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Queen Elvis is the title of two separate musical works by eclectic British musician Robyn Hitchcock. The first is the name given to his 1989 album with long-time backup band The Egyptians (consisting of Andy Metcalfe on bass and keyboards and Morris Windsor on drums), released on A&M Records in the United States. This was Hitchcock's second album of a four-record band contract with A&M, following on the heels of the very successful 1988 album Globe of Frogs. It features a guest appearance on several tracks by R.E.M. guitarist Peter Buck, and was the beginning of several collaborations between the two musicians over the course of the early 1990s.

The release of the Queen Elvis album was significant to Hitchcock's already lengthy discography in that it was perhaps the most anticipated album of his career. The late 1980s saw the beginning of a mass commercialization of "alternative music," and Globe of Frogs was Hitchcock's watershed album, exposing his music to more of a mainstream audience than ever before. Repeated airplay on MTV's 120 Minutes of his video for "Balloon Man," a jangly pop number featuring Hitchcock's typically quirky lyrics, resulted in record-breaking sales for the artist who had wallowed in relative obscurity on independent labels for more than a decade. Queen Elvis was swept up in a flurry of major label releases for "new" alternative artists, but it would be something of a swan song for the genre: Nirvana's Nevermind would quickly change the landscape of "new rock" as it ushered in the grunge era a few years later.

Having found the formula for commercial success with Globe of Frogs, Queen Elvis followed up true to form, and features ten original songs with a very polished studio sound and orchestral accompaniment. They are some of Hitchcock's most "accessible" works to date, and the album sold rather well when released. Co-produced with bandmate Metcalfe and recorded at Vancouver's Greenhouse Studios, the track listing is as follows:

  1. Madonna Of The Wasps {3:05}
  2. The Devil's Coachman {2:33}
  3. Wax Doll {4:12}
  4. Knife {3:24}
  5. Swirling {3:38}
  6. One Long Pair of Eyes {4:57}
  7. Veins Of The Queen {3:24}
  8. Freeze {4:46}
  9. Autumn Sea {4:23}
  10. Superman {3:48}
  11. Veins Of The Queen (royal mix) {4:00}
  12. Freeze (shatter mix) {4:16}
I could give a brief description of each song like tes does in his exceptional album writeups, but I'll reserve that for any noders who obtain the legal permission to add the lyrics of these songs to the database. After all, every lyric writeup deserves some meaningful explication.

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The second work to bear the name Queen Elvis is a song Hitchcock wrote around the same time he composed the other titles on the album which bears this name. Since the tempo and mood of the song didn't really fit the album, he chose to save it. It was released a year later in two different versions on the Twin/Tone Records solo effort, Eye. Perhaps Hitchcock's finest solo work since the 1984 album I Often Dream of Trains, Eye features eighteen acoustic tracks, with the versions of "Queen Elvis" among the highlights. heyoka claims she can listen to this song on repeat for an hour, and I can understand why. It has a soothing melody and a theme which is much more straight-forward than much of Hitchcock's other work.

Basically the song is about acceptance and the trials and tribulations of coming to terms with being "different". Hitchcock often gets described as a watered-down imitation of Syd Barrett, which is not entirely undeserved, but somewhat unfair. Barrett went out of his mind from taking too much acid, and will never compose or perform again in his lifetime; Hitchcock, on the other hand, continues to produce consistently high-quality work year after year (and, I might add, he's not insane). While his other major influences include Captain Beefheart and the late Nick Drake, it's my opinion that "Queen Elvis" is a song that's 100% pure Robyn Hitchcock in his own right. It's worth a listen if you have the time.

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Lyrics:

People get what they deserve
Time is round is space is curved
Honey have you got the nerve
to be Queen Elvis?

See that man that mows his lawn?
He'll hang in drag before the dawn
Some are made and some are born
to be Queen Elvis

You could break your mother's heart
You could break your sister's heart
Coming out's the hardest part
when you're Queen Elvis

Justify your special ways
Justify your special ways

Gettin' blow jobs from the press
Oh, I'm jealous, can't you guess?
I could never fit your dress
(alternately, "I'd never fit inside your dress")
Queen Elvis

Oh, and I'll sculpt you
so very hard
Oh, and I'll sculpt you
'til you... bleed

Everybody must get stoned
All together, all alone
Babbling beside the throne
of Queen Elvis

(instrumental bridge)

Justify your special ways
Justify your special ways

Two mirrors make infinity
In the mirror, you and me
Find out just what love could be
Queen Elvis

Oh, and I'll sculpt you
so very hard
Oh, and I'll sculpt you
'til you... breathe

People get what they deserve
Time is round is space is curved
Honey have you got the nerve
to be Queen Elvis?

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