Somewhere, Elvis Is Spinning
:: Gabriel – Somewhere Elvis Is Smiling ::
Do you remember where you were when Elvis died? Were you alive when
Elvis died? Is Elvis dead? I remember where I was. I was driving home
from work when they announced it on KROQ. I was like, "Whoa!".
My favorite Elvis death memory came a couple of weeks later when a
friend of mine got an emergency call to fill in for a soundman on an
Elvis imitator gig up at Big Bear Lake. We drove up there not knowing
what to expect. The gig was at the Big Bear Convention Center, which
was about the size of an Elks Lodge. We set up the gear and did a
sound check with the band, which was probably the biggest band we'd
ever worked with - full horn section, the whole bit.
I remember we got cocktails from the bar and waited for the show to
start. The audience started coming in and it looked as though they had
been bussed in from the old folks home. Tons of old couples mostly.
After a while the band came out and started playing. They probably ran
through about 2 or 3 instrumentals, you know, warming up the crowd,
then finally someone announced that The King was in the building. The
old people started to get excited. Suddenly this guy in Elvis garb
(his name was Steve Long) came running from the back of the room,
through the crowd up to the stage. I thought some of the old ladies
were gonna pass out.
The alcohol had begun to take effect by then and I just remember
feeling a bit stunned. It just didn't make sense. Did these people
really believe that the guy on stage doing pelvic thrusts at them was
thee Elvis? He wasn't a bad impersonator, but Jesus! Somewhere toward
the middle of the show he did one of those ballads, "Love Me Tender"
or something like that. He had this big cardboard box full of scarves,
and they had all the old ladies line up in front of the stage. As he
crooned, he'd wipe the sweat from his brow onto a scarf then drape it
around a woman's neck, so you had all these old ladies running back
toward their husbands giggling like 14 year-olds. It was surreal.
I guess I've never comprehended what it was about Elvis that people
simply couldn't let go of. I like his music. I've visited Graceland
and thought it was really cool. I understand that he's the guy who
made rock & roll a popular art form, and thank God for that. But by
the time of his death he'd been a has-been for years, so I guess I
didn't realize a lot of people were still really into him.
This record was made about 11 years after he (supposedly) died. The
singer is not an Elvis imitator, just a Vegas lounge singer with a
thing for the King. The song has 1988 production values all over it,
and the picture of the singer and the recording engineer with their
mullets is priceless. There's a flyer intended for radio program
directors asking them to play the song repeatedly on August 16, 1988,
the eleventh anniversary. I'm sure they were hoping that if just a few
radio stations actually did as they asked, they might have a hit on
their hands, but it wasn't meant to be.
The other side of the record has an interview with a
"parapsychologist" who visited Elvis' grave at Graceland and "didn't
feel anything", so he concluded Elvis' body wasn't in the grave. The
interviewer informed the parapsychologist that Elvis had been recently
sighted in Kalamazoo, MI driving around in a red Ferrari. There's also
an interview with a comic who worked at a casino in Vegas in the early
'70s and actually hung out with Elvis. He also didn't believe he was
dead, and did very good impersonations of Columbo and Jack Nicholson.
I'm beginning to think maybe that guy I saw at the Big Bear Convention
center in 1977 ("Steve Long") really was Elvis, or at least I'd like
to think so.