Monday, 3 October 2011

Four Songs I'd Kill to Hear Elvis Sing...

I've actually been having this fantasy, thinking about how he wasted that voice on some sub-standard song choices. If I could get me mitts on a time machine and  kidnap The King in early '77, get him clean (after a few binges), take him to London and become his Svengali, I'd force him to cover late 70s early 80s UK New Wave / Indie shit before his voice gets shot and he eventually kills himself again. By around '83 I reckon.

But if you can open your mind and imagine these with Presley arrangements (I'm thinking 'Wonder of You', 'Suspicious Minds',' This Time You Gave Me A Mountai'n,' If I Can Dream, Kentucky Rai'n, 'In the Ghetto' type stuff) but with this English kitchen sink vibe going on.

1. Squeeze - Up The Junction
Although it might seem totally incongruous to have a Tupelo boy singing Difford’s seemingly humdrum tale of south London working class life, the themes of work, parenthood, failed relationships and personal demons is exactly the sort of thing the morose post-Priscilla Elvis should have been tackling in the late ‘70s.

To hear Presley singing about not seeing his daughter would have been easy in light of what was happening with Lisa Marie. I can hear him giving it some welly on the verse: “And now she's two years older / Her mother's with a soldier / She left me when my drinking / Became a proper stinging / The devil came and took me /From bar to street to bookie / No more nights by the telly / No more nights nappies smelling...” Maybe he’d have to sing diapers instead of nappies, but he would really get his fat larynx around that end bit.


2. Joe Jackson - It's Different for Girls
There was a bitterness and a lingering sense of self-pity that ran through much of Elvis’ late Vegas shows. Listening to the numerous bootleg recordings of shows in the mid- to late-seventies paints a picture of a wounded, maudlin, and often inebriated man wracked with self-doubt and a barely concealed resentment towards his estranged wife’s newfound happiness. This often informed some of his most emotional work. Versions of ‘Always On My Mind’ from that period display this sadness but I’d have liked to have seen him have a chance to be a bit more barbed. Jackson’s 1979 hit would give him that chance, with the opening lyric of, “what the hell is wrong with you tonight?” juxtaposing the laboured and over-familiar, “are you lonesome tonight?”. I’d love to hear that bitter baritone repeating the refrain of, “You're all the same / You're all the same / You're all the same...”


3. Joy Division - Atmosphere
As we know, Elvis never wrote shit. His choice of songs was, in turn, inspired in the 50s, seemingly plucked from an unending pool of factory line hors-dung during the Hollywood years, and then the bombastic eclectic mix of ballads, spirituals and bombast in his post-’68 Comeback incarnation. According to biographer Peter Guralnick it could be a source of conflict between Elvis and his manager and his hangers on. During one of his lowest periods in the 70s when feeling particularly alienated in the bubble he had created for himself, Elvis went through a period of listen exclusively to French tenor Charles Aznavour. It is during this time I find the King moniker, to be most apt; surrounded by a court of attendants, robbed of independence, anonymity or meaningful human contact, cocooned in a narcotic haze whilst his recently acquired and soon forgotten stable of prize horses went neglected. If Presley wanted to choose a song that expressed how he felt during this time, he could have done worse than pick Curtis as his songwriter. In Elvis’ hands Curtis’ hymn to a very different kind of alienation would take on a whole new dimension. And let’s be honest here, their voices are not too far apart here.


4. Ian Dury & The Blockheads - Wake Up and Make Love With Me
The young Elvis by all accounts, sent chicks wild with his pendulum hips and snotty snarl. By the time he got to Vegas his pathetic giggly versions of Peggy Lee’s ‘Fever’, his karate-as-sexual-technique theatrics during ‘Burning Love’ and his flippant pastiches of his early material proved he was little more than a fat bejewelled parody of his former raw and horny self. Dury’s poetic description of the more authentic, explicit, unrefined, and dare I say funky aspects of love-making would reflect well on a man of the King’s more mature years and cultured girth. Specifically, who wouldn’t want to hear him get raunchy whilst grunting out the opening sequence describing, in near pornographic detail, the art of seducing your better half by subtly poking her in the back with your morning glory: “I come awake / With a gift for womankind / You're still asleep / But the gift don't seem to mind / Rise on this occasion / Halfway up your back / Sliding down your body / Touching your behind.”



twin said...

after listening to this...i had to go digging through my old box of tapes to find the squeeze tape my brother made for me in high school. i wonder if the tape player in my car still works....?

Gulfboot Johnson said...

I dig 70s Squeeze loads. After a while they kinda morphed into Crowded House.

I have a shoebox of tapes that I've been meaning to listen to and rpelicate the comps on CD. Cos I'm like that.

kid said...

saw a photo of Ali and Elvis in a new link from this site since you gave it a haircut and a shiny new watch...

it's not the irritatingly priceless photograph where they're both in white posing like action figures of each other in a pretend boxing match, but a more meaningful snapshot where they are standing looking at the lens like two addled and aging men accidently in the same place at the same time. both in their respective latestage getups that would become them, a half-cognizant glaze over each of their eyes, the attitude which seems to say, how in fuck did we get here?

that said, good answers for an even better what if? - but - WHO would you kill to hear Elvis sing these songs? that's my question. i throw in the ring U2, dragging the redhotchilepeppers behind them by their necks. i'll trade two groups long past their dithering utility for one man who has, according to whom you talk to, out-rocked literal death.

Captain Pussybeard said...

Who would I kill to hear Elvis sing Joy Division? Just about anyone. But if I gotta pick, those two pricks who made a record shouting about their dicks over the top of Otis' Try a Little Tenderness would be a fair shout. 

As for Bongo and the boys, they're essentially belly button lint aren't they? You hardly notice them anymore and when you do it's hard to care. I feel quite sorry for them.