There are certain questions which you can answer in the middle of a live set, things like “Can you play [insert song]?” or “Where is the bar?” or “Is the drummer single?” but other certain questions require more thought, more time and more consideration. During a recent gig a guy came up mid-set and said what I thought was “What is your favourite song?” I looked at him and said “Did you just ask what my favourite song is?” He nodded. What a time to ask I thought. He waited as if I was considering an answer, clearly I wasn’t, the first reason is that I don’t really know what my favourite song is? Thats like asking what particular grain of rice I enjoyed in the last curry I ate or whats my favourite Samuel L. Jackson line, there are so many good ones you can’t really single one out. The second reason is that it seems like a really personal question and didn’t really want to tell him anyway. I was thinking about what I was going to play next, when the next break was and how hungry I was. Then he said “Come on mate, tell me your favourite Elvis song.”
“Elvis song?” Looking at him weirdly, I hadn’t been playing any Elvis Presley or even anything remotely similar so I was momentarily confused. Then it hit me…oh I see, you’re one of those people, someone who not just likes a bit of Elvis, but believes Elvis was some kind of god-like singer,dancer,actor, record producer, personality and all-round guru who started rock n’ roll as we know it and that all other musicians should bow down in his greatness and learn all of his songs, movie lines and dance moves. I have musicians that I feel that way about, but none of them are Elvis Presley. Don’t get me wrong, Elvis Presley was an amazing performer. But its obvious to anyone educated that he copied some even more amazing black guys and was uniquely poised in the history of Middle America to be marketed at the very right time. Though you could argue that all musicians do some degree of this copying, but I think Sam Phillips and Colonel Tom were more blinded by dollar signs than raw talent.
There are some standout Elvis moments for me though, I love Return to Sender and Heartbreak Hotel, but my favourite is Suspicious Minds….in all its Vegas jumpsuit wearing deepfried peanut butter and bacon sandwich glory. So I told him what it was “Can you play it” he said. Hmmm thinking We’re caught in a trap…G sounds about right… Why do I know some of the words to this song…… So I did it. Well when I say I did it, it was more like some of the first verse and chorus then somehow segued into another song in G that Mr Elvis Lover was equally happy with though I reckon he had no clue what it was.
But for fear of having my house firebombed by rabid Elvis Presley freaks in their mid-sixties I will publicly recognise the genius of Elvis Presley. Though now I can think of about 30 ‘Elvis’ songs that I like even way better than Suspicious Minds, starting with Watching the Detectives. 🙂