Tuesday, May 06, 2003

Chris reminded me recently of something that Quentin Tarantino apparently said, that people can be largely broken down into two groups: Elvis people and Beatles people. I’m definitely an Elvis person. The Beatles, to me, represent a more European tradition, in that they were (at least for the second half of their career) much more artsy, very experimental (not that I necessarily mind experimentation, which has helped prove artists from Eno to Sonic Youth as giants) – and I’m sorry, but I find their takes on American R&B wholly unconvincing. Elvis, on the other hand, represents American music completely: “hillbilly” and “race” music, spirituals, honky-tonk, and of course, that then-nascent genre known as rock and roll. Plus, he was a very integrally black singer; the Beatles were very Caucasian (not that there’s anything wrong with that…). RCA’s advertising campaign for 2002’s Elv1s: 30 #1 Hits revolved around the slogan, “Before anyone did anything, Elvis did everything.” And he did.

I'm reading the first volume of Peter Guralnick's two-part Presley bio, Last Train to Memphis, and it's pretty damned incredible. The writing, the level of scholarly thought, and the research are all very impressive, and the book has a natural flow to it like the Mississippi. Alongside it, of course, I've been immersed in Elvis's music. More thoughts to come.

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