The Cult of Elvis

Elvises on a council estate.
Adapted from pictures by Dr Neil Clifton and wgossett under cc-by-sa/2.0.

Council estates are grey, bleak, boring places. That’s what the propaganda says, anyway. What they don’t mention is how weird they can be, and on my estate Elvis Presley was a particular nexus for weirdness.

There were numerous small manifestations of his spirit. For example, I was at school with multiple Aarons, all born in the immediate wake of the death of The King of Rock and Roll, whose middle name it was. (I was nearly called Aaron until my parents, Elvis hating contrarians, realised the connection.)

There was at least one house with a shrine in the front window: candles, framed pictures, commemorative plates, and a brass statue of chunky mid-period Elvis mid-hip-swing. In the background was a wall-hanging depicting near death Elvis, picked out in light colours on black velvet. They sold those at Highbridge Market, I seem to recall, alongside similar tributes to Jim Morrison, Jimi Hendrix, and wolves at howling at the moon.

It was perhaps all of that which generated sufficient energy to fuel the resurrection of The King himself.

Sure, I was startled the first time I saw Elvis strutting around the estate in his famous white Vegas stage outfit, zip-up Chelsea boots and gold-framed shades, but it didn’t stand up to scrutiny. The sideburns were the right size and shape but definitely blonde, and the bell-bottomed jumpsuit, though a bold effort, lacked the polish, intricacy and glitter of the real thing. And would Elvis ever have carried round a portable music system playing his own greatest hits? Well, maybe, come to think of it.

The Bridgwater Elvis was a man whose passion for the Memphis Flash combined with grief at his passing to cause a permanent transformation, or rather permit a possession. I never saw him dressed any other way and he answered to Elvis’s name when piss-taking kids yelled it at him in street, not seeming to mind, enjoying it even. He identified as Elvis on a deep level and would probably have been more offended to be addressed by his own name.

When he died a few years ago his family made sure to list Firstname (Elvis) Lastname in the obituary. I wonder what’s on his headstone?

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