New Classics: ‘Elvis Presley’
New Classics is classic albums, movies, TV shows, books, and other pop culture-y things revisited by young people who haven’t listened, read or watched them before. We don’t bother rating them, because they’re classics for a reason.
Elvis Presley – Elvis Presley (1956)
When I say: “Elvis,” chances are you think of campy Elvis impersonators, conspiracy theorists, a fat guy overdosing on drugs and cheeseburgers, or maybe the song Blue Suede Shoes.
The former star is now largely a joke in popular culture, which is a shame because the man was a revolutionary musician. I listened to his debut studio album for New Classics. On first impression, it has a classy feel to it while still being rocking. (No doubt the adults of Elvis’ generation thought he was uncouth and not classy at all, but I loved it.)
It turns out that his debut album was also the first rock’n’roll album to hit the top of the Billboard charts. Presley influenced so many more artists and genres than we credit him for nowadays. Rockabilly, blues, pop and country are all blended into a gorgeous mix, and the man has a vibrant, warm quality to his voice that you just don’t find in that many pop singers these days.
There are upbeat and slow songs in the album, and even a cover of Blue Moon that is languorous and mournful.
Most people are familiar with a few of his songs (hell, we learnt Blue Suede Shoes in my Grade 2 class in primary school), but listening to the album as it was released is something different. It allows us to picture Elvis in his heyday – energetic, youthful, endlessly talented and beautiful.
If you’re a fan of blues, rock, pop or country, you need to listen to Elvis Presley. He popularised “black” music, which opened the door for actual African Americans in America. (It was only in 1967 that interracial marriage in the US was legalised. The 50’s in America weren’t exactly a paragon of equality.)
In any case, it’s nice to look beyond the grotesque circus his last few years became, past the impersonators and conspiracies, and just listen to the man who is arguably one of America’s greatest popular musicians.