Friday, 4 December 2009

Douglas Roy : Disco To The King

A 1977 Polydor seven-inch (2058 989) with unpleasant cheapo red injection-moulded plastic labels, in a special white die-cut paper sleeve (rather than a proper picture one) with black text on just one side.
Apparently Douglas Roy was an Elvis Presley impersonator from Niagara Falls, the only one of his kind known to have shared the stage with Elvis himself; and from its release date I'd guess that this 45 must have appeared in the wake of the King's untimely demise, reports of which were beginning to filter through whilst John Peel was on the air in his ten-to-midnight slot.
The sleeve of this two-parter lists fifteen different songs (with composer credits) associated with the dyed-blueblack-haired sometime rocker, each side consisting of a medley of several of these - to a string-laden, brass-punctuated disco beat with a surfeit of backing vocals, and some dubbed-on crowd appreciation presumably poached from an in-concert recording of the singer once considered broadcastable from the waist upwards only.
This record is wonderfully and completely of its era - a combination of a response to a major cultural event (if that was the case, unless this was simply released as a novelty) with the dominant musical form of the moment. Incongruous ? Preposterous ? To me, it works really well, and is far less reverent and mawkish a tribute (if that's how it was intended) than much of the slop which appeared after 16th August '77, like Skip Jackson's unintentionally hilarious The Greatest Star Of All, a Kenny Everett World's Worst Record Show L.P. "favourite" - more a celebration, a pleasing reimagining of Elvis Aaron as a living, active, contemporary entity. Did Elvis ever venture into the disco genre during his lifetime ? Might he, had he lived ? This single predates the dancefloor smash A Little Less Conversation by a good quarter-century.
I'm not aware of that many records by Elvis impersonators - I remember the turban-wearing Peter Singh whose disc I've yet to locate; and there's the Swedish Eilart Pilarm who appears on the first volume of the outsider music collection Songs In The Key Of Z. And of course there's El Vez, the Mexican Elvis. An early Rhino Records release is supposedly an International Elvis Impersonators' Convention (RNEP 505) (, yet it feels to me like it's played for laughs as each of the Elvises has his own distinct characteristic - Jewish, Indian, Japanese etc.
Two excellent books on the topic grace my shelves : American Graphic Systems, Inc.'s I Am Elvis (Pocket Books, 1991); and photographer Kent Barker's collaboration with writer Karin Pritikin, The King & I (Chronicle, 1992).
The sole Elvis disc I have is a reissue of the pre-Army Mystery Train, incidentally, though I'm told that his gospel recordings are pretty good. I was never much of a fan as a kid when he was making 45s like An American Trilogy...

YouTube link :

No comments:

Post a Comment