Elvis Presley-The Searcher HBO documentary

Discussion in 'Music Corner' started by Mr. LP Collector, Apr 15, 2018 at 12:02 AM.

  1. PacificOceanBlue

    PacificOceanBlue Forum Resident

    Location:
    The Southwest
    A few quick thoughts. As a vehicle for presenting the story and complexities of the life and career of Elvis Presley (both which have been sensationalized and misrepresented over the years), condensed in three hours, the documentary does a fine job and is highly recommended. This was not a project designed to uncover something new for deep fans, to present a montage of complete performances. It is a documentary that not only deep fans can appreciate (if they choose not to be unrealistic about challenges of condensing the story to a three hour limit), but a project that effectively presents an honest and introspective view of the man and artist for the public at large if they want to understand Elvis. While it may not be perfect, and there are certainly some justifiable criticisms, for such an important historical figure, it is appropriate that there is now a go-to documentary for Elvis Presley. It took a number of decades to finally pull off such a project, so the producers and director should be commended.

    Separating the documentary into two parts was effective, much like Guralnick's books. The direction is first-rate. Tom Petty's analysis was generally fantastic. He really understood Elvis as an artist and a man; he was a guy who clearly spent time analyzing Elvis' life and career in the same depth as a number of fans on this forum. As a major recording and touring artist, he also had a perspective where he could relate to Elvis' career and emotions on a level that a layperson may not be able to fully understand. It was also a bit poignant hearing him so soon after his untimely passing. Springsteen's statements were a bit contrived at times, attempting to add depth or social-cultural commentary/significance to events where it seemed misleading and/or a stretch -- such as his statements about Elvis' stage show during the 1970's being a "huge cross-cultural picture of America and Americana," where Elvis was "trying to encompass the image of the country as a whole, that could be a vessel that could contain the entirety of the American experience." I am a big Springsteen enthusiast, but I rolled my eyes at a few of his remarks during the 3 hours.

    Those are some initial thoughts and first impressions. I look forward to additional viewing to fully take in the scope and meaning of this project.
     
  2. SKATTERBRANE

    SKATTERBRANE Forum Resident

    Location:
    Tucson, AZ
    Lawdy Miss Clawdy WAS on Elvis's first UK album: Rock n Roll volume 1.
     
  3. SKATTERBRANE

    SKATTERBRANE Forum Resident

    Location:
    Tucson, AZ
    It is good to hear the opinion from the perspective of a someone who had only perceived Elvis from a post 1970s point of view. I never COULD understand why Elvis was ever considered a racist or someone who "stole" black music! He LIVED black music, and just about every other form of American folk music. For those who did not grow up poor in the South, maybe it is hard to understand.

    And also, the concept of Elvis being that fat guy in a jumpsuit that every impersonator MOCKS, being the prime example of what most people born after 1968 or so, is also very sad. On the other hand most of those people who ARE fans tend to prefer his 70s material above the 50s or 60s material.

    Here is the list of songs of Elvis' first UK LP that John and Paul took their inspiration from:

    Blue Suede Shoes
    I Got A Sweetie
    I'm Counting On You
    I'm Left. You're Right, She's Gone
    That's All Right
    Money Honey

    Mystery Train
    I'm Gonna Sit Right Down And Cry
    Tryin' To Get To You
    One Side Love Affair
    Lawdy Miss Clawdy
    Shake, Rattle And Roll

    As you can see, a much stronger LP than the US version (which I love).

    As usual, Springsteen comes off as a quasi intellectual. Not as bad as Bono or Sting however.
     
  4. Mylene

    Mylene Forum Resident

    [​IMG]

    This is what they should have shown when discussing Lawdy Miss Clawdy instead of showing the first US album which clearly showed LMC wasn't part of it.
     
  5. SKATTERBRANE

    SKATTERBRANE Forum Resident

    Location:
    Tucson, AZ
    Yes, in the USA, the first LP with Lawdy Miss Clawdy was For LP Fans Only.
     
  6. sberger

    sberger I like dirty records

    Thought it was terrific. Highly recommended.
     
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  7. hutlock

    hutlock Forum Resident

    Location:
    Cleveland, OH, USA
    Just finished watching this. Really impressed. I've seen This Is Elvis a few times and I thought this just blew it out of the water. Sure, you can make some minor complaints but geez, you can make minor complaints about ANY film. Very well done, really hit on the Elvis As Artist theme and stuck with it all the way through to its logical conclusion. Bravo.
     
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  8. mesfen

    mesfen Forum Resident

    Location:
    lawrence, ks usa
    I thought it was rather amazing; very fresh approach to very familiar material. It was very ethereal with the closing shots of the television which I assume was taken inside Graceland and the accompany soundtrack and the closet with his mother's clothes and her room looking like it has been untouched; gave me a melancholy feel. Nice work. I have completely forgotten how powerful If I can Dream segment is. The man had soul; you saw it exposed in that song
     
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  9. kingofthejungle

    kingofthejungle Forum Resident

    Location:
    Jonesboro,AR USA
    Well, they chose to use the 68 Special - an earlier attempt at telling Elvis's story creatively - as a framing device for the entire narrative. I liked the choice because it presents Elvis's entire career as a continuum, which is important to understanding his later work. It's certainly a better approach than the mere dismissal it usually receives.

    And in the case of Tomorrow is a Long Time. It comes early chronologically, sure. But what better song to illustrate the mystery and myth of Elvis's search. And it puts Dylan's lyric in a new context - you hear "if tomorrow wasn't such a long time, then lonesome would mean nothing to me at all" in close proximity to images of the highly segregated south. It's suggesting that if social progress had been further along, if learning from black culture had been more acceptable, perhaps Elvis wouldn't have had to be such an outsider.

    You may not have a taste for Springsteen's poetic flair, but he's never far from the mark. Elvis may not have thought while constructing his touring band that he was making a cross-section of the American musical experience, but in effect, that's exactly what he did. He had a rock rhythm section, a country pianist, a rockabilly lead guitarist, a girl soul group, a white gospel group and a big orchestra all up there at once. I found Springsteen's language to be very apt and insightful. Elvis may not have intended to make himself a vessel for the entirety of the American experience, but that's exactly what he became - a totem of a nation's possibilities and excesses, its idealism and its compromises.
     
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  10. kingofthejungle

    kingofthejungle Forum Resident

    Location:
    Jonesboro,AR USA
    I'd also like to add that while The Beatles Anthology is great and epic and definitive and all that, that I find myself returning more often to documentaries that are a little more expressionistic and interpretive - like Scorsese's No Direction Home or this film. The latter films are approached by their makers as artworks in their own right, and reward revisiting more than the standard documentary.
     
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  11. Champagne Boot

    Champagne Boot Forum Resident

    Location:
    Chicago
    More extensive thoughts later once I can both backread the thread and process, but my immediate impression.

    100% nailed the ending. The entire theme of the second part was getting at the central paradox of Elvis' career: How could someone so talented who worked so hard to synthesize his artistic vision and hone his craft, be an active party to his own mismanagement to the extent that he never reached his creative potential? How did Elvis Presley become, well, Elvis?

    "If I Can Dream" is the perfect distillation: A great song that came out of Elvis' creative energy, a song he deeply believed in, a song he delivered with conviction on the biggest stage, totally unrestrained. What could have been if he'd been able to do that more often?
     
  12. This one broke me, y'all. Real tears. Mostly because I relate so strongly with Elvis losing his mother, but also just the last third of the film, putting the decline in focus.

    I think people talking about chronology and rarity and all the expectations of a film like this are missing the point. It's telling a story, and what a story indeed. How to gain the world and lose your soul, as wise men once said.

    That said, WHERE IS THAT BURNING LOVE FOOTAGE FROM? I have NEVER seen that before and I thought I had it all, at least in the DVD era.
     
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  13. ClausH

    ClausH Forum Resident

    Location:
    Horsens, Denmark
    It's from the On Tour rehearsals.
     
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  14. GillyT

    GillyT Well-Known Member

    Location:
    Seatoun
    So true!

    It was the army segment that impacted me the most in that regard. So often when it comes up for discussion, the talk is always around "oh he did his duty", was a "model soldier" etc. Not being American, I didn't know that the draft back then only applied to some people. So does that mean that Elvis was deliberately targeted and "removed" from circulation?
     
    Last edited: Apr 16, 2018 at 7:03 AM
  15. Is that new, never before (officially!) seen footage then? I know the Separate Ways footage is in the film.

    I need it all, is what I'm saying.
     
  16. ClausH

    ClausH Forum Resident

    Location:
    Horsens, Denmark
    Yes, it is new footage.
     
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  17. kingofthejungle

    kingofthejungle Forum Resident

    Location:
    Jonesboro,AR USA
    One thing that I think the documentary elides is that the experience of growing up poor left Elvis with two competing impulses: A desire to rebel against the society that rejected him and an outsized need for personal validation. Nic Cohn touches briefly on the fact that Elvis needed someone to tell him he was a good man, and that was the role his mother filled. What was unmentioned is that absent more powerful forces in his personal life, Colonel Parker tended to fill that role.

    Elvis's career breaks down into 4 major eras:

    1954-1960, when he's at the top of the world creatively.
    1961-1965, when he retreats into himself and slowly slides into irrelevance.
    1966-1970, his renaissance period that begins with How Great Thou Art and extends through the TTWII/Elvis Country period.
    1971-1977, his blue period in which he again turns inward and slowly falls apart.

    Obviously, Elvis was fine as long as his mother was alive, and even for a brief period afterward. It's only when impersonal projects like G.I. Blues and Blue Hawaii massively outsell personal projects like Flaming Star and Elvis Is Back that trouble begins. Colonel is able to argue that the former represents what the fans really want, and Elvis listens. This begins the slide into irrelevance. His recordings become less and less personal, he puts less and less fight into making good movies, until he finally crashes in 1965.

    It's no coincidence that his renaissance period directly corresponds with his marriage to Priscilla, the birth of his daughter and his attempt to start a family. He's got someone more important than Parker to lean on for personal validation - and it's also no accident that as the marriage falters, so does the old cycle of Elvis becoming less willing to fight to impose his will on the direction of his career.
     
  18. spanky1

    spanky1 Forum Resident

    Location:
    East Tennessee
    I somewhat agree, as I'm a much bigger fan of the Statesmen than I am of the Blackwood Brothers. However, the Blackwoods were Memphis based, and Elvis would have been involved with them much more frequently. No doubt that Hovie Lister's showmanship and stage presence influenced Elvis.
     
  19. chacha

    chacha Forum Resident

    Location:
    mill valley CA USA
    Speaking of Elvis’s first album, what’s the best sounding version of that on LP?
    Thanks
     
  20. kingofthejungle

    kingofthejungle Forum Resident

    Location:
    Jonesboro,AR USA
    You have a point that the Blackwood Brothers were of closer proximity to Elvis, but the Statesmen appeared in Memphis rather frequently, and were a constant feature at the all night sings that Elvis went to. It's said that the Statesmen were the favorite gospel quartet of the young Elvis, and as I'm sure you know, a listen to their catalog certainly bears that out.

    A little taste for the uninitiated:
     
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  21. RSteven

    RSteven Forum Resident

    Location:
    Brookings, Oregon
    What has always amazed me the most about Elvis besides his great voice and charisma is the seemingly vast and unbiased nature of his music influences and sensibilities for a lack of a better term. This man was not the least bit worried, in most cases it would seem, about indulging in the broadest spectrum of American popular music be it country, gospel, blues, light opera, pop, easy listening or rhythm & blues. He admired such a diverse group of singers from Dean Martin to Mario Lanza and Roy Hamilton to John Gary. This diversity of taste can drive some of his more rock leaning fans nuts, but this is Elvis just being Elvis. To him there were no limits or boundaries on music, there was just good and bad. I think that Elvis, Ray Charles and Charlie Rich were just sponges when it came to music assimilation and were hell bound not to be confined to critical or popular music limitations or boundaries. It truly made the three of them very unique artists and their respective music catalogues really demonstrate it in spades.
     
    Last edited: Apr 16, 2018 at 1:13 PM
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  22. kingofthejungle

    kingofthejungle Forum Resident

    Location:
    Jonesboro,AR USA
    This is exactly right, and I'd add Bob Dylan to that category, too. These guys were musicologists before anyone knew what the term meant.
     
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  23. dudley07726

    dudley07726 Forum Resident

    Location:
    FLA
    Seemed to really skip over the bloated Elvis and didn’t mention what he died from. Though, they did mention he was hooked on pills. Just caught the last 45 minutes of the 2nd part. Did they mention him meeting with Nixon and discussing how bad the Beatles were for America youth? I’m not a fan of Jon Landau, the producer. Interesting that Parker, being an illegal immigrant, is the reason he didn’t let Elvis tour overseas.
     
  24. ClausH

    ClausH Forum Resident

    Location:
    Horsens, Denmark
    No mention of the Nixon meeting.
     
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  25. PacificOceanBlue

    PacificOceanBlue Forum Resident

    Location:
    The Southwest
    Whether he is "never far from the mark" is debatable, but his commentary can come across as pretentious and artificial when he overdoes the "poetic flair" route. There are some Springsteen enthusiasts who eat up every syllable, but I found some of his over-the-top analysis in "The Searcher" a bit embarrassing...but he certainly gets an "A" for effort.

    I would argue that Elvis did not intend to make his stage show a vessel for the entirety of the American experience, and if some view the end product as inadvertently encompassing that American experience, it certainly is a reasonable assessment to make, but the vast majority of Elvis' work was not driven by a social-policical agenda in the way Springsteen's work can be, and to some degree, some of Bruce's interpretation of Elvis' work in "The Searcher" was rooted from his own artistic motivation, which does not necessarily lend to an accurate appraisal of Elvis' own motivations and work.
     

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