I don't mind a bit of Elvis. I've only recently "come out" about it though, because my mother liked Elvis the first time around, so that basically meant that I couldn't admit to liking him throughout my entire youth (throughout my entire life) -- because you can't like what your mother likes. But the truth is out now, so it's all right. They've got a big exhibition on at The O2 at the moment so I thought I'd go and have a look.
It is actually inside The O2 itself, underneath the big tent, so you can go and have a nose around the venue while you're there. They've got a lot of pubs and cafes underneath the rim, so you might want to get there a bit early and have a few cheeseburgers in his honour.
It goes through his entire life from when he was born right up to his final five minutes on the toilet. The first room has a few sepia-tinged photos of him with his country ma and pa. You can see their little old shack in Tupelo -- it's not much bigger than a shed. You can see his birth certificate and his report card from school as well. It will come as no surprise to Elvis fans that he was an extremely nice and polite boy at school. After that comes an assortment of pay check stubs and job application forms (one boss describes him as a "flashily dressed playboy type") -- they've even got his dad's scruffy old painting trousers!
Then it's on to his actual career with some Sam Phillips and Sun acetates, with lots of original discs and documents. And whilst you're looking at all of these things you can hear his music blasting out of the speakers, of course -- I forgot to mention that. There are lots of movies and songs playing everywhere you go. I am standing in the middle of it right now, and lots of people just seem to be standing around and listening to it. They are almost swaying on their feet with big grins on their faces. I can see people stooping over the display cases and pressing their noses up against the glass, pawing at the cabinets and eyes lighting up when they see an original acetate. Everyone here loves Elvis -- of that there is no doubt. We are his army, his devoted followers, and this is our church service. It is quite a religious experience actually. We even think that he is still alive -- just like Jesus. We are looking at his clothes (the Turin Shroud?), and pictures of his birth shack (the stable and manger?), and hearing his words and teachings coming out of the speakers. They have even got telegrams from the devil incarnate (Colonel Tom Parker). They have basically got everything... record label contracts, concert adverts, awards, memorabilia they sold to the kids... his wallet, driving licence, credit cards... everything! And that's before you even get onto his clothes...
The first real costume they've got on display is his US Army uniform and berets. They've got his white suit from the '68 Comeback Special as well (the 'If I Can Dream' one). They don't appear to have his black leather one though, but no matter... because they've got loads of bejewelled suits from his Las Vegas shows, and even his blue Richard Nixon suit with the high collar -- alongside his Bureau of Narcotics badge! They've got a few diamond rings and things, and some chunky gold belts that look like heavyweight boxing belts. And some karate outfits too (I knew that Elvis liked his Kung Fu chops, but I didn't know that he had a karate belt).
They've decked out one room in the colours of the sit-down show at the Comeback Special. So that was another twenty minutes of my life gone, watching something that I've already seen about a million times before -- but you can't help it. Anyone who doesn't stop and watch him doing 'Baby What You Want Me To Do' has got something wrong with them.
If you've ever wondered what the inside of Graceland looks like then they have a few video tours of the rooms, plus lots of objects from inside -- like his golden telephone. My favourite bit was looking at the records that were sitting on his jukebox the day he died -- he seemed to enjoy a bit of Frank Sinatra and Tom Jones. There is a bit of blues and soul music too. They've got a few family photo albums with pics of Lisa Marie as well. After that comes his white Cadillac and a few golf buggies that he used to whizz around his garden.
The final section is a bit like going to the cinema, where everyone gets to sit down for thirty minutes and see some of his film and concert footage on the big screen. It's probably the closest that you're going to get to seeing him perform live... until they discover that he actually is alive and does a comeback tour. You might want to leave five minutes before the end though, because he gets progressively older and fatter as the show goes on, and I'd rather walk out the door when he's still in his prime.
I loved it on my first visit in March and am planning a return (or two!) shortly. In October I visted the exhibition in Vegas and was at Graceland for my birthday a couple of days later! Come and wallow in wall to wall Elvis! It's amazing how many people out there are fans - and all ages to boot.
From the author: “The best thing about this book is that I’m a local, and I’ve been to all of these attractions myself (all 200+ of them – honest!). And I don’t just regurgitate the same old spiel that you find in 95% of guidebooks. It’s not the kind of book where I just tell you the address, how much it costs, and leave it at that. I take you inside each location and share my experiences with you. Maybe I enjoyed them, and maybe I didn’t, but I’ll always give you an honest opinion – alongside a chapter full of Top 10 lists, two weeks-worth of example itineraries, and a guide to using the buses and trains.”