Before directing you to a very serious article, I must explain what I was listening to just days before I read it.
I’ve always been a fan of Neil Finn and his various musical aggregations, including Split Enz and Crowded House.
The latter group’s third album was released in 1991, and is considered a masterpiece by many, although the received wisdom is that Finn’s decision to release a song from the album called “Chocolate Cake” as the first single doomed its reception in America.
… By all accounts, Crowded House (over the objections of management and label) insisted that the first single, and the album’s lead-off track, be the surreal dance song “Chocolate Cake.” The Finn/Finn collaboration was a tongue-in-cheek attack on Americans and their obsession with excess and celebrity. “Chocolate Cake” took potshots at everyone from Tammy Faye Baker to Andrew Lloyd Webber (“May his trousers fall down as he bows to the queen and the crown”). The joke wore thin quickly.
“‘Chocolate Cake,’ in hindsight, may well have undone us,” Neil Finn said. “It started off as a live song, which was tremendous fun to play. But as a first single a lot of people were put off by it. It was confrontational, which was good in a sense — people either loved it or they hated it. But maybe it gave an impression of the album which was quite remote from what the album actually was.”
As regular readers can easily imagine, I’ve always liked “Chocolate Cake” precisely because it sends up “Americans and their obsession with excess and celebrity” — and no such effort could be truly complete without a reference to Elvis Presley. Accordingly, the song’s third verse (after the bridge) includes this line: “I saw Elvis Presley walk out of a 7-11.”
It is followed by a muffled but fully audible “moo.”
I’m guessing that the sentiment and tone of “Chocolate Cake” would not have appealed to the late Paul McLeod, curator of Graceland Too and collector of all things Elvis. McLeod’s shrine is the setting for a story of two lives … and two deaths.
Death at the Elvis Museum, a “long read” by Brandon Harris (The Guardian)
Paul MacLeod may very well have been the most famous Elvis memorabilia collector of all time. He was certainly the stuff of regional legend, a gun-toting, mile-a-minute talker with a questionable relationship to the truth. In his early 70s he was still an imposing man, with slicked back white hair and a gleam in his blue eyes that let you know he had long ago lost his mind, or at least wanted you to think he had. Twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, he offered tours of his home, Graceland Too, an 1853 antebellum house at the corner of Gholson Avenue and Randolph Street in Holly Springs, Mississippi. He did not have the vintage Elvis memorabilia necessary to be taken seriously by other collectors, whose circuit of conventions he shunned. The real draw of Graceland Too was not the Elvis-themed rugs, mugs, calendars, curtains, videos, limousines, and trading cards that he had spent a significant portion of his life collecting. It was Paul MacLeod himself.