Friday, March 29, 2019

Has Elvis Left the Building?

I'm wondering if we're reaching the end of the days where Elvis is a relevant cultural landmark?

Las Vegas, for example, still has Elvis impersonators and Elvis wedding chapels. But is he a meaningful figure for the next generation? Even kids of my era knew Elvis -- through our parents, yes, but many of us grew up listening to the "oldies" station and so knew all the songs of that era pretty well by heart. Today? I'm dubious. I'm sure kids these days know who Elvis is, and probably can do a good "thankyouverymuch" impression. But he's probably fading as a phenomenon. Even to me, he already feels pretty quaint.

Some of this, of course, is the inexorable march of time. But it is interesting to see which songs from that era have staying power and which don't. The obvious place to look is which songs show up in advertisements. "Happy Together" by The Turtles is a great example -- a solid but not transcendent hit which nonetheless seems destined to stay a part of our cultural life for years to come. Which of Elvis' songs fall in the same boat? I don't have one jumping to the forefront of my mind.

And looking ahead: how long before we're wondering the same thing about The Beatles? And then Michael Jackson?


steevee said...

do you think this is due to the current view of Elvis as the poster boy for appropriation?

David Schraub said...

I do not. I think he's just plain not being thought about much anymore.

Eccaba said...

I think his presence is waning. Vegas has changed a lot too. Yeah, there are impersonators there, but not as many. Kitsch in Vegas is increasingly on it's way out. It seems to be moving more towards the high-end nightlife and dining.

However, I think he may have more staying power in the south, especially among country music loving sorts. He's still seen as a part of country, and is still covered a fair bit and played in related bars. I think Fools Rush In, Suspicious Minds, and his Christmas songs are the most lasting.. some others too.

The Beatles will have the greatest longevity, IMO. I still hear some of their late stuff on modern rock and adult contemporary stations from time to time.. mostly Come Together (and their's not Aerosmith), and Let it Be. Michael is already on his way out. I am hearing him less. His brand is badly damaged.

Relatedly, I am blown away by the staying power of Tommy James and the Shondells. Like, they weren't any kind of important band, but their music has been covered successfully so often, by so many people. Their vacuous pop music (said with love) seems to be timeless.

*It's really funny to me that THIS is the one post here that I decided to leave an epic comment on. I read you all the time!

David Schraub said...

I love this.