Number 1000, of 1001 albums you must listen to before you die.
It’s kind of funny that Elvis has come up so early in this exercise. We have a lot of history. My Dad has been obsessed with Elvis since his teens so The King’s records sound-tracked a huge chunk of my formative years Maybe that’s why I spent so long rebelling against 50s rock n’ roll. I despised Elvis a little more every time Dad embarrassed the shit out of me in front of friends, by ripping Metallica’s Master of Puppets off the turntable and forcing us to listen to some ‘real’ rock n’ roll’.
I guess with age comes acceptance. The influence of Elvis is as undeniable as The Clash appropriating the cover of this record in both a sly nod to music history, and as a symbol of their desire to smash-up the past. I can hear Jailhouse Rock, and Hound Dog in pretty much any music that involves driving, distorted guitars. And what’s more, both those tracks rock. Hard.
Is this self titled debut a good record? Not really. Apparently it’s a collection of odds and ends recorded in the years leading up to its release. And, it shows. Whilst it has all the colours of Elvis’ world – country, blues, gospel and some attempts at rock n’ roll – you can’t help feeling that he’s finding his feet here. Blue Suede Shoes is a great tune watered down by his Memphis roots, sounding far more Country than Rock n’ Roll. I Love You Because drips with cheese. And, his version of Tutti Frutti has none of Little Richards’ deranged sex appeal.
On the other hand, the sparse and haunting version of Blue Moon is fantastic. Did he ever explore this sound further? He should have. I’m Counting on You is a gorgeous ballad built around some lush vocal harmonies. And, Money Honey is a slinky beast that hints at the pelvis-swinging sex god that Elvis was to become.
I have a feeling Elvis is going to pop up at least a few more times on this journey, and I’m unsure whether I’ll like those records more than this one. Our baggage is heavy. What I missed most on this record was the snarl that’s present in his vocals on later hits like the aforementioned Hound Dog. He sounded dangerous mid-way through his career. This early on, he sounds like any other teen heart-throb.