Elvis Presley
Where the heck did those 25 years go?  

I’m driving home from my third shift gig at the Can, Plant 77, the queen bee of the triple C.  It’s a cool August morning after another surreal journey through the hell that turns aluminum rolls into cups into two-piece non-detach extruded beer & soda cans.  I’ve survived.  Another 8 hours notched on my back like whip welts.  I walk out into the morning light, fresh air tearing away at the dull green hazard yellow four hundred watt florescent netherworld where I’ve toiled side by side with the maniacal machine tender, Jim Bojack (?).  I’m alive.  For some reason he has not beaten me to death with that six foot steel bar; I saw him bash the shit out of the back side of a cupper, but he left me alone.  I’m counting my blessings.  Summer will end.  I’ll return to my academic park bench where I practice my non-participatory life and make snide comments as it parades past me.  I get deliriously happy just thinking about it.  A little coin in my pocket, most of my debts current, oh yeah, quiet contemplation and library rumination lie straight ahead, ah sweet joy.  The big ole red-orange sun ball is two inches above the Atwater Beach bluff.  I’m squinting.  I turn off Capitol Drive south onto Humboldt Boulevard, I’m driving the beloved “La Bamba”, a 1967 Mercury Caliente, AM dashboard speaker blasting out “That’s Alright, Mama” and then the man comes on and tells me, not how white my shirts should be, but damn: the king is dead.

That moment freezes me and I don’t know why.  Buddy Holly, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison, Eddie Cochran - all sorts of people I liked as much or more were already dead.  Hell, he was just a big ole flesh puddle poured into a bejeweled jump suit by 1977.  Who cared?  John Lennon was right: Elvis didn’t do shit after the US Army was finished with him.  But it’s strange.  Dylan said something to the effect: when he first heard Presley it was like he’d been busted out of jail and he hadn’t even realized he was in jail.  Maybe that was true for many of us.  Elvis just got there first.  Maybe we also heard Bill Haley or Chuck Berry or Little Richard or Bo Diddley, but Elvis was the one who really woke everybody up.  Elvis uncorked rock and roll as sexual elixir.  He took Otis Blackwell and Leiber & Stoller and he established a beachhead on the gonads of a generation and the world never looked the same.  I’ve never been willing to give him the credit that so many argue he deserves.  But I will now admit that Presley, as the embodiment of the “rock and roll trinity”, was for a brief time the king of rock and roll.  What a trio: Sam Phillips, who sought, found and groomed “the white nigger”, Colonel Tom Parker, who molded a man into a myth, created pop music’s ultimate cash cow (and milked that teat till it was raw) and the dangerously handsome Tupelo trucker who could jam up the jailhouse and then turn around and lay butter all over a sweet ballad.  Yeah, it was long ago and far away, but he did rule the world for a short time.  Then his world grew smaller and smaller.  He walled himself off from those to whom he owed that crown.  He went crazy in that silly Memphis castle.  Then in the middle of August in 1977 in an ironic twist that seems like it ought to have been written by the Greeks, the king died on the throne, doubled over in a constipated stupor with a spike full a smack jammed into his arm.  A balding bloated caricature of his once imperial self, but dammit at least he didn’t inhale a fried peanut butter and banana  sandwich and gag to death.  I just could not have dealt with that.
Bob Dickey
West Linn, OR