The Elvis Files, Volume 2
Quality costs, but is usually worth it. This principle is amply illustrated by the second volume of The Elvis Files. Those of you familiar with the first volume released last year (which covered the 1960-64 period) will know that unlike most books about Elvis (and the number is incalculable), this is a book worthy of serious consideration, though weighing in a almost 3.5 kg and running well in excess of 500 pages, it is neither for the physically weak nor the faint-hearted. And when I say it is coffee-table size, I mean that almost literally!
As mentioned, very few of the innumerable Elvis books are worth a toss. Overall, Elvis has not been well-served by those who chose to write about him. Most writers were not only self-serving but worse, in the main their work lacked rigour or originality. However, neither charge applies to author Erik Lorentzen, founder of the Norwegian Elvis fan club, who has set himself a Herculean task – namely, to cover - predominantly in pictorial form - the whole of Elvis’s professional career, by publishing rare and previously unseen photographs, as well as reprinting contemporaneous newspaper reports from various publications and reprinting important interviews from the time, as well as the likes of ETM. And all of it on high quality gloss paper, a lot of it in colour.
Serious students of Elviswill probably be familiar with Peter Guralnick’s two part biography of Elvis’s life and career – unquestionably the definitive work on this subject. But whereas the latter told the story in a highly literate, insightful and compassionate way, Lorentzen’sall-encompassing work complements Guralnick’s by offering a feast of wonderful images (many of which I’ve not seen before) and offers information I wasn’t aware of. The adage about a picture being worth 1,000 words has never seemed more apt. Wonderful images, from both on and off screen, stir the imagination and conjure up precious memories. There’s an especially good one on pages 401-2 where Elvis is being escorted through a crowd to get in a car and Carolyn Jones can be seen waiting for him in the back seat. Printed below though is a transcript of a letter she had sent to a newspaper in March 1958. Truly fascinating research.
Arguably, the period covered by this volume, represents one of the most interesting in terms of Elvis’s development – featuring not only many shots from his second, third and fourth films: Loving You, Jailhouse Rock and King Creole(including many from the actual recording sessions), but lots of candidsand, crucially, many from his many stage appearances during that time. 1957 is particularly well-documented, especially the live concerts, running to well over 300 pages in a book that offers 500 plus pages in all. You’d have to be very blasé – or worse, a Cliff Richard fan! – not to be knocked out by these images and transported back in time when, without fear of contradiction, Elvis was the dog’s bollocks in the pop world.
Now the first volume released (reviewed by Paul Richardson in Elvis The Man and His Music last year) was impressive but suffered from a number of niggling mistakes and generally poor standard of English, which was not only irksome but detracted from an otherwise worthy book. Since then though Paul has taken on the role of editorial assistant for the remaining volumes and I’m delighted to report that the script has benefited greatly from some careful and very time-consuming editing (almost 500 hours over a four month time period, I’m told). And while there are still some errors here and there (some of the revisions to song lyrics missed the tight publishing deadline), overall the standard has been improved immeasurably making this volume excellent in all respects. At a risk of nit-picking, I must admit that I’m not convinced about the efficacy of including song lyrics and would respectfully suggest that they add little to the work (something that will be even more pertinent when Lorentzen looks at the mid-sixties’period with all those mainly fatuous and ridiculous film songs). Personally, I think the time and effort would be better spent by ensuring that all photos were captioned, and participants identified, wherever possible. One thing I noticed was that the private recording session held at friend Eddie Fadal’s house around May 1958 was not mentioned, nor were the various ones held at his home in Bad Nauheim during 1959. These seem strange omissions in what is otherwise a terrifically comprehensive and superb book. However, in the round, these are minor quibbles.
Now admittedly this volume doesn’t come cheap but for fellow baby-boomers with some disposable income, it’s a worthwhile purchase and deserves your full support. Settle back in your chair (making sure your truss is firmly in place before you attempt to lift this volume: hernias are nasty things!), place any of the recent Jailhouse Rock CDs in your player, crank up the volume, relax and relive the period when Elvis reigned supreme. It’s the ultimate antidote to seasonal and economic-austerity blues! Yes-sirree!