Tuesday, January 08, 2013

Lightning Bolt Birthday Boys: Elvis Presley & David Bowie

January 8th is the biggest birthday in rock music, as it is the birthday for two of its biggest, most original, most protean talents: Elvis Presley who "would be" 78 today, and David Bowie who turns 66. No other day is birthday to two icons of such stature.

I was pondering this morning what Bowie and the King might have in common, but I couldn't think of a single thing, other than the fact that both are incredibly charismatic. Elvis is American, Bowie is British; Elvis comes from blues and gospel, Bowie comes from Mars; Elvis is unabashedly masculine and heterosexual, Bowie is some sort of futuristic pan- or a- sexual prototype.

I started digging around online and found a page of Bowie trivia that pointed out that there are actually many things that The King and the Thin White Duke have in common.

For one, Bowie was a huge Elvis fan, and in 1972 flew from England to New York on a whim to catch an Elvis show at Madison Square Garden. Bowie caused quite the stir when he arrived mid-show in full Ziggy Stardust regalia, sitting near the front and attracting the attention of the King himself.

But the fact that fascinated most concerns lightning bolt on Bowie's face for his 1973  Aladdin Sane (aka "A Lad Insane") record, his first after The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars catapulted him to worldwide renown. I never gave the bolt much thought, and just assumed it was a way of giving the Ziggy character a fresh coat of paint for his new LP.

But it turns out that the lightning bolt was Bowie's homage to Elvis's then-new TCB logo, which of course features a lightning bolt as well. In Elvis's version, the bolt means "in a flash" as in "Taking Care of Business in a Flash," as in "Elvis wants six peanut butter & banana sandwiches and three U. of Memphis cheerleaders in the Jungle Room and you better make it happen - pronto."

When Elvis dreamed up his TCB worldview, he wasn't just Taking Care of Business, he was also Taking Care of Bowie. Rock Turtleneck wrote about TCB extensively in 2010 - you can read it here.

Even though everyone though he was basically retired, Bowie gave the world a wonderful birthday present today by releasing a new song called "Where Are We Now." Sonically, it recalls the fabled Berlin trilogy of records he created  in the 1970s with Brian Eno, but it also has a little of the world-weary stateliness of Bob Dylan's Time Out of Mind.

Let's bring it all back home with the King, as in King Creole. Here our hero sings "Mean Woman Blues" and kicks ass in every conceivable sense of the term.

Buy on iTunes:
David Bowie, "Where Are We Now"
Elvis Presley, "Mean Woman Blues"


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romy3 said...

Also, Bowie actually wrote his 1975 single "Golden Years" (from "Station to Sation") FOR Elvis. Whether it was because of publishing concerns or dislike for the song, it didn't happen. I bet the pelvis never even got to hear about it.

romy3 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
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