Radio is a sound salvation
Radio is cleaning up the nation
They say you better listen to the voice of reason
But they don’t give you any choice
’cause they think that it’s treason.
So you had better do as you are told.
You better listen to the radio.
Ages and lifetimes ago, a spindly, mildly geeky midwestern high school student who never had anything better to do on a Saturday night, would occasionally watch those initial seasons of Saturday Night Live. There were sometimes some good, unfamiliar music you see, things that Midwestern corporate rock radio ignored. And one evening, a twerpy, bespectacled jittery guy started playing a song, than stopped the whole band, and launched a completely different song. It was unplanned and weird and not-for-tv and it was one of the 25 songs that made me zombie. Elvis, of course, defying network orders so he could play a song that criticized corporate control of broadcasting. A song that, incidentally is even MOAR applicable in 2012 as in 1977.
The right to work is traded in for the right to refuse admission
Don’t pass out now, there’s no refund
(when) Did you find out what you were missing
The crowd is taking forty winks minus ten percent
You barely get required sleep to go lingering with contemptment
Thursday to Saturday
Money’s gone already
Some things come in common these days
Your hands and work aren’t steady
And a couple of years later, going away to college with a healthy dose of fear and a big pile of heavy metal and new wave albums, a man originally named Declan Patrick MacManus (to which he later added Aloysius, making it a big Irish mouthful) was never far from the turntable (remember them, kiddies? Probably can find one in a local museum, next to the butter churn). We saw him in Madison, finally, on the Punch the Clock tour. He had the TKO horns along, as well as the Afrodiziak singers and Aztec Camera opening up; was it good? you tell me. I bought the t-shirt and wore the ever living fuck out of it.
It’s just a rumour that was spread around town
A telegram or a picture postcard
Within weeks they’ll be re-opening the shipyards
And notifying the next of kin
It’s all we’re skilled in
We will be shipbuilding
WITH ALL THE WILL IN THE WORLD
DIVING FOR DEAR LIFE
WHEN WE COULD BE DIVING FOR PEARLS
For quite a few years, Elvis didn’t tour so much; he had problems with record labels who didn’t care for his musical explorations, and the charts were never his friends. There was a long time we didn’t have the opportunities to see him perform, combined with college finances and early-career budgets, we skipped a lot of shows that we would not have otherwise. But eventually, a few shows came around; one notable one at Alpine Valley featured the BoDeans, the Cowboy Junkies and Edie Brickell also (a couple of years prior, I had vowed to never go to Alpine for a band again; that year made me a liar twice by pulling me out for this bill, and the REM appearance there on the Green tour. It had to be done).
More recently, we saw UNBELIEVABLE performances in the Riverside theater, a place designed for performance before there was such a thing as PA. Accordingly, both times, EC did at least one encore song with the PA turned off. Just him, his voice, and a song; filling an historic venue. I still get fucking chills.
He’s one of the only people whose musical appreciation extends further afield than mine. Difference being, of course, that he has actual talent.
So yeah. Saturday night, he played the newest venue on the Summerfest grounds, and I got us good tickets for our anniversary. It was a beautiful day and Willy Porter, local folkie, opened up with a nice fingerpicking set, although I confess I was most entranced with his stupid 9 string guitar. It would just confuse my fingers. But I have to confess that I thought a couple of times, that another talented local (and friend of the Empire) Tony Memmel would have been an AWESOME and appropriate opening act.
Good god, did Elvis hit the stage hard. They played four songs before they even said ‘Hi” and they didn’t stop for that. They played 15 songs in about 50 minutes NO FILLER. With the kind of career Elvis has had, there is no possible way that they could play all the songs they should, or that anyone would want. Hell, the woman next to me said at the encore break “they haven’t played Alison, or Peace Love Understanding, or..” to which I replied “yeah, they better just settle in for all night, cuz I want to hear them play EVERYTHING.” She laughed, because she watched me sing along to every single fucking song, and knew I wasn’t kidding, not really.
Blood and Chocolate
I hope you’re satisfied what you have done
You think it’s over now
But we’ve only just begun
I asked for water
And they gave me rose’ wine
A horse that knows arithmetic
And a dog that tells your fortune
I have crappy photos. Even the iPhone 4s doesn’t do stage photos well. So I am stealing one from the Elvis Wiki:
We were about thirty feet to the right of that POV. For a change, I was not in lust with most of Elvis’ guitars; I have a Telecaster, and have never been crazy about the wide body hollow electrics. But hey, he can play and I can’t so who am I?
The venue, which holds 8-10,000 depending on seating and standing arrangements, was disappointingly only about half-filled. And tomorrow night, I am seeing Matthew Sweet play a 300 person club. I guess when my favorite musicians get popular, I feel like I lose a little bit of a special connection; but the inability of these stellar artists to achieve massive interstellar success is a tragedy and at the same time a mystery to me. Meanwhile, the Romantics are still taking royalties from beer commercials. It’s fucked up, it truly is and is a symptom of a civilization in decline.
Of course, it is a civilization that spawns artists like these, so perhaps I have it backwards. I must think on it more over an Awesome Sauce beverage.
He thought he was the King of America
Where they pour Coca Cola just like vintage wine
Now I try hard not to become hysterical
But I’m not sure if I am laughing or crying
I wish that I could push a button
And talk in the past and not the present tense
And watch this hurtin’ feeling disappear
Like it was common sense
It was a fine idea at the time
Now it’s a brilliant mistake
I have seen Elvis, what, eight times? and I would go and see him again tomorrow night, if I could. He is so good, and so true; he refuses to play rote. He refuses to accede to others ideas of what he should do. he is abrasive and sardonic and obnoxious and always-eager to find new ways of doing what he does. I can’t for the life of me figure out why I feel a kinship.
I was surprised and pleased with the covers they did; awesome songs, and more than you would expect. Especially Nick Lowe’s “Heart Of The City” and “So You Want To Be A Rock ‘n’ Roll star” (much more Patti Smith than the Byrds)
So, here was the setlist (so far, nobody on the Elvis wiki has caught up. I sent them an email, but it was bounced. But this is 100% accurate, as I kept notes):
- Lipstick vogue
- Heart of the city
- Mystery dance
- Radio. Radio
- Everyday I Write the book
- Cry cry cry
- Can’t Stand up for falling down
- Hi fidelity
- Stations of the cross
- Watching the Detectives
- Beyond belief
- Stella Hurt
- This wheel’s on fire/The River In Reverse/ I’ll take care of you
- Less than zero
- (I Don’t Want To Go To) Chelsea
- Pump it up
- (What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace love and understanding
- So you wanna be a rock n roll star
I wrote about that SNL performance in the classic “25 songs that made me zombie” series of posts (lost to my incessant discarding of blogs, sorry) and during those last two songs, Elvis pushed my buttons, bringing me to tears and then making me scream about the raw primal human energy of rock n roll and for one night made me feel young and full of spit again. And today I woke up with sore feet and a creaky back from all the standing, and buzzing in my head. I got a bunch of chores done, and spent a fair amount of time doing some good work and basically feeling less sorry for myself.
I’m in the foxhole, I’m down in the trench
I’d be a hero but I can’t stand the stench
The Fitness Institute was full of General Motormen
And the “Hello House of Beauty” wouldn’t stand a chance with them
The chairman of this boredom is a compliment collector
I’d like to be his funeral director
Tomorrow night (looking at the clock, it will be later tonight, i guess) Matthew Sweet has an opportunity to do something similar and I dearly hope he does.
Of course, I am going to end with the epochal lyrics written by Nick Lowe and rendered by Elvis:
As I walk through
This wicked world
Searchin’ for light in the darkness of insanity.
I ask myself
Is all hope lost?
Is there only pain and hatred, and misery?
And each time I feel like this inside,
There’s one thing I wanna know:
What’s so funny ’bout peace love & understanding?
Those are from the late 70s. Things were dark; things got darker. People made things better. I believe darkness is ephemeral; humans have the ability and the intent to open some light.
Some of my friends sit around every evening
and they worry about the times ahead
But everybody else is overwhelmed by indifference
and the promise of an early bed
You either shut up or get cut up;
they don’t wanna hear about it.
It’s only inches on the reel-to-reel.
And the radio is in the hands of such a lot of fools
tryin’ to anesthetize the way that you feel
Go ahead, get out of control. Don’t shut up. Bring some light, folks. Bring YOUR light.