Yesterday afternoon the '50s bit the dust. The King was gone . . . just like that, the blue suede shoes empty. It's not just one heart that's stilled though, it's all our hearts - those of us whose teen-age hearts pounded, creaked, catapulted when Elvis, as new as first love, stopped, mid-beat, swiveled, looked right at us, slacked his jaw a touch and then . . . UNH-UNH . . . whammed his pelvis forward. In front of God, weeping mothers heading for the school principal, and everyone, including Ed Sullivan who never forgot.
Of course, back in 1956 the big question was "Did the Devil Brings Evil Presley?" Newspapers got to write all about the invasion of Elvis The Presley putrefying our brains, taking our parents' children away, turning them into sex-crazed rebels. Preachers never had it so good. But us kids had it best. We just had to sit there and rock with the ecstasy.
I remember the way it felt, the way it smell - Old Spice, sweatsox, too-sweet perfume - the way it sounded when we danced to "All Shock Up" at a Teen-High. You talk about your Guru chanting, your touchdown frenzy, your Beatlemania, those are just a whisper compared to a '50s dance floor (meaning the Gym) filled with foot-stomers jiving to The Pelvis, screaming Unh-Unh in unison.
The guoves on my Sun label Elvis 45s are all ruts. We played them 'til they died, until we had to Scotch-tape four quarters on the record player arm to stop skipping.
There are Elvis milestones I know all of us are thinking about now: The first movie; the first television show; the dread drafting of our hero (the end of civilization as we knew it); the triumphant return. These moments wrenched our lives, brought us together at the end of a lonely street.
I can't remember the name of the movie right now im my grief, but I know the beginning scene as if it were this instant. Black and white, no sound at the beginning, the camera panned an empty corn field real slow. I had snuck out to the neighborhood theater telling my mother I was going to the library. You see a gaunt figure silhouetted on the horizon next to a plow, hundred over. The camera moves in. It's . . . ELVIS. The theater screams as if struck by a roof cave-in. No one hears the whole rest of the sound tract for the 90-minute scream-a-rama.
And then, Ed Sullivan. Anticipation for weeks. The invitations buzzing like New Years in New York, to watch it in different living rooms, and you weren't taking any flak from your parents. That big mahogany set was warned up for hours, tuned in perfect. You had to sock people to shut up because the screaming started right when Ed said, "Tonight we have a really big show."
Elvis sang "Don't Be Cruel" that night - a little of heaven right here on earth. But, what we remember most is how we were cheated by those stupid television people who refused no matter how much we shouted from our living rooms "MOVE THE CAMERA DOWN," to show Elvis the Pelvis below the waist. We didn't know the word "Rip-off" then. We just kicked the screen and said things like "You Jerk-Os. You Nerds."
And then I remember the glorious day I was cruising for burgers in college and saw "Return to Sender" on the jukebox. We had lived through Elvis getting his hair - our sexuality threatened en masse - and going away to the army.
O course he never made it into a combat zone but still it was scary. Who knew if he'd be able to sing again, after an experience, like that" So, seeing "Return to Sender," I knew it was a new Elvis song and he was out of the Army, but could he still sing? I gambled a dime to find out. Could he still sing? "Return to Sender - UNH! - Ad-Dress Unknown." I jetted back to the dorm, burst in the study room and screamed "Elvis is Back!"
And, until yesterday, it was always allright from that moment on. He could sing with beauty and power right until the end. He survived - like we did - the '60s, Acid Rock, Punk Rock, the Me Decade, Tweep Rock, every last fad that faded like glimmer dust. And sure he got fat and some creepy newspapers started calling him The Paunch: and sure he got rich and had too many candidates; but, let them say what they want. We know he's gone to Hillbilly Heaven. We knew him well. And he was all of us, down here at the end of a lonely street at - UNH - Heartbreak Hotel.