Monday, 18 March 2019

Careless Love - The Unmaking of Elvis Presley - Peter Guralnick

I recently finished reading this superb work, which is the second and concluding volume of Peter Guralnick's highly acclaimed biography of Elvis Presley.  It takes the story from Elvis' induction into the US Army through to his death in August 1977.

The book takes in the "Hollywood years" of the 1960s, and excitedly documents Elvis' resurgence in the years 1968-73 (the Comeback Special, the "Suspicious Minds" period, the early Las Vegas years and the famous Hawaii satellite concert). 

As I made way through Careless Love, my interest increasingly centered on the shifting dynamics within the Elvis entourage and family, including the so-called Memphis Mafia. 

Guralnick captures the insidious and gradual nature of Elvis' descent into isolation and stagnation, with his increasing dependency on unhealthy lifestyle choices and his increasingly impulsive and bizarre behaviour. 

My tentative interpretation was that a life which had once been so full of new, exciting and novel things became predictable, constricting and stultifying.  The tipping point or source was imperceptible, and by the time it registered nobody knew how to forge an escape route. It seems that even as Presley's career fortunes were undergoing a pronounced upswing, his behaviour began to exhibit disturbing tendencies.

This is an absorbing and highly detailed book, intensively researched, but one cannot help but be saddened by the tale of decline and despair related in its closing chapters.  I found the writing style very appealing and immersive.  Highly recommended.  

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