"But I guarantee you one thing: We will never again agree on anything as we agreed on Elvis." -- Lester Bangs, August 1977
I'm really not here to criticize other pundits in town but Terry Lawson's article on Elvis in Sunday's Free Press kinda bugged me. He wrote that he didn't pay much attention to Elvis between 1960 and 1969 (thereby actually missing out on a lot of great music); yet he writes that the Elvis Comeback Special is one of the essential Elvis items (and it is). Only problem with that is that the Elvis Comeback Special is also often referred to as the "'68 Comeback Special" ... so if he wasn't paying attention to Elvis between '60 and '69....well, you catch my drift.
Also, he wrote that there are really only seven essential Elvis albums that any fan needs to own. Sorry, but this Elvis fan would argue that's just wrong. Since none of the albums he mentioned include great tunes like "(Now & Then There's) A Fool Such As I" (the definitive Elvis song, where it all comes together, as far as I'm concerned), "Treat Me Nice," "Big Hunk O' Love" and scores of others from the '50s -- nor do they include some of the great material (yes, GREAT material) he managed to record during those lost "bad movies" years) -- a true fan definitely needs more than just seven albums. Hell, during those movie years, he recorded Doc Pomus's "Long Lonely Highway" and Bob Dylan 's "Tomorrow's A Long Time," both epic moments in the man's phenomenal career.
"Elvis recorded a song of mine once. That's the one recording I treasure the most." -- Bob Dylan
One definitely needs the Onstage February 1970 album as well, if only for "The Wonder of You," "Let It Be Me" and a kickass cover of Michigander Del Shannon's classic "Runaway," featuring a scorching Duane Eddy-like guitar solo by the legendary James Burton.
At any rate, in celebration of the 30th anniversary of the King's croaking, here's a link to a great article about Elvis and how he was unjustly turned into a racist that appeared in last weekend's New York Times, as written by definitive Elvis biographer Peter Guralnick.
And here's a link to the great article "Where Were You When Elvis Died" by the wonderful Lester Bangs that appeared in the Village Voice 30 years ago this week. Said article even has a Detroit connection, as in:
"I got taken too the one time I went to see Elvis, but in a totally
different way. It was in the autumn of '71, and two tickets to an Elvis show
showed up at the offices of Creem magazine where I then worked. It was
decided that two people who'd never gotten to see Elvis before would get to
go see this show. That's how me and art director Charlie Auringer wound up
in nearly the front row of the biggest arena in Detroit. Earlier Charlie had
said, 'Do you realize how much we could have got if we'd sold these fuckin'
things?' I didn't. But how precious they were became totally clear the
moment Elvis sauntered onto the stage. He was the only male performer that I
have ever seen to whom I responded to sexually; it wasn't real arousal,
rather an erection of the heart, when I looked at him I went mad with desire
and envy and worship and self-projection. I mean, Mick Jagger, whom I saw as far back as 1964 and twice in '65 never even came close.
"There was Elvis, dressed up in this ridiculous white suit which looked
like some studded Arthurian white castle, and he was too fat, and the buckle
on his belt was larger than your head, except that your head is not made of
solid gold, and any lesser man would have been the spitting image of a Neil
Diamond damn fool in such a getup, but on Elvis it fit. What didn't? No
matter how lousy his records ever got, no matter how intently he pursued
mediocrity, there was still some hint, some flash leftover from the days
when,...well I wasn't there so I won't presume to comment. But I will say
this: Elvis Presley was the man who brought overt blatant vulgar sexual
frenzy to the popular arts in America (and thereby to the nation itself,
since putting 'popular arts' and 'America' in the same sentence seems almost
redundant). It has been said that he was the first white to sing like a
black person, which is untrue in terms of hard facts but totally true in
terms of cultural impact. But what's more crucial is that when Elvis started
wiggling his hips and Ed Sullivan refused to show it, the entire country
went into a paroxysm of sexual frustration leading to abiding discontent
which culminated in the explosion of psychedelic-militant folklore which was
Best line, though: "Elvis kicked 'How Much Is That Doggie In The Window' out the window and replaced it with, 'Let's fuck.' The rest of us are still reeling from the impact."
Man, 30 years. How time flies, whether you're having fun or not...
P.S. The movie years may have sucked...but Bratt Pitt and Angelina Jolie have never generated the kind of sexual tension onscreen that the King and Ann-Margret generated here. Besides, I don't know an 8-year-old kid anywhere who doesn't love a good Elvis move.. and that includes today, yesterday and probably tomorrow...