Monday, March 24, 2014

Elvis and Me

Anyone who knows me knows that I love Elvis.  Always have.  My parents had a cabinet full of his 45's and LP's, and I listened to the shit out of them when I was a kid.  I wanted to be Elvis.  I wanted his talent, his good looks, his charm, but mostly, his fame.  I only got one shot (other than the time I sang "That's All Right" in Sun Studios for my 40th birthday).  I impersonated Elvis for a charity fundraiser when I was a sophomore in college and made a total fool of myself.  What a fucking disaster!  The show was performed in some honky-tonk in the middle of the desert outside Phoenix.  That should've been my first clue.  My older brother and best friend (the one who broke the desk on final exam day back in high school) came along as my bodyguards.  Thank God.  I genuinely believe I wouldn't have escaped without a few broken bones if I were on my own.  We all dressed in costumes.  I still have the pictures.  They're hilarious.  But, I did my best.  Like a true Thespian, I never broke character.  I swiveled my hips, curled my lips, and growled my lines.  I sang "Blue Suede Shoes" and "Suspicious Minds" and got laughed at, booed, and even had a few bottles thrown at me.  Who the fuck does that at a charity event?  Anyway, I learned my lesson.  I'll stick to dreaming about being The King.

So, I wrote this short story called "Fame and Fortune" shortly after.  The main character gets laid off from his job as a garbageman and slowly transforms into Elvis.  He buys his wife a pink Cadillac, styles his hair in a pompadour, eats peanut butter and banana sandwiches, and eventually hits the road, leaving everything behind.  His wife is horrified and decides not to tell him she's expecting his baby after she has a vision of him performing on the road with zombie back-up singers.  Wise choice, I believe.  Incidentally, there's a brilliant film that came out of Argentina a couple of years ago called El último Elvis.  It's incredible.  It does a much better job of portraying the passion of Elvis impersonators (excuse me, Tribute Artists) than my story ever does.

Not much more can be written or said about Elvis than already has, so I'll keep my notes brief.  I despise how revisionists write off '50's rock-and-roll as nothing more than a collection of novelty acts and believe that rock didn't start until Bob Dylan and The Beatles came along in the '60's.  Fuck that.  I'll take Elvis, Little Richard, Chuck Berry, Buddy Holly, Fats Domino, and the rest, any day of the week.  So would Dylan and The Beatles, just ask them.  For Elvis, his fans pretty much got it right.  His films have plenty of throwaway songs (that's what happens when you don't have artistic control), but his hits are solid.  Pick up Elv1s 30 #1 Hits if you don't already have it.  Personally, I think his gospel music is the best of his entire catalog.  That's what they'll still be buying 100 years from now.  But here are 10 lesser known titles I'd recommend if you're so inclined:  "I Was the One" ('56), "Anyway You Want Me" ('56), "Is It So Strange?" ('57), "Reconsider Baby" ('60), "It Hurts Me" ('64), "If I Can Dream" ('68), "Wearin' That Loved on Look" ('69), "The Sound of Your Cry" ('70), "We Can Make the Morning" ('71), and "My Boy" ('73).

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