Hey Elvis! Happy Death Day!

Michele Bachmann, who is now warning us about the rise of the USSR, vowing to padlock the EPA, and saying she will single–handedly bring back $2 a gallon gas—perhaps she and her husband have convinced the heads of the major oil companies to pray away their profits—has now crossed the line as far as music is concerned by wishing Elvis happy birthday on the anniversary of the day on which he died. Mistaking death for birth? Perhaps she’s actually a secret Buddhist?

Bachmann’s musical gaffe—which still pales in comparison to Palin’s Paul Revere “ringing those bells” or Bachmann’s pronouncement about how the founding fathers worked “tirelessly” against slavery (which would be profoundly strange considering how many owned slaves)—got me to thinking about how the music of Elvis Aaron Presley becomes less well known every year. College students today have no idea what all the fuss was about. Thanks to his portrayal in cartoons and films as a drug befuddled, outlandishly dressed Las Vegas buffoon, the fact that Elvis actually made good records is getting lost in the static. Of course, because Elvis allowed his manager Tom Parker, the kind of man Tony Soprano would sneeringly call “a degenerate gambler,” to sell his soul to Hollywood and RCA Records, there really aren’t that many truly great Elvis records to hold up and say, “Go get this!”

Because of the endless and at times nonsensical packaging and repackaging that has gone on with his recordings since before he died, it’s better to talk about good periods rather than individual records when it comes to Elvis and to my ears there were only two standout periods in Presley’s career, the first being the very early years which can be found on the Sun singles and the first two RCA albums, Elvis Presley and Elvis. After that you have to go forward to the time of the 1968 Comeback Special and the album he made immediately after. As for the TV special itself, the audio from it has been repackaged many times in recent years but the best bit can be found on the now out–of–print CD (though still widely available) Tiger Man. Those who remember the ’68 show or have seen the tape/DVD of it since know that the so–called “sit down” segment, featuring Elvis clad in a black leather suit, sitting in a circle with DJ Fontana and Scotty Moore among others is the best part. There were two of these sessions and both were taped. The later of the two, at 8 o’clock June 27, 1968, after Elvis had time to get over being nervous at an earlier taping, is the last gasp of Elvis the hillbilly cat caught on tape. For 15 cuts he’s back singing rock ‘n’ roll with the most manic energy of his entire career. Certainly the finest live takes Elvis ever recorded, they remain an astonishing aural experience.

The other contender out of that later period came the year after the TV special when he temporarily broke free of Parker, RCA and the many deals both had with music publishers and sang what he wanted in American Sound Studios in Memphis, a studio owned and run by producer Chips Moman. Originally released on From Elvis in Memphis and now collected on The 1969 Memphis Anthology: Suspicious Minds these sessions which produced “Suspicious Minds,” “Kentucky Rain,” “Long Black Limousine,” and “In the Ghetto,” among others are Elvis’ best studio work and his last gasp of being a relevant artist. From 1969 until 1977, he progressively spiraled downward until, awash in downs and self–loathing of a sort, his heart stopped while on the toilet. Just two brief periods of artistic success and fulfillment in a career that was supposedly as glorious as the one Elvis had? Sad.

mr_bill's picture

Boy are conservative women like palin and bachmann dumb aren't they - good thing they didn't say we have 57 states like obama or can't give a speech without a teleprompter or call our serviceman 'corpseman' instead of 'corpsman.'

Stick to music and audio and spare me your liberal editorial comments and thanks for reinforcing my desire not to get a subscription.

soulful.terrain's picture

 We get it Robert. You hate Conservatives and love Socialists. Political diatribes belong in the Open Bar. How come you can't write something about music, or review a particular artist without throwing in your distain for conservatives?  Stick to the music. If I want liberal/socialist politics, I'll subscribe to Salon magazine.

Yeah Robert, Is that kinda like Democrat vice- president Joe Biden telling a paralyzed man to 'stand up' at a speech.

Or better yet, Democrat congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee of Texas saying that we were the first to put an American flag on Mars during the Apollo space missions.

You dont need to go down the road of political gaffes, Your man Obama is a walking gaffe machine, and there is now way on Earth you or anyone else can defend him.

Come on over to the Open Bar if you want to be a wise guy. I would welcome that.

By the way... Elvis was a fundamental Baptist and a Conservative. Elvis had more in common with Sarah Palin and Michelle Bachmann than ANY modern-day Progressive Democrat.

LiberalAudiophile's picture

When crazy people like Palin and bachmann say dumb things it is because they don't know any better.  On the other hand, Pres. Obama did know the correct pronunciation of corpsman and merely mispronouced it corpseman, which by the way, expressed more truth than anything palin and bachman have ever said.  

I think RB's leadin to the story was great.

Spotcheck Billy's picture

Cut out the phony hipper than thou posing, Robert. I don't read Stereophile to hear political lecturing no matter which side of the fence it's coming from. Get the picture?

John Atkinson's picture

Get up from your hands and knees, Spotcheck Billy. I know that all you want in this life of yours is some good clean fun, but getting E-Day wrong is just too much wrongness.

John Atkinson

Editor, Stereophile

es347's picture

Gee John, you never cease to amaze me, jumping all over readers who post on your site.  I would have thought that in Journalism 101 they would have taught you and your brethren to stay above the fray.  Apparently you enjoy this form of mud wrestling.

Regarding your avatar, isn't that some sort of umbrella'd ladies drink you're sipping?  I would have figured you for a Jack Daniels on the rocks kinda guy....belch smiley

mr_bill's picture


popluhv's picture

Thanks for the recommendation, I'll be checking out the 1969 Memphis Anthology. At 28, I've always respected Elvis for his reputation, but other than some Sun cuts I hear on occasion, I hardly know his work. HGoing through his catalog is a daunting task, and unappealing at first glance. 

As for the political opinions, keep going. If Stereophile reflected the the average audiophile, I'd never bother with it. Instead, you guys deliver opinions and anecdotes from everyday life, humor and a love of music new and old. Keep it fresh!

Sergio Biston's picture

The notion that the relevant work of Elvis is just the pre-army stuff and that he had just one more small glimpse of greatness in his comeback stuff from 1968-1969 is already passé by now.  It is the opinion of those who only wanted Elvis to be a rock and roll artist.
One just need to dig further in his catalog to discovery a wealth of material that encopass a broad selection of musical genra that few can match in this field.
For instance, his great 1st album after the army, Elvis is Back! (1960) wich contains a pletora of rock, blues and pop of imense quality and its regarded today as one of his finest recordings.
Further down the road we can find his first two full albuns of gospel, His Hand In Mind (1960) and How Great Thou Art (1967), the latter a Gramy Award winner.
His 1968 TV special, today affectionately called The Comeback Special, prompted Rock historian Greil Marcus to say: "It was the finest music of his life. If ever there was music that bleeds, this was it."
From Elvis In Memphis (1969) is his most criticaly acclaimad work. One wich critic Bruce Eder said " was one of the greatest white soul albums (and one of the greatest soul albums) ever cut, with brief but considerable forays into country, pop, and blues as well.
The same year saw the release of one of his greatest hits and one that would be forever associated with him: Suspicious Minds. In the Ghetto, the King´s only foray in protest song also belong to this fabulous year, one wich was crowded with a hugely sucessfull comeback to live performances.
This return originated 2 live albuns, highly appraised today: In Person (1969) and On Stage (1970) The latter contains a broad scope of music ranging from complete re-thinks of the raucous blues C.C. Rider to soulful things like Walk A Mile In My Shoes.
His studio work in the 70´s was erratic, is true. But not void of great momments and superb music making. Just take a listening to "That´s The Way It Is"(1970) album, and take note of his amazing reading of Simon & ´Garfukel´s "Bridge Over Troubled Waters"
Elvis Country(1971) and the Grammy Winner album He Touched Me (1972) is a study of Elvis early influences, and ultimately, of rock´n´roll itself.
Finally, if you want further proof that when Elvis felt like, he could still evoke his rock´n´roll persona, listen to singles like Burning Love (1972), Promised Land (1974) T-R-O-U-B-L-E (1975) and Way Down (1977).
I leave you all with the words of music critic Dave Marsh :"He was a not a great artist for one or two isolated years but for two decades almost continuously. Doubters are advised to listen to the evidence. Defense rests."

eegreg's picture

Whoa.  Poser?  Bachmann cites to Elvis for crass political relevance.  When she mis-steps, she can't be called on it?  Her (many) blunders are not fair game?  Submissive = respect?  

If you don't want to hear a negative word about that candidate, stick to her website.

Keep it going, Mr. Baird.  The insight and honesty are both welcome.  The more, the better.  Your opinions matter. 


eegreg's picture


jporter's picture

Hey, mr_bill look out for MR Hand...OH NOooooo! I am so sick of teabaggers turning every forum into a political one. I want to read about music and cool audio equipment. I thought I came to the right place...GFY!

soulful.terrain's picture

...I don't think R. Baird is a teabagger. Read the initial post.

jporter's picture

Again...The morons are coming...The morons are coming...

mr_bill's picture

 And look, morons can use real words and don't have to speak in letters.

jdmccall56's picture

I enjoy reading RB's writings on music.  It's one of the reasons I am a long-time Stereophile subscriber.  I don't subscribe to read snarky political commentary from the left or the right.

Also, I feel the mentioning of the particular circumstances of Elvis's demise were unnecessary, bordering on gratuitous.  Is he not due the same measure of respect we would all want for ourselves and our families? 

vclements's picture

I don't think the country (possibly the world) has ever been as strongly polarized as it is now.
It's a volatile situation where the mere suggestion of politics can initiate rather heated discussions.
These political debates do not belong in the audiophile world - yet you manage to sneak in a political stab where ever you can.
Do you get some sort of perverse joy out of initiating arguments that are not related to the topic at hand?

As a writer you have a responsibility to THINK.
"Is this article about politics?" - NO
"Can the story be told without bringing my political views in?" - YES
"Should I leave the attitude at the door" - YES

Before you pen your next argument inducing article - THINK or step away from the computer.


jrmandude's picture

I get perverse joy out of it.  Mostly though I just wanted to be a part of the longest ever set of comments to RB's blog.

deckeda's picture

I tell my 3rd grader all the time not to let distractions get in the way of what's really being said. I hope he learns it; apparently some don't.

Several people here decided it was more meaningful to focus on the trees and not the forest. Read the first part of the 2nd paragraph again. I've taken the liberty of cleansing the middle, offending part for the easily distracted among us. 

"Bachmann’s musical gaffe ... got me to thinking about how the music of Elvis Aaron Presley becomes less well known every year." 

Ironically, RB's point would have been better made had he not gone down that road as obviously. Linked inline text can be a subtle tool he may want to explore in the future.

roadster's picture

Well, are Palin and Bachmann as dead as Elvis? Me thinks that Elvis' legacy will be around much longer than that of the 2 aforementioned ladies.

es347's picture

I swore I'd never resubscribe to this rag after having read yet another liberal rant by one of S'philes "gifted" writers a while back and wouldn't you know, days after having re-upped for another two years RB does what's become standard practice for journalists: trash a conservative woman.  Well Mr. Baird, trash any conservative candidate at your own peril my uber-intelligent liberal friend because if this country has to endure four more years of "the One", you and your magazine could very well be history along with many other enterprises here in the USA.  You and your liberal buddies work in an industry that is wholly dependent on capitalism and a fluorishing economy yet apparently you continue to support a failing socialist agenda.  So go ahead and empty both barrels of that 12 gauge that all you Obama sycophants have aimed at your feet.  Idiots.

mr_bill's picture

Hope and Change??

'Hoping for Change!'

LiberalAudiophile's picture

You're just a misinformed troll lurking to punish whover quotes a repuglican.  You trolls don't even know what socialism is or how you are being duped by greedy corporations (people!), which along with W's failed agenda of wars and tax breaks for the rich have almost ruined our economy.  So, you are the idiot.

mr_bill's picture

Actually, I'm a long time Stereophile reader and audiophile.

Glad to see you are sticking to the liberal manual - blame George Bush, blame the rich and namecalling.

How's that Hope and Change going for ya?!

es347's picture

LiberalAudiophile, my good man, you possess outstanding writing skills.  Have you ever considered working for Stereophile?  They could always use another mindless hack on their staff.  By the way, when you have a minute, tell us how a big government, tax and spend ideology helps our economy....and while you're at it, tell us how small government and an economy driven by the private sector hinders it.  Now don't be nervous, here's your chance to rewrite history.

hifibuster's picture

...Michele Bachmann comedy night at the Drinking Liberally meeting. I enjoyed your Elvis article R. Baird and all the political spit balls in both directions. Until we include political discussions in our get together, we will suffer at the hands of the two party system that seems so dysfunctional.

nunhgrader's picture

I love your musial knowledge! Political leanings no bother me :)


Keep writing what ya feel!

es347's picture

Holy mother of grammar...another GED wannabe.  Me thinks you've got a real shot at becoming an audio journalist.

MrEarl's picture

Thank you Robert, for your observations on Elvis Presley's music. It is difficult to write about artists such as Elvis, The Beatles, and others who were tremendously significant but suffer from "overplay",  without sounding trite. Your comments usually add something to the discourse, and I enjoy reading them. 

I have to chuckle at the number of (outraged!) conservatives who apparently feel it necessary to defend a fairly benign poke at Michelle Bachmann, and I feel sorry for those who are sufficiently distracted in all their santimonious self-absorption, that they completely miss out on the message. Get over it folks, and let me share this thought with you: If you can't relax enough to allow a talented writer to express himself creatively, then you may one day experience a premature, but final tumble off the toilet yourself; just like The King.