- 23 Mar 21
65 years ago today, Elvis Presley released his classic self-titled debut album (released as Elvis Presley Rock n' Roll in the UK). To celebrate, we're revisiting the Hot Press tribute to Elvis: Joe Jackson's imagined two-part interview with the King himself. Read the whole thing below...
Imagine the scene. It is August 15th, 1977. Joe Jackson of Hot Press arrives at Graceland, to do the ultimate interview with Elvis Presley. Elvis is in the music room, seated at the piano and singing 'Blue Eyes Cryin In The Rain'. They sit down across the table, Jackson pushes the record button - and so begins the final interview with the greatest rock'n'roll star of them all...
The quotes in this re-created interview are drawn from a wealth of reliable sources and involved extensive research into many rare articles, magazines and books.
It’s hard to believe this is really happening. Look at it this way. As a boy I’d written a school essay about how ‘My Greatest Experience’ was meeting “my idol” Elvis Presley. That essay ended, prematurely, with me being greeted by the King outside his door in Graceland and freezing on the spot, “For months I had planned all the questions I would ask him,” I wrote, “and now I could barely speak my own name.” Now here I am, nearly a decade later, on August 15th 1977, telling Presley’s cousin, Billy Smith, at the door of Graceland, that Joe Jackson, from Hot Press in Ireland is here to do the world’s first in-depth interview with Elvis Presley.
Elvis himself is singing at the grand piano in the music room, to the right, as I walk through the ante-bellum doorway. His voice sounds rich, resonant and soulful. And, as far as I can tell, his eyes are closed – just like they used to be when he was a kid singing gospel songs with his folks in church in Tupelo.
“Someday when we meet up yonder
We’ll stroll hand in hand again,
In a land that knows no parting,
Blue eyes crying in the rain.”
With Elvis in the music room now are Billy Smith’s wife Joe and Presley’s latest girlfriend Ginger Aldes. Smith waits until Elvis stops singing the last line of the song before telling him I’ve arrived. “Joe Jackson? So are you ‘Lucky’ like the Lucky Jackson name I used in Viva Las Vegas!” he jokes, swirling 180° on the piano stool, before striding across the room with his hand outstretched.
The closer Presley gets to me, the more I can see that his eyes are slightly clouded, his face is pale and he’s clearly overweight. But he still looks relatively healthy. And boy-ish in ways. But, as in my adolescent essay, when he greets me, I can barely speak. Why? Well, I have been summoned to Graceland to give Elvis the chance to finally address, in public, some of the allegations made by his bodyguards in the new book Elvis, What Happened. And among those allegations is the rather remarkable claim that Presley, who has had a totally drug-free public image until now, is actually addicted to uppers and downers. And worse. So I can’t help but be taken aback by the fact that he’s wearing a jacket emblazoned with the letters D.E.A. “D’ya like the jacket, man?” he says, as if reading my mind.
“Y’know Nixon had that same look in his eyes the day I walked into the White House wearing a purple velvet cloak, shitloads of jewellery, that big ol’ belt I got from the International Hotel with a gigantic gold buckle, and amber-tinted sunglasses!”
Presley pauses and smiles at Ginger, as if this tale is meant as much for her as it is for me.
“And I knew that sonofabitch was going to say something about my clothes before I left. And he did. I’d walked over to this portrait of George Washington – and I looked at his powdered hair, the frills on his shirt and cuffs and said to Nixon, ‘This dude dressed kind of funny’. And the President looked at me and said, ‘Uh, Elvis, I could say the same thing about you!’ And I told him, ‘Mr President, you’ve got your show to run and I’ve got mine!”
Everybody in the room laughs, even through they’ve probably heard this story a hundred times.
“But my point – Joe, is it? – is that I went in to see the President that day to get a Drugs Enforcement Agency badge because I hate street drugs, man, and I wanted me and the boys here to be able to bust the assholes who sell them, even here on the streets of Memphis.”
Elvis suddenly laughs. “Man, I’m grandstanding again,” he says, “maybe we should leave all this for the interview?”
Ginger, Billy and Jo take this as a sign that it’s time for them to leave. Not surprisingly, given that it is way past midnight, Alden says, in what strikes me as a somewhat disinterested manner, “Elvis, I’ll go on ahead to bed.” He replies, “okay, honey”, then he gestures towards the cream-coloured sofa where he and I both sit down.
“Hit it,” he says, glancing at the Sony cassette recorder. “And feel free to ask whatever the hell you want. Especially about that goddamn Judas book. But I will say one thing about it before we start. They have never beat me and they’re not going to beat me now.”
Joe Jackson: Listening to you sing ‘Blue Eyes Cryin’ In The Rain’ reminded me again that that’s where it all started for you, didn’t it? Singing gospel?
Elvis Presley: (Smiling) Yeah. I’ve always liked music. My mother and dad both loved to sing. And they did tell me that when I was about three or four years old I got away from them in church and walked in front of the choir and started beating time. I grew up with gospel because my folks took me there. When I got old enough, I started to sing in church. That is one of the ways I got into singing. But I liked all types of music. When I was in high school I had records by Mario Lanza (laughs). And the Metropolitan Opera. I just loved music. Spanish, Mexican-flavoured music.
When I was in school, Billy Eckstine was one of the biggest inspirations of my life – as far as singing. But gospel is really what we grew up with, more than anything else. And when I was 15 I’d listen to J.D. Sumner sing bass with the Blackwood Brothers, in Memphis. I was a big gospel music fan, so they would sing all-night and I would stay there all night. But I never dreamed I’d be singing with him on stage. As part of my back-up group. So it is like a dream now.
JJ: Singing gospel isn’t just a matter of singing notes, it’s something that seems to come from deep inside you.
EP: And at certain times you push out and you pull in. It’s just part of you. You don’t even think about it. And when we get through work, what we have to do, we usually end up doing gospel. Because we wanna do it. We do two shows a lot of times and afterwards we will go upstairs and sing gospel songs, until daylight.
JJ: As far back as ’54, referring to gospel music, you said ‘Boy, this is my favourite music. when I’m out there (on stage) I do what they want to hear. When I’m back here, I can do what I want to do’.
EP: That’s still true. Now more than ever. But these days I also sing gospel in my concerts (laughs). Though I remember they told me I couldn’t sing a gospel tune actually on stage in Vegas and I told ’em, ‘to hell with that, Jack, I’ll sing what I want to sing.”
JJ: What does singing gospel do for you?
EP: It more or less puts your mind at ease. It does mine. And I still lose myself in my singing. Maybe it’s my early training singing gospel hymns. But my first love still is spiritual music – some of the old coloured spirituals from way back. I know practically every religious song that’s ever been written. In fact, before I started making records I wanted to sing in a spiritual quartet. And when I started being called ‘Elvis the Pelvis’ and gettin’ criticised for being unholy because of my gyrations – that upset mama so much I had to tell her, ‘I have a preference for God, Mama, but it’s just music, it makes me feel this way’. I actually asked Sam (Phillips, Sun Records) to release me from my contract because I wanted to sing gospel music. But he told me not to “talk religious” at Sun. I never forgot that.
JJ: That must have felt weird given that you admitted, at the time, that you got your style of singing and gyrating from being a “close follower” of religious quartets.
EP: Yeah, well they do a lot of rockin’ rhythm spirituals, so that’s where I got the idea. But, don’t forget, I was raised in an Assembly of God church where people stood up and sang. In that church we really feel our religion and get carried away with it. We’re not ashamed to show it. They got a beat and folks down our way really feel that music. We do what my mama used to sum up by sayin’, ‘make a joyful sound to the Lord’. She really believed in music being a way of getting in touch with the Holy Spirit. Just like I still do. I remember writing on a book somewhere, ‘God loves you... but he loves you most when you sing.’ I really believed that.
But back in Tupelo, we had ministers who played guitar, gyrated, cut up everywhichway and even spoke in tongues. In that church, man, we let it all hang out! And I still can’t explain what happens when the music starts. It makes me forget everything else except the beat and the sound. It tells me more than anything else I’ve ever known, how good, how great it is to be alive. I’ve been singing the way I do now for as far back as I can remember. I sing the way I do because it comes to me natural. I’ve never copied anybody. I just originated it accidentally, I guess.
JJ: But can you describe how that “accident” occurred? Specifically in terms of Sun Records, Sam Phillips and recording the first single, ‘That’s Alright Mama’?
EP: When I was called to make my first record, I went to the studio and they told me what they wanted me to sing and how they wanted me to sing it. Well, I tried it their way, but it didn’t work out so good. So while most of ‘em were sitting around resting for ten minutes or so, we just did it natural. It came off pretty good and Mr Phillips said I should go ahead and sing all the songs my own way, the way I knew best. We tried, and everything went along a lot better. They decided to put ‘That’s Alright’ on record, and backed it up with ‘Blue Moon of Kentucky’.
JJ: What you seem to be saying is that it comes down to being yourself?
EP: Well, I’ll tell you how the “gyrations” really started. When Mr. Phillips called me in to make that first record, I started jumping up and down, they tell me, and I wasn’t even aware of it. My legs were shaking all over, mostly because I was so nervous and excited, but also because I can feel the music more when I just let myself react. After the third rehearsal, Scotty Moore came over and said, ‘you still scared, Elvis? You shake all over when you start singing!’ I told him I wasn’t scared once the music started and that I didn’t even realise I was moving around at all while I was singing. But that the minute the music started I wasn’t me anymore. I couldn’t have stopped moving around if I wanted to. Because all that motion was just as much a part of the music to me as the words I was singing. Scotty said, ‘okay, then, do what comes natural’. So that’s what I did.
JJ: What about doing it live, in front of an audience?
EP: After that record was a success I appeared on a big music jamboree in Memphis, in an open air theatre. I’ll never forget standing backstage and listening to all these great performers (Slim Whitman, Carl Smith, Webb Pierce) and knowing I’d have to go out there in just a couple of minutes and be as good as all the others. When my time came I was scared completely stiff! Me and my band went out there and set up and we were ready to begin but, man, we couldn’t move! We were like a bunch of dead people, we were scared so bad! There were four or five thousand people in the audience and they stared at me and I stared at them.
JJ: Which must have been a pretty unnerving experience – for you, I mean!
EP: Yet bet! Then someone in the bass section got up nerve and stared playing, and the others followed, and before I knew it I was singing. And then the audience got to squealing a bit, then someone started hollering, and they all got with it and we had a ball. I left the stage and they applauded and kept calling me back. I couldn’t figure it out. I didn’t have any idea what I was doing, that they liked. My manager gave me a push towards the stage and told me to go back out there and do what I’d been doing, and I said, ‘what have I been doing?’ He said ‘you’ve been shaking all over. Your legs have been shaking with the music and your eyes twitching and your shoulders twitching and everything. Get out there and keep doing it!’. So I went back on, and we picked another rock ’n’ roll song real quick. And I said to myself, ‘now listen, try and do it again.’ And then the music started and I never did remember to do what I’d said to myself, but I must have done it again anyway because the audience was whooping and hollering like crazy when the song was through. That’s when it really started, that night, and it’s happened ever since!
JJ: You say the people at Sun, Sam Phillips, presumably, told you what to sing and how to sing it at that first session.
EP: Yeah. And the reason we couldn’t get anything was that I was scared, and when you’re scared you can’t breathe right. And besides, the songs weren’t my kind of thing.
JJ: You first heard the blues in Tupelo, in Shake Rag, which was a kind of black ghetto near where you were born and raised.
EP: I loved that music. Sometimes I’d just sit there in Shake Rag and listen and talk to people. The coloured folks been singing it and playing it like I’m doing now for more years than I know. They played like that in the shanties and in their juke joints and nobody paid it no mind till I goosed it up. I got it from them. Down in Tupelo, I used to hear Arthur Crudup bang his box the way I do now. And I said that if I could ever get to the place where I could feel all old Arthur felt, I’d be a music man like nobody ever saw.
JJ: So you obviously were familiar with Crudup’s ‘That’s Alright’ long before you recorded it at Sun that day?
EP: Yeah, and after that I was ready to cut Crudup’s ‘Cool Disposition’ and ‘Rock Me, Mama’, but we never did. When I started recording at Sun I listened to other ‘gutter’ blues guys like B.B King, Big Bill Bronzy, John Lee Hooker and Jimmy Reed. And I already had a big stack of rhythm ’n’ blues records. Lots of Atlantic stuff. Clyde McPhatter, La Vern Baker, Ray Charles. From the start, apart from Billy Eckstine, I loved guys like Roy Brown, Brook Benton, Arthur Prysock, Roy Hamilton. James Brown who, to me is state of the art when it comes to soul singing, man. And I loved Jackie Wilson, Sam Cooke. In fact, a lot of the singers I loved back then – and still love – were black. I used to listen to WDIA, which was the first black station and go down to Poplar Tunes here in Memphis and pick up all those records. Or just stay there for hours listenin’ to ’em, if I couldn’t afford to buy ’em. And I’d hear WHBQ play great black gospel acts like The Harmonising Four, Clara Ward, Sister Rosetta Tharpe and Mahalia Jackson, who was a big influence on my style. WHBQ would even broadcast sermons from the East Trigg Baptist Church where Dixie Locke and I used to sneak into sermons – to hear the music – after attending our own First Assembly Services in Memphis. I really loved black music.
JJ: That’s not something you were encouraged to acknowledge?
EP: I remember the goddamn Colonel told me, back in ’56, not to be advertising my love of “race music” or “niggers.” He sure as hell didn’t like me being called “the white nigger”. But I also liked guys like Sinatra, Tony Bennett, Nat Cole, Dean Martin, Pat Boone. And country singers like Ernest Tubb, ever since I heard the Grand Ol Opry, as a kid, on the radio. Bluegrass. And when I’d play guitar and sing in Lauderdale Courts, here in Memphis, I used to sing things like Hank Williams’s ‘I Saw The LIght’ and ‘Lovesick Blues’. I always liked every kind of music, if it’s good.
JJ: But when you made your first “demo” at Sun you sang ballads in the style of Billy Eckstine or The Ink Spots.
EP: Man, I loved the Ink Spots so much that ol’ Faron Young, way back in ’56, wrote a song for me that went (sings) “If you tell a lie, you know that I’ll forgive you” and when I heard it I said, ‘hey, that’s good, who wrote it?’. And he said ‘I did, you little fucker, I wrote it for you!’. So I recorded it!
JJ: It’s a beautiful ballad, ‘Is It So Strange?’
EP: When I first started singing I used to sing ballads but hardly anyone came to hear me. But when I latched onto rock ’n’ roll, I had it made! Sam told me that’s where the money was at the start. So that’s what I sang. I grew up loving rhythm ’n’ blues and I loved singing rock ’n’ roll. But I also love ballads. And, even at the start, I said that as soon as the people tire of me singing rock ’n’ roll I’d be more than happy to sing the kind of ballads that were being sung by Perry Como, or whoever (laughs). Like I do, now, when I sing things like ‘It’s Impossible’!
JJ: Marion Keisker, Sam’s secretary, tells how, on that day you first walked into Sun she asked you ‘what kind of singer are you?’ and you said ‘I sing all kinds’. Then she said, ‘who do you sound like?’ And you replied ‘I don’t sound like nobody’! She actually wrote on a note, after you left, ‘Good Ballad Singer: Hold.”
EP: That woman was the one who had the faith, she was the one who pushed me. Marion did it for me. It took me a long time to get the attention of Sam Phillips. And she made sure I did. But the record I made that day was ‘My Happiness’ and one of the Ink Spots numbers.
JJ: Was that a birthday present for your mother?
EP: Nah. I just made it. You see I worked five days a week, Monday through Friday, and then on Saturday I called and asked if they could make me a record. They made personal dubs for people, for weddings and things like that. I’d really wanted to hear myself sing. I can’t remember exactly what hit me that day but I had to know what my voice sounded like. I didn’t even have enough money to do the record over, so I decided to let it stand as it was. I figured if nobody else likes the thing, mom would anyway, and she did. I made it to surprise her. When she played it, it was me singing! Either way, that obviously was the best five bucks I ever spent!
JJ: You played guitar on that record, too.
EP: Yeah, I had an old $20 guitar, sounded like somebody beatin’ on a bucket lid or something like that! But then I’d never had any music lessons. My daddy bought me a department store guitar when I was pretty young. I learned to pick out a couple of chords on it, but I didn’t try to get fancy or anything like that. Then, when I went out on stage in my first personal appearance, I just naturally took my guitar along with me, to sort of keep me company. I used it as a prop or whatever you want to call it. To me, in that first appearance, it was the best friend I ever had, because it kept me company and I knew I wasn’t alone out there making a fool of myself.
JJ: Do you ever listen to any of those old records from the Sun label?
EP: They sound funny, boy, they got a lot of echo on them! But when my first record came out I was leery of it, I thought everybody would laugh. So I went to the movies instead of staying home to listen to it played on the radio for the first time. I really thought people would laugh at me. Some did, and some are still laughing today, I guess.
JJ: What are your memories of the first time you sang in public?
EP: I was 11 years old when I went in front of an audience for the first time. It was at a fairground in Tupelo. I wore glasses, I was shaking like a leaf, but I’d set my heart on singing, and nothing in the world could have stopped me from entering the talent contest at that fair. I did it all on my own and I didn’t have any idea what I was going to do once I got out there in front of those people. All I had in my head was the idea that I was going to sing. I didn’t have any music or anything, and I couldn’t get anybody to play for me, and I couldn’t play for myself because I didn’t know how. So I just went out there and sang ‘Old Shep’ and I know they must have felt sorry for me because they gave me fifth prize and everyone applauded real nice. Man, I’ll tell you I was really scared and shaking and all turning over inside. But I felt good, too. I’d been on stage for the first time in my life. I got a whipping the same day, my mother whipped me for something – I don’t know (going on) one of the rides. Destroyed my ego completely.
JJ: It didn’t destroy your desire to perform.
EP: When I was 13 or so, me and a bunch of kids would fool around singing. I wasn’t popular in high school. I wasn’t dating anybody (there). I failed music – only thing I ever failed. And then they entered me in this talent show and I came out and did my first number, ‘Til I Waltz With You Again’ by Teresa Brewer. And when I came on stage I heard people kinda rumbling and whispering and so forth, ‘cause nobody knew I even sang. It was amazing how popular I became after that! But I wasn’t the big hero. In fact, I used to lie awake wondering what I was going to do. I really wasn’t much good at anything. At school I’d been only an average student. I couldn’t figure out how I was ever going to make something out of myself. In fact, I don’t know why they gave me a diploma. I don’t know how I got out of high school. I would sit there, I’d be looking out the window and I’d just be looking out the window. I had no idea what the teacher was saying. I’d be thinking about Tony Curtis and Marlon Brando and being a star and singing. I was dreaming.
JJ: Curtis and Brando became your role models when you worked as an usher in Loew’s State Theatre here in Memphis, while you were still in High school. You took your hairstyle, in particular, from Curtis?
EP: Yeah. And y’wanna know why I was eventually fired from Loew’s? I took some free candy from an usherette and some snitch told the boss so I knocked that tettletale to the ground (laughs)! Put him right on his ass, man! But when it came to my look in those days, you gotta remember that when I moved to Memphis, from Tupelo – where we left overnight because we was so broke – I was a nobody, a small town kind in a big city, without a dime in my pocket, not too good in class, kinda shy. And the other guys wore GI haircuts. I wanted to look older, be different. I guess mostly I wanted to be noticed. My hair, my black shirt and the pants I wore did it. But don’t think I didn’t take a lot of kidding from my friends. Still I stuck with it. I guess I always knew if you want to get ahead and stand out in a crowd you gotta be different.
JJ: You were, of course, your mother’s only child, because your twin brother, Jesse Garon, died at birth. And I believe she miscarried a child around 1942, something you remember vividly.
EP: Yeah. And I always felt a bit lonely when I was little. I suppose it might have been different if my brother had lived. A lot of things might have been different. But he didn’t live and I grew up alone. But mama worried. Mama would never let me out of her sight. I couldn’t go down to the creek with the other kids and swim. I used to get very angry at her when I was growing up. It’s a natural thing when a young person wants to go somewhere or do something and your mother won’t let you, you think, ‘why what’s wrong with you?’ But then later on in years you find out, you know, that she was only doing it to protect you, to keep you from getting into any trouble or getting hurt. And I’m very happy that she was kinda strict on me, happy it worked out the way it did.
JJ: Would you say you had what most people would think of as a good upbringing?
EP: I was raised in a very decent home. My folks always made me behave, whether I wanted to or not. My mother always taught me to have good manners, to help people, to work hard and never give up and to make it on my own. And I’ve tried to be the same, you know, the way I was brought up. My mother, my father and the whole family, we were always considerate of other peoples’ feelings. And I always considered other peoples’ feelings. I didn’t step on nobody on the way up! I’ve always treated people the way I would like to be treated myself. But when I was a kid it’s true we never had any money or nothing. I never had any luxuries, but we never went hungry. That’s something to be thankful for.
JJ: Do you really hate to see people wear blue jeans around you because it reminds you of the poverty of your childhood?
EP: I don’t want to wear jeans, man, I hate them. And I don’t want to see them. I had to wear them. When I was growing up they were the only pants I had. What do you think I worked so hard for? To get to hell out of those ugly ol’ overalls. And, when it comes to poverty, yeah, I gotta admit that when I’m feeling depressed I do think, ‘shit, man, my little brother died and my mama almost died because we couldn’t afford to go to no damn hospital’. But they say when one twin dies, the other grows up with all the qualities of the other, too. If I did, I’m lucky. And when I look around here (sweeping hand gesture) I also think to myself that you could set down that little ol’ shack we lived in, in Tupelo, right here in this room, and still have space over. So I’m grateful for that, too, man. But I’ve never been accustomed to things real easy. I know it looks like I came up overnight. Not so!It was a lot of hard work. I’ve done plenty of it. I worked as a common labourer. I drove a truck for Crown Electric in Memphis at the same time I recorded those first Sun cuts. I got up at 3:30 to be on the job for $12.50 a week (laughs). Maybe if it all ends tomorrow I could still go back to driving a truck!
JJ: After your mother died, while you stood by her coffin, you cried out: ‘I’ve lived my whole life for you. Oh God, everything I have is gone’. And you obviously still miss Gladys. It shows in your voice when you speak about her.
EP: (Elvis shudders) The bottom dropped out of my life that day my mother died. I thought that I had nothing left. In a way I was right. I remember telling Eddie Fadal, a friend of mine from Texas, when mama died, ‘I’ve lost the only person I ever really loved’. And I suppose since I was an only child that we might have been a little closer than – I mean, everyone loves their mother, but I was an only child and mother was always right there with me, all my life. And it wasn’t only like losing a mother, it was like losing a friend, a companion, someone to talk to. I could wake her up at any hour of the night and if I was worried or troubled about something, well, she’d get up and try to help me. I still think of her every single, solitary day. If I never do anything that’s wrong or bad, it’ll be because of mama. She wouldn’t never let me do anything wrong.
If I could have one wish granted, it would be to talk with my mother again. There are times I dream about her. She’s always happy and smiling. Sometimes we embrace, and it’s so real, I wake up in a cold sweat. But y’know the one thing I hated about going into the army was leaving my mother, because she was in bad health even then. And I just enjoyed having my family around. I didn’t look on it as a duty – something I ought to do – I loved them and I liked to have them around. They were all I had. They can’t be replaced. We were always happy when we were together. Even in the hard times.
JJ: I remember reading how, when you first made some money you bought your folks – apart from that pink cadillac – smaller, personal things.
EP: Actually, man, that cadillac was blue and I had it painted pink for her. I liked to do what I could for my folks. We didn’t have nothing before – nothing but a hard way to go. So, yeah, when I got money I got them anything I thought they might want. I got daddy some suits like he never had before. And mother went to town and bought anything she wanted. Which made me feel real good. I remember that when I was a kid, I’d hear them worrying about their debts, being out of work and sickness and I’d say ‘don’t worry, none, baby. When I grow up, I’m going to buy you a fine house and pay everything you owe at the grocery store and get two cadillacs – one for you and daddy, and one for me’. (Elvis sighs) But y’know, it’s funny, she never really wanted anything fancy. She just stayed the same throughout it all. And there’s a lot of things happened since she passed away that I wish she could have been around to see. It would have made her very happy and very proud. But that’s life and I can’t – can’t have her.
JJ: Didn’t you lock yourself in your room in Graceland for eight days after she died, barely eating, refusing to talk to anyone.
EP: Until I finally decided to come out of that room and sing gospel music, yeah.
JJ: And you told someone you felt responsible for your mother’s death because, I think, you felt that during your rise to fame you neglected her. And she, in the end, started taking too many diet pills – and drinking – so her heart gave out?
EP: Yeah, that’s all true, boy. I still feel guilty about that. Mama did take those pills to look pretty for me right up until the end. And I still hate alcohol to this day. You will not see anyone walk around Graceland with even a damn beer can in their hands. And I’ve only been drunk myself once or twice in my life. Though, near the end of my marriage to ’Cilla I did start drinking the occasional glass of wine with dinner because she liked to. (Elvis pauses) You know what just struck me? Looking back with you tonight, man, I realise I’ve experienced a lot of the different phases in life. I’ve experienced happiness and loneliness, the wealthy side of life and not having anything. And tragedy. Like losing my mother when I was in the army. Although I think that things like that, tragic as they are, make you a better human being. ‘Cause you learn more about yourself as well as other people. And it can only help. But I’ll tell you what I’ve really realised since my mother’s death. I’m just a human being like anyone else, I have blood running through my veins and (it all) can be snuffed out in a matter of seconds.
Part 2: ELVIS LEAVES THE BUILDING
In the second and final part of the ultimate interview, Elvis talks about colonel Tom Parker, marriage to Priscilla, his '68 comeback, his quest for enlightenment and the truth about his drug intake. but as he dreams of an exciting future, at 42 he doesn’t realise that the end is close at hand.
*The quotes in this recreated interview are drawn from a wealth of reliable sources and involved extensive research into many rare articles and books.*
Joe Jackson: Dave Hebler, in Elvis What Happened says you seem ‘bent on death’ that you’re committing ‘slow suicide’ with drugs – which Red West, in the same book, claims you starting using around 1960, after your mother died.
Elvis Presley: (slamming fist off side of sofa) Those guys are trying to kill me. I can’t fathom it. My oldest friends – lifelong friends – are now trying to distort my image to the public and my fans. And daddy, my daddy, reading bullshit lies about me. It will kill him. If anybody hurts my daddy or Lisa, God help them, I’ll personally do God’s work for Him and send them where they belong. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t hate those guys; I hate what they’re doing. (Pause) But let’s not talk about all that shit. Lots of good things happened in 1960. I got out of the army, I got back into the studio for the first time in two years and made one of my favourite albums.
Elvis Is Back is also one of your best albums. It’s sort of like the fulfilment of the promise in that line you spoke to Marion Keisker of Sun Records, when you said, “I sing all kinds.” On the album you did things like Peggy Lee’s ‘Fever’, Jesse Stone’s ‘Like A Baby’, The Drifters, ‘Such A Night’ and a searing version of Lowell Fulson’s ‘Reconsider Baby’.
That was one of my favourites on the album. But don’t forget that, at the same sessions, I recorded my biggest selling single of all time! A song my mother played for me on the wind-up Victrola, recorded way-back-when by Enrico Caruso. Caruso did it as ‘O Sole Mio’ and I did it as ‘It’s Now Or Never’.
Gordon Stoker, Jordanaire, told me he felt there were so many musical styles on Elvis Is Back because you were searching, trying to mark out a new path, now that you were out of the army. Pulling in songs from all directions, blues, pop, jazz, rock semi-operatic, hungry to try something new, find your voice again.
And I felt did, when I nailed ‘It’s Now Or Never’. ‘And ‘Are You Lonesome Tonight’, though that took me 30 takes to get it right! But then what happened? The Colonel signed me up to do G.I Blues and the songs in it that weren’t worth a cat’s ass! I told him at least half should be cut but he said, “We’re locked into the thing. Already been paid.” I hated the songs and the script.
G.I Blues obviously wasn’t the movie you hoped to make after leaving the army.
I never liked musicals, man. Though I did make some pretty good movies before the army. King Creole is still my favourite. In Loving You, in some scenes I was pretty natural, but in other scenes I was trying to act and when you try to act you’re dead. But one of the happiest days in my life was when my mama phoned me when I was in the army and read the New York Times review of King Creole, where it said, “Elvis can act.” And the producer, Paul Nathan, also wired me telling me that sneak previews of King Creole proved I was accepted as great dramatic star as well as singer. He wrote, “We are all very proud of the way you came through.” That meant so much to me.
And King Creole was a challenge for me because it was written for a more experienced actor (James Dean). But from the start of my movie career I wanted to be accepted as a dramatic actor. Even then I said I hoped I wouldn’t be singing in movies. But you know what the main difference was between my pre-Army movies and G.I Blues? In the early movies I was an entertainer and it was natural to sing but in G.I Blues I was a soldier and felt like an idiot breaking into songs while I’m talking to some chick on the train.
You also, apparently, felt the same when you were asked to sing, on a horse, in Flaming Star.
Yeah, I told Don Siegal, “I can’t do that to this picture.” And he had the song cut. But the Colonel wanted songs so we could sell records. When I told him I didn’t want to sing in Flaming Star he said, “You’ll sing. There’s more money if you sing.” But there shouldn’t have been any songs in Flaming Star or Wild In The Country because those movies gave me a chance to prove myself as a dramatic actor.
So it must have broken your heart when fans rejected those ‘darker movies’ and went, instead, for Blue Hawaii, the ‘travelogue’ that, with its 14 songs, set up the pattern for the nearly 20 movies that was to follow.
It did. And the Colonel never stopped reminding me how the failure of those two movies proved the fans only wanted to see me in musicals. Even so, I enjoyed making Blue Hawaii because it seemed like a weight lifted from my shoulders whenever I landed in Hawaii. And I’d always liked Hawaiian music. But you know what really pissed me off in ‘61? I’d been offered West Side Story when I got out of the army and the Colonel said he didn’t want me playing a hoodlum again. So who did they get? Richard Beymer, who looked like a choir boy! Then West Side Story was voted Best Picture of 1961, or whenever. And, man, that guy wasn’t even singing his own songs! And around the same time I was asked to play the lead in Tennessee Williams’ Sweet Bird of Youth but the Colonel said “no” again and that damn role went to Paul Newman. Now, one of my favourite movies is Newman’s Cool Hand Luke. I know all the dialogue off-by-heart.
But most of my movies are second rate. The stories are dumb and the dialogue is worse than dumb. Do you think Newman would make movies like that? When I made Love Me Tender I didn’t know anything about movie-making or acting and it was a thrill for me just being there and doing it. But, damn it, by the time I made my tenth picture, I knew I could do better. But the Colonel would say, “Elvis, don’t mess with success.”
You did have a chance a few years back when Barbra Streisand wanted you to co-star with her in the remake of A Star Is Born – a role that, then, went to Kris Kristofferson.
And the Colonel, again, said no. Streisand offered me $500,000 plus 10% of the profits but Parker pushed for $1 million in salary, $100,000 in expenses and 50% of the profits so that was the end of that. And I really wanted to do that part, badly. Though I didn’t know if I could play the part of a loser who dies at the end of the movie, man.
Maybe Parker also felt the subject matter – a fading star who dies of drink and drugs – was too close to the bone. DJ Fontana told me you guys started taking No Doze – a kind of speed – back in the ’50s to keep awake during all those cross-country tours.
I gave this interview to come clean on drugs so I suppose I better do that right now. Yeah, I was using speed, or ‘trucker’s bennies’, for years. But I got my first real uppers – Dexedrine, sometimes Desbutals – by swiping them out of bottles my mother was given by her doctor to help her deal with the change of life. This was around 1957. I’d take two or three and get so ripped, my teeth would chatter!
But my big introduction to pills goes back to when I was doing guard duty in Germany and they gave us Benzedrine to stay awake. And we used ’em to stay awake and to increase our stamina, if you know what I mean, when we visited the fleshpots of Paris when I was in the Army. I remember telling Rex Mansfield, a buddy, “You should take ’em. They are totally harmless, prescribed by physicians and used the world over. Doctors even give them to children if they’re a little overweight.” And I used ’em, just like mama, from the start, to keep my weight in check. They were actually called diet pills.
Barbara Pitman also remembers that after your mother died you were in so much grief and so hysterical a doctor was called to help you. She remembers you and he going upstairs and says that when you came back you “were feeling no pain”.
I still would rather be unconscious than miserable. What I always said was that, with pills, I wanted to get the same feeling an alcoholic gets with booze except not be totally out of control. So I used them to get moving on mornings when you didn’t feel like it. And also when I was making movies I knew nobody cared for and recording songs the Colonel set up for me that I felt were not worth recording. But then so did all the guys.
What about LSD?
Only used it once, man. Around ’66. After reading The Psychedelic Experience and Doors Of Perception. A girl who hung around at the house in LA gave me a gift of windowpane acid. And the word around Hollywood was that an acid trip could open you up to new experiences and perceptions. Under the influence, some people even claimed to have seen, or experienced, God. And I was deeply into all my spiritual studies with Larry Geller at the time so one day at Graceland, Priscilla, myself, Geller, Jerry Schilling and Sonny West – he was our ‘monitor’ – dropped our hits of acid. And we were having a pleasant, mellow trip when suddenly Priscilla fell to her knees in front of me and began sobbing, “You don’t really love me, you just say you do.” I tried to convince her she was wrong. I thought she was having a bad trip. But she snapped out of it and we turned on the television and watched The Time Machine, sent out for some pizza and, as we were coming down, walked behind Graceland and marvelled at the beauty of nature, talked about how lucky we were to have good friends and about how much we cared for each other. But I never used it again.
Geller, apparently, changed your life.
Totally. Before I met Larry, the only religious book I’d read was the Bible. When I was a kid, if I had a problem, my mother would say, “Go read the Bible, son. You’ll find your answers there.” So I always had a deep belief in God. But just the other day my daddy and I were reminiscing recently about how when I was a kid, the First Assembly Church of God said it was a sin to go to the movies – that they undermined the morals of people? Well, one day daddy and I did go to see an Abbot and Costello movie and I never could figure out how that movie would damage my morals! So from that moments onwards I questioned my religion, I guess. And I never believed in all that hellfire and damnation stuff, old preachers tryin’ to make people feel guilty. I always knew that deep inside me there were answers that went beyond their rigid old closed minds.
So where did Geller come in?
Around ’64 my regular hairdresser, told me this guy, Geller – another hairdresser – was “interesting”. So when he came over to cut my hair I asked, “What are you into, man?” And he told me about how, five years earlier, he’d started wondering about life, asking himself, is there a purpose to it all? So I asked, “What is your purpose?” He told me, “If there is a purpose then my purpose is to discover my purpose. It doesn’t matter if it takes years or a lifetime that’s what we’re born to do.” And I said, “Whoa, Larry, I don’t believe it, what you’re talking about, I’ve been secretly thinking all the time. I’ve always known there had to be a purpose for my life.
I’ve always felt an unseen hand guiding my life. There’s got to be a reason I was chosen to be Elvis Presley. I never believed anything was a coincidence. There’s gotta be a meaning for it all. Then I told Geller, “I swear to God, no one knows how lonely I am. And how empty I really feel.” And tears streamed down my goddamn face.
Who knows? Maybe because I knew I couldn’t talk about these things with Priscillla or the Memphis Mafia or anyone, so I asked Larry to leave his job that day and come work for me. And he did. The very next morning he arrived on the set in Paramount, where I was making Roustabout, and brought me books like Autobiography Of A Yogi, The Initiation Of The World. And The Impersonal Life by Joseph Benner. That really was the book I needed. So bad. Because Benner said he didn’t write it, that it came from a higher divine self and that the truth lies within us, that we all are part of the Divinity. Now I know it off by heart.
The part that blew me away, is where it says, “I may be expressing through you beautiful symphonies of sound, colour or language that manifest as music, art, poetry… and which so affect others as to cause them to acclaim you as one of the great ones of the day… (and) hail you as a wonderful preacher or teacher.” And I’ve been devouring books like that ever since. That’s why I really was pissed, years later, when Parker said I was “on a religious kick”. This wasn’t a ‘kick’, it was my life. Whereas all he wanted me to do was make silly tennybopper movies that had no substance or truth.
There’s substance and truth in abundance in How Great Thou Art, the gospel album you recorded in ’66 which, to me, marks the start of your comeback.
I hope so! Well, what happened then was that I knew I was locked into those contracts for Hollywood movies until the late ’60s so, round about early ’66, I started thinking about getting back into the studio to cut some non-movie soundtrack sides. I even made some home recordings of things like Jimmy Reed’s ‘Baby What Do You Want Me To Do’ and Dylan’s ‘Blowin’ In The Wind’ then, actually, went into the studio and cut Dylan’s ‘Tomorrow Is A Long Time’. As a kind of musical meditation. But my real point-of-focus was the gospel album. And, yeah, the ’68 Special followed that.
But, before that, you married Priscilla.
A marriage that I now see was ill-fated from the start. You know why? Priscilla, like Parker, had no time for my ‘soul-searching’. And Priscilla rejected the spiritual. She tried to get me to stop reading and studying. I think if it were up to her, she would have me stop my search for God. But no way. That’s my God-given right.
So Priscilla, I realised, was not my soul-mate. And yet I did love that woman. Still do. I said to someone recently, if I ever marry again, it will be to the mother of my child, Lisa. (Elvis shivers, suddenly overcome with emotion) I’ll never forget the day Lisa was born. I said to Priscilla, ‘I can’t believe I made part of this beautiful child.’ It was the happiest day of my life, man. And Lisa was the greatest thing that ever happened to me.
Even so, within four months of Lisa’s birth the ’68 Special became the focus of your life.
I know. And maybe that’s where I began to take Priscilla and my marriage for granted. When I re-focused on my career. But you gotta remember that I was scared to death at the start of making that Special. I’d decided I wanted this show to depart completely from the pattern of the movies and everything I’d done and show people what I really can do. But when I met Bones Howe, man, he reminded me we’d worked together in ’58 and said what impressed him most was that the quality of those recording sessions was dictated not by the clock but by my emotional commitment. And he said I’d have to rip myself raw for the Special, that the show had to come directly from my life, my music, my experience. I agreed with all that. And even told him I’d do a live section. My first live gig in seven years!
So you were nervous?
Well, yeah. I read an article that said, “The kids don’t scream for The King like they used to” and I got so terrified, thinking, “What if nobody likes me? What if they think I’m just some old guy trying to recapture his youth?” And even before I want out on stage that first night, I said to Binder, “I’ve changed my mind, I don’t want to go out there, what if I freeze and have nothing to say?” That’s why you see my hand trembling as I reach for the microphone to sing ‘Heartbereak Hotel’. I was terrified, man.
But the whole show was about just that, “getting back on the track” to cull a line from ‘Guitar Man’!
Yeah. And the guys who wrote it, told me the idea was based on a play called The Blue Bird, a saga of a search for meaning in a man’s life that is rewarded only after he comes full circle. I liked that idea from the start. And I’ll tell you, man, when I did that sit-down sequence with the guys and we cut loose on old blues tunes like ‘Tryin’ To Get To You’ I did feel like I was coming back home. But also, in a strange way, singing myself into the future. That’s why I punched the air at one point! In fact, I got so excited that Bill Belew had to go to Steve Binder after the performance and say, “We got a problem, this leather suit’s all wet inside!” What happened, man, I’ll leave to your imagination! (laughs).
You also insisted that there be a gospel sequence in the show.
Because, as I said during the filming, “Rock ’n’ roll music is basically gospel or rhythm ’n’ blues, it sprang from that.” And I couldn’t believe it when they gave me that great, gospel-like song to end the show. When Parker heard If I Can Dream he said, “That is not an Elvis song” but I told him, “I’d like to try it.” And when he was shouting, “Over my dead body will we put a new song at the end of the show”, I just said, “Guys, I’ll do it.” I told Binder to empty the studio and turn down the lights and I sang that song four times. The last time, man, I was curled in a foetal position, on the floor, just screaming out that lyric, “As long as a man has the strength to dream/He can redeem his soul and fly.” My boy, my boy, I really could feel those lines. And, y’know, after I watched the Special for the first time, I turned to Binder and said, “Steve, I will never sing another song, act in another movie or do anything I don’t believe in from here on out.” And I really meant that. So not long afterwards I got out of that damn movie contract and went back to Memphis to record for the first time in 14 years. And I said to the guys, “I want to see if I can get just one more number one.”
Which you did, of course, with songs like ‘In The Ghetto’ and ‘Suspicious Minds’ – some of the best recordings in your life.
I think so, man. In fact, I got more creative satisfaction from recording those songs than I got from anything I had done since 1960. In music or on film. And new, more mature songs like ‘In The Ghetto’ were exactly what I wanted to sing when I made my comeback in Vegas, not silly lyrics like ‘Hound Dog’. Sure, I extended the idea of the ’68 Special, doing a lot of old songs but what I really wanted to represent on stage in Vegas was the whole spectrum of American music. So when I started interviewing up to 180 musicians the one question I’d ask was, “Can you play any kind of music?” If they could they were in. That’s how I picked guys like James Burton. And a ‘weirdo’ named Jerry Scheff! And I’d loved The Sweet Inspiratons when they sang with Aretha Franklin, so I put them together with the white gospel sounds of the Imperials. And I wanted the orchestra to have a Big Band sound that could also be orchestral. In fact, the Colonel nearly had a heart attack when he saw that the payroll was $80,000 for the four weeks because of the 50 musicians and singers I used.
What about your own preparations?
But I was so serious about that show that I even cut out the pills I’d been using, cut out fried foods, went on a diet of vegetables and yoghurt and worked out with karate for weeks to get in shape. And I decided to drop the gyrations of the ’50s, draw on the grace and discipline of karate. I even styled my stage suits on karate suits. Man, I planned that Vegas show like I was General Patton going into war! But, y’know I still was terrified. I even told Joe Esposito to tell some of the guys back in Memphis not to come ‘til the second night. But, hell, when I walked out that first night the standing ovation – and the standing ovation at the end of every song – just blew me away. And made me even more aware of how much I’d missed the live contact with an audience, the electricity that’s generated back and forth when you’re on stage. I sure as hell didn’t get that feeling when I sang to turtles in movies!
So, Elvis, what happened? That was only eight years ago.
I know, and only last December at the end of a show at the Hilton I said to the audience, “I hate Las Vegas.” And I do, now. A week earlier I even wrote a note where I said something like: “I feel so alone sometimes. The night is quiet for me. I would love to be able to sleep. I am glad everyone is gone now, I will probably not rest tonight. I have no need for all this. Help me Lord.” But the goddamn Colonel will probably have me playing Vegas ’til I die, because he owes them so much money in gambling debts. Yet, like I said earlier, man, I need a challenge and Vegas just ain’t a challenge anymore. And maybe I hate it because, at some point, I realised I couldn’t face the public without being juiced up with drugs.
What drugs? I know you’ve been reading and updating, by the month, the Physician’s Desk Reference for maybe 15 years, so you had to know what you were taking.
But I was in denial. To myself. And everybody. That’s the God’s honest truth, man. I remember Dr. Nick confronted me after I was found here in Graceland, half hanging off my bed, my stomach swollen, my breathing all rasping and I was rushed to hospital. That was just a few days after I got my divorce from Priscilla. And let me tell you that the failure of my marriage and missing my little daughter definitely made me up my drug use. But anyway, Nick told me then, in October 1973, “Elvis, you are badly addicted to morphine – one of the strongest drugs in the world. You’ve been receiving it in the form of Demerol, a painkiller. Worse, your system has been poisoned by cortisone injections, masked by painkillers, Novocaine, I suspect.” He was right. I had been getting stuff from doctors all over the States but I just said, ‘Dr. Nick, I have no idea how this happened. It isn’t possible. You know what I’m taking – a little valium, some of those sleeping pills you gave me, some amphetamines when I have to do a show.” Either way, the hospital here in Memphis said I was suffering from pneumonia but I really went through detox. But when I got back to Graceland I had my own stash and even hid vials of pills in the seams of curtains, man. So what do I take when touring? Well, I’d wake at 3pm and maybe get Ionamin, Dexedrine, Biphetamine or Sanorex – all of which are amphetamines. Then maybe an hour later I’d get a shot of Halotestin, a Vitamin B12 injection and another Dexedrine Spansule to see me through the show. And I’d usually demand Dilaudid, an hour before I’d go on stage because that gave me one hell of a feeling of euphoria.
Isn’t Dilaudid called “drugstore heroin” even though it’s two and half times as strong?
Yeah. believe me, I need those drugs to get me through a show. And after it ends I’d get Inderal, to control my blood pressure, Periacton because of the itching caused by my costume, Sinequaan, an antidepressant and maybe – if I was really down, a quaalude. Then, back in my suite, I’d get my “bedtime packet number one”: sedatives, for insomnia, Carbital, Noludar – a hypnotic sleeping pill – maybe even another quaalude. And if one pack wouldn’t knock me out, I’d get another. Just like I probably will when we finish this interview, because I need to knock myself out before the tour starts tomorrow night in Portland. In fact, sometimes I’ve slept for three days on end here in Graceland after taking what we call my “attacks”.
Not exactly the state of “oceanic consciousness” you read drugs can bring about, in books like The Psychedelic Experience, is it?
That ain’t necessarily so, man. I remember, back around ’72, talking about this very subject with a girlfriend of mine called Joyce Bova. In fact, we were talking about what I had finally come to realise was my “purpose” in life. I would read to her passages from The Impersonal Life and one time I just said to her, “If you relax and open your mind, the heavens can tell you all kinds of things. Sometimes I even hear my mama talking to me out there. She’s the reason I got as far as I did in life. But sometimes I think God wants me to be greater than I am. I don’t mean as an entertainer, I mean as a person. I truly believe, Joyce, that God has a greater purpose in mind for me. That’s why I was the twin that survived. To carry a message for Him. I’m not just good ol’ good-time Elvis with his wild ‘Memphis Mafia’. I’m a serious man and I’ve a serious message for the world. I can help people. I have a vision, a purpose. We all have divinity inside us. Some of us just understand it more. But what I have been tryin’ to give – what I try to give – is that understanding.”
And she said, “Elvis, if we’re Gods, or at least have this ‘divinity’ in us, why do we need drugs.” So I told her, “Silence is the resting place of the soul. It’s sacred. And necessary for new thoughts to be born. That’s what my pills are for, Joyce. For me to get as close as possible to that silence.” But she pushed me, man, she said, “How can you reach out to the multitudes, if that’s your ‘purpose’ when you can’t control your own life without drugs?” But I wasn’t ready to hear questions like that back in ’72. So I just said – and this is true, too – “I have to experience everything, Joyce. The experience has to be in my voice for people to feel it, to be touched and moved by it.”
But Joyce was right, Elvis, when she asked how can you reach out to the multitudes if you can’t control your own life without drugs.
(Angrily) Don’t go misrepresenting me, man, when you go back to Ireland. You gotta tell the folks that when I’m here in Gracleand it is mostly just a mix of uppers and downers I take. Especially when I’d feelin’ lower than a snake’s belly, man. But pills also help me deal with ailments like high blood pressure, liver damage, and an enlarged colon. And insomnia. I’ve always had insomnia. But it’s gotten worse since I heard about that damn bodyguard book. I can’t sleep, man. And when I do, I have these nightmares. Like where I where I go out on stage and there is no one in the audience. And to tell you the truth, man, even when I’m awake I’m haunted by this idea that I’ll walk on stage during the next tour – the one that starts tomorrow night, the first one since that fuckin’ book came out – and someone will shout, “Hey, drug addict.” Or, “Aw, hell, you’re wiped out.”
If that happens what will you do?
At first I thought I’d just say, “No, I’m not a drug addict. Sure, I take certain things but I need them, And here’s my doctor, he’ll tell you.” But then I realised I should go ahead and say, “Yeah, I got a problem with drugs and after this tour I’m going to get myself straightened out.” That’s why this interview, with you, is the first of many I’ll be giving to tell the whole story. And to try kill that fucking bodyguard’s book. Though sometimes I would rather load my gun and go kill those motherfuckers themselves. But one thing I do know about myself is that I got the power of heaven and hell in me and I got to balance them both, I’ve got to learn to conquer the hell. (Presley pauses, starts crying, slightly) But you know what torments me most about Elvis: What Happened? The thought of ‘What is my little girl going to think when she grows up? What is she going to think of her daddy?' So I really do think I will take time off after this tour to analyse, re-evaluate and straighten myself out. (Elvis suddenly smiles) And here’s an exclusive for you, boy. I’m going to get rid of the Colonel."
I could say ‘about time’ but why this drastic decision when you seem to have needed him for so long?
No, man, he made me believe I needed him, that I’d be nothing without him. But the truth is that now, more than ever, he treats me like I am nothing. Nothing but a dollar sign. To him. Someone told me that one night, three months ago, after I overdosed in my dressing room and Dr. Nick was trying to revive me, ducking my head in and out of a bucket of iced water, Parker just walked in – totally unconcerned about my condition and said, “The only thing that’s important is that he’s on stage tonight. Nothing else matters.” So he’s out and Tom Hulett’s in. And here’s another exclusive, I’m finally coming to Europe. And Australia and Japan. I’ve already asked the pilot of the Lisa Marie if he’ll fly the plane for our World Tour and Bill Belew is designing a suit, with lasers in it, that’ll blow the world away man! And that bodyguard’s book!
And you know what else I’m gonna do? (Elvis stands up, stretches his arms, signalling it’s time for me to go) Disband the Memphis Mafia. I don’t like the term; it’s been an embarrassment to me my whole life. I don’t need all those people around me. All I need is a few people around me. I want to change my life; I want a whole new life. I want a new career, I want to be an actor again. I paid some guys to write a screenplay for me called Billy Easter, which will be a non-singing role, and maybe that will get my movie career back on track. And I want to have a son, I want to have more children. After all, I am only 42. Hell, I feel better even just talking about all this. If I die tonight it will take them a year to wipe this smile off my face!
Red West did say today that you are hooked on so many medications, it’s inevitable you will die of an overdose.
I’m not afraid of death. Only the ignorant, the unenlightened person is afraid of death. And that’s because they are afraid of living. People, man, they go to funerals and everyone wears black, and everyone’s crying. They should be rejoicing. The soul’s free. The soul is going back to God, going home again.