Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Review: Elvis and Us -- Beatles Story Pier Head

The new exhibition at The Beatles Story Pier Head is jointly curated by the Beatles Story and Graceland, and unites music royalty from both sides of the Atlantic.

This fabulous and moving exhibition explains how and why Elvis was such an inspiration for the Beatles, and then highlights the parallels between their careers.

The story is told through a vast multi-media presentation.  First of all, the scene is set as the narrator – talking to the visitor through a set of personal headphones – describes the context of the 1950s, and the rise of the teenage phenomenon. 

Through the use of very clever technology, the audio input synchronises with the various video screens, which allows the inclusion of many different interviews without fear that the noise would get too much, or too confusing. 

And the interviews are great!  The original Quarrymen – Len Garry, Rod Davies and Colin Hanton, as well as John Duff Lowe who joined the band in 1958 – share their memories of growing up, playing in the band, and the way that all of them were influenced by American rock ‘n’ roll, and especially by Elvis.  Len Garry remembered that “Elvis came in and that was it”, and Colin Hanton agreed: “Elvis was the guy!”  Pete Best, who also features strongly in the interviews, remembered the impact that Elvis had on him, and said he “blew everyone away.”

And it’s easy to see why.  The exhibition moves on from 1950s’ Liverpool to focus on Elvis’ early years with a wonderful mix of video footage of Elvis, audio narration and interviews, and great memorabilia on show – including the shirt that Elvis wore in Jailhouse Rock!  The raw energy of the King is palpable, and it’s no wonder that he had such an influence on the young musicians in Liverpool.

The central feature of the exhibition is, of course, the day that the Beatles met Elvis in his Bel Air home.  The exhibits in this section were very special – and included the telegram that Colonal Parker sent to the Beatles on their arrival in the US in February 1964, as well as the telegram that Brian sent in return.  You can also see the bass guitar that Elvis was playing when the Beatles arrived at his home, and the pool table where Ringo kept himself amused as the others jammed, while on a large video screen, Priscilla Presley, Tony Barrow and Chris Hutchins recount the events of that historic meeting.

The final section of the exhibition explains how the Beatles and Elvis’ careers continued in parallel, with both representing their respective countries as cultural icons and ambassadors.  Some of Elvis’ stage suits are on display, and the music playing in the room includes Elvis’ cover of ‘Yesterday’, showing that the musical influences were not flowing all one way.

Despite the wonderful way that the story was told, and the fabulous items that make up the exhibition – some of which have never been on display before – my favourite part of the exhibition came in the final section.

One of the video screens showed footage from Elvis’ ’68 comeback show.  As I watched the screen, and listened to the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll singing “If I Can Dream”, it seemed to sum up the whole exhibition.  For a boy from Tupelo, and four lads from Liverpool, dreams came true, and their dreams led to wonderful music that has brought happiness for millions around the world. 

This is a fabulous exhibition that is not to be missed if you’re in Liverpool! 
It will be at the Beatles Story Pier Head, Liverpool until October 4, 2013.

Opening times:
   Summer season: 9am to 7pm (last admission 6pm)
   Winter season: 10am to 6pm (last admission 5pm)
   Allow between an hour and an hour and a half for your visit.

For full details on prices (tickets are available for just the Elvis and Us exhibition, or as part of a combined ticket that includes all the attractions at the Beatles Story) visit the Beatles Story website.

All images c. Mark McNulty / Elvis and Us Exhibition and must NOT be reproduced without the express permission of the copyright holder.

1 comment:

  1. I attended the exhibition on Saturday with a group of 100 fellow Elvis fans, and we loved it. It was great to find out how much The Beatles loved Elvis, and how he enjoyed their music in return. We ended the day with an Elvis and Beatles disco at The Adelphi and it was great to see 100 Elvis fans Twisting and Shouting to The Beatles! You will have to join us next time! Helen Brown, Northampton