Sunday, 09 March 2014
ELDER MUSIC: Songs about the King
This Sunday Elder Music column was launched in December of 2008. By May of the following year, one commenter, Peter Tibbles, had added so much knowledge and value to my poor attempts at musical presentations that I asked him to take over the column. He's been here each week ever since delighting us with his astonishing grasp of just about everything musical, his humor and sense of fun. You can read Peter's bio here and find links to all his columns here.
There are many songs about Elvis out there and we can ignore most of them as they rank from ordinary to awful. There are a few worth listening to though and those are the ones you will hear today.
One of the performers today who actually met Elvis is JIMMY WEBB.
In fact, his song is all about that meeting. I imagine if I had ever met him I'd write about it too. I didn't so you'll just have to go with Jimmy's version rather than mine. The song is Elvis and Me.
GLENN CARDIER is an Australian singer/songwriter and, well, a bit eccentric. Given that, he's a terrific writer and a wonderful performer. If you ever get a chance to see him, take it (although you might have to fly over to this wide brown land to do that).
Glenn can make you laugh and cry in the one song. This is one of those, Elvis at the Checkout.
There are a few versions of My Baby's Crazy 'Bout Elvis, most of them out of England. The one I've chosen is by MIKE SARNE.
Mike is best known as an actor, writer and director - however, in the early sixties he had a few records that made the charts, most notably Come Outside. This is another song from the same period.
A particular favorite song of mine on this theme is by GREG BROWN.
This is from probably his best album, "The Poet Game.” The song is Jesus and Elvis - that's all that needs to be said. I'll just let you listen.
Gather round cats and I'll tell you a story about an all-American boy. We know who that boy is; the singer in this case is BOBBY BARE.
That may not be obvious if you have the old 45 of the song as it claimed the singer to be Bill Parsons.
Bill was a bit of a singer and a friend of Bobby's who was in the studio the day it was recorded. Accidentally or not, his name made the record and he toured when the song became a hit as Bobby had been drafted and couldn't do that. Audiences soon found out he wasn't the one who recorded the song.
Here's the real Bobby with All American Boy.
Now for a song from a most unexpected source, JOAN BAEZ.
Joan's song is also rather unexpected. It sounds like a cross between early fifties' rock & roll and Chicago electric blues, neither of which we usually associate with Joan. There's more to her than we realize.
She's said in interviews that she started singing rock & roll and rhythm & blues before becoming famous for her folk style. Here she sings Elvis Presley Blues.
As with Greg Brown, the BELLAMY BROTHERS conflate others besides Elvis into their song.
In their case, they use real people not an imaginary one. Theirs are Marilyn Monroe and James Dean. The song is called Elvis, Marilyn and James Dean.
TEX, DON AND CHARLIE consists of Australians Tex Perkins (from The Cruel Sea, The Beasts of Bourbon and a solo career), Don Walker (from Cold Chisel) and Charlie Owen (a respected guitarist).
Tex had heard Charlie and thought he'd like to perform with him. A producer suggested to him (Tex) that he record with Don. Tex said he'd do it if Charlie was involved as well. Thus a new group was born. Their song is Postcard from Elvis.
I'll end with a song that's not about Elvis but it is one that he recorded.
I really have no time for Elvis impersonators; they're a blot on the musical landscape. There is one artist, though, who was cursed with a voice that was as near as damn identical to Elvis's. That man is RAL DONNER.
Ral wasn't an Elvis impersonator but there was no escaping his voice. For all of his career he tried to forge a musical existence separate from the King, with a little bit of success.
Even allowing for that, he was given the task of providing Elvis's voice for the documentary This is Elvis in 1981.
In spite of trying to distance himself from El, one of Ral's biggest hits was a cover of a song Elvis recorded first, Girl of my Best Friend.
It may sound like sacrilege but he did a far better job of the song than Elvis did. Maybe it was because El recorded it in the mid-sixties when he wasn't really trying.
There'll be some more Elvis related music in two weeks' time.