What Graceland’s broken gates reveal about us (Conductor’s Reflections #1)

Over the weekend, I was happy to see a portion of one of Thomas’ Elvis Today blog posts picked up by no less than Elvis Australia, Elvis Information Network, and ElvisNews.com.

While at ElvisNews.com, another story also caught my eye: Graceland Gates Damaged.

In the middle of the night on Friday, a motorist apparently crashed through Graceland’s famous music gates, shouted something to a security guard, and then fled the scene.

Appalling behavior, of course, but what I found even more appalling were the views of some of the Elvis fans that posted reactions on ElvisNews.com.

Attention immediately focused on the suspect’s race, while some called Graceland’s surroundings a “ghetto” and a “hood” and suggested that the whole area be bulldozed and its occupants evicted. To top it off, insults were hurled at the entire city of Memphis.

I have a simple question. How can people who spend so much time listening to Elvis manage never to hear his message?

There was a guy who said one time, he said, ‘You never stood in that man’s shoes, or saw things through his eyes. Or stood and watched with helpless hands while the heart inside you dies. So help your brother along the way, no matter where he starts. For the same God that made you, made him, too – these men with broken hearts.'” –Elvis Presley, 1970, quoting Hank Williams, Sr.

Though often associated with extravagant wealth, Elvis rose out of a poor background. From his early days of fame all the way through to the end, he often gave to his community. Though he eventually had everything, he obviously remembered what it was like to have nothing. 

People don’t you understand? A child needs a helping hand, or he’ll grow to be an angry young man some day. Take a look at you and me, are we too blind to see, or do we simply turn our heads and look the other way?” –From “In The Ghetto,” Elvis Presley song, 1969 (written by Mac Davis)

The answer is not to extend Graceland’s walls out and create an antiseptic Disneyland for Elvis fans. The answer is not to kick out Graceland’s neighbors in the name of “improvement,” but rather to help those same neighbors improve their community.

Yes, there is crime in Shelby County. Yes, there is crime in Memphis. Don’t look too far out of your own backdoor, though, because you might find out that crime is closer than you think.

Graceland is a part of Memphis, just like Elvis once was a part of Memphis. To ignore Memphis, to ignore the context of Graceland – whether in the past when Elvis lived there or in the present day when thousands of fans spend money to visit there – is to turn visiting Graceland into something no more real than visiting the Magic Kingdom. Sure, it’s a lot of fun, but at the end of the day, it’s all meaningless illusions.

Is that really what Elvis fans want for Graceland? I think we can do better.

If I can dream of a better land, where all my brothers walk hand-in-hand, tell me why can’t my dream come true?” –From “If I Can Dream,” Elvis Presley song, 1968 (written by W. Earl Brown)

Elvis On Tour Blu-ray/DVD coming August 3

Elvis On Tour (1972)

Elvis On Tour (1972)

This week, Warner Home Video and Elvis Presley Enterprises announced the Elvis On Tour Blu-ray and DVD release date as August 3. There will also be a special screening of the movie on August 14 in Memphis during Elvis Week.

You read that right, we’re only four months away from the Elvis On Tour release!

Elvis On Tour features Elvis on the road and in rehearsals in the spring of 1972. Sandwiched between 1970’s colossal That’s The Way It Is and 1973’s Aloha From Hawaii, MGM’s Golden-Globe-winning documentary often seems to be overlooked among Elvis events. The second documentary produced about him, Elvis On Tour also represents Elvis’ 33rd and final movie.

Previously available in wide release only on VHS, Elvis On Tour is finally making its debut on Blu-ray and DVD. So, it is a little late to the DVD party, but just in time for the high-definition Blu-ray party!

While there will apparently not be any previously unreleased footage in this release, the press release does mention a number of songs that were featured only in the 1992 home video Elvis: The Lost Performances.

My hope is that the 1972 songs from The Lost Performances will be available as fully restored bonus features, along with the original theatrical version of the film. Blu-ray movies also allow for the possibility of “branching” — where you can choose between variations of a movie.

As we count down the months to the Elvis On Tour release, The Mystery Train will have more articles celebrating this event. Keep checking back, folks.

This is a great time to be an Elvis fan!