There's a post relationship breakup tradition I have which, sadly, I've practised way too many times over the past ten years. Basically, in an effort to get rid of the feelings of confusion, hurt and anger that comes with having one's heart broken, I'll grab a bottle of Jack Daniels, lock myself in to a room somewhere, and spend a couple of hours staring at the ceiling while listening some carefully chosen records. These will invariably include Joy Division, The Smiths, Radiohead, Jeff Buckley and Leonard Cohen to name but a few. The very first record to get played however is always something by Elvis Presley. Because, when it comes to heartbreak, nobody but nobody does it better than The King.
The reason I bring all this up is that in my last post about the “Wow!” signal I happened to mention that the day after it was picked up by a radio telescope in Ohio, Elvis Presley was found dead in his bathroom.
Now you would think that almost definitive proof that intelligent life exists on another planet would be a hotly debated topic on the interwebz, while the death of an overweight drug addicted rock 'n' roll singer would barely raise an eyebrow. Amazingly though the only time the “Wow!” signal ever really gets a mention is in retrospective “30 years ago” reports. Elvis's death on the other hand is talked about endlessly by conspiracy buffs everywhere. In fact a recent poll conducted suggests that 68% of Americans believe that Elvis did not die at all, and is presumably shaking his hips somewhere even now.
What's truly fascinating however is the lengths to which some people will go to try and prove that Elvis Presley faked his own death. For example Elvis's FBI file is the second most requested document under the freedom of information act (Gee Note: The first being the FBI file about Lyndon B. Johnson being a cross dresser. Nah, only kidding, it is of course the FBI file on Roswell. The "LBJ wearing lady clothes" file doesn't really exist. Or so they would want you to believe).
Now the corner stones for the “Elvis is alive” conspiracy are arguably just some superficial inconsistencies. Probably the one that's cited most often is that the name Elvis Aron Presley is spelt incorrectly on the gravestone as Elvis Aaron Presley.
Except it isn't. On Elvis's birth certificate his name reads Elvis Aaron Presley. In spite of this Elvis would later change the spelling of his middle name to closer match that of his still born twin's (Gee Note: Jesse Garon Presley). Hence the reason it appears as Aron on his marriage certificate. However it was never changed in any official capacity and apparently Elvis reverted back to it's original spelling later in life. So the idea that the name was deliberately misspelt on Elvis's tombstone to signify that he wasn't really dead is, um, kind of null and void.
Also, if you were going to fake your own death and you had the resources that Presley did, wouldn't you want to make sure that nobody would, you know, work out that it wasn't really you in the coffin? I mean you'd kind of want to make sure that all the details were correct, and not risk discovery by leaving an obvious mistake in plain sight wouldn't you? I know if I went through all the trouble of convincing the entire world that I was pushing up daisies only to be rumbled because my tombstone read “Here lies Dareth Gavies” I'd be pretty miffed to say the least.
But never fear my brave children. There's a ton of additional evidence outside of the misspelt name. For example, there's this picture :
Allegedly taken in Graceland's Meditation Gardens, it shows what appears to be The King kicking back in his pool house. Except, and here's the kicker, it was taken on January 1st 1978. A full four months after Elvis had died. The photo was taken by a member of the public named Mike Joseph, and was brought to public attention in the book “The Elvis Files” by Gail Brewer-Giorgio.
The book also claims that shortly after Elvis's death was announced a man by the name of John Burrows, who matched Elvis's description, bought a plane ticket to Buenos Aries. As far as I can tell, even though Elvis used the pseudonym John Burrows on a couple of occasions in the past, there's no real hard evidence to support this.
And there in lies the problem with the “Elvis is alive” conspiracy. There's really no hard evidence to support any of it at all. Even the celebrated “Pool house Photo” simply shows an overweight man wearing a pair of big sunglasses. Hardly conclusive, especially considering that it was A) the 1970's and B) Memphis. Slightly pudgy men in novelty shades were ten a penny back then.
The bottom line is though that Elvis Presley, despite being scheduled to go on tour the day after he died, had managed to put on 50lbs to an already out of shape physique in one month. As a man who managed to shed 70lbs in the past three months (Gee Note: No really, I'm all kinds of sexy and aerodynamic at the moment) 50lbs is a massive amount of weight. Trust me, anybody who abuses their body to that extent is going to suffer repercussions in some way.
Somewhere in my DVD collection I have a movie called “Elvis: That's The Way It Is”. A rockumentary that follows Elvis on the build up to his record breaking 1970 concert tour, it's a fascinating look at both Elvis as a performer, and the music industry as a whole. There are several moments through out the feature that are worthy of note. For example, Elvis never rehearsed with his backing singers before the tour started. Instead they would practice by singing along to a pre recorded tape of The King warbling away. There's also a ton of really good footage of Elvis live on stage, and for those like me who weren't alive when Elvis was in his prime, it really does hammer home what a charismatic and talented entertainer he was.
But there's something that, when looking back at it, is kind of unsettling. During a rehearsal before the tour started Elvis is jamming with his band when, for no real reason that I can see, he falls off his chair. He gets back up and immediately starts mugging for the camera with a manic grin. Now maybe it was just a bit of play acting from the rock 'n' roller, but to be honest with you the first reaction I had when I saw it was “Dear God, that guy's completely wasted”.
And the thing is that when it's all said and done Elvis Presley went from this:
Elvis Presley certainly had the means to be able to fake his own death, but the fact is a man who was a drug addict put on an astonishing amount of weight in a seriously short space of time. Now I'm no doctor, but even I know that is unbelievably unhealthy.
And so while fans of The King may hope that somewhere, somehow, he's still alive, it's tough to look past the idea that he died on August 16th 1977. I will however continue to honour his memory, and raise a glass to the man every time one of my relationships hits the skids.
Because nobody, but nobody, does heartbreak better than Elvis Presley.