Jeff Nuttall on Teddy Boys & Elvis


The teddy boys were waiting for Elvis Presley. Everybody under twenty all over the world was waiting. He was the super-saleman of mass-distribution hip. Unfortunately he had to be white. Otherwise one of the Chicago blues singers, Muddy Waters, Buddy Guy, Howlin’ Wolf, would’ve done. He had to have the cowboy/Spanish element. He had to have the Adonis profile. He had to have the overtones of the queer boy’s pin-up, the packed jeans, the sullen long-lashed eyes, the rosebud mouth, the lavish greasy hair and gilded drag.

Jeff Nuttall, Bomb Culture (1968)

Forget the Chicagoans he lists, over Elvis, Nuttall prefers Jelly Roll Morton as his choice of Romantic primitive American export to fire up his jaded post-war loins. His hipster subtext comes straight from the mouth of Norman Mailer’s White Negro, but I love that line about Elvis as ‘the super-saleman of mass-distribution hip.’

He later writes that Dylan was the ‘first sign popular music was transcending its commercial situation.’ His opinion being based on the broad acceptance of the ‘profound sourness’ found in the singer’s delivery. Capturing in two words what others have struggled, and failed, to achieve in the course of a book.