Friday, August 23, 2013

Discuss: The King

Doug:  The 36th anniversary of the passing of Elvis Presley was a week ago.  I don't know that we've ever discussed the King of Rock 'n' Roll on this blog.  Today's the day.

Doug:  For those of you who saw today's headline and came here expecting to discourse on all things Jack Kirby... well, I tricked you!  Also, hold onto your Ben Affleck comments until  tomorrow when Karen opens up the BAB potpourri pot!  It's the weekend, kids -- enjoy!


david_b said...

"Where to start, where to start..."

As they've said about Keith Richards (and others..), if there hadn't been an Elvis, Rock would have invented him.

Not a huge fan of his music or history, but I'll watch his movies if one's on. As David Letterman once publically mused on his show, "How come it seems in every movie, his character name's always 'Nick'..?" The '68 Special was a huge risk which paid dividends, getting him out of the increasingly-achronistic movie mode and back on stage.

My fav part was of course 'the jam' with Scotty Moore and DJ Fontana, THAT was Elvis. Nowadays I'd still love listening to the embarrassingly bad 'In the Ghetto' on the radio..

My Mom to this day still regrets not going to see Elvis at a local fair in '75 for $10 or something. You just never knew.

Other than that, the oddest personal note for me was Elvis died on the day I picked up my 'brand new' Schwinn Varsity (purchased new for $110) for my morning/afternoon paper routes. I still love/use that bike. Like McCoy said to Data on ST:TNG, 'Treat her like a lady and she'll always bring you home'..

Anonymous said...

I was 11 when Elvis died and we were on holiday at the seaside, we had no TV or radio and saw " ELVIS IS DEAD " on all the newspapers. At the time there was an Elvis single called ' Way Down ' in the British pop chart which rocketed to # 1 on September 3rd and stayed at # 1 for 5 weeks. Over Christmas 1977 the BBC showed most of Elvis' films including G. I. Blues on Christmas Eve. It was the first time I'd seen most of his films - they get a bad name but most of them are enjoyable enough.He'll always be one of the true legends of popular music.

Anonymous said...

By the way , I could be wrong about this but I feel that Elvis is much more loved and appreciated overseas than he is in America.

mr. oyola said...

The thing I remember about Elvis dying is that I knew little about him but his name and his occasional appearance on TV.

My friend Anthony (we were 6) told me "The King is dead" and I argued that we were a democracy and didn't have a king! :/

Anyway, I don't care for Elvis. I think he is overrated. I kind of agree with Public Enemy in "Fight the Power" in lyrics about him and John Wayne - lyrics I won't reproduce here. ;)

Doug said...

I think one of the interesting arguments about iconic performers like Elvis is that there becomes the conversation --

If Elvis never lived, then there would not have been X.

Of course, you can swap out Elvis for the Beatles, or Jack Kirby, or whatever pop culture genre you want to discuss.


david_b said...

I've heard that argument several times, noteably with the Beatles, Hendrix or Elvis..

As for Elvis, I'd say we'd still have rockabilly, but with all the clean and family-friendly Pat Boone and Rick Nelson-types getting television exposure, rock would not have reached prominance as it did, perhaps going another direction, say jazz or blues than rockabilly.

With rockabilly lending strength to nurturing the 'skiffle craze' in the UK, weakening of rockability appeal would have delayed the rise of British influence. Keeping in mind, the Brits primarily had American records brought over by longshoremen and such to go on in the mid-fifties, so if the record companies didn't see rockabilly profitable enough to sell, there ent the records.

As for movies, I don't recall too many movies with rock stars or urban rockabilly music (like 'Blackboard Jungle' or 'The Girl Can't Help it', which came out the same year as 'Love Me Tender'..) prior to Elvis. If neither those records or movies would have made it to the UK (or made at all..), Lennon and McCartney would not have been inspired.

Not laying that all on Mr. Presley obviously, but the enormous success of one artist spurs the craze for others, and so on.

Doc Savage said...

I prefer the real innovators: Chuck Berry, Little Richard, Buddy Holly. But I love some Elvis music, mostly his earliest stuff. It's a shame how the Colonel went for easy cash at the expense of Elvis's credibility, but I do enjoy quite a few Elvis films: Blue Hawaii, Paradise Hawaiian Style, Viva Las Vegas, Jailhouse Rock, and some others whose names I don't recall.

Been to both Graceland and the house he was born in in Tupelo, Mississippi. Have to admire a man who crawled out of grinding poverty based solely on talent and persistence. He never robbed anyone to get what he got. Public Enemy can ride out on the horse they rode in on.

Garett said...

Elvis is great! I grew up with his music, and remember the announcement of his death over the radio as my family came back from vacation. He had a great voice, great charisma, and put out some awesome songs from straight up rock to ballads. I like that he had a sense of humor about himself, as you can see with his live performances of Hound Dog.

But also he cared about the music itself...he did 31 takes of Hound Dog in the studio to get the sound he was after. Love his guitarist too, including some devilish rockin chord he hits at 1:22 in that tune--just listened on youtube again! Here it is:

I'm not one to slag on modern comics, music, movies, etc, but listening to this again I appreciate it's direct rocking energy, and I can imagine the terribly overproduced version we'd get of this song today.

Anonymous said...

I was only 5 when Elvis died, but I was always a fan...even though neither of my parents liked him much.

And I agree about his movies...some were bad, but some were pretty good: Viva Las Vegas, Jailhouse Rock, King Creole. I personally have a soft spot for Loving You (because it's the first Elvis movie I saw) and Kissing Cousins (co-starring Yvonne Craig!)

Mike W.

Karen said...

Elvis grows in power as a symbol every year but it seems as if actual knowledge of his music wanes. My parents were not fans -they didn't dislike him but we never had any of his music in our home -so I came late to his music. I can appreciate it even if it isn't high on my list of favorites. I actually think his gospel work and ballads might be some of his best stuff.

Beyond the music, the man had incredible personal charisma which still radiates from the screen. It's unfortunate he was mismanaged for so long. His talent could have been put to better use. I don't think he was much of an actor but he certainly could have been put in better vehicles. And that goes more so for work in the recording studio.The song selection was often terrible.

Still, he has risen to rock godhood, with images both delightful and crude surrounding him.

Garett said...

I'd agree with that Karen, about knowledge of his music. I see so many young people who know Beatles, Doors, Zeppelin, etc but not Elvis. I think he was overrated during the Bronze age, but is underrated now.

Doug said...

Elvis' version of "Merry Christmas Baby" may be my favorite Christmas song. His entire album "If Every Day Was Like Christmas" is a treasure. It's just fantastic and is in rotation play at our house from the end of November right on through Dec. 25th.


david_b said...

Speaking of Elvis filmography, one of the greatest misfires of comedy films is 'Top Secret'..

The Zucker brothers had a string of great '80s films, but this one fell flat for some reason.

Val Kilmer as Nick Rivers..? He was pretty awesome.

Fred W. Hill said...

While I recognize Elvis us as one of the most significant figures in rock music and popular entertainment, and I like several of his songs, I was never a fan and never bought any of his records. Something about his persona turned me off. In the few interviews I saw with him, he generally struck me as a dumb hick. Another factor was learning that despite his playing a role as a rock 'n' roll rebel, even up to his 1968 tv special, dressed up in leather, in secret he was offering his services to Nixon to spy on the Beatles and try to counteract their "dangerous influence" on America's youth. Of course, the Beatles remain among my favorite performers, and I didn't get into them until several years after they broke up. My mom, btw, who was in her early teens, living in NE Texas, when Elvis became such a huge star in the mid-50s, actually preferred Pat Boone to the King of Rock and Roll!

Graham said...

I've always liked Elvis to a degree (being in Mississippi, it's a prerequisite), but once I started listening to the blues and R&B from the same era that he grew up in, I gained more of an appreciation.

Say what you will about Keith Richards' comments, I'm not sure it would have ended up like it did with somebody else in Presley's shoes. Unlike a lot of rockers from that time, Elvis grew up absorbing the sounds of R&B and the blues, walking the streets of Memphis and taking it in first hand.

His music is a hybrid of those two sounds, plus a healthy dose of the country music from that time. Only a few other folks (Carl Perkins, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, etc...)at the time had those three things working at once with their sound, so there might have been another "Elvis," but I'm not sure the effect would have been the same. Would have been interesting to hear, though.

As Karen said, the charisma factor cannot be overlooked. The others were doing the same sort of thing to a degree, but they didn't have that factor in their favor to the degree that Elvis did (or they were busy marrying their 13 year old cousin). :)

My interest in his music mostly decreases after his time in the army. The Colonel basically ground him to a pulp with those movies and burned him out. He got his mojo back in the late 60's, but he really needed somebody to tell him what he didn't want to hear in his last years.

If anybody here is a fan and hasn't read them yet, I highly recommend Peter Guralnick's two-volume biography that came out in the mid 90's. The second volume is sort of a bummer near the end, but it's fascinating reading.

mr. oyola said...

BTW, spent the day in Asbury Park with the wife to get some late summer beach time and hit up the Silverball Pinball Hall of Fame and played a couple of games on the ELVIS! pinball machine - pretty good machine!

I got a huge "Hound dog" bonus score. :)

Anonymous said...

Long live the King of Rock and Roll! Just reiterating the point Matt Celis made - I see parallels to another global music icon nearer to me down here in the Caribbean. I'm talking about the King of Reggae Bob Marley. Like Elvis, Marley did not invent the genre of music he played but was the first to make it world famous. The roots of rock and roll like blues and rockabilly were around long before Elvis (performers like Chuck Berry being a notable exponent) but he was the first to carry that type of music to a global audience.

Bob became the world's first Third World music superstar; Elvis became the first truly global rock and roll superstar. Both came from very humble beginnings, rising to the top through a combination of innate talent, drive, enormous personal charisma and coming along at the right time in history. Both suffered their share of career ups and downs, both died relatively young and subsequently became legendary, almost mythic figures in music and pop culture.

- Mike 'long live the King - both Elvis and Jack Kirby!' from Trinidad & Tobago.

Rip Jagger said...

Elvis is awesome! Note I said "is". This conspiracy theory that he passed away some years ago is pure claptrap.

The best Elvis movie of all time is "Bubba Hotep" in which "The King" and a black JFK battle an evil Mummy in a Texas nursing home. It must be seen, it must be believed.

Rip Off

Edo Bosnar said...

Didn't originally have anything much to say on this topic, since - besides liking a few songs - I'm just not all that into Elvis. However, since Rip brought up the amazing Bubba Hotep (which someone here recommended on a thread a few years back), I just have to say I wholeheartedly agree. Bruce Campbell in particular is outstanding as the still-alive, elderly Elvis.

J.A. Morris said...

I'm a fan of Elvis, but hardly a fanatic. I've got a greatest hits collection that I break out every now and then. But Sunrise is an absolutely essential CD:

It contains all of Elvis' early Sun Records songs, his best music in my opinion.

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