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What year did Presley start abusing narcotics?

Thu Dec 27, 2012 3:54 am

The late 1973 hospital detoxification is well documented. But when did Presley really start to turn to downers and develop an addiction?

He reportedly took uppers for the 68 Special and his performances didn't suffer.

But by the time of Elvis On Tour (spring 72) we seem some occasional mush mouth slurring in the outtakes, suggesting he was perhaps using downers by this time. And he looks a little puffy.

Going back a year earlier, his voice sounds odd in the May 71 studio sessions.

After being in great voice for TTWII in Aug 70, we see Presley make a bizarre impulsive trip to visit President Nixon in December to receive an special badge for his collection. And he puffs up like a balloon a few weeks later with a Cushingoid face for his Jaycee's award.

Does this evidence suggest Presley really started unravelling in late 1970 (within months following the triumph of TTWII)? Is this when the narcotics (downers) abuse began? Or did it start later?

Re: What year did Presley start abusing narcotics?

Thu Dec 27, 2012 4:35 am

How do we really know? I think you can hear evidence of drug use as early as the Girl Happy sessions. Apparently he was in bad shape for Clambake but pulled out of that spiral.

I agree he seemed OK for several years after 1968 but he seems to be in trouble during those sessions in 1971 and we've all heard the stories of his bizarre behavior at those fall, 1970 sessions. 1970 must be the year he started really losing control.

Re: What year did Presley start abusing narcotics?

Thu Dec 27, 2012 5:36 am

I haven't heard too much from the Girl Happy sessions.

What signs are there?

Re: What year did Presley start abusing narcotics?

Thu Dec 27, 2012 5:49 am

1957-58.

Re: What year did Presley start abusing narcotics?

Thu Dec 27, 2012 5:53 am

Just listen to the studio dialogue on the FTD outtakes. They're quite a bit different in tone and commitment from those of a couple years ago, like "World's Fair." He sounds slightly slurry and discontented.

Re: What year did Presley start abusing narcotics?

Thu Dec 27, 2012 5:55 am

Thanks, I don't have that release but I'll try to get one sometime.

Re: What year did Presley start abusing narcotics?

Thu Dec 27, 2012 7:04 am

Clearly a user most of his adult life. My guess is 69 Vegas began the uncontrolled abuse which led to the unbreakable hold of addiction. Access to the physicians treating junkie performers was/ is the norm there. 69 was likely more uppers than downers but by 1970 the mix started to change. Use of cocaine has not been widely documented but i also believe he became addicted to that in the 71 timeframe which explains in part his grandiosity. Demerol and dilaudid addiction around the same time have been documented. That he held it together for so long is pretty amazing. But let's face it, musical output of note after 70 was rare; he could still put on a great performance now and then but after 71, it was mostly joyless for him. One of the biographers stated something like it's not the moment you start taking drugs but when the drugs take you. Most mark that around the time of Priscilla's affair. I think earlier but certainly not later. Pretty joyless life for someone who's work made so many so happy.

Re: What year did Presley start abusing narcotics?

Thu Dec 27, 2012 8:36 am

My view is that 1973 is when he began to be in real danger from them, but he probably gave them too much attention as early as 1960.

Musically it is hard to know what part they play in so far as when they made a true impact. Why he wasn't quite as dynamic on stage in 1972 (though still mostly great) as he was say in 1969 may be down to boredom, or personal issues aside from just drugs. Why he wasn't as good as 1972 by 1976 is a much different thing to me and that is all but solely down to the drugs

One should note that post the Clambake incident through the spring of 1970 his intake was pretty low compared to his norm whatever that means.

Re: What year did Presley start abusing narcotics?

Thu Dec 27, 2012 10:20 am

The Clambake incident took place in march 1967. According to most people from the inner circle he became a regular amphetamine user in 1959 in the Army (thanks to a sergent in Grafonwohr manouvers in november 1958), after the Army he became using sleeping pills because of the chronical insomnia. But he had periods when he was clean completely, especially during the big events (the 68 special, Vegas 69, New York 1972, Aloha 1973. The problem became real with Demerol and Dilaudid injection as early as 1971. But many sad how completely in control and clean was in june 1972 great tour because of the Hawaii vacation and off course because of cancelling the drug use.

Re: What year did Presley start abusing narcotics?

Thu Dec 27, 2012 11:08 am

It's almost impossible to answer a question like that, for most serious addicts, I would think. It all generally starts "harmlessly." With some people, it maybe never goes anywhere. But sometimes, something happens, and things run off the road, as when he was in the Army, and was getting them at the PX (not "narcotics"; speed), and bragged on it. Right there you see the major change.

But then I think maybe things improved some, or held at a steady, "controllable" state. And then around '66, maybe a little earlier, things got bad again, culminating in the Clambake "accident." (I won't count his experimentation with psychedelics; it was not only just experimentation, but it's probably not as dangerous as what he got into.) And then things got better again! The guys tend to agree that he "cut back" for the Special in '68, and Steve said he saw no drugs. So I think the "steady-state" was back again, and he did okay. But then, again, Priscilla remembers him taking too many sleeping pills at night, even during that time. I think that after the excitement of the opening gig in '69, he had a lot of time off: Guralnick makes note of that, and it didn't seem like time well-spent. He kept going from city to city, place to place that whole time. Those pictures on the beach in the Bahamas don't show him looking very happy.

In 1970, I think things started out well, but even early on, he started to feel the routine nature of it. By the time he got to Houston, he looked tired, and like he had a bad cold or cough. Great concert after a great season in Vegas, but it was like he didn't care for the extended time off the previous autumn, but he also didn't like the constant grind. Didn't like it either way. Good summer recordings, but they weren't like the Memphis sessions - a routine was established. But he had a rockumentary to do, so that was something to be excited about, and so he seemed okay. The steady-state. When the cameras left, that's when he started down the hill.

Slowly, at first. And then, owing to some odd circumstances around October-November, things went very, very fast. And before 1971 rolled around, he didn't even look the same. Major changes: different manner about him, different appearance, everything. And some of his actions were . . . unique.

After that, I guess he just slipped away until the whole separation and divorce thing really gave him a reason/excuse to go all to he**. But it's a process; it's not something you see until it's really bad. And at some point in '73, that time came. A point of "no return." Not unless something radical happened, there was no return.

So there's not "one time" you can pinpoint, exactly.

rjm

Re: What year did Presley start abusing narcotics?

Thu Dec 27, 2012 11:36 am

monkboughtlunch wrote:He reportedly took uppers for the 68 Special ...

I don't recall ever hearing or reading about that before. What's your source for that statement?
Last edited by Blue River on Sat Dec 29, 2012 11:19 pm, edited 2 times in total.

Re: What year did Presley start abusing narcotics?

Thu Dec 27, 2012 11:56 am

rjm is right. Millions of peoples can't sleep and the sleeping pills they took dayly doesn't affect their lives. And once again: also the amphetamines were considered harmless back then. The problem began with Elvis in the middle 60's when he began to use Percodan, Dexamil, Placidyl and Seconal - on the set of Paradise Hawaiian Style it's obvious something was wrong. All these contributed to the Clambake accident and the Colonel intervention in that spring. Elvis for a while learned from this and cut the drugs until 1970. Priscilla sad in his book that after Houston Astrodome Elvis begain to take powerful narcotics due to boredom and routine. So I think the turning pont can be November 1970 after the first tours (in LA concert Elvis boasted that he outsold The Beatles, Stones and Dylan put all together). This is to me not a statement from a clean Elvis.

Re: What year did Presley start abusing narcotics?

Thu Dec 27, 2012 1:36 pm

monkboughtlunch wrote:And he puffs up like a balloon a few weeks later with a Cushingoid face for his Jaycee's award.

An exaggeration, isn't it?

At the moment I am reading the book by Joyce Bova which covers the time around '71. It is fascinating to read. Already back then there were clearly signs that something was wrong; she recalls times when Elvis was so out of it that the guys basically had to help him on/off planes and in/out of cars. She tells stories when she was with Elvis at Graceland and he basically just was out of it, staying in bed. Sleeping, taking pills. One thing that stood out was when she tells about when Elvis got up from bed at Graceland, and went into the bathroom...she remembers how she looked at him, when he walked with his back to her, with no shirt on..how skinny he looked, and frail. And how much better he looked moments later when he came out dressed in a cool western jacket.

Re: What year did Presley start abusing narcotics?

Thu Dec 27, 2012 3:39 pm

Hi there!! :D :D :D.

Xaykev wrote:
monkboughtlunch wrote:And he puffs up like a balloon a few weeks later with a Cushingoid face for his Jaycee's award.

An exaggeration, isn't it?

At the moment I am reading the book by Joyce Bova which covers the time around '71.


Please let me know which book is that is written by Joyce Bova? :roll:. Thanks. Bye for now :smt006.

Re: What year did Presley start abusing narcotics?

Thu Dec 27, 2012 3:57 pm

this is her book....
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Re: What year did Presley start abusing narcotics?

Thu Dec 27, 2012 4:00 pm

From 1958 on. It may be tempting to blame the entire 70s artistical downfall to his abuse of narcotics, but I do not think it is that black and white. Physically the mayor problems might have been caused by structural abuse but I also doubt his mental health left à lot to be desired and artistically he became careless. Things ofcourse all might connect, but that is not à sure thing and in the end that is all speculation.

Re: What year did Presley start abusing narcotics?

Thu Dec 27, 2012 4:49 pm

I am sorry, using and abusing are different things. Elvis used amphetamines in the army but he abused different kind of drugs far later on.

Re: What year did Presley start abusing narcotics?

Thu Dec 27, 2012 4:52 pm

fn2drive wrote:Clearly a user most of his adult life. My guess is 69 Vegas began the uncontrolled abuse which led to the unbreakable hold of addiction. Access to the physicians treating junkie performers was/ is the norm there. 69 was likely more uppers than downers but by 1970 the mix started to change. Use of cocaine has not been widely documented but i also believe he became addicted to that in the 71 timeframe which explains in part his grandiosity. Demerol and dilaudid addiction around the same time have been documented. That he held it together for so long is pretty amazing. But let's face it, musical output of note after 70 was rare; he could still put on a great performance now and then but after 71, it was mostly joyless for him. One of the biographers stated something like it's not the moment you start taking drugs but when the drugs take you. Most mark that around the time of Priscilla's affair. I think earlier but certainly not later. Pretty joyless life for someone who's work made so many so happy.


I guess that statement is just about accurate. If there is to be any more Vegas '69 shows on the FTD Ernst should edit a lot of the dialogue (ie the life story monologue could be cut down to 3-4 minutes) and stupid jokes in order to keep the show moving and therefore make Elvis look and sound better (this was EJ's philosphy in 1995's Essential 70's Masters release).

Re: What year did Presley start abusing narcotics?

Thu Dec 27, 2012 5:14 pm

"Use of cocaine has not been widely documented but i also believe he became addicted to that in the 71 timeframe which explains in part his grandiosity".

What are your source to say that? The grandiosity explained by cocaine?????? Look: any objectice fan knows that Elvis used and later abused drugs. But your statement looks like a tabloid speculation

Re: What year did Presley start abusing narcotics?

Thu Dec 27, 2012 5:57 pm

rjm wrote:It's almost impossible to answer a question like that, for most serious addicts, I would think. It all generally starts "harmlessly." With some people, it maybe never goes anywhere. But sometimes, something happens, and things run off the road, as when he was in the Army, and was getting them at the PX (not "narcotics"; speed), and bragged on it. Right there you see the major change.

But then I think maybe things improved some, or held at a steady, "controllable" state. And then around '66, maybe a little earlier, things got bad again, culminating in the Clambake "accident." (I won't count his experimentation with psychedelics; it was not only just experimentation, but it's probably not as dangerous as what he got into.) And then things got better again! The guys tend to agree that he "cut back" for the Special in '68, and Steve said he saw no drugs. So I think the "steady-state" was back again, and he did okay. But then, again, Priscilla remembers him taking too many sleeping pills at night, even during that time. I think that after the excitement of the opening gig in '69, he had a lot of time off: Guralnick makes note of that, and it didn't seem like time well-spent. He kept going from city to city, place to place that whole time. Those pictures on the beach in the Bahamas don't show him looking very happy.

In 1970, I think things started out well, but even early on, he started to feel the routine nature of it. By the time he got to Houston, he looked tired, and like he had a bad cold or cough. Great concert after a great season in Vegas, but it was like he didn't care for the extended time off the previous autumn, but he also didn't like the constant grind. Didn't like it either way. Good summer recordings, but they weren't like the Memphis sessions - a routine was established. But he had a rockumentary to do, so that was something to be excited about, and so he seemed okay. The steady-state. When the cameras left, that's when he started down the hill.

Slowly, at first. And then, owing to some odd circumstances around October-November, things went very, very fast. And before 1971 rolled around, he didn't even look the same. Major changes: different manner about him, different appearance, everything. And some of his actions were . . . unique.

After that, I guess he just slipped away until the whole separation and divorce thing really gave him a reason/excuse to go all to he**. But it's a process; it's not something you see until it's really bad. And at some point in '73, that time came. A point of "no return." Not unless something radical happened, there was no return.

So there's not "one time" you can pinpoint, exactly.

rjm


Good post.

I'd say after Priscilla left him, Elvis's behaviour became increasingly erratic. He spent more and more time in a chemical fog. In '73 Elvis overdosed twice on barbiturates... in February, in his suite at the Hilton, and later, on tour in St Louis.

I read while Elvis was in hospital... Dr Nick and Elvis's road manager, Joe Esposito, raided Elvis's bedroom at Graceland: they found three giant pharmacy-sized jars, each containing 1,000 high-dose Seconal, Dexedrine and Placidyl. There were even vials of pills hidden in the seams of the curtains. Talk about a Red Flag!


Image
Oct. '73 Elvis and Priscilla leave Los Angeles County Superior Court in Santa Monica after their divorce is granted by a judge.

Re: What year did Presley start abusing narcotics?

Thu Dec 27, 2012 6:11 pm

Thanks for an interesting topic, this seems well-researched. I always believe the human being looks best with a slight tan, the last time Elvis had a healthy tan was in May and June of 1975. After that he took on colour of ghostly white, all through 1976 and 1977 he was very pale. Did he stay indoors all the time by then?
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Re: What year did Presley start abusing narcotics?

Thu Dec 27, 2012 6:23 pm

drghanem wrote:... the last time Elvis had a healthy tan was in May and June of 1975. After that he took on colour of ghostly white, all through 1976 and 1977 he was very pale.
Did he stay indoors all the time by then?

If not, it was outdoors... in the shade. :wink:

Re: What year did Presley start abusing narcotics?

Thu Dec 27, 2012 11:26 pm

monkboughtlunch wrote:The late 1973 hospital detoxification is well documented. But when did Presley really start to turn to downers and develop an addiction?


You always seem so curious about the declining health of Elvis Presley. Why is that?


monkboughtlunch wrote:He reportedly took uppers for the 68 Special and his performances didn't suffer.


I've never read a single word about this in any book I've ever read regarding June 1968. Which report have I somehow missed?


monkboughtlunch wrote:Does this evidence suggest Presley really started unravelling in late 1970 (within months following the triumph of TTWII)? Is this when the narcotics (downers) abuse began? Or did it start later?


Ignoring the hyperbole of some of your "evidence," Presley's misuse of narcotics (i.e. any psychoactive compound with any sleep-inducing properties) is generally considered to have begun around the same time as he let go of his career, circa mid-1965. His associates noticed it contributed to his unprecedented weight gain prior to reporting to Paramount for "Paradise, Hawaiian Style," shocking producer Hal Wallis.

The sessions for the soundtrack revealed a very different singer than the man who cut crisp rock, pop and blues just a few years prior. His between-song patter is nervous, edgy and just plain odd. Hysterical laughter abounds. Turning thirty, and the extreme changes in the pop landscape at that time, which were leaving him in the dust, must have been factors in his desire to choose downers. His clinical depression may also have played into this behavior.

As is true of many who deal with addiction, Elvis went through good and bad periods after this point, and they corresponded to joyful and stressful moments in his life. It would appear that 1973 was the tipping point, where the negatives began to outweigh the positives, and his narcotic abuse led to at least three near-death overdoses in May, June and October.

This is the part of the Elvis story truly painful to revisit, because no one at that point, be it family or friend, was able to find a way to help him overcome this crisis. That Presley soldiered on for about four more years is a minor miracle.

In just a couple of weeks, we will mark what would have been his 78th birthday.

Rest in peace, Elvis.

Re: What year did Presley start abusing narcotics?

Thu Dec 27, 2012 11:58 pm

What`s "the Clambake incident"..?

Re: What year did Presley start abusing narcotics?

Fri Dec 28, 2012 12:29 am

drjohncarpenter wrote:
monkboughtlunch wrote:The late 1973 hospital detoxification is well documented. But when did Presley really start to turn to downers and develop an addiction?


You always seem so curious about the declining health of Elvis Presley. Why is that?


monkboughtlunch wrote:He reportedly took uppers for the 68 Special and his performances didn't suffer.


I've never read a single word about this in any book I've ever read regarding June 1968. Which report have I somehow missed?


monkboughtlunch wrote:Does this evidence suggest Presley really started unravelling in late 1970 (within months following the triumph of TTWII)? Is this when the narcotics (downers) abuse began? Or did it start later?


Ignoring the hyperbole of some of your "evidence," Presley's misuse of narcotics (i.e. any psychoactive compound with any sleep-inducing properties) is generally considered to have begun around the same time as he let go of his career, circa mid-1965. His associates noticed it contributed to his unprecedented weight gain prior to reporting to Paramount for "Paradise, Hawaiian Style," shocking producer Hal Wallis.

The sessions for the soundtrack revealed a very different singer than the man who cut crisp rock, pop and blues just a few years prior. His between-song patter is nervous, edgy and just plain odd. Hysterical laughter abounds. Turning thirty, and the extreme changes in the pop landscape at that time, which were leaving him in the dust, must have been factors in his desire to choose downers. His clinical depression may also have played into this behavior.

As is true of many who deal with addiction, Elvis went through good and bad periods after this point, and they corresponded to joyful and stressful moments in his life. It would appear that 1973 was the tipping point, where the negatives began to outweigh the positives, and his narcotic abuse led to at least three near-death overdoses in May, June and October.

This is the part of the Elvis story truly painful to revisit, because no one at that point, be it family or friend, was able to find a way to help him overcome this crisis. That Presley soldiered on for about four more years is a minor miracle.

In just a couple of weeks, we will mark what would have been his 78th birthday.

Rest in peace, Elvis.


Amen to that..............