9780312420413 / 0312420412

Double Trouble: Bill Clinton and Elvis Presley in a Land of No Alternatives





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About the book:

The 1967 Elvis flick Double Trouble saw the immaculately coiffured singer pursued by a smitten young temptress, and used by a calculating woman his own age. A striking, if flimsy, starting place, perhaps, but the döppelganger theory is given credence by the remarkable number of comparisons drawn by American commentators over the last decade, as catalogued here. Greil Marcus is The King of Elvis-philia: an influence for his 1975 debut Mystery Train, he returned to the subject with Dead Elvis, a brilliant trawl through Presley's posthumous career, the wake that never runs dry. In comparison, Double Trouble is a slightly disappointing collection of recycled journalism from the 1990s, for publications such as and Interview. Like most less-than-definitive "Best Of" anthologies, there are space-fillers, yet the pick of the unrelated essays, on PJ Harvey, Kurt Cobain and especially Bob Dylan (who was the subject of Marcus's Invisible Republic) throw the longest shadows; digressive from the central premise, they complicitly throw it into sharper relief.

Clinton and Presley were both southern hicks; sexually provocative hillbillies who divided a nation. When a Rayban-ed Clinton blew his saxophone to "Heartbreak Hotel" on the Arsenio Hall Show in 1992, one of his speech writers said it "might have won him the election, but it also ruined the presidency". For a moment, as on Marcus's cover, the two blur into each other, and the weasel goes pop. But Presley has become an over-pressed metaphor for all things American, a looking-glass that flatters all size and shape of viewer. Consistently nagging at a duplicitous contradiction that goes to the heart of US national insecurity, it is when Marcus writes in time with this zeitgeist two-step that he unravels the glorious, denuding potency of cheap music. But he also needs new challenges: as Bill Clinton leaves the White House, perhaps Elvis should finally leave the building; in this cultural jukebox, maybe it's time to change the record. --David Vincent

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