Anything about Elvis
More than 30 Million visitors can't be wrong

Re: "Elvis at 70" in American Heritage Magazine

Sun Mar 02, 2014 9:58 pm

poormadpeter wrote:
Mister Moon wrote:
poormadpeter wrote:
Mister Moon wrote:
poormadpeter wrote:The text of the above article by Will Friedwald from the March 2005 edition of American Heritage Magazine is available to read over on Elvis Australia. Is there anyone out there who has the magazine and would be willing to scan in the pages of the actual article please?


We've had enough of know-it-alls treating Elvis, and rock and roll in general, condescendingly.

Let Friedwald stick to Sinatra.

We'll stick to Elvis, Larry Williams and Chuck Berry.

Sorry for the rudeness, poormadpeter, but that's how I feel.


You clearly haven't read the article in which he states how wonderful he thinks Elvis is, have you? It might be an idea to read it first, and then judge. It's a highly intelligent piece of writing that doesn't say what you might think.

Finally, in the summer of 2004, I decided to see what all the shaking was about. I got hold of RCA Records' four big Essential Masters boxes. By the time I finished listening to them, I was completely hooked. Seventeen CDs were hardly enough. I was amazed by what I heard. After a lifetime of not getting it, I finally experienced my very own Elvis epiphany, and the mystery of why he is considered one of the great pop performers of all time was revealed to me. (Friedwald)


http://www.elvis.com.au/presley/elvis_at_70.shtml#sthash.QJ4vQ718.dpbs


I have indeed read the article, poormadpeter, that's why I wrote what I wrote.

The paragraph you have highlighted serves only to underline my thoughts on this guy. He's clearly tongue-in-cheek there. We don't need these people giving their opinions on Elvis. That's why I wrote what I wrote, too. If somebody, at 44, who is a professional music writer, has still not got it, he never will, no matter how many damn box sets he decides to listen to.

He sounds like a bored weirdo who steps out of his Sinatra / Coltrane driven world to look upon the vulgarities some other people spend their entire lives on. He really sounds like that.

Friedwald, get hot or go home !


Clearly you know sod all about Friedwald, or the majority of his writing.

I find it amazing here sometimes. Here you are on a board where people are decrying the fact that the Grammys don't appreciate Elvis, or that Sinatra didn't like Elvis. Here comes a man who put up his hands and says, "you know what? I was wrong", and you still don't like it.

Musical genres co-exist - why there is such an obsession that one has to be better than the other, or that someone who is an expert in one genre can't give their views on another is a complete mystery. If genres didn't co-exist, Elvis would never have got famous, because he wouldn't have been able to fuse country and rockabilly together to make his sound. And he wouldn't have been able to fuse jazz and pop in order to record Fever.

Who were Elvis's idols? DEAN MARTIN and MARIO LANZA! In some way you seem to think you are "protecting" Elvis in some way from the writing of an expert in a field of music that Elvis adored. Blue Moon was one of the first songs he recorded, for crying out loud! Are You Lonesome Tonight was one of his biggest hits. In the home recordings he sang If I Loved You, Make Believe, Be My Love, Fools Rush In, It's a Sin to Tell a Lie and others. ALL of them associated with singers such as Sinatra, Martin, Fitzgerald and others. If you can't hear an influence of these songs and the singers of the Great American Songbook in Elvis's performances of I Need Somebody to Lean On, Almost in Love, Its Now or Never and others then, frankly, you must be hearing something different to many of us.

Two of Elvis's albums were called Something for Everybody and Elvis for Everyone. That a jazz critic can admit that he can find much to enjoy in the recordings of Elvis shows just how wide Elvis cast his musical net. To attempt to somehow exclude people and writers for the music they like aside from Elvis is ridiculous, petty, and childish. If you want to exclude jazz lovers from writing about and enjoying Elvis, then perhaps I should just pack my bags and go now. OR you can accept that someone more distanced from the rock point of view can bring something unique to the discussion. That's exactly what Friedwald does. He links Elvis with Armstrong, therefore putting him on a pedestal with the other greatest innovator in popular music. That's some accolade. He also refutes the idea that Elvis's important music-making stopped at the end of the 1950s, stating that he continued to develop until the bitter end - give me ONE other writer who has been able and willing to say that and back it up. Jazz is built upon the blues. The blues, along with gospel, were the backbone of Elvis's music-making. There's your link between the two genres right there.



Talk about patronising posts.

You don’t need to tell me all of this stuff about what Elvis did record, or where his influences came from, etc. I’ve been into this thing for more than 35 years.

I appreciate your efforts in order to bring to the board fresh points of views, and I agree with many of your posts. But I think this Friedwald thing is totally out of place, and that you have overrated this article just because it comes from somebody who is regarded as a knowledgeable person in another field – jazz, or whatever.

Let’s reverse the case. If some well regarded rock and roll expert would decide to learn about, say, Charlie Parker, and purchase x box-sets, and then review them in the same condescending tone, like, “hey, that ain’t too bad”… what would be the reaction of Parker’s fans? I can imagine it.

I’m sure if we could speak face to face about this matter we would end up agreeing on most of the aspects, but I don’t have the time, or the patience, to detail here each and every thing I would like to say. In addition, English is not my mother language, and it takes me some time to write a lenghty text with a minimum coherence and quality.

Thanks for your posts, and I apologize if some of my previous ones were a bit on the strong side.

Re: "Elvis at 70" in American Heritage Magazine

Sun Mar 02, 2014 10:32 pm

r&b wrote:Elvis singing the great Amrican songbook. Now that would have been something. Anyone know that Doc Pomus song for Ben E King that was mentioned?


Well, he did - but mostly behind closed doors - the only exceptions that I can think of being Blue Moon, True Love and Fools Rush In. And You'll Be Gone was inspired by Begin the Beguine, of course.

Re: "Elvis at 70" in American Heritage Magazine

Sun Mar 02, 2014 10:52 pm

poormadpeter wrote:
drjohncarpenter wrote:Oh, come on, man. If you're going to post a topic that solicits opinions, they are not all going to mirror yours. Calling names is schoolyard behavior.


I never solicited an opinion, I asked if anyone had the original article. I'm not quite sure what opening post you were reading?


You are an educated person, stop playing dumb and being condescending. Or perhaps that's all you have to offer?

By the very nature of creating this topic, and asking the critical text be scanned and shared, implies opinion.

Re: "Elvis at 70" in American Heritage Magazine

Sun Mar 02, 2014 10:57 pm

drjohncarpenter wrote:
poormadpeter wrote:
drjohncarpenter wrote:Oh, come on, man. If you're going to post a topic that solicits opinions, they are not all going to mirror yours. Calling names is schoolyard behavior.


I never solicited an opinion, I asked if anyone had the original article. I'm not quite sure what opening post you were reading?


You are an educated person, stop playing dumb and being condescending. Or perhaps that's all you have to offer?

By the very nature of creating this topic, and asking the critical text be scanned and shared, implies opinion.


You're wrong. I asked for the scan so that I could reference the piece in an article. Nothing more, nothing less. If I was planning a discussion I would have simply pasted in the text and started on in a conventional fashion.

Re: "Elvis at 70" in American Heritage Magazine

Sun Mar 02, 2014 11:17 pm

r&b wrote:Elvis singing the great Amrican songbook. Now that would have been something. Anyone know that Doc Pomus song for Ben E King that was mentioned?


The reference is almost certainly to "This Magic Moment," a gorgeous ballad by the Drifters, written by Doc Pomus and Mort Shuman, arranged by Stan Applebaum and highlighted by a stunning, delicate lead vocal by Ben E. King.


600201_Atlantic 2050_Drifters.JPG


phpBB [video]

Drifters "This Magic Moment" (Atlantic 2050, February 1, 1960)
Billboard "Hot 100" #16 March 28, 1960, "Hot R&B Sides" #4, April 4, 1960

---

Bonus question: which song on Bruce Springsteen's The River pays explicit homage to this wonderful Drifters single?
You do not have the required permissions to view the files attached to this post.

Re: "Elvis at 70" in American Heritage Magazine

Sun Mar 02, 2014 11:20 pm

poormadpeter wrote:
drjohncarpenter wrote:You are an educated person, stop playing dumb and being condescending. Or perhaps that's all you have to offer?

By the very nature of creating this topic, and asking the critical text be scanned and shared, implies opinion.


You're wrong. I asked for the scan so that I could reference the piece in an article. Nothing more, nothing less. If I was planning a discussion I would have simply pasted in the text and started on in a conventional fashion.


Funny how you do not state this in your OP, and later tell us you tried to find the text on FECC.

Again, your disingenuousness undercuts anything you might have to offer. How ironic. I now see the parallels to the WSJ critic you champion.

Re: "Elvis at 70" in American Heritage Magazine

Sun Mar 02, 2014 11:55 pm

drjohncarpenter wrote:
poormadpeter wrote:
drjohncarpenter wrote:You are an educated person, stop playing dumb and being condescending. Or perhaps that's all you have to offer?

By the very nature of creating this topic, and asking the critical text be scanned and shared, implies opinion.


You're wrong. I asked for the scan so that I could reference the piece in an article. Nothing more, nothing less. If I was planning a discussion I would have simply pasted in the text and started on in a conventional fashion.


Funny how you do not state this in your OP, and later tell us you tried to find the text on FECC.

Again, your disingenuousness undercuts anything you might have to offer. How ironic. I now see the parallels to the WSJ critic you champion.


On the contrary, I state quite clearly that I have read the text but would like to see the actual article. Of course I looked for it on FECC - to see if someone had posted the article before. I knew I would find it if you had ever posted it, Doc - it would have been hard to miss as you would have re-posted your handywork in to at least a dozen other threads. :wink:

I fail to see the significance of the WSJ. I see no reason to judge a man by who he works for - even if I was aware as to why the journal is presumably viewed as evil by yourself.

Re: "Elvis at 70" in American Heritage Magazine

Mon Mar 03, 2014 12:07 am

Then it is the Wall Street Journal that is reprehensible? Huh?

Re: "Elvis at 70" in American Heritage Magazine

Mon Mar 03, 2014 12:15 am

poormadpeter wrote:
drjohncarpenter wrote:
poormadpeter wrote:You're wrong. I asked for the scan so that I could reference the piece in an article. Nothing more, nothing less. If I was planning a discussion I would have simply pasted in the text and started on in a conventional fashion.


Funny how you do not state this in your OP, and later tell us you tried to find the text on FECC.

Again, your disingenuousness undercuts anything you might have to offer. How ironic. I now see the parallels to the WSJ critic you champion.


On the contrary, I state quite clearly that I have read the text but would like to see the actual article.


"Quite clearly"? Where? Not on this topic, and not at all.

OP:
poormadpeter wrote:The text of the above article by Will Friedwald from the March 2005 edition of American Heritage Magazine is available to read over on Elvis Australia. Is there anyone out there who has the magazine and would be willing to scan in the pages of the actual article please?


Keep on dancin' ... and I'l keep on contributing! ;-)

Re: "Elvis at 70" in American Heritage Magazine

Mon Mar 03, 2014 1:49 am

drjohncarpenter wrote:
poormadpeter wrote:
drjohncarpenter wrote:
poormadpeter wrote:You're wrong. I asked for the scan so that I could reference the piece in an article. Nothing more, nothing less. If I was planning a discussion I would have simply pasted in the text and started on in a conventional fashion.


Funny how you do not state this in your OP, and later tell us you tried to find the text on FECC.

Again, your disingenuousness undercuts anything you might have to offer. How ironic. I now see the parallels to the WSJ critic you champion.


On the contrary, I state quite clearly that I have read the text but would like to see the actual article.


"Quite clearly"? Where? Not on this topic, and not at all.



I say the text is available on Elvis Australia - I'm hardly not going to have read it there if I was interested in the article. Having a slow day today - do you need me to spoon feed you your dinner too?

Re: "Elvis at 70" in American Heritage Magazine

Mon Mar 03, 2014 2:47 am

drjohncarpenter wrote:
r&b wrote:Elvis singing the great Amrican songbook. Now that would have been something. Anyone know that Doc Pomus song for Ben E King that was mentioned?


The reference is almost certainly to "This Magic Moment," a gorgeous ballad by the Drifters, written by Doc Pomus and Mort Shuman, arranged by Stan Applebaum and highlighted by a stunning, delicate lead vocal by Ben E. King.


600201_Atlantic 2050_Drifters.JPG


phpBB [video]

Drifters "This Magic Moment" (Atlantic 2050, February 1, 1960)
Billboard "Hot 100" #16 March 28, 1960, "Hot R&B Sides" #4, April 4, 1960

---

Bonus question: which song on Bruce Springsteen's The River pays explicit homage to this wonderful Drifters single?


I can't find a reference to Ben E King in the article. It does refer to a song written for BB King, rather than Ben E.King, as follows:

There are so many songs he should have done: 'There Must Be a Better World Somewhere' (a Doc Pomus song for B. B. King that's far superior to anything he wrote for Presley)


Here's a link - it is indeed a fantastic song.

phpBB [video]

Re: "Elvis at 70" in American Heritage Magazine

Mon Mar 03, 2014 3:56 am

DarrylMac wrote:I can't find a reference to Ben E King in the article. It does refer to a song written for BB King, rather than Ben E.King, as follows:

There are so many songs he should have done: 'There Must Be a Better World Somewhere' (a Doc Pomus song for B. B. King that's far superior to anything he wrote for Presley)


Here's a link - it is indeed a fantastic song.

phpBB [video]



Looks like r&b misread the sentence, although the quote proper is another dagger in the credibility of Mr. Friedwald's treatise.

"There Must Be a Better World Somewhere" is "far superior to anything he wrote for Presley" ... really?

A Mess Of Blues
Doin' The Best I Can
Surrender
(Marie's The Name) His Latest Flame
Little Sister
Suspicion
I Need Somebody To Lean On


Case closed.

Re: "Elvis at 70" in American Heritage Magazine

Mon Mar 03, 2014 11:01 am

poormadpeter wrote:

P.S. -- To pmp, who seems sad. Look, he's a rocker. A stone rocker. More than me, I guess, because I prefer the Comeback music to the early RCA music, even if it didn't change the world. (Elvis was just better in 1968 and 1969 than in the glory years, for me.) You really love the real old-fashioned stuff. You do. You really like Bing Crosby! (I just picked a name.) Not John Lydon. I can't see how that can change. But "goodwill" can still exist, I think.

Sent From My Phabulous Galaxy Note II Phablet Using Tapatalk 4


This has to be one of the condescending, patronising posts I have read on here in a very long time. I seem sad?! And no, I don't really like Bing Crosby, I never have. I do like swing music, though, and jazz - music which is selling by the bucket load at the moment via the resurgence in the genre thanks to Buble, who has just had 4 #1 albums on the bounce in the US. To say jazz and swing is old fashioned is no different to saying rock is old fashioned - its heyday was sixty years ago, but it's still going strong.


First off, I sincerely apologize if it came off that way! Definitely not my intention! You seemed very disappointed. I wish I had used a different word. Scratch "sad." Disappointed, and thus displeased. It's just a word. Looking at it again, it was the wrong one. I think you know what I meant. I would hope so.

Shoot, I'm a little disappointed. In fact, I'm sad. I like it when peace breaks out! But people are different from one another. If they weren't and always agreed, life would be boring as he**. I read the manner of disagreement as teasing, and I could see you read it as malevolent. So, I thought you were bummed about it. And I said that. Poor choice of word. Again, my apologies for any misunderstanding.

As for "Bing," I recalled some positive commentary, but I really just grabbed a name. Bing was THE crooner before Sinatra, and he inspired Sinatra in a variety of ways. Crosby changed pop singing forever with his embrace of the microphone. He was important, and very talented. Perhaps I made an assumption there. Shoot, I appreciate his work!

But, all right, let's say Ella. Although I wouldn't call her a crooner, certainly. So we'll stick to swing and jazz. Although Sinatra was a crooner, among other things. It gets a little complicated. So, I said "old-fashioned." To me, pre-rock is "old-fashioned." No matter how long in the tooth rock is getting, it's still "new."

How to explain? Bing wasn't all that old when he died, yet it seemed like he had been around forever! It's different with rock. Rockers are "forever young." At least in our minds. It's different with pre-rock performers. They seem "old-fashioned" even when young.

Again, I never meant it as condescending. Very sorry about that.

All the best,
rjm

Sent From My Phabulous Galaxy Note II Phablet Using Tapatalk 4

Re: "Elvis at 70" in American Heritage Magazine

Mon Mar 03, 2014 4:42 pm

drjohncarpenter wrote:
DarrylMac wrote:I can't find a reference to Ben E King in the article. It does refer to a song written for BB King, rather than Ben E.King, as follows:

There are so many songs he should have done: 'There Must Be a Better World Somewhere' (a Doc Pomus song for B. B. King that's far superior to anything he wrote for Presley)


Here's a link - it is indeed a fantastic song.

phpBB [video]



Looks like r&b misread the sentence, although the quote proper is another dagger in the credibility of Mr. Friedwald's treatise.

"There Must Be a Better World Somewhere" is "far superior to anything he wrote for Presley" ... really?

A Mess Of Blues
Doin' The Best I Can
Surrender
(Marie's The Name) His Latest Flame
Little Sister
Suspicion
I Need Somebody To Lean On


Case closed.


Sorry I misread it. I just associated Ben E King with Pomus/Shuman because he recored several of their tunes. yes BB King. Thanks for correcting me.

Re: "Elvis at 70" in American Heritage Magazine

Tue Mar 04, 2014 12:02 am

r&b wrote:
drjohncarpenter wrote:Looks like r&b misread the sentence, although the quote proper is another dagger in the credibility of Mr. Friedwald's treatise.

"There Must Be a Better World Somewhere" is "far superior to anything he wrote for Presley" ... really?

A Mess Of Blues
Doin' The Best I Can
Surrender
(Marie's The Name) His Latest Flame
Little Sister
Suspicion
I Need Somebody To Lean On


Case closed.


Sorry I misread it. I just associated Ben E King with Pomus/Shuman because he recored several of their tunes. yes BB King. Thanks for correcting me.


No worries, in the end it only helped support the idea that this critic really doesn't know the subject he is "elevating."

Plus I got to put in a good word -- and more -- about one of the very greatest Pomus-Shuman songs, "This Magic Moment."

Re: "Elvis at 70" in American Heritage Magazine

Tue Mar 04, 2014 1:13 am

drjohncarpenter wrote:Rather than go to that reprehensible site, I suggest anyone who is interested stay right here and revisit this January 2010 FECC topic from Revelator, who kindly included the entire article in his opening post:

"Elvis at 70" -- A Jazz Critic's Take on Elvis
http://www.elvis-collectors.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=1&t=50160


Thank you for the plug Doc. But find some of the reactions on this thread a bit disheartening.

As for Friedwald, our Wall Street Journal rock/jazz critic, and his Elvis article, anyone who doesn't see how the advent of Elvis in 1956 changed everything is someone whose opinion, however "positive," is seriously flawed.


Since rock and roll would have arisen whether or not Elvis was born, I can't really agree with you. Elvis certainly changed a lot, but we already know that.

He spends a lot of time essentially trying to diminish Presley's greatest decade, no surprise for a critic whose sensibilities and preferences exist outside the rock, blues, country, pop and gospel which Elvis draws upon at Sun and RCA in the 1950s.


Unless "Presley's greatest decade" is in serious danger of being under-praised or overlooked, I welcome a perspective that sheds light on the less familiar aspects of Elvis's career, especially when the perspective is from someone who isn't a typical rock fan. I've spent some time around jazz fans, and many were snobbish and dismissive about Elvis--it's good to read a piece from someone willing to admit that he was wrong and who rectified his fault by listening widely and deeply to Elvis, rather than stopping after the greatest hits. Friedwald occasionally displays weird taste (like when he knocks "His Latest Flame") but his knowledge of pre-rock popular music helps place Elvis in a better context:

Presley's innovation wasn't that he sounded either black or like a hillbilly; it was the brilliant way he drew on all three strains of pop music: blues, country, and traditional 'classic' pop (that of the crooners, big bands, and Broadway shows). And though the country and blues influences were probably what most attracted the teenagers of 1956, in retrospect Presley is clearly a crooner. He comes out of a very clear tradition of great male singers of the great American songbook, especially Bing Crosby, Al Jolson, Billy Eckstine, Dean Martin, and, to an extent, Frank Sinatra--as well as the leading crooners of the idioms of the blues, like Louis Jordan, and of country, like Eddy Arnold [...] Whether he was drawing on Nashville, Mississippi Delta, or Tin Pan Alley traditions, Presley's greatest strength lay in ballads and love songs, of both the country and the city varieties. It would be foolish to deny that he was the King of Rock 'n' Roll, the idiom's first and greatest superstar. Yet who, exactly, are his children? He has almost nothing in common, vocally, with subsequent rock stars. To me, he doesn't sound anything like Ozzy Osbourne, David Bowie, Radiohead, or even the Beatles. But he does sound a lot like the previous generation of great male pop singers.


Sure, that passage tends to lean a little far in emphasizing Elvis's ties to pre-Rock pop. But given how often that music has been ignored and disparaged, it's good for the pendulum to swing back now and then.
As noted earlier, I like that Friedwald tries to get the public to look beyond the 50s. He discusses Elvis's gospel albums at length and calls them "probably his greatest work." He says that Elvis "continued to grow as an artist after 1960, and to my ears his post-Army work continued to get better and better"--a sentiment that bears repeating to the public, given the lesser visibility of that work. Friedwald even digs into the music of the film years to alert folks to lesser-known songs (I probably would have held off listening to Clambake if it wasn't for his praise of "A House That Has Everything"). If he is occasionally disparaging about some of the 50s songs, so be it: "Teddy Bear" can look after itself, and songs from outside that era have more need of the spotlight.

As I wrote in the original thread: "the rockist approach views American music as a set of gated communities, whereas it's really more of a huge city, and Elvis was a fundamentally cosmopolitan resident of that metropolis. He ranged all over it and went where he liked. Once more critics start understanding that had shared as much with Bing Crosby as he did with, say, Chuck Berry, (and was really more of a transitional figure than a the high priest of Rock'n'Roll) his artistic reputation might rise again, and people might start looking at his back catalog with new eyes."

Oh, and while I think there's some truth to Gore Vidal's assertion that The Wall Street Journal is America's only fascist newspaper, it doesn't mean everything published in it is necessarily fascist. :wink:

Re: "Elvis at 70" in American Heritage Magazine

Tue Mar 04, 2014 2:55 am

Revelator wrote:
drjohncarpenter wrote:Rather than go to that reprehensible site, I suggest anyone who is interested stay right here and revisit this January 2010 FECC topic from Revelator, who kindly included the entire article in his opening post:

"Elvis at 70" -- A Jazz Critic's Take on Elvis
http://www.elvis-collectors.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=1&t=50160


Thank you for the plug Doc. But find some of the reactions on this thread a bit disheartening.

As for Friedwald, our Wall Street Journal rock/jazz critic, and his Elvis article, anyone who doesn't see how the advent of Elvis in 1956 changed everything is someone whose opinion, however "positive," is seriously flawed.


Since rock and roll would have arisen whether or not Elvis was born, I can't really agree with you. Elvis certainly changed a lot, but we already know that.

He spends a lot of time essentially trying to diminish Presley's greatest decade, no surprise for a critic whose sensibilities and preferences exist outside the rock, blues, country, pop and gospel which Elvis draws upon at Sun and RCA in the 1950s.


Unless "Presley's greatest decade" is in serious danger of being under-praised or overlooked, I welcome a perspective that sheds light on the less familiar aspects of Elvis's career, especially when the perspective is from someone who isn't a typical rock fan. I've spent some time around jazz fans, and many were snobbish and dismissive about Elvis--it's good to read a piece from someone willing to admit that he was wrong and who rectified his fault by listening widely and deeply to Elvis, rather than stopping after the greatest hits. Friedwald occasionally displays weird taste (like when he knocks "His Latest Flame") but his knowledge of pre-rock popular music helps place Elvis in a better context:

Presley's innovation wasn't that he sounded either black or like a hillbilly; it was the brilliant way he drew on all three strains of pop music: blues, country, and traditional 'classic' pop (that of the crooners, big bands, and Broadway shows). And though the country and blues influences were probably what most attracted the teenagers of 1956, in retrospect Presley is clearly a crooner. He comes out of a very clear tradition of great male singers of the great American songbook, especially Bing Crosby, Al Jolson, Billy Eckstine, Dean Martin, and, to an extent, Frank Sinatra--as well as the leading crooners of the idioms of the blues, like Louis Jordan, and of country, like Eddy Arnold [...] Whether he was drawing on Nashville, Mississippi Delta, or Tin Pan Alley traditions, Presley's greatest strength lay in ballads and love songs, of both the country and the city varieties. It would be foolish to deny that he was the King of Rock 'n' Roll, the idiom's first and greatest superstar. Yet who, exactly, are his children? He has almost nothing in common, vocally, with subsequent rock stars. To me, he doesn't sound anything like Ozzy Osbourne, David Bowie, Radiohead, or even the Beatles. But he does sound a lot like the previous generation of great male pop singers.


Sure, that passage tends to lean a little far in emphasizing Elvis's ties to pre-Rock pop. But given how often that music has been ignored and disparaged, it's good for the pendulum to swing back now and then.
As noted earlier, I like that Friedwald tries to get the public to look beyond the 50s. He discusses Elvis's gospel albums at length and calls them "probably his greatest work." He says that Elvis "continued to grow as an artist after 1960, and to my ears his post-Army work continued to get better and better"--a sentiment that bears repeating to the public, given the lesser visibility of that work. Friedwald even digs into the music of the film years to alert folks to lesser-known songs (I probably would have held off listening to Clambake if it wasn't for his praise of "A House That Has Everything"). If he is occasionally disparaging about some of the 50s songs, so be it: "Teddy Bear" can look after itself, and songs from outside that era have more need of the spotlight.

As I wrote in the original thread: "the rockist approach views American music as a set of gated communities, whereas it's really more of a huge city, and Elvis was a fundamentally cosmopolitan resident of that metropolis. He ranged all over it and went where he liked. Once more critics start understanding that had shared as much with Bing Crosby as he did with, say, Chuck Berry, (and was really more of a transitional figure than a the high priest of Rock'n'Roll) his artistic reputation might rise again, and people might start looking at his back catalog with new eyes."

Oh, and while I think there's some truth to Gore Vidal's assertion that The Wall Street Journal is America's only fascist newspaper, it doesn't mean everything published in it is necessarily fascist. :wink:


At last some sense. The comments that Friedwald makes about Elvis being a crooner at heart is proven for me in the choice of songs he made for the private recordings in 1953 and 1954 - all of them ballads, and one of them (My Happiness) associated as much with jazz artists (Ella Fitzgerald and the Pied Pipers both had hits with in the late 1940s) as country. And his style at this point (if he actually had a style at this point) is more crooner than anything else. What's more, two other songs from the Sun years (I Don't Care if the Sun Don't Shine and Blue Moon) have close ties to the Great American Songbook and/or those associated with it.

As for the disparaging remarks (from Doc and the others) about Friedwald being a jazz critic and therefore somehow should keep his nose out of the Elvis world...perhaps it is worth reminding people that the oft-mentioned Robert Matthew-Walker - the author of the first full-length critique of the music rather than the man - earned his living as a classical pianist. It seems odd to me that Friedwald is looked down upon by DJC, and yet he turned to Matthew-Walker in a thread last year when trying to validate a point he was making about the worth of Hey Jude! Slight hypocrisy, I believe. Surely if someone from the jazz world shouldn't write about Elvis, neither should a classical musician (and Friedwald writes with more depth and perception than the Matthew-Walker ever does).

Re: "Elvis at 70" in American Heritage Magazine

Tue Mar 04, 2014 3:05 am

I don't want to get in the middle of Peter and Doc's ongoing death-match (get a colosseum you two!), but I will say that my perspective is formed by that of the "dean of American rock critics" Robert Christgau, who places Elvis as a transitional figure between pre-and-post-rock music. That makes me sympathetic to anyone who contextualizes Elvis in that manner, as Friedwald does, even if he slightly overdoes it.

Incidentally Peter, I was browsing the Nitrateville forum and clicked on a post that led me to your blog, which I enjoyed reading (I also like silent film). I didn't realize you were the author until I visited this forum and saw your avatar!

Re: "Elvis at 70" in American Heritage Magazine

Tue Mar 04, 2014 3:44 am

Revelator wrote:I don't want to get in the middle of Peter and Doc's ongoing death-match (get a colosseum you two!), but I will say that my perspective is formed by that of the "dean of American rock critics" Robert Christgau, who places Elvis as a transitional figure between pre-and-post-rock music. That makes me sympathetic to anyone who contextualizes Elvis in that manner, as Friedwald does, even if he slightly overdoes it.

Incidentally Peter, I was browsing the Nitrateville forum and clicked on a post that led me to your blog, which I enjoyed reading (I also like silent film). I didn't realize you were the author until I visited this forum and saw your avatar!


Tell it to the Marines! ;)

Re: "Elvis at 70" in American Heritage Magazine

Tue Mar 04, 2014 5:46 am

Revelator wrote:
drjohncarpenter wrote:As for Friedwald, our Wall Street Journal rock/jazz critic, and his Elvis article, anyone who doesn't see how the advent of Elvis in 1956 changed everything is someone whose opinion, however "positive," is seriously flawed.


Since rock and roll would have arisen whether or not Elvis was born, I can't really agree with you. Elvis certainly changed a lot, but we already know that.


My perspective is not just the rise of rock 'n' roll but everything that changed with the appearance in popular culture of Elvis. Do I need to mention those who have written from a historical perspective about this, many of whom are not music critics? The WSJ writer does not embrace this reality and, it seems, neither do you. That's a shame.

Revelator wrote:
drjohncarpenter wrote:He spends a lot of time essentially trying to diminish Presley's greatest decade, no surprise for a critic whose sensibilities and preferences exist outside the rock, blues, country, pop and gospel which Elvis draws upon at Sun and RCA in the 1950s.


Unless "Presley's greatest decade" is in serious danger of being under-praised or overlooked, I welcome a perspective that sheds light on the less familiar aspects of Elvis's career, especially when the perspective is from someone who isn't a typical rock fan.


There is definitely a sense that his first decade of music, by your use of parentheses not one you consider his greatest, is indeed being lost. Retail no longer looks kindly on the early Presley recordings. For example, 2012's A Boy From Tupelo never stood a chance as a retail product. And you misrepresent his exclusionary implications of this period. If Elvis is a "crooner at heart," many of the things we consider revolutionary are merely accidents, or afterthoughts. That dog don't hunt.

Re: "Elvis at 70" in American Heritage Magazine

Tue Mar 04, 2014 6:48 am

drjohncarpenter wrote:My perspective is not just the rise of rock 'n' roll but everything that changed with the appearance in popular culture of Elvis. Do I need to mention those who have written from a historical perspective about this, many of whom are not music critics?


Even Peter Guralnick has said rock'n'roll would have taken off without Elvis. He helped popularize it, but the revolution would have happened regardless. What may given Elvis a leg-up over his competitors was that he also a romantic idol--not something that could said about Jerry Lee Lewis or Little Richard--that was just at home singing "Love Me Tender" or quasi-cool jazz like "Heartbreak Hotel."

There is definitely a sense that his first decade of music, by your use of parentheses not one you consider his greatest, is indeed being lost. Retail no longer looks kindly on the early Presley recordings. For example, 2012's A Boy From Tupelo never stood a chance as a retail product.


Not a convincing example. Good Sun-era CD compilations have been filling the market for nearly three decades, and A Boy From Tupelo--a pricey set that not only included multiple CDs but also a book--was clearly meant for collectors. I suspect that Elvis's 50s music still sells more than his other work--certainly more than the movie and gospel music Friedwald praises--whether by itself or as the primary focus of greatest hits albums. For what it's worth, I consider the 60s to be Elvis's greatest decade of music--as well his worst.

And you misrepresent his exclusionary implications of this period. If Elvis is a "crooner at heart," many of the things we consider revolutionary are merely accidents, or afterthoughts. That dog don't hunt.


But many things that we consider revolutionary are merely accidents or afterthoughts, starting with Elvis cutting up in the studio with "That's Alright." He was hardly thinking that he'd change history when he sang that. Saying Elvis was a "crooner at heart" is slightly reductive, but if Elvis was a rocker at heart, the majority of his recordings belie that.

Re: "Elvis at 70" in American Heritage Magazine

Tue Mar 04, 2014 8:10 am

I don't know if it's true that Rock n' roll would have took off regardless of Elvis.

I doubt it.

Re: "Elvis at 70" in American Heritage Magazine

Tue Mar 04, 2014 8:28 am

brian wrote:I don't know if it's true that Rock n' roll would have took off regardless of Elvis.
I doubt it.


It had already taken off--Chuck Berry, Fats Domino, Little Richard and Bill Haley had already enjoyed big hits before Elvis became nationally known with "Heartbreak Hotel." None of those artists were influenced by Elvis and none of those hits ("Maybellene,""Ain't That a Shame," "Shake, Rattle, and Roll," and "Tutti Frutti") owed anything to Elvis, though he certainly played a big part in creating an atmosphere that gave Black artists greater exposure.
Undoubtedly rock and roll would not have hit with such impact without Elvis, but it would have still caused a sensation.

Re: "Elvis at 70" in American Heritage Magazine

Tue Mar 04, 2014 9:02 am

Revelator wrote:
brian wrote:I don't know if it's true that Rock n' roll would have took off regardless of Elvis.
I doubt it.


It had already taken off--Chuck Berry, Fats Domino, Little Richard and Bill Haley had already enjoyed big hits before Elvis became nationally known with "Heartbreak Hotel." None of those artists were influenced by Elvis and none of those hits ("Maybellene,""Ain't That a Shame," "Shake, Rattle, and Roll," and "Tutti Frutti") owed anything to Elvis, though he certainly played a big part in creating an atmosphere that gave Black artists greater exposure.
Undoubtedly rock and roll would not have hit with such impact without Elvis, but it would have still caused a sensation.


I mean it might not have stayed popular and been a fad

Like Disco music or the mambo.

Re: "Elvis at 70" in American Heritage Magazine

Tue Mar 04, 2014 9:41 am

brian wrote:I mean it might not have stayed popular and been a fad
Like Disco music or the mambo.


That could be, but by 1958-9 the first generation of rock and rollers was already on the rocks--Elvis in the army, Little Richard in the ministry, Chuck Berry under arrest, Jerry Lee Lewis disgraced, Buddy Holly dead, etc. In a sense, the "fad" had lasted for four or five years, and when Elvis returned, his hits were either toned-down rock'n'roll numbers or Italianate ballads. The British invasion not only inspired a harder pop sound, but it also brought attention back to the first wave rock'n'rollers. I suspect that might have happened even without Elvis, though I'm of course engaging in counterfactual history.