When it comes to influences on heavy metal, speed and beyond, one name that few instantly think of is the king of rock ‘n roll himself, Elvis Presley. However, the unexpected was what Elvis excelled at. Indeed, Elvis has inspired artists in the music industry as unexpected as Eminem, who includes several references to him in the song “Without Me”, while Elvis’ tunes have been sampled to create numerous dance remixes over the years.
With these examples, the king has certainly proved that he isn’t just a name for the rock and roll scene; his influence expands well beyond his seven number one Billboard hits, 25 top ten hits, and the fact that he had phenomenal global sales not just from his 7 year residency in Las Vegas, which from KTNV reports he earned more than $230 million in todays terms. He may have died back on the 16th of August 1977, but his songs have continued to be covered and admired by a wide range of artists and audiences, including, as we’ve mentioned, in the metal niche. This means that while performers such as Slayer and Ozzy Osbourne may now be concentrating on their farewell tours, if we look back at some of their past performances, we can see that even these hugely successful bands haven’t been afraid to go off-piste by trying out an Elvis song or two. Indeed, even the power metal world hasn’t been immune to this trend; his songs were used by Manowar in their “An American Trilogy”, using the King to portray their patriotism.
Covering All Bases
Perhaps the most interesting aspect here is just how wide a range of performers it is who have covered songs by Elvis or have put their own spin on his music. Indeed, you can only hope that in his farewell tour, Ozzy doesn’t try to sing Blue Suede Shoes again and end up not knowing the lyrics; when it comes to the end of 2018 and we start to write up our updated version of the 2017 list, there seems little chance of this rendition ending up being named as one of the best songs of the year! While Ozzy might have done this for a laugh, the same can’t be said about Static-X and their excellent cover of Speedway, which is often seen as one of the better pop songs covered by a metal band in lists compiled by the likes of Kerrang.
Whaddya mean it’s only Tuesday?
— Ozzy Osbourne (@OzzyOsbourne) 20 February 2018
One of the most interesting aspects of the article looking at who has covered Elvis songs is the difference in takes on Elvis songs in the world of metal, with artists like the late great Lemmy taking on Blue Suede Shoes with Motörhead, even bothering to practice the song rather than just do a spur of the moment rendition of it. Dead Kennedys and their cover of Viva Las Vegas also highlighted this, as NoiseCrumbs highlighted in a review of the song in 2017; it may be a song that has had an impact like few others in pop culture, as Betway explain in their analysis of the track from 1963 as arguably one of the most prominent casino-related songs of all time, but that didn’t stop the punk outfit Dead Kennedys – one or two steps to the side from a pure metal band – from putting their own touch on it.
With all of these artists influenced, it’s clear that Elvis helped to break rules and change the music industry in a way that allowed genres of music like metal to exist in the first place, with Variety saying he created a “riot” in the music industry with the impact he had.
More than Just an Artist
While it is entirely plausible that Elvis wouldn’t have been a huge fan of some of the metal bands around today, the fact is that he, just like bands like the Beatles, have all transcended the point where they are simply an artist appealing to one narrow niche. Elvis wasn’t simply a musician, but a cultural phenomenon that has reached as far as the metal music scene. In this light, it doesn’t seem quite so outlandish that he has been covered so often by the likes of Lemmy.
— Up Up & Away! (@upupawaycomics) 16 August 2017
As Elvis continues to have an influence on music and culture around the world, it will be interesting to see if he manages to retain his influence on future metal stars as they emerge in future years, in new and more interesting ways that he would have struggled to imagine when he was alive.