Thursday, August 28, 2014

Still the King


Singer Elvis Presley performing in Providence, Rhode Island, in 1977, three months before
TODAY is the 37th anniversary of Elvis Presley’s death. He was only 42 when he died, so pretty soon he will have been dead for longer than he was alive. Already he has receded so far from living memory that it has become hard to talk sense about him. That doesn’t mean, of course, that people have stopped talking about him altogether. Quite the reverse; the fog of chatter that envelops him keeps getting thicker. The man can hardly be discerned through the haze of impersonations, pop allusions, Andy Warhol prints, “sightings”, mash-ups, remixes. 


Do we need to talk about him more? Yes, provided we can find a way of slicing through all that image-related static and reminding ourselves there was a human being behind it. We have become strangely callous on the subject of Elvis. For a man who brought a lot of people a lot of pleasure, and whose worst sins were committed against his own body, he certainly cops a lot of posthumous stick. We joke cynically about fat Elvis, Vegas Elvis, dead-on-the-can-with-a-cheeseburger Elvis. What other man in history has taken so much flak for letting himself go? [read more]

Friday, August 15, 2014

Vodka, coke, Keith, candour

The cover of Keith Richards’s new book.The front cover of Keith Richards on Keith Richards features a photograph of the great man taken circa 1990. In one of his gnarled hands a burnt-down cigarette smoulders perilously close to the knuckles, its silver fumes mingling seamlessly with the mushroom cloud of his hairdo. On the middle finger of the same hand reposes the skull ring he started wearing in the 1970s as a memento mori – his lone concession so far to the concept of death. The middle finger of his other hand is raised directly at the camera. But the veteran eyes twinkle, as if to assure you that he flips you off out of love.

Keith is not averse to playing up to his fried image, or down to it, so that his persona has become a parody of a parody. He shambles, he croaks, he looks like Wile E. Coyote after an accident with some gunpowder. But Keith is an unusual star in many respects, and one of them is that he gets more interesting when you listen to him, not less. He is at his most engaging on the page, where his words are not obliged to pass through his ravaged face ... [read more]