Written by Karen Campbell

Arts

Long Love The King

As the largest retrospective of Elvis Presley ever to hit Europe – Elvis At The O2: The Exhibition of his Life – opens in London on Friday, long-term Elvis nut Karen Campbell explains why he’ll always rule her heart.

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Illustration by Louise Boulter

If Elvis were around today, we’d probably think he was a dick. The capes, the catchphrase, the sideburns, the undoubted series of Heat magazine covers charting his blubber scale.

Yet the fact that he’s not part of the horrendous X Factor generation and the fact that he single-handedly defined an era, teaching a masterclass in sexy rock’n’roll with his a lip a-quivering and leather trousers a-not leaving much to the imagination, means that he is the most amazing man in the world and I, like trillions of others, love him.

My love affair with Elvis started not in the cool fashion of my hip parents listening to Blue Hawaii while hosting drinks parties (it was more Chris de Burgh soundtracking an unsuccessful fondue shindig with Bill and Andrea from next door), but rather at university where, in my first year, I purchased the infamous red glossy Elvis-covered Greatest Hits.

To say I played this a lot is an understatement. The Wonder of You was on repeat for a whole three days – until one of my dorm mates rudely threatened to shove the CD up my arse if I didn’t turn it off (I just turned it down #rebel). To me, each song was perfection, and the soundtrack to many an after-party getting tanked on pills and Mad Dog 20/20.

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Thanks to Elvis At The O2: The Exhibition of his Life for this photo

Elvis Campbell

Karen totes rocking her dedication to the Elvis cause

The love affair grew. I got to “know him intimately through his work” (I think I genuinely used that phrase once – what a wanker) and sat through the films and the ‘interesting’ albums. I perved over the black leather special; I rejoiced at his arm flailing rapturous finale to Suspicious Minds in his white jumpsuit; I loved that he was called The King. Then it finally happened: I went to Graceland.

Dragging my poor non-Elvis fan friend for what seemed like days on the Greyhound, we arrived acne-laden, unwashed and in need of counselling (your eyes cannot un-see things seen on the Greyhound) to Elvis Mecca. If there was to be a fan-off I quickly realised I could not even enter the ring. Walking through room after room, we were surrounded by men, women and children, not just getting emotional but having an out and out breakdown: full on shoulder shaking, uncontrollable snot-dribbling sobbing.

We went on the planes, we went in the slightly creepy Jungle Room, we saw the outfits – the actual white jumpsuit – and we saw The King’s resting place, which I have to admit caused me a little tear as I stood behind Judy from Ontario who, dressed in her Elvis T-shirt, cap, badges and glasses, was laid screeching and banging her fist on the grave.

Fancy dress Elvis

The only way is Elvis

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Thanks to Elvis At The O2: The Exhibition of his Life for this photo

Yet the overarching thing that my few hours at Graceland taught me was the power of this man. Yes his songs are great, and yes you’d quite like to shag him, but some people would say that about Olly Murs (not me). But Elvis was the first: when he wiggled his hips on that stage, women actually soiled themselves; when he did an intimate gig dressed head to toe in leather, unplugged was born; when he appeared in a crap film people didn’t care because people loved and still love him. Elvis is everywhere from a cheap karaoke bar in Tokyo to a sample in a questionable number one dance hit and he’s arguably more famous than ever – a true original and a master. Elvis I know Dolly wouldn’t let you sing it so sorry if it’s a sore point but I, for one, will always love you.

Elvis At The O2: The Exhibition of his Life opens on Friday 12 December at the O2, London, and runs for nine months.

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Written by Karen Campbell

Karen Campbell is a life coach at www.your-dreamcatcher.com. She likes gin, James McAvoy and pretending she's not from Scunthorpe.