Re: It Seems To Me

1

I agree, and it's the greatest thing ever to happen. Fuck Elvis.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 04-17-14 6:18 AM
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Data. Slowly declining but fairly steady interest over the last decade. Is this all just old people? Probably. Still surprisingly hot in Chile.


Posted by: urple | Link to this comment | 04-17-14 6:21 AM
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There were definitely some kids under 10 in Elvis costumes last Halloween. Only fat Elvis is remembered though, and remembered only for looking like Elvis; the music is fading. Which I guess is good, he was no Jerry Lee Lewis.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 04-17-14 6:45 AM
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He's just not a thing anymore.

Now, come on: he just put out an album with The Roots last fall.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 04-17-14 6:45 AM
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Does this mean that Elvis impersonators are no longer a thing? That would be kind of sad. I recall an Elvis who hung out on one of the streets I took to work as a postdoc. It was nice daily reminder that people are weird.

I guess we'll always have the internet for that...


Posted by: AcademicLurker | Link to this comment | 04-17-14 6:46 AM
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The intuitive understanding of how big Elvis was in his prime is definitely gone.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 04-17-14 6:49 AM
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7

Folx read Walter Jon Williams' "Red Elvis" short story? Brilliant reworking of the mythos.


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 04-17-14 6:55 AM
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If it hadn't been for all the kid-related creepiness, Michael Jackson would be today's Elvis.


Posted by: dalriata | Link to this comment | 04-17-14 7:00 AM
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The first volume of Peter Guralnick's biography of Elvis is really good; I keep meaning to return and read the second one.


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 04-17-14 7:06 AM
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I wouldn't be surprised if Elvis figures continue to exist in children's programming. Ironically the most obsolete and irrelevant of tropes (the wealthy dowager, the mad scientist) often persist in TV shows and movies for the least nostalgic of people.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 04-17-14 7:07 AM
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6: When I was in the Peace Corps, there was an older volunteer, she might have been fifty in 1993? Within five years one way or the other, anyway. Very cool woman, interesting, intelligent. She spent a long time at a party once talking about how much Elvis had meant to her and her peers, which I found very surprising -- he was completely off the radar of any adult I ever knew growing up as anything significant.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 04-17-14 7:08 AM
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I am eternally fond of this version of Suspicious Minds, to the point where I'm pretty sure I've posted it on the front page.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 04-17-14 7:08 AM
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I think the music industry (and the way we access music) may have changed enough that there aren't likely to be any more Elvises or Beatles.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 04-17-14 7:12 AM
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14

T.a.T.u was probably our last, best shot.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 04-17-14 7:15 AM
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I blame Public Enemy.


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 04-17-14 7:15 AM
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Same with TV shows - it's no longer possible to have the trope where you've got to catch the show at that moment, so that the next day at work/school you'll be able to understand the conversation.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 04-17-14 7:17 AM
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How new is this, though, really? The madcap vibe of Mystery Train (1989) already relies on the sense that Elvisolatry is something sustained by antiquarian fetishists rather than something that's alive in the culture.


Posted by: Criminally Bulgur | Link to this comment | 04-17-14 7:20 AM
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he was completely off the radar of any adult I ever knew growing up as anything significant

Not for the first time, I think about you: "that is exactly what my wife would say." She's actually hurt when I say that's parochial, in Pauline-Kael-election-predication territory.

Of course this has changed over time. He'll be rediscovered, despite never having been forgotten, and claimed as a personal discovery by some writer no doubt.


Posted by: idp | Link to this comment | 04-17-14 7:20 AM
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My wife and her daughter used to have this routine -- my wife would say, "Thank you! Thank you very much!" and her daughter would reply, "Shut up, Elvis!" Now I remember -- this routine had a prop - an Elvis Presley bookmark. I'm pretty sure the bookmark is lost. They haven't done this in years. Elvis is truly dead.


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 04-17-14 7:20 AM
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This makes me sad. I love Elvis! I even own a box set.


Posted by: Spike | Link to this comment | 04-17-14 7:22 AM
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12: my favourite version is here (scroll most of the way towards the bottom)

http://mydavidcameron.com/cameron/


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 04-17-14 7:22 AM
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His heyday was sixty years ago. That puts him closer to the T. Rex than the T. Rex was to the Stegosaurus.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 04-17-14 7:23 AM
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18: Yeah, that one really is Pauline-Kaelism -- not that I ever remember talking about it with them, but I think my parents thought of Elvis as dimwitted rural music. (Rural isn't exactly right as what I think they would have looked down on -- they listened to some country (as much as they listened to anything, not really music people) -- but un-urban.)


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 04-17-14 7:24 AM
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Michael Jackson would be today's Elvis.

He tried. Boy did he try. The "King" of Pop? A sham marriage to Lisa Marie? Excessive use of rhinestones? Early death due to drug overdose?

Alas, Michael could never fill Elvis's shoes.


Posted by: Spike | Link to this comment | 04-17-14 7:26 AM
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22: His heyday was sixty years ago. That puts him closer to the T. Rex than the T. Rex was to the Stegosaurus.

That's literally true!


Posted by: Criminally Bulgur | Link to this comment | 04-17-14 7:30 AM
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Meanwhile, Graceland is still pulling in 600,000 people and over $20MM in ticket sales annually.


Posted by: urple | Link to this comment | 04-17-14 7:30 AM
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His heyday was sixty years ago.

Fifty. The best Elvis was '68 Comeback Tour Elvis.


Posted by: Spike | Link to this comment | 04-17-14 7:31 AM
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22: or, to put it another way: in terms of when their popularity was at its height, Elvis is closer to W.S. Gilbert and Sir Arthur Sullivan than he is to the present day.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 04-17-14 7:33 AM
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The first volume of Peter Guralnick's biography of Elvis is really good; I keep meaning to return and read the second one.

I read them both. The second one is really sad. Elvis was never the same after his Momma died.


Posted by: Spike | Link to this comment | 04-17-14 7:35 AM
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Shorter Ogged: Elvis has left the building.


Posted by: Barry Freed | Link to this comment | 04-17-14 7:36 AM
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@28: You know who else Elvis, at his most popular, was closer to than he is to the present day? Hitler!


Posted by: AcademicLurker | Link to this comment | 04-17-14 7:37 AM
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Hitler is closer to us in time than we are to Cleopatra.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 04-17-14 7:39 AM
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33

I've often wondered: When James Bond in Goldfinger expressed disgust for the puerile caterwauling of the Beatles, what sort of music did he like to listen to? Dave Brubeck?


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 04-17-14 7:39 AM
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33: Yeah, there's a funny spot between WWII and when rock got grownup-respectable where it's unclear what sophisticated adults listened to for fun. Jazz, I suppose, but the details are beyond me.

It's not exactly the same thing, but there's a moment in Blackboard Jungle, a 1954 (so probably really written about experiences from 1949, 1950 or so) book about the horrific violence and disorder in a tough NYC high school, where the gentle artistic teacher brings in his turntable and his beloved jazz albums to expose the kids to art, and they break all his records because they're enraged that there's none of the music they listen to. The music the tough kids wanted to listen to? Perry Como. Rock really hadn't hit yet.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 04-17-14 7:46 AM
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33: one can only assume he would not be averse to a bit of Henry Mancini.

Internet nerds point to Edith Piaf and this.

So maybe the Beatles needed some more tinkling pianos. Seems fair.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 04-17-14 7:47 AM
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36

Michael could never fill Elvis's shoes

OTOH, Elvis couldn't moonwalk no matter what shoes he was wearing.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 04-17-14 7:50 AM
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37

maybe the Beatles needed some more tinkling


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 04-17-14 7:51 AM
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38

FUCK YOUR CARUSO AND PAUL WHITEMAN BULLSHIT, OLD MAN
PUT ON SOME RAGERS BY THE PLATTERS

ROSEMARIE CLOONEY ROOOOOOOOOOOLZ #ROCLOO


Posted by: OPINIONATED GRANDMA | Link to this comment | 04-17-14 7:52 AM
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39

Brings home how wise the Bond film directors were never to show him listening to music. Nothing would have aged more quickly.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 04-17-14 7:53 AM
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40

He sings along with some calypso-type song in Dr. No, doesn't he?


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 04-17-14 7:56 AM
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41

The best Elvis anecdote ever. (page 53, bottom paragraph)


Posted by: MAE | Link to this comment | 04-17-14 8:01 AM
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42

41 is great. I love reading Elvis stories, because you get to read them in "Elvis voice" in your head.


Posted by: Spike | Link to this comment | 04-17-14 8:06 AM
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He sings along with some calypso-type song in Dr. No, doesn't he?

Underneath the Mango Tree
Me honey and me can watch for the moon
Underneath the Mango Tree
Me honey and me we plan marry soon


Posted by: AcademicLurker | Link to this comment | 04-17-14 8:07 AM
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44

Nice search terms, MAE. And I'm not just saying that.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 04-17-14 8:08 AM
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34.last: That's hilarious, but probably Hollywood bowdlerizing. In the early '50s, there was a ton of sinister proto-rock n roll (R&B) that wasn't widely known, but likely would have been known by urban hoods. Frex, Ike Turner's "Rocket 88", arguably the first ever rock n roll record, was recorded (at Sun Studios!) in 1951. The main reason the Rock Hall of Fame is in Cleveland is that Alan Freed got his start there, playing black records for white kids on the radio in 1951 (my mom, age 13 or so, could listen from the outskirts of Pgh a few years later).

But there was a lull between bobbysoxers swooning over Sinatra in '45 and Elvis hitting in '55. I think Como comes into the movie because parents sneered at Sinatra, thus making that post-swing genre seem juvenile and vaguely disreputable. Como was basically a lame successor to Sinatra, roughly analogous to Frankie Avalon and the lame American rock n roll that was swept away by the Beatles (that's potted history, but it works for timeline).


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 04-17-14 8:17 AM
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34.last: That's hilarious, but probably Hollywood bowdlerizing. In the early '50s, there was a ton of sinister proto-rock n roll (R&B) that wasn't widely known, but likely would have been known by urban hoods. Frex, Ike Turner's "Rocket 88", arguably the first ever rock n roll record, was recorded (at Sun Studios!) in 1951. The main reason the Rock Hall of Fame is in Cleveland is that Alan Freed got his start there, playing black records for white kids on the radio in 1951 (my mom, age 13 or so, could listen from the outskirts of Pgh a few years later).

But there was a lull between bobbysoxers swooning over Sinatra in '45 and Elvis hitting in '55. I think Como comes into the movie because parents sneered at Sinatra, thus making that post-swing genre seem juvenile and vaguely disreputable. Como was basically a lame successor to Sinatra, roughly analogous to Frankie Avalon and the lame American rock n roll that was swept away by the Beatles (that's potted history, but it works for timeline).


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 04-17-14 8:17 AM
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The Como reference was from the book, so not Hollywood bowlderization -- I've never seen the movie. (Looking up the publication date for the book, I'd forgotten it was by Ed McBain under his real name).


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 04-17-14 8:19 AM
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And I think it's more plausible if you think of the roots of rock as Southern. Ike Turner might have been getting started then, but NY hoodlums would plausibly have been not yet aware of him as not from around here.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 04-17-14 8:22 AM
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I was going to save this point for the guest post on the history of country music that I keep intending to send to Heebie but never do...but you misunderstand Elvis (and really, American popular music in general) if you just view him as some kind of primitive blues eruption from below. He made itbig because he so perfectly fused European and New York 'crooner' influences like light opera and Tin Pan Alley with the excitement of R&B and soul. Those European and Broadway influences have always been very important in American music. Elvis idolized Mario Lanza and clearly learned a lot from crooners like Perry Como and Sinatra.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 04-17-14 9:03 AM
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49: Now we are finally free from people telling us how we simply must understand Elvis.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 04-17-14 9:06 AM
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51

he so perfectly fused European and New York 'crooner' influences

He does command an excellent low head voice.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 04-17-14 9:09 AM
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Tell that to the people of Reading. Elvis sits at the end of my road every day - http://www.musicmanreading.co.uk - he had recently had a repaint and his jacket is now purple. And we have this bloke - http://www.getreading.co.uk/news/local-news/reading-elvis-flame-bid-flares-4213919.


Posted by: asilon | Link to this comment | 04-17-14 9:41 AM
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53

My dad's favorite was Pat Boone. He was super popular. The second most popular artist of the fifties behind Elvis.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pat_Boone

"According to an opinion poll of high school students in 1957, the singer was nearly the "two-to-one favorite over Elvis Presley among boys and preferred almost three-to-one by girls...""



Posted by: lemmy caution | Link to this comment | 04-17-14 9:44 AM
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This is probably the first extended discussion of Elvis I've heard or seen since sometime last decade. But then I don't pay much attention to music.


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 04-17-14 9:48 AM
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55

To be fair, by Unfogged standards 50 comments is hardly extended.


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 04-17-14 10:08 AM
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if you just view him as some kind of primitive blues eruption from below

Racist!


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 04-17-14 10:09 AM
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we are finally free from people telling us how we simply must understand Elvis.

Past generations also had Elvis, but not in a way we can understand.


Posted by: Annelid Gustator | Link to this comment | 04-17-14 10:22 AM
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50: NO! You must understand Elvis! You MUST!


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 04-17-14 10:23 AM
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Elvis was a fairly current figure in Samoa in the early 90s -- like, he came up in language lessons. (As a contrast with Jesus. Elvis, still dead. Jesus, died at a point in the past, but no longer dead.)


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 04-17-14 10:30 AM
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60

That seems like an unnecessarily theologically deep language lesson.


Posted by: urple | Link to this comment | 04-17-14 10:33 AM
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61

Assumes facts not in evidence.


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 04-17-14 10:35 AM
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There's a Corvette on the next block here in L.A. with an "Elvis" vanity plate, and my daughter has "Elvys" 'cause someone had already grabbed "Elvis" in Alabama. He's not as important a cultural figure now as any of those Kardassians from Deep Space Awful, but he's not dead yet.


Posted by: biohazard | Link to this comment | 04-17-14 10:36 AM
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I think the music industry (and the way we access music) may have changed enough that there aren't likely to be any more Elvises or Beatles.

I don't know why this would necessarily be a bad thing.

Same with TV shows - it's no longer possible to have the trope where you've got to catch the show at that moment, so that the next day at work/school you'll be able to understand the conversation.

This either.


Posted by: urple | Link to this comment | 04-17-14 10:41 AM
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10: My children know about him because we had to explain him to make Lilo & Stitch make sense. We must have run across him at least once since because I remember saying, "You know, the singer Lilo likes, model citizen."


Posted by: Thorn | Link to this comment | 04-17-14 10:41 AM
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@59: Well, Ogged eventually came back, after all. That means we can still hold out some hope for Elvis, right?


Posted by: AcademicLurker | Link to this comment | 04-17-14 10:41 AM
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Those who don't understand Elvis are doomed to repeat him.

But seriously, Elvis is fascinating. To understand Elvis is to understand twentieth-century America, both the good and the bad. There are so many facets!

There is beautiful voice Elvis, there is fat Vegas Elvis, there is pioneer rebel Elvis, there is strung out on pills Elvis, there is truck driver Elvis, there is glamour movie Elvis, there is abused-by-his-managers Elvis, there is church Elvis, there is sex Elvis, there is racist Elvis, there is integration Elvis, there is family Elvis, there is creepy Elvis, there is poor Elvis, there is rich Elvis, there is GI Elvis, there is shoot-a-hole-in-the-TV-Elvis, there is dead Elvis, there is not-actually-dead Elvis, there is buy-a-stranger-a Cadillac Elvis, there is peanut-butter-and-banana sandwich Elvis, there is hunka hunka burning Elvis. And so many more!


Posted by: Spike | Link to this comment | 04-17-14 10:56 AM
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47: I'll assume that the book gets it right, and if the hoods were Italians, Como would have had appeal, even if he was extraordinarily laid back for rebel music.

48: I'm pretty sure that R&B records spread pretty quickly through the black community nationwide; maybe not a typical white kid, but I'd bet any musically savvy white kid in NYC would have heard "Rocket 88" by '53 or so. Frankie Lymon joined the teenagers in NYC in '54, so they were obviously responding to music that was already around them.

Anyway, my point is that we tend to date the rock n roll era from '55 because that's when it started to be the dominant musical form, but I'd bet that in 1953 you could have gone to any urban black neighborhood in the country, played some not-yet-released Chuck Berry, and not particularly shocked the kids with it.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 04-17-14 10:57 AM
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I don't know why this would necessarily be a bad thing.

It isn't.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 04-17-14 10:58 AM
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69

When I was in high school, I had a bit part in a movie called "Attack of the Killer Elvi."


Posted by: Spike | Link to this comment | 04-17-14 11:00 AM
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By the way, did everyone see that really interesting and well done NYT magazine piece this past weekend about searching for old country blues? That's not a good summary, but it's a long article that covers a lot of ground. Definitely better online than it could ever be on paper.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 04-17-14 11:00 AM
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Well, at least we have Ylvis now... (What does the hound dog say?)


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 04-17-14 11:07 AM
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There is beautiful voice Elvis, there is fat Vegas Elvis, there is pioneer rebel Elvis, there is strung out on pills Elvis, there is truck driver Elvis, there is glamour movie Elvis, there is abused-by-his-managers Elvis, there is church Elvis, there is sex Elvis, there is racist Elvis, there is integration Elvis, there is family Elvis, there is creepy Elvis, there is poor Elvis, there is rich Elvis, there is GI Elvis, there is shoot-a-hole-in-the-TV-Elvis, there is dead Elvis, there is not-actually-dead Elvis, there is buy-a-stranger-a Cadillac Elvis, there is peanut-butter-and-banana sandwich Elvis, there is hunka hunka burning Elvis. And so many more!

Don't forget Commodore Elvis!


Posted by: MAE | Link to this comment | 04-17-14 11:10 AM
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Elvis Elvis Elvis Elvis Elvis Elvis Elvis!


Posted by: Spike | Link to this comment | 04-17-14 11:11 AM
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74

My favorite Elvis is still the shaking-hands-with-President-Nixon Elvis.


Posted by: MAE | Link to this comment | 04-17-14 11:14 AM
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My favorite Nixon is the shaking-hands-with-Elvis Nixon.


Posted by: Spike | Link to this comment | 04-17-14 11:15 AM
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76

I'd bet that in 1953 you could have gone to any urban black neighborhood in the country, played some not-yet-released Chuck Berry, and not particularly shocked the kids with it.

Well, sort of. R+B was black music that was pretty dang close to rock and roll and was around from the late 40s -- my understanding is that by the mid-50s it had actually started to decline among black audiences, which is why people like Sam Phillips started trying to reach out to white audiences, who then ended up reviving (and obviously changing) the genre and turning it into rock and roll. It's worth remembering how segregated the music world was, though, even after people like Freed came along -- the reason why people in Blackboard Jungle wouldn't have heard of Ike Turner was pretty simple, they weren't black.

As to Chuck Berry in particular, his particular thing was blending country and R+B together, which made him both attractive as a link to white audiences and a bit of an anomaly as an R+B player. Remember, his first hit was "Maybelline" which is a reworking of Bob Wills' "Ida Red." I think the hypothetical (and maybe actual) response of a black audience in 1952 to listening to Chuck Berry would have been "who is this crazy black dude playing these cracker songs fast"?


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 04-17-14 11:16 AM
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Also, the thing that shocked me about Blackboard Jungle wasn't that the bad kids were uninterested in Chuck Berry or R&B or whatever, it was that whatever else they were listening to, Perry Como with the cardigans and so on wasn't a joke to them yet.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 04-17-14 11:19 AM
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Maybelline and Ida Red. Just for the fun of watching both of those.

Chuck Berry is so so so so great. It's kind of unbelievable that he's still alive, but he is.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 04-17-14 11:20 AM
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The movie version of Blackboard Jungle has the kids listening to rock.


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 04-17-14 11:21 AM
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I haven't seen it, but come to think isn't "Rock Around The Clock" on the soundtrack? Bill Haley and the Comets, one of my father's favorite bands.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 04-17-14 11:23 AM
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I saw Chuck Berry in 1990. He was great and I was surprised he was still alive.


Posted by: Megan | Link to this comment | 04-17-14 11:24 AM
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82

Link, JRoth?


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 04-17-14 11:25 AM
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Here.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 04-17-14 11:27 AM
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84

Thanks.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 04-17-14 11:31 AM
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Is Blelvis still doing his thing in DC?


Posted by: Mr. Blandings | Link to this comment | 04-17-14 11:39 AM
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76.last: Not buying it. Listen to Maybelline and Rocket 88 back to back; they're just not that far apart in sound, and it's not as if Chuck was using a Hank Williams beat. Whereas Ida Red, while obviously the same tune as Maybelline, sounds nothing like it.

It's certainly possible that New York blacks would have found Chuck's sound less familiar; my sense is that that population was less recently southern than that of Chicago or Detroit. But I'm not seeing Berry as being quite that revolutionary to people already listening to R&B. Transformative and important and all those good things, but it's not as if one day you had the Ink Spots and the next you had Chuck Berry.

By the way, it's interesting to think about doo wop, which started as street performances inspired by/in the same tradition as the Ink Spots and Mills Brothers, but became part of the rock & roll world. I wonder if those groups saw themselves that way, or whether record companies pushed them to a more rock n roll sound in order to capitalize on the (presumably passing) fad.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 04-17-14 11:40 AM
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87

The Ballad of Geeshie and Elvie.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 04-17-14 11:42 AM
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88

Or, what LB said. She got the drop on me because the NYT is her local paper.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 04-17-14 11:42 AM
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Anyway, I need to say the thing that I always say when Elvis comes up: I was raised to think that Elvis was only good when he was on Sun, and that Buddy Holly was better anyways. As I said above, my mom was already listening to R&B before Elvis showed up, so she didn't have that lightning bolt of "What is this exciting new sound?" that a lot of white kids had on first hearing Elvis. Not that Elvis was just a white version of R&B, but she had context for his music that 50,000,000 Elvis fans didn't tend to have.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 04-17-14 11:46 AM
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Not buying it. Listen to Maybelline and Rocket 88 back to back; they're just not that far apart in sound, and it's not as if Chuck was using a Hank Williams beat.

And "Rocket 88" is basically a Louis Jordan song from 1944 that happens to have a slightly distorted guitar.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 04-17-14 11:48 AM
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Not buying it.

OK. I guess two bloviating white guys in their 30s won't definitively settle the "what would black audiences think of a hypothetical Chuck Berry performance in 1952" issue.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 04-17-14 11:49 AM
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91: I'm more interested in the hypothetical Michael J. Fox performance in 1955.


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 04-17-14 11:54 AM
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A good friend and former employer of mine has, for the past 20 years, had Elvis as his company's hold music, runs what he asserts is the largest Elvis-related lending library in California, has birth- and, ah, dissappearance-day parties and does a (usually offensive) Elvis holiday card every year. He's only a year older than I am, early 40s. It started as a joke, but now is just company shtick.

Yes, Berkeley.


Posted by: grumbles | Link to this comment | 04-17-14 12:01 PM
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Listen to the guitar solo in Ida Red starting at 1:44 and you'll hear a couple of bars of Chuck Berry-esque guitar buried in there.

The thing is that Bob Wills was already heavily influenced by R&B and grew up with the blues, he did plenty of blues stuff. Country and R&B were actually not all that divided prior to a certain point -- they were from a marketing sense, in that it was understood that 'hillbilly' music was marketed to whites and R&B marketed to blacks -- but musically less so. There were plenty of hillbillies playing the blues and there are all kinds of (less remarked on) 'white' influences on black music as well. It's all mulatto, basically.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 04-17-14 12:27 PM
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It was possible to have perspective on Elvis even for adults in the 50s. Dwight Macdonald wrote a celebrated profile of what would now be called a "coolhunter," a businessman who specialized in advising retailers about teen fashion trends. New Yorker about 1957.

He touched presciently on many factors of youth culture then, and stopped to notice that Elvis had real charisma and musical talent, and might be an enduring pop figure.

I was on a Dwight Macdonald kick in the mid-nineties, and would look for his articles in the Reader's Guide to Periodical Literature, find them in the microfilm, and print, having made my own "A"-sized paper by cutting down 81/2 x 14. I probably have a copy somewhere.

This is the sort of thing Ron Unz's intellectual heritage project is supposed to be making more available; I hope it does.


Posted by: idp | Link to this comment | 04-17-14 6:42 PM
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My mom, hs class of '51, says they listened to Dixieland. She went to Madeira and then Middlebury, so not exactly cutting edge.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 04-17-14 7:36 PM
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Justin Bieber, Lady Gaga, and Elvis are the only three Western musicians my Chinese students recognize. So in China, at least, he remains firmly in the pantheon.


Posted by: foolishmortal | Link to this comment | 04-17-14 8:38 PM
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98

Stanley wept.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 04-17-14 11:18 PM
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My mom, hs class of '51, says they listened to Dixieland.

That sounds about right. Dixieland revival, associated with people like Eddie Condon and Muggsey Spanier (both white) in Chicago and a parallel group of musicians on the west coast started in the late 30s, but went mainstream in the late 40s/early 50s. If your mom's school was not exactly cutting edge, that's exactly what I'd expect.

Older people in the 50s would have been listening to Peggy Lee.


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 04-18-14 2:29 AM
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Elvis had musical talent and charisma, sure, but I think what really connected him to people was that, despite all the trappings of wealth and stardom, he was basically a nice fellow with a great big heart.


Posted by: Spike | Link to this comment | 04-18-14 5:48 AM
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100: I think that's right; most non-prurient Elvis stories are about either his generosity ("and then he'd give you a Cadillac" is the five dollars of Elvis stories) or his down home (shading into white trash) nature. Elvis pulled off the perfecta of American stardom: larger than life, but also decent and unpretentious.

Note that MJ, at the peak of his popularity, had a public image that was sweet and, not simple, but kind of boyish, coinciding with the glove and the sequins and the zippers - very much parallel to Elvis ca. 1970. But his eccentricities went beyond Graceland, and he turned out to be a pervert.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 04-18-14 6:39 AM
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Further to 100, really everyone should be familiar with the Hamburger James story. Its really about the most Elvis story there is.


Posted by: Spike | Link to this comment | 04-18-14 8:30 AM
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