Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Happy Birthday Elvis, RIP Joe Guercio

In the years between 1971 and 1977, Elvis Presley entered the stage to the fanfare of sprach Zarathustra, otherwise known as the movie theme from Space Odyssey 2001. Elvis collaborated with his conductor and musical director Joe Guercio on using the piece for his entrance. The movement was entitled "Sunrise" by the composer, Richard Strauss, but we only knew it as ELVIS! When we heard it, Elvis was moments from taking the stage for one of his marvelous performances. The video below is the sound he entered with, and the build up of tension and anticipation in the showroom was enough to take your breath. Well, at least if you were a woman. I think guys just tolerated him because their woman insisted on it.

Music From sprach Zarathustra
as performed in Space Odyssey 2001

Elvis! Live and In Person

One balmy evening in Las Vegas, Nevada in 1972, I entered the packed Las Vegas International Hotel (formerly the Hilton) and made my way to the showroom. I was excitedly awaiting a chance to see my idol perform. I couldn't believe I would actually be in the same room where he was. Well...you couldn't really call it a room, it was a theater and it was filled with men trying to calm screaming women. After all, for the next moments, these men were merely escorts. The main attraction was moments away from entering, and every woman's eye was on the wing of the stage where he was expected to make his entrance. Hearts were beating fast, some women seemed as though they were about to faint. I'm sure the ones up close to the stage were nearly overcome with emotion. I wouldn't know, because my pocketbook was far too skinny to afford anything but the balcony. I call it the "nosebleed section," because it was so high up, I felt like my head was about to explode. But no matter, I was THERE and I intended to see my beloved in person! Here's the way he began...of course with the Space Odyssey theme, and then.....aw, just play the video!

Elvis doing what he does best!
Firing up every woman in the room!

Thought I'd Fall Out of The Balcony

When those opening notes sounded I leaned as far forward as I could get without falling out of the balcony. I wanted to see every beautiful, dynamic inch of this man. After all, I'd been in love with him since the 1950s, and my passion hadn't dimmed over all the years in between. His figure in the spotlight was small, but my heart swelled with love, so I tolerated the fact that I couldn't really see him very well. Still...I sure loved the way he moved, and I could see how he would grin every once in a while. And when he leaned down, took one of his scarves from his neck and handed it to a lady in the front row, I envied her to my very soul. If you could have asked them, there were thousands of other women there who would have confessed to feeling the same way.

The music industry and the world is the poorer for his passing, but so much richer for his having been here.

Fast forward to 2014 and it's January 6th. Elvis died on August 16th, 1977. His birthday was January 8th. Sorrow and memories came flooding back when I realized we were approaching the day he entered the world. I remembered the heartache and emptiness I felt when he left us. I mourned as if someone in my family has passed away.

Then today, in the news was the announcement that Joe Guercio, his musical director, conductor and friend had passed away. Somehow it seems fitting that Joe left in the same month as Elvis. Happy Birthday Elvis, RIP Joe Guercio. I hope you're having fun together.