Elvis is still dead

Not so many lifetimes ago I was the manager at a local used-record store. While there, I learned a handful of valuable life-lessons, such as: don’t buy CDs from sketchy guys carrying gym bags; people who enter the store carrying skates never buy anything; and, uh, you’d be surprised what you can sell if you play it to a crowded store. I’m sure I learned other things, but the one that comes to mind at the moment is that not everyone likes The Beatles. (Or, as CBC News would put it, “But not everyone agrees that The Beatles were good…”) Andy, the store’s owner, never tired of expressing his loathing for the quartet and all it stood for.

Not that he hated The Beatles, per se. He will acknowledge the band’s influence and has likely tapped a toe or two to their songs. What he hated were the fans. Or, at least, certain fans. The ones fond of interrupting record-store owner’s train of thought by asking for the German issue of a Beatles album that features Ringo hitting the hi-hat at the start of All My Loving. Or the Penny Lane 45 with the piccolo trumpet finale. Or the mono edition of the band’s self-titled 1968 album. (No fanatical collector would lower himself to calling it the “White Album.”)

Had I run that store for as many years as my boss Andy did, I may well have developed a similar disdain for the obsessive Beatles fan. Perhaps I also would have transferred that to a hatred of all things Beatles. Me, I kind of like The Beatles.

Just as I kind of like the Elvis Presley. After all, as Chuck D noted, “Elvis was a hero to most.” I can’t quite recall how the rest of that quote goes but good on ya, Chuck, for those kind words in honour of the King.

For if Beatles fans can be a bit much, they have nothing on the Cult of Elvis. Surely, nothing drives the American economy quite like the late truck driver from Tupelo. And there is perhaps no greater sign that said economy is gaining strength than the magazine I thumbed through at the grocery-store checkout this morning. A presentation of the National Enquirer, it bears the snappy title: Elvis Was Murdered. I considered buying it until I caught sight of the $6.99 pricetag, at which point I went straight to the passage detailing “explosive” new evidence that points to the Mob having rubbed out the King over some wayward scheme involving the sale of an airplane initiated by Elvis’s dad Vernon. Generous to a fault, it seems Elvis had spent his fortune on gifts for friends and well-wishers. And drugs. Lots of drugs. In need of quick cash, he agreed to sell a plane or two, and evidently talked to the wrong people about it.

It makes sense. After all, anyone who has seen or heard excerpts from the King’s final concerts will agree this was a man at the top of his game. Foul play seems certain. And no one plays fouler than the Mob.

Besides, the Enquirer always broke the news of the Mafia connection to this homicide two years ago; though, curiously, there was no mention of the plane at the time. Instead, according to Elvis’s costar from Paradise Hawaiian Style (a reliable source, needless to say), the Mob dealt with Elvis to prevent him from testifying before a federal grand jury — something he was slated to do Aug. 16, 1977. Vernon, it says here, was also supposed to offer testimony, but it’s safe to say without Elvis the grand jury simply disbanded. You know, like Led Zeppelin after John Bonham died under similarly suspicious circumstances. (And what did John Bonham know about the Mob? Did he purchase Elvis’s plane? Many questions remain unanswered.)

Fantastic, you say? I thought so too, until I checked to see what Elvis’s army has to say about the allegations. After all, we know at least 50 million Elvis fans can’t be wrong.

“The best version of the casket picture I’ve ever seen,” enthused one admirer on the For Elvis CD Collectors (FECC) forum. “Eighty-four pages with lots of good photos (and the casket photo — twice!),” said a follower of Rex Martin’s ELVIS Moments in Time. And from an enquiring contributor to a Lisa Marie thread: “I don’t necessarily believe everything it says but they do seem to love the Presleys.”

Hey, don’t we all? Not like those annoying Beatles. I’ll bet even magazine-store owners don’t hate Elvis.

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