Every year on January 8th, my Facebook feed lights up with people wishing Elvis Presley and David Bowie a happy birthday. I’m pretty sure neither of them will see these notes but it’s a nice gesture. While there’s little or no evidence of Elvis being aware of the Goblin King, Bowie loved THE King, who would’ve been 80 today. Here are some great tales I’ve scoured up about his appreciation for Mr TCB.
Elvis Aaron Presely was born on January 8, 1935 in Tupelo, Mississippi. David Robert Jones was born on January 8, 1947 in Brixton, London, England. He says that he first discovered the power of music when he saw his cousin get up and dance to Elvis’ “Hound Dog.” When he grew up and got an RCA Records recording contract, he was labelmates with Presley.
FLYING IN FROM ENGLAND MIDTOUR TO SEE ELVIS AT MADISON SQUARE GARDEN 1972
An invitation was extended to bring David, (wife) Angela and Ronno (Mick Ronson) to New York in June to see Elvis Presley at Madison Square Garden. There would probably be a reception, and David was promised a chance to meet Elvis. David jumped at the invitation. The purpose of the trip, he said with a grin, was to give the king of rock n roll the opportunity to meet the queen of rock n roll. “I must look younger” he said. “It’s very important that I’m the younger looking one”. They had to fly, and by the time they arrived in New York City on Friday afternoon David was close to collapse because of his fear of flying.
At Madison Square Garden the seats had been arranged by (Manager Tony De) Defries so that David would sit next to RCA Records president Rocco Laginestra. The sight of David in full Ziggy drag greeting the middle aged executive in his neatly pressed suit and conservative tie while Elvis crooned “Don’t Be Cruel” had exactly the visual impact Defries was aiming for. By the time the show was over, each RCA executive had had the opportunity to inspect David for himself. Dennis Katz did his best to apologise for the fact that RCA had not been able to engineer a way for David to meet Elvis. David was extremely disappointed; it was a fantasy that he had desperately wanted to convert into Reality.
-Excerpts from Stardust: The David Bowie Story
“They sat next to fellow VIPs John Lennon, Led Zeppelin, Simon & Garfunkel and Bob Dylan.”
“[Elvis] was a major hero of mine. And I was probably stupid enough to believe that having the same birthday as him actually meant something. I came over for a long weekend. I remember coming straight from the airport and walking into Madison Square Garden very late. I was wearing all my clobber from the Ziggy period and had great seats near the front. The whole place just turned to look at me and I felt like a right idiot. I had brilliant red hair, some huge padded space suit and those red boots with big black soles. I wished I’d gone for something quiet, because I must have registered with him. He was well into his set.”
“I walked in on a Saturday evening in full Ziggy garb to see Elvis and he nearly crucified me. I felt such a fool and I was way down in the front. I sat down there and he looked at me and if looks could kill ! Ziggy changed on the Monday night. It was probably Elvis Stardust [laugh] for about a week.”
“I just found out what day I went to see Elvis Presley in 1972. They have the calendars from which you can look up any year and found out what any date was. So I now know that I flew over to see Presley on Friday, June the 9th, 1972. I knew it was in June sometime and I kind of knew that he was on around the 9th or 10th at Madison Square Garden and I didn’t know which day I’d gone.
I had a gig on the Thursday night at the Polytechnic in Middlesbrough so I dashed down to London that night after the gig, got on the plane early in the morning, just made the concert – I got in late to the concert and he was already doing “Proud Mary.” Then that night I had a quick sleep and got up early, early the next morning and got on a flight back to London and played a gig the next night. So I literally saw him between gigs. I absolutely had to see him before anything happened to him. He was pretty good at that time. He was still in pretty great shape and it wasn’t that long after the black leather show that was on television.”
-2004 GO! interview
RECORDING A BOWIE TUNE
According to the Memphis Mafia’s LAMAR FIKE, in his forthcoming memoir, AN UNCOMMON JOURNEY: ON ELVIS PRESLEY BOULEVARD (co-written with celebrity-bio man MARK BEGO), “In 1976, David’s then-wife Angela Bowie, visited us all at the now-defunct International in Las Vegas, and she brought with her a song David had written especially for Elvis, ‘The Prettiest Star’ (I guess Fike didn’t know Bowie released the song in 1969 -ed.). She was a bit under the weather so she didn’t get to stay for the show, but gave me the song to give to Elvis. We were terrifically excited to get something from one of the new emerging acts on the music scene. Elvis was always very much aware of the next thing, and, at that point it was Bowie.” (2008)
ROUGHRIDA, CASPER, WYOMING: Is it true that you originally wrote “Golden Years” for Elvis Presley?
“No. Apparently Elvis heard the demos, because we were both on RCA, and Colonel Tom [Parker, Presley’s manager] thought I should write Elvis some songs. There was talk between our offices that I should be introduced to Elvis and maybe start working with him in a production-writer capacity. But it never came to pass. I would have loved to have worked with him. God, I would have adored it. He did send me a note once. [Perfectly imitates Presley’s drawl] ‘All the best, and have a great tour.’ I still have that note.”
-Blender Magazine, 2009
The amazing Steve Riks allows us to imagine what that might’ve been like….
Bowie had clothes designer and friend Freddi Burretti copy Elvis’s on-stage white jump-suit for Bowie’s own use at Ziggy Stardust concerts. Bowie typically would change into it before his trademark finale – “Rock n Roll Suicide.” Manager Tony De Fries closed the concerts with “David Bowie has left the building.” The lightning bolt on his face from Aladdin Sane was taken from Elvis’ famed TCB logo. His appearance in the German cult movie Christiane F (as himself) was a reference to the movie Roustabout. His red short jacked, blue shirt and hair is in the same style that Elvis wore while performing “Little Egypt” in the movie.
17 August 2002
BOWIE DOES PRESLEY ON LAST NIGHT OF AREA 2
David Bowie ended the Area 2 tour in Rattlesnake-infested Seattle last night, with a brilliant one hour and forty-five minute set at The Gorge. David was in even higher spirits than normal, chatting between songs, and generally enjoying a bit of silliness at every given opportunity.
DB also performed stunning versions of two of Elvis Presley’s earlier recordings on what was the 25th anniversary of The King’s death. He started the encore with ‘I Feel So Bad’, which, despite being a top 5 UK hit in 1961, is not the best known of Elvis’s recordings, unlike the next song David sang, ‘One Night’, (possibly better remembered by many as ‘One Night With You’) which was a number one hit round the world early in 1959.
Those of you familiar with the song know what a very sexy number Presley’s version of ‘One Night’ is, well just imagine what a slice of dirty filth it must have been in the hands of David Bowie and his band! Sends shivers doesn’t it? Anyway, David has very kindly written a few words about last night just for you:
“Moby gave us all one of the most enjoyable tours we’ve ever been on. Everyone was just a gas and we all made such good friends. Last night left us quite sad as it dawned on us that this was the last of Area 2. The Gorge was just the most splendid location for a finale and, because of its majesty, put me in mind of the mountain Shokan location where it all began last year with the recording for Heathen. We pushed the time button last night and managed a full hour and forty five minutes, including hasty but enthusiastic renditions of Presley’s ‘One Night’ and ‘I Feel So Bad’.
Audio of the two Elvis covers and fun banter:
BowieNet Live Chat Transcription – 23/12/99
JollyRoger: Did you ever meet Elvis Presley?
David Bowie: yes.
David Bowie: Duncan and I were honoured to have been served our meatloaf at lunch today by Elvis…
David Bowie: he’s looking really trim and lost some weight
David Bowie: he says he’s sold the car and regrets selling the belt with the big buckle
David Bowie: as he has lost so much weight, he seriously needs it back to keep his pants up
QueerByChoice: if you die will you come back and visit us like Elvis?
David Bowie: bless you.
David Bowie: I love thee ‘IF you die…….’
MartianDust: come to my house first
David Bowie: IF I die I will come to your house first…
December 13, 2013 BBC Radio 6 Music
Amazing Elvis styled Christmas greeting on This Is Radio Clash
No one combines the two better than El Vez
“It Ain’t Easy”
“Rock n Roll Suicide/If I Can Dream”
So, happy birthday, Mr. Jones. With your recent hermit ways, it might not be as star-studded as your 50th but hope it’s fit for a King. (cringe)