The King of Rock 'n' Roll's court lives on
Had he not died on a Memphis toilet seat — and/or gobbled mountains of pills, alienated those he loved and eaten every meal as if he were testing fried goods at the state fair — the King of Rock 'n' Roll might have been with us to celebrate his 75th birthday Friday. But alas, Elvis Presley was destined to die, to become the ultimate icon of pop excess, a cautionary tale that rockers who don't slow down burn down. • The irony is that had he taken better care of himself — had he lived — the Memphis Flash might still be taking care of business onstage. And why not? Look below and you'll see that five of the very leviathans who helped him build the ark of rock are still alive at 75 and older . . . and they're still going. Hmmm. . . . Maybe Elvis isn't the example but the exception. Maybe heaven won't take you if you're right in the middle of Great Balls of Fire.
Still duckwalking at 83, the Godfather of the Guitar just played a rollicking New Year's Eve show in NYC. He's cantankerous, he's controversial, but let me tell you this, boys and girls: Without Johnny B. Goode, we'd all be sitting on our hands.
Credit the life-affirming love of a good woman — even if she's a guitar. Lucille and her Beale Street Blues Boy (psst: that's how he got the nickname) is 84 and still touring, including a Feb. 5 stop at Ruth Eckerd Hall with Buddy Guy. (Buddy's just a pup at 73!)
The Architect of Rock 'n' Roll is 77, but the Mouth of Macon, Ga., can still hammer the heck out of The Girl Can't Help It. New stars such as the Black Eyed Peas' Will.i.am have recently discovered him, sampling the genius of the man born Richard Wayne Penniman.
The Fat Man of New Orleans, whose trailblazing songbook was revived after the horrors of Hurricane Katrina (which Fats survived firsthand), has had health problems lately. But here's hoping Antoine Domino, 81, can make one last run up Blueberry Hill.
Jerry Lee Lewis
The Killer turns 75 in September, but the devil himself will have to drag Jerry Lee away from his blazin' piano — and it won't be easy. He released a single last fall, the appropriately titled Mean Old Man. "If I look like a mean old man, that's what I am . . ." Yeah, good luck with that one, Satan.
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I have a fantastic new lady love. She's 4,000 pounds of bronze, buxom, butterball-naked bliss. She holds a cigarette in one hand — and if she held a Schlitz in the other, we'd be perfect for each other. Her name is Smoking Woman, and she is the colossal creation of Colombian artist Fernando Botero. My zaftig gal pal is sprawled out, with her undular badonkadonk bare to the sky, behind the Museum of Fine Arts in downtown St. Pete; to gawk at this sculpture — and what a gawk indeed! — is free of charge. Smoking Woman is a magnificent reminder that "The Baroque World of Fernando Botero" exhibit runs until April 4. My pal Lennie Bennett, the Times’ visual arts critic, can more elegantly tell you how Botero captures the human comedy and our taste for excess. I'm just here to urge you to make a pilgrimage to Smoking Woman — and to stick it to those who say she doesn't belong in our burg, that she's a crass, crude blight on our waterfront. Please. She is a prideful, spectacular reminder that YOU ARE HERE, and everyone I've brought before this robust queen — old or young, conservative or liberal, chunky or funky — found her sublime. Knock 'em dead, honey.
1 I Want You (She's So Heavy),
3 Smoke Gets in Your Eyes,
4 Lotta Love,
5 How Great Thou Art,
6 Bad Girl,
7 The Bronze,
Queens of the Stone Age
8 She Hangs Out,
9 The Honey Roll,
10 She's a Beauty,
The Rolling Stones
Albums: Love You Live (1977), Still Life (1981), Flashpoint (1991), Stripped (1995), Live Licks (2004) (Universal)
In stores: Now
Live, wired: Stonesian cultists will gobble up these reissued, remastered later-career live discs from Mick, Keef & Co. Cynics will smirk and say that a few of these, especially the latter ones, are crass money-grabbers made mainly to fulfill label demands. (Do we really want the Stones totally Stripped? No, we want them plugged in, cranked up and knocking drinks off our speakers.) Still, even when the Glimmer Twins are merely collecting a paycheck, they sound vital. If you only crave one of these (and assuming you already have 1970's Get Your Ya-Ya's Out), check out Love You Live. Not because it's so much better, but because it's looser, rougher (plus you get two discs). The Stones are almost too efficient now, a band so good at what it does, it has forgotten how to make mistakes. The boys sound besotted on LYL, the set list cooks (Fingerprint File!), and Billy Preston and Ian Stewart dazzle on piano.
Reminds us of: My first Stones show was at the Carrier Dome, Syracuse University, 1989. I drank a bunch of Pils Light (only $1.89 a sixer!) in the dorm next door then staggered in for the show. Worth the $100,000 in tuition right there!
Download these: Star Star (from Love You Live), Twenty Flight Rock (from Still Life)
Grades: Love You Live: A, Still Life: A-, Flashpoint: B+, Stripped: C+, Live Licks: B-