Elvis has entered the buildingPosted: September 24, 2011
I have a new-found admiration for Elvis impersonators. Fat ones, thin ones, old ones, young ones, good ones, rubbish ones – well done all of you.
So why this sudden outpouring of appreciation? After all, there are some important facts we have to face:
- Elvis cannot be rivalled – nobody else is going to match his voice, moves and charisma.
- Elvis wigs are terrible.
- Elvis impersonation is weird – imagine Elvis looking down and seeing people all over the world dressing up in curious parodies of his stage outfits and butchering his classic songs.
- Elvis is dead – his music lives on, but he has moved on, and anything else is a pale imitation. He’s not working in a chippy in Halifax. He isn’t hanging out on Mars. He died on the loo in 1977.
So my respect for Elvis impersonators is not based on their unique singing voices, enviable hairpieces or ornate costumes. It’s because these people (mostly men, but not exclusively) have amazing memories, astonishing stamina and nerves of steel.
I do not think of myself as an Elvis impersonator, but I DO sing Elvis songs at karaoke, I DO sing Elvis songs in my village panto (stop booing please) and I DO have a gold suit and an Elvis wig (which looks like roadkill – like a dead badger but without the stripes). OK, so maybe I am an Elvis impersonator of sorts.
And that’s how I ended up performing as Elvis this evening at an event ingeniously dreamt up by the young people of Bishopthorpe, a village near York. The Something Awesome weekend, linked to the churches in the village, brought together local talent for a cabaret evening. Local talent and me.
I was third in the running order. To say I was nervous would be similar to suggesting that my little boy quite likes diggers – a MASSIVE understatement.
I thought I was well prepared. I’d been playing Elvis songs in the car all week, and practising my two chosen songs – Teddy Bear and Are You Lonesome Tonight? – to a rather old karaoke CD that was to be my backing band for the night. Teddy Bear had caused me a few problems, as I kept getting verses in the wrong order, but ‘Lonesome’ was fine. I’d nailed that one earlier in the week, talking verse and everything. No problems there.
Back in the village hall, the hosts were introducing me, and out I went, bolstered by two Fruit Shoots (one apple, one blackcurrant), to generous applause and a sea of expectant faces. I mumbled an introduction, then the Teddy Bear backing track kicked in – or I should say it started up fairly faintly in the distance.
I have to say it went very well and I was feeling rather happy at the end of the song. No wrong words, and I even kept time despite the backing track disappearing under some loud but rather off-beat clapping.
This was like the Elvis 1968 comeback TV special – the returning rock legend, surrounded on all sides by fans cheering him on. Uh huh huh. Thankyouverymuch.
Straight into ‘Lonesome’. First couple of lines – fine. But then my mind went totally blank. No words were coming into my head or out of my mouth. Disaster! I’d forgotten the words completely. The words I’ve known off by heart since I was 19. The words I hadn’t got wrong once in the last fortnight.
Somehow I recovered, partly helped by the sight of my mum nobly mouthing the words at me from across the room, and it was all rather good fun.
It was that blank moment that made me realise that I do owe Elvis impersonators some credit. I’ve seen some awful ones, some excellent ones – none ever coming close to the real deal, of course – and some bizarre ones (the Swedish Elvis who sang Jailhouse Rock but pronounced J as Y, for example), but none of them have ever forgotten their words. None of them have ever dried up.
So fair play to you, Elvises of the world. You really know your stuff. And you do the world a great service – you remind people how much they love the real Elvis. Thank YOU very much.
Just to prove I haven’t made this up, here I am, complete with gold suit and roadkill wig…