Published September 1996, The Aquarian Weekly
Just because the King kicked on the crapper back in '77 doesn't mean you can't experience the gaudy pageantry of an Elvis Presley show today.
Your chance to marvel at the mad spectacle of El Vez (The Mexican Elvis) comes this week when Robert Lopez - former guitarist/vocalist for San Diego punks The Zeros, one-time member of Catholic Discipline and Elvis Presley impersonator since 1988 - brings his Latino-via-Memphis "Rock & Revolution" tour to: Maxwell's, 1039 Washingtn St., Hoboken, Friday, Oct. 4; The Fez, 380 Lafayette, NYC, Monday, Oct. 7; and The Mercury Lounge, 217 E. Houston St., NYC, Tuesday, Oct. 8.
Witnessing El Vez (and his many costume changes) in concert is always a unique experience.
As the raucous sounds of the Memphis Mariachis blares from the PA, the lovely Elvettes (Priscillita, Lisa Maria, Que Linda Thompson and Gladysita) slink on stage and begin swaying in time to the music.
Winking and glowing under the lights (one of El Vez's favorite outfits is a white jumpsuit covered in red, white and green rhinestones with a sequined Virgin Of Guadalupe on the back) as he bursts onto the boards, the outlandishly-dressed man who would be King begins singing what sounds like The Big E's "Now Or Never" - only with anti-gang lyrics and an infectiously-danceable beat grafted to the melodies of "Maggie May," "Losing My Religion" and "The Godfather Theme."
Strutting across the stage, the small, brightly-plumed figure grabs Gladysita and the two execute a brief tango and exaggerated dip before El Vez twitches back to center-stage in time to belt out an old favorite, "En el Barrio."
Artfully fusing Traffic's "Dear Mr. Fantasy" with the Beatles' "I've Got A Feeling" and vivid, pro-Latino lyrics; the deft bastardization of the King's "In The Ghetto" appeared on Lopez's first album as El Vez not long after the diminutive impostor outraged thousands of die-hard Elvis fans during a 1988 Elvis Tribute Week performance at Bad Bob's nightclub in Memphis.
The notoriety garnered from his Graceland appearance resulted in reams of positive articles in a variety of nationwide newspapers, as well as guest shots on NBC's 2 HIP 4 TV and the series, Hunter.
The full-length El Vez albums that followed (El Vez Is Alive, Graciasland and Fun en Espanol) displayed quirky flashes of true musical genius as El Vez reworked songs such as: "Viva Las Vegas" into "Viva La Raza"; "Suspicious Minds" into "Immigration Time"; "Blue Suede Shoes" into "Huaraches Azules" (which includes bits of Jimi Hendrix's "Wind Cries Mary"); and "That's Alright, Mama" into "Esta Bien Mamacita."
In a world filled with bad Elvis Presley imitators, Robert Lopez and his alter ego, El Vez, have long been cited as one of the most unique and original practitioners of the fine art of Elvis.
And now, returning to record stores as well as to the stage, El Vez's latest offering, G.I. Ay Ay Blues (Big Pop), is the Chicano-King's most diverse and exciting call for revolution and Latino-pride ever.
Whether you latch onto "Say It Loud, I'm Brown And I'm Proud," "Taking Care Of Business," "The Arm Of Obregon," "Frida's Life Of Pain," "Malinche," "Soy un Pocho," "Whip," "J.C. Si Lowrider Superstar," "Cesar Chavez '96" or the future El Vez show-stopper, "Mexican American Trilogy" - the songs on G.I. Ay Ay Blues are sure to fill you with a bandanna-wearin' revolutionary spirit even as you're whipping up a couple of fried peanut butter and banana samwiches (uhm thank you thank you very much) and washing 'em down with a quart of Nehi Orange.
In addition to releasing G.I. Ay Ay Blues, El Vez is working on a gospel album with The John Spencer Blues Explosion, has plans for a one-off collaboration with Doo Rag, is being courted for a starring role in a full-length European film - and continues to tour and spread the message of "Rock & Revolution" wherever he thinks it's needed most.
For El Vez information, or to get your hands on a copy of G.I. Ay Ay Blues, contact Big Pop Records at: PO Box 12870, Philadelphia, PA 19108.
-- AL MUZER