Monday, October 5, 2009

Who Wants To Be King?: Elvis Presley: "King Creole"

With this entry a fascinating and (on one side at least) long-running competition is close at hand; a competition that is in some ways nearly pathetic, in other ways quite moving and cheering.

By 1958 it was more than clear that rock 'n' roll had one overwhelming figure - Elvis Presley. To be sure there were others who were as important and vital (and I will be getting to them soon enough) - but none were as utterly there as Elvis. When he verily spits out the lyrics of "King Creole" (backed by a totally awake & into it Jordanaires), he is almost saying - this is it, this is what rock 'n' roll is, punks, try me if you dare. "He's a guitar man/With a great big soul/He lays down a beat/Like a ton of coal" he intones, as a tougher version of "All Shook Up" leaps and bounds like a prizefighter. The whole song, in fact, is like a knock-out punch; "When the king starts to do it/It's as good as done/He holds his guitar/Like a tommy gun" pretty much shows that the King means business and isn't interested in prisoners. Hip-shaking, pork-and-beans and jelly roll singing King Creole is an unstoppable fearsome force (Elvis here sounds like hip hop virtually) that inspires others, indeed has been inspiring others for years, including an India-born young man called Harry Rodger Webb. This is where the competition begins, along with a long lesson (for them, not for us) on the definitions of success and happiness. The overture is done, now time for the show.

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