Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Thursday Thirteen #116 -- The "thank you very much" edition


I am the least spontaneous person on the face of the earth. I always must have a plan. I have been in therapy long enough to know that having a plan is simply my way of maintaining the illusion of control and order in a chaotic world. Whatever. It's how I roll.

So when I found out about IT (an abnormality on my annual mammogram) I started to fixate, obsess, and awfulize. My oldest friend, who knows me well, knew I was tormenting myself with worry and offered to have my follow-up mammogram scheduled lightening fast at the hospital where she works (less than 24 hours). There were calls back and forth to my doctor and the hospital that did the original mammogram and it turned out it wasn't going to be as easy as I originally thought. I'd have to somehow get the films of my 7/3 mammogram from "my" hospital and get them to "her" hospital. Not a big deal, but I wasn't sure how this was going to happen. And I didn't want to think about IT anymore. I wanted a plan. I wanted to impose order on a situation that's really out of my control.

So I made an appointment at "my hospital" to have the follow-up done. Next week. I know it may not make sense that waiting a week actually chilled me out a bit, but there you go. I'm a Gal Who Loves a Plan, and now I have one.

Wondering how we get from a mammogram to Elvis?

On the way home from work last night, I put my iPod on Shuffle and just happened to hear "Lawdy Miss Clawdy" from Elvis' 1968 Comeback Special.

It made me smile. For the first time since I started freaking out about IT last Saturday, I was truly enjoying something. The King managed to take my mind off IT, the All-Star break (God, I miss my Cubs), my mother's health and her financial woes ...

Elvis rode the train home with me yesterday, and I'm listening to him again today. In the soundtrack to the Comeback Special, he's in fine voice and it's a great distillation of everything that made him so cool, that made him The King of Rock and Roll.

1) The special originally aired on December 3, 1968. I had just turned 11 and still thought Elvis was hideously passe. It's just as well I didn't watch it then -- it would have been like putting pearls before swine.

2) It was called Elvis and the soundtrack was titled NBC-TV Special. It's become known as the 1968 Comeback Special by the public because it re-energized Elvis' career.

3) The show had a single sponsor, Singer Sewing Machines. They expected to fund a conventional Christmas special. While Elvis does sing "Blue Christmas," this special is far from typical holiday fare.

4) The show has some big production numbers. They're very stylized and tell the story of a "Guitar Man" who makes his way to Hollywood. My favorite section is when Elvis performs his gospel set ("Where Could I Go But to the Lord?" and "Saved" are real, vibrant, and sexy.)

5) The censors cut one production number. Elvis performed a song called "Let Yourself Go" in a bordello, but it didn't air. (I told you this wasn't a conventional Christmas special.)

6) There was a fantastic concert segment, too. Elvis hadn't performed live in years, preoccupied as he was making crap movies in Hollywood, so this was daring for him personally.

7) It was just Elvis and 5 musicians he knew very well. Just guitars, drums and a tambourine. This stripped-down approach was innovative for the time, and is considered the forerunner for MTV's Unplugged.

8) Elvis and the boys just jammed before a studio audience. What viewers at home saw on that December night was edited from four one-hour live shows performed in the round one night in the previous June.

9) The telecast closed with Elvis performing "If I Can Dream." There he is, about to sing it, wearing a white suit and standing before his name in big red letters. Remember, this was 1968, the year of assassination and protest. Elvis shows he's still relevant, he knows what's been going on outside Graceland, in the streets of America. If I can dream of better land where all my brothers walk hand in hand, tell me why, oh why, can't my dream come true.

10) Col. Tom Parker wasn't thrilled. Upon seeing the finished special, his first comment was, "Where's my Christmas music?"

11) In those long-ago days of just three networks, the show got a very high rating. An estimated 42% of the TVs that were on that night were tuned to Elvis.

12) Elvis was paid $250,000 for the special. Adjusted for inflation, that would be over $1,000,000 today.

13) More important, it achieved Elvis' goal -- to show that he still "had it." He could still command an audience. Dopey Hollywood movies hadn't blunted his ability to rock. From here he went on to play Vegas, tour all over the country, and make terrific records like "Suspicious Minds" and "Burning Love."

Best of all, hearing it snapped me out of my funk. And so I say to Elvis what he said to audiences time and time again: "Thank you. Thank you very much."

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