What were you doing on August 16, 1977? I was on holiday with my mum, my sister, my mum’s best friend and her two boys. We were staying on a caravan site in Brean, where we went every year. I have no idea where it is. I imagine we had the usual sort of day: playing on the beach, collecting snails from the water trough, playing hide and seek in and around the caravans. Later, we were settled down to sleep on the seats-that-turned-into-beds, with a curtain pulled across to separate us from the rest of the caravan, so that the grown-ups could stay up. Even later that evening, we were woken up by my mum and her friend sobbing their hearts out. Elvis had died. I was 6, my sister was 4. We didn’t know who he was, this man in the grainy pictures on the flickering black and white television.
Not that I’m a huge Elvis fan by any means, or have particularly sought an acquaintance with his music and films. They were simply unavoidable, taken in by osmosis. I have a favourite Elvis song (‘Suspicious Minds’, if you’re asking) but by and large I live a relatively Elvis free life. My husband, though, is a music fan. Country, rock ‘n’ roll, blues, gospel, punk, disco, and a plethora of other genres I couldn’t name; so it’s inevitable that in there somewhere, there’s plenty of room for the King. Also, alongside his penchant for the cheapest, most hangover-inducing beer available (Schlitz, anyone?) he likes blue drinks, with umbrellas.
So, yesterday being the 31st anniversary of Elvis’s death day was the perfect opportunity to get together with friends and listen to a few hours of Elvis, Elvis impersonators, Elvis covers, songs about Elvis and so on. Altogether there were 6 of us, the men in Hawai’ian shirts, two of them in big, gold-rimmed, dark Elvis shades, and one who had gone a whole extra step and sported a lei and fake sideburns too. We drank Blue Hawai’ians, which taste innocent but are lethal, and sang along to ‘Wooden Heart’.