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Elvis Presley & Public Enemy – From Elvis in Memphis (1969) and Apocalypse 91… The Enemy Strikes Black (1991)

November 23, 2015


exemplary artwork by sarca @ caughtmegaming

Into the Black Artist #1: Venom

Into the Black Artist #2: Joni Mitchell

Into the Black Artist #3: Manic Street Preachers

Into the Black Artists #4 & #5: Elvis Presley & Public Enemy
(Elvis’s Long Black Limousine & the PE album title)


[Albums 436 & 437/1001]

Some might say these artists could not be more different.

I say, perhaps to the chagrin of the PE, they could not be more inextricably linked.

Out of respect for your time, I’ll only focus on a handful of the parallels with these 2 records.

Legacy = Cemented220px-ElvisinMemphis

A decade earlier, Elvis was a hero to most. By the late 60s, his stock wasn’t exactly skyrocketing. Following a myriad of mediocre movies, the message was clear with the release of From Elvis in Memphis: to quote Rafiki in the Lion King, the King has returned.

In the case of Public Enemy, don’t call Apocalypse a comeback; they’d been here 4 years. Album #4 was more a case of retaining than reclaiming past glory.

In both cases, mission accomplished.


The Last Hurrah220px-PublicEnemyApocalypse91

As the 1969 tune Spinning Wheel observed, what goes up, must come down; these albums represent the final peak for each artist.

Did it seem like the beginning of the decline at the time? I’ll never know, as I’m experiencing both for the first time in 2015.

But dissecting it after the fact, perhaps there were clues.


Bizarre Track 12 Choices

Now a song about a vicious cycle of poverty, crime, and violence “in the ghetto” would not have surprised me on a Public Enemy CD. It did catch me off guard however as the closing track from Elvis. It’s not a bad song per se and it’s an irrefutably important topic. It’s just such a curious choice for a closing track; the song was a lyrical left turn in the running order and Elvis just seemed like a strange choice for the narrator.

Sort of like having Flavor Flav discussing ethical journalism in A Letter To The New York Post. I see his point about newspapers selling papers by starting controversy and cashing in on his fame (see Axl Rose’s Get in the Ring rant, also from 1991). In Flav’s case however, his response to allegations of domestic abuse made, to borrow a Chuck D line, ‘no GD sense at all.’ For the first time I could recall, PE seemed unconvincing, and that was a crack in the armor I didn’t expect to see.

And In The End

However curious, neither track could derail its parent album.

The masses had good reason to eagerly welcome Elvis back again (even if he never meant much to Chuck D). Apocalypse’s critical and commercial success was equally well-deserved.

Though I wouldn’t crown either of these records as album of their respective years, it’s more a reflection of the strength of their release years (’69 and ’91) than any weakness in the records.

From → 1960s, 1990s

  1. Interesting contrast!

  2. ianbalentine permalink

    I love that Public Enemy album, it’s my favorite of theirs by far (controversial, I know). My wife is the Elvis fan, although I can appreciate his stuff, particularly his 50’s output. Like Mike, I found this comparison very interesting.

    • My Thanks Ian – I’d likely still give the title to FOABP but Apocalypse isn’t far behind!

  3. Nice contrast Geoff, but this is a walkover contest for me. Apocalypse has one of my fave opening tracks ever, on any LP – love ‘Lost At Birth’ – I could run through walls after playing that 3 or 4 times in a row! Apocalypse also has the Anthrax/PE collab too – wow, another all-timer for me.

    In fact add in ‘Shut em Down’ and ‘By The Time …’ and I’m sorry but I’m totally in Chuck’s camp on the whole Elvis thang.

    • Yes Joe – the bookends here are solid! Since the project began, I’m upgraded Elvis from “never meant ___ to me” to a line from Community, “I see the appeal but I wouldn’t stand in line for it”

      Whereas with PE, I still feel like Ice Cube in Burn Hollywood Burn, “Ice Cube (Geoff) is down with the PE!”

  4. Zack permalink

    If I had a nickel for every time someone compared Elvis and Public Enemy…
    I’d have 5 cents.

  5. What about this, initially:

    E P P E

  6. Or even:
    P E E P

  7. Jeez Geoff, when you set yourself a challenge, you don’t mess around! Never in a million years would I (or many people, surely) think to link these two artists. But this is why we stay tuned to your excellent blog. Always a stellar read.

    I like both of these artists a lot, by themselves. More for my melting pot! Thanks to your post, I am rocking PE as I type this. Yes.

    So very well done!

  8. Interesting comparison, Geoff.

    I was just chatting about EP the other day, actually. I love some of the early stuff, but aside from individual tracks, I don’t really rate much beyond the first album for RCA (an album which is a bit patchy, but has great energy. The whole jump suit parody EP makes me a tad nauseous.

    PE, though … I can hit their albums often. Not sure where I’d rank this one amog their others, but it’s certainly a winner.

    • Yes perhaps it’s wisest to say farewell to Elvis in ’69, the latter years didn’t exactly speak to me either!
      I now have Elvis Presley, Elvis is Back, and From Elvis in Memphis – I feel like that’s sufficient for now.

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. Tom Waits – Rain Dogs (1985) | 1001albumsin10years
  2. More like 563 Albums in 6 years! | 1001albumsin10years
  3. MC Solaar – Qui Sème le Vent Récolte le Tempo (1991) | 1001albumsin10years
  4. Ice Cube – The Predator (1992) | 1001albumsin10years
  5. Robert Wyatt – Rock Bottom (1974) | 1001albumsin10years
  6. 1969 | 1001albumsin10years
  7. 1991 | 1001albumsin10years

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