Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Elvis Covers Part I: Hard-Headed Woman

Wanda Jackson: Hard-Headed Woman

 King of Rock 'n' Roll, eh?  Well, I guess we get the King we deserve.  As a society we surge purposefully toward the middle of the road, never truly comfortable with the truly sexy or dangerous, preferring instead the chintzy allure of the ersatz.  Don't get me wrong: Elvis was really something for a while, but John Lennon's estimation of his date of death, or at least the death of his relevance was pretty-well on the money.  It's telling that the first image that comes to mind when his name comes up is that of the tragic, jump-suited fat man, not the lithe, prowling young rebel who made our grandmothers come over all unnecessary.  It's more telling still that the booming trade in Elvis impersonators home in on that era - it's a lazy shorthand, of course, but one that drunk people will understand while they're committing to something regrettable with someone they barely know in a chintzy chapel somewhere in Reno tonight.

It could have been so different, of course.  Rock 'n' Roll is, in its purest form, a spicy gumbo of sex, rebellion and attitude, and as such far more primal and important than we probably deserve.  But if we did deserve it, our King may well have been a Queen.  Wanda Jackson had - hell, still has - the looks, the sass and the howl, and unlike Mr Presley, she never let the army or Colonel Tom Parker knock the attitude out of her.  Elvis cover?  No.  This is way more than that.  If the seldom-achieved point of a cover version is to surpass the original then Ms Jackson delivers where few others have managed.  She's the original, you see.    

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