January 8 looms large in the history of rock. On this day in 1935, Elvis Presley was born in Tupelo, Mississippi. Twelve years later, David Bowie entered the world in London. Elvis would not live to see his 43rd birthday. David Bowie almost made it to 70. These two giants of rock and roll share more than birthdays and influential musical careers. They also appreciated the power of visual storytelling long before the age of Instagram.
Before he became the king of rock and roll, Elvis wanted to be in the movies. And when he became a rock star, he got his wish. Sadly, most of his films became a blot on his career thanks to the money-grubbing instincts of his manager, Colonel Tom Parker, and Elvis’s overly deferential attitude. But his appreciation of the power of movies made a positive impact on his career in a crucial way: as a teenager, seeing movie stars on the giant screen shaped his choice of clothing – flashy before he was even a singer – and informed his attention to crucial details such as the way he combed his hair and applied eye shadow to create a sultrier appearance. His riveting stage performances had as much to do with the way he dressed and gyrated his legs as the way he sang. Elvis was every bit an intimidating sex symbol as latter-day stars such as Prince were, which can be difficult for readers in 2018 to appreciate. But in the 1950s, Elvis changed everything.
By the time David Bowie’s career exploded in the 1970s, rock and roll stars such as Mick Jagger and Jimmy Page were wearing make-up and fancy stage suits that even had their own Continue reading