Dead Rockers’ Planned Comeback Stalls
Presley-Lennon collaboration collapses over constant conflict
Finished before they laid down six tracks, after one concert appearance on the roof of the old Apple Music building, the Elvis-Lennon All Star Band (appearing under the name Salt & Pepper) slid from music history to music trivia almost overnight.
Elvis Presley and John Lennon worked harder than the US Senate to keep their new association away from the public eye until the opening show of their 56 city tour and album release. But word spread quickly that the two dead performers had indeed returned. According to a never released press release Presley and Lennon wanted to show gratitude to all the fans who reported sightings over the years, and even more so fans who bought their albums over and over and over again with a newly discovered studio outtake or brand new digital remaster.
“I know fans who have seven different CDs of Let It Be, not just the studio remix without Phil Specter’s bloody hands on the tracks,” Lennon said, lighting his first cigarette since someone left a pack in his coffin in 1980. He was trying to figure out how to work an iPhone when I arrived for our first interview last February.
“Trying to get through to Yoko, you know, but she won’t call back. Even got a cease and desist order from her lawyer.”
Lennon was eager to discuss the launch of the new band.
“Yeh, we were hanging out in some bar someplace none of us recognized. Fog kept rolling through, terrible harp Muzak over the sound system. I don’t know how long I was there but the bartender still hadn’t taken my order.” Lennon was wearing a white gown with its own backlighting and nothing else. He floated several inches above the plush couch in the living room suite of his room at 1 Hotel Central Park in NYC. He grabbed the arm and pulled himself down onto the fabric.
“I’m still trying to adjust to the different gravity. There wasn’t any in that damn bar,” he explained. “Terrible phone reception too. Couldn’t get an operator to connect me to any of my buds. Didn’t bother Harrison one bit. He spent all his time singing My Sweet Lord in four part harmony, which I never remember him being able to do when he was a Beatle.”
I asked if Harrison would be part of the new All-Star Band. “It’s an all-star band,” Lennon replied, puzzled that his cigarette kept snuffing out as soon as he managed to light it. “Was he the star of the Beatles? I don’t think so. It’ll be Buddy Holly, Stevie Ray Vaughn, David Bowie, Terry Kath. Although we haven’t figured out how to cover that hole in his head. Not sure how it will look on stage. We’re thinking about seeing if he wants to play for Alice Cooper.”
I asked why they decided to return.
“Kept hearing people were seeing me playing in bars all over the world, pretending to be someone else. Like I would do that anymore. Studio, concert. That’s the limit. You don’t shape world opinion playing in some dive choking on other people’s cigarette smoke. Anyway, turns out people were claiming Elvis was his own impersonator in Vegas, London, Mumbai. We figured we’d be better off staging a comeback tour than letting people think our careers had sunk that low.”
When the first interview ended I asked if he could put me in contact with Elvis, who wasn’t returning my calls.
“Good luck with that,” he said. “Half the time he won’t return my calls. He discovered organic syrup and added that to his sandwich recipe. Now he spends his time gulping down PBBSs, as he calls them, and shooting at TVs when stories about Trump come on.”
Lennon gave up on his cigarette and lit a joint instead. That fired up instantly. “Medical,” he said. “Made sure to get the prescription as soon as I got back.” Then he returned to Elvis. “Probably won’t fit that stupid caped costume he plans on wearing, so let him eat.”
After giving me thirty minutes of his time he ushered me to the door. “It’s not like we really need him. The guy can’t write, can’t play more than three chords on a guitar. Can’t really dance other than the hip thing. Hasn’t listened to any music produced since the seventies.”
I asked him why he didn’t simply stage a solo comeback.
“He wouldn’t quit pestering me. A lot like McCartney.”
Given that parting note I wasn’t surprised to learn that the group broke up.
The only reason Lennon kept the second interview was because he forgot he scheduled it and didn’t bother to cancel.
“Salt & Pepper?” he complained. “What was the guy thinking? Everything was a hassle over details.”
According to Lennon, Presley first wanted to call the band PButter & Bacon. After weeks of wrangling in which every name Presley wanted involved food, they settled on Salt & Pepper. Then Elvis wanted to remove the backup band members from the album cover. Even Buddy Holly. But he wanted to replace them with jars of peanut butter, bananas and bacon strips.
“His rationalization? They’ll be covered with salt and pepper.” After arguing for weeks they settled on chess piece salt and pepper shakers holding instruments.
Then Elvis decided the chess pieces clashed with the Sgt Peppers send up that Lennon intended to be the main focus of the album. He wanted to know what was such a big deal about Sgt. Peppers anyway. “‘You sell in bulk, cause no-one wants your singles,’ he kept saying to me. Always rubbing it in that he outsold us in singles. Didn’t matter that he hit the big time long before us.”
Lennon listed a litany of complaints about Elvis, how Elvis wanted to change lines in Lennon’s songs, how he wanted to sing lead.
Lennon finally admitted, however, that the real reason the tour fell apart was that they couldn’t generate sales on the speculation of their return. “Turns out everybody thinks we’re dead. Can you believe that?”
The videographer Lennon hired to document their preparations for the tour plans a theatrical release as a documentary. The film will contain clips of the songs the band recorded as well as the bitter arguments and squabbles between sessions.
The film will be released this August under the title Let It Be DejuVu Again.
The above is parody, which, frankly, should be obvious.