The Elvis Files, Volume 4
The Elvis Files Volume Four -Released August 16th 2011.
A review of the latest edition in the "Elvis Files" series of books
By Lee Dawson
I call this series of books “The King of Books! Fit For The King!” and with the latest edition which was released on August 16th, is Volume 4 keeping up the standards?
Volume 4 (it’s actually the 3rd release in the series) focuses on all things Elvis in the years 1965 to 1968 inside the 570 pages. Just like the previous 2 releases (Volumes 2 & 3) we are treated to some gloriously rare and unseen pictures. It’s simply amazing how many unseen pictures Erik Lorentzen brings to us in these books.
Elvis - The Man & His Music Preview...
THE ELVIS FILES 4 (1965-1968)
The Elvis Files (not to be confused with J Edgar’s ‘dodgy’ dossiers) just gets better with each volume. No need to detail its ambitious remit: suffice it to say that the author, Erik Lorentzen, has spared no expense or effort to make this pictorial biography the best product possible, drawing on the support of a diverse number of well-respected Elvis-related people (thus making it a genuine team effort) and unearthing some wonderful, previously unpublished, rare and impressive photos for our delectation. And how! What started out as a bold and imaginative project – with some in-built niggles, admittedly - has now graduated into the premier league of Elvis books, not least because of the exhaustive behind-the-scenes efforts of assistant editor, Paul ‘Dewey’ Richardson, whose rigorous skills have contributed significantly to the project’s succes.
However, before moving on, I must declare an interest: I proof-read the book and contributed a few editorial suggestions myself. But there’s no conflict: I’m proud to be associated with this work because it is so bloody good. If I didn’t believe that, I’d say so and simply wouldn’t do it.
Anyway, this volume covers 1965–68, and while this may elicit a grimace from some of you – understandably so – just pause before you write this period off entirely. Yes, other than the utterly deluded, most fans would regard this era as almost completely sterile in terms of his cinematic output. Elvis was in a vacuum, all spirit and enterprise seemingly sucked out of him, making irrelevant, puerile and ludicrously plotted movies (Harum Scarum, Frankie and Johnny, Paradise, Hawaiian Style, Double Trouble, Easy Come, Easy Go ad nauseum) in which he looked a complete prick most of the time, sporting horrendous hairstyles. Then there were those musically emasculated songs. Well, you’ll be pleased to know that The Elvis Files acknowledges these things fully: there’s no shrinking from or avoiding the grimness of the first couple of years during this era. The critical text accompanying the wide array of photographs (most of them simply stunning in quality) is drawn from impeccable sources, some contemporaneous and others retrospectively, by luminaries such as Gerry McLafferty and Alan Hanson. Yet, paradoxically, even when viewing shots from these dreadful movies, you can’t help but be impressed by their visual quality even if, like me, you believe Elvis looked a total jerk in many of them.
As usual, the book spans the relevant years in spectacular detail (the ’68 TV Special has well over 100 delectable pages devoted to it), offering 1500 plus photographs: many on and off-screen shots, as well as boatloads of candids. But having started out quite inauspiciously with the one-dimensional, artistically redundant Elvis, as featured in Harum Scarum (no wonder he was disguised in a turban!) the transformation through to ’67 when he filmed Stay Away, Joe is glorious. And by the time we get to 1968 he looked absolutely sensational. This book charts an artist starting to find himself again – in all respects: taking a pride in what he did, how he looked and, best of all - culminating in the ’68 stuff - rejoicing in his achievements and being in touch – literally and metaphorically – with his fan base and his roots. Apparently, the only night in early December ’68 when he wasn’t out meeting fans at his LA home was the 3rd – the night the special aired – when he was said to be anxious about how it would be received. Personally, though, I think he was watching Coronation Street.
Unquestionably these books have set yet another benchmark for Elvis product and lend a new dimension to the term comprehensive. Sensibly, the author has ditched the practice of including song lyrics. Good call, Erik. Scrupulously researched, edited, cross-referenced, and beautifully laid out – not to mention offering real value for money - this is, quite simply, a model for wannabees to aspire to. If only!
© 2011 Gordon Minto