Steve Goble

Choose life. (Deuteronomy 30:19)

A short 75-page overview of the king of rock'n'roll's life, enhanced throughout by 50 large glossy photographs, many of them in full colour.

It's ideal for small-time fans like me, who like Elvis enough to have just a few of his albums, but would never wade through a full-length book about him.

Over the years, I think I've heard almost everything that's covered in this book, but it's been so fragmented that to have it all assembled in the correct chronological order like this is a huge aide memoire.

Author Arthur Davis maintains a neutral tone throughout the first half of the biography, although he obviously loves his subject, because by the 1960s his strong opinions on Elvis' critical descent become more and more unveiled.

"It was an appalling artistic decline in quality from the merely poor to the downright dreadful, but, regrettably, many of the movies made a profit."

This book is not a rant though. The guy seems to know his stuff, and is unafraid to present his subject at both his best and his worst.

This book is also saturated throughout by quotations, sometimes from Elvis himself, but often from those closest to him, and not always favourable. By the end, there seems to be a definite angle toward the dangers of too much unchallenged freedom.

However I think it's the selection of photos that leave the strongest impression. Although even I can see that some of them are inaccurately captioned (that's the '68 Comeback Special on page 59, not a stage show), they do give the tale authenticity, and are wide-ranging enough to reflect most if not all of the aspects of Elvis' life under discussion here.

As these images are similarly chronological, they also reflect Elvis' personal journey from obscurity, through success, and back down to his eventual death. Comparing some of the early pictures of his career with the later ones, it is quite hard to believe that this is the same guy twenty years on.

All in all, this is an excellent reference work for the lightweight fan, and would probably make a good lazy afternoon's read with one of his albums on.

I give it five vivas and a double-sideburn.

(available here)

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