Some Roots Of Rock that failed to make the final cut
Outside the Birthplace complex is the Mississippi Blues Trail Elvis marker which tells me that Presley continued to incorporate the blues into his music throughout his career. Not to my ears. Elvis Presley was no down home blues singer, despite his Sun label origins. Check the back catalogue. Not much Mississippi delta in there.
Presley would sell records but the edges would be smoothed. The interests of the buying public would be paramount. Even his country collections, and there were quite a number of these, sound like countrypolitan Nashville where turning a buck was all there was. In fact Nashville was where Elvis recorded much of this material with stalwarts Chet Atkins and slip-note pianist Floyd Cramer appearing on his discs. Over the years Elvis appears to have abandoned any real interest in music itself. He never followed the careers of others, ignored his roots, and broke new ground not at all.
If he’d lived and Rick Rubin had got hold of him just imagine. Rick Rubin was the producer who saved Johnny Cash in his final years giving us the stripped back sound of the American Recordings. Rubin could do wonders with even the least promising of material. Check his Neil Diamond career salvaging 12 Songs and the equally engaging Home Before Dark.
Elvis was Elvis. Apart from the 1968 Comeback Special on TV and those American Studios sidesteps in 1969 everything would be santised and smooth. This was down to Colonel Parker, his mind-controlling manager, and his relentless pursuit of movie dollars. That rock and roll rebel, the one he was that Sun made him, that singer was never to return. There’d be no Elvis the Sessions Recorded in London, no Elvis Howls with the Wolf, nor Elvis meets the Rolling Stones. Could have been, so easily. The Beatles went to see him at Graceland at the height of their career. Elvis had no idea what to make of this band of Liverpool jokers. Rapport was low, despite John Lennon admitting to Elvis’s significant influence on his early work. Presley stayed contained, manicured, managed to the last crease in his white flared trousers. Elvis the innovator. No.
Not to say that in his extensive output there are not decent sounds. Among his hundreds of sides there are any number of great hit records, songs that endure. Despite the British Invasion and the rise of alternative culture Presley records continued to sell. His low budget films, however, did not. But hell, if you’ve ever tried any of those last dozen then you’ll know only too well why.