The Vegas oddsmakers said 20-1 in favor of Elvis Presley in this heavyweight battle of the Greasers but, in a flash of insight, I realized this could be a rock history rewrite in the making.
Look at the facts: The King started out as a tough-guy in leather but, when most people think of him, they think of bloated Lounge Lizard Elvis from 20 years later. (Thank you, thank you very much, indeed.) Whereas Olivia Newton-John, who started out squeaky clean, is often remembered in her tough-girl-in-leather stance during the finale of the musical Grease.
And what does she look like after all these years? A reasonable facsimile of herself was recently a guest judge on American Idol, but try ta fuggedaboudit: her younger self still struts her stuff on DVD, impressing once again a new generation of moviegoers brought up on the media message that image is more important than substance.
And the music? Well, Lieber and Stoller, the writers of “Hound Dog,” say that actually lifted his arrangement of the song not from Big Mama Thornton’s original but from a lounge act. (Isn’t that some sort of poetic justice?) And the unnamed studio backing vocalists from the Grease soundtrack sing way better than The Jordannaires — who ruined more good Elvis records than anyone gives them credit for.
Surprise winner: Olivia Newton-John by KO.