I was thinking that night about Elvis...
January 8th was Elvis Presley's birthday. 70 years ago, Elvis was born in a two room house in Tupelo, Mississippi. While I forgot to get the big guy anything for his big day, I'm giving you some presents instead.
I'm worried about what the future holds for Elvis's legacy. I'm worried about the effect his Colonel-Tom-and-Las-Vegas downfall will have on how he is remembered in the history of rock n' roll. I'm worried that without the context of what was going on in the 50's before he catapulted to fame, people can't really understand how meteoric and powerful his fame was, and how much he paved the way for what we've had in the past 50 years.
Do kids listen to Elvis anymore, or do they just throw him over their shoulders like so much wrapping paper on their new Christmas toys? Do they know just how fucking PIMP this guy was before his weak will and misplaced trust in the people around him -- paired with the crippling solitude of MegaFame that only freaks like Michael Jackson can identify with -- literally stopped his heart dead?
Just listen to "Mystery Train." I could go on a road trip to just this one song. There's a bar in Chicago called Rose, and they have a jukebox full of 7" records. This song is in that box, and I play it every single time I'm in that bar. See, this was recorded in a time where people just stood around together in a room, said "Rolling," and recorded the fucking song. No overdubs, no 24-track machine. Usually just one or two microphones. One take, and everything must be perfect or you have to start the son of a bitch all over again.
I'm pretty sure every song I'm posting today was done in one take. These next two tracks for sure. "Trying to Get to You" was recorded during rehearsals for Elvis's famous '68 Comeback Special, with Scotty Moore and D.J. Fontana, Elvis's original drummer and guitarist. These rehearsals saw Elvis going back to his roots, and the recordings are raucous fun. If I ever figure out time travel, I'm going to be in that tiny audience, watching these guys goof off together. Listen to Elvis's voice as he starts screaming on the bridge! The band also performed one of my favorite Elvis songs, "Love Me". I love the sloppy percussion and the backing vocals.
Obviously, my love for Elvis leans towards his younger, less flashy years. I just think this era is as pure as rock gets, and I've always thought it's the best place to take someone who might think, "Isn't he that sequined, sweaty jackass?" Try to front on "Any Way You Want Me (That's How I Will Be)." You can't! There's just too much damn soul there. And then you've got Elvis-as-Lou-Barlow with the total lo-fi beauty of "Blue Moon." So solemn and sad. This was a hit record? Just a little plunked guitar, some hushed, ghostly vocals and an almost invisible bass line.
And to close off my rant on the pimpness of Elvis, here's a little snippet of movie dialogue where Elvis talks about starting your own record label. Start your next indie rock mix tape out with this track.
I'm going to finish things off the same way I did for Jeff Buckley the other day, with a little tribute song to The King from Gillian Welch. "Elvis Presley Blues" is from her album TIME (THE REVELATOR). It's a damn fine tribute to the mystique of this young southern boy who loved his mom and changed the world. See, Elvis dropped by a Memphis studio one day in 1953 to record a song as a gift for his mother. For $4, he recorded "My Happiness" and "That's When Your Heartaches Begin." The rest is history. Think about that when Gillian sings "He put on a shirt his mother made and he went on the air." Here, check out a live version of the same track. Both feature Welch's sometime musical partner, David Rawlings.
FOR MORE ELVIS:
Official Elvis Site
Elvis and His Controversial Dancing
Buy ELVIS 56 immediately!