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John Lennon-August 16, 1977

Fri Jun 03, 2011 7:17 am

Just getting into the last chapters of Phillip Norman's amazing 'John Lennon-The Life' and was happy to see some details about what was happening with John Lennon when Elvis died. I had never read or heard any of this before.

At the time, John was in Japan with Yoko and Sean visiting Yoko's family. You can read the page from the book detailing John's reaction to the news about Elvis' death here:
http://books.google.com/books?id=vT2XTU ... &q&f=false

Re: John Lennon-August 16, 1977

Fri Jun 03, 2011 9:07 am

Interesting...that famous quote about Elvis dying when he went into the army was said at the time he died? How insensitive. Did that
leak out later or what? It also was absurd and passes without comment by the author,
never mind the great studio work of 1960, the gospel triumphs, the '68 Comeback...holding court at Madison Square Garden and Hawaii, etc.


I noticed the author couldn't resist a rip on late-period Elvis. Okay, "bloated" and even "binge eating" could be noted, as well as the prescription drugs, but the rest seems written like a
a Beatle partisan. While I get the point,
I've also seen enough of Elvis' audiences (and he didn't just play Vegas, something common
to many rock bands today) but toured nationwide to audiences of all ages, a truly "man of the
people," not just "blue-rinsed matrons."

Lennon was an incredible artist and public figure but such depictions of Elvis
as a failed one-time rebel are always intended (consciously or not) to minimalize Elvis' cultural and artistic importance that far expanded beyond mere "rock and roll". I give
all credit to Lennon's work and have a great affection for his last works, incidentally.
But as a result of such comments, I sometimes bristle at Lennon and (in my experience) too many Beatle / Lennon followers.
narrowness toward's Lennon's one-time idol.

Re: John Lennon-August 16, 1977

Fri Jun 03, 2011 9:36 am

Gregory Nolan Jr. wrote:I noticed the author couldn't resist a rip on late-period Elvis. Okay, "bloated" and even "binge eating" could be noted, as well as the prescription drugs, but the rest seems written like a
a Beatle partisan. While I get the point,
I've also seen enough of Elvis' audiences (and he didn't just play Vegas, something common
to many rock bands today) but toured nationwide to audiences of all ages, a truly "man of the
people," not just "blue-rinsed matrons."



I agree. I think at times even the most articulate 'rock journalists' and the culture at large resort to the 'fat Elvis' persona all too often. While we're all aware of Elvis' shortcomings near the end, his image has been exaggerated and caricature-ized into something other than what the overall reality was.

As far as John Lennon's insensitive comment, I see where he's coming from. Yes there were more significant accomplishments following the army years. But for someone like Lennon who invested really a ton of emotion into Elvis when he first arrived on the scene, I get it. I don't necessarily agree, but I understand the context.

Nonetheless, I had never known the what, where, and how of his reaction to Elvis' death and thought it was interesting and (not so) surprising.

Re: John Lennon-August 16, 1977

Fri Jun 03, 2011 10:02 am

intheghetto wrote: As far as John Lennon's insensitive comment, I get it. I don't necessarily agree, but I understand the context.


Ditto!

I much prefer the classic "Before Elvis there was nothing" though. Nice to see Lennon wearing his Elvis pin in 1975, the year his original hero turned 40.

Image

Re: John Lennon-August 16, 1977

Fri Jun 03, 2011 10:18 am

I think Lennon is misunderstood at times.

Here's my take on a couple of his Elvis comments:

"Before Elvis there was nothing" = "Before Elvis came along, there was nothing in music that interested me"

"Elvis died when he went in the army" = "Having been a fan of the early Elvis, with his wild & rebellious image, things were never quite the same after he left the army"

Re: John Lennon-August 16, 1977

Fri Jun 03, 2011 10:35 am

I can't seem to find the page about Elvis. If Lennon's line about Elvis `died when he went in the arm' came from Aug 16, 1977 that is indeed insensitive, though I would like to hear the total context.

Re: John Lennon-August 16, 1977

Fri Jun 03, 2011 10:50 am

ColinB wrote:I think Lennon is misunderstood at times.

Here's my take on a couple of his Elvis comments:

"Before Elvis there was nothing" = "Before Elvis came along, there was nothing in music that interested me"

"Elvis died when he went in the army" = "Having been a fan of the early Elvis, with his wild & rebellious image, things were never quite the same after he left the army"



Colin, I've never heard of anybody that has ever thought any differently as to what Lennon was actually getting at. I think the world would agree on that.

Although, I think your word "Interested" isn't the correct term. Elvis was a lot more than that, more like 'Blew my mind' like nothing that has come before.

Re: John Lennon-August 16, 1977

Fri Jun 03, 2011 10:58 am

I think Lennon was just giving his opinion ,which was his perogative

Re: John Lennon-August 16, 1977

Fri Jun 03, 2011 12:12 pm

Special Edition wrote:
rickeap wrote:I can't seem to find the page about Elvis.


same here
Glad I'm not alone! I even read some of the pages, which I really wasn't interested in doing.

Re: John Lennon-August 16, 1977

Fri Jun 03, 2011 12:21 pm

ColinB wrote:I think Lennon is misunderstood at times.

Here's my take on a couple of his Elvis comments:

"Before Elvis there was nothing" = "Before Elvis came along, there was nothing in music that interested me"

"Elvis died when he went in the army" = "Having been a fan of the early Elvis, with his wild & rebellious image, things were never quite the same after he left the army"


Spot on Colin. In the interviews he gave shortly before he was murdered, Lennon repeated this comment and expanded it to suggest that the army 'castrated' Elvis. Lennon was a massive fan of the wild and rebellious image. I guess in the eyes of John Lennon his hero went from rebel to conformist and he put it down to being in the army.

Re: John Lennon-August 16, 1977

Fri Jun 03, 2011 5:32 pm

I think it is sad that with all the great milestones is Elvis's life,
most people just remember the sad end ............

Re: John Lennon-August 16, 1977

Fri Jun 03, 2011 5:36 pm

Special Edition wrote:
rickeap wrote:I can't seem to find the page about Elvis.


same here


If you're having trouble finding the page, it is page 758. The passage about Elvis is the second full paragraph.

Re: John Lennon-August 16, 1977

Fri Jun 03, 2011 5:40 pm

Julian Grant wrote: Nice to see Lennon wearing his Elvis pin in 1975, the year his original hero turned 40.

Image


The pin was given to him as a gift from his friend Elton John, who also was appointed Sean Lennon's godfather when he was born.

Re: John Lennon-August 16, 1977

Fri Jun 03, 2011 5:55 pm

AndrewJ wrote:
ColinB wrote:Spot on Colin. In the interviews he gave shortly before he was murdered, Lennon repeated this comment and expanded it to suggest that the army 'castrated' Elvis. Lennon was a massive fan of the wild and rebellious image. I guess in the eyes of John Lennon his hero went from rebel to conformist and he put it down to being in the army.


If you think about it the same could be said about John Lennon to a certain extent. His music at the end of his life was a bit limp relative to what he had done earlier in his career. By the time Double Fantasy and Milk and Honey had come out, he was doing songs like 'Beautiful Boy' and 'Woman'. While they are well produced and have their merits they are very 'un-rock', rock ballads.

Let me just say though from those last recordings that I do love 'Nobody Told Me There'd Be Days Like These' with John's account of seeing 'UFOs over New York'. And the very Elvis 'Starting Over' was another great one from that time.

Re: John Lennon-August 16, 1977

Fri Jun 03, 2011 6:44 pm

Here's a fabulous video...

I'll Remember You ( A John Lennon Tribute by Elvis Presley)

phpBB [video]

Re: John Lennon-August 16, 1977

Fri Jun 03, 2011 8:57 pm

I don't really think there is cause for offense over Lennon's words, but they do carry a certain sting, and I think I know why.

Lennon's 'Elvis died when they put him in the army' comment is certainly not the most outrageously offensive statement made on the occasion of Elvis's passing. Consider Jerry Lee Lewis's reaction when asked how he felt when he heard about Elvis's death:

Jerry Lee Lewis wrote:I was glad. Just another one out of the way. I mean, Elvis this, Elvis that. All we hear is Elvis. What the sh*t did Elvis do except take dope that I couldn't get ahold of?


And that's the short version! Still, Lewis's words don't quite hold the bitter sting of Lennon's dismissal. There is an honesty to Lewis's reaction that makes it almost more comic than bitter. The fact that even while a massive outpouring of love for Elvis was overwhelming the Memphis authorities, Lewis could still see himself, in the low point of his career, as a rival of Elvis's who was nipping at his heels reveals more about Lewis's mindset than it does about Elvis Presley.

Lennon's statement is similarly revealing.

If you've ever watched a certain scene in the Imagine documentary, about the making of Lennon's landmark album, you'll know what I mean. A rabid fan has somehow manages to make his way up to Lennon's house, and starry-eyed and unwashed, begins to ask John Lennon all of the deep questions about life and art that he has sure Lennon must hold the key to. Lennon for him is not a mere man, but a mystic on a plane of existence beyond those of mere mortals. Lennon goes out of his way to disillusion the guy. He literally almost makes the guy cry by insisting that he's just a normal guy. No different from anyone else. The idol is revealed to be a man, and the fan is left all alone with all of life's difficult questions that seemed so surely answered moments before.

You see, Elvis did exactly the same thing to John Lennon when he let them shave off his sideburns and started marching to military time. Lennon had found someone to follow, someone who would lead the eternal fight to demolish all of the silly walls that the establishment erects. Alas, seeing photos of Elvis in Military Issue olive drab, Lennon found himself alone in the world again.

So his words are not those of a Rock God, or even criticism from one of Elvis's contemporaries, but those of a starry-eyed fan, bitterly disillusioned in 1958 and still coping with his own perceived loss.

The problem with the statement is not Lennon's intent, or that the facts of Elvis's career don't fit neatly into it's thesis. The problem is that the statement is repeated as gospel by thousands of starry-eyed fans who never had the opportunity to stumble into John Lennon's yard.

Re: John Lennon-August 16, 1977

Fri Jun 03, 2011 9:14 pm

KingOfTheJungle wrote:If you've ever watched a certain scene in the Imagine documentary, about the making of Lennon's landmark album, you'll know what I mean. A rabid fan has somehow manages to make his way up to Lennon's house, and starry-eyed and unwashed, begins to ask John Lennon all of the deep questions about life and art that he has sure Lennon must hold the key to. Lennon for him is not a mere man, but a mystic on a plane of existence beyond those of mere mortals. Lennon goes out of his way to disillusion the guy. He literally almost makes the guy cry by insisting that he's just a normal guy. No different from anyone else. The idol is revealed to be a man, and the fan is left all alone with all of life's difficult questions that seemed so surely answered moments before.

You see, Elvis did exactly the same thing to John Lennon when he let them shave off his sideburns and started marching to military time. Lennon had found someone to follow, someone who would lead the eternal fight to demolish all of the silly walls that the establishment erects. Alas, seeing photos of Elvis in Military Issue olive drab, Lennon found himself alone in the world again.

So his words are not those of a Rock God, or even criticism from one of Elvis's contemporaries, but those of a starry-eyed fan, bitterly disillusioned in 1958 and still coping with his own perceived loss.
.


That's a great scene. Nice work on the parallels to Elvis.

Re: John Lennon-August 16, 1977

Fri Jun 03, 2011 9:40 pm

I don't think it really matters what others say about Elvis it's all about how we feel about him.

Everyone has different opinions regarding Elvis.

B.B. King has said that he thought Elvis was still growing artistically when he died.

Harry Nillson thought the movie years was Elvis' best period.

Frank Sinatra alledgedly thought Elvis never grew up from the kids stuff.

Gene Pitney didn't like Elvis at all.

Gene Simmons only liked ''Hound dog'' and ''Jailhouse rock.''

Lisa Marie Presley likes the 70's music the best.

Some people like Elvis for his diversity while others don't like him for that same reason.

If Lennon didn't like Elvis after the army that's his opinion and that's fine.

If Elvis had come out and said that he didn't like any of Lennon's post Beatle material would Beatle fans or anyone else care.

I do agree with Greg that Lennon saying the ''Elvis died when he went into the army'' so soon after he passed away came across as insensitive and rude.

Jerry lee Lewis is just a jerk and what's with this make believe rivalry he had with Elvis.
They were never rivals Elvis was always a lot more popular there was never any competition.

You could say back in the 50's Pat Boone was the only real rival Elvis had as far as competing for the most hits.
Still I wouldn't even call Pat Boone a rival.

Re: John Lennon-August 16, 1977

Fri Jun 03, 2011 10:01 pm

KingOfTheJungle wrote:Lennon's statement is similarly revealing.

If you've ever watched a certain scene in the Imagine documentary, about the making of Lennon's landmark album, you'll know what I mean. A rabid fan has somehow manages to make his way up to Lennon's house, and starry-eyed and unwashed, begins to ask John Lennon all of the deep questions about life and art that he has sure Lennon must hold the key to. Lennon for him is not a mere man, but a mystic on a plane of existence beyond those of mere mortals. Lennon goes out of his way to disillusion the guy. He literally almost makes the guy cry by insisting that he's just a normal guy. No different from anyone else. The idol is revealed to be a man, and the fan is left all alone with all of life's difficult questions that seemed so surely answered moments before.

You see, Elvis did exactly the same thing to John Lennon when he let them shave off his sideburns and started marching to military time. Lennon had found someone to follow, someone who would lead the eternal fight to demolish all of the silly walls that the establishment erects. Alas, seeing photos of Elvis in Military Issue olive drab, Lennon found himself alone in the world again.

So his words are not those of a Rock God, or even criticism from one of Elvis's contemporaries, but those of a starry-eyed fan, bitterly disillusioned in 1958 and still coping with his own perceived loss.

The problem with the statement is not Lennon's intent, or that the facts of Elvis's career don't fit neatly into it's thesis. The problem is that the statement is repeated as gospel by thousands of starry-eyed fans who never had the opportunity to stumble into John Lennon's yard.


I think your observation is well thought out and articulate, but I don't agree.

Elvis was forced into going into the army, he didn't volunteer and in my opinion was revealed as more a victim of the system rather than someone who voluntarily enlisted like a good boy. In fact I think that Elvis' obligation to submit to the draft elevated his image as rebel. Something any young male misfit could relate to by being forced to kowtow to 'the man', from anything like being arrested by the police or being called to the principal's office. In addition I think it was a calculated decision by the moral powers that be in the US Government to get Elvis in the army and out the collective consciousness of 1950s youth, and I think alot of people probably had those same thoughts back then. Elvis put a good face on, but I wouldn't compare the moment to that of the fan who found his way into Lennon's yard at Tittenhurst Park and had his master reveal that he was just a mere mortal like everybody else. Nor am I convinced that the Lennon fan abandoned his ideas of what the messages of John and the Beatles were before he got there. There's nothing in that footage that clearly reveals that and it's up for interpretation. I think the point of that footage was that John was a nice guy and was willing to invite one of his vagabond fans into his home and supply him with a meal. The more cynical part of me even thinks that that was an isolated incident and that John, Yoko, and his staff did not regularly tolerate people trespassing on their (very expensive) property and were probably, promptly ejected. But that day, the cameras were rolling. I'm as big a Lennon fan as there may be and I'd like to believe that John was as nice and thoughtful as his persona suggested, but I don't think he was in the business of regularly providing food and shelter to complete strangers that had nothing more to offer than idol worship as that footage might portray.

My interpretation is that John Lennon felt that Elvis was destroyed by forces that seem to be out of his control (the army and Hollywood) more than someone that voluntarily revealed that he was just the same as every other guy.

Re: John Lennon-August 16, 1977

Fri Jun 03, 2011 10:27 pm

John Lennon was a big rock n' roll fan that liked the rebel image Elvis had in the 1950's.

When Elvis came out of the army he no longer had the rebel image nor was the majority of his music rock n' roll.

Lennon didn't like that or the family movies Elvis made so he was no longer a fan.

I don't think Lennon's comments ever had any deeper meaning than that.

Now some of Lennon's perceptions about Elvis were wrong which is understandable because he didn't know Elvis.

Elvis was never a rebel in real life and it was inevitable that the image he had would fade once rock n' roll became more acceptable.

Elvis liked all kinds of music the first songs he recorded were ballads and he tried out to be in a gospel group.

The fact is Elvis had more in common musically with Ray Charles, Bobby Darin, Jerry Lee Lewis, Tom Jones because they had very eclectic tastes in music and recorded a little bit of everything.

Lennon would have loved for Elvis to continue coming out with good rock songs and make rock albums but that wasn't Elvis.

Re: John Lennon-August 16, 1977

Fri Jun 03, 2011 10:31 pm

Whether or not Elvis was forced in or joined up voluntarily is immaterial. Elvis was the symbol of the anti-establishment youth movement, and the fact that he seemed to just go along and try to be a 'good soldier' belied the myth of his larger than life image. Elvis was just a 'normal guy', and even he had to 'kowtow to the man'. The effect of that on a hero-worshiping teenager could be very similar in effect to the disillusioning the fan received at the hands of Lennon. By the way, I'm not faulting Elvis or Lennon. Losing your illusions isn't a bad thing. It's part of growing up. But it can leave a mark.

Re: John Lennon-August 16, 1977

Fri Jun 03, 2011 10:44 pm

intheghetto wrote:As far as John Lennon's insensitive comment, I see where he's coming from. Yes there were more significant accomplishments following the army years. But for someone like Lennon who invested really a ton of emotion into Elvis when he first arrived on the scene, I get it. I don't necessarily agree, but I understand the context.

The comment wasn't insensitive so much as it was blunt, and a view many from John's generation held. Context is key, and Lennon's early life was marked by sudden loss of those close to him, like his biological mother, Julia. He grew a very hard shell around dealing with such events, such as when they learned of Stu Sutcliffe's early death at 21. Stu was perhaps his best friend in the early days, and John said very little. Given how very important Elvis Presley was to him, his comment is no surprise. Lennon remained a Presley advocate and fan until the end, too.


brian wrote:Now some of Lennon's perceptions about Elvis were wrong which is understandable because he didn't know Elvis.

Elvis was never a rebel in real life and it was inevitable that the image he had would fade once rock n' roll became more acceptable.

Never? It seems it is not Lennon whose perceptions about Elvis are wrong.
Last edited by drjohncarpenter on Fri Jun 03, 2011 10:47 pm, edited 1 time in total.

Re: John Lennon-August 16, 1977

Fri Jun 03, 2011 10:45 pm

KingOfTheJungle wrote:Whether or not Elvis was forced in or joined up voluntarily is immaterial. Elvis was the symbol of the anti-establishment youth movement, and the fact that he seemed to just go along and try to be a 'good soldier' belied the myth of his larger than life image. Elvis was just a 'normal guy', and even he had to 'kowtow to the man'. The effect of that on a hero-worshiping teenager could be very similar in effect to the disillusioning the fan received at the hands of Lennon. By the way, I'm not faulting Elvis or Lennon. Losing your illusions isn't a bad thing. It's part of growing up. But it can leave a mark.


Again I see your point, but I don't agree.

The fact that Elvis was forced into joining the army was more victim than 'good soldier'. Elvis went along with it because he had no other choice. Had Elvis taken up the offers he had to have special treatment by the military, that would have put him more in the softie category, the 'normal guy', that people like Eddie Fisher chose previously when he was drafted. Being a 'victim of circumstance' is every part the rebel as there can be and that's what was happening to Elvis. And as I said his draft could and probably was looked upon as a way of ridding popular culture of his influence. Think about it: did Pat Boone get drafted? Fabian? Ricky Nelson? Any of those guys? No. There was a calculated decision to get Elvis out of everybody's hair. If your saying he was voluntarily revealing himself as 'normal guy' I don't agree. It something that happened *to* not *because* of him. Not the same. But we'll leave it at that.

Re: John Lennon-August 16, 1977

Fri Jun 03, 2011 10:52 pm

intheghetto wrote: In fact I think that Elvis' obligation to submit to the draft elevated his image as rebel.

intheghetto wrote:Being a 'victim of circumstance' is every part the rebel as there can be and that's what was happening to Elvis.

I also want to point out that it's clear Lennon didn't share this opinion. Look at his exact words as quoted in the text you linked. (With empahsis added).
John Lennon wrote:Elvis died the day they put him in the army.


intheghetto wrote:If your saying he was voluntarily revealing himself as 'normal guy' I don't agree. It something that happened *to* not *because* of him. Not the same.

But does it really matter whether or not Elvis's revealing himself as a normal guy was voluntary to a teenaged fan with inflated ideas of the rebel king? I don't think it does. The situations are analogous because they depict idealistic fans being hit with cold, hard reality. And at the end of the day, to the idealistic teenager, Elvis kowtowed. Helping serve up that harsh reality, whether he wanted to or not.

Re: John Lennon-August 16, 1977

Fri Jun 03, 2011 11:14 pm

KingOfTheJungle wrote:
intheghetto wrote: In fact I think that Elvis' obligation to submit to the draft elevated his image as rebel.

intheghetto wrote:Being a 'victim of circumstance' is every part the rebel as there can be and that's what was happening to Elvis.

I also want to point out that it's clear Lennon didn't share this opinion. Look at his exact words as quoted in the text you linked. (With empahsis added).
John Lennon wrote:Elvis died the day they put him in the army.


intheghetto wrote:If your saying he was voluntarily revealing himself as 'normal guy' I don't agree. It something that happened *to* not *because* of him. Not the same.

But does it really matter whether or not Elvis's revealing himself as a normal guy was voluntary to a teenaged fan with inflated ideas of the rebel king? I don't think it does. The situations are analogous because they depict idealistic fans being hit with cold, hard reality. And at the end of the day, to the idealistic teenager, Elvis kowtowed. Helping serve up that harsh reality, whether he wanted to or not.


Look your opinion and mine are complete speculation. However, I don't see the footage in the Imagine documentary that you pointed out as a fair comparison.

Elvis had to 'kowtow' to the army. There was no way around it. He had too much on the line and I'm sure he didn't want to go back to his days as a Crown Electric truck driver so he did what he could to protect himself and his financial future. Again, he was the victim. By the same token, the music that was being recorded and being released, as well as the greatest hits albums that were issued were still the same rock and roll he had been doing for the past few years. I don't think Elvis instantly changed 'the day they put him in the army' and I think most fans including John Lennon (even though it's preposterous of me to presume) would say the same. Elvis 'died' AS A RESULT of military service as most may more willingly agree. What was the first thing he did after the service? He does GI Blues and is singing 'Five Sleepyheads' and 'Wooden Heart' to little children. From the presumed perspective of someone like John Lennon who was a fan of his since day one, that would be 'the day' Elvis died.