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Careless Love: The Unmaking of Elvis Presley Paperback – February 10, 2000

4.3 out of 5 stars 214 customer reviews
Book 2 of 2 in the Elvis Series

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Until Peter Guralnick came out with Last Train to Memphis in 1994, most biographies of Elvis Presley--especially those written by people with varying degrees of access to his "inner circle"--were filled with starstruck adulation, and those that weren't in awe of their subject invariably went out of their way to take potshots at the rock & roll pioneer (with Albert Goldman's 1981 Elvis reaching now-legendary levels of bile and condescension). Guralnick's exploration of Elvis's childhood and rise to fame was notable for its factual rigorousness and its intimate appreciation of Presley's musical agenda.

Picking up where the first volume left off, Guralnick sees Elvis through his tour of duty with the U.S. Army in Germany, where he first met--and was captivated by--a 14-year-old girl named Priscilla Beaulieu. We may think we know the story from this point: the return to America, the near-decade of B-movies, eventual marriage to Priscilla, a brief flash of glory with the '68 comeback, and the surrealism of "fat Elvis" decked out in bejeweled white jumpsuits, culminating in a bathroom death scene. And while that summary isn't exactly false, Guralnick's account shows how little perspective we've had on Elvis's life until now, how a gross caricature of the final years has come to stand for the life itself. He treats every aspect of Presley's life--including forays into spiritual mysticism and the growing dependency on prescription drugs--with dignity and critical distance. More importantly, Careless Love continues to show that Guralnick "gets" what Presley was trying to do as an artist: "I see him in the same way that I think he saw himself from the start," the introduction states, "as someone whose ambition it was to encompass every strand of the American musical tradition." From rock to blues to country to gospel, Guralnick discusses how, at his finest moments, Elvis was able to fulfill that dream. --Ron Hogan --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

Opening with the 25-year-old Presley's nervous return to the United States in March 1960, this second volume of Guralnick's definitive and scrupulous biography then circles back to describe the singer's military service in Germany, where he encountered two elements destined to define his post-Army life: prescription drugs and 14-year-old Priscilla Beaulieu. His manager, Colonel Tom Parker, was by now a major factor in Elvis's career, and Guralnick is the first to explain successfully how the Colonel, a one-time carnival huckster, maintained an enduring hold on a man whose genius was beyond his grasp. Presley believed that they were "an unbeatable team," and the Colonel's success in keeping Elvis's popularity alive during the Army stint seemed to prove it. The subsequent results of the Colonel's go-for-the-quick-buck mentality?crummy movies made on the cheap, mediocre soundtracks rather than studio albums?shook Elvis's faith in his manager, but he remained loyal through the inevitable artistic and commercial decline. Guralnick's meticulously documented narrative (which draws on interviews with virtually everyone significant) shows the insecure, fatally undisciplined Elvis to be his own worst enemy, closely seconded by the Colonel and the entourage of hangers-on who feared change and disparaged Presley's tentative efforts to grow, especially his spiritual apprenticeships to his hairstylist, Larry, and to Sri Daya Mata. When Elvis roused himself?for his 1968 television comeback, for the legendary Chips Moman-produced sessions of 1969, for the early Las Vegas shows?he was still the most charismatic performer in popular music, with a voice that easily encompassed his rock-and-roll roots and his desire to reach beyond them. But as the '70s wore on, Guralnick shows, he became imprisoned by laziness and passivity, numbing his contempt for himself and those around him with the drugs that finally killed him in 1977. As in volume one, Last Train to Memphis, Guralnick makes his points here through the selection and accretion of detail, arguing in an author's note that "retrospective moral judgments [have] no place in describing a life." While some readers may wish he had occasionally stepped back to tell us what it all means, the integrity of this approach is admirable. Many writers have made Presley the vehicle for their own ideas; Guralnick gives us a fallible human being destroyed by forces within as well as without. It's an epic American tragedy, captured here in all its complexity. Major ad/promo; author tour.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 768 pages
  • Publisher: Back Bay Books; First Paperback Edition edition (February 10, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0316332976
  • ISBN-13: 978-0316332972
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.4 x 9.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (214 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #150,654 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By ewomack TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on June 4, 2004
Format: Paperback
First and foremost, this is a depressing book. There is a warning in the author's note that the book is about a tragedy, and this is an understatement. Elvis Presely's "fall" was a hard and bitter one. This book outlines events starting in 1960 up to Presely's death in 1977. Things start out looking pretty good for Elvis as he leaves the army and begins his career almost anew, but as the 1970s emerge, things start to cloud over, and the book follows the downward spiraling vortex that Presley and his somewhat bizarre and almost constantly fluctuating entourage followed up to the end. Along the way, Guralnick allows readers to draw their own conclusions about Presley. Mostly the book outlines details of certain events - sometimes so detailed one wonders if Guralnick was there himself - interspersed with commentary from people who lived through these same events. It is not an uplifting read. One gets the impression that Presley's fame isolated him from pretty much the human race, made him untouchable (reprisals were feared by anyone is his immediate "gang", and it didn't help matters that most of them were on his payroll) and ultimately put him beyond the help of his own family and the people who he thought were his friends. Presely's fame turns horrendously destructive in the 1970s, and some of the stories and anecdotes may make the sensitive reader wince. Some of the stories are just downright strange: Presley's religious enlightenment from seeing an image in the clouds of the face of Stalin turn into the face of Jesus; Presley's determination to secure himself a position of Narcotics officer from President Nixon; the pranks Preseley and his retinue play on each other, on audiences, and on themselves; the fact that, as record sales declined, Presely's revenue actually increased.Read more ›
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I was not an Elvis fan before casually picking this up in an airport to have something to read on my flight. Now I can hardly pass a day (or sometimes hour) without thinking about him thanks to this incredible masterpiece of a biography. If the aim of a biography is to guide you to the subject on a personal level, tell you something about them that you never knew before, inspire you learn more about them then Guralnick has accomplished this and more. One of the most fascinating and enlightening aspects of the 2 volume work (Last Train To Memphis) comes in the form of Elvis' recording sessions. To understand him as a person, to truly give him the utter respect that is due him as the ultimate musician, you have to get into those recording sessions and sit alongside him, watch his reactions, listen to his comments, gauge his moods. Guralnick has managed to gain us entrance to these sessions and you are there. At the close of this book beware - even though you know the ending you keep hoping beyond hope that it turns out differently because you will love Presley. You will grieve for him, you will miss him and you will be furious at the utter waste of a genius. Above all, you will be grateful for his life, what he brought us while he was here and to Peter Guralnick for bringing him back to us, if just for the time it takes to finish the book. Thankyou Mr Guralnick.
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Format: Hardcover
Elvis Presley is one of those singular cultural figures who naturally and without defiance broke America apart and re-invented it. He didn't come as prophet or destroyer, not as a statesman or reformer, but as a guileless, unpretentious young man blessed with a talent and charisma and drive that leaves us mere mortals agape. In a way, he is like several other men of the era--Kennedy, Brando, Dean, later the Beatles--who created the "youth culture" to which we are (unfortunately) more enslaved to now than ever....
Wait a minute--did I just refer to Elvis as other than merely mortal? Not so, and Peter Guralnick's astonishing Careless Love finally makes it possible for us to grasp Elvis as human. While other books about him could fill a thousand mausoleums, let them, because Guralnick's two-volume set (the first is Last Train to Memphis (1994)), will stand as the definitive biography of this great American.
But before you dive in, let me say that Careless Love, while beautifully and carefully written, and extra-carefully researched--Guralnick had access to unorganized files in Graceland unlike anyone prior to him--it is dense with factual trivia insterspersed with the dramatic events of Elvis' life (and the lives of those around him). This book is not for the casual reader; in its intimate details, vast narrative, and utter lack of superhero worship glitter, this book will probably appeal less to traditional Elvis fanatics than to those seriously interested in this man who became a 20th century phenomenon.
Again and again, Elvis is described as "humble, shy, respectful, hard-working.
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Format: Hardcover
Taken together with Last Train to Memphis, Peter Guralnik's excellent first volume on the life of Elvis Presley, Careless Love provides -- cloaked in the form of a very entertaining read -- a graphic roadmap of the perils of fame and the destructive power of the baser side of each and every one of us. For as Guralnik shows, the "King of Rock 'N' Roll" started out no different from any of us -- which helps explain his meteoric rise and broad appeal. But Careless Love shows how Presley's penchant for isolation and his habit of surrounding himself with sycophants -- aided by a decades-long addiction to drugs that started because of his naivete -- allowed his selfish side to grow unchecked by the healthy opposition most of us encounter every day of our lives. As a result, the sweet, innocent, gentle boy we met in Volume One becomes, in Careless Love, transformed before our eyes into a self-centered, lost, miserable creature whose tragic death at an early age seems a predictable conclusion to the sad years that preceded it. Guralnik's research was prodigious, and at times he goes a bit overboard on minute details that seem peripheral to the story. Nevertheless, I found Careless Love to be not only entertaining, but actually profound, with implications far beyond the narrow confines of pop culture.
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