Garry Bushell: “Modern pop began with Elvis Presley. He had everything that Malcolm McLaren would later correctly identify as the mainstays of rock ‘n’ roll immortality: Sex (Presley’s strutting hips were so suggestive that on TV he would be screened from the waist up) Style (Elvis was cool personified) And Subversion (a Des Moines Baptist preacher denounced Elvis as ‘morally insane’; several cities concurred, and banned him altogether.) He was also the first real teenage heartthrob. Bill Haley? Forget it. Bill was a middle-aged chubster with a kiss curl. Presley was young, cool and handsome; the icon on the rock’n’roll cake. He was 19 when he recorded ‘That’s All Right Mama’ at Sun Studios, Memphis, fulfilling producer Sam Phillips’s dream of finding ‘a white guy who sings like a Negro.’ More than that, Presley’s voice was raw, emotional and sexy. He moved people as much as he excited them. And okay, there were black performers who were more creative, like the brilliant duck-walking wordsmith Chuck Berry, whose style influenced everyone from the Beatles to the Beach Boys, or the hysterically hyper-energised Little Richard Penniman, but poor boy Elvis was the perfect package. The first genuine pop star. The King.” Bruce Thomas: "My fave Elvis song? My immediate reaction is All Shook Up — and having then looked through the list of all 758 songs that he recorded, I’m not going to change my mind — not even my “Suspicious Mind” or my “You Were Always On My Mind”. All Shook Up has got the best and most effortless groove of any track he ever recorded. But the clincher for me is the lyric — where the usual songs of the day would have said, “There’s only one cure for this heart of mine”, Presley sings, “There’s only one cure for this body of mine, that’s to have that girl and a love so fine.” Will Bishop Stephens: "My favourite photo of Elvis, a naturally photogenic man. July 1956, a train to Memphis. Elvis is pointing at the camera and a panda is sat in one of the seats opposite with his arms out. There is an earlier photo from the same day of Elvis holding the bear trying to convince two girls that he is not an elvis impersonator, so it is definitely his panda. Also the arms are posable, so it is not only Elvis's panda, he also posed it so that it looks like it's asking to be picked up. Looking more closely there is a third figure in the photograph, like the man behind the grassy knoll. History does not relate if he is looking in his rucksack for a biro, or putting his head between his legs to try and cure hiccups. Either or both may be true." Steve Lowe: "On 17th August 1977 I was woken up with a start. My little sister was excitedly waving a newspaper in my face… “You know Elvis” she said “er… yes…?” I replied “Well, you know how you thought he was really cool and good looking – He’s now dead, and he was fat and ugly when he died… Look!!” The photograph in the newspaper showed the bloated face of ‘fat ugly’ Elvis and I felt incredibly sad. This was the face of someone I had idolised but had never seen in this form. I had only ever known the young, quiffed and hip shaking version of the films, and the voice on 78 rpm records. My introduction to pop music - and staple diet of this illicit pleasure from the age of 4 until about 11 - was via a collection of 78s given to us by a neighbour who was emigrating to Australia. My father – being a cultural reactionary & classical music enthusiast of the utmost snobbery - disapproved of pop music intensely; so it was never really allowed in the house and the dial on the car radio was always set to Radio 3 or 4. Somehow however (perhaps for being quite decent in comparison to the disgusting parade of yobby men with long hair moping about on Top of the Pops), this collection of old records - including gems by The Crickets, Bill Hailey, Elvis and the like - was allowed. And I couldn’t get enough; playing them over and over and over again on my mum’s old Dancetta record player and letting my imagination run wild. One of my favourites was a 1957 Christmas release by Elvis. Santa Bring My Bay Back to Me one side, and my favourite of favourites on the other – the rockin’ blues swagger of Santa Claus is Back in Town. This raucous offering triggered something vital in my developing brain; something my father would have feared; a wrecker of civilization; sex, excitement and drama that alluded to deeper, darker things – something for me to sing along to. And as such, it became part of my internal soundtrack that accompanied me throughout my formative years. Even now the song still resonates within and I remember: Got no sleigh with reindeer No sack on my back This Christmas you’ll see me coming In a big black Cadillac Oh it’s Christmas time pretty baby And the snow is falling on the ground…." Robert Rubbish: "My fave Elvis record is Suspicious Minds. I love the sound of this record. Elvis was dark and sexy and a real icon all most like a saint of rock and roll. He lived a crazy life and was true show man."The 25 quotes above are taken from The Rebel Magazine's Talking About Elvis Summer Special. It's going to be a great Summer for fans of Elvis Presley. 2013 marks the 60th anniversary of a teenage Elvis going into Sun studios and recording a song called My Happiness for his mother. In July, London's A Side B Side Gallery will be staging a special exhibition curated by Chloe Mortimer featuring tributes from artistic fans of the King such as: Hannah Bays, Gordon Beswick, Emma Coleman, Anka Dabrowska, Sarah Doyle, Tinsel Edwards, Rebecca Fontaine-Wolf, Paul Hamilton, Peter Harris, Cathy Lomax, Bob London, Lee Maelzer, Catherine Magnani, Karen Morden, Stephanie Moran, Liam Newnham, Horace Panter, Andrew Petrie, Rachael Robb, Robin Shaw, Rowland Smith, Sandra Turnbull, Jessica Voorsanger, Julian Wakeling, Christopher Webster, Nicole Willis. The private view of the show on Thursday the 18th of July (6.30pm till 9.30pm) will co-incide with the launch of The Rebel's Elvis magazine and the online publication of "Harry Pye's A to Z of Elvis". On sunday the 4th of August there will be an artist's talk. The show ends on the 11th of August.
Tuesday, 1 January 2013
ELVIS: "I Love You Because" at The A Side B Side Gallery
Francis Macdonald: "What can you say? I like Elvis cos he looked great, sang great and covered and found great songs. He made great records with great musicians and producers. And he reminds us of the golden era when Performers did not have to be Songwriters and vice versa. When you review it all it's kind of overwhelming: Don't Be Cruel, Love Me, Teddy Bear, Jailhouse Rock, Fever, the Chips Moman Memphis stuff, American Trilogy; The Million Dollar Quartet singing Further Along…. The '69 Comeback Special is particularly brilliant: Trouble, If I Can Dream, Memories, I'm Saved (genius!)….and the ballad where he croons to a beautiful woman but keeps leaping off to do ridiculous choreographed karate every now and then. Wonderful….I saw the Elvis show in Glasgow with the original band featuring The Sweet Inspirations a few years ago. They performed live with Elvis on film behind them. That was an amazing experience. I got there a minute or two late - the strains of the Thus Spake Zarathustra intro were dying down and the energy coming off the audience at the Glasgow SECC was almost frightening …..Prestwick airport used to have a bar called Graceland because it was the only place where The King set foot on British soil. But I digress….If I have to nominate one song, let's go with "Way Down" cos it's kind of a cracker hiding in plain sight.. I remember it being on the radio when I was wee. I think it sounds fun and funky - and pretty quirky and characterful. A really strong track especially when Elvis was supposedly in decline and way past his best. And to think John Lennon wrote him off after he joined the army. What a nitwit." Chris Roberts: "As he sings “I Just Can’t Help Believing”, Elvis Presley is both lazily relaxed (he’s worshipped as a god, why should he worry?) and passionately sincere. The song, written by Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil, had already been a hit for BJ Thomas, and one Leonard Nimoy had featured it on his album The Touch Of Leonard Nimoy. Elvis took a more thoroughly masculine approach. The lyrics are those of a romantic dreamer: Elvis makes them even more so - not through leaning towards the fey or sappy, but by delivering them with staunch machismo. This was 1970, and Elvis was the Elvis of sideburns, high-neck studded white jumpsuit and sleepy eyelids. The self-defence derringer at hand; that photo with Nixon imminent. Not yet fat, exactly, but no longer sleek. His live shows were captured on the album and documentary That’s The Way It Is. “I Just Can’t Help Believing” was the highlight of these. The band simmers, it begins loosely, but then the horns and backing vocals come in and you realise you’ve been blindsided: this is serious. It moseys, then builds and swells. Elvis is so confident that he exhales, snorts, chuckles: the vocal is technically a long way off perfect, and yet it is muscular with divinity. He doesn’t try, he just does. His calls to the backing vocalists – “sing the song, one more, yo” – flood the piece with adrenalin. And yet it is gentle, not overpowering. Seduction, not force. Elvis can tell the lyrics are doing the heavy lifting: he just needs to keep the doors and corridors open. She – the eternal mythical She – “smiles up soft and gentle”, “lying close beside me”, her hand “feels so small and helpless”. This is not a one-night stand or a nine-day wonder. “This time the girl is gonna stay…for more than just a day …” There’s a false ending and a comeback. There is optimism, there is hope. That she will not disappear. That the way he is feeling will not vanish. The song and the singer both know that, usually, such belief in romance is naïve and bound to be crushed, sooner or later. In the beautiful warm heroic bubble-world of this performance, it is immortal." Mikey Georgeson: "I’m by no means an Elvis aficionado and only came to really like him when I discovered his album “That’s the Way It Is” when I moved to Brighton after my degree. I think it was partly the black and white photo of him in his early Vegas mode, looking fit and ultra charismatic, that made me buy it. The album is half live and half studio recording and in my mind had a magical epic feel without being over blown. The first track “I just can’t help believing” always filled me with optimism and joy underscored by a certain sadness that Elvis’ voice carried. I think this sense of un-ironic wonder and release in his music is a note I’ve tried to strike in some of my own work and will always lead some listeners to find irony. The gaudy styles of light entertainment can often feel hollow but Elvis’ jump suits were an inspired idea. Elvis the high priest of Rock and Roll. Elvis the singer in state of transfiguration. I’m tempted to paint Elvis leading my grandmother into heaven as they died on the same day in the Summer of 1977. My mum told me about their deaths as we stood together by the kitchen sink in a caravan in a park in Carmarthenshire. So for that reason I think his last single, released that summer, “Way Down” will always be my personal favourite." Gemma Fleet: "Elvis: I love You Because I love Cher and she is just doing an impression of you and her voice wouldn't be that way if it wasn't for you!" Esther Shephard: "The King and I... Elvis is a beautiful creature. Yes I'm using IS, for obvious reasons. I want to talk about his music, I do, but I was asked to say why I love him and it all happened for me via his 1960's Technicolor movies, such as Blue Hawaii (1961) and Clambake (1967). You won’t find them on Netflix. I was a girl, Elvis was Elvis and my mother was smiling. She was smiling at the King on our silly old two-channel telly, he was smiling back. Despite the fact that, to me, he looked like he was made out of Lego, I was smitten. Now I know its not his most acclaimed work, the old acting, but what he may have lacked in role play he made up for in just about everything else, an undeniable allure, moves that would backseat Jagger and a performance quality that was both jurassic and contemporary. Take for example the musical Viva Las Vegas, sure a flimsy storyline but nonetheless completely watchable, generously peppered with sweet melodies about 'love' and heavily laden with 1960’s half-clad hellcats. These candy-flossed unrealistic storylines grabbed the idle attention I had previously reserved for The Monkees, Bewitched and whatever else RTE had managed to acquisition from lands afar. Now when I think of him I think of my mother and the Californian sun I have yet to meet. And once again, I’m filled with fantastical nostalgia via iTunes on the 73 bus route home. Yes, Elvis, I love you, because." Paul Hamilton: "Elvis, for me, is school summer holidays. Of course, it's the mind telescoping but the telly seemed to be little else but re-runs of The Monkees, Norman Wisdom films, and Cliff or Elvis flicks. Elvis would be a boxer, or a racing driver, or a priest. It didn't really matter; he was just Elvis in another silly costume being put through a similar boy-meets-girl plot, and he'd burst into some ridiculous song every 15 minutes. And when school resumed and we were allowed to stay in a classroom at breaktime because it was too rainy and cold outside, busby-bouffanted Graeme Martin would jump on a desk and warble 'Rock-A-Hula Baby', 'Blue Suede Shoes' or (if there was a girl he fancied present) 'Are You Lonesome Tonight?' That would invariably be our cue to pelt him with scrunched-up paper bombs. I never really got into Elvis - the magic of Elvis, the mystery of Elvis, the misery of Elvis, how Elvis personified the glory and tragedy of America. I didn't get it at all until I got a VHS video (£11.99 from Virgin) in the mid-80s. 'One Night With You', 40-something minutes of him jamming with his drummer, a tambourine player and three guitarists, was outtake footage from his 1968 Comeback Special and it is sodding great. They romp through multiple takes of 'Baby What You Want Me To Do' and 'One Night With You' plus some ballads and a storming 'Lawdy, Miss Clawdy' and the essence of All That Is Elvis is there. His sharp, self-deprecating humour ("I'd like to talk a little about music… Very little"), his total immersion in the music (his screams of "I've been too lonely too long!!!") vying with his self-consciousness and mockery of the whole thing, his spontaneity, his fully-charged electric live-ness. That is the positive aspect and that more than cancels out the negative (the sycophantic laughter of his lieutenants, and his closing the show with the vapid ballad 'Memories', crooned to a backing tape with two doe-eyed lovelies staring lovingly at him - BLEURGH!). Re-viewing it, a chorus line from the English Elvis came to mind: "Just look at me, I'm having the time of my life…" This performance, intimate yet public, is enough to convince me that Elvis was, if not a superhuman, then definitely a super human. Favourite Song: 'King Creole'. That's all she wrote." Roddy "Radiation" Byers: "My Grandmother was a huge Elvis fan while my Grandad prefered Jim Reeves. My brother Chris was a Teddy Boy in the early 70's and would play a lot of Sun stuff when I lived at home. Jerry Dammers (The Specials leader/Keyboard player) always thought it amusing, when I would sing Elvis stuff while dressed as a punk rocker in the early Specials/Automatic days. I must visit Memphis one day!" Billy Childishh: “Elvis understood that Big Mama Thornten and Arthur Gunter were the real deal. Elvis said something along the lines 'if we just had a little of what Arthur Gunter had... ' For me, Elvis was like Sinatra, a performer without real connection. That’s what the people want: the appearance of the real thing, delivered safely. Listen to Arthur Gunter’s version of That’s Alright Mamma and your see that Elvis was smart enough to love that.”
Posted by The Rebel Magazine at 08:53