Elvis the Pelvis
A few days ago I heard some songs by Elvis Presley. Not the blousy Elvis of Las Vegas but the clear-voiced rock-n-roller of the 1950s. I was surprised in how many cases I knew the lyrics right from the first guitar licks even before he began to sing. Of course, most of what Elvis sang in the early days was what today we would call covers. “Blue Moon of Kentucky” had been performed by many others. It was Ray Charles who first did “I Got a Woman” and Big Mama Thornton whose biggest hit was “Hound Dog.” Elvis ‘borrowed’ those two and other songs from Blacks. I wonder what they thought about that? Were they upset by theft or did it increase their popularity?
Did I see “Jailhouse Rock” at the movies or just clips on TV? Did I understand the underlying purport of the line “Number 47 said to Number 3, you’re the cutest jailbird I ever did see.” And what was I doing going to a movie called “Love Me Tender”? Hardly seems like something a twelve-year-old boy would buy a ticket for. Of course I saw him on “The Ed Sullivan Show” where they only showed him from the waist up.
As an adult I visited Graceland. The bathroom where Elvis was found dead in 1977 wasn’t open but five of the twenty-three rooms were. The sunken den with three televisions and shag rug on the walls and ceiling was my favourite. “Man, I was tame compared to what they do now,” said an Elvis quote in the Trophy Room. “Are you kidding? I didn’t do anything but just jiggle.”
In Memphis I also visited what’s regarded as the birthplace of rock ‘n’ roll, Sun Studio. In 1951 Sam Phillips was the producer of the first rock ‘n’ roll record, Rocket 88, by Jackie Brenson and his Delta Cats. Phillips also recorded Elvis, Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins Jr., Roy Orbison, and Jerry Lee Lewis, among others. And what exactly were the “Great Balls of Fire”?
I memorized lines from Shakespeare in high school and, alas, those words are long gone. I can’t remember Vernon’s invigorating speech from Henry IV Part 1 except for the lines, “I saw young Harry with his beaver on, his cuisses on his thighs, gallantly armed.” There was a time when I could rattle off all fourteen lines. There is something special about music, both melody and lyrics. Can’t get Elvis out of my head. Don’t want to.