Lyrics: Apparition In Las Vegas |
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Apparition In Las Vegas

by Clive James and Pete Atkin

When the King of Rock and Roll sang in the desert
He didn't seem to age like other men
To Vegas came the ladies with pink rinses
Agog to see the dreamboat sail again

To Vegas came the shipwrecked and the broken
Their long regrets, their searing midnight rages
Their disappointment seldom left unspoken
In marriages that turned to rows of cages
He wrote and bound the book of which their early aspirations were the pages

When the King of Rock and Roll sang in the desert
With a ring of confidence around his smile
He sparkled like the frosting on a drumkit
He was supple as the serpent of the Nile

To Vegas came the ladies with pink rinses
With all their ills and all their soured karma
With all their pills and all their tics and winces
To feel again the liberating drama
Of a shining silver buckskin suit against a solid purple cyclorama

When the King of Rock and Roll sang in the desert
He broke no hearts that hadn't burst before
The ladies with pink rinses all were veterans
It was they and never he that knew the score
And knowing that they only loved him more

To Vegas came the debris of an era
For the promise that no longer could deceive them
Their eyes grew misty as their sight grew clearer
With a drum roll the past began to leave them
And it all drew further from them as the spotlight caught the King and brought him nearer

Note (from Collected Poems)

In his second last phase, before he was finally enslaved by the deadly combination of cocaine, hamburgers and bad caped costumes, Elvis Presley made marvellous music. Much of it he made in Las Vegas. None of it was quite as good as the 1968 concert, in which he sat there relatively immobile in black leather while a bunch of veteran guitarists rocked up a storm. (Preserved on video, the concert still hasn’t reached YouTube at the time of this writing: you have to buy it, in one of those strange cash transactions peculiar to early capitalism.) But he would still give the Las Vegas audiences the best he could do, even when miles overweight and clad in an outfit that made him look like Abba rolled into one. Both Pete and I thought the world of him, with reservations; which, when you come to think of it, is what anyone sensible thinks of the world itself. It will be seen from the lyric that I thought I had the old people well summed up. Pete was too sensible to think the same, and in his music he was careful to give some of the heroic dignity to the pink-rinsed audience.