LIVING COLOUR: Killing Elvis (1990)

Published on August 1st, 2012

By STEVE MASCORD

<strong>ELVIS is dead. It’s official.</strong>
The sightings may still be flooding in, but Living Colour have announced on their album, <em>Time’s Up, </em>that the King is, in fact, no longer walking among us. The song which breaks the news is called “Elvis Is Dead<em>” </em>(what else?), and goes something like this:
<em>“When the King died, he was all alone/I heard when he died/He was sitting on his throne.”
</em>Yeah, real subtle. However, after legendary Dread Zeppelin frontman Tortelvis got a rap over the knuckles from Presley’s estate for pretending to be Elvis’ son, Living Colour may find out shortly that Elvis’ lawyers are still very much alive.
“I don’t know how we are going to get in trouble for stating the obvious,” Corey Glover says down the line from his Brooklyn home. “I don’t see it as any revelation saying that Elvis is dead. He <em>is </em>dead!”
But surely singing songs about a  decomposed Elvis going shopping for fruit isn’t being very nice to his fans? Glover is unrepentant…
“The song isn’t so much about Elvis as about a symptom of society’s ills. It’s like, for some, there was no wrong in the world when Elvis was around. They turned his story upside-down, stretched it. and elongated it into this whole thing where Elvis cannot die, because if he does, the whole era dies.
“You don’t have that with other people. You don’t have people saying, ‘Hitler was down at the 7 Eleven!”
If you think this is all a cheap shot at the King from the band which turned hard rock on its ear almost three years ago with their debut album Vivid<em>, </em>then you’re wrong. You see, it just so happens Corey Glover, guitarist Vernon Reid, drummer Wil Calhoun and bassist Muzzy Skillings are black. And, as Little Richard once theorised somewhat immodestly, “If I had been white, there would have been no Elvis!:
“Yeah, that’s true,” Corey admits. “Like I say, he (Elvis) crystallzed a special moment for white Americans. because theywere at their happiest in the late Fifties. There was a clear right and wrong then for them, but for me and mine it wasn’t the same.”
Time’s Up<em> </em>going to surprise, disappoint, enchant, and impress a lot of people in its effort to follow up the multi-platinum Vivid<em>. </em>While Vivid was a Godsend in the way it introduced black musical influences to wha was essentially uncompromising hard rock, Living Colour have tried their hand at exploring just about every genre you can think of on Time’s Up<em>. </em>
At one one end of the spectrum, there’s dirty alley thrash, and the album continues right through to something which almost sounds like elevator muzak.
<a href=”http://stevemascord.files.wordpress.com/2012/06/image11.jpg”><img class=”alignleft size-medium wp-image-6899″ title=”image1″ src=”http://stevemascord.files.wordpress.com/2012/06/image11.jpg?w=213″ alt=”” width=”213″ height=”300″ /></a>The first single, somwhat ironically, is called “Type”, about the evils of typecasting  people – and bands, presumably. For despite this band’s unique nature, Glover won’t rule out the theory that Living Colour have already been pigeon-holed by some.
“If we have, I think this record is going to dispel anything that has to do with us being typecast,” he says.
“As far as metal goes, I think we have enough of it on this record for people to go, like, ‘yeah!’ <em>'</em>Information Overload'<em> </em>is like, serious metal, as is “Time’s Up<em>’, </em>and even ‘Pride'<em>.
</em>“I think we’ll keep our metal fans, I hope they get into it.”
The album, with Ed Stasium once again at the controls, explores a whole gammit of social issues, from AIDS and self-awareness to education. Rap queen Latifah even makes an appearance on “Under Cover Of Darkness”<em>, </em>a funk-driven exploration of the politics of sex in the 1990’s.
“The politics of sex today is very, very, interesting,” Glover says. “You were told when you were younger sex was supposed to be wonderful, but also that making love was supposed to be very dangerous, like every emotion tied up into one. Now, in this age of AIDS and Sexually Transmitted Diseases, sex has become very sterile, very different. The song is about how you pit your fantasies against your reality. You say. ‘I’d like to do this as a fantasy, but the reality is I can’t, because I would die.’
“Another track, called ‘Pride'<em>, </em>is about relating to me as an individual with my own history, background and past. I’m no Bill Cosby — I’m Corey Glover! There’s a difference y’know. Not all short black people on TV are the same, not all black rock bands say the same thing, not all white rock bands say the same thing.”
For lovers of audio entertainment of a more brain — rattling variety, “Time’s Up<em>” </em>and “Information Overload” will keep you very interested in Living Colour, especially the latter track, which boasts a monstrous, seductive mutha of a rift.
The <em>Time’s Up </em>album is a cosmopolitan follow-up to <em>Vivid, </em>the LP that sent Living Colour on the road, playing the globe’s biggest stadiums as support for the Rolling Stones. Their rise up the charts was all the more remarkable for the complete absence of a hit single. There was only a hit video, for “Cult Of Personality<em>”, </em>and a rumbling vibe about the group that kept spreading.
A cosmic bill pairing Living Colour with Anthrax in Biitáin, plus other support shows with Robert Palmer, Cheap Trick, the Ramones and Bad Brains, elevated the foursome to the status of being industry darlings.
Glover is a former actor, who played a role in the Vietnam movie, <em>Platoon. </em>However, he admits he thanks rock ‘n’ roll and a two-year tour’ to thank for opening his eyes to many new discoveries.
“Actually it (touring) made us a lot more optimistic, because we saw that for all the people who close their eyes and let things slide, there are just as many who are willing  to open their eyes, experience something new, and do something about it.”
Glover claims that “None of us got swelled  heads or anything like that” about all the attention being paid to Living Colour.
<a href=”http://stevemascord.files.wordpress.com/2012/06/image0-002.jpg”><img class=”alignright size-medium wp-image-6900″ title=”image0-002″ src=”http://stevemascord.files.wordpress.com/2012/06/image0-002.jpg?w=199″ alt=”” width=”199″ height=”300″ /></a>“My life has not changed one iota. The only tangible thing that’s changed for the four of us in our lives is that we’ve moved out of our parents’ houses.
“I still get followed around in department stores (by security men) because I look kind of different. Not because I’m Corey Glover of Living Colour, but because I’m a black man walking in a department store.”
Last time we spoke to Living Colour, in <em>Hot Metal</em>#10, drummer William Calhoun told us that, during their Los Angeles dates with the Rolling Stones, he was planning to have a quiet chat to Axl Rose about Rose’s reference to “niggers” and “faggots” in Guns N’ Roses now-infamous song, “One In A Million”. However, according to Glover, that discussion never took place. “We didn’t have that much to do with Guns N’ Roses.” Glover says, not sounding as if he is particularly worried.
They were only on the tour for the Los Angeles shows, and we never saw much of them. Except for their soundchecks. they just came and went.
“We still have questions about ‘One In A Million’ that he hasn’t answered sufficiently enough for us. The fact that he’s made no apologies is probably the worst thing. He wrote the song. so what did he have in his mind? He hasn’t learnt that you don’t call people names, and you don’t refer to people in a way that’s derogatory.”
Living Colour now don’t expect to make it to our shores until the middle of 1991, when the band expect to be ‘peaking” says Glover, “We’d like to work our way up to the arenas, play some supports and get our sea legs again. On the last two tours, we went from playing small clubs and theatres to stadiums and completely bypassed arenas. We want to work our way up.”
Of course, funk metal is all the rage now. Den Reed Network, Steve Salas Colourcode.,. even Faith No More, are all earning big bucks by merging styles. Perhaps Living Colour’s first album was more of an adaptation than a merger, but Time’s Up is nothing if not on the cutting edge of hybrid rock.
However, while Living Colour’s subject matter is almost unexceptionally heavier than those of the afore-mentioned acts, Corey Glover rebuts accusations that the band is “too serious”.
“We sing about having a good time,”  he exclaims. “You come to our shows and you’ll see we’re having a good time. But we like to think that you can have a good time and think at the same time!
“If you’re a well-rounded human being, that means you get up in the morning and think about all kinds of things. You don’t onlythink about love, having a good time and partying. You also think, ‘Am I going to wake up tomorrow? Is somebody gonna drop a bomb on my head?’ You think about all kinds of things…”
I suggest that in fact it would take a bomb to stop Living Colour’s progress. Either that or Elvis showing up at one of their gigs. “I’d like to see that!” Glover says in parting…

 

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