"When dawn spreads its paintbrush on the plain, spilling purple... ," Songs of the Pioneers song from TV show "Wagon Train." Dawn on the mythic Santa Fe Trail, New Mexico, looking toward Raton from Cimarron. -- Clarkphoto. A curmudgeon's old-fashioned newspaper column, cross-breeding watercolor, metaphors and journalism, for readers in more than 150 countries.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Don't be cruel, please Elvis

It must be Elvis' birthday.

Documentaries and more blaring on the TV...but it's all "the old" Elvis...not the young, vibrant, music-changing rock star of the 50s and 60s.

No, this guy is a druggie and a star, but not a rebellious artist and trend setter. He is a shadow, albeit a saggy fat one, of his former self. Sequins and big belts and capes and big glasses and white boots and big belt buckles, and makeup can't costume the difference. He's not happy, and the aging crowd isn't either...they're all looking for their lost youth and when life was fresh and free and full of lust and living.

Someone wrote that Hemingway, in his later years, was only a parody of his earlier self...and that describes this Elvis completely.

Do you remember the young Elvis? 45 rpm LPs on scratchy record players, the young guy with the hip movements that embarrassed adults and infuriated preachers, the sultry, blues-jazz-black music combo that rocked the world that made girls swoon and guys jealous. The sneer, the plain clothes, the guitar, the moves and voice that shook the world. He didn't need any extra props or drama...it was him...that's when he became The King. In the later days, he may have had the title, but he had abdicated. These day's my oldest son Vance's Halloween costume is an old Elvis get up, complete with plastic hair, fancy white outfit and shoes. And he does a great interpretation. But the old Elvis was like my son's costume's hair...plastic.

I learned to dance to Elvis, along with a blur of others that even my wife now considers ancient.  It wasn't Rock. It was "Rock and Roll!" And it really did roll!

Hound Dog. Blue Suede Shoes (of course I had to have some, and did). Love Me Tender (nice and slow, perfect for hugging your girl extra close as you danced in dim light). As was Blue Moon. I Want You, I Need You, I Love You. And the companion, Wear My Ring Around Your Neck. And when it didn't go right, there was Heartbreak Hotel, and Hard Headed Woman. My favorite...Don't Be Cruel. Ones that drove you wild...Jail House Rock. Shake, Rattle and Roll. Teddy Bear. Return to Sender.

I can remember those spring and summer evenings in Albuquerque. Anywhere from eight to 20 of us, beautiful teen girls and guys who were trying to outgrow pimples, would get together in one of the carports in the neighborhood, plug in the record player, put on the records, and dance and fall in and out of love. Of course the boys all had to try to have his hair style, complete with "duck tails," and I tried, but I could never beat my best friend Barry Bruce, who had black hair and could imitate Elvis better than anyone I know.

We were indeed, All Shook Up.


  1. That last paragraph is pure gold, Clark!

    Oh, yeah - my sisters and I had all the 45's that ever came out. We had Elvis parties, where nothing but his music played! We even had contests in town to see who could imitate him the best - even the girls!!

  2. To have writing called "gold" by a poet is indeed a treasure.