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the pioneer of Dylan Studies; writer, public speaker, critic; became a Doctor of Letters in 2015 (awarded by the University of York, UK)

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Thursday, August 16, 2007


Thirty years since Elvis Presley died. I certainly remember where I was when I heard the news. I was staying overnight in an old friend's London flat, and had to go in to work at United Artists Records (I'd temporarily taken refuge from the cold of freelance writing) . . . and I travelled in to Oxford Circus on the top deck of a London bus, stunned by the momentous enormity of it all, and I naively assumed that the record company would simply cease to function, would close down, for the day, in an apt and direct recognition that this was the death of the man and artist without whom none of us etc etc... and of course it didn't happen. We were all supposed to carry on phoning and typing and bullshitting and twittering on about the Stranglers, or the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, or Shirley Bassey, or some no-hoper copycat punk act called something like Johnny Shite...

Anyway, now that's 30 years ago, and if Elvis were alive he'd be 72 years old, and according to BBC Radio 4 there are 200,000 Elvis imitators around the world, God help us. Here's the entry on Elvis Presley from The Bob Dylan Encyclopedia (much of which was re-worked from the material I wrote about him in the original version of Song & Dance Man in 1972): a small enough tribute, but a damn sight better than putting on a jump suit and a wig and trying to imitate a version of Elvis that had already become a travesty long before his death:

Presley, Elvis [1935 - 1977]
‘When I first heard Elvis’ voice I just knew that I wasn’t going to work for anybody; and nobody was going to be my boss... Hearing him for the first time was like busting out of jail’: Bob Dylan.

As everyone must know, Presley came from Tupelo, Mississippi, where he was born poor in the 1930s (8 January, 1935), and moved to Memphis with his mother and unemployed father at age 13; later he got a job driving a truck. (There’s a neat Dylan allusion to this, delivered in a tough, Presley voice, on the Basement Tapes song ‘Lo And Behold’: ‘Goin’ down t’ Tennessee! get me a truck or somethin’’.) Very much a Southerner, Presley said Yes Ma’am, No Sir to hostile press reporters, was inward with a simple gospelly religion (via The First Assembly Church of God) and loved the voice of Mahalia Jackson.

Presley had the formula for rock’n’roll within him: a natural upbringing on blues and country music in its living environment. Through his extraordinary fusion of hillbilly, country, blues and rhythm & blues, he changed everything. He gave youth its separate presence; he gave white adolescence its sexual freedom; he gave black music its rightful place at the forefront of American consciousness.

All this with the direct help of four other people and a recording less than two minutes long, in the summer of 1954. That first record, issued by Sun for distribution only in the South, was ARTHUR ‘Big Boy’ CRUDUP’s blues ‘That’s All Right’, sung with a kind of subdued freneticism that sounds hillbilly, amateurish and absolutely genuine. Elvis neither prettied up nor replicated a hot blues record that day. What he started into with his restless but sensitive rhythm guitar and his gloriously fluid, expressive voice was an astonishing and complete re-working of a blues record of no particular distinction released back in 1946, when Elvis Presley was an 11-year-old schoolboy still living in a homemade shack in East Tupelo.

When Elvis lit into the song, Sam Phillips knew it but was amazed that Elvis did, and taken aback at how freely he was refashioning it. Scotty Moore and Bill Black (lead guitarist and bass player with the Starlite Wranglers) didn’t know the song - they’d never heard anything like this from one of their contemporaries - but they joined in readily with a perfect musical match. They’d never have dreamt of it yet it made sense to them at once. Whole generations soon responded the same way.

How inward, how fundamental a strength, his under­standing of the blues. He went into that studio already knowing lots of blues: ‘We talked about the Crudup records I knew - “Cool Disposition”, “Rock Me Mama”, “Hey Mama”, “Everything’s All Right” and others, but settled for “That’s All Right”, one of my top favourites’, he said in a 1957 interview. Blues came to him naturally. ‘A Mess of Blues’; ‘One Night’; ‘That’s All Right’; ‘Reconsider Baby’ (the Lowell Fulson classic); ‘Blueberry Hill’; ‘Anyplace Is Paradise’; ‘Lawdy Miss Clawdy’; ‘It Feels So Right’; ‘Heartbreak Hotel’; listen to any of these today and the claim that Presley is a great white blues singer is hard to deny. Listen to Sun 209 now and it still shimmers and bounces off the walls with the sheer delight the musicians and singer are feeling at having found themselves and at the cathartic release this brings. You’re hearing the tingling air in the room at the moment of bold, inspired creation.

He makes it his own. As he does with the bluegrass classic on the other side, Bill Monroe’s ‘Blue Moon Of Kentucky’, a parallel re-invention. His later ‘Shake Rattle & Roll’ makes BIG JOE TURNER’s a different animal without compromising its animal nature, disproving the charge of making a cleaned-up product for whites. Elvis doesn’t flinch from the sexual raunch of ‘I bin over the hill and way down underneath / You make me roll my eyes and then you make me grit my teeth.’ In other words, Presley trusts himself absolutely to stick to lyrics that are low-down and dirty and, equally, to abandon verses that do nothing for him, often substituting lines from elsewhere or of his own invention. All his Sun sides do this. So much for Presley being ‘just’ a singer of other people’s songs.

He makes this then under-attended music his own, and in doing so makes it everybody’s: most especially letting it speak straight to the souls of the young. For the truth is, when we were that young, we couldn’t identify sexually with these older black singers: not because of their color but because we thought they sounded, well, elderly. At the very least they were clearly grown-ups. Even when they were exuding innuendo, they sounded like comfortable uncles. To young ears, Wynonie Harris makes ‘Meet me in the alley’ sound sedate, and Arthur Gunter sings ‘Baby Let’s Play House’ as if they’ll be choosing the curtains. Elvis transforms its mood, reclaiming gleefully the forbidden thrill of its suggestive propositioning for teenagers still trapped in their parents’ houses.

With an artistic self-knowledge beyond his years, he seized a music that thrilled him and made perfect sense to him as a vehicle for expressing his own vision, in such a way that it liberated millions. The upshot is a ‘copy’ or a ‘cover’ more original than the original.

Of course ‘originality’ wasn’t the point of the blues. It began as a communal music, and the great body of blues lyric poetry mainly comprises moveable stanzas shared between everybody from the city street-corner guitarist to the men in their forties before ever they recorded, who then found, like BLIND LEMON JEFFERSON, that banjo-picking Appalachian hillbillies were hearing them too.

Elvis’ fusion was therefore the inspired articulation of something long in the air. His originality lay partly in coming out with it, and partly in his brilliant perception that the mysterious music of middle-aged black men, sung in a patois largely shared by crackers like the Presleys, could be the perfect expressive form for pent-up white youth.

There need be no divides, he realised. And he changed the world when he opened his mouth and let out that uniquely yearning voice - that voice in which inner nobility is as audible as the need to bust free of a stultifying, gentility-filled future.

From 1956 to 1960, his music was golden and he was the untouchable and inaccessible prototype superstar. What, after that, went out of Presley’s world? All the sex; all that curious amalgam of insinuation and bluntness he had introduced; all the radiant and thrilling charisma that had more than compensated for the false posturing of everything in the pre­-Dylan years; all the therapeutic, role-distancing humour; an impeccable control in a strong voice that understood (rare thing then) nuance; and an avowing, ever-present nobility.

When he started, the two striking things in his music were lack of inhibition, and sex. Adolescents admired him because he could be socially unacceptable and get away with it, on stage and on record and in the mind, even if not more than once on the Ed Sullivan TV show. Sullivan was right, by his own lights, to take Presley’s hips out of camera-range: they were being rude. And certainly a lot of teen singers who came after him were to discover that getting up on stage and yelling Waaaaahhhh!!! is like exposing yourself in public without being stigmatized.

Sexually, Presley offered a new world, at any rate to whites, and offered it with a blunt statement of interests. There was none of the sycophantic ‘dating’ appeal that was the context of the most of the ’50s stars’ records. ‘At The Hop’, ‘Teenager In Love’, ‘Lonely Boy’: these were the typical titles of the time - but not for Elvis. His titles suited the black labels that announced them. Presley’s titles were ‘Trouble’, ‘I Got Stung’, ‘Jailhouse Rock’, ‘Paralysed’, ‘King Creole’ - these all fitted the various significant elements that made Presley a unique, thrusting and ominous force. He embodied an untapped violence (it lurks in that prophetic, pre-Pete Townsend line ‘He don’t stop playin’ till his guitar breaks’) that a song like ‘Trouble’ made explicit and the kind of hard bravado that ‘Jailhouse Rock’ merged with ecstasy. ‘Jailhouse Rock’ is a direct descendant of ‘Hound Dog’, where the voice seems to rage like King Kong in chains.

Most rock’n’roll stars tried to be aggressive and masculine, and made love to the stage microphone (GENE VINCENT most endearingly): but only Elvis Presley projected himself so well that he seemed often to be bearing down sexually on the listener. In the love songs he offered to the young and virginal a constant implication of prior sexual experience and a corresponding cynicism others could never bring off: ‘Hey baby - I ain’t askin’ much o’ you / No n-no n-no n-no no baby - ain’t askin’ much o’ you: / Just a big-uh big-uh big-uh hunk of love will do.’ In 1959 that came across as freshly candid, its message the forerunner of that line from Dylan’s ‘If You Gotta Go, Go Now’, ‘It’s not that I’m askin’ for anything you never gave before’. The two share the same ambiguity, the same ostensible politeness.

It was a unique stance at the time: unique, at least, in reaching the mass of white middle-class adolescents. Elvis was having sex with you while RICKY NELSON was singing ‘I hate to face your dad / Too bad / I know he’s gonna be mad / It’s late . . . / Hope this won’t be our last date’ and in the mournful, sexless world of Eddie Cochran (despite his macho posturing), ‘Six hot-dogs oughta be just right / After such a wonderful night.’ Presley, in contrast, got down to the eternal verities of’passion underlying the middle-class Saturday night: ‘If you wanna be loved, baby you gotta love me too / Cos I ain’t for no one-sided love affair: / Well a fair exchange ain’t no robbery / An’ the whole world knows that it’s true’. And ‘Why make me plead / For something you need?’

Presley’s cynicism had such pungency that it provided, over the years, a sharp, concerted attack on the two-faced conventions imposed on the children of the ’50s. His delivery gave a stylishness and authority to these open, soliciting songs that was utterly lacking in the other rock artists. Not just by sneers but by his pent-up tremble in the bass notes, the sudden, full-throated rasps and the almost confessional, mellow country moans. Presley was saying ‘Let’s fuck’ years before John and Paul were wanting to hold your hand. Millions of eager teenagers, weary of the pudge next door, could respond a good deal more honestly when Elvis sang ‘Stuck On You’, ‘Treat Me Nice’ and ‘Baby Lets Play House’. Even at his most melodic (which he was never afraid to be, and which he always carried off without false delicacy) there was a saving power.

A final point on Presley’s sexuality. It is true that the pre-rock chart-toppers and radio-favorites, the night-club stars whose idea of perfection was a Cole Porter song and the Nelson Riddle Orchestra, dealt with sex too - but never, never with passion. Physical contact, desire, sexual aspiration always come across From SINATRA, Tormé, Tony Bennett and the rest as a kind of world-weary joke that goes with old age. The standard it’s-one-in-the-morning-and-we’re-pretty-smooth treatments of ‘I’ve Got You Under My Skin’, ‘Night and Day’, etc, could as easily be addressed to the bottle as to the babe.

Against this lifeless background, Presley’s initial impact coast-to-coast in America, and in Britain also, was cataclysmic. Yet lack of inhibition, sex and the voice to carry it was not all that he offered. He also gave out a fair share of the vital humour that goes with the best hard-line rock and that FATS DOMINO, CHUCK BERRY and Little Richard all used very well: a humour that shows itself aware of outside values and of the inextricable mixture of the important and the trivial, the real and the stylized in the pop medium. And if you go back now to the original Presley recordings, the pungency and freshness of this humor can still hit home.

Where to begin, on how Presley influenced Dylan? It’s almost too all-embracing to bear delineation. But in the first place, Dylan would have heard at least part of his old blues material second-hand through Presley - to whom it seemed an entirely natural, fluid medium in which to express, well, everything. Elvis was a living demonstration of how this could be done. When we acknowledge that Dylan has worked the blues so strongly and resourcefully that he has given it something back, the nearest comparison must be to Presley.

You can see the extent of Dylan’s drawing on the poetry of pre-war blues in a song as ‘new’ as ‘It Takes A Lot To Laugh, It Takes A Train To Cry’ (and in a couple of earlier songs), from looking at just one such old blues, Leroy Carr’s ‘Alabama Woman Blues’: ‘Did you ever go down on the Mobile and K.C. Line / I just want to ask you, did you ever see that girl of mine / I rode the central and I hustled the L & N / The Alabama women, they live like section men… / Don’t the clouds look lonesome across the deep blue sea / Don’t my gal look good when she’s coming after me.’ But additionally, though by the nature of the process inseparably, Dylan’s lines draw in the couplet Presley sings so beautifully in the cathartic, lulled middle of his stormy Sun recording of ‘Milk Cow Blues Boogie’: ‘Don’t that sun look good goin’ down / Well don’t that old moon look lonesome when your baby’s not around?’

Here, in one revelatory musical moment, we glimpse how electrifyingly such stuff passes along. To hear Presley sing these lines is to hear it all: to hear the graceful, rueing heart of the old country blues - never better voiced than in the brilliant ellipse of the opening line of BLIND BLAKE’s ‘One Time Blues’ in 1927: ‘Ah the rising sun going down’ - yet to hear at the same moment the liberation of the soul that Elvis found in the blues almost thirty years later, a liberation he passed on to all of us whiteys when he first sang out - and in that same moment to hear too a sound that travels forward thirty-odd years to illuminate what Dylan has swirling around him when, on 1990’s Under The Red Sky song ‘10,000 Men’, he comes to sing its second line not as a full repeat of the first (‘Ten thousand men on a hill’, which might be thought abrupt and spare enough) but honed to the absolute minimalism of ‘Ten thousand men, hill,’ so that Dylan, sounding old as the hills himself (and pronouncing ‘he-yi-ull’ exactly as Elvis always did), stands shoulder to shoulder across the sixty-year gap with Blind Blake. Sure has been a long hard climb; yet it has been a shared journey, and the terrain is constantly replenished.

(When Dylan recorded ‘Milk Cow Blues’ in 1962, he used part of Kokomo Arnold’s lyric, part of Presley’s, part of ROBERT JOHNSON’s ‘Milkcow’s Calf Blues’ and part of LEADBELLY’s ‘Good Morning Blues’, shuffling these elements around in the course of two still-unreleased takes.)

Yet Dylan’s debt to Presley reaches beyond the blues. We find Elvis in many corners of Dylan’s canon. Perhaps it was even hearing Elvis’ belatedly-issued version of Lonnie Johnson’s hit ‘TOMORROW NIGHT’ that reminded Dylan of the song, and prompted its inclusion on his 1992 album Good As I Been To You. More certainly, Dylan’s lyric and tune on ‘One More Night’, on Nashville Skyline, are heavily reminiscent of Elvis’ ‘Blue Moon Of Kentucky’. ‘That’s All Right’ is down there in the Bob Dylan songbook. The clear allusion to Floyd Cramer’s piano-style on the end of ‘Tell Me That It Isn’t True’ is an allusion to a style much associated with Elvis and his RCA Victor studios at Nashville. The opening lines of ‘Lay Lady Lay’ do what Presley did all along - it’s the same kind of ennobled overture that comes across in a hundred Elvis songs - while the immaculate soulfulness of ‘I Threw It All Away’ is like Presley’s great ‘Is It So Strange?’. Elvis’ ‘Milkcow Blues Boogie’ and ‘Bob Dylan’s 115th Dream’ both begin and then stop and start again. Elvis says ‘Hold it fellas!’ and Dylan’s producer echoes this with ‘Hey, wait a minute fellas!’ It may have been Dylan who, recognising the parallel, insisted on retaining it on the released version of the track. If so, it is not the only Dylan amendment of a Presley line. In the much later Elvis song ‘Cotton Candy Land’ there is the line ‘We’ll ride upon a big white swan’; Dylan’s knowingly gauche ‘Country Pie’ amends it to ‘Saddle me up a big white goose!’ And it is impossible, when Dylan was recording his countrified version of ‘Blue Moon’ for the 1970 album Self Portrait, that he could have forgotten the eerie cowboy version - complete with the clip-clop of horses’ hooves - that Elvis had recorded in the 1950s.

There are also many take-offs of Elvis slipped into Dylan’s work - but they are never so much take-offs as tributes. Presley is melodramatic, and Dylan mocks that, mocks the exaggeration; but always he does it with a smile that confesses he can’t help falling for Presley, that he notices the good things just as keenly. These take-offs/tributes include the end, musically, of ‘Peggy Day’. Elvis’ songs often end like this, right from his very early ‘I Got A Woman’ through to ‘Beach Boy Blues’, ‘Steppin’ Out Of Line’ and ‘Rock-a-Hula Baby’. On the Basement Tapes version of ‘Quinn The Eskimo (The Mighty Quinn)’, Dylan’s voice is deliberately near to the Presley voice of ‘Trouble’. And two versions of ‘Nothing Was Delivered’ from those sessions evoke the Presley world. The one with the heavy piano backing is a finely measured acknowledgement of Elvis’ handling of Domino’s ‘Blueberry Hill’; the version with Dylan’s monologue is a wide-open laugh at Presley’s posturing monologues on ‘That’s When Your Heartaches Begin’, ‘I’m Yours’, ‘Are You Lonesome Tonight?’ and, again, ‘Trouble’. On the last of these especially, Elvis ‘talks tough’, like a young Lee Marvin; Dylan simply makes the hollowness transparent by using the same bravado on weaker lines. Elvis stands there as if all-powerful, delivering the goods; Dylan comes on like a swindled consumer to talk from positions of weakness in the same posturing voice: ‘Now you must, you must provide some answers / For what you sell has not bin received / And the sooner you come up with those answers / You know the sooner you can leave.’ On the Pat Garrett & Billy The Kid soundtrack album, Dylan does three versions of a song called ‘Billy’, the last of which, ‘Billy 7’, is actually a beautiful imitation of how that Lee Marvin imitator James Coburn would sound if he were singing it. And the effect of this - as he sings with an astonishingly deep voice set against sleazy, smoky guitar lines and even sound effects of ominous thunder - is to give us a Dylan parodying exactly the kind of toughness that belongs to Presley.

Dylan also began to come clean, at the end of the 1960s, in acknowledging the special place Elvis Presley occupies in his canon of influences. First, when Rolling Stone asked whether there were any particular artists he liked to have record his songs, he replied (and was widely assumed to be joking at the time), ‘Yeah, Elvis Presley. I liked Elvis Presley. Elvis Presley recorded a song of mine. That’s the one recording I treasure the most… it was called “TOMORROW IS A LONG TIME”.’

The New Morning song, ‘Went To See The Gypsy’ seems to be about going to see Presley, and when Dylan’s record-company issued their ragbag album of warm-ups and reject tracks, Dylan (1973), it contained Bob Dylan versions of two Presley hits. Just as Elvis made versions of Dylan’s ‘Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right’ and ‘Tomorrow Is A Long Time’ (and, it was eventually revealed, a ‘Blowin’ In The Wind’), so Dylan had recorded Elvis’ ‘A Fool Such As I’ (on the Basement Tapes and then again at the first of the Self Portrait sessions) and a most lovely, fond, humorous version of ‘Can’t Help Falling In Love’ (a warm-up for an early New Morning session), plus, on the Basement Tapes, a version of another song much associated with Elvis’ Sun recording of it, ‘I Forgot To Remember To Forget’. Two decades later, accepting an American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers Founders Award in a Los Angeles restaurant, Dylan even reached for the cornier side of Elvis, saying: ‘I would like to quote, like Elvis Presley, when he accepted some award, and he said: “Without a song, the day would never end / Without a song, the road would never bend / When things go wrong, man ain’t got a friend / Without a song.”’ (Presley had never recorded ‘Without A Song’, but had, as Dylan suggests, read out part of the lyrics during his acceptance speech when presented with an award as one of the Ten Outstanding Young Men Of America by the Jaycees in 1971, the day after this ‘young man’ turned 36.)

The spirit of Presley’s last year as a great artist, 1960, glides around the edges of Dylan’s Oh Mercy album (see entry for details), and then on the next album, 1990’s Under The Red Sky, Dylan gives Presley a sympathetic namecheck, in ‘TV Talkin’ Song’, when a snarl against the intrusiveness of television ends with ‘sometimes you gotta do like Elvis did and shoot the damn thing out’. (Elvis had done this in Asheville, NC, while watching TV after a concert, July 22, 1975.) And after Dylan’s recovery from illness in 1997, Dylan commented: ‘I really thought I’d be seeing Elvis soon.’

On September 30, 1994, Dylan went into a New York City studio and recorded multiple takes of three songs associated with Elvis, ‘Lawdy Miss Clawdy’, ‘Money Honey’ and the glorious ‘Any Way You Want Me (That’s How I Will Be)’. None has been released, and only a take of the third song has circulated - and it’s the sort of performance only a Dylan fan would appreciate, but it’s a lovely thing. The opening electric guitar noise replicates 1957 so beautifully it’s heartstopping; then Dylan’s voice comes in weakly on the very phrase ‘I’ll be strong’, but while he can’t throw his head back and let out those orgasmic sobbing moans like Elvis, yet he finds a way to sing it that is at once a truly touching tribute and a re-invention: a way of translating those moans into his own expressive cadences, calling back across time to convey the numinousness of the 1950s moment anew. It’s absurd that this recording remains unreleased.

In June 1972 Bob Dylan was ‘spotted’ attending one of Presley’s four concerts at Madison Square Garden, NYC. The idea, suggested by ‘Went To See The Gypsy’, that Dylan might have met Presley in Minnesota (a) when both were famous (b) after a Presley Las Vegas stint and (c) ahead of the New Morning songs being recorded, is impossible, though they might have met elsewhere. That Dylan might have seen Presley in concert in Minnesota is another matter: Presley first performed in Minnesota in St.Paul, 13 May 1956; next, 15 years later, was Minneapolis, 5 November 1971; then St.Paul, 2 & 3 October 1974; Duluth, 16 October 1976 and Minneapolis the following night; Duluth, 29 April 1977; and lastly St.Paul, 30 April 1977.

Presley also recorded a very foreshortened version of one further Dylan song, ‘I Shall Be Released’: he sings the chorus twice, unaccompanied, and then stops, adding the single word ‘Dylan!’, as if to identify the composer for the benefit of others in the studio. It is impossible to interpret Presley’s attitude to Dylan from the tone of voice with which he speaks his name. On stage, however, in one of the 1970 Las Vegas concerts, he suggests an attitude toward Dylan’s voice when he says to the audience: ‘My mouth is so dry it feels like Bob Dylan spent the night in it.’

Elvis didn’t need to listen to Dylan himself to pick up his material. As Peter Guralnick writes, about an Elvis session of April 1966: ‘...before going to the studio, they listened to Peter, Paul & Mary In Concert or the trio’s latest, See What Tomorrow Brings, and Odetta Sings Dylan was never far from the turntable. Elvis showed a keen interest in IAN & SYLVIA as well, along with his usual gospel, blues, and rhythm and blues favourites, and when they all got together to sing, he was as likely to suggest Bob Dylan’s “Blowin’ In The Wind” as a Statesmen number…’ (Odetta Sings Dylan included ‘Don’t Think Twice It’s All Right’ and ‘Tomorrow Is A Long Time’, and Peter, Paul & Mary In Concert unsurprisingly included ‘Blowin’ In The Wind’. ‘I Shall Be Released’, of course, came later.)

Years ago, when Dylan was held to be the absolute opposite, the antithesis, of Presley, it would have been, if not actually heretical, at least controversial to argue that Dylan could owe Elvis anything. Now, recognition has grown for what Presley has achieved, even though the clichés and artifice that are a discountable part of it for those of us who heard his early work when it was new, must surely be too obtrusive for new listeners except on a few early classic tracks. But Dylan grew up with it, and would have grown up a different person, and a different artist - perhaps not an artist at all - if not for Elvis.
Elvis Presley died at Graceland, Memphis TN, on August 16, 1977. He was 42 years old.

[Elvis Presley: ‘That’s All Right’, Memphis, Jul 5-6, 1954, Sun 209, Memphis, 1954; ‘A Mess Of Blues’, Nashville, 20-21 Mar 1960, RCA Victor, NYC, 1960; ‘One Night’, Hollywood, 23 Feb 1957, RCA Victor 47-7410, 1958 (RCA 1100, London, 1959); ‘Reconsider Baby’, Nashville, 3-4 Apr 1960, issued Elvis Is Back, RCA Victor LPM/LSP 2231 (RCA RD27171 & SF 5060 - mono & stereo - London), 1960; ‘Blueberry Hill’, Hollywood, 19 Jan 1957, Just For You (EP), RCA Victor EPA 4041 (Elvis Presley, RCX 104, London), 1957; ‘Anyplace Is Paradise’, Hollywood, 2 Sep 1956, Elvis, RCA Victor LPM 1382, 1956 (Elvis (Rock ’N’ Roll no.2), HMV CLP 1105, London, 1957); ‘Lawdy Miss Clawdy’, NYC, 3 Feb 1956, RCA Victor 20/47-6642, 1956 (HMV POP 408, 1957: B-side of different single); ‘It Feels So Right’, 20-21 Mar 1960, Elvis Is Back; ‘Heartbreak Hotel’, Nashville, 10-11 Jan 1956, RCA Victor 20-6420 & 47-6420 (78rpm & 45rpm), NYC (HMV Records POP 182, London), 1956; ‘Tomorrow Night’, Memphis, 10 Sep 1954, first on Elvis For Everyone, RCA Victor LPM-3450, 1965, but first issued properly on Reconsider Baby, RCA Victor AFL1-5418, 1985 & CD-reissued on the essential The King Of Rock’n’Roll - The Complete 50s Masters, BMG/RCA PD90689(5), 1992. ‘Blue Moon Of Kentucky’, as ‘That’s All Right’; ‘Shake Rattle & Roll’; ‘Baby Let’s Play House’, Memphis, 5 Feb 1955, Sun 217, Memphis, 1955 (HMV POP 305, 1957). ‘Trouble’, Hollywood, 15 Jan 1958, & ‘King Creole’, Hollywood, 23 Jan 1958, were both written and recorded for the film King Creole, Paramount Studios, US, directed Michael Curtiz, 1958 (based on Harold Robbins’ novel A Stone For Danny Fisher, 1952); King Creole, RCA Victor LPM 1884, NYC (RCA Victor RD 27088, London), 1958. ‘I Got Stung’, Nashville, 11 Jun 1958, RCA Victor 47-7410, 1958 (RCA 1100, London, 1959). ‘Jailhouse Rock’, Hollywood, 30 Apr 1957 (title song from the MGM film, US, directed Richard Thorpe, 1957), RCA Victor 20/47-7035 (RCA 1028), 1957: a no.1 hit single USA & UK, and also title-track of a no.1 EP, RCA Victor EPA 4114, 1957 (RCX 106, 1958). ‘Paralyzed’, Hollywood, 2 Sep 1956, on Elvis, 1956 and EP Elvis Vol.1, EPA 992, 1956 (UK single on HMV POP 378, 1957); ‘Hound Dog’, NYC, 2 Jul 1956, RCA Victor 20/47-6604 (HMV POP 249), 1956; ‘A Big Hunk O’ Love’, Nashville, 10 Jun 1958, RCA Victor 47-7600, (RCA 1136), 1959; ‘One Sided Love Affair’, NYC, 30 Jan 1956, on Elvis Presley, RCA Victor LPM 1254 (Elvis Presley (Rock ’N’ Roll), HMV CLP 1093), 1956 (his first LP, & a US no.1); ‘Give Me The Right’, Nashville, 12-13 Mar 1961, Something For Everybody, RCA Victor LPM/LSP-2370 (RD-27224 / SF 5106, London), 1961; ‘Stuck On You’, Nashville, 20-21 Mar 1960, RCA Victor (RCA 1187), 1960; ‘Treat Me Nice’, Hollywood, 5 Sep 1957, B-side of ‘Jailhouse Rock’; ‘Milkcow Blues Boogie’, Memphis, prob. 15 Nov or 20 Dec, 1954; Sun 215, Memphis, 1955 (1st issued UK on EP Good Rockin’ Tonight, HMV 7EG8256, 1957); ‘Is It So Strange?’, Hollywood, 19 Jan 1957, on the EP Just For You (Presley had earlier sung the song at the legendary ‘million dollar quartet’ jam-session at Sun Studios with Carl Perkins, JERRY LEE LEWIS and, briefly, JOHNNY CASH: Memphis, 4 or 11 Dec 1956); ‘Cotton Candy Land’, Hollywood, Aug 1962, It Happened At The World’s Fair, RCA Victor LPM/LSP-2697 (RD/SF 7565, London), 1963; ‘Blue Moon’, Memphis, 19 Aug 1954, RCA Victor 20/47-6640, NYC, 1956; ‘I Got A Woman’, Nashville, 10 Jan 1956, Elvis Presley; ‘Beach Boy Blues’ & ‘Rock-A-Hula Baby’, Hollywood, 23 Mar 1961, Blue Hawaii, RCA Victor LPM/LSP-2426 (RCA RD27238 / SF 5115), 1961 (‘Rock-A-Hula Baby’ was also a single); ‘Steppin’ Out Of Line’, Hollywood, 22 Mar 1961, Pot Luck, LPM/LSP-2523 (RD 27265 / SF 5135), 1962; ‘That’s When Your Heartaches Begin’, Hollywood, 13 Jan 1957, B-side of ‘All Shook Up’, RCA 20-6870 (78rpm) & 47-6870 (45rpm), March 1957; ‘I’m Yours’, Nashville, 25-26 Jun 1961, Pot Luck; ‘Are You Lonesome Tonight?’, Nashville, 3-4 Apr 1960, RCA Victor 47-7810 (‘living stereo’ version 61-7810), (RCA 1216, London), 1960; ‘Tomorrow Is A Long Time’, Nashville, 25-28 May 1966 (the sessions include musicians Floyd Cramer, PETE DRAKE & CHARLIE McCOY), Spinout, RCA Victor LPM/LSP-3702 (California Holiday, RCA SF 7820, London), 1966; ‘Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right’, Nashville, 16-17 May 1971, Elvis (nb. not 2nd LP, which had same title, 1956), RCA Victor APL1-0283 (SF 8378, London), 1973; ‘Blowin’ In The Wind’, Feb 1966-early 1967, Hollywood, Platinum: A Life In Music, RCA/BMG 07863 67469-2, 1997; ‘I Shall Be Released’, Nashville, May 20, 1971, Elvis - Walk A Mile In My Shoes - The Essential 70’s Masters, RCA/BMG 7432130331-2, 1995. NB: The great first post-Army album, Elvis Is Back, has been reissued complete with many outtakes and the singles recorded at the same sessions, plus outtakes from these, as a highly-praised 2-CD set, Elvis Is Back!, Follow That Dream 8287 667968-2, US 2005.

The 1957 interview quoted from Charlie Gillett: Sound of the City, 1971. The 1970 Las Vegas quote, and details re Elvis shooting the TV, from The Elvis Atlas: A Journey Through Elvis Presley’s America, Michael Gray & Roger Osborne, New York; Henry Holt, 1996. Presley’s Madison Square Gdn concerts, one of which Dylan attended, 9-11 Jun 1972. Dylan quoted from Rolling Stone no.47, San Francisco, Jun 1969. Peter Guralnick, Careless Love: The Unmaking Of Elvis Presley, New York; Little Brown, 1999, p.223.

Arthur Crudup: ‘That’s All Right’, Chicago, 6 Sep 1946, known by Elvis Presley from its issue on 78rpm on Victor 20-2205 (c/w ‘Crudup’s After Hours’), NYC, 1946-7; ‘Cool Disposition’ & ‘Rock Me Mama’, Chicago, 15 Dec 1944, Bluebird 34-0738, NYC, 1945;‘Hey Mama, Everything’s All Right’, Chicago 7 Oct 1947, Victor 20-3261, 1947-48; ‘If I Get Lucky’, Chicago, 11 Sep 1941, Bluebird B8858, NYC, 1941.

Arthur Gunter (1926-1976) cut ‘Baby Let’s Play House’ at his first session, Nashville, 1954, Excello 2047, Nashville, 1955; Bob Dylan: ‘If You Gotta Go, Go Now’, live NYC, 31 Oct 1964, Bootleg Series Vol. 6; ‘Milk Cow Blues’, NYC, 25 Apr 1962, unreleased; Ricky Nelson: ‘It’s Late’, Hollywood, 21 Oct 1958, Imperial 5565, LA (London American HLP 8817, London), 1959; Eddie Cochran: ‘Drive-In Show’, LA, 1957, Liberty Records 55087, Hollywood, 1957; Leroy Carr: ‘Alabama Women Blues’, Chicago, 9 Sep 1930; Kokomo Arnold: ‘Milk Cow Blues’, Chicago, 10 Sep 1934; Robert Johnson: ‘Milkcow’s Calf Blues’, Dallas, 20 Jun 1937, 2 takes; Leadbelly: ‘Good Morning Blues’, NYC, 15 Jun 1940 or Summer 1943. Blind Lemon Jefferson: ‘That Black Snake Moan’, Chicago, c.Nov 1926; ‘Black Snake Moan’, Atlanta, 14 Mar 1927; Ishman Bracey: ‘The ’Fore Day Blues’ (alternate take), Memphis, 31 Aug 1928; Lonnie Johnson: ‘Tomorrow Night’, Cincinatti, 10 Dec 1947. Fats Domino: ‘Blueberry Hill’, LA, Jul 1956, Imperial 5407, 1956. Odetta: Odetta Sings Dylan, nia, RCA LSP-3324, NYC, 1965 (the CD reissue of which does include ‘Blowin’ In The Wind’, plus ‘Paths of Victory’, each taken from earlier Odetta albums); Peter, Paul & Mary In Concert, Warner Bros. 1555, NYC, 1964.]


Blogger James Shelton said...

The Top Reasons Bob Dylan is better than Elvis:

A.He out lived him by almost 20 years
B.Bob Dylan isn't addicted to drugs while Elvis Presley gave into them
C.Bob Dylan is like a camelion and still alive and making better music where Elvis Presley ignorantly gave up on life to drugs sadly
D.Elvis Presley music was all one way,where Bob Dylan music was various ways

Totally honest Bob Dylan could play more instruments,sing great,lived past 45 and still is alive at age 68 and still going on strong so whose the winner in all of this?Bob Dylan is the only King we have left and no one is as good as he except Jeff Lynn who I feel is better than both Elvis Presley and Bob Dylan put together.Jeff Lynn can sing far better than Elvis Presley,do opera and play many instruments.So there Jeff Lynn is #1,Bob Dylan is #2 and Elvis Presley is #3.I love them all,yet Jeff Lynn had it and so did them other two yet Jeff Lynn did far more artistic work,yet sadly quit.Rock on Dylan you are proving you are tougher than them both so then you are the newly crowned King of Rock N' Rock.Elvis Presley passed the torch to Bob Dylan.So long Elvis Presley and hello Bob Dylan.Get it now people.All hail Bob Dylan.

1:49 pm  
Blogger Michael Gray said...

James - this comment, arriving on September 8, 2009, is the dumbest contribution anyone but Al Kooper has left on this blog in three and a half years.

6:06 pm  

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