April 27, 2014

The strange and mighty "Power of My Love" **

So, back on New Year's Day of this year, I began a new musical infatuation. I woke up that morning wanting to get into Elvis Presley. Of course, I've heard Elvis' music over the years. I even seem to recall one of my grandmothers having some of his albums and talking about him once or twice. But I never got into him, y'know?  But suddenly on January 1st I decided it was time.  I had a day-trip planned with a lot of driving, so before leaving the house I did a quick search of Amazon.com, found and downloaded The Essential Elvis Presley, and loaded it onto a flash drive for the car.  By the time I got home that night, I was deeply hooked and completely understood why the man became the star he was and still is. Since then, I've picked up the gorgeous six-lp 50th Anniversary box-set, gotten a couple of his movies from Netflix (I highly recommend King Creole, it's a blast) and read a few bios: One heart-breakingly sad, another heart-warming, and one just begun-- Peter Guralnick's two-part Last Train to Memphis/Careless Love

This new infatuation, though, has in no way eclipsed the already existing one, my addiction to Jack White and his music.  It's not inconceivable that Jack might've led me to Elvis, the same way he's led me into so much other music, from blues to rockabilly to garage rock.  After all, he's been Elvis--

And the connection doesn't end there.  Jack's worked with a few of Elvis' former girlfriends in recent years.  Both clearly grasp(ed) the effect of taking the stage in distinctive clothing (Elvis' early pink'n'black getups and those iconic white jumpsuits, Jack's red, white'n'black with the White Stripes and equally color-coordinated outfits in every other incarnation), and both dyed their hair black and play(ed) up their eyes with makeup. Both took existing musical styles and turned them into something just a bit different.  But that's all superficial stuff.  Something I read in Last Train to Memphis summed up what it really is. Guralnick quoted Tom Perryman, a young dj and promoter from Gladewater, TX, describing Elvis at nineteen, just a couple months after the release of That's Alright:

"You know, he was really a natural.  When Elvis was performing, everyone had the same basic reaction.  It was almost spontaneous.  It reminded me of the early days, of where I was raised in East Texas and going to these 'Holy Roller' Brush Arbor meetings: seeing these people get religion.  I said 'Man, that's something.'  You'd see it in the later years with the big sound systems and the lights, but Elvis could do it if there wasn't but ten people (in the room).  He never realized what he had till later years.  He said, 'Man, this sure is a good crowd in this part of the country.  Are they always that way?'.  I said, 'No, man. They never seen anything like you.' Nobody had."

That's Jack. I missed the White Stripes, as I didn't get into his music until the band was already unofficially over. But I've spoken to many people who did experience the Stripes, read many a review of their shows, and have experienced for myself all of his post-Stripes incarnations.  I would bet money that every fellow fan I know would agree that seeing Jack perform live is like getting religion and that they'd never before seen anything like him.  And he puts the same passion into every show, whether it's in front of ten people or one of those places with a big sound system and lights and a few thousand people.

So just imagine the degree to which my silly l'il fan-girl brain was blown when my two infatuations recently came together.

Last Saturday was Record Store Day and, like last year, I headed to Nashville to celebrate the day at Third Man Records. The anticipation for this year's event, though, was light years beyond the previous one.  On April 3rd, just two days after announcing on April Fool's Day that Jack would be releasing his second solo album, Lazaretto, this summer, Third Man announced that on Record Store Day, he would take the stage of the Blue Room to record, direct-to-acetate, a live version of the first single, also titled Lazaretto.  Not only that, but the acetate would then be rushed down the road to United Record Pressing Plant (who presses all of Third Man's releases), an abundance of singles would be pressed, and then said singles would be rushed back to Third Man to sell to the fans waiting in anxious anticipation.  And not only that, but tickets to attend Jack's performance would be on sale within a couple of hours of this announcement. Did my stomach immediately begin doing flips?  Did I actually tell my boss that I needed to be off the clock for a short while that afternoon with my office door closed?  Did I then clock out, shut my door, and pounce on that ticket sale like a hawk after its prey, scoring one of those highly sought-after $100 tickets within a matter of seconds?  Affirmative to all of the above.

Yup, that'd be me. The thing in itself.
 On Friday two weeks later, I arrived in Nashville and checked into my hotel around 5:30pm. Taking a quick peek at Facebook, I found that two of my show buddies from the 2012 Blunderbuss tour were already at Third Man and had begun the line for Saturday morning's 10am performance. When I commented that they were awesome, the immediate reply was "Get your butt down here!".  So I did.  And I was glad and grateful for it in so many ways.

First was the fried chicken that I picked up for our dinner.  If you ever find yourself in Nashville, brave the lines at Hattie B's.  Lord above, I can pretty much guarantee you won't be sorry. And then I was glad for the night that followed with the terrific bunch of people who were there.  From pressing our ears to the metal door that leads to the Blue Room so that we could hear the sound-check (and being chastised for it by Jack's tour manager), to curling up in a camp-chair with a blanket to stake our place in line while my buddies crawled into their tent to sleep, to waking up from a light doze to see an almost-full moon glowing in the sky over the Wardenclyffe tower-replica perched atop Third Man, to taking everyone for a McDonald's run at 6am and coming back to find a bird flying in and out through the TMR logo in the metal door, testing the acoustics inside the hallway, and then perching inside the logo to serenade us before flitting off...  Thinking back on that night and morning, I kind of feel sorry for Jack that we've experienced something he'll probably never be able to-- The magic of spending a beautiful, chilly night outside the gleaming black walls of the place he created.  

This photo and all following courtesy of and property of Mike Dziama

But I was mostly grateful that I'd rushed over there when told to because I was third in line to enter the venue when the doors opened at 8:30am.  My buddies and I snagged prime real estate at the front of the stage and, oh, how different it was at this show, considering how tiny that stage is and how close we were to the action upon it.  Very kindly, Third Man put together a video re-cap of the entire day to save me from having to babble about it.  Suffice it to say, the grin that's visible on my face about 18 seconds in sums up the state I was in pretty much the entire 20+ hours I spent on the premises--

So where's the Elvis connection? You heard a snippet of it in that video, when Jack and the band covered Power of My Love, an Elvis tune I'd not yet heard of, as the b-side of the live Lazaretto World's Fastest Record.  As terrific a song as Lazaretto is, it's that cover tune that I and some of my friends have been talking about since.  

Where Elvis' version is all self-assured, sultry seduction, Jack's is a blatant, nakedly urgent declaration that this is how it is and now what are you gonna do about it?  Elvis croons the words, Jack spits and shrieks them (while still managing to slip in a bit of that Elvis quaver), but both versions have the same knee-weakening effect.  Probably not in the least surprising, but I've been giddy over this song all week.  

In an interview with Marc Maron (skip ahead to about 29 minutes in) in 2012, Jack described Elvis as an "alien" because of what he did with music. I don't know whether Jack doesn't realize it or would be too modest to say it out loud, but it's time for him to admit that he's one, too.

Been a tad giddy over these, too, so just for the hell of it...

** Yes, I do know that the lyric is "strength and mighty power of my love". But it sounds like "strange" when Jack sings it and that's somehow just so very appropriate.