Elvis is rock bottom
Tim Luckhurst, The Times, England
PRESLEY’S Jailhouse Rock will shortly compete for the honour
of becoming Britain’s 1,000th No 1 single. Given the adoration
Elvis enjoys, the likelihood of the 1957 hit achieving this
musical milestone is depressingly high.
despite prayers of support from the First Presleyterian Church
of Elvis the Divine, and unconvincing impersonators everywhere,
there is time to stop it. Fans of quality rock music must
try. Elvis Presley is not the King. Neither is he the pure
embodiment of rock‘n’roll that misty-eyed fanatics perceive.
was a “chav” before the term was invented and he continues
to appeal to people of similar vacuity. Affection for his
music is among the clearest indications of bad taste, almost
as clear as the furry dice and “Elvisly Yours” stickers that
appear in enthusiasts’ rear windscreens. Britain has produced
better musicians in every decade since Sam Phillips, the founder
of Sun Records, foisted Elvis on the world.
the nation that spawned the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, The
Clash and the Smiths to reward this preening, drug-addicted
interpreter of others’ work would take self-loathing too far.
Elvis possessed a great voice and his early singles bridged
the gap between rhythm and blues and the American mass market.
But he did not write those songs, nor did he ever have anything
significant to say. His lyrics have all the literary merit
of chainstore greetings cards. Most of his melodies were penned
by musicians who could play and arrange with a finesse that
he never acquired.
contributed less than nothing to the rich subculture generated
by rock. Even the surly, rebellious persona that made him
popular with repressed 1950s teenagers was a synthetic pose
adopted for nakedly commercial reasons. Like his fans, Presley
was of very limited intellect and cannot be held responsible
for the exploitation of his image.
cleverest thing he did was to die. It allowed his record company
to depict him as he had looked before he became a blancmange.
with rereleases of his hits looming to mark the 70th anniversary
of his birth, Britain has a chance to put him in context.
American giants such as Bob Dylan and Frank Zappa merit our
he had started singing after John Lennon, Presley would not
even merit a place on I’m a Celebrity . . . Get Me Out of