It is better known as the BBC’s primary repository for serious news and comment, but Radio 4 is to enter uncharted territory next week when it broadcasts a bizarre 14-minute poem about Elvis Presley written by Bono, the U2 frontman.
The Irish singer has long been a professed superfan of the king of rock’n’roll, and is thought to have written the rhyme, American David, in 1994.
Listeners will be treated to lines such as: “Elvis, with god on his knees/ Elvis, on three TVs/ Elvis, here come the killer bees, head full of honey, potato chips and cheese.”
The BBC has billed it as “delivered plainly, but intensely, by Bono. Some lines are purposefully quintessential Elvis clichés while others make listeners view Elvis in a new light.”
The production company, however, has a slightly different view, with the man who carried out the interview in which Bono spontaneously produced the poem describing it as “effective but bonkers”.
The recording is thought to have been made two years ago by Ten Alps, Bob Geldof’s production company, as part of a Radio 2 programme exploring the history of Sun Records, which released Presley’s first records.
Des Shaw, director of Ten Alps, said: “During an interview with Bono he was talking about how much he loved Elvis and he said he had written a poem about him.
“I said I’d love to hear it and he ran upstairs and grabbed it and just read it for us. He said, ‘There you go, do with it what you want’. I suppose, really, it’s his thoughts on Elvis. He’s a huge fan and he knows an awful, awful lot about his music.
“We’ve been tossing ideas around for two years, keeping on going back to it and trying to work out how we’d use it. It took a while to work out how to produce it in a very effective but bonkers way. It’s a difficult one for Radio 4.”
The epic poem has been mixed over the top of various Elvis tracks, as well as popular culture recordings from the past 50 years.
The BBC said: “A unique recording of U2 frontman Bono reading his poem weaves into an atmospheric and artistic radio feature. The poem has been spoken about by a very small group of radio producer friends since it was performed by Bono spontaneously at the end of a radio interview he gave to Des Shaw.”
U2 are huge fans of Presley, and recorded their 1988 album Rattle and Hum at Sun Studios, Memphis, with Bono using a microphone once used by Elvis. Larry Mullen, the band’s drummer, called his first child Aaron Elvis, an inversion of Presley’s first names. In recent performances Bono has taken to the stage wearing eyeliner, telling journalists that he thought he looked like Elvis’s stillborn twin brother, Jesse. “Which, maybe, is in poor taste,” he added.
The poem was published in the band’s fan magazine, Propaganda, in 1995 but has never been publicly aired in full.
When it does go out on Radio 4, at 11pm on May 13, it will be accompanied with a warning about its language.
One rhyming triplet reads: “Elvis the bumper stickers/ Elvis the white knickers/ Elvis the white nigger ate at Burger King and just kept getting bigger.”
Another that may cause offence proceeds: “Elvis the ecstatic/ Elvis the plastic/ Elvis the elastic with a spastic dance that could explain the energy of America.”
Alice Maynard, chairman of disability charity Scope, said: “While I’m sure Bono didn’t intend to insult disabled people, the word is often used as an offensive reference to someone with cerebral palsy.
“Because of this, the word can be very insulting to a disabled person and its use in some contexts is inappropriate and, at worst, discriminatory.”
elvis son of tupelo.
elvis mama's boy.
elvis the twin brother of Jesse who died at birth and was buried in a shoe box.
elvis drove a truck.
elvis was recorded at sun studios by the musical diviner sam phillips.
elvis was managed by colonel tom parker, an ex-carnie barker whose last act was a singing canary.
elvis was the most famous singer in the world since king david.
elvis lived on his own street.
elvis liked to play speed cop.
elvis had a monkey named scatter before anyone.
elvis wore a cape at the white house when he was presenting nixon with two silver pistols.
elvis was a member of the drug squad.
elvis wore eye make up, just hangin' out.
elvis wore a gold nudie suit and trained his lip to curl.
elvis was macho, but could sing like a girl.
elvis was not a big talker.
elvis was articulate in every other way.
elvis dyed his hair black to look like valentino.
elvis held a microphone the way valentino held nitanaldi in blood and sand.
elvis dressed black long before he dressed in black.
elvis sang black except in lower registers where he was a student of dean martin.
elvis admired mario lanza.
elvis delivered the world from crooning.
elvis was a great crooner.
elvis had a voice that could explain the sexuality of america.
elvis was influenced by jim morrison in his choice of black leather for the '68 comeback special.
elvis invented the beatles.
elvis achieved world domination from a small town.
elvis was conscious of myth.
elvis had pharoah-like potential.
elvis was made by america, so america could remake itself.
elvis had good manners.
elvis was a bass, a baritone, and a tenor.
elvis sang his heart out at the end.
elvis the opera singer.
elvis the soap opera.
elvis loved america, God, the bible, firearms, the movies, the office of presidency, junk food, drugs, cars, family,television, jewellery, straight talkin', dirty talkin' gameshows, uniforms, and self-help books.
elvis like america, wanted to improve himself.
elvis like america, started out loving but later turned on himself.
elvis body could not stop moving.
elvis is alive, we're dead.
elvis the charismatic.
elvis the ecstatic.
elvis the plastic, elvis the elastic with a spastic dance that might explain the energy of america.
elvis fusion and confusion.
elvis earth rod in a southern dorm.
elvis shaking up an electrical storm.
elvis in hollywood his voice gone to ground.
elvis in las vegas with a big brassy sound.
elvis the first rock'n'roll star with scotty moore, bill black, and d.j. fontana.
elvis with james burton and ronny tutt.
elvis the movie star made three good films : viva las vegas,flaming star, and jailhouse rock.
elvis the hillbilly brought rhythm to the white race,blues to pop, and rock'n'roll to where ever rock'n'roll is.
elvis the pelvis, swung from africa to europe, which is the idea of america.
elvis the kung fu would come later.
elvis built a theme park he later called Graceland.
elvis woke up to whispers.
elvis thought of himself as a backslider.
elvis knew guilt like a twin brother.