Tag Archives: Elvis Presley

Jim Morrison is Dead and So is Elvis

Book: Skagboys

Author: Irvine Welsh

Music: Riders on the Storm

Artist: the Doors

Jim Morrison was only 27 when he died. Never ceases to shock me when I re-read that.

Leaping forward in my reading many, many months into your future, though not mine since I’ve already read it, I revisited Stephen King’s “The Stand” recently. There’s a great little vignette in the book where a character tells the story of encountering a mysteriously familiar figure at a small petrol station in rural West Texas at which he worked part-time. Having fumbled with that unexpected familiarity for a while this gas station cowboy realized he’d just sold fuel and sundries to the living, breathing Jim Morrison. In that universe, he’d obviously faked his own death and burial. I’d bet that everyone who reads that scene for the first time expects it to be Elvis. I did. Apart from it being an unexpected gem buried in the epic novel which manages to be more eerie in those few pages than the entire premise of the book—a plague-emptied America becoming the stage for a classic good v evil contest—I like it for that – it dodges the obvious. It strikes me as I write this, though, that Elvis may not even have been dead when King wrote the novel (or this part of it). It was first published in 1978, a year or so following Elvis’ death, but he’d been writing it for several years.


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Willie Dixon Wasn’t Dead in 1990

Book: Skagboys

Author: Irvine Welsh

Music: It’s All Over Me

Artist: Otis Blackwell

Skagboys is Irvine Welsh’s prequel to Trainspotting. There are a lot of musical references in it so you’ll be joining me on this journey for a few weeks.

More people know Otis Blackwell’s songs than know Otis Blackwell, I suspect. The last several posts were related to Elvis Presley. Otis Blackwell was responsible for “All Shook Up,” “Return to Sender,” and “Don’t be Cruel.” He was a black man writing hit songs for white rock and roll singers. Willie Dixon was another songwriting overlord whose songs are more often associated with white artists than himself. One of the great thrills of my concert-going life was attending a tribute to John Lee Hooker in Madison Square Garden in October 1990. I honestly couldn’t believe it when Willie Dixon came out and sang his own “I Just Want to Make Love to You.” I thought he was dead. Bo Diddley played that night to as well as, obviously, John Lee Hooker. Others I recall are Ry Cooder, Johnny Winter, and Al Kooper. I remember it being a very long concert.


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YNWA

Book: The Good Humor Man: Or, Calorie 3501

Author: Andrew Fox

Music: You’ll Never Walk Alone

Composer: Rodgers and Hammerstein

Artist: Elvis Presley

This is a show tune. I don’t enjoy musicals and I don’t like show tunes very much but I love this song for reasons that have nothing to do with musicals and everything to do with sporting tribalism.

I have been a fan of Liverpool Football Club for more than four decades. Although You’ll Never Walk Alone has been sung by many great voices – Elvis and Judy Garland among them – it’s the Gerry and the Pacemakers’ version that I and every one of the hundreds of millions of Liverpool fans worldwide revere. They recorded the song in 1963 and incongruously, I suppose, the fans at the ground – Anfield – adopted the song as their (and by extension) the club’s anthem and have been singing it ever since, before and after every home game and many, many away games. It’s always sung. But. Sometimes it’s sung with more passion, devotion, desperation, joy, or myriad of other emotions or motivations and those times elevate the experience of being a Liverpool fan. I’m getting goosebumps just typing this.

Famously, at half-time in the 2005 Champions League final in Istanbul, Liverpool were three goals down to a very powerful AC Milan side. 3-0 down. Irredeemable. The fans in the stadium, in a show of solidarity with their heroes, began to sing their anthem. We had some great players that season but didn’t have a great side so it was an achievement to even reach the final. The fans were saying ‘It’s alright lads, that was a terrible half of football, but it’s OK, we’re still with you. Thanks for getting us this far’ A true reflection of the meaning of the song.

It was heard in the dressing room where the team was spending half-time. The second half saw those heroes become legends. They turned the score around within a six minute period and – despite what you’ll read in some quarters – handily contained everything that Milan threw at them (with the help of a superhuman double-save from Jerzy Dudek) and went on to win the title as a result of a penalty shootout. I cried my eyes out. I often cry when I hear You’ll Never Walk Alone. The day after the final I watched the homecoming parade of the 2004-2005 European Champions with my not-quite three year-old daughter on the couch of our house in Dublin. That was one of the most special times of my life. 10 years later I took her to see Liverpool play Manchester City in a pre-season friendly at Yankee Stadium. I sang You’ll Never Walk Alone with her and cried my eyes out the whole time. She though I was mad but I wasn’t the only one.

YNWA.


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Memorieeeeees, Like a Liar in My Mind … Part 2

Book: The Good Humor Man: Or, Calorie 3501

Author: Andrew Fox

Music: Burning Love

Artist: Elvis Presley

Maybe Elvis-related topics bring out the uncertainty of recollections.

My memory of hearing about Elvis’s death is this. I got up for school the morning after the news broke in the US and my father told me Elvis had died. I remember going to school and discussing it with two of my good friends who were fervid Elvis fans and, therefore, bereft. But, again, it couldn’t have happened that way because there would’ve still been a week or more of our summer holidays remaining on August 16, 1977. Maybe the bit about my father telling me about it when I woke up that morning is accurate but the rest must either be a scenario created entirely in and by my imagination or I’ve adapted some elements of reality into a different narrative over the years.


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Memorieeeeees, Like a Liar in My Mind …

Book: The Good Humor Man: Or, Calorie 3501

Author: Andrew Fox

Music: Graceland

Artist: Paul Simon

(It’s been a long time. A lot’s been going on.)

The human memory is a funny and unpredictable thing. I planned to write a post about how this song, or more specifically the album from which it comes, formed part of the soundtrack to my first spell in the US – the summer after my final year in university when I worked as a waiter in a country club in Connecticut.  The fact is, though, that was the summer of 1988. This album was released two years previously in 1986. I would’ve sworn that I remember “Call Me Al” playing incessantly on radio and MTV during that summer. Seems, after all, that is not possible.


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The Rolling Thunder of Cherokee Bagpipes

Book: The Good Humor Man: Or, Calorie 3501

Author: Andrew Fox

Music: How Great Thou Art

Composer: Carl Gustav Boberg translated into English by Stuart K. Hine

Artist: Elvis Presley

This book is an interesting near-future twist on Ray Bradbury’s Farenheit 451. Since several pounds of Elvis Presley’s liposuction-ed body fat play a pivotal role in the narrative, the great son of Tupelo’s songs dominate the musical references for the next week or so.

How Great Thou Art is a rollicking good hymn made all the more rollicking by The King’s rendition.

All through primary school we had choirs. All the boys would stand there mouthing the words because none of us would want to sing. Before your voice breaks you can just about get away with it because the teachers are not expecting too much basso profundo-like sound from a line-up of reluctant eight or nine year-olds so the girls carried the rest of us. It’s a pity really because How Great Thou Art is a great hymn to rip into, especially the chorus (are they called choruses in hymns?) … THEN SING MY SOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOUUUUUUUUUUUULLLLLL MY SAVIOR GOD TO THEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE! Oh yeah, babay!

I don’t sing hymns or think about them too often these days so it was coincidental that, the day before I read the reference the to hymn in The Good Humor Man I was waiting for the F train at 57th Street in Manhattan when the busking bagpiper performing there that day – it’s the only time I’ve seen him there in many years of frequenting that stop of the NYC Subway system – unleashed his pipes in a wonderfully unexpected blast of How Great Thou Art.

That reminds me, as I type, of listening to a jazz bagpiper on John Kelly’s Electric Ballroom show on Today FM radio as I drove home from work in Dublin to Wicklow in the late 1990s. Yes, jazz. Played on the bagpipes. As my daughter would say, “Is that even legal?” I just Googled ‘jazz bagpiper’ and discovered that ‘my’ jazz bagpiper – of whom I have warm and fuzzy memories as it was a tumultuous yet exciting and very happy time in my life – must have been Rufus Harley of Raleigh, NC. Wikipedia introduces Rufus as “an American jazz musician of mixed Cherokee and African ancestry, known primarily as the first jazz musician to adopt the Scottish great Highland bagpipe as his primary instrument.” Not a combination of terms I’d ever have expected to find strung together in a coherent and meaningful sentence, I must admit.

Having said all that, Elvis could certainly bring the rolling thunder.


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