Sunday, 21 September 2014

The Claim to Fame of Memphis, TN

So I went to Memphis.

Memphis has a few musical claims to fame... but Memphis has one particular musical claim to fame.

I grew up mostly ignorant of Elvis Presley.  My mother told me that he was a big deal, and that sometimes when he was filmed on television they would only film him from the waist up, so that he wouldn't offend the delicate sensibilities of girls and (particularly) their parents.

Other things I knew about Elvis...  he got fat before he died... people ... uh... impersonate him?  Some music fans are absolutely ape shit over him for reasons I can't identify?

Once I got inside of Graceland, I almost immediately recognized two other things about Elvis.  Maybe it's partly the era he existed in, but he had terrible taste in decorating (although that stuffed monkey is kind of cute) and he tried to watch three televisions at the same time.

Considering the fan art that he specifically endorsed, I'm not at all sure that it was just the era that he existed in.

(Fan art, as selected by The King himself)

Directly after that, I walked into a dim hallway that was literally lined with records and singles that went gold and platinum.  It *lined* *the* *hallway*.

I learned that Elvis wasn't just a big deal, he was a bigger deal than damn near any other musical thing that happened within a span of decades.  He's the best selling solo artist in history, starred in more than 30 movies and...

Famous isn't the right word.  Successful is too timid an expression.  They had a whole other room with his outfits, lined with awards.  There was a poster that said "Before anyone did anything, Elvis did everything" - it would've been easy to dismiss before seeing the ridiculous number of songs and albums that he made (that he consistently made!) that sold like hotcakes and reached #1.

I became aware of music late, around 1995, since the only thing my family listened to growing up was CBC radio (which isn't really about music anyway, for the most part).  In the time that I've been paying attention there isn't a single band or artist that I can think of that produced that many pieces of music that were consistently successful.  I heard more Elvis songs during my visit to Graceland than I had during the whole rest of my life put together, and even if I'm not personally crazy about them, I can now appreciate why Graceland is a thing, and why calling Elvis "a big deal" just doesn't do it justice.

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