Scrolling Headlines:

UMass women’s soccer falls to Central Connecticut 3-0 in home opener -

August 19, 2017

Preseason serves as opportunity for young UMass men’s soccer players -

August 13, 2017

Amherst Fire Department website adds user friendly components and live audio feed -

August 11, 2017

UMass takes the cake for best campus dining -

August 11, 2017

Two UMass students overcome obstacles to win full-ride scholarships -

August 2, 2017

The guilt of saying ‘guilty’ -

August 2, 2017

UMass tuition set to rise 3-4 percent for 2017-2018 school year -

July 18, 2017

PVTA potential cuts affect UMass and five college students -

July 10, 2017

New director of student broadcast media at UMass this fall -

July 10, 2017

Whose American Dream? -

June 24, 2017

Man who threatened to bomb Coolidge Hall taken into ICE custody -

June 24, 2017

Cale Makar drafted by Colorado Avalanche in first round of 2017 NHL Entry Draft -

June 24, 2017

Conservatives: The Trump experiment is over -

June 17, 2017

UMass basketball lands transfer Kieran Hayward from LSU -

May 18, 2017

UMass basketball’s Donte Clark transferring to Coastal Carolina -

May 17, 2017

Report: Keon Clergeot transfers to UMass basketball program -

May 15, 2017

Despite title-game loss, Meg Colleran’s brilliance in circle was an incredible feat -

May 14, 2017

UMass softball loses in heartbreaker in A-10 title game -

May 14, 2017

Navy sinks UMass women’s lacrosse 23-11 in NCAA tournament second round, ending Minutewomen’s season -

May 14, 2017

UMass softball advances to A-10 Championship game -

May 13, 2017

“Good Rockin’ Tonight” Reintroduces Legend to New Generation

On Aug. 17, 1977, a very sad and confused southern boy was found dead in his hotel room. Whether believed to be the result of too many prescription pills, or simply the stresses related to touring, it was a loss that had a powerful cultural impact worldwide.

It was at this point when the myth of Elvis became completely cut-off from his actual music, as well as when his then-kitschy image prevented his music from having seemingly any relevance at all. Elvis is currently associated with screechy blue-haired queens in Memphis, placing wreaths on his grave while talking about how they saw him last night in their hotel rooms. Hopefully, with today’s release of “Elvis 75: Good Rockin’ Tonight” – celebrating what would be Elvis’s 75th birthday – all this will change.

What is being sold is the entire basis for the Elvis legend, which may be viewed for the first time for the majority of this generation. We’ve seen the idea behind Elvis deconstructed, discussed and evaluated in film, literature and even the plethora of impersonators he has inspired. However, many people of a younger age spectrum have up until recently viewed him, and consequently his music, as dated relics of yesteryear. The release of this box set may transform all that.

For most, the music contained on “Elvis 75: Good Rockin’ Tonight” needs no introduction. The early years are always going to be remembered as the peak, and the later over-orchestrated pop covers are probably going to be dismissed. The key is to listen for the never-changing persona. The king of rock ‘n’ roll never stopped being the nice southern kid who played “Love Me Tender” on an acoustic guitar. He didn’t know anything of social change, yet when the record producers put him in the studio to sing “In the Ghetto,” he put his heart and soul into it. While that song certainly isn’t ever going to be remembered as a high point in the career of Elvis, it carries its own kind of desperate charm.

For that matter, so does much of the later material contained in this box set. Listeners can hear him lost in a studio filled with female backup singers and endless orchestras, unsure of where exactly he fits in. This is especially noticeable on his late-in-life rendition of “Unchained Melody.” The cascading pianos and angelic choirs threaten to overwhelm, but through it all we can hear the last gasps of life from the last days of a legend.

We can hear the promise in the early recordings, and see it fade as time goes by. The box set follows a coherent chronological progression, and, along with the accompanying essay by Grammy-winning music writer Billy Altman, we are given the full tale of Elvis’ personal life and musical career. The essay reads as a breathless account from a fan that knows every Elvis tale, and has read every biography. It is a valuable part of this wonderful set.

Certainly, the voice comes across as maudlin today, but at no point does it feel that it could be portrayed any other way. Every song was Elvis being Elvis; he knew no other existence. Sometimes he was jubilant, sometimes he was melancholy and sometimes he was lustful.

But at all times, he was Elvis.

Mark Schiffer can be reached at mschiffe@student.umass.edu.

Leave A Comment