Elvis Presley vs. Chuck Berry
Authored by Dale Nickey:
Up front let’s stipulate the phrase “Over-rewarded” does not mean I consider an artist “Under-talented”. However, being a ‘spread-the-wealth’ social progressive, I do think it’s possible for scruffy yobs who sing and play guitar to achieve levels of wealth and celebrity that are obscene. For every band or artist that breaks the platinum ceiling, there are equally deserving bands left in the dust as a result of poor management, poor luck and poor judgement. Here a few comparison studies. And, for all of you true believing fans out there who imbue your favorite artists with pope-like infallibility; let the trouser loading begin!
Elvis was a gifted singer and song stylist. However, the more famous he got, the tighter and heavier the yoke became. This was all courtesy of Presley’s manager Colonial Parker; an obese, bullshit slinging, money-grubbing asshole who ruined Presley’s career while simultaneously making him the biggest star on the planet. Presley initially established his brand with a rough and ready Sun Studio sound, and an animal sexuality never before seen by the American entertainment industry. Parker and the Amerikan media conspired to neuter both. Parker vetoed the idea of a world tour, and drastically drew down Presley’s live appearances. Presley obediently dished out a steady string of Gospel records, Christmas collections and MOR crapola. Presley further sealed his pact with the devil by agreeing to a long-term film deal that insured his cultural irrelevance with an endless procession of celluloid turd-bombs like “Girls,Girls,Girls”, “Fun In Acapulco” and “Kissin’ Cousins”. Presley was anointed king of Rock and Roll, but was a true rocker only for the briefest of times. Presley was a nice guy and should have been an artist. But, chose to bend over and take it like a man from an industry who couldn’t comprehend him and a government who felt it necessary to housebreak him via the draft. A king in name only; not fit to wear the crown….sadly.
If Elvis is the provisional King of Rock And Roll; then Chuck Berry is the monarch in exile. Presley’s 1956 stunner “Heartbreak Hotel” is generally considered ground zero in Rock and Roll history. However, Rock and Roll’s meter was running a good year before that with the 1955 Berry single “Maybelline”. Berry took country, blues and electric guitar and created a hybrid music that could only be described as ….well, eh …yeah…, that’s right, Rock And Roll. Berry dressed and spoke like royalty as well. He fused every-man poetry with music long before Dylan caught the bug. His erudite lyrics were light years beyond anything else at the time and extolled the virtues of girls, cars and ‘rocking and rolling’; a thinly veiled euphemism for the most primal of all human pursuits. Berry was the original road warrior who landed himself him federal prison for transporting a teenage girl across state lines. Berry invented a style of guitar playing that has served as the slab foundation for all rock-based guitarists ranging from Keith Richards to Eric Clapton , Johnny Winter, Rory Gallagher and beyond. The Beatles and The Rolling Stones early records are strewn with Berry covers. Berry invented the stage moves as well; the duck walk being the most famous and imitated. Obviously Jimi Hendrix took detailed notes on Berry’s stagecraft. Long live the King….