Elvis In Vegas Review: Fallen Angel

By Onthebox/ Emma RinkJan 3, 2010

ELVIS IN VEGAS: Sunday 3rd January, BBC2

Rating: 3.5/5

“He loved being Elvis Presley, there’s no doubt about that. But I think he started to dislike himself and lost his desire to be, Elvis Presley.”

This opening line from Tom Jones sums up the ambiguous mental struggle the king of rock and roll contended with during his infamous life-time.

Then again, Jones does recall some questionable anecdotes during this documentary on the singer’s life, including the early years when Elvis studied the Welshman’s dance movements for inspiration (why are old films of Tom Jones always so cringe-worthy?) and the time Elvis used his toilet (“I was washing my hair in the shower and I heard him singing!”).
Odd cameos aside, this is the story of how Elvis Presley, together with his manager, steel-eyed agent Tom ‘The Colonel’ Parker, revitalised Las Vegas into the hip money-spinner and tourist attraction it is today. But when he first arrived there in 1956 aged 21 he failed to make an impression.

Under the wing of a frankly terrifying sounding (and looking- this man wears a permanent oversized cowboy hat and cigar) Parker, he was turned into a movie star overnight. Cue famous footage of ‘Jail House Rock’ and other colourful money-making musicals that will have you tapping your toes but Presley suffering an identity crisis. “He didn’t want to do musicals… riding a horse and singing to a cow eventually got to Elvis,” Jerry Schilling from the ‘Memphis Mafia’, the “yes-men” around Presley, confides.

This all changed in the NBC TV Christmas special of 1968, which saw Elvis adopt his trademark sultry leather-clad image. Singing lines such as, ‘If you’re looking for trouble, look right in my face’ (he was probably right; his jaw line could cut glass) may not sound very festive but did make him a household name.

From 1969 he became a regular at The International Hotel, Las Vegas, where he ironically originally flopped. Thousands flocked to the city to see Elvis and his white elaborate body suits only he could get away with (“The way he was built made a perfect ‘V’,” explains his costume designer, i.e. they really would look stupid on a mere mortal).

At two shows a night four times a week for five years, there’s a lot of fun, ‘sing-along’ footage that’s documented, along with hotel employees saying what a right laugh Elvis was (“You needed three people to pick up his outfits!” a cleaner chuckles). We also get access to his private hotel suite, where much of his notorious behaviour took place.

The high life famously took its toll on Presley and those around him. His wife Priscilla tells her story, along with ex-girlfriend Linda Thompson who elaborates further, calling him Crazy, Santa Claus and The Fallen Angel to name but a few.

The ‘Fallen Angel’ moniker is noted via a dependency on prescription medication, ramblings on stage and a strained relationship with his manager, a gambler who turned out to be dishonest to say the least.

It is a wonder Elvis remained the loyal, spiritual person he is depicted as in this documentary, which is an overall engaging and heartfelt look into the symbiotic marriage of the entertainer to Vegas, his stage.

On wearing three necklaces of different religions when he performed, Elvis said, “I don’t want to miss out on heaven on a technicality.” As we approach what would have been his 75th birthday next Friday, The King needn’t worry – to his allegiance of fans, he still lives on as their saint.
 

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Reactions

niekandelvis (profilecontact) wrote on Feb 13, 2010report abuse
It is not true that Tom Jones is only negative about Elvis, in many documentaries he tells funny anekdotes of his time with Elvis and they were friends for a long time (1966 or so till at least september 1974, not sure about later).
Steve V (profilecontact) wrote on Jan 26, 2010report abuse
Screw Tom Jones? No respect? The man is still living, drug free and still giving knock-out performances. He was a little more in control of his life wasn't he? I respect him.
tcb 76 (profilecontact) wrote on Jan 24, 2010report abuse
you lost me at tom jones; since he ran his mouth about elvis and drugs shortly after Elvis passed; i have had no respect for him! Elvis sold out 834 consecutive vegas shows from 69-77 and the fans did not care if he wore the jumpsuits or a pair of faded jeans[which he never would] they simply loved Elvis! screw Tom jones!
I am Buffalo-Horn! (profilecontact) wrote on Jan 11, 2010report abuse
Every time Jones opens his mouth he puts down Elvis & promotes himself. For the last few years of Elvis' life they were not friends & he did not wish to see Jones any more; Elvis had remarkable foresight.
Martin DJ (profilecontact) wrote on Jan 8, 2010report abuse
You can compare the songs on As Recorded at Madison Square Garden with those on An Afternoon in the Garden (which definitely weren't speeded up). The original album came out about a week after the actual concert, so it's release was speeded up. It's unlikely the Colonel wanted to put "one more song" on it for royalty reasons - if so he would have done it on the (much shorter) Live On Stage in Memphis album as well, instead that album did not contain the complete performance (the missing songs are on the FTD edition).
Emiel Maier (profilecontact) wrote on Jan 7, 2010report abuse
Ronnie Tutt made the following comment in this programme. He claims that Colonel Parker ordered to speed up the album Elvis - As Recorded At Madison Square Gardens. This enabled Parker to put one more song on the album, in order to cash in on royalties for one more song. As an example the producers of the programma played a fragment of "All Shook Up". Ron Tutt said that therefor Elvis sounded a bit like Mickey Mouse.

My question is: "Is there any proof that this is really true?". Can Ernst Jorgensen verify the speed of the original tape and/or whether it really was speeded up when the songs were transferred for the album tape?. (I know it was done in the Sixties with 'Girl Happy'. It lasted till 1990 when we heard Elvis singing 'Girl Happy' at the correct speed on Collector's Gold!).

I mean if Parker (and therefor also Elvis) really wanted to generate more royalties on the songs of this album, than why didn't they replace one song from which they did not benefit from? And therefor maintaining the right speed of the tapes.

Anyway I forwarded this question to Elvis The Man and his Music, and they tell me that he made this statement before and it is untrue. He forgets that the TCB band were playing everything far too fast at that time. Also, how could some tracks be speeded up (i.e. the rockers) and others not (i.e. the ballads)? Can anybody else react? (Does Ernst have the correct answer?)
shoesuedeblues (profilecontact) wrote on Jan 7, 2010report abuse
No your thinking of Lucifer mark s lol.No comparrison with our guy I'm sure!
Jamie (profilecontact) wrote on Jan 7, 2010report abuse
Colonel Parker's widow commented in the documentary, "Elvis belonged to 'womEn' not 'womAn'...he shouldn't have married". Hard to believe it's taken this long for someone close to the Presley organisation to come out and actually say it.
Mark S. (profilecontact) wrote on Jan 7, 2010report abuse
"Fallen angel" was originally Gram Parsons' nickname, wasn't it?
circleG (profilecontact) wrote on Jan 7, 2010report abuse
- thanks folks
davrid (profilecontact) wrote on Jan 6, 2010report abuse
Its available on iplayer under BBC2 Sun Jan 3
Jungle Room (profilecontact) wrote on Jan 6, 2010report abuse
No news or new insights in this documentary. The only thing I didn't know was that Col. Parker ordered to speed up the sound on the Madison Square Garden live-lp to give it a more dynamic style... They also focused on Elvis' Las Vegas-comeback in 1969, but used TTWII-material from 1970. Of course because there seems to be no filmfootage from 1969, but the filmmakers didn't mention this.
old shep (profilecontact) wrote on Jan 6, 2010report abuse
Circle G,The BBC are notorious for repeats so if you are in the UK it will come round again.It may be even available through the On Demand viewing service.
circleG (profilecontact) wrote on Jan 6, 2010report abuse
i missed this programme. is it still available to watch anywhere? Unusual version of the 68 special - the last song 'if I can dream' was the edited version shown as an extra on the special edition DVD. Why is this show constantly being tampered with? The directors cut does more than a fine job! grrrr...
old shep (profilecontact) wrote on Jan 5, 2010report abuse
Regardless of the merits of some of the people interviewed, this documentary and the rest of BBC2's Elvis weekend. Did provided some good exposure and helped point towards The King's healthy back catalogue of CDs and DVDs. Which can't be so bad.

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