Tag: Elvis Presley

The Elvis Presley Blues

Friday, 9 August, 2019

It’s August, so our thoughts turn to Graceland, where Elvis Presley died 42 years ago this month. Songs such as Mystery Train and Hurt depict a range of emotions, from the elation of his early days to the pain of his final days when, deranged by pharmacopeia, he sought for answers where there are none. But, as Dave Marsh wrote in Elvis, the King stood for much, much more. He was the map, not the territory.

“Somewhere, out of all this, Elvis began to seem like a man who had reached some conclusions. And so he was made into a god and a king. He was neither — he was something more American and, I think, something more heroic. Elvis Presley was an explorer of vast new landscapes of dream and illusion. He was a man who refused to be told that the best of his dreams would not come true, who refused to be defined by anyone else’s conceptions.

This is the goal of democracy, the journey on which every prospective American hero sets out. That Elvis made so much of the journey on his own is reason enough to remember him with the honor and love we reserve for the bravest among us. Such men are the only maps we can trust.”


That’s All Right, Elvis

Wednesday, 16 August, 2017 0 Comments

The best serious book about rock ‘n’ roll takes its title from the last single Elvis Presley recorded for Sun Records. Mystery Train by Greil Marcus was published in 1975 and when the second edition came out he was asked to amend the chapter on Elvis by putting everything in the past tense but he refused, saying, “Elvis’ presence was so powerful, I felt he’s always in the present tense.”

Marcus bases his argument for the central place of rock ‘n’ roll in American culture on the “democratic assumption” that “Presley and Herman Melville are already cultural and political equals.” Melville wrote Typee, his first book, in the summer of 1845 and Elvis recorded his first single in July 1954. That’s All Right was originally performed by blues singer Arthur “Big Boy” Crudup and the Elvis version is as revolutionary as ever as we observe the 40th anniversary today of the death of The King.