If Elvis was considered dangerous, then Jerry Lee Lewis was outright terrifying. He wore custard-yellow suits with black piping and had a sneer that spelled out sex and dirt and a regal arrogance. He was a mean, mean man. “We’re going to hell,” he’d cry. “Fire and brimstone. The fire never dies, the burning never dies, the fire never quenches for the weeping, wailing, gnashing of teeth. Yessir, going to hell. The Bible tells us so.” He was nicknamed the Killer, largely for what he did to his poor piano, his golden curls of hair flying as he sweated, battered, and molested the poor thing.
The piano on his first hit, “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On” (no. 3, ’57), sounded like it could break through the floorboards; it made a roaring, echoing noise like ominous approaching clouds.
From Yeah! Yeah! Yeah!: The Story of Pop Music from Bill Haley to Beyoncé by Bob Stanley, out now in hardcover and ebook.
All Killer, no filler over on The Story of Pop.
Chapter 2: Elvis Presley
In the early seventies Elvis Presley’s record label, RCA, released an album of unreleased outtakes called A Legendary Performer: when it outsold his new album of maudlin country ballads, the singer must have felt he had begun to lose the battle with his myth. Trapped inside Graceland, the Memphis mansion that was half home, half prison, the humble country boy who had done more than anyone to invent teen culture grew overweight and suffered severe depression; to the outside world, though, he was still the ultimate superstar, the invincible King of Rock ‘n’ Roll. Eighteen months before he died, Elvis told his producer Felton Jarvis, “I’m so tired of being Elvis Presley.”
Listen to the Chapter 2 playlist (with songs by Elvis Presley):
(This playlist features only the specific songs discussed in Yeah! Yeah! Yeah! by Bob Stanley (W. W. Norton, 2014) that are available on Spotify. Additional songs, albums, and bands are referenced beyond what is included here.)
Listen to more playlists.
Follow the storyofpop tumblr for a little music history on your dash. Today’s lesson: Elvis Presley. And coming soon: the early days of rockabilly.
Introducing….The Story of Pop.
Bob Stanley’s Yeah! Yeah! Yeah! tells the story of pop from Bill Haley to Beyoncé and everything in between, in chapters as short and addictive as the best pop songs themselves.
This tumblr is your Internet companion to the book: we’ll be posting playlists for each chapter and highlighting the all the great (and, ahem, not-so-great) songs, artists, scenes, and genres that Stanley touches on.
So, you know: Elvis, Jay Z, the Monkees, Patsy Cline, Patti Smith, skiffle, new wave, New Order, “It’s the Same Old Song,” The Song Remains the Same, Aretha, the Brill Building, Bowie, Blondie, Madonna, Prince, Sgt. Pepper, A Tribe Called Quest, the Clash, Fleetwood Mac, “Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini,” Bikini Kill, the Kinks, disco, Dylan, the Beatles, Michael Jackson, and on and on and on.
Say it with me now: Yeah! Yeah! Yeah!
Listen up: There’s now a tumblr dedicated to Bob Stanley’s Yeah! Yeah! Yeah!, telling the history of pop music from Bill Haley to Beyoncé, in all its playable, rebloggable glory.
Follow The Story of Pop.
The new mystery writer you need to know. Meet Tom Bouman.
If the short documentary posted earlier on Joe Sacco’s The Great War, a 24-foot panorama of the first day of the Battle of the Somme, was somehow not epic enough for you, the Paris Metro has an installation of Sacco’s wordless depiction on an even grander scale currently on display at the Montparnasse-Bienvenüe station, the fourth busiest station in the system.
Launched on July 1, 1916—98 years ago today—the Battle of the Somme has come to epitomize the madness of the First World War. Almost 20,000 British soldiers were killed and another 40,000 were wounded that first day, and there were more than one million casualties by the time the offensive halted.
In The Great War, cartoon journalist Joe Sacco depicts the events of the battle’s infamous first day in a monumental, wordless 24-foot panorama, “exacting in every damning detail, magnificent in its tragic way” (Jeff Shesol, New York Times Book Review).
Watch this short documentary to learn more.