The New European: Das King – how Germany changed Elvis forever

Elvis’ much mythologised spell in Germany was a pivotal period in his life, says Sophia L Deboick, which saw the sowing of many of the seeds of his ultimate downfall

They are among the defining images of the 20th century: a 23 year old Elvis being sworn into the US Army in March 1958, having his trademark quiff cut by the Army barber, and walking in line, duffel bag slung over his shoulder, the iconic ‘Presley’ emblazoned on his uniform breast pocket.

Ostensibly reportage photography showing a world-famous star serving shoulder to shoulder with his fellow Americans, these images were in fact as true a reflection of Elvis’ army career as its technicolour fictionalisation in his movie of 1960, G.I. Blues.

Deployment to Germany was a watershed for Elvis professionally, marking a dramatic breakaway from his association with moral panic and corruption of the young. But Germany was also a turning point personally, precipitating a loss of innocence, and it was the breeding ground for obsessions that defined the rest of his life…

The New European, 26 May 2017, pp. 34-35.

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