If you search online for ‘Elvis and Todd Slaughter’ you can see the last ever piece of footage ever filmed of Elvis; me meeting Elvis before the show in Indianapolis on June 26 1977, six weeks before his death.
I first went to the States to see Elvis in 1972. Prior to that the only way you could get to the States is if you won a competition on the back of a Kellogg’s Corn Flakes box. Travel to the States was in its infancy. When Freddie Laker started flights to New York there was a wonderful opportunity for people to go and see Elvis for the first time.
When we saw Elvis in 1972 he was fine. His health suffered drastically from 1975. We took the final trip to see Elvis in concert in Cincinnati and Indianapolis in 1977. Our group saw the last two shows Elvis performed.
In the very last CBS Special [Elvis in Concert, filmed at earlier concerts in Omaha and Rapid City, and released posthumously in 1977] you can see a man, only 42, who had not fared well. However, if you want a picture of somebody looking ghastly you take 100 pictures and pick the ghastly one. That’s what the very last CBS Special did. That didn’t come out until after Elvis died; they probably shot 40 hours of footage and only used 25 minutes of it, and of course, they used the dramatic pieces: the sweating Elvis, the man looking close to death.
But when you see the film of me and Elvis he’s laughing. There was not that horror presented to me at that time. During that last show in Indianapolis, he was on stage for an hour and a half, which was unusual because he usually only did 50 minutes. Elvis included his own hits, pertinent covers and classic rock ’n’ roll, and there was a crescendo of gospel which was always a showstopper.
It was a special show. He sang his heart out. Having only seen Elvis on stage in Las Vegas in previous years in front of an audience of 2,000 people the atmosphere was equally electrifying in front of 15,000, and the whole audience erupted when he announced that in the audience there were 250 Brits.
Today’s marketplace is full of Elvis tribute acts, thousands and thousands of them, and they’re all doing the same thing: Vegas Elvis from 1972 onwards, the era of Elvis in a jumpsuit, and so that is the era most people are familiar with.
In the ’68 Comeback Special this is not an Elvis tribute act, this is Elvis in the raw. Seeing it 1,000 years from now could be rather like finding the Dead Sea Scrolls – but more visual. Elvis did very little television so it really was a special Special.
The Elvis: ’68 Comeback Special will be playing in over 290 cinemas in for one night only on 16 August. Purchase tickets #Elvis68ComebackSpecial. Read more about it in this week’s Big Issue. On sale now