Movies: Elvis; Mr. Malcolm’s List


After seeing the new movie Elvis – and knowing the limitations of the biopic genre – I wish my father were still around so that we could debate the merits, but not the film per se. It was more that he hated Elvis for his cultural appropriation. I believe that the film showed that the kid from Tupelo, MS (the young Australian actor Chaydon Jay) came by his love of black music honestly. (Unlike, say, Pat Boone covering Little Richard’s Tutti Fruiti.)

When my wife and I saw the previews a few months ago, featuring the somewhat older Elvis (the magnetic Austin Butler), my wife asked, “Was Elvis REALLY that sexy?” I SHOULD have said, “50,000,000 Elvis Fans Can’t Be Wrong!” which is (sort of) the title of one of his greatest hits albums. Instead, I just said, “Yes, yes, he was.” Her query comes from only being familiar with the “fat Elvis” stuck in Vegas.

I liked it a lot. Sean P. Means of The Movie Cricket wrote, “It’s big, bold, and brassy. It’s not perfect, and at 2 hours and 39 minutes still doesn’t deliver everything you’d expect in a telling of Elvis’s life story. But it’s always holding your attention.” Yeah, that’s about right.

Who is that?

It’s always nice to see the bits one’s aware of, such as Elvis singing to an actual hound dog on Steve Allen’s show. I don’t know exactly what his relationship with some of the black stars of the era was, but it was fun to try to identify them. I didn’t recognize B.B. King (Kelvin Harrison Jr.) or Arthur ‘Big Boy’ Crudup (Gary Clark Jr.). Still, Sister Rosetta Tharpe (Yola), Big Mama Thornton (Shonka Dukureh), and especially Little Richard (Alton Mason) were obvious to me. Sadly, Shonka Dukureh died recently.

The one aspect I’m still puzzling about is Tom Hanks’ accent as Colonel Tom Parker. It’s…weird. Parker biographer Alanna Nash says that’s not what he sounded like, which frankly doesn’t bother me. Nash said, “He didn’t have an impediment — he was just trying to wrap a Dutch tongue around the English language, Southern-style… But [director Baz Luhrmann] wanted to make him seem more ‘other.’ Or as Baz told me in an interview, ‘I thought it was very important that Tom presents the audience with a strangeness, a sort of ‘What is going on with this guy?'”

But “Nash did say that there are some things Baz Luhrmann got right with Elvis. This includes the suggestion that Parker did all he could to prevent Presley from fulfilling his dream of embarking on a European tour. It was unfortunate for Presley, as the reason had nothing to do with the singer but with Parker’s lack of a passport.”

I suspect Austin Butler will get an Academy Award nomination for playing Elvis. His energy and charisma, and talent are tremendous. All in all, I recommend the movie.

Very Jane Austen-y

MrMalcolmsList“A young woman courts a mysterious wealthy suitor in 19th century England.” That’s the premise of the newish movie Mr. Malcolm’s List. Do you want more? “When she fails to meet an item on his list of requirements for a bride, Julia Thistlewaite (Zawe Ashton) is jilted by London’s most eligible bachelor, Mr. Malcolm (Ṣọpẹ́ Dìrísù). Feeling humiliated and determined to exact revenge, she convinces her friend Selina Dalton (Freida Pinto) to play the role of his ideal match. Soon, Mr. Malcolm wonders whether he’s found the perfect woman…or the perfect hoax.”

My wife loves this stuff and was very fond of the film. I thought it was fine, and the diverse cast was entertaining.

We saw both films at the Spectrum Theatre in Albany in July 2022.

1960 music: elect JFK or RMN?

3 Elvis, 2 Connie Francis, 2 Brenda Lee

Percy FaithThere was a time when I thought most of the music between 1959 and 1963 was boring. Lots of dudes named Bobby – Bobby Vee, Bobby Vinton – and they weren’t even the same guy?

But the world was getting interesting. In 1960, the Presidential election was taking place. Whoever was elected was going to be far younger than that general fellow who had been in the office.

These were the songs that hit #1 in 1960 on the pop charts. RB=rhythm and blues. CW=country and western.

The Theme from “A Summer Place” – Percy Faith and His Orchestra, #1 for nine weeks. #2 RB. Gold record. I heard snippets of this song a LOT during the decade. It was often the music that would lead to the news on the hour.

Are You Lonesome To-night – Elvis Presley, #1 for six weeks. #3 RB, #22 CW. Double platinum record. The talking part – “You know someone said that the world’s a stage And each must play a part” – always bugged me.

It’s Now Or Never – Elvis Presley. #1 for five weeks. #7 RB. Platinum record. In grade school, I heard “O Sole Mio.” This confused me.

Cathy’s Clown – The Everly Brothers. #1 for five weeks. #1 RB. Gold record. My first favorite group.

Stuck on You – Elvis Presley. #1 for four weeks. #6 RB, #27 CW. Platinum record. Did I mention my father HATED Elvis?

Done with Elvis

I’m Sorry – Brenda Lee. #1 for three weeks. #4 RB. Gold record.

Running Bear – Johnny Preston. #1 for three weeks. #3 RB. Gold record. I don’t remember this. Having heard it -oy.

Save the Last Dance for Me – the Drifters. #1 for three weeks. #1 RB. Gold record. Even as a child, I thought this was a very romantic song.

Teen Angel – Mark Dinning. #1 for two weeks. #5 RB. Gold record. I didn’t like death rock songs very much.

My Heart Has a Mind of Its Own – Connie Francis. #1 for two weeks. #11 RB. I vaguely remember this.

El Paso – Marty Robbins. #1 for two weeks. #1 for seven weeks CW. I thought this was rather cool, with this country tune topping the charts. Was this really a four-minute single?

Everybody’s Somebody’s Fool– Connie Francis. #1 for two weeks. #2 RB. Gold record.

The Twist – Chubby Checker. #2 for three weeks RB. Gold record. This song, of course, would reach #1 in 1962 as well.

Thursday afternoon at the beach

Itsy Bitsy Teeny Weeny Yellow Polka Dot Bikini – Brian Hyland. #10 RB. Gold record. This song got stuck in my head. When I tried to write a song about the beach, I lifted a bit of this song.

Alley-Oop – Hollywood Argyles. #3 for two weeks RB. Gold record.

Mr. Custer – Larry Verne. #9 RB. I don’t remember this at all. And now I’ve seen it, I’m slackjawed. Just OMG.

I Want To Be Wanted – Brenda Lee. #7 RB. Not remembering this.

Stay – Maurice Williams and the Zodiacs. #3 for two weeks RB. I LOVED this song. It’s one of the shortest #1s ever at 1:37. I wish it would play just a little bit longer.

Georgia on My Mind – Ray Charles. #3 for four weeks RB. The song became Georgia’s official state song on April 24, 1979, when Gov. George Busbee signed it into law.

Interesting that every single song on this list crossed over to another chart.

Musical throwback: No More by Elvis Presley

It is, “together with Yesterday by The Beatles,… one of the most recorded songs in the history of music.”

One of my work colleagues had this Elvis Presley video which I couldn’t identify, though it looked as though it was from one of his movies, none of which I’ve ever seen. Yet the tune was irritatingly familiar. Dustbury identified the video as No More from the soundtrack to Blue Hawaii.

That made sense, he noted, because it came out right after Elvis had an enormous hit with It’s Now or Never, an English rewrite of O Sole Mio, the “globally known Neapolitan song written in 1898.” Its lyrics were written by Giovanni Capurro and the music was composed by Eduardo di Capua. Aaron Schroeder, Wally Gold, and di Capua are credited on It’s Now or Never.

Here are a few examples of when Elvis borrowed from classical music; compare and contrast.

Don Robertson, credited as the co-composer of No More with Hal Blair, said he based it on the Italian tune La Paloma. But in fact Sebastián Yradier was a Spanish Basque composer who wrote this habanera around 1860 after a visit to Cuba. It is, “together with Yesterday by The Beatles,… one of the most recorded songs in the history of music.”

From this list of Elvis songs, I checked who was cited for writing Love Me Tender, since it was based on what I thought was an old folk tune, Aura Lee. It’s credited to Elvis Presley; Vera Matson (pseudonym of Ken Darby, uncredited – what’s THAT all about?); and George R. Poulton (1828–1867), who was “a musician and composer, best known for composing the tune to Aura Lea.” (I’ve seen it spelled both ways.)

Of course, Aura Lee has often been rewritten. When we were kids, the lyrics were:
If you must take medicine
Take it orally
That’s because the other way
Is more painfully

Listen to
No More – Elvis Presley here (the video I saw, unlabeled) or here
La Paloma – Plácido Domingo here
La Paloma – Julio Iglesias here

Love Me Tender – Elvis Presley here
Aura Lee – A Cappella Trudbol here
Aura Lee- Jim Reeves here
Aura Lee – 97th Regimental String Band here

Elvis has left the building

Calling Elvis
Is anybody home?

“Elvis has left the building” has become such a cliche, or as the Wikipedia puts it, “a catchphrase and punchline,” if you’re young enough, you may not know that people actually said it of Elvis Presley in an unexpected way .

It was “announced at the end of [his] concerts to encourage fans to accept that there would be no further encores and to go home. It is now used more widely to indicate that someone has made an exit or that something is complete.”

From Phrases:

“Oddly, although the phrase was routinely used to encourage the audience to leave, the first time that it was announced it was to encourage them to stay in their seats. That first use was in December 1956 by Horace Logan [listen], who was the announcer at the Louisiana Hayride show, in which Elvis was a regular performer.

“Presley had very quickly become very popular with teenagers but had previously taken a regular lowly spot at the Hayride, which was his first big break. He was on the bill quite early in proceedings but after his performance was over and the encore complete, the crowd of teenagers, who weren’t Hillbilly enthusiasts, began to leave. Logan announced: ‘Please, young people … Elvis has left the building. He has gotten in his car and driven away … Please take your seats.'”

Throughout the 1970s, the phrase was captured on record several times, spoken by Al Dvorin.

Now, it is “used to refer to anyone who has exited in some sense. For instance, it might be used when someone makes a dramatic exit from an argument, to relieve tension among those who remain. Baseball broadcasters on radio and/or television sometimes use the phrase as a humorous way to describe a home run, which is typically hit over the outfield fence, leaving the field of play.”

There is a movie called Elvis Has Left the Building (2004): “A fugitive Pink Lady rep hooks up with a bored ad exec as she’s trying to avoid going down for the murder of several Elvis impersonators.”

The phrase is referred to in the Dire Straits song Calling Elvis [listen].

Calling Elvis
Is anybody home?
Calling Elvis
I’m here all alone
Did he leave the building?
Or can he come to the phone?
Calling Elvis
I’m here all alone

The Wikipedia lists several pop references to the phrase, including the films The Usual Suspects and Independence Day. But it doesn’t mention Elvis is Dead by Living Colour [listen], which is the strongest reference for me.

Elvis is dead, 40 years today. Or as I read 40 years ago tomorrow, Elvis HAS left the building. Right? RIGHT?!

Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

There was a special section on Graham Nash: Touching the Flame, featuring the photos and drawings he and his friends created during his time with the Hollies and CSNY

Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Cleveland, OH, July 14-15, 2016
Since it’s only about an hour away from the Ashtabula reunion, the family was unanimous in agreeing that we would HAVE to visit the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland.

I had been there before, in 1998. They had special displays for the Carls Perkins and Wilson, who had recently died. But much has changed in the intervening 18 years.

They recommend that you start your tour on the lower level, and this is appropriate. It has a film about the 2016 induction ceremony. I spent a LOT of time, and could have spent more, in the Stewart Gallery, reading about and listening to “The Roots of Rock: Blues, Gospel, R&B, Country, Bluegrass, and Folk.”
The Elvis Presley exhibit featured a 14-minute film about him, which was worth watching. Then “The Legends of Rock and Roll” were portrayed in various ways. Each of the Beatles’ albums was described in short films. There was a film on the Rolling Stones, which I did not have time to watch. Lots of outfits of artists from Hendrix, Bowie, the Who, the Supremes, Michael Jackson, and others.

A couple of displays were geographically oriented Cities and Sounds, and The Music of Cleveland and the Midwest. There was an area about the radio personalities, such as Alan Freed, who delivered the music. Also, I watched the 30-minute film Dick Clark’s American Bandstand.
There was a special section on Graham Nash: Touching the Flame, featuring the photos and drawings he and his friends created during his time with the Hollies and Crosby, Stills & Nash (& Young). A sound booth allowed one to sing along with Bus Stop and Teach Your Children, and see how off-key we were, at which point, the recorded Graham would indicate that you shouldn’t quit your day job. (I wanted to try this solo, since I was more familiar with the songs, but never had the chance.)

Finally, on the Lower Level, was Right Here, Right Now, a display of videos of more recent songs, most of which I had never heard. I spent 20 minutes there but could have spent two hours.
The escalator skips Level 1 going up (but it lands IN the gift shop going down – no fools, them.) There were segments about the architects of rock and roll; watching Les Paul play was hypnotic.

A multimedia exhibit Video Killed the Radio Star was 11 minutes of very strange stuff, but I liked it. Peter Gabriel and others were represented.

The Daughter could have spent all day at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame listening to headphones listening to the “songs that shaped rock and roll and one-hit wonders,” and more the Hall of Fame Jukebox on the 4th Level, with a collection of songs by all the inductees.

I watched a short film, The Life and Music of Smokey Robinson. There were displays of the evolving technologies, “from Wax to .Wav.”

On Level 3, the Induction Ceremony highlight films from over the years that interested me greatly, but there was still so much to see, I watched only a couple of years’ worth, limited by time.

There’s also a cafe on this level, where we got some snacks and sat outdoors, with a nice view of Lake Erie. We were only bothered by the people who insisted on feeding the seagulls, despite signs prohibiting this.

I should note what on the wall on Level 4: Pink Floyd: The Wall, this giant paper mache-looking thing.

Hmm, I didn’t get to Levels 5 and 6. Seems like another post about the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, soon…

All photos (c) 2016 by Lydia P. Green

Social media & sharing icons powered by UltimatelySocial