Elvis Presley, the NME Poll’s World Singer for 1966 – and many other years! – is truly a show-biz phenomenon. He is the most successful solo singer in the world. Every record he makes climbs into the chart. Every film he appears in is a financial hit! He projects a happy-go-lucky, carefree image which as been criticised as banal. Yet he brings colour and gaiety to the lives of millions.

He must also be the hardest working star in history. Closeted away in his beautiful home, surrounded by only a few chosen buddies, he works on film after film for his public.

In the next two years he is contracted to make eight full-length feature films – one every three months! Can you think of another star you know works at that rate?

It’s not that Big El has to do all this. Far from it! He must be one of the richest young men in the world and he surely cannot enjoy twelve months of non-stop filming, almost living on a studio set surrounded by the same old faces.

What motivates him, what drives him to this fantastic work stint? I think – at the risk of being corny – that it is dedication.

Elvis, I suggest, feels responsibility to his millions of fans.

Elvis realises that he can reach so many more people through his films than through personal appearances; so he keeps them coming! The formula his films take may be predictable (monotonously so, some say), but it seems to be what the fans want – good, colourful, tuneful escapism. So who should stop a winning run?

Has everything

At the age of 31 (soon 32!) Elvis has everything. More money than he needs, fame, glamour and the love of millions. Put yourself in his place. What would you do with your time? Travel the world? Lead the good life. Eat, drink and be merry? Of course you would – and so would I!

But Elvis, who could do these things if he wanted, restricts himself to a few square miles, is seldom seen in the bright lights and, except for his Army stint in Germany, never goes abroad.

Again, it’s not a case of not being able to do these things. The Beatles have proved that you can still lead a fairly normal life, despite world-wide fame.

No, every day Elvis is on the film lot at 8 in the morning, ready for another day’s shooting.

I don’t say that Elvis’ constant film work is altogether a good thing. I feel he could easily cut his work-load down and still satisfy his fans.

Perhaps his recordings have suffered from movie pressure.

The fact that he issues discs that have been in the can for quite a considerable time mars his chances of getting in the top reaches of the charts where his talent belongs. But when Elvis does make an outstanding record, like “Love Letters”, the public react by buying it and showing their approval of his fine voice.

But records like “Love Letters” and, further back “It’s Now Or Never”, leave you hoping that Elvis will go back into the studios and work on a string of great discs rather than simply record gay, but unmemorable songs from the films.

A record like “If Everyday Was Like Christmas” may be pleasant, but is it really the best we can expect from one of the world’s top male vocalists?

Herman was telling me of the day he was speaking to a top film producer who said of Elvis: “One day he will win an Oscar – he’s got the potential”, And several of El’s early films certainly pointed in that direction. But recently, perhaps, he has been just a bit too concerned with quantity. Yet we mustn’t forget you can make family entertainment and still win an Oscar.

Golden year

As Elvis enters 1967 he has two films – “Double Trouble” and “Easy Come, Easy Go” – in the pipeline. More are to follow. In terms of money it will be another golden year for him. Perhaps the gold could, rub off onto some screen honours – it’s no more than he deserves in the terms of the happiness he has brought to so many.

New Musical Express 17 December 1966