When I finally got to Memphis in 2007 (I think) I decided to avoid Gracelands. However much as I tried to stay away it kept pulling me in.
I’d almost managed to escape its clutches until the Sunday morning when I travelled west along Elvis Presley Boulevard towards the church where the Rev. Al Green is the pastor. I’d made no real plan (not finding out when the Rev’s service was to start didn’t help) and, inevitably I was disappointed to have missed church with Al.
It was then that I thought I could ‘nip in’ to Gracelands. After all, I reasoned, it’s near and it looks quite small. How long could it take? It is here I can hear you snorting and can feel the heads being shaken at the naivety of your on-line blogging friend. In short, nothing quite prepared me for the experience. It was only when I’d bought a ticket (fairly easily) and been told that I was in queue 15 or something ghastly that I realised I was now in some anti-room to hell which was destined to last all day. 6 hours later I staggered out having had to kill time queueing for the house with visits to Elvis’s auto collection, some dreadful souvenir shops and only managed to escape the guided airplane treck.
The house was what I’d half expected…a modest nouveau-riche 50s new-build designed like a Mike Leigh set. I got out fairly quickly after I’d paid my respects in the garden of remembrance. So what good could this dull day in Memphis ever bring? Over the tannoy all day had been a great mash up of Elvis material which, if anything, focussed more closely on the obscure and the good. It was there again that I realised no one could easily right off the impact of Elvis and his impact on rock’n’roll. Unlike The Boss (who famously tried to break-in) I found myself wanting to break out of Gracelands but with a new resolve to re discover and celebrate the music.
On Friday we’ll do just that. We’ll also have some great new stuff to play you from Jesca Hoop, Sara Watkins, Vetiver and brand new music from Grizzly bear and Bon Iver.
Another Country, BBC Radio Scotland, 8 – 10 p.m. Friday 8th January.