Every book written about Elvis Presley lacks two things: the essence of the person and a full explanation of the magic of Elvis Presley. Galarchuk's book "Last Train to Memphis" provides the answer to both questions, plus much more. This book will appeal to readers who are not fans of Presley's music because it the book describes Presley rise to the top of the music industry with the hype or destruction of most Presley books. A strongpoint of the book is the early 1950s, the period when Elvis emerged from a shy, poor, and sheltered teenager with a into a mega star with an unlimited one. He also dispells the critics who do not respect Presley's musical talent giving him little or no credit for the production of his music. Galarchuk very strongly illustrates that Elvis was the driving force behind the musical material in the early years before Colonel Parker took complete control of Presley's career. The secret of this book is the number of unfamilar persons who knew Elvis and were able to provide insights to the man that have never been heard before. The most interesting voice from these persons was Dixie Locke, who knew Elvis better than anyone because she was there when he crossed the bridge from the unknown Elvis into the bright lights where he became "The King" and would never be able to go back to the "old" Elvis again.
Even if you've read 25 five other Elvis books & think you've heard it all before, your in for a real treat with this book. Well written, interesting, Often illuminating thoughts & emotions of "the king" are disclosed at a very entertaining & well crafted pace to make you re-experience the Real life of Elvis as he himself lived it. This book gets to the heart of Elvis's life, Dreams, Woes, & Dispare. It teaches you that even "the King" had lots of normal, human feelings. You see in all to clear detail how many around him manipulated him for their own concerns. As surprising & sad as it is, after reading this book, you almost don't envy Elvis, but almost feel sorry for him & how he let his own life & destiny slip from his own control & never really went back to what he really was famous for, Rock & Roll. Overall: The Absolute, definitive, last word book on Elvis Presley's Miraculous rise as a living legend, right down to his fall as a sad & lonely, & confused normal human being. The King is Dead....But his Name Lives on!
Peter Guralnick makes the reader feel as if he is actually in the company of a young and shy Elvis Presley--BEFORE he is "ELVIS." A fascinating read about a true American success story (the sequel outlines the unfortunate demise of Elvis). Without a doubt, this is the definitive book about Elvis Presley.
I have just completed Peter Guralnick's wonderful biography of Elvis' early life and can say that it is a refreshing insight, not to the hype or myth of Elvis but, to the heart of who he was. While not a big fan of Elvis' music I am a fan of biographies, both in print and on film and found this one reaches into it's subject like none I have read or seen previously. It is rare that a biographical piece ventures further than a list of fact and "almost facts" tied together in a loose story, however Guralnick has allowed us to get to know Elvis in a way that even some of the so-called "Memphis Mafia" never really did I look forward to picking up the story in volumeII Rob Earnshaw
Despite many long-standing and ingrained elvis-fans, I am a very young and new fan, so I have neither lots of comparison to other biographies, nor do I have first-hand experience from how the feeling was like in his lifetime. But just like millions of others, I was drawn into this man's undeniable fascination, so I started clicking my way through thousands of elvis-themed videoclips, photos and articles. I also watched tons of documentaries and films such as "Elvis in Vegas" "Elvis in love" "Elvis Presley-the last 24 hours" "Elvis meets Nixon" "Elvis and me" or "The lost love of Elvis Presley". Some of these were quite informing and impressing, while others were so strange, far-fetched and corny I could just shake my head. It was time for a serious, profound biography. The internet said Peter Guralnicks' books on Elvis were the best, so I ordered the first volume which covers the first 24 years of his life. I'm not even through with it yet, but I already recognized that this was not a mispurchase. People like me who like everthing in pinpoint accuracy and double-proven will be very satisfied. The author interviewed literally everybody who had ever been around Elvis (the last 20 pages or so are a list of names of people to whom he expresses his thanks for beeing involved in the work.) This does not only guarantee historical accuracy, but it also opens different perspectives on different situations.(sometimes also including Elvis' own point of view in retrospect) The author writes his biography in a careful tone, beeing cautious about his own judgement. He lets the numerous quotations tell their own tale, sometimes slightly ironic and disenchanting, sometimes tender and endearing. He spares us of hysterical admiration. Embeding Elvis' story into the stories of the people sourrounding him, the author creates a complex net that expresses the time and mentality that influenced Elvis. As a concequence, Elvis and his actions never stand alone, but are always underpinned by his background. This gives the reader the feeling to finally discover the truth. However, the author writes that there cannot be THE truth about Elvis, but that he rather wants to give the reader tools to envisage his own truth. I think lots of hysterical Elvis-fans and -haters could do with that, because Elvis, as anybody else, was a complex person of many faces who cannot be reduced to only one or two qualities. He, as any human beeing, was sometimes superb and sometimes a total asshole. Some of the things he did were great, others were stupid, others had just no significance at all. Since the author, and his honest readers, are willing to take in all this, they are in my opinion heaps better Elvis-fans than those who get into fights on internet portals about Elvis beeing "an angel sent from God Almighty to grace the world for a limited time" or those who have a complete collection of Elvis-lookalike ken-dolls and handkerchiefes touched by him. ok, I couldn't make it short again...but the book just impressed me so much that this needed to be said;) I recommend the biography to every Elvis-fan that needs tools to envisage his version of how young Elvis Presley lived before his carrier and during the rise of his fame.
Twenty years after his sudden death and a resulting public adoration that has become a peculiar form of near-sainthood, Elvis Aron Presley remains a complex, contradictory, nebulous character who has been wrongly relegated by self-appointed arbiters of high culture to a dustbin of withering disdain. The first volume of Peter Guralnick's refreshing and well-documented work, "Last Train to Memphis" looks closely at Presley the person as well as the entertainer squarely within the cultural and socioeconomic contexts in which he was brought up and scored his greatest musical successes.
The result is a powerful and insightful chronicle of a man and musician perfectly representative of his time and place in history yet oddly ahead of it in many ways. His ascent from shy Tupelo, Mississippi-born truck driver to a key fixture of contemporary American folklore is a classic example of a fierce working class aspiration for a better life. Furthermore, Presley's creative blending of a variety of Southern black and poor white musical traditions into a novel sound that shook the world was a triumph of racial integration as well as musical composition, no small feat given the U.S.'s officially sanctioned racial segregation of the mid-1950s. And, along with his innovative manager, Tom Parker, "The Pelvis" permanently transformed the public image of the popular entertainer by skillfully exploiting a then still-new medium called television.
Guralnick's treatise ends with 1958, the year which saw the death of Elvis's doting mother and his Army induction, the two occurrences considered by many to be the beginning of his tragic descent into the glitzy caricature of ham actor, decadent celebrity and portly Vegas lounge act. Perhaps a second volume may put that period into its proper perspective also. However, it may be fitting that Presley's later years and sudden death remain swathed in some controversy and mystery, because it is from that controversy and mystery that his pop cultural enshrinement has come to pass, and deservedly so.
Extremely well-written bio, it took me right back to the 50's. Shows how important Sam Phillips was in the genesis of Elvis' "new" style of music. Gives glimpses into the King's initially very conservative moral stand - no drinking or smoking. Sometimes he even read from the Bible to his dates. The book takes us to the day he is shipped out to Germany. Towards the later chapters, darkness seems to creep into Elvis' life. He is very fearful, and the death of his mother appears to almost destroy his self-confidence. It gives great insight into just how and why Elvis' music was truly revolutionary. Shows how Elvis rose to the top thanks to three forces. First of course was his own talent, drive, ambition and energy. Then there was Sam Phillips who not only recognized that this phenomenon was totally new and different, but helped steer Elvis in the right direction musically. And finally there was the very clever Colonel Tom Parker, who was like a field general obsessed with effectively promoting Elvis' career. All in all, this book is hard to put down - in fact one wishes it would never end because it is such an enjoyable read.
Dee-Dee Da Dee Dee Listen to the first Sun Records single by Elvis, "Thats Alright". This was the song that captivated Sam Phillips late one night in the studios at the near end of Elvis's first recording session. It was unlike anything he had ever heard. Because it was Rock And Roll. And it was done by Elvis months BEFORE Bill Haley and The Comets recorded Rock Around The Clock. Galarchuck captures an Elvis far removed from the myths, misunderstandings, and now common apathy. Galarchuck reintroduces the reader to Elvis Aron Presley. Gone are the twelve pound gold belts, diamond encrusted shoes, fried peanut butter and pickle sandwiches, excessive weight and Vegas. In its place is Elvis, too complex and talented to sum up in pithy remarks in a review. Galarchuk does not put the reader in Elvis's mind or heart as much as he puts you beside Elvis. But you know his fears, ambitions, hopes, dreams, and finally tears as his mother and then all he has worked for is gone. Read the book and then listen to the music to hear his voice.
I have read "Last Train" cover to cover probably 15 times in the past two years. It is without a doubt the best biography I have ever read, period. It is also the best bio of Elvis Presley ever written in this reviewer's opinion. Guralnick's tale has essentially three main characters: Elvis Presley, the city of Memphis and the 1950s. "Last Train" is the story of how those three characters affected and interacted with one another and makes the reader feel he is standing on Beale Street or on the concrete outside Sun Studio watching this man's life unfold. Guralnick's detail-obsessive research, far from being tedious, provides a sense of place and time for the story of Elvis Presley -- something often lacking in biographies that simply list the highlights and important dates of a person's life. In fact, the map of 1955 Memphis inside the hardbound volume can still be followed by visitors to Memphis today on a pilgrimmage to Elvis sites.
This is a great book, written with decency, respect, and compassion. It is wonderfully researched, and Guralnick's end notes discusses possible alternatives and the difficulty, sometimes impossibility, of reconciling different versions provided by even on-the-scene participants. It is also, culmulatively powerfully and in the end heartbreaking. Finally, it comes a long way in answering perhaps the key biographical question about Elvis--"Did Elvis know he was Elvis" and makes it clear that despite all his self-doubt and self-denigration, he did, that Elvis had ambition, drive, and a vision of what his music should sound like and what diverse strains of American music it would incorporate. It is commonplace in rock history to say if it hadn't been Elvis it would have been somebody else, and that probably is true for the creation of rock n roll, but does the singer an incredible disservice too. REID MITCHELL