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Musicians Remember Elvis Presley’s Emotional Conquest of New York City

November 15, 2012 | Posted by Jeremy Thomas

Memphis Mafia member Jerry Schilling and journalist/musician Lenny Kaye recently spoke with Billboard about the release of Prince From Another Planet, the concert LP chronicling Elvis Presley’s famous Madison Square Garden show on June 10th, 1972. Check out the highlights:

Schilling on Presley’s mindset heading into the concert: “He was back in a city that a few years earlier had caused him the most ridicule — which actually turned out to be good. He was really put down in New York for the TV shows, especially Milton Berle. It was a very strange environment for him. Being from the south, and being around Sam Phillips, New York was a scary place for a young boy from the south — especially if you’re in the spotlight and you’re 21 or 22 years old.”

Kaye on reminiscing back to the concert: “It makes me feel like the old Calvarymen who talk about the bridge at San Luis Rey or something – ‘Yeah, we came up the hill, then we went back down,’ it’s great to have that experience. I had the pleasure and the honor to grow up with rock and roll. I was small in the 50s when I first heard Little Richard, then Elvis. I know how much that music energized me, and helped me decide who I wanted to be when I grew up. To witness some of the greats as they showed themselves to the world is a great blessing, and I’m very happy to have witnessed Elvis in the flesh.”

Kaye on the uniqueness of a New York performance by Elvis: “New York is not the south. When he was touring regularly, his base was the southern quadrant. He never played much live in the 50s. I think the Colonel moved him to movies and merchandising, and kept him away from his audience. I think that toward the end of the 60s, it started to get to him. He thought his movies were very formulaic and not challenging. No matter how much he was complicit in this, I think he had the heart of a performer. At the end of the decade, I think he put his foot down. But he never played New York — even in the 50s. When he came here, it was to do a television show.”

Kaye on Paul Simon, George Harrison and Bruce Springsteen being at the show: “Many of his fellow musicians wouldn’t have missed the opportunity to see him — especially if it was just a subway ride away. David Bowie even took a plane from England to see the show. Here’s one of the most iconic and most inspirational figures in music, and of course, you’d want to be there.”

Schilling on the kind of artist that Elvis was: “When he went out on tour again, not only was he still a rebel, but he had developed vocally, as well as his stage presence. I think of all that when I look back on that time. His playing Madison Square Garden — possibly the most well known venue in the world for the first time — was so exciting. It was very emotional for him in a lot of ways.”

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Jeremy Thomas
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