The six Elvis Files volume 1-6 are a very ambitious project by Erik Lorentzen that will carefully document almost every single day of Elvis' life from 1954 to 1977, covering everything from what he wore on stage, to who he met, rare interviews, candid photos and newly discovered images.
Erik Lorentzen is also the author of the critical acclaimed book 'Elvis - The King Of Las Vegas' and there is no doubt that this stunning six-volume series is truly unlike any Elvis book series that you have seen before. The third volume covers the four years 1965– 1968, is 570 pages, hard-backed and printed on high quality paper.
A large "coffee-table" book of 30 cm x 26cm with colour photos throughout, it is almost 1½ times bigger than Ernst Jorgensen/Peter Guralnick’s ‘Day by Day’ book yet covers only four years in Elvis’ life!
Sometimes a series of Elvis books can disappoint with one magnificent volume being let down by a poor follow-up. So far The Elvis Files have proved the opposite with every volume actually being better than its brilliant predecessor.
Erik Lorentzen’s first Elvis Files release about the years 1960-1964 was essential for its detailed & fascinating look at Elvis’ most ignored era, a labour of love with the only minor let-down being some of its layout and occasional faulty grammar. Any of these complaints were fixed by the second volume when Paul Richardson (of ETM&HM) came on board as General Editor to help Lorentzen produce a stunning 500 pages about Elvis in the late fifties in ‘Elvis Files Vol.2 1957-1959’.
Erik Lorentzen along with his team of researchers spend months doing painstaking research and photo collecting to make certain that "The Elvis Files" is the greatest Elvis biography series ever produced, packed full of fascinating articles, interviews and rare & stunning images. The list of credits for his contributors is incredible, with the book acknowledging some of the most well-known collectors in the Elvis world.
These books aren’t cheap but they are huge and with such a magnificent array of rare articles, interviews and previously unreleased photos they are certainly value for money. These are books that take weeks to thoroughly read, unlike the couple of hours one usually invests in the regular photo-books.
These books are a visual journey of Elvis’ life day by day – nicely matching Ernst Jorgensen and Peter Guralnick’s book as an invaluable biographical research tool – and I believe totally worth the investment.
But with an Elvis book of 570 pages about 4 specific years of his life with over 1,500 striking photos, how can a simple review really do it justice? Let me say that I truly believe that once you buy your first volume, you’ll be drawn to buy the rest.
And I suspect that the next volume 1969-1970 Elvis’ fabulous return-to-splendour years will become the best-selling volume yet.
Like Gordon Minto of ‘Elvis The Man & His Music’ in his review, firstly I also have to state that I have contributed a handful of articles specially written for this book, but this in no way prejudices my review since as Gordon Minto says, "I’m proud to be associated with this work because it is so bloody good’!
The 1965 – 1868 years surely have to be one of the most fascinating slices of life from Elvis’ whole career. From the unbelievable lows of ‘Harum Scarum’ & ‘Paradise Hawaiian Style’ (where afterwards Colonel Parker once again sold Elvis up-the-river for yet more movie dross) through to the inspiration of the 1968 "Comeback" TV Special.
It is an astounding fact that the depressed soul-searching chubby Elvis of 1965 managed to reinvent himself as the sexually prowling tiger in the black-leather jumpsuit on the TV Special. It was a remarkable transformation over three years from the lowest depth of no longer being significant in the pop music world to the highest peak and a creditable Number 1 star once again.
The glory of Elvis Files Volume 4 is that this amazing personal journey is so beautifully illustrated and in such detail over its 570 pages.
The scene is set at the start with a fabulous article extracted from the Alan Fortas/Alanna Nash book "From Memphis To Hollywood" which includes...
It didn't matter how much Elvis protested to The Colonel about wanting to do quality pictures, even though the celebrated director George Cukor visited the set of one of the early 1960s movies and complimented Elvis on his comedic flair, declaring he would be "a dream to direct." Nor did it mean anything to Colonel when Elvis expressed his desire to leave pictures for a while and return full-time to his music. Colonel saw the movies as the best and quickest way to make the most money, and that was that. And publicly, Elvis agreed, citing his limitations as a serious actor, and rhetorically asking, "How can you argue with success?"
But now there was an important difference. Where Elvis formerly chomped at the bit to stretch his acting abilities, now he didn't seem to care. He simply turned increasingly to the pills he carried in his black make-up case to numb his pain, and to keep his resentment and boredom from showing on the screen. The first-run grosses of all thirty-three of Elvis' movies were reportedly $500 million--half a billion--dollars, a staggering figure even considering Elvis' share of at least $200 million. But Colonel didn't realise that the movies amounted to an erosion of Elvis' true talents, and that by committing him to another long-term contract he was, in effect, signing his death certificate.
For Elvis 1965 started with the dreadful ‘Harum Sacrum’ (sorry, one of my guilty pleasures) and in fact it is the bad reviews and other articles of the time that add to the interesting text and references just how poor things were for Elvis and his fans at the time.
However, if the films were bad the photos in the book are in fact MAGNIFICENT (check for Elvis’ curled lip action!) The quality of the images is stunning and there are loads of unreleased material most fans will not have seen before. Throughout the book we get loads of pictures from the movie sets but it is always the wonderful candid photos that tell you more of the story.
We are so used to seeing images of Elvis looking gorgeous in 68/69/70 that these mid-sixties photos are not only rare but are surprisingly refreshing. Even if Elvis was struggling with his weight and all-too-sticky hairstyles, he still looked great! Damn, Elvis even looked good in a corduroy jacket!
Some of the publicity shots were new to me and the quality is remarkable. You can check out the pores on his face, details in his hair and even his eyeliner.
Once again Lorentzen has made sure that the rare & alternate photographs take precedence over the overly familiar ones. As always there is plenty of fascinating reading with a large number of the articles great finds from the time.
Contributions to this book come from respected authors such as Alan Hanson (who contributes a pile of articles about Elvis’ films), Gerry McLafferty, Trevor Cajiao along with an abundance of rare press articles of the time.
Some of my favourite articles include ..
- Elvis In A Harem! – Alan Smith NME
- NME Has Only Reporter Present When Elvis Meet Beatles – Chris Hutchins
- Marianna Hill: The Girl Who Turned Elvis Off! – Tony Taylor
- He’s Putting Back the Rockin’ Clock – Nick Logan NME
- Stay Away Joe - Gerry McLafferty
- Live A Little, Love A Little – Alan Hanson
- Elvis Invites New Criticism In Roles As ‘Mature Actor’ – Gene Handsaker
- Steve Binder In Conversation – Trevor Cajiao
- Elvis’ Television Triumph – June Harris NME
- Charro! - Gerry McLafferty
- Marlyn Mason Interview -
- Elvis Presley: One Man, All Music
With Elvis in such dire straits in the mid-sixties he also escaped from the mind-numbing misery of the movies with some soul-searching and I find Elvis’ interest in alternate spirituality at the time quite fascinating. Because of this I contributed two articles specifically for the book (not even on this website) ‘Elvis’ Spiritual Search And The Self-Realization Fellowship’ and ‘The Trouble With Elvis (And How He Started To Get Out Of It)’.
It is actually a positive that the book doesn’t try to avoid the fact that the mid-sixties were a terrible period for Elvis, stuck in a rut of mind-numbing awful music and movies. After all, this makes the renaissance all the more potent. ‘Paradise, Hawaiian Style’, ‘Double Trouble’, ‘Easy Come Easy Go’, ‘Clambake’ – they are all featured here! There is even a stunning array of unpublished wardrobe test shots from Clambake.
It is from this low point that one can see Elvis crawling back, rediscovering himself even before the Comeback Special.
Fans of Priscilla will love the section on Elvis’ wedding and ‘the Honeymooners’ with plenty of great shots and many new ones, all of which I haven’t seen in this quality before. Also I love the article from back in September 1966 that suggests Elvis is already married - what a find!
And while Speedway is certainly not my favourite Elvis movie, Nancy Sinatra at least added some bonus excitement. The Elvis Files in fact has more colours shots from this movie production than the recent Tunzi book about Speedway! Including this full-page gem...
By late 1967 (post the Clambake Incident) Elvis is looking much trimmer and happier even if only for the final 1967 comedy romp of ‘Stay Away Joe’ and what a great selection of photos there are - and of course they get better and better as we head to the Comeback Special.
Elvis feeling happier also meant he got out more among his fans which means even more pages of wonderful candid photos. In early 1968 there are more than 20 pages of candids taken outside Elvis’ house.
With so many photos day-by-day it is easily noticeable that in August 1967 and ‘Speedway’ Elvis is still carrying that mid-sixties over-weight look yet by October 1967 and "Stay Away Joe’ Elvis has practically transformed to his tanned and lean 1968/1969 look. It’s almost as if the creative September 1967 ‘Guitar Man’ sessions changed everything.
In fact as the UK NME magazine noted at the time of the single’s release…
Elvis Presley moves in a mysterious way - and I'm not talking about his hips. Over his thirteen ever-changing years at the top, we have seen Elvis as the gyrating rock and roll pelvis, then as the tender balladeer, and more recently as the screen good-guy and disc purveyor of mush and corny sentiment.
But wait! What's this? Elvis is in the charts at number nineteen with a rock hit, his first chart entrant since `Indescribably Blue' a year ago.
It's a happy little rocker called 'Guitar Man', backed by the rocking 'Hi-Heel Sneakers', which in 1968 is probably as near as you will get to the original Elvis of times gone by.
So what's it all about then? Because the release of `Guitar Man' has coincided with the British revival of interest in the rock era, revivalists have subsequently been quick to welcome Elvis to their fold.
Has indeed the Elvis wheel turned full circle? Is the one time King of Rock going back to his beginnings, as he would be well advised to do in the light of current trends?
But all this is only the prelude to the sensational year of 1968 which is rightly presented in all it’s glory over the remaining 295 pages!
The year starts with the ‘US Male’ recording session and the birth of Lisa Marie followed by an amazing number of photos of Elvis relaxed riding his horse on the Graceland grounds – lots I have never seen in this quality - and hanging around at the gates.
‘Live a Little, Love a Little’ and Elvis & Priscilla’s Hawaii vacation – featuring some excellent candid photos – lead us towards the main course of the 1968 TV Special rightfully featured over a stunning 100 pages.
A double-page spread demonstrating the huge size of the book and photos against a regular CD.
While the Steve Binder/Tunzi book ‘68 @40’ was a top-rate production here we get plenty of personal candids along with studio publicity shots and on-set candids that help capture the creativity of this all-important month in Elvis history. Here the two books actually complement each other in their different approach.
The Elvis Files features lots of previously unreleased photos (three shown above) that will make this section a fabulous treat for any fan. Plus a fascinating interview with Steve Binder by Trevor Cajiao which includes...
TC - Can you remember your first meeting with Elvis?
Steve Binder- Bones and I were basically in the television music business and we had our offices... I don't know how familiar you are with the United States, but we had our offices right next door to what is now Tower Records on Sunset... And Elvis came over one afternoon to meet me, with Colonel Parker and the sort of 'Memphis Mafia' around him, and we went into a meeting of seeing if we were compatible and if we were on the same wavelength. I think, to the best of my recollection, The Colonel stayed in the outer room with the guys, and Elvis and I and Bones - and I think Allan Blye and Chris Beard, who were the writers on the show -sat in the room and we just kinda spoke about music and life... We didn't talk about 'the special' as such. Elvis was telling me that he was going off to Hawaii to rest and that if he was going to do this, he wanted to start as soon as he got back. So we told him to go off and forget about it and when he got back we'd pitch an idea to him. If be liked it, we'd do it - if he didn't, we wouldn't that sort of thing. We kinda left it at that as he took off... But when he came back it was like everything we talked about - which is basically what the whole special was - was not even changed. He loved everything about it and was very enthusiastic about everything we said.
TC - Did Colonel Parker come to you originally with any kind of format for the show?
Steve Binder- The only format, which is kind of traditional, is that the deal he made at NBC was that Elvis would not do any talking and it would just be a Christmas show with a bunch of Christmas songs. When I saw him, he handed me an audio tape of the Christmas radio show that every year, I guess, they sent to radio stations all around the world, which was strictly recorded Christmas songs tied together. There was no dialogue or anything coming from Elvis. And he said, "This is the show that I sold NBC. This is what I want done." I just listened to it in one ear and let it go out the other one...
Two delicious full-page TV Comeback Special photos
Of course it would take until the end of the year before the impact of the TV Special would be felt and meanwhile Elvis still had to fulfil another two movies of his contractual obligation.
Luckily for us ‘Charro!’ really did show a "different type of Elvis" – lots of marvellous full-page photos and candids along with an interesting essay by Gerry McLafferty help bear this out.
A pre-Comeback Special candid of Elvis and Susan Henning getting cosy, plus candids of a bearded Elvis during Charro! filming.
The bearded Elvis candid photos capture a fascinating albeit brief moment in time and the candids photos show that by August 31st 1968 – just 3 days after the shoot ended - Elvis is back clean-shaven again.
Example double-page showing the size and quality of some November 1968 candid photos of Elvis.
‘The Trouble With Girls’ follows which includes a fabulous unreleased selection of candids with Elvis and Marlyn Mason having a great time together.
Lorentzen even managed to get Marlyn Mason to comment on these rare photos for the book. It’s a lovely personal touch…
"This was a fun scene to shoot. I'm trying not to break up. I'm the only one who notices it in the movie. The director [Peter Tewksbury] chose to leave it in. He loved spontaneous performances. Elvis was great at it and he made me a much better actress. It was like a tennis match with the two of us."
All the tell-tale signs of the potential impact of Elvis’ great "comeback’ are here. A lovely article ‘Elvis Presley: One Man, All Music’ includes Elvis stating that …
"I'm doing a television special now because we figure the time is right and today's music is right," said Elvis Presley.
"Also, I thought I ought to do this special before I got too old," Elvis said, grinning and implying that work on a television show might require a somewhat faster pace than working on a motion picture.
"I want you to know that I was scared to death, sir, when I did my first number for that studio audience", Elvis reported, "Let me tell you my knees were shaking, and it wasn't just for keeping time with the music. It's just been so long since I worked before a live audience, ... But then it all came back to me and it was just like when I was doing one-night stands in the old days," he continued.
Obviously relaxed during the interview, Elvis pulled thoughtfully on a slender German cigar, when did he start smoking?
"Just since I've been working on the special," he laughed, then added: "Actually, this is just a prop. I don't inhale."
Is he planning another television special soon after the December 3 program?
"I don't think I'll do another one right away," be answered emphatically. "Son, I lost ten pounds doing this show. It's been too long since I've done anything except make movies and cut records."
"Now I want to make some personal appearance tours," Presley continued. "I'll probably start out there in this country and then play some concerts abroad. I want to see some places I haven't seen before and I want to get back where the audience is... I miss the personal contact with audiences."
The year ends with the astonishing news from December 4th 1968 that Elvis really was making plans for a "Nationwide personal appearances again"!
The book ends with pages & pages of candids of Elvis outside his Hillcrest home – more than 150 candid photos.
Three great example candids from the pages of photos from outside Elvis' Hillcrest home, December 1968
Can it really be that December 3rd, the night they showed the Comeback Special on US TV, is the only night Elvis didn’t come outside to meet with his fans?
While I have seen a lot of these before in poor quality, many of them are new to me and having them dated and presented dated day-by-day is incredible.
Elvis looks truly regenerated, happy, joking with fans and looking so cool in his leather jacket – in fact a brand new man!
Skinny, fit, tanned and happy can this really be the turbaned overweight guy who starred in the dreadful Harum Scarum just 4 years previously.
It is SUCH an astounding transformation that you need to go back to the start of the book and begin reading it all over again!
(Note more example pages are shown below- as they say a picture is worth a thousand words)
Overall Verdict: An AMAZING four years of Elvis’ life – an ASTOUNDING book! These four years 1965–1868 years have to be one of the most fascinating slice of life from Elvis’ whole career and ‘Elvis Files Vol.4’ encapsulates the period in fascinating photographic detail. The 100 pages alone dedicated to the ‘Comeback Special’ are probably worth the price of admittance to most fans! However throughout the whole book Elvis still looks spectacular - even in a turban for Harum Scarum, and how can someone carry off wearing a silk-cravat and look so damn good?! This is the biggest Elvis Files book yet and the selection of pictures gets better and better. Friends of mine have suggested that the next 'Elvis Files 69/70' is what they are hanging out for, but in my opinion this volume exploring the key years leading up to and including the 68 special has to be the most fascinating and life-changing period in Elvis’ post-1956 career. No other series of Elvis photo-books comes close. At the very beginning I was genuinely uncertain as to whether I should start buying this classy series of books (due to the expensive postage to Australia) but "Boy, my Boy", I sure am happy I got in at the start!
Please note - apologies, any patterning on photos featured above is due to my low-res scans.
Review by Piers Beagley.
-Copyright EIN October 2011
EIN Website content © Copyright the Elvis Information Network.
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Several fans have contacted EIN regarding the price of these books.
Yes, they are more costly than the average photo book but the size and production values still make them great value-for-money, they are a reference book you will be regularly going back to.
The size and weight of them however means postage has to be high.
EIN is not selling them directly but the cost is around US$100, GB£65 or EU75 plus postage.
CLICK HERE to buy this book directly from ‘The Elvis Files’
or try a local Elvis dealer to see if the total PLUS postage works out cheaper.
The Seven-Volume series and proposed publishing dates are:
The Elvis Files Vol. 2: 1957-1959, (November 2010)
The Elvis Files Vol. 3: 1960-1964, (April 2010)
The Elvis Files Vol. 4: 1965-1968, (August 2011)
The Elvis Files Vol. 5: 1969-1970, ? 2012
The Elvis Files Vol. 1: 1953-1956, ? 2012
The Elvis Files Vol. 6: 1971-1973,
The Elvis Files Vol. 7: 1974-1977
The first book The Elvis Files Vol. 3 1960 to 1964 was launched in April 2010.
Size: 25 (10") x 30 (12") Glossy & Hard cover....3 kilos
The Elvis Files – a Collectors Dream
Publisher: KJ Consulting, Oslo
Click here for more information
- Erik Lorentzen
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Go here for EIN's 'The Elvis Files Vol. 2' 1957 - 1959 review with lots of example pages