Few would dare question the passion of Japanese fans: what other nation would craft a 10ft solid chocolate statue of David Beckham to welcome him to Tokyo? But when it comes to Japan and Elvis Presley, the King really is dead.
If history were any guide, the days surrounding the 75th anniversary of the singer’s birth should have been a non-stop celebration for Japanese Elvis fans. They used to rank among his most ardent in the world. Their numbers include no less a figure than the former Prime Minister, Junichiro Koizumi, who veered off from summit talks with George W. Bush to visit Graceland.
Stores in the swishest parts of town would do a roaring trade in Elvis memorabilia, and a magnificent bronze statue of the King was erected in central Tokyo by the many thousands of members of the Elvis Fan Club of Japan.
But, very suddenly, it has all gone sour. The annual birthday memorial concert used to draw thousands, but organisers now expect just a few hundred. The memorabilia stores have gone bankrupt, the monthly magazine has ceased publication, and the statue was felled from its Tokyo perch and spent months rotting in a garage before being moved to Kobe.
The Elvis Fan Club of Japan has been consumed in an inferno of financial dispute and recriminations. The trouble appears to have started in 2007 when Tadayuki Akazawa, the club’s chairman, died and the flame of Japanese Elvis enthusiasm began to gutter.
“After almost 30 years of activity, the Elvis Presley Fan Club of Japan is now dormant, or rather I should say it does not exist as a nationwide organisation,” said Kazuaki Suzuki, one of the group’s senior members.
“The reason we cannot get younger fans is partly because Presley is not thought of as a rock’n’roll singer by young Japanese but as a singer in a jump suit. People just think of that image as a bit comic,” he said.
Elvis Presley not thought of as a rock'n'roll singer by young Japanese but as a singer in a jumpsuit ??? What a pity ! Very strange way of thinking and very childish !
To PRESYER: I think thats how most young people see Elvis as 'a singer in a jumpsuit'. That is pretty much, how young people see Elvis across the world. Through my experience with young people in the UK that is how young people see Elvis.
Unfortunately this is how the mass media now perceive Elvis, and when you look at the jump suits designed for a 1970s audience now so outdated it is easy to see why Elvis could have fallen from grace. The only way back is to remarket the man, similarly to the way the US Post Office did with the 1950s stamp. It would also help if the record company could try to be more creative with their sleeve designs. An 1970s album for instance doesn't necessary require a period photograph. Japan is a big market to loose and it requires good ideas which are not necessary in the box.
Spot on, Elvis needs some sound marketing. An easy task you would have thought considering the amount of capital that could be retrieved.
Exactly. We should all join forces to promote Elvis as a Rock 'n' Roll singer, even up to the Leather Elvis of the end sixties. Forget about the image of the seventies. And at the same time get rid of the image of a fat and addicted man in his forties (and all the discussions about that too). This is how I show the people in my world who Elvis was. That is so fantastic. We fans must lead the way. Ringo Star showed his appreciation for the King! Who's next?!
DEAR ELVISNEWS STAFF... Please send this article to EPE to let them know hoe Elvis is considered and recognized around the world. In Turkey for example when I say Elvis, they immediately say: "He was very fat when he died." Why don't they say "Oh how sexy he was or his voice is great and his stage presence is so spectacular" ? EPE MUST stop advertising on TRIBUTE ARTIST bulls..t and focus on HIS IMAGE around the world !!!! IMMEDIATELY !!!
shoesuedeblues, You brought up a good point about how BMG could be more creative when it comes to their sleeve designs. They could still use photos from the 1970s. It does not have to be jumpsuit photos. The rehearsals from July and August 1970, the March 1972 rehearsals (filmed by MGM > Elvis wore a red shirt at one and blue shirt at another), the June 1972 tour (Elvis wore the paisley shirts; plus the backstage photo - which was used in one of the JAT books and also the 1970s box set), the August 1972 engagement in Vegas (the shows where Elvis did not wear a jumpsuit). There are many non-jumpsuit photos from the 1970s that BMG can use in their sleeve designs.
This is NOT good news for Elvis' future overseas that's for sure. However, there is a new owner and new ideas on the table to reintroduce Elvis and it's starting to work. Viva ELVIS is already brigning in new fans. Many of today's most influencial artists are Elvis fans. From Beyonce and 50 Cent to Carrie Underwood and pop princess Miley Cyrus. More than half of Gracleand's yearly visitors are under the age of 40 out of 600,000 a year. 70% are newcomers. So I woouldn't call for the panic button.
Before 2006 EPE was a small private family ran business that had very little leverage. Since the merger with CKX they have been able to expand outwards more and are soon to unveil major changes to the Graceland area that will double tourism, and new projects for Vegas. Sillerman has already mentioned building an Elvis attracion of some sort in Tokyo where there's a big Elvis fan following. I don't think he would be planning that and saying that if they weren't interested. Just sayin'.
Besides, maybe they are just tired of fake impersonators and want the real thing to hear and see in Japan. I've always thought the impersonators have done way more damage than good for Elvis' legacy and longevity. It's time to sanction them for good and put an end to the "fat Elvis" comments. I don't hear them calling Luther Vandross fat before he died. Double standard there if you ask me.
Hounddawg, BMG no longer is in existance. Sony music is in control now. But I do agree with your comment about not using jumpsuit pics on album covers. Makes perfect sense. So far Sony has been good at how they market his image and are mainly focusing on the early years which was his glory days. The import labels and bootleggers are the ones to blame for focusing on his later years of bad incohernet performances where he should have been in a rehab center and not on tour. I have seen some hideous looking pics of Elvis as artwork for covers and it's those covers that turns the non fans away and casual fans off.
This is why I am not a big fan of the 70's and I think it is a bad idea to release Elvis In Concert to the general public. The Jumpsuits got bizzare & out of hand. I didnt think they were cool even back then! Elvis became a cartoonish figure by 1975 lampooned by newspapers & magazines alike. This is not surprising to me at all. A person once asked me if Elvis was buried in one of his jumpsuits! I think that says it all.
Sirbalkan: you are so right man! EPE sometimes seems a bunch of hillbilly-boys who don't have a clue about what "marketing or Image-building" REALLY is. Fully agree with you and do applause
you daring to call a cat a cat. Some of the boys that write in their comments here are also coocoo
and one-track-minded. They think that it keeps Elvis' good image as a serious (best ever) enter-tainer in the world by promoting those stupid fat-elvis-likes in oversized cheap jumpsuits that their mother-in-law sewed together on a rainy Friday night, way down in the barn or in the family shack. Only few of these readers really do understand, believe me.
Further to my view which seems to have whipped up a hornets nest of opinions. Perhaps the fan clubs could take on our cause. The UK in particular has a strong leadership, would they care to make a comment?
The last paragraph says it all. That's why I hate the jump suits. He should retired them right after Aloha. The jump suits & all the mediocre movies are hurting the legacy.
I can tell you why only a few hundred celebrated Elvis' birthday in Japan, because thousands of them were in Memphis at the 75th celebration. I am used to feeling like I am at the United Nations when I am in Memphis but I couldn't see half of the program due to the sea of Japanese. Or the bus loads that were dropped off & picked up. I am not complaining, I think it's grand. And before you all charge back at me (like this is even important) no, I did not take a head count to see how old they were! To me, articles like this are written to stir up controversy & to see if it can get the Elvis fans blood to boiling. And that's not nice, you have to watch the blood pressure of those old Elvis geezers!
It's not so much the jumpsuits but the overweight he looked in them that is the bad image. Elvis had some awesome stage costumes but some were totally over the top and some were simply just aweful. His weight showed with some of them in the mid section area. Had he'd wore two-piece suits the weight gain wouldn't have been so noticable.
IMO, EPE ought to focus mostly on early Elvis, the army, the 68 Comeback and the Aloha show as their main intorduction of Elvis. After that is where the jokes come in and the "fat Elvis" remarks are made from. Anybody who has seen That's The Way It Is SE knows good and well how amazingly powerful he was and how he looked like a Greek God. EPE should be using that 1970 Vegas comeback to the Aloha show as the focus of the best of the 70's and omit the rest as if they never existed so to speak. They could still display the more attractive stage costumes from the final years with flattering pics and not some of those goofy looking ones that you see on fan forums. The other suits should either be stored away or sold off. They do no good for Elvis' image.
Sony should also focus on doing a definitive series of the best from each decade instead of reissuing the original albums. Like an Anthology series. Leave out the movie tracks minus the classic hits from them and leave out the live recordings and put all emphasis on the best from the artist in the studio that represents his finest work from the 50's to the 70's. All it would take is 6 cds in all with 3 2-cd sets each all newly remastered to the fullest capability of technology out there. This would be the ideal way to go in order to introducing Elvis to a new generation.
As for the Japs shunning Elvis. I bet now those fans who think a dvd of Elvis In Concert-1977 won't hurt his image are rethinking that theory carefully. It would be the nail in the coffin for Elvis if that were to ever be released commercially.
If Elvis is dead in Japan, it's their problem...I'm not into any of the music coming from this country to begin with ( do they have any ? )...so hey, big news, we're even !....Whatever !
Why are we always worrying about how to get people to like Elvis more? I love Elvis in his jumpsuits, and I think Elvis on Tour and Aloha speak for themselves. If people don't like it - who cares. Elvis' voice is what hooks you as a fan. Elvis doesn't need to be "sold."
Japanese fans in Memphis add a wonderful dimension to our multi-cultural outreach. They are really friendly and over the years I have got to know many as friends. Japan has lots of domestic pop stars, and Elvis, Cliff and the Beatles have always been highly admired by the majority of music followers in spite of the fact that few speak English. The death of Tad sadly effected the fan club structure, so those fans who are determined to keep Elvis' name important in Japan should re-group, and meet with Sony. The record company can help outreach to closet fans and there is always a good Elvis story or anniversary to climb on the back of to re-launch. It is important that Elvis' star shines brightly over Japan - so come on guys do it, and if you need help, just ask! Todd Slaughter
People that don´t like Elvis would always find a good "reason" for it. He was not a good actor, he didn´t write his own songs, he was overweight, he wore jumpsuits. Things like that don´t even have to be true, like we all know Elvis was not a racist, yet some people really believe that to this day. And by the way, that gold suit from the fifties. I mean, that one wasn´t that "cool" either. Let´s just not forget that not everyone dislikes the jumpsuits and the seventies stuff, I like it a lot. It´s not important to figure out one way to remember Elvis, because Elvis will be remembered in so many different ways.
If a person or group of people are going to look at one aspect of a person's career to make a judgement on whether they should be fans, they hardly seem worth discussing. If you are going to view the movie "Paradise, Hawaiian Style" and refuse to watch "Flaming Star" and base your critique of Elvis, the actor on it, or listen to a bad concert in MD of Sept 1974 to rule out all Elvis concerts or even the fact he was overweight for much of the last 2 1/2 years of his career, then you are the one missing out. A lot of entertainers wore garish jump suits and outfits in the 70's, Neil Diamond, David Cassidy, Tom Jones, The Osmonds, Elton John, ELO, The Bee Gees, The Jackson 5, etc, etc. Elvis had some bad suits no doubt (what was he thinking with the Mad Tiger or the Gypsy suit), but such were the times. The 70's as a whole were a fashion and design nightmare. People walk through Graceland and mock Elvis' taste. Has anyone looked at a picture of their own house from the 70's? Or a picture of themself from the 70's? Burnt orange, goofy hair, putrid green, flasy to the point of nausea and glitter were the norm.
If people don't want to be fans, I am not going to push them, but if they can listen to Jailhouse Rock, Hound Dog, Burning Love, Promised Land, Wearin' That Loved On Look, Little Sister, Santa Claus Is Back In Town and numerous others and say Elvis isn't rock and roll, they are crazy. Especially if they are going to call some of this inane junk from today rock and roll.
Elvis is rock and roll and his style was ever evolving. If he had lived into the 80's and helped to lead the new wave of country music that was starting to take hold in the US (which he did a little), his image would have changed. Just like it did after the Army, just like it did with the 68 comeback Special. Isn't it amazing the people of Japan are discussing how crazy Elvis looked or his weight being a factor in winning new fans, but yet they hold up someone like Micheal Jackson as a hero when let's face it, could you make yourself more unusual or "comic" looking than he did? In both cases, let's concentrate on the music.
The problem with this article is that it is a mistake to believe something just because it is written down. As someone further back in this series of messages pointed out, the Japanese always have a very strong contingent at all the Memphis events. This evidence alone rather contradicts the doom & gloom tone of the article, and several of my Elvis friends over there are not happy with what has been published. There are always disputes in fan clubs & this is nothing new. Elvis still has a very strong following in Japan – you just try keeping up with their CD releases!
I reckon the reasons why people perceive Elvis in a jumpsuit is really to do with all the idiots who try and do impersonations - they should all be locked up. It does not matter how many times the press or TV cameras go to the Graceland birthday function or the anniversary of his death, they home in on these idiots who do absolutely nothing for Elvis' legend. They are viewed as a complete joke, and this then tarnishes Elvis image.
The thing is, most of his most diehard fans love the 70's Elvis the most. The 50's Elvis appeals to the mass public, but they don't contribute to EPE's bottom line like the diehards do...see the Catch 22 here? The ETA war is over by they way, ETA haters lost. There are way too many fans that make ETAs part of their Elvis World, Sillerman was a smart enough businessman to realize that he was missing out on a big chunk of the Elvis market and knew if you can't beat 'em, join 'em.
You can never trust a Japaneese Beatle, or a Pilot.
Remember Elvis had to be the one to start the Money rolling to Build the Arizona War Memorial in Hawaii in 1961, he would not have to do that if it werent for the Beetles.
First of all, I should have to say "The king is not dead in Japan!". I'm a Japanese fan of Elvis so I can tell the stories behind. Please don't believe this article by 'The Time Online' fully. Some explanations are invented by a 'bad' man's testimony. EPFC(Tokyo) president dead in 2007 had committed fraud over 20 years. Although he got the fee and in advance, he frequently delayed to issue the fan-club's bulletin and didn't send goods (bootleg and others) to the fan-club members. In 2009 the administrator in a bankruptcy has published Akazawa's debt was reckoned over 10 million yen. But, nobody has taken responsibility about the problem, so fan-club members are still in trouble. That is one of reason why the annual birthday memorial concert in Japan can't draw fans of Elvis. I already e-mailed this truth to EPE last year.
To Jeremytcb: First of all, I am happy that you are a diehard fan. If you think the 70's era is the best then that's exactly what you should enjoy. However, to say that the rest of us don't contribute is wrong. Personally, I love all 3 era's of Presley & have no preference but, in all honesty, as far as nostalgia is concerned, I would have to say the 50's pulls at my heart strings because that's when Elvis & I started together. You would have to be there! All that aside, many of us who do not necessarily dwell on the 70's alone do contribute a lot, money wise, time wise, effort wise for the legacy of Elvis & his music. This is a mission that we should all do together, regardless of what era you think is best.
To all reading this article, Jim Berkeley is 1000% CORRECT! I know many fan from Japan and this story is 100% bogus. Elvis is the most biggest Icon in Japan, his cd's are being released there on a constant basis moer than anywhere else in the world. Elvis is alive and well in Japan. I heard a rumour that Junichiro Koizumi is considering taking over as the president of the Elvis in Japan fan club.
When Elvis died they said, "In two years they will forget all about him." Some thirty-two years later, we know that isn't true. But things do change. The younger people have their own music, their own tastes. - Do we blame the jumpsuits? - In the 50's Elvis wore the Gold Lame Suit. I thought, and still think that was cool! And apparently Jon Bon Jovi thinks that also. Years later Bon Jovi wore a Gold Suit for the cover of his box set of CD's. - Elvis came up with the jumpsuit from his interest in karate. Another cool idea!! And apparently Britney Spears thinks that too. She wore a copy of one of Elvis' jumpsuits. - But, take away the Gold suit, the jumpsuits, - What singer sang Rock, Gospel, Christmas, Blues and Country? ELVIS!!!!! - Thank you, Thank you very much.
JAG : very well said ! very true ! Always El.
thanks jim for putting the record straight. personally if damage has been done to elvis' image then I feel its been due to -
1, the horrible impersonators and like many here i too say to EPE 'enough!'
2, the countless repackaging of cd's. The good work of the 90's has been almost ruined.
3, the need for an anthology DVD so new fans or just curious can watch and learn.
Thank you, Musicwizard. I tell them more... In Japan, I have managed own SNS (sorry, but only in Japanese) about Elvis (especially) for the younger fans as a shelter from the 'bad' senior group, so I often have a chance to hear the younger generation's opinion. There's a high school girl told me "I like to hear the 70's tunes" and most of SNS members says same. These facts show this article could not be true. I tell them more... After Akazawa's death, I heard several rumors that new different groups would establish some new fan-club in Japan. The newest one in question had managed an online bootleg shop, because it's illegal manner, which site was closed by 'geocities'. It is very sad that EPE that doesn't know the fact (of course they doesn't know, here is FAR EAST!) failed to certificate this new fan-club as an official. I suppose 'Elvis World Japan' is an only fan-club could be called 'believable official fan-club' in Japan... Maybe another fan-club will be born, just like Japan political party's movement, Japanese fan knows Koizumi's shadow is everywhere (laugh).
To circleG : I think every effort should have been made... but 'problem 1' is most serious in Japan. One of official fan-clubs in Japan has hold the annual birthday memorial concert with 'horrible' every year.
I am in Tokyo for my business. I don't think Elvis is dead here. My friend went to Hibiya for celebrating Elvis' 75th BDay just a few weeks ago and saw more than a thousand fans pack the venue. Soto goes to Graceland every day. Japanese fans never let Elvis die.