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Saturday, June 19, 2021

What If: Celebrating My Birthday In Memphis, June 10, 1975

Elvis on stage in Memphis on June 10, 1975. I turned eight that day.

Last week, on June 10, I listened to the second CD on the FTD release Elvis Hometown Shows, featuring Elvis' 1975 concert in Memphis. It seemed appropriate. Not only was it my birthday, but the show was performed on that date as well, although 46 years ago. I was in Sweden celebrating my eighth birthday at the time, but imagine if I had been in the Mid South Coliseum instead. To borrow a phrase from fellow blogger Tyggrius who runs the Mystery Train Blog: You've just crossed over into ... the edge of reality.

My parents had been Elvis fans for as long as I could remember. I grew up listening to them talking about how great he was and there wasn't a day when one of this records wasn't on the turntable. And they must have told the story of how they met a hundred times. Would you believe it was outside the cinema after watching the Swedish premiere of Blue Hawaii on March 31, 1962, with their respective friends?

Five years later, on June 10, 1967, I was born. To celebrate, my dad gave my mom a copy of the Double Trouble album that had been released just a couple of days earlier. So "Old MacDonald" was probably one of the first Elvis songs I heard, together with the rest of the tracks on that LP. My mom later confided in me that she wasn't overly impressed with it at the time, but that it has remained special to her all the same. Like me.

A couple of days after my fifth birthday, in 1972, my parents bought me my first Elvis album ("A late present" they called it). It was a brand new copy of the Elvis As Recorded At Madison Square Garden recorded on my birthday, June 10, and rush released just eight days later. It was love at first sight. One of my earliest memories is holding the cover in my hands and thinking Elvis looked like a superhero. I don't remember the first time I listened to it, but my parents do. Apparently I was moving around a lot to the music with a big smile on my face, enjoying every second of it. I still do.

Three years later I guess you could call med a full-fledged Elvis fan. I listened to all the new releases my parents bought, read the fan club magazines they subscribed to and dreamed of seeing Elvis in concert. My two-year younger brother couldn't understand what all the fuzz was about, and neither could my three-year younger sister. My youngest brother, just three years old, showed some promise, though, clapping his hands every time I played an Elvis record.

With my birthday just a couple of days away, my parents told me they had a surprise. As Elvis' latest single "T-R-O-U-B-L-E" was blasting through the speakers, they asked me to turn the volume down. "We are flying to Memphis in two days, and you are coming with us. You are going to see Elvis perform on your birthday in Memphis."

Mid South Coliseum, June 10, 1975.

When I think back on my journey to Memphis, some memories are crystal clear while others are faded or a bit sketchy. I don't remember much of the actual flight or the hotel where we stayed but thankfully a lot from the actual concert is still vivid in my mind: all the cars and people outside the Mid South Coliseum as we arrived, the excitement in my parents' eyes as the first notes of "Also Sprach Zarathustra" sounded through the building, Elvis entering the stage in his Indian feather suit and so many flashbulbs going off it looked like daylight. 

Another thing I will never forget was the screaming fans, my mom among them. "We love you, Elvis!" she shouted at the top of her lungs more than once. I think my dad was close to screaming, too.

As for the show, I remember bits and pieces, like Elvis throwing his guitar at a guy on stage (Charlie Hodge) who dropped it. I also recall Elvis kissing a lot of girls during "Love Me," and handing out plenty of scarves as well. My parents later told me he ripped his suit during this song, and joked about it throughout the concert, something I didn't notice. I guess my English wasn't as good as I thought it was.

Two songs I clearly remember that he sang was the rockers "Burning Love" and "T-R-O-U-B-L-E" as those were among my favorites at the time (they still are). Before the show I told my parents I hoped he would perform them and he did. The extended endings of both songs were so exciting!

If I close my eyes I can also see most of the people in the audience clapping their hands during the chorus of "How Great Thou Art" and maybe half the audience standing. When he finished the song everyone was standing and they would not stop applauding. That I will never forget. 

A funny thing is I don't remember the final part of the concert or Elvis leaving the stage. But that's OK. My parents and me shared an incredible experience together with the other 12,364 people in the audience that night. It remains the best birthday I have ever had.

Back in this universe, my parents met under completely different circumstances. I became a fan after one of my brothers bought an Elvis album in the late 1970's, and I first laid eyes on the Mid South Coliseum during a trip to Memphis and Graceland in 2005. But that's another story.  

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