Friday, May 29, 2015

that's all right -- any way you do

-- "Echoing through all of rock 'n' roll is the simple demand for peace of mind and a good time."
Greil Marcus, Mystery Train
{Penguin, 1975}
---------------------- [excerpts] ------------------ In 1954 Elvis made his first records with Sam Phillips, on the little Sun label in Memphis, Tennessee; then a pact was signed with Col. Tom Parker, shrewd country hustler.  Elvis took off for RCA Victor, New York, and Hollywood.  America has not been the same since.

---------------------- The four men cool it for a moment, frustrated.  They share a feeling they could pull something off if they hit it right, but it's been a while, and that feeling is slipping away, as it always does.  They talk music, blues, Crudup, ever hear that, who you kiddin' man, dig this. 

The kid pulls his guitar up, clowns a bit.  He throws himself at a song.  That's all right, mama, that's all right . . . The two musicians come in behind him, Scotty [Moore] picking up the melody and the bassman slapping away....Phillips hears it, likes it, and makes up his mind.

All right, you got something.  Do it again, I'll get it down.  Just like that, don't mess with it.  Keep it simple.

They cut the song fast, put down their instruments, vaguely embarrassed at how far they went into the music.  Sam plays back the tape.  Man, they'll run us outta town when they hear it, Scotty says; Elvis sings along with himself, joshing his performance.  They all wonder, but not too much.

Get on home, now, Sam says.  I gotta figure what to do with this.

They leave, but Sam Phillips is perplexed.  Who is gonna play this crazy record?  White jocks won't touch it...and colored will pass 'cause it's hillbilly.  It sounds good, it sounds sweet, but maybe it's just . . . too weird?

-------------- Sam Phillips released the record; what followed was the heyday of Sun Records and rockabilly music...