- 09 Jun 17
What a difference 40 years makes. Our columnist looks back to 1977, a year of death and tragedy but illuminated by chinks of light, (such as the birth of Hot Press)
I was sitting in a snug in Bowes Bar on Fleet Street on August 15th 1977 when Mary Maher from Chicago burst in. She had come over hot-foot from the Irish Times, where I’d been doing a subbing shift. There hadn’t been much to sub that night, as I’d knocked off a couple of hours early and gone to the pub. Back in ’77, people, you could do that sort of thing. “Elvis is dead,” she announced. “Would you write something?”
Thus it was I got to write the Times obit of Elvis. This remains the highpoint of my life in journalism.
It is truly impossible to explain now how sensationally different Elvis was to all that had gone before, how threatening to every concept of good order, right attitude, decency, respect, respectability. 1977 was also the year that punk exploded. But that was only a firecracker to discommode the diffident compared with the detonation which had tilted the earth on its axis when Elvis first spasmed into our consciousness. There was a clear class element to Elvis. I recall priests at St. Columb’s explaining that Elvis Presley might be all very well for the ragamuffins and scruffs who infested the Bogside. But all of us here, even if originally from the Bogside, were destined for better things.