MELODY MAKER Magazine: July 21, 1990
By Mat Smith
"It's a smalltown kind of a story. Folklore has it that I was kidnapped by aliens and recreated in the image of Elvis Presley. I spent the next few years orbiting the earth in Skylab before falling to earth and landing in Daddy T'Elvis' backyard."
Tortelvis, lead singer of DREAD ZEPPELIN used to be a milkman; but even then he was no ordinary Ernie. Out of his milk round one day, Tortelvis crashed into the back of an old black Pinto. Now Pintos used to be a real no-no in the Seventies. The petrol tank was situated right at the back which meant that any tailgate kind of action would inevitably result in both you and the owner of the Pinto being blown skyward in several pieces. On this occasion, however, somewhat miraculously, out popped five reggae musicians. This was the sign Tortelvis had been waiting for -- the birth of Dread Zeppelin.
"I'd been hearing voices in my head for ages, in fact I still do.. Usually it's Elvis telling me I'm fulfilling his wishes. It was him who told me in 1977 that I had to do Led Zeppelin songs reggae style. I was walking down the street in Memphis one day. I noticed this guy cos he was dressed kinda strange -- in a plaid suit and a shirt that didn't match. Then I realised it was Elvis. He came over to me and said, 'Tortelvis, you gotta do Led Zeppelin songs in a reggae style'. He had all his minders with him. I think I recognised Joe Esposito."
However, there was always the not inconsiderable problem of permission. Although Zep ripped off as many bluesers as blouses in their time, you get the impression they wouldn't be quite so forthcoming when it was their back catalogue in the bag marked swag.
"We were actually a bit concerned about it. But the fact that Robert Plant really liked us helped a lot. Jimmy Page took a while but, after a few weeks, he gave us his permission. It was the Elvis people that gave us a hard time. They really didn't take a liking to it. They thought that maybe we were making fun of Elvis and you know we'd never do that. Somehow though, I didn't think that, if I told them that I'd had visits from Elvis and that he spoke to me regularly in my head, that it would go down too well with them. They couldn't stop us doing the LP, but they made me put a sticker over my face on the cover so I'm effectively banned from my own album!"
"Un-Led-Ed", their debut LP out at the end of the month, was made via copious amounts of studio time from Dave Stewart. However, even if it sells as much as "Houses Of The Holy" which, as anyone who's heard it will agree, it won't, Tortelvis says he's after the quiet life -- no porno films starring 12-year-olds in white panties, no dumb one-armed helicopter pilot film scripts, no plans to open a Burger King chain of his own.
"I just wanna live in Graceland West, the place I built. I've made it as tasteful as the original. All the guys live here with me. Charlie Haj, the guy who hands me my towels and water on stage is in the room next door. All I hope for is that when I die, people won't make as much fun of me as they do of Elvis."
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