40 Years Ago Today, Elvis “Left the Building” for the Last Time – Part 1

Yesterday was the day Scottish kids went back to school but 40 years ago we went back to school on today’s date, the 16th August. I remember it well as it was my senior year and we took a picture of me in my Prefect’s uniform (see postscript). I also remember it because it was the day Elvis died.

I have written about Elvis a fair bit since starting this blog as I used to be a massive fan of both him and those films he starred in between the late ’50s and early ’60s. I had a friend who felt the same way and as teenagers, whilst our peers were heading off out at night with their boyfriends, we could often be found at the local fleapit, watching oft repeated showings of old Elvis movies.

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Crowds at the gates of Graceland following the death of Elvis

I’m afraid I’m copying this picture idea from The Swede, whose excellent Unthought of, though, somehow blog is one I visit often, but Elvis is also special to me because “Elvis Sings Flaming Star” was the very first album I purchased with my own money. I wrote about it last year (link here) and some of you may have read that post already, but an appropriate day to re-share it I feel.

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The humble author today, 16/8/17, with her first album

It wasn’t until after I finished that “first album” post however that I did a little more digging and the story of how I came to acquire it, all started to make a bit more sense. We didn’t actually get to see the now legendary ’68 Comeback Special on television in the UK until about a year and a half later. I could only have been about 9 or 10 when it aired but I still remember that evening clearly. I had been asked to go down to our local village shop, which stayed open late on a Friday – All the ladies at the counters were really excited about going home to watch Elvis later on that evening and were asking all the customers if they would be tuning in. I must have mentioned this to my family when I got home and thankfully we did watch this piece of television history. Elvis was clad in black leather, was looking good, singing well and turned in an amazing performance as only he could. He resurrected his career after years of being holed up in Hollywood, churning out what were often thought of as lacklustre movies and dubious soundtrack albums.

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Elvis clad in black leather for the ’68 Comeback Special

The sponsor of the NBC television special was the Singer Sewing Machine Company (yes really) and the company had put together an album called “Singer Presents Elvis Singing Flaming Star and Others” (all very confusing) as a promotional tie-in for retail outlets that sold their machines. In March 1969, after the success of the special, it was re-issued internationally for normal retail outlets as “Elvis Sings Flaming Star”, which is when I must have come across it. Wouldn’t have known any of this back story at the time but just goes to show how fascinating rock and pop trivia can be.

So, nearly fifty years on from the infamous Comeback Special and exactly forty years on from his death, which song should I feature from his vast back catalogue? It occurred to me that only last week I had mentioned the song An American Trilogy as part of my Glen Campbell tribute post. Elvis Presley recorded the song in 1972 and it became a bit of a showstopper for him when performed during the massive event that was “Elvis—Aloha from Hawaii” broadcast in 1973. Three 19th century folk songs had been melded together and given the full jumpsuited-Elvis treatment and even today I can’t think of anyone better suited (no pun intended) for the song. His poverty-stricken southern roots, his close affinity with black music and his subsequent elevation to all-American global superstar.

An American Trilogy by Elvis Presley:

This was a more mature Elvis, now in his late thirties, but sadly this would be one of the last times we would see him turn in a performance like this. Later on that year his divorce from Priscilla would become final and he started to become increasingly unwell, his addiction to prescription drugs really starting to take their toll. 

In some ways I am glad Elvis didn’t make it to old age – He would have been exactly the same age as my mum and although the life she leads in her retirement complex suits her well, I cannot contemplate an octogenarian Elvis being suited to a similar life (with all the issues it can throw up). Best to remember the man as he was, the “star” of Flaming Star, the leather clad Comeback King and the jumpsuited maestro of those Global Event concerts broadcast around the world.

RIP Elvis, RIP The King.

An American Trilogy Lyrics
(Song by Mickey Newbury)

Oh, I wish, I was in the land of cotton
Old times there are not forgotten
Look away, look away, look away Dixieland

Oh, I wish, I was in Dixie, away, away
In Dixieland I take my stand to live and die in Dixie
For Dixieland, that’s where I was born
Early Lord one frosty morn
Look away, look away, look away Dixieland

Glory, glory, Hallelujah
Glory, glory, Hallelujah
Glory, glory, Hallelujah
His truth is marching on

So hush little baby, don’t you cry
You know your daddy’s bound to die
But all my trials, Lord will soon be over

Glory, glory, Hallelujah
His truth is marching on
His truth is marching on

Postscript:

Yes, being a bit of a hoarder I still have that picture although we weren’t very good at keeping shadows out of the shot back then it seems – Good try though Dad.

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The author on 16/8/77 – The day Elvis died

Author: Alyson

Whenever I hear an old song on the radio, I am immediately transported back to those days - I know I'm not alone here and want to record those memories for myself and for the people in them. 50 years ago the song "Alfie" was recorded for the film of the same name and I'm hoping that by writing this blog, I might finally work out the answer to his question, "What's it all about?"

22 thoughts on “40 Years Ago Today, Elvis “Left the Building” for the Last Time – Part 1”

  1. One of my very first memories: 40 years ago today. I had no idea that British audiences had to wait so long to watch The Comeback Special. Imagine that today, in a world where people stay up till 3am to watch the latest episode of Game of Thrones at the exact time it airs in America!

    As to how Elvis would fair in a retirement home, Bruce Campbell has an excellent stab at showing us that in the comedy/horror movie Bubba Ho Tep.

    And what a treat to mark this special day – The Swede be praised for starting his excellent Sleeveface meme. Pity I don’t have a vinyl copy of The Return Of Bruno anymore… or perhaps for the best.

    They really should make August 16th into an international holiday. Happy Elvis Day!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I see you have done an Elvis post as well – There will be a lot of people thinking along the same lines today.

      You know what, I can’t now find where I got that info about the ’68 Comeback Special being shown so much later in the UK and am starting to doubt it myself. It was initially to be quite a low key affair however made pre-Christmas for an American audience so it was not until after the event that it went down in history as being a landmark bit of broadcasting – Makes sense that it might not have made it across the pond until much later.

      Yes, The Swede has really started something with his Sleevey McSleeveface meme. I’m sure a copy of The Return of Bruno could be acquired from somewhere?!

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    1. A big anniversary today for those of us who remember that day in 1977.

      Feel free to enter the “What was your first album” game – Do you still have it I wonder?

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  2. I was never a prefect – didn’t play rugby which appeared to be a prerequisite – for the boys at least.

    My first full length album was Sheer Heart Attack by Queen. It was on cassette. I now own it on CD – not big enough to do a Swede.

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    1. I’m sure you would never have guessed that I was a Prefect! I gave it a capital letter otherwise it looked a bit like “perfect” – A big fat lie that would have been.

      I cannot believe that you don’t have a first album to do a Swede with. Cassettes really became the medium of choice for kids our age didn’t they and such a short life span as they always got chewed up in the machine. Vinyl, like Elvis, was the King.

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  3. Haha, love the way that “Doing a Swede” has now entered the language – and love the photos, Alyson (even the shadow!).
    Great bit of trivia about the TV show and also really puts it into context; a reminder of how there was no chance to record something or watch it on catchup or elsewhere, you had to make sure you were there in front of the TV when it aired, and appreciating it in the moment, probably expecting never to see it again… Whilst the airing of special programmes can still be exciting to view in real time, there’s no longer that sense of ‘now or never’ about them, is there? I know what you mean about imagining certain people like Elvis in old age, I do sometimes wonder if departing early is the better option, if that doesn’t sound too morbid!

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    1. Yes – he’s really started something hasn’t he. Hope you’ve still got your first album up your sleeve (figuratively speaking)?

      I really miss not watching things in real time as it was just so exciting the next day being able to discuss it with everyone. Now we all pretty much watch the same stuff but at different times. I’m a whole season behind on Game of Thrones so have to cover my ears whenever I hear it being discussed. As for Car Share fortunately we could all mention that once it had finished airing but I had watched it all weeks earlier on the iPlayer.

      Thanks for dropping by as I know you’re not particularly an Elvis fan but you can’t have failed to notice the sheer number of posts about him today – 40 years on and I’ve had a real wallow today, listening to many of those great songs he recorded. Good to know that so many who overlooked his brilliance in their younger days have come round.

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    1. That we know of! Yes was trying to persuade C to follow suit – Hopefully soon. We’ve had the whole Boaty McBoatface phenomenon, now it’s time for the Sleevey McSleeveface one.

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      1. I only have my first album purchase in CD format now and somehow it’s just not going to be the same peering over something so small… most of the vinyl is long gone I’m afraid. Perhaps I’ll have to mock up the sleeve!

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  4. Haha! I thought I felt my ears burning while I was otherwise engaged! I’ve actually got a folder on my laptop consisting of photos of me cowering behind various record sleeves that I intend to blog about someday. The folder is entitled ‘Sleeveface’, but I’m going to change it to Swedey McSwedeface – brilliant!
    What a terrific post Alyson. I also had an Elvis post in mind for the 16th, but ran out of time to prepare it. I’ll have to save it for another day.
    I note from your sidebar that there’s a part 2. I shall be back to check it out after dinner!

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