To be fair Elvis faced problems not of his making. I’d just discovered posh music and he wasn’t Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau. His songs persecuted me as noise during RAF national service. During a brief period when I listened to pop driving to work in Philadelphia he came up with the relentlessly maudlin In The Ghetto. And Heartbreak Hotel was a perfect target for the musical satirist Stan Freberg (“Too much echo – echo – echo. Turn me off – off – off.”).
One thing in his favour: he did his national service like a man, instead of claiming to have flat feet or a social disease. And there was a mild hint of self-mockery about Blue Suede Shoes. Other than that I let him be and rather cruelly regarded his ignoble death as a slap in the face for his deifiers.
But with pop, context is all. Often status is achieved in contrast to what went before. I have dwelt on the sheer wetness of Radio Luxembourg output during the very early fifties and perhaps if I’d been limited to that I might have regarded Elvis differently. People whose music I enjoy and whose integrity I admire (eg, Paul Simon) say Elvis was seminal and that I therefore profit from his role as a stepping stone. That he shouldn’t be scourged for interfering with my reading in B Block, RAF Yatesbury, Wiltshire.
Oh, I don’t know though.