Friday, March 17, 2017

Elvis Presley: 1968 Comeback Special. “I have no need for all this.”

It’s true, Elvis was never the same after he came back from the Army in 1960. There was a knowing in the famous lopsided smile, a restlessness fueled by something other than youth.
The Final Performance

The songs came and were forgettable; the films even worse. The hippies didn’t even wears shoes, let alone blue suedes.

Eight years passed by. He dyed his hair blue/black and became an eccentric relic, more a novelty than an entertainer.

For reasons known only to a Robert-Johnson-Cross-Roads shaman, the gods handed Elvis one last chance and he didn’t even know it.

A television special would have been unthinkable before. But this was not ‘before’. The producer noticed that Elvis liked to sit with his buddies and just play the old songs. So why not do some of that?

And it became the first unplugged segment in pop music.

It didn’t take long for Elvis to go off script. In a way, he was always off script, something all the others (Bobby This or Frankie That) never really got.

Off the grid. No auto-tune. Full bore.
Watch him. He slides off the grid and swings a trapeze up to his long dormant talent. Suddenly he has hold of an electric guitar with no strap. Doesn't stop him. Deep in his Memphis soul he must know this could be it, the Final Performance, no matter how long he lives.

Clad in black leather, with no vocal overdubbing and no auto-tune and no reverb and no backup singers, he becomes what he always was - among the best rock singers of the twentieth century, and one of a few genuine pop culture icons.

Today, it is impossible to hear him sing ‘Trying to Get to You’ and not notice how careful superbowl-style pop music has become. This is the mother-lode. The high-water mark. Pre-punk. The gold standard. 

Whatever rock was supposed to be, it doesn't get better. Rock critic Greil Marcus watched the show that night with a friend, who at one point turned to him and said, shocked, "He's doing all this with just three chords? Impossible."

And then, he leaves the stage forever. Just like that. Resigned to bedazzled white jumpsuits and ill-health, going through karate-kid motions and praying for an early release.
Savage. Mindless. Real.

Later, he writes a note to himself (to what he was, what he is to become) not to be shared, but discovered after his death:

-          “I feel so alone sometimes. The night is quiet for me. I'd love to be able to sleep. I'll probably not rest. I have no need for all this. Help me, Lord.”

Friday, March 3, 2017

William F. Buckley Jr.: Strategically Disheveled

Buckley. Vidal. Let's get it on.
He enjoyed being hated by liberals. They served to validate his beliefs. “There is an inverse relationship between reliance on the state and self-reliance,” he suggested.

William F. Buckley Jr. was often the smartest guy in the room, but he usually chose the room.
Entertainer/Entrepreneur

Bill was the go-to telegenic conservative public intellectual for much of the 60s. He was everywhere. Even ran for mayor of New York City – likely for the platform, not the position.

They called his accent ‘mid-Atlantic’. It gave him a natural, privileged aura. He often appeared strategically disheveled.

Of the Vietnam War he said, “The pity is that we are saving our tactical nuclear weapons for melodramatic use.” Near the end of his life, looking back, he surmised Vietnam was a mistake. Also reversed himself on Civil Rights. Flip-flops…but he had the guts to flop.

His TV show, Firing Line, was on the air for thirty-three years. He met his match with guest Noam Chomsky and purposely avoided him from thereon.

The writer Gore Vidal believed “[Buckley] was a very stupid guy, who never read any of those books he referred to, and Americans, being such hicks, thought he was a great nobleman and a real gentleman.”
Bardot. Buckley. Let's get it on.

He wrote a series of spy novels.

Buckley wasn’t really an intellectual, academic, capitalist or provocateur. He was an entertainer/entrepreneur. He once said it was a tough way to make a buck.

Someone with his learning, brains, and vocabulary wouldn’t last thirty minutes on today’s airwaves.

His career? ...Commenting on his convictions.

Love him or leave him, William Buckley had a very rare talent for a TV host. He made people... think.