Enigma: Elvis Presley and David Bowie

Enigma: Elvis Presley and David Bowie

Published: 30 January 2016

Enigma: “a person or thing that is mysterious or difficult to understand”.

This article features two great artist’s who left us the way they lived; An unknowable enigma.

Isn’t this why we find them so captivating?

Elvis Presley; born on January 8th, 1935 in Tupelo, Mississippi, USA;

David Bowie; born on January 8th, 1947 in Brixton, London, UK.

An easily verified connection between the two performers. The pair would also go on to share the same record label, RCA, in the 1970’s.

Bowie has said, “Elvis Presley was a hero of mine. I was probably stupid enough to believe that having the same birthday as him actually meant something.”

Elvis Presley *

Almost everyone will have heard the chart hits by an artist known as “The King (of Rock N Roll):-

  • “Blue Suede Shoes”
  • “Heartbreak Hotel”
  • “Suspicious Minds”
  • “A Little Less Conversation”

My favourite Elvis song is “Always On My Mind”, which was a 1972 top-10 hit in the Official chart

Elvis | Always On My Mind | 1972

Elvis Presley delivered an almost kaleidoscopic range of stage personalities during his 23 year career.

The country blues singer; the rocker; movie star; gospel singer, the soul balladeer, and the jump-suited touring act.

There were nearly as many enigmatic sides—from aw-shucks innocent to pill-dependent recluse.

*Elvis Presley and Graceland are registered trademarks of Elvis Presley Enterprises, Inc

The connection between Elvis Presley and BASS

Elvis played with a couple of Bass players:-

William “Bill” Black Jr. An American musician noted as a pioneer of rock and roll music.

“Bill” Black was the Bass player in Presley’s early trio, after which he formed Bill Black’s Combo.

There was also Jerry Scheff, who was a member of the ‘TCB Band‘ (‘Taking Care of Business’).

A group of professional musicians who formed the TCB core rhythm section from August 1969 until the untimely death of Elvis in 1977, aged 42.

Elvis Presley: the Bass player?

Up until this month, I never knew Elvis played Bass guitar on a recording.

A close friend, George Klein has said, “The Fender BASS just came out and Bill Black was using a double Bass.

In Live concerts, you couldn’t really hear the upright. They couldn’t ‘mic it up’ well enough because sound systems in those days weren’t very good. It was just for visual effect. When the Fender BASS came out, it was electric”.

Elvis | Playing Bass Guitar | Enigma | InfinityBass.com

“Elvis loved it because it gave him a louder Bass sound. On the ‘Jailhouse Rock’ session, when they got to ‘Baby I Don’t Care’, Bill couldn’t get it down like Elvis wanted it. He recorded the Bass himself and then sang over it”.

His Sun Records guitarist Scotty Moore eluded that Elvis was not really an accomplished “Guitarman”, although he had an “uncanny and amazing sense of timing and rhythm.”

When The Beatles met Elvis Presley

During ‘The Beatles – Anthology‘ documentary, John Lennon recalls a time when the group met Elvis Presley at his Bel Air home in 1965: –

“Elvis had a massive Fender amplifier with a Bass plugged into it, and he was playing Bass all the time.. so we got in there and played and sang with him”.

Just a little evidence, possibly blown out of proportion, but I want to believe that Elvis was really a Bass player.

Enigma | David Robert Haywood Jones:

David Jones. A singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, record producer, artist and actor.

He was born on January 8th, 1947 in Brixton, London and passed away on January 10th 2016 after an 18-month battle with cancer.

He changed his name to ‘David Bowie’ in the 1960s, to avoid confusion with the well-known Davy Jones (The Monkees lead singer) and was a man of many alter egos;

From Space Oddity to Hunky Dory; Ziggy Stardust to The Thin White Duke.

David Bowie | Let's Dance | 1983

His success peaked in the 1980s, by revisiting the story of Major Tom on ‘Ashes To Ashes’, his Pop Funk collaboration with Chic’s Nile Rogers.

The 1983 album ‘Let’s Dance’ landed at number one.

The title track from the album was Bowie’s last single to top the American Billboard 200.

A duet with Mick Jagger on “Dancing in the Street” (first recorded by Martha and the Vandellas in 1964) was also a number one hit.

Jagger and Bowie covered the song for the Live Aid charity at Bob Geldof’s insistence.

David Bowie | Artistry:

I was born on the day that David Bowie ‘retired’ his stage persona Ziggy Stardust at the Hammersmith Odeon in London.

David Bowie | Ziggy Stardust | Hammersmith Odeon | 1973I first heard Bowie at the Live Aid concert on TV and Radio in 1985, by which time he’d already had a career spanning more than 20 years’ in music.

But the truth is, I wasn’t a ‘Bowie’ fan but in the end, I appreciated his artistry.

He was from another era, at a time when I was becoming familiar with artists in the singles chart.

Top 20 hits were becoming few and far between for David Bowie.

During an interview with Jeff Gordinier in 1997, ‘Bowie’ said, “There are a couple of albums that I’m quite embarrassed about: ‘Tonight’ (1984) and ‘Never Let Me Down’ (1987).

I shouldn’t have made those albums because I’d totally fallen out of love with writing music at that time”.

Despite his various identities, the music of David Bowie came down to just one or two things.

David Bowie said during an interview with Christian Holub from Entertainment Weekly, “Taking away the theatrics, costuming and the outer layer, I’m a writer.”

“It really only boils down to a few songs based around loneliness to an extent, coupled with isolation, some kind of spiritual search, and looking for a way to communicate with other people. That’s all I’ve written about for 40 years.

I’ve dressed it in different ways throughout my life. Trying to find a different approach each time, to find another way into the questions by creeping up on them as somebody else.”

David Bowie | Extras:

‘Bowie’ made a cameo appearance in the British Television comedy ‘Extras’ in 2006.

The main character, Andy Millman isn’t entirely pleased with how his fame is turning out.

Millman begins a conversation with ‘Bowie’ and soon he becomes the subject of an humiliating ode:-

David Jones. A unique artist, but an enigma.

He remained fascinating, right up until the very end, in ways that extended far beyond making music.

InfinityBass.com by Simon Edward | 30 January 2016

Simon

Simon Edward. UK musician, song writer and Bassist ~ with a day job. Author of InfinityBass.com.

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