Thursday, March 24, 2011

We should've kissed Elvis when we had the chance

It doesn't seem like it was all that long ago when the elders of our nation were up in arms over Elvis. Preachers were telling us that his music, as well as all of rock and roll, was the Devil's music and that it would lead to fornication and eternal damnation.

Little did they know what was in store. Maybe Tipper Gore did, but then she had her husband, Al, and his romps with masseuses to deal with. (I'm sure Al Gore blames his overheated hormones on global warming.)

Parents, elders and the morally-conscious complained that Elvis shook his pelvis and ground his hips in a "suggestive way." I could retort by saying we all know he learned those moves from Forrest Gump. Instead, I'll point out that Jim Morrison of The Doors showed us his entire genital package on stage once in Miami back in the 60s. Thankfully he was arrested and I once read that the police later joked that it was just a "minor infraction."

And of course, Madonna shook more than just her pelvis any time she was on stage. She often mimicked the complete sex act. In fact, she came out with an entire book filled with explicit photographs of her in various stages of undress and in very suggestive and sexually provocative poses. And what about Janet Jackson and the infamous "wardrobe malfunction?"

Ed Sullivan would have spit his dentures out if he'd seen that.

When duty called, Elvis went into the Army. From all accounts I've read, he was popular with the other soldiers in his company and he just did his job with a minimal of fuss. In the 60s and 70s, we had folk singers and rock and roll bands protesting the war and singing songs about burning draft cards and badmouthing America every chance they got.

Elvis swooned many a young girl's heart when he sang "Love Me Tender." The 80s gave us "Me So Horny" by some rap group from Florida.

One of Elvis' biggest hits was "Jailhouse Rock." A portion of the song went, "Hey, buddy, don't you be no square. If you can't find a partner use a wooden chair." In the early 90s, a "gangsta rapper" calling himself "Ice T" gave us a song called "Cop Killer" in which some of the lyrics went, "I got my twelve gauge sawed off. I got my headlights turned off. I'm 'bout to bust some shots off. I'm 'bout to dust some cops off."


Elvis shook his hips, greased his hair into a ducktail and often had an expression that was a combination of a sneer and a pout. In the late 50s and early 60s, high school boys by the millions greased their hair back in ducktails and practiced the Elvis pout/sneer expression. A generation later, we had bands smearing their faces with makeup, spitting fire and barfing blood all over the stage. Then along came MTV and with it, video interpretations of songs that left very little to the imagination as far as sex and violence were concerned.

Suddenly I'm feeling very old.

It's been over thirty years since we lost the King of Rock and Roll. But in that time, we've lost even more as far as rock and roll itself is concerned.

Rock and roll used to be fun and fairly innocent. It was often about love, such as when Buddy Holly sang "Peggy Sue," or when Jerry Lee Lewis performed "Great Balls of Fire." Or it was just about having fun such as when Chubby Checker had us doing "The Twist" and Ritchie Valens was teaching us how to sing in Spanish with "La Bamba." The most sexually provocative song out was "Louie Louie" by The Kingsman. I have no idea why as the lyrics are basically unintelligible, but that's how the story goes.

Now we have music that is not only sexually provocative, but also accompanying videos that would make Masters and Johnson blush and cause Dr. Ruth to faint dead away. We have songs talking about rape, killing cops, pedophilia, race wars and drugs.

Know what's even more frightening?

Each new generation of so-called musicians seems determined to shock and disgust us even more than their predecessors did. And so far, they're succeeding. Today we have little shit-stains like Eminem posing with his middle fingers out everywhere he goes. We have ghetto/prison rappers that all the little suburban white kids seemingly can't get enough of.

Maybe the Mexicans here in Texas have it right with their mariachi music. It always sounds festive and fun, and it's rare you ever see a frowning Mexican at one of their parties.

On the other hand, go to a party where gangster and "anti-society" rap is the norm, and all you see are surly, pouting teenage and young adult faces. And trust me: their pouting and sneering doesn't look anything like the pout/sneer from the King of Rock and Roll.

Like I said, we should've kissed Elvis when we had the chance.

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