What can you learn from source A about Elvis Presley’s impact on popular music in the USA in 1955?
From source A we can learn that Elvis was a popular, whether people liked his music or just him still sold his records, ‘six hit singles in the companies hit list of top 25 best sellers’. It also shows that the magazine liked him and had confidence in him and that he would succeed at the highest level. This is shown by the title ‘Presley Hot as $1 Pistol’ meaning he will shoot to stardom quickly. The article also mentions that he is also ‘the number two best seller’ after a well respected, clean cut singer. This shows he has already almost made the big time.
Question 2. Study Sources A and B.
Source B gives different impressions of Elvis Presley to that given in Source A.
i) In what ways do the sources differ?
Source A is different to Source B in many ways. Source A is a factual article which is encouraging towards Elvis, promoting the fact that he is popular. This source is aimed at any age group or race that had an interest in modern music and read the magazine. Source B is peoples personal opinions, condemning and objected, ‘Presley has no singing ability’, and ‘primitive physical movement’, are examples of the personal criticism and abuse Source B implies. Source B is aimed at middle aged, middle class white people.
ii) Use Sources C and D, and your own knowledge to explain why Sources A and B differ.
Source A is written earlier than Source B and is about record sales. Whereas Source B is commenting on a TV appearance made by Elvis later on. Source C also refers to his TV appearance. Source C agrees with Source B in that Elvis never should have gone on TV. Source A is written in March 1956 before anybody had seen Elvis on TV so there was no reason to criticise him. Source B is written in the same year but is after his first TV appearance. B is supported by both C and D in criticising Elvis about his appearance and his dancing technique. This is shown in Source B stating his ‘primitive physical movement’ and is supported by C and D quoting, ‘unfortunately Presley makes personal appearances’, and ‘how shocking he looked’. Source A is aimed at any age group or race that had an interest in reading the magazine and in modern music. Source B is aimed at the middle or upper class that would read national newspapers. Source C is aimed at Catholics, and Source D is aimed at anybody.
Sources B, C, and D all criticise him so therefore support each other. This is another reason why Sources A and B are different. Source A is reaction to his records and is a factual Source ‘six hit singles in the company’s hit list of top-25 best sellers’. Whereas Sources B, C, and D, are all opinions of him and his appearance. Source C supports Source B in that it was criticism of him early in his career when he first made his appearance on TV. Source D supports Source B in criticising Elvis. It shows that even other singers were being shocked by his performances ‘told some real bad, crude jokes, which weren’t even funny’. Whereas normally you would expect another person in the same trade to be more accepting of a young up and coming star, who is new to the business.
Question 3. Study Sources B, E and F.
Do Sources E and F support the evidence of Source B about the impact of Elvis Presley? Use your own knowledge to explain your answer.
Sources E and F do not support Source B. Source B was written as newspaper articles about Elvis’ appearance on the Milton Berle show. The three articles in source B are all critical about Elvis eg. ‘Presley has no singing ability’, ‘unintelligible lyrics’ and ‘grunt and groan antics’. Whereas Sources E and F are positive about his appearances. ‘The Milton Berle show topped Sergeant Berle in the ratings’. This shows that people were watching the show to see him perform, ‘it was a relaxed and therefore more effective Milton Berle show’. Source F shows screaming and shouting girls and how popular he is. This Source could also be negative as it shows him and his roughneck appearance. All of these sources show that Elvis did make an impact whether he was liked or disliked. The age group he had the biggest impact on were the teenagers. This was because they liked his music and his rebellious style.
Question 4. Study Source G.
Use your own knowledge to explain why these different views were expressed.
In Source G the three different people speaking all have the same view but for different reasons. The congressman Emmanuel Celler dislikes Elvis because he thought that he overdid his actions. The congressman did not have a problem with rock’n’roll but ‘Presley and his animal gyrations violate all that I know to be in good taste’. He thought that Elvis was over the top. The next part of Source G was a statement by a member of the Ku Klux Klan. The KKK were a big racist group in south America at the time of Elvis’ rise to fame. At this time segregation and the Jim Crow laws were still being used. The KKK spokesman dislikes Elvis because he used black peoples style, for example Little Richard style songs. He also describes Elvis as a ‘cannibalistic, negro-loving rock and roller’, which shows he has a vision of a stereotypical American red Indian who would eat white men that entered their territory. At this time 56% of Blacks were under the poverty line. The Preacher is against Elvis because he sees Elvis as a bad influence on the young, stating that he ‘would not let my daughter cross the road to see Elvis’. He might also dislike Elvis because as a member of the church he might be against his sexual movement such as the hip thrusts.
Question 5. Study Source I.
Source I suggests that attitudes to Elvis Presley were beginning to change by 1958. Use the source, and your own knowledge to explain why this was happening.
Source I shows that people were starting to like Elvis. Source I suggests that he had achieved US democracy doing what all American citizens were expected to do ‘This is US democracy at its best’, because he did not use ‘influence to buy his way out’. This changed his image from a rebel to a squeaky clean pop star. He changed his style of music and started making films. Recording sessions were made shorter so he could move on to his next film, in contrast to the 30 takes of Hound Dog. After he had returned from the army he stopped doing live concerts and started wearing suits. He sung a duet with a well respected star, Frank Sinatra, on Frank’s TV show, which was edited so that the audiences screams were taken out. Elvis’ films joining the army and business manner made him more acceptable for all age groups and classes.
Question 6. Study all the sources.
‘The impact of Elvis Presley on US society during the 1950’s was more the result of television coverage of performance than his music.’ Use the sources, and your own knowledge ,to explain whether you agree with this view of the career of Elvis Presley.
The impact of Elvis Presley in the 1950’s is said to have been more to do with his TV appearances than his music. A lot of people did not have TV’s in the 1950’s but most people had radios so the statement is debatable. Newspapers and magazines also highlighted and mostly exaggerated Elvis’ appearances. Personally I disagree with the statement. Sources B and C are Magazine and newspaper articles with other peoples opinions about his TV appearances. Both of these articles are one sided against Elvis, only giving a conservative reaction. These reactions are all picking out bad things about his appearance and movements eg. ‘Presley has no singing ability’, ‘Unintelligible lyrics’, ‘primitive physical movement’, and ‘grunt and groan antics’. Source F which shows Elvis dancing and singing could be positive in that there are so many screaming fans, or negative showing roughneck appearance with sideburns and controversial dress sense.
Sources A, E, and H are all positive Sources towards him and his records. Source A shows that his music was popular and that he was already the ‘number two best seller’ before he even appeared on TV. Source E shows that his appearance on the Milton Berle TV show had topped the ratings. This shows that people were tuning in to see him again showing he was popular before his first TV appearance. Source H is more facts about his record sales and how well they were selling compared to other artists at the same time. These statistics tell us that his music was extremely popular. These three Sources are factual rather than opinion like Sources B, and C. The middle aged group of people at the time were always looking to criticise Elvis.