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Understanding Elvis: Interview with Nigel Patterson

One of the most amazing things about Elvis Presley are his fans. The amount of creative, well-educated and dedicated people among them who manage to do continuous in-depth research and writing about the man besides having successful professional careers and active family lives is simply astounding. One of their key figures who for decades has helped to better understand Elvis Presley’s life, career and cultural impact on many different levels is Nigel Patterson from Australia. The Memphis Flash has talked to the Elvis expert about his passion for the King and what interests him most: Elvis‘ films and books.

The Memphis Flash: Nigel, most English-speaking Elvis aficionados are familiar with you as Honorary President of the Elvis Information Network (EIN), an Australian fan club that runs one of the, if not the most prolific and informative websites on Elvis Presley: www.elvisinfonet.com. Apart from that, not too much is known about you (at least not in Germany). Please do tell us more about yourself, your background and what made you such an expert on everything Elvis.

Nigel Patterson: I am originally from Northern Ireland and my family moved to Canberra, capital city of the “lucky country”, Australia, in the early 1960s.  While I knew of Elvis and seen some of his movies I did not become a fan until early 1969 when on a school excursion to Griffith, a small town in the winery region of country New South Wales. As I would learn later Griffith was also a hot spot for dope production in Australia (but I digress)!  While on the bus we were listening to 2CA, the only commercial radio station in Canberra at the time, and Edge of Reality came on.  I was hooked the moment I heard it and my interest in things Elvis quickly grew from there.

The Memphis Flash: Sounds like a fun way of being introduced to Elvis ;-). The psychedelic Edge Of Reality from the movie Live A Little, Love A Little (German: Liebling, laß‘ das Lügen, 1968) was a hit in Australia, right? It’s relatively unknown in Germany though. Let’s give it a listen.

Audio Edge of Reality – Complete Masters

 

The Memphis Flash: How was being an Elvis fan like in Australia in the late 1960s?

elvis-monthly-1960Nigel Patterson: Living “downunder” in a snail mail and pre-Internet time we relied on primarily newspapers and magazines for our news of overseas stars.  I started buying the newsstand magazine Elvis Monthly (which, due to its small size, fitted nicely into the inside pocket of my school jacket and served me well when I became bored with scholarly instruction), subscribed to Rocky Barra’s Strictly Elvis and submerged myself in various popular Aussie magazines including Movie News, Everybody’s and the Australasian Post, as they regularly featured Elvis on their cover and had feature articles inside.

In the early 70s I joined my first Elvis fan club, run by Bob Stephens in Sydney and I started contributing to Rex Martin’s fantastic Worldwide Weekly Elvis News Service and later Elvis Monthly.

The Memphis Flash: Some great magazines that have iconic status among fans today. I’ve seen that there is an → interesting interview with Rocky Barra, the guy behind Strictly Elvis, on EIN. Besides magazines films soon became another great interest of yours?

Nigel Patterson: From my childhood years growing up during the silver age of television I always had a fascination with TV shows and films.  In the late 1970s-early 1980s I became a reviewer for the Brisbane Film Group (BFG) enjoying working “flexi-time” (before it was introduced to the bureaucracy) as I was given free tickets to watch and review films screening usually at 11 am in the morning. I remember the first time I asked my boss if I could take an early, long lunch and he looked at me as if I was from another planet! In those days we had a regimented 12:30-1:30 lunch period.  A few years later flexitime was the norm.  Most of my reviews for the BFG were of horror movies as classic titles like Halloween, Friday the 13th, Prom Night and the underrated Happy Birthday To Me were enjoying peak popularity.  My involvement with the Brisbane Film Group was the genesis of my interest in a more analytical approach to the Elvis film canon.

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Buchtipp: Elvis‘ Favorite Director von Michael A. Hoey

31 Hollywoodstreifen (→ Elvis in Hollywood) hat Elvis Presley zwischen 1956 und 1969 gedreht. Das ist eine ganz schöne Menge für jemanden, der in erster Linie Musiker war und gerade einmal 42 Jahre „alt“ wurde. Nun bezweifelt heute kaum noch jemand, dass der King Musikgeschichte geschrieben hat, als Schaupieler gilt er den meisten jedoch eher als Leichtgewicht – freundlich formuliert.

Trotzdem erfreuen sich seine Musikkomödien bis heute großer Beliebtheit. Sie laufen immer noch regelmäßig im TV und erleben gerade eine erstaunliche Renaissance auf YouTube. Hier der Trailer zu Live A Little Love A Little (Liebling, Lass‘ das Lügen, 1968), ein Film, bei dem Hollywood-Urgestein Norman Taurog Regie führte und Michael A. Hoey das Drehbuch schrieb – basierend auf der Romanvorlage Kiss My Firm And Pliant Lips:

Geht es um Elvis den Schauspieler, dann sprechen wohlmeinende Kritiker gerne von „nicht entfaltetem Potenzial“, weniger wohlmeindende Biografen – meist sind es Musikhistoriker – halten Elvis‘ Filmkarriere schlicht für  Zeitverschwendung, da ihrer Meinung nach einfach nicht genügend Talent vorhanden war und auch die Qualität der Soundtracks weit hinter den Erwartungen zurückblieb. Hinzu kommt, dass Elvis Presley seiner Hollywoodkarriere selbst sehr kritisch gegenüberstand (→ Audio von 1972 mit Elvis‘ eigenenen Aussagen zu seinen Filmen).

Entsprechend weist die riesige Menge an Literatur über Elvis Presley – abgesehen von zum Teil toll aufgemachten Bildbänden für Fans, in denen etwa die Dreharbeiten und Kinoerfolge dokumentiert werden (→ Summer of ’61, → King Creole Frame by Frame, Helmut Radermachers Das Große Elvis Presley Filmbuch) – verhältnismäßig wenig Veröffentlichungen auf, in denen Autoren, die mit Filmhistorie und Filmindustrie vertraut sind, sich zum Thema äußern. Ein paar löbliche Ausnahmen habe ich hier im Blog schon besprochen: Elvis Films FAQ von Paul Simpson und Björn Eckerls Elvis im Kino. Beide Publikationen sind jüngeren Datums, ebenso wie Bill Brams hervorragendes Elvis Frame by Frame.

Gerade erst erschienen ist ein weiterer Band, der signalisiert, dass offensichtlich langsam aber sicher Bewegung in das Thema Elvis Presleys Filmkarriere kommt: Elvis‘ Favorite Director – The Amazing 52-Year Career of Norman Taurog von Michael A. Hoey. Dieses Buch über Elvis und den Regisseur Norman Taurog zeichnet zeichnet gleich mehrere Dinge aus, die es lesenswert machen.

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