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Sunday, 28 March 2010


There are two predominant images of Elvis Presley's in the public psyche - the beautiful young rocker, virile and dangerous and then there is the bloated Elvis, the victim of tasteless excess. There was a million miles between the revolutionary force the young Elvis was and that parody of later years. As brilliant as he was, Elvis died a sad pitiful wreck of a man - someone who had been chewed up and spat out by the money men of show business.

I've written in the past about my admiration for Elvis but I've always been more tuned to the early period, the blues and rockabilly mesh ups like Mystery Train, That's All Right and I forgot to remember to forget, belted out by the prototype punk. I still think those songs he cut with Sun Records are among the best songs ever recorded.

I usually avoid those latter tracks, those tacky ballads and over produced show-tunes. But lately I've been listening to a lot of the later work and discovering that I had been too harsh - even in the comedy jump-suit days Elvis could rock when he truly wanted to. For every person who thinks Elvis was a revolution, there is another who considers him a joke. But can anyone realistically deny that he was not the single most important voice in the history of modern music? I think not.

If you use your ears rather than the years of prejudices to listen to Heartbreak Hotel then you'll feel that magic, that brilliance, that genius in the voice. And the same goes for later day classic such as Separate Ways and Way Down.

As John Lennon said, before Elvis there was nothing.


I.J. Parnham said...

There is a film of one of Elvis's last concerts made a week or so before he died and I gather Elvis fans always pretend that doesn't exist, but I've seen it a couple of times and for me it's the only time I ever got the Elvis magic. His music just isn't my thing from any period, but seeing him looking like a whale and wheeled out on stage poured into a suit he's just strangely charismatic. There's a bit where he's singing Love me Tender and he's so out of it he can't remember the words and is making up his own lines and giggling. He should be pitiful and yet he's not because even thought he's singing 'love me tender, love my itchy bum' or whatever he still has the voice. Everything is gone, mind, body, and yet the voice is still there.


Ian - Elvis' cut of Blue Moon for Sun is one of the most beautiful pieces of music ever recorded. It's so sad the way things went.