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The Five Best Elvis Presley Tribute Songs

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If all the hype is to be believed, Elvis Presley was once a bigger star than Fall Out Boy, My Chemical Romance and Shakira combined. Personally, I like to remain skeptical about these things. I like to let history decide who will be the winners. So, I have quite a wait on my hands. These acts have to die and then add thirty years before the real decision is made.

So, for now, with reservations, I'm willing to say that Elvis Presley sure was popular in his day and people seem to really like the guy. Heck, Paul Simon named an album after the guy's house!

Sure are a lot of books about him and most of them are big and heavy. But, you have to ask yourself, is the cultural impact anything like what's happening with The Two Coreys?

However, I'm always touched when other people pay tribute. If you do a websearch looking for Elvis tributes, you'll give yourself a headache. Trust me, I speak from experience. Most people's idea of a tribute is to blather on endlessly and tastelessly until there isn't a dry eye in the house, maybe throw in a few irrelevant references to someone's dead pet, mother, child...you name it, anything to get the tears a-flowin'. I prefer my tributes a little more restrained. I'm not going to give the tissue companies any more of my money than I have to! I'm sure you have your favorite "Song About Elvis" and I'm sure it's wonderful.

One more point of curiosity, translated into Spanish, Elvis means "The Vis." Weird, huh?

John Fogerty - "Big Train (From Memphis)": See, this is a mastery of understatement. There's no wailing of "Elvis, you were the best / to heck with the rest / without you, I would've failed my math test." No, Fogerty does what a good songwriter does. He likens Elvis to a train. And that train passes through your town and leaves you forever changed. Why is never made completely clear. Did it run someone over? Did it emit so much exhaust that people came down with black lung? Did it run through a residential neighborhood and cause property values to decline? Did it allow hobos to get out of town? Like all great songs, this one forces you to ask tough questions.

X - "Back 2 The Base": Punk groups are always so contrary. This one monitors an angry anti-fan, a man riding on a city bus screaming about Elvis saying he sucked "doggie" appendages and that he meant nothing. Which by the simple fact that this guy's screaming on the bus about him clearly proves it isn't true. If Elvis didn't matter, why complain about him, huh? In some ways, the song is more about the dangers of riding the public transportation system in Los Angeles than it is about Elvis. If a song about Elvis encourages more people to carpool, who am I to argue?

Bruce Springsteen - "Johnny Bye Bye": We all knew Bruce Springsteen would write a song about Elvis. He had to. It's somewhere in his contract, somewhere between "must shout 'Big Man' at crucial junctures in song' and "must employ three guitar players, two keyboardists and tell 15-minute stories about 'growing up' while playing for five hours every evening." Bruce calls people "Johnny" the way others might refer to someone as "Stretch," "Buddy" or "Jerk-O." So it's never clear who he's talking to or who's doing what in this song. There's a girl from Memphis who takes all her money out of the bank, sticks her kid on a bus with just a "guitar in his hand" to "the promised land," which must be New Jersey, then suddenly our narrator invites her to a party right in Memphis where it isn't really very festive since Elvis has just died and they're putting his body in the back of a car. They've taken all his money out of the bank, too, which makes it seem as if there's some sort of run on the banks here--or it's just a bizarre coincidence. They found Elvis in the toilet with a whole lot of "trouble" running through his veins, which toxicology reports would later confirm was a hefty mix of many different pharmaceuticals. Bruce says "bye bye" to Johnny and moves on.

Richard Thompson - "From Galway To Graceland": English folk dude Richard Thompson tells the story of a girl who travels from the west coast of Ireland to west Tennessee to sit at Elvis's grave and eventually gets herself arrested for telling Elvis all her dreams, but my guess is she was actually singing loudly and poorly and refused to leave while thousands of others were looking to spend their few minutes telling Elvis about their unfortunate financial situations. This poor girl tells the authorities who arrest her she's married to the dude. Surprisingly, they don't believe her.

Prefab Sprout - "The King Of Rock 'N' Roll": "You were never fleet of foot, hippy," the singer is reminded, as he tries to convince his woman and the world that he is the king of rock 'n' roll. But, as this song sadly points out, no one but Elvis was the King of Rock 'n' Roll. So, the dejected narrator, in denial and planning a far worse fate for all who cross his path, sings only what any desperate person might utter upon realizing their miserable fate: "Hot dog, jumping frog, Albuquerque." Uh-huh. Exactly what I was thinking.

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