There are two predominant images of Elvis Presley's in the public psyche - the beautiful young rocker, virile and dangerous and then there is the bloated Elvis, the victim of tasteless excess. There was a million miles between the revolutionary force the young Elvis was and that parody of later years. As brilliant as he was, Elvis died a sad pitiful wreck of a man - someone who had been chewed up and spat out by the money men of show business.
I've written in the past about my admiration for Elvis but I've always been more tuned to the early period, the blues and rockabilly mesh ups like Mystery Train, That's All Right and I forgot to remember to forget, belted out by the prototype punk. I still think those songs he cut with Sun Records are among the best songs ever recorded.
I usually avoid those latter tracks, those tacky ballads and over produced show-tunes. But lately I've been listening to a lot of the later work and discovering that I had been too harsh - even in the comedy jump-suit days Elvis could rock when he truly wanted to. For every person who thinks Elvis was a revolution, there is another who considers him a joke. But can anyone realistically deny that he was not the single most important voice in the history of modern music? I think not.
If you use your ears rather than the years of prejudices to listen to Heartbreak Hotel then you'll feel that magic, that brilliance, that genius in the voice. And the same goes for later day classic such as Separate Ways and Way Down.
As John Lennon said, before Elvis there was nothing.