Elvis is in the building. And so was Karen Campbell when Standard Issue sent the long-time King fan to have a squiz at the largest Elvis exhibition ever to grace Europe.
It had finally arrived: the day that I would be in sniffing distance of Elvis’s black leather sex machine outfit worn for his ’68 Comeback Special. I prayed it had never been Febrezed. Nose aloft I headed to Elvis at the O2: Europe’s largest ever collection of Elvis memorabilia.
My chosen guest for the day was my wonderful boyfriend. He gets to keep that adjective despite his opinion of The King being ‘meh’, which is ever-so-slightly annoying. This meant that, as well as giving me the opportunity to wallow in Elvis awesomeness, I was determined this would be an Elvis awakening for the boyf and he would be gushingly thanking me for opening his ears, eyes and heart to the great man by tea time.
With this exhibition you book a time slot to go in. That means it’s not overly busy, which is brilliant as you can read and look at everything at your leisure. It begins with Elvis as a nipper: humble upbringing, God lover, mum lover, shy – all revealed through photos of him, his house and his school books.
Interesting, but where’s the leather outfit?
Next is Elvis getting famous: his legendary appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show where those gyrating hips moistened a thousand knickers for the first time; the first disc he cut at Sun Records. What’s a bit lacking, however, is info telling the story. Sure there are snippets but for a non-Elvis aficionado like the boyfriend the journey of how he (Elvis not boyf) went from timid to thrusty isn’t made massively clear.
Army Elvis takes up a whole room with one side projecting a showreel of black-and-white footage of the King getting his army outfit, getting his army haircut and walking on to an army plane (you get the gist). A little wall plaque informs us there were 55 photographers covering that story: imagine if all of One Direction got called up, had their locks chopped and had to go into battle. There are loads of Elvis artifacts here including his army coat and boots, his official paperwork and angelic pictures of that face. Swoon.
So far, so interesting, but the best was definitely to come as we entered what I have christened ‘the circle of Elvis’: a series of glass boxes containing iconic Elvis outfits each rotating like an upright rotisserie chicken.
Outfits that include THAT white jumpsuit – so over-the-top extravagant it made my fanny twitch.
Another case contains the black, and quite camp, suit that he wore when he met president Nixon and his huge, gleaming white Lincoln Continental, which is probably bigger than my house.
Alongside these are glass cabinets filled with his rings, brooches and bracelets as well as some pretty cool gold boxing gloves given to him by Mohammed Ali. You can even see the table where he shot some pool with the Beatles (casual).
Coming off the circle of Elvis are three rooms dedicated to Graceland, Hollywood and – yes! Finally! – the black leather ’68 Comeback Special jumpsuit. The Graceland room is gloriously tacky with video footage taking you on a journey through the house. There are also several becabineted gems dotted around the place such as a gold phone and the wooden desk from Elvis’s (god awful, vomit like) jungle room.
Again no real timeline or story is told and there are only glimmers of Priscilla and Lisa-Marie on film, all of which is a shame. The Hollywood room is headlined by the red MG Elvis drove in Blue Hawaii and walls adorned with posters from his 33 films as well as a special nod to the excellent Jailhouse Rock.
A red lightbulbed ‘Elvis’ greets you in the leather jumpsuit room (all houses should have one); there’s also a mock stage replete with the real stool upon which Elvis sat (roped off to avoid sniffage I imagine – bastards), TVs playing various stages of the show and – yes, yes, yes – the outfit! Sadly behind glass. I lost myself for a few seconds in awe of this shapely bit of dead cow, remembering how iconic this is for me and millions of others and how important it was for music as a whole. Then my boyfriend came to stand next to me and shared how much Elvis reminded him of Alvin Stardust.
My moment was gone.
Concluding the exhibition is a film compilation of all his best bits, which is a wonderful tribute to, and retrospective of, the great man. It makes you want to go home and fist clench to American Trilogy.
Overall the exhibition is good; filled with truly iconic items that were part of shaping music as we know it. However, it would have really benefited from having more information and perhaps even a timeline so that visitors can fully understand how a shy boy from Mississippi became the undisputed King of Rock n’Roll.
Elvis at The O2 runs until August 31. For more details, visit: http://www.elvisattheo2.com3667 Views
Karen Campbell is a life coach at www.your-dreamcatcher.com. She likes gin, James McAvoy and pretending she's not from Scunthorpe.