Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Fintan Nods - Elvis Rules - Chuck Berry

I bow to none in my admiration for Fintan O'Toole, considering him the foremost journalist of his generation and his study of the beef tribunal, in particular, a master class in investigative writing. However his half-baked assault on the myth of Elvis in last Saturday's Irish was a shoddy effort.

He got it wrong on any number of counts. Here are a few of them:

1. Colonel Tom Parker was never Elvis's "Svengali" - in the true meaning of that term. He was certainly his nemesis though. And no one can deny his culpability for the tragic trajectory of Elvis's career.
2. It's unfair to say Elvis ceased to exist after 1955 when he left Sun records. Has Fintan never heard of the Memphis album recorded in 1970 containing many classics including "Suspicious Minds" and "In the Ghetto".
3. The idea that Elvis in some way stymied the careers of black artists like Chuck Berry is nonsense. The success of Elvis singing black music (including his wonderful gospel recordings) opened the way for a more general acceptance of black artists.
4. His citing of Chuck Berry as some kind of wronged paragon was particularly unfortunate. Aside from his underage bother and tax problems, Berry was more recently prosecuted for spying on female visitors to his restaurant's bathroom. Berry's creative period was even shorter than Elvis's Berry is also notorious for his high-handed treatment of those unfortunate enough to play with him.

Finally, if you want to discover the real Elvis, read Peter Guralnick's masterful "Last Train to Memphis", rather than the vapid abstractions of Greil Marcus.