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Deep Purple On Elvis

January 04, 2007 | People
Deep Purple frontman Ian Gillan recently spoke to Classic Rock magazine for its latest issue in which the stars of rock (plus some assorted rock-loving comedians, sportmen, MPs and other riff raff) nominate their "rock icons." The following is Gillan's explanation for why Elvis Presley belongs on the list:

"I lost interest in Elvis Presley after he made the 'Blue Hawaii' film [in 1961] and went to Las Vegas, but in his prime nobody could touch him.

"Michael Parkinson once asked the famous New Zealand soprano Kiri Te Kanawa about the greatest voice she'd ever heard, probably expecting her to name [Luciano] Pavarotti or Maria Callas, but she said, 'The young Elvis Presley, without any doubt.'

"Elvis's voice was unique. Like so many others, he had natural, technical ability, but there was something in the humanity of his voice, and his delivery. He was very influenced by Southern blues, and he helped to prove that you could have this bizarre mixture of country 'n' western, blues and folk music. Recordings were very honest in those days, and they stand up remarkably well.

"I was an avid collector of Elvis' early stuff; for a young singer he was an absolute inspiration. I soaked up what he did like blotting paper. It's the same as being in school — you learn by copying the maestro. His personality was also extremely endearing. The shaking of his hips was deemed sensational back then, but unlike Little Richard or Chuck Berry, his interviews were very self-effacing. He came over as gentle and was generous in his praise of others.

"It was immaterial to me that Elvis didn't write his own songs. Those were very different days, and he selected whatever suited him best from material supplied by publishing houses and teams of writers — all of whom were extremely conscious of his style of delivery.

"Although he appeared in some awful movies, Elvis could also be pretty damn good as an actor. 'Love Me Tender' [1956] and 'Jailhouse Rock' [1957] were both really good but 'King Creole' [1958] was my all-time favourite. Gradually, though, his youthful vigour and uninhibited style began to ebb away. For me, he sang the last time in the movie 'GI Blues' [1960].

"Along with the rest of Deep Purple I once had the chance to meet Elvis. The rest of the guys went along, but I couldn't stand seeing my hero after he'd changed so much. Those early records are still incredible, though. They can re-mix them and make them hits for the younger generation, and Elvis will always be the King. The reason is simple: He was the greatest singer that ever lived."
Shakingruud wrote on January 04, 2007
The same old ´Elvis died when he went into the army` story. Did they ever LISTEN to albums like From Elvis In Memphis, Elvis Country or watched, perhaps, The NBC TV Special????
dbacke1 wrote on January 04, 2007
I would have to agree with the other reviewer. There are just way too many people who don't give Elvis enough credit for what he accomplished during the late '60s and '70s. For me, it was this period (especially the '70s) when he really proved just how great he was. His voice got deeper and stronger, and he matured musically. He did great with his early material, and that's what put him on the map, but he wasn't going to be doing that forever. Like all other great artists, he grew. I truly feel that someday this realization will hit the masses, and there will be a huge renewed interest in The King.
Colonel wrote on January 04, 2007
I agree with you two. Most people just say this "Elvis died when he went into the army"-thing because they probably think it's cool to say it or because they won't disagree with Lennon, but everyone who has ears knows that the later years were awesome. They probably just saw a documentary about Elvis and never saw the comeback or TTWII. No one ever will come close to Elvis in '68-'70. Even the Beatles or any other great band didn't do, but they never mention it, because their own star might lose some light. Anyway, that's how I see it.
byebye wrote on January 04, 2007
What Gillan is drawn to is the "unmaking" of Elvis as an artist. Elvis was unique during his whole career, but a phenomenom in the "50s. The comeback and Vegas was mainly based on earlier hits. Now I love those later periods myself, but apart from being a brilliant performer, you couldn´t say that Elvis continued to be a pioneer for other artists like before. But apart from some silly movie tracks, Elvis recorded what he liked. And some dont fully understand that I believe. They dont understand his multi faceted genious, and therefor are unable to embrace it. What they should see, is that Elvis took every genre to perfection. That´s why he is the only performer inducted to the Rock, Country, Gospel halls of fame. But it´s not hard to understand why a "70s rock icon like Gillian likes the "50s best...
MarkE wrote on January 04, 2007
I agree completely with Jesper! fantastic opinion & well presented!
Sylvain wrote on January 04, 2007
Shakingruud I agree with you: quote Shakingruud: The same old ´Elvis died when he went into the army` story. Did they ever LISTEN to albums like From Elvis In Memphis, Elvis Country or watched, perhaps, The NBC TV Special ????
Colonel wrote on January 04, 2007
I hope I know what you mean Jesper, but I think his many sides and musical versatility is best to be experienced in the later years. In the 50s he did almost only rock, except for some gospels and christmas-tunes. You don't need to be a pioneer to make great music. That guy from Deep Purple just put everything after GI Blues (which sucks imho) together like the movies and the Vegas-years were about the same quality. I feel a great disinterest in his qutoes, to which he is allowed but to say publically this is a fact isn't right imo.
chrisc wrote on January 04, 2007
Agreed, and also I hate to hear these people say they are glad they didn't meet Elvis in the 70s. as if he wasn't worth meeting as a remarkable human being. Cliff Richard also says something of this sort. I'm glad they didn't have the delight and wonderful wonderful experience of meeting him if this is their attitude.
Dixieland Rock wrote on January 04, 2007
I think 1967 was a great year for Elvis music with the "Guitar Man" recording sessions. Those recording sessions are so under rated. RCA goofed big time by scattering these great recordings on the silly soundtrack albums and Camden budget releases. Plus the then recent Elvis films at the time showing Elvis singing crap like "Confidence" and "Hey Hey Hey" helped shape alot of those opinions that you read about Elvis. I don't blame Deep Purple or anyone else for their opinions. I say the blame for Elvis tarnished image goes back to Elvis, the Coloniel, RCA & the script writers. Elvis should have been on the Ed Sullivan show in 1967 singing "Big Boss Man" instead of singing "Who Needs Money Not Me".
JimmyCool wrote on January 04, 2007
What's Deep Purple anyway?
Steve V wrote on January 04, 2007
DixielandRock - Right on as usual. The 68 TV Special was fantastic but many had already cast their opinons from crap like Clambake, Easy Come, Paradise, Harum. Elvis should have found some time in the mid-60's to show he could still cut it by appearing on Sullivan. Imagine the publicity with a 10th anniv appearance! Wow. If the colonel didnt price him out of the market, this could have happened. Shindig tried very hard to get him. That was the hippest show around then. Elvis would have been much more respected had he appeared on TV between films. The 68-70 period was great but short lived. The 70's concert years were another movie period in my opinion. Same old shows night after night. A world tour was needed badly. Some may say Elvis only sang Rock N Roll in the 50's but he set the tone for all who followed by doing so. By the 70's he was the follower and not breaking new ground.
Scratch wrote on January 04, 2007
As a kid, I didn't even know that Elvis existed in the 50s. I saw Aloha as a 9yo and thought how good is this guy? I loved Burning Love and discovered Suspicious Minds and In The Ghetto. I bought his live albums and gradually worked my way back to the 50s - I guess I'm an inverse Elvis fan and it was the 70s Elvis that hooked me. I'm glad Gillan loved the young Elvis' singing but I don't listen to Elvis because he's a pioneer, I listen to him because of his unique voice and as much as I love all his eras, the early Elvis can't touch his near operatic 60-61 voice or his exquisite 68-70 voice - Gillan doesn't know what he's missing.
Jim Semple wrote on January 05, 2007
Ian Gillan - wow he is a massive name isn't he - i'm sure everybody in the world could easily recognise his name and face. Of course Im being sarcastic. His comments are very ignorant although I accept that its his personal opinion. Look you dont have to be a genius to work out, that unless you are a big Elvis fan like we all are on this site, then with the exception of perhaps Aloha which has been screened on TV a lot over the years (UK), then Ian Gillan and everybody else will have NEVER seen any single footage of Elvis in the 70's, probably NEVER listened to any of Elvis's records in the 70's but went along with all the Press Crap about how fat, how drugged, this that and the other. All crap. Yes Elvis wasnt great always in the 70's but I tell you what, I have concert and studio recordings from every single year in the 70s right through to 77 and there is some brilliant stuff in every year. We must stop this NEGATIVE Elvis ''rubbish in the 70s'' nonsense NOW !!!
wayup wrote on January 05, 2007
Ehmmm.... who is DEEP PURPLE?
JerryNodak wrote on January 05, 2007
I don't care what Ian Gillan (who?) thinks. I don't care what McCartney thinks or what Lennon thought. I don't even care what Guralnick or Jorgenson think. The only opinion that matters to me when it comes to Elvis' music is mine.
CEP wrote on January 05, 2007
I think that this great praise from Gillan.Good on him.At a time when it's still not cool to eulogise Elvis he has been more than fair.I am surprised again about how insular some Elvis fans are in their knowledge of non Elvis music. Deep Purple were a great band and Gillan did some great Elvis covers including Blue Suede Shoes and Trouble.
Jerry 79 wrote on January 05, 2007
It really annoys me that people don’t want to see Elvis In (to my opinion) his best time – the 70’s. The only things they see I s a fat men in funny jumpsuits. They do not understand the story behind the jumpsuits and the story behind his music. I thing that Bono from U2 somehow feels it. To me Deep Purple is only one more star in the heaven that is somewhere near Elvis. In the Public Polish radio we had a day with music from the 70’s and It was really sad to me that they played 4 times John Lennon’s “Imagine” and did not even mention Elvis and his Grammy award or even the satellite concert. I also think that fans creates an opinion about an artist but again it is sad that media sees only those funny looking impersonators and believe that this is the only background left by Elvis music from the later years. I wish every present performer to have the same spirit and expression as Elvis had on my favorite album “From Elvis Presley Boulevard…”
ger wrote on January 05, 2007
DEEP PURPLE are the best ROCK BAND in the world
My boy, my boy wrote on January 06, 2007
Well, I can say that most of those reactions on Elvisnews to what that guy from Deep purple said are quite interesting. For myself, even if my favorite period of Elvis`s music is the 70ties, I can honestly say that the 50ties are the years where Elvis made the true real impact. I gave up trying to understanding why most people don`t pay attention to anything but the pre-army Elvis. It happended the day I found out that Elvis wasn`t into Rock that much after his discharge from the army. And it was also caused by that "all-American boy image" that Colonel wanted to promote after 1960 in order to make his client`s career last perhaps longer since Rock`n`roll was sort of dying out with all the scandals and tragic deaths surrounding the end of the 50ties in the music industry. Elvis wasn`t necessarily against the idea himself because he sort of became a crooner and he did pretty well after all in the first few years of the decade numder 60. But like I said, on a personal level, Elvis kept on being more and more interesting in the 70ties (between `68 and `73 to be more accurate).
Homie wrote on January 06, 2007
Sure, Ian Gillan can have his opinion but I think it's just a shame that he had the chance to see Elvis in the 70s and didn't take it. I personally don't like that statement. Why do so many people think Elvis "died" after the Army? Just listen to songs like "His Latest Flame" or "Devil in Disguise", those are some of his best recordings. And then there are the great Guitar Man Sessions, the Comeback Special, the Memphis recordings, That's the Way It Is and so on... This stuff is absolutely amazing. Some people really don't know what they're missing. Just watch TTWII and you get infected with Elvis. I got.
Carl wrote on January 06, 2007
Ian Gillan and Deep Purple are great. I saw them in concert and they sounded intense. Their most famous record is "Smoke on the Water", one of the greatest guitar riff records. On the In Rock album, they do a song called "Speed King" that incorporates Elvis' "Hard-Headed Woman" in the lyrics. Gillan has always said that Elvis was his greatest rock inspiration for decades. This is no secret. He limits Elvis by saying Elvis is just a singer. Elvis played rhythm and lead guitar ("One Night", "Blue Christmas". "Baby What You Want Me To Do"), Elvis arranged many songs, and Elvis even wrote several songs ("You'll Be Gone", "That's Someone You Never Forget", "heartbreak Hotel"), produced many of his recordings, acted, and sang. Elvis also played piano. Elvis also was part of a band. Elvis was not just a singer. Admittedly, Elvis focused on ballads in the early sixties and went away from guitar-based music. Elvis was willing to change and to grow. People like Chuck Berry and Little Richard never grew or risked anything. They just kept doing the same song and same style over and over and over again. Also, they faded completely after 1964. Elvis continued to dominate the charts throughout his career and to have an impact. Chuck Berry kept doing the 5 same songs over and over and over again until it got dusgusting. Elvis also was willing to grow and to take artistic risks. The "If I Can Dream" period was a whole new direction for Elvis. Elvis still could pack a punch in the 1970s with monster hits such as "Burning Love". His final album was pretty impressive. "Moody Blue" and "Way Down" were pure Elvis. Ian Gillan is no model of artistic consistency. He quit Deep Purple in 1973 at the height of their creativity and released a bunch of inferior, embarrassing, uninspired flops. Gillan is unknown today. Who is he to judge Elvis? Critics of Elvis tend to disappear from musical history while Elvis' legacy grows. It is nice, though, to have one of the greatest hard rock bands admit that Elvis was one of their greatest influences. Chuck Jackson said that Elvis did not influence any rock and roll bands, Think again. Led Zeppelin, The Beatles, Deep Purple, The Rolling Stones, Cheap Trick, Queen, U2, The Jeff Beck Group,...the list is endless, were all influenced by Elvis.
see see rider wrote on January 11, 2007
Ian Gillan wasn't critizing Elvis or putting him down, he was just simply stating his opinon..not that I agree with EVERYTHING that he said myself, but I like Deep purple, always have. Obviously their music is alot harder than Elvis's but in every sense of the word, they are a true classic rock band. Ian Gillan has a tremendous set of pipes in his own right..Great band.
stanton wrote on January 24, 2007
I think what most people just don`t realize is the fact that Elvis during his long (and yet too short) career was able to hit the taste of EVERYBODY, something no other ever has or will be able to practise, no matter how hard they try. Because they lack of flexibility and / or the multiple shades of talent.
FLASHBOY wrote on February 06, 2007
Sick and tired of hearing the same old stupid thing ...The Elvis died after going to the army stuff ...Hey what about the greatest unplugged of all time in 68? the 1969 recording sessions in Memphis? the Elvis TTWII? Man That is magnificent stuff You know the Beatles have said it to but let me tell you something ...none of them deep purple and the beatles separate or togheter have done live things like Elvis did so please cut the crap! thank ya!