be ahead of him.  He certainly will be ahead of Notorious B.I.G.

 

©   2006   Philip R Arnold   www.elvisblog.net

ELVIS ROCKS CANADA — APRIL 2, 1957

I am no longer amazed at some of the stuff I find while surfing the web on the trail of Elvis links.  However, I was very pleased to run across the full text of a 49 year old news report in the Toronto Star covering two Elvis shows at Maple Leaf Gardens.  The article was like a time capsule, revealing what went on during the height of Elvis-mania.

 

The stories of mass hysteria at previous Elvis performances must have been well known to the promoters of his Toronto concerts, because they supplemented the regular Gardens security staff with 90 special constables.  This worked out fairly well at the first show, which had a crowd of 8,000 teenagers.  I like this quote in the news report: “Whenever a youngster bounced up in his seat, a policeman would reach over and plunk him down again.  This sometimes gave the Gardens the appearance of a large jack-in-the-box.”  Can you picture it?

 

The later show had 15,000 fans in attendance, making it the largest crowd at an Elvis concert up to that point.  It was a considerably wilder event than the first show, partly because of the antics of local disc jockey Josh King, who acted as Master of Ceremonies.   First he announced that Elvis was coming.  Then he had an attendant rush up on stage with the news that Elvis wasn’t coming.  The MC announced, “Elvis doesn’t think you are making enough noise.”  Uh oooh.  Bad move.  According to the Toronto Star report, “From the time Elvis … walked on stage and smiled until he gave his last bump nearly an hour later, nearly every teenager in the place screeched, at the top of his lungs.  Despite a good public address system, Elvis managed to get across only the occasional note the audience could hear.”  I guess it was worth the price of admission to see Elvis, even if they couldn’t hear him.

 

The news account of Elvis’ stage mannerisms is what you would expect.  “He cuddles the mike as he sings, tilting it at weird angles and dragging it along behind him, and he wanders back and forth across the stage.”  “The much publicized pelvis was plainly in action, too.  Elvis rocks his hips back and forth.  He shakes his knees and wobbles his legs and bumps like a fan dancer.”  “Every time Elvis reached out his arm in one direction or turned to smile in another, all the crowd in that section would screech with ecstasy.”

 

Elvis wore the famous gold lamé suit for both shows.  He had introduced it just five days earlier at a Chicago concert.  Elvis didn’t like the look of the pants, and the gold was wearing off the front because he frequently got down on his knees while performing.  In subsequent concerts, he would wear the coat with a pair of black pants.

 

Some of the songs he sang at the Toronto concerts were mentioned in the article:  “Heartbreak Hotel,” “Long Tall Sally,” “Don’t Be Cruel,” “That’s When Your Heart Aches Begin,” “Love Me,” “Blueberry Hill,” “Too Much,” and “Butterfly.”  You and I have never heard Elvis’ rendition of “Butterfly,” the great Charlie Gracie hit.  The only time Elvis sang the song was this concert in Toronto.  Too bad it wasn’t recorded, but if it had been, probably all you would hear is screaming.

 

One thing about the shows seems wrong.  Here was Elvis at the height of his popularity, packing 23,000 people into the venue, and who did he have as supporting acts on the bill?  Frankie Trent, a tap dancer; Pat Kelly, a blond singer (one song); Rex Marlow, a comic; and Jimmy James, a banjo player.  I’ll bet the kids wouldn’t have cared if they were all left off the show.  Of course, knowing how Col. Parker operated, he probably made all four acts pay him for the right to be on the bill with Elvis.

 

©  2006   Philip R Arnold   www.elvisblog.net

 

SCOTTY MOORE AND THE ROLLING STONES BACKSTAGE

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Searching through many Elvis-related websites is both prep work for Elvisblog and a lot of fun.  One site I go back to frequently is www.scottymoore.net .  That’s right, the man who helped Elvis give birth to rock & roll has a great website of his own.  It contains almost a dozen sections you can check out, but my favorite is SCRAPBOOK, a digital photo album.

Lovely lady Gail Pollock, who has been with Scotty for over 25 years, hosts the site and writes the commentary under each picture in the scrapbook.  Hundreds of photos tell the story of places they’ve been, people they’ve met, and shows he’s done.   There are 89 entries, mostly from 1992 to 2006, but a few go back to the 50’s.

I visit Scotty’s site frequently to see the latest photos in SCRAPBOOK.  But while I’m there, I’m always drawn back to the same set of pictures I’ve seen four or five times before.  You probably will understand why, when you see the title:  “Backstage With the Rolling Stones in Memphis — December 15, 2005.”

Keith Richards and Ron Wood, who do the guitar fireworks for the Rolling Stones, both love and admire Scotty.  They’ve recorded with him and had him backstage at four of their concerts.  What started as admiration has grown into genuine friendship.

The SCRAPBOOK pictures show that Scotty and Gail and others obviously had a ball in Keith’s dressing room before the show.  Then they had concert seats in the eighth row right in front of Mick Jagger (Scotty stayed backstage and watched from there).  After the concert, there was a wrap party at the Peabody Hotel.  It was here that Scotty got to spend some time with Mick Jagger and drummer Charlie Watts.  Ron Wood spent a lot of time posing for smoochin’ pictures with Gail and the other girls.  Sure looks like it was a fun party.

One backstage picture is outstanding.  The dressing area at the concert venue contained a full-sized, color cutout of Elvis in his famous gold suit.  Of course, this got into several of the pictures.  I just love the photo of four musicians, Keith, Scotty, Elvis, and Ron.  Take a quick glance at the picture and see if Elvis doesn’t look real.  I liked the photo so much, I downloaded it to my hard drive and printed it out.  Very cool picture.

Scotty’s whole site is, too.  You can get lost for hours scrolling down through HISTORY, and connecting on all the links.  Gail does a wonderful job with SCOTTY’S UPDATES.  These periodic journal entries started in December 2003 when Scotty had some health problems.  Now the updates are long chatty letters to all of Scotty’s fans telling them what’s going on in his life.  By the way, Gail, we are long overdue for another one.

So check out Scotty’s excellent website.  He’s the last man standing of those who were at Sun Studios in 1954 when it all began.  He’s a gentleman who deserves all the good things going on for him now.  He’s a national treasure to be cherished.

©   2006   Philip R Arnold    All Rights Reserved    www.elvisblog.net