The King is Dead; Long Live the King!

Thirty-eight years ago today, on August 16, 1977, Elvis Presley died.

The more time that passes, I think the less people remember what an amazingly talented performer he was. But strip away the commercial superficialities, and all of the tragedy of drugs and excess, and you do have an amazing voice. Just amazing.

The “Mark in the Morning” radio show, here in L.A., offered a nice reminder of that talent this past Friday (it should be in the “Audio Clips” feature here). They played audio from Elvis’ recording session at American Sound Studio, in Memphis, likely on January 23, 1969. On that day he was about a week into recording the album that would become From Elvis in Memphis, his post-“’68 Comeback Special” release, that stands as his best studio album (although Elvis is not really known for his albums as much as his singles).

Below is the King’s sixth take of the song “Suspicious Minds,” the take that became the single released later that fall. This “raw” track is awfully complete compared to how hit singles are made today.  It lacks the full instrumentation and background vocals that are part of the final release but it is one complete take of a song, the singer and the band playing together, with the singer’s amazing (non-computer-enhanced) voice on display.

“Suspicious Minds” would be Elvis’ last #1 single before his death.

elvis

 

Re-Writing the Death of Elvis

What, indeed, is the relation between the things we can’t remember and the things we can’t forget?

The question has been nagging me in the past three days as I began to read the flurry of news reports relating to the death of Elvis Presley.  While the “King of Rock and Roll” passed away more than thirty years ago, a new book is alleging his death was not due to excessive weight, heart disease, or drug abuse.  A “longtime friend” of the King himself instead says he died from constipation.

And who is this “long time friend” who is also the author of the forthcoming book?  It’s George “Nick” Nichopoulos, Elvis’ former personal physician.

The man known as “Dr. Nick” to Elvis and the Memphis Mafia is the author of “The King and Dr. Nick,” in which he describes his theory of Elvis’ death as being the result of complications due to bowel paralysis.  The most shocking thing about this claim is that it comes from Dr. Nick, the only person to have faced charges relating to the death of Elvis.

When Elvis died on August 16, 1977, at the age of 42, investigators learned that Dr. Nick and his wife were heavily indebted to the King for an estimated $300,000.  They learned that he has become a close associate of Elvis, as well as his entourage and other notables in the regional music industry (such as Jerry Lee Lewis).  They also learned that Dr. Nick had prescribed more than 5,684 narcotic and amphetamine pills and vials to the King in the seven months before he died. Dr. Nick prescribed Elvis an average of 25 doses of drugs a day.  The day he died, Elvis filed a prescription for 8 medications from his “longtime friend,” Quaaludes, Percodan, Desadrine, Dilaudids, among them.

If Elvis was constipated, the above concoction would be a great start to determining the source.

In January 1980, Dr. Nick–who acted as one of the King’s pallbearers–had his medical license suspended by the Tennessee Board of Medical Examiners for his overprescription of Elvis.  The suspension lasted but three months, but Dr. Nick also faced a jury for his actions.  They acquitted him of malpractice and unethical conduct.  I doubt they would do so today.

George Nichopoulos has a vested interest in floating a different version of the King’s death, because he in the person most implicated in contributing to it!  This fact–and the ones mentioned above–are absent from any of the news stories I have seen.  Indeed, most focus on the “new” theory of the death of Elvis without even a questioning gaze turned back to the source.

Oh, the sorry state of journalism!