Elvis : After 21 years, He’s Still No. 1

Long Island, NY. July 19th 1975 matinee show

By Daniel T. Spadoni   

 

On Saturday, July 19, 1 traveled to the Nassau Coliseum in Long Island, New York, to see Elvis Presley for the third time. A lot had happened since I had seen him perform at the University of Dayton Arena in October, and I was very worried. There were the stories of his tremendous weight gain this past winter, caused by some mysterious intestinal disorder. He managed to lose some of the weight, but it was reported he still looked fat. Then there were recent stories concerning his eye ailments. Elvis was supposedly suffering from glaucoma, something which cannot be taken lightly. So even though I had seen him perform twice before, I didn't know what to expect in Long Island. 

During the long, three-hour drive from Berwick, I tried to imagine how he might look, what songs he would sing, and how he would react towards the audience. I decided to put any fears out of my mind and just hope for the best. There were five of us who had tickets for the 2:30 p.m. show, including my mother. None of the other four had ever seen Elvis in a live performance. 

At a little past 2:30, the lights dimmed and 17,000 people, a complete sell out, settled back in their seats for the " warmup " part of the show. " Voice ", a threeman group from Tennessee, began with two songs. Then Jackie Kahane, a standup comedian, followed with about 20 minutes of some funny jokes. Finally, the beautiful " Sweet Inspiration ", three black women, appeared on stage and sand " Philadelphia Freedom ", " Lady Marmalade ", and a Stevie Wonder medley. The audience enjoyed all of these acts, but you could feel the excitement and tension in the air begin to build as the time drew nearer for Elvis to appear. 

During the short intermission before Elvis came on, my mother said to me, " I can't actually believe I'm going to see him ". Then, just as I was reassuring her that she would, indeed see him, the lights went out with a roar of approval from the crowd. The Joe Guercio Orchestra played the opening " 2001, A Space Odyssey " as the audience moved to the edge of their seats. Everyone was clapping and screaming as the song came to an end, but for a few long seconds Elvis did not appear. Finally he came out and the Coliseum literally erupted. The crowd let loose with a tremendous half-scream, half-roar, as everyone stood and applauded. I have never heard anything like it in my entire life. 

Steve Toli © Long Island, NY. July 19th 1975 matinee show

As soon as I saw Elvis, I let out a shout myself because he looked truly magnificent!! He was wearing the most sensational outfit I had ever seen, a black and silver glitter jumpsuit with what appeared to be a light blue, longsleeve silk shirt. hut what pleased me the most was his physical appearance. He really didn't look that heavy at all, not any different from when I saw him in Dayton. His face appeared exceptionally youthful, and every strand of his hair was neatly in place. 

Elvis walked around the stage slowly and majestically, waving to the audience seated in all parts of the Coliseum. Hundreds of flash cubes were going off every second, which, combined with the frenzy of the crowd, made a very wild scene. 

Charlie Hodge threw Elvis his guitar and he began with his standard opening, “ C.C. Rider ", followed by " I Got A Woman " Having seen Elvis before, I could tell he was really up for the show, and every move he made drove the huge crowd wild. It wasn't long before the girls began throwing things on stage to Elvis, including pillows, stuffed animals, flowers, and a pen. He accepted all of these gifts with a genuine " Thank you ", and then threw most of them to the side of the stage for safekeeping with his girlfriend. I don't know who his girlfriend was, but she had a special seat just off to the left of the stage. We could only see her from the back, but she was a blonde who appeared to be very attractive. Elvis looked at her many times during the show, and once went over to say something very quickly to her. 

Harold J. Newton © Long Island, NY. July 19th 1975 matinee show

Elvis sang many of his hits, including " Love Me ", " Love Me Tender ", " Heartbreak Hotel ", " Don't Be Cruel ", "All Shook Up ", and " Hound Dog ". During these songs, I had never seen him become so intimate with the audience. One time, an elderly lady threw him a beautiful red belt. He asked her if she had made it, then bent down and kissed her as the audience screamed. Elvis also kissed the forehead of a little baby someone held up, but the real shocker came when he brought a young boy about six, dressed in a white satin outfit, right up on the corner of the stage with him. He sang " Teddy Bear ", while hugging the child, and at the end of the song he gave him a tender kiss on the cheek. Everyone thought it was a beautiful gesture. 

Virginia Arnesen © Long Island, NY. July 19th 1975 matinee show

Elvis also sang many songs he didn't originally record, which was a pleasant surprise. Some of these included Olivia Newton-John's " Let Me Be There " and " If You Love Me Let Me Know ", the Diamonds " Little Darlin ”, " Bosom of Abraham/ You Better Run ", and " Until It's Time For Me To Go ". His voice was unbelievably dynamic, especially when he sang " You Gave Me A Mountain ", which blew all of us back into our seats. 

If there is one quality Elvis possesses which impresses me above all others, it is his polite manners. He said "thank you" after every single song. When someone threw him a gift, he would make sure that same exact person received a scarf in return. He took the time to introduce each and every member of his group on stage, and he even had a few of them perform individually, such as Ronnie Tutt on drums, Glenn Hardin on piano, etc. Also, in the middle of his show, Elvis called "Voice “ out to do "Killing Me Softly With His Song", the big Roberta Flack hit. Elvis just stock in the background, out of the spotlights, then slowly tiptoed to the back of the stage and sang harmony. What CLASS! He knew the people had paid $10 to see him, yet he realized the importance of those professionals on stage with him, and he made it a point to see they received proper recognition. 

Harold J. Newton © Long Island, NY. July 19th 1975 matinee show

Another quality Elvis has is his awareness of his audience. He turned and sang to all parts of the Coliseum, not just the front of the stage. He asked people not to clog the aisles in order to insure greater safety. And he also gave away more scarves than I had ever seen before. 

I was surprised by the way he moved on stage, especially when he sang "Burning Love" and "Big Boss Man". He really shook it up, and I thought the crowd was going to start a riot. My mother cried when he first came out (quite unexpectedly, too), and when she had a good look at him through binoculars, she said, "Oh my, I can't believe how beautiful he is! “  Everyone agreed. 

Near the end of the show, the girls threw bras, a pair of shorts someone made for Elvis, a skirt, and many other items up on the stage. He really seemed to enjoy these gifts, and thanked everyone. Then he said, "You've been a wonderful audience. Please drive home carefully, and God bless you." He began his traditional closing, "Can't Help Falling In Love" as hundreds of women rushed to the front of the stage for scarves. Many police and special ushers tried to keep the women back but they were vastly out numbered. 

Steve Toli © Long Island, NY. July 19th 1975 matinee show

As I watched this scene, I couldn't help but admire this man more than ever before. Here was a person who came from nothing. A person born in a one-room shack in Mississippi, who had parents so poor they lived in public housing in Memphis. He made it big on sheer talent, and then, just at the beginning of a fantastic career, he was drafted into the Army. Did he try to resist? No! Did he beg to be transferred to the Special Services branch and spend his time entertaining fellow servicemen? No! He told everyone he was proud to serve his country, and that he intended to go through boot camp just like everyone else with no special treatment. He did, and later he was transferred to Germany where he finished his time in the service. Here was a man who never drank or smoked in his life (and that is the absolute truth), a man who donates at least $100,000 a year to various charities, and who gives Lincolns and Cadillacs as gifts to friends. He came up the hard way, and now he was on top of the world, having sold 340,000,000 records at last count, more than anyone else, having more than 50,000,000 fans worldwide, being worth more than $20,000,000, and having sold out every concert he's done since he resumed touring in 1969. And yet, as I mentioned before, the modesty, humbleness, and politeness still remain. He didn't have to kiss that baby, or that old woman, or bring that boy on stage with him. He didn't have to tell the audience to drive home safely, and ask that God bless them. But he did, and it was no phony act, either. He did and said those things with a great deal of sincerity because he loves his fans. He is keenly aware that without them he would be nothing. 

As Elvis finished his final song he began shaking hands with people in front of the stage. Everyone was standing and applauding wildly. He walked around the entire stage so everyone could get one last look at him, stopped in the center to take a final bow, and left surrounded by six of his personal bodyguards. 

I was SO emotionally drained, it was difficult for me to leave my seat. I just wanted to sit there and wait for the 8:30 performance. As we walked out of the Coliseum, I heard nothing but words of praise for Elvis. My cousin's wife said, "When are we going to see him again?" That remark didn't surprise me, because seeing him once just isn't enough.   

Harold J. Newton © Long Island, NY. July 19th 1975 matinee show

I, personally, was very satisfied with his performance. He looked great, his voice was terrific, and his movements on stage were dynamic. Also, I can honestly say that although I've seen many of the top rock groups in the country, and I've been at many top sporting events, I have NEVER witnessed the type of excitement that exists when Elvis comes out on stage. The intensity of the response is hard to believe. 

Perhaps now you realize why Elvis has so many fans. We admire him so much (I spent $19 on souvenirs) and some of us love him, each in our own special way, not just because he is the greatest singer of all time, not just because he is the greatest entertainer and performer of all time, but because he is truly a wonderful, caring person with so many good qualities. Ask the few people who know him well, and they'll confirm that statement 100%. There is no one who can even come close to touching his voice or stage presence, and although the memories of the July 19 show will linger in my mind forever, I can't wait until I see him again. Until then all of us Elvis fans wish him good health and happiness. No one deserves it more.

Originally published in “ Strictly Elvis Generation No. 3 "