Before 1976, Elvis Presley had violated many of the rules of society: he'd taught the youth of America how to get in touch with their sexuality, showed white kids how to sing in black genres, and horrified the music industry with his concept of melody, rhythm, and dance. Yet through it all, Elvis remained a polite professional, a man who swiveled his hips and sang the occasional salacious lyric because he felt compelled to, not because he was in the least consciously aware of his impact.
Later, of course, he would become too aware, but by that time -- by this time, 1976 -- Elvis had isolated himself so deeply in his fortress of yes-men, money and physical pleasures that he'd lost all sense of reality. And with it went the two virtues he'd always had to fall back on: his workingman's humility and his work ethic. From here until his death, the King would find it enough just to show up. And sometimes not even that.
This was the year that the audience, previously so forgiving of their idol, began to whisper among themselves about what could be wrong with Elvis -- and fans who appreciated him without turning him into a symbol started to become full-on outraged at the ceremony of self-indulgence they'd apparently bought a ticket for. Worst of all, an increasingly paranoid, delusional King allowed his personal relationships to deteriorate as well, throwing away friends he'd had for decades and replacing anyone who didn't tell him what he wanted to hear. In that respect, the end was inevitably just around the corner. And some of Elvis' more savvy observers, both in and out of his secret circle, were picking up on that fact.