John Byrne ARTIST AND WRITER
‘My birthday is 6 January, just before Elvis’s. We’re almost twins. Elvis was a twin - his brother died in childbirth. That explains a lot about Elvis. lie was a troubled soul, certainly in later life.
‘I was an enormous fan when I was about sixteen and I had every picture I could get, plastered over my-bedroom walls. The first record I ever bought was an EP of ‘Love Me Tender’. We didn’t even have a record player, I just looked at it. I grew out of that passion, but I’m still an Elvis fan for all those early songs, up until he went into the army.
‘Las Vegas was such a travesty because then, he was a parody of everything that was the worst of
American society. I don’t even find it attractive for its kitchness. It would probably have been better had he died about 1961 after ‘Return To Sender’. He should have done the honourable thing and fallen on his sword.
‘Elvis must have inﬂuenced my work. I was forever drawing him when I was sixteen and seventeen with that Elvis lip, but I never saw him. Terry in The Slab Boys is an Elvis clone and does all the Elvis numbers. One of the characters always has Elvis on the back of his dust coat.
‘Elvis was the most brilliant performer that ever lived - a total genius. lie was just like something from another world, that’s why he has lasted. You always say: ‘Oh fuck, Al Jolson,’ and the same with Harry Lauder, but you can see why people went mad for them because they were utterly, totally magnetic and natural born geniuses.’
Sharleen Spiteri LEAD SINGER or TEXAS
‘Elvis is just amazing. He‘s way. way up there. I wanted to be Elvis between the ages of eight and twelve. I still love him. but i kind ofgot over wanting to be him when I was about twelve. It‘s still very much with me . . .
‘I remember when I got my first guitar. when I first strapped it on. I automatically took the Elvis stance — suddenly you become Elvis Presley. The difficulty is trying to keep the shades on your nose.
‘Most of my Elvis stuff is on vinyl. and I‘ve still got the old Dansette record player. If you‘re going to listen to Elvis records you‘ve got to listen to them in the right way.
‘The best period for me was the ()8 Special. I know it was a comeback, but i loved the relaxed way he
handled the audience. jamming along with the band — I just adored it. And l loved The Memphis Remrd that he made in ‘69. with ‘Suspicious Minds‘ on it. That‘s probably my favourite Elvis song. ‘Mystery Train‘. then ‘Suspicious Minds‘.
‘1 think what Elvis brought to me personally was blues. gospel and a quiff. When I think of Elvis that‘s what l think of.
‘I wouldn‘t go as far as to say. “Oh this song sounds like Elvis.“ but there‘s a lot of blues and gospel influence in our stuff. But Elvis is with you most when you're writing. just sitting there with an acoustic guitar. That‘s probably the ultimate moment that Elvis Presley songs are rushing through your head.
‘We thought we were going to get the chance to go to Gracelands the last time we were in America. but we never got there. I'd actually love to go. A lot of people say. “nah. it‘s really cheesy.“ but I think it would be really great to see. I think it would be something you‘d remember.‘
Sharleen Splterl: ‘Blues, gospel and a quiff’
‘Elvis is an image that appears in a lot of my work. I’m really interested in him more as a kind of religious icon, although I do like his music too. His life had an incredible allegorical quality, starting out as young and beautiful with his striking Greek- God-Iike profile and the world at his feet, followed by his descent into llell via chronic over-indulgence. Then there’s also his resurrection with all the ‘Elvis is alive and running a chip shop in Fort William’-type stuff together with his cult status as an icon of the 20th century. This is reflected in all the Elvis memorabilia that are like holy relics. I collect a lot of this stuff and use it in my work. My favourite object is an Elvis-shaped bourbon bottle, not because it’s been useful - I’ve never actually put it into a picture - but I just like it. I bought it off this
Mexican guy in Los Angeles who drank the contents and sold it to me for $20. I also have an Elvis pop-up book which I like a lot, especially the idea of his life being condensed into a series of pseudo-religious tableaux and playing ‘Love Me Tender’ on the last page.
‘Ilis music is full of a kind of sexual energy which gave it so much power, becoming ultimately too powerful for Elvis to handle. lie was a religious man and I think trying to combine these two sides of his life caused a lot of problems. I started listening to Elvis at my great grandmother’s house in lnverness. She was 90 and a big fan. I like the really early stuff like ‘Mystery Train’ which also reminds me of the Jim Jannusch film, and also the really late stuff when he was struggling to keep singing. I’ve never been to Gracelands and in some ways would rather keep it as an idea in my head. After all, it’s not a fairy-tale castle but really quite suburban. Plus, I’ve always got it in my pop-up book!’
Ian McKay FAN CLUB MEMBER
‘Elvis has been a constant part of my life for a long time. He's always been there. I don‘t idolise him. but there‘s no doubt in my mind he was the most inﬂuential artist of the 20th century. There‘s no one who can come near him.
‘l‘ve been involved in the Memphis Maﬁa since 1973. Our motto is Keeping Elvis #I. We have to do the best we can possibly afford for Elvis. We don't get involved in naff events. There are a lot of people who like Elvis singing ‘Return To Sender‘ and there are fans out there who do buy mirrors. We can't be snobbish about them.
‘Elvis has lasted in terms of popularity. partly because he is dead. If he had still been alive. there‘s no doubt he would still be a major force in the music industry, but I probably wouldn‘t be an Elvis fan and he would be 60.
‘I went to Elvis‘s last two concerts in Cincinnati and Indianapolis on 25 and 26 June 1977. At the time there was a lot of stuff in the press about Elvis collapsing on stage. He came on stage 50 minutes late, saying he had gone to the dentist. He was absolutely fabulous — there was a crowd of 14,500.
‘When Elvis died it was like something from a bad movie. My girlfriend was putting studs onto my Elvis jumpsuit and my mate was up putting studs onto his. I was typing the Elvis fanclub letter and we had the TV on. A picture of Elvis ﬂashed up and we just knew immediately.
‘It was like a relative has died and you are the oldest kid and you have to organise the funeral. You're not upset because you‘re too busy — with me. the press were on the phone. It was a sense of loss. Elvis had just recorded ‘Way Down‘ — it was a bloody good song and it was great the way his music was going. [His death] devastated a lot of people who always thought in the back of their minds that somehow they would get to see Elvis.‘
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Ian McKay: Member of the Memphis Mafia #J
8 The List 16 December 1994—12 January 1995