Elvis – My Best Man

Elvis – My Best Man
By George Klein
Virgin Books – £8.99

What I quite like about this book is the fact that its author George Klein decided to write it many years after Elvis’s death – thirty-three to be precise, which in itself is commendable. As he writes in the Author’s Note at the outset of Elvis – My best man: ‘’After Elvis’s death, I was offered a fair amount of money to write a ‘’tell-all,’’ but that wasn’t the story I had to tell. Now, though, I’m old enough to know that I won’t always be around to speak of the Elvis I knew, and so it feels right to set my memories down in a more permanent form. I also feel that, as much as Elvis has been examined as a pop-culture icon, some important things about him have been missed.’’

Suffice to say, said ‘things,’ depending on ones’ point of view, may well have already been said, written about, re-written about and twisted beyond any remote form of lucid declaration. From Jesus to Jagger, John the Baptist to John Lennon, countless words have been written on countless icons and religious leaders, painters, warriors, writers and musicians of almost every shape and size. ALL of which pertain to be in the know.

But are they?
And if they arern’t, how would we know anyway?
Ought we to even care?
After all, do any of us really give a toss about what Rio Ferdinand was like as a schoolboy? Or the degree to which Lily Allen was probably a smugged up little madam during school assembly? It’s all about escapism by way of diversion, and let’s face it, Elvis and (the) Elvis (industry) PLC, bequeaths oodles of both in oodles of departments.

Hence the sheer number of books that have been written, most of which have been deplorable. Then again, not everyone is as astute and as erudite as Greil Marcus, whose own book, Mystery Train, quite possibly contains some of the most intelligent and imaginative writing(s) on Elvis Presley ever written.

So, given all of the above, one need’s to read this particular book with an open mind and, given the opening quote, a modicum of considered balance. I mention this because on the one hand, there’s the usual mayhem as (in the chapter ‘Pan Pacific’), Klein writes: ‘’Elvis had gone from being singing star to becoming an absolute national sensation […], he could create a commotion just about everywhere he went. As our Memphis train headed into some remote stretches of the American West, hundreds of people would show up at tiny depots to watch us speed by […]. At a couple of stops, when they didn’t get the glimpse they were after, the crowd decided to try to shake Elvis out […]. I wanted to assume that there was no way as crowd could tip a whole train over, but the panicked look on the faces of some of the conductors made me think otherwise.’’ While on the other hand, there’s the all too expected depiction of Elvis as being something other, where later in the book (during the chapter ‘Talent Party’) the author writes: ‘’Once, outside of Graceland, he held his hand over some bushes and asked me to watch carefully.. His hand stayed still, but damned if the bushes didn’t start moving a little bit. Then he told me to focus on a cloud, and he did some hocus-pocus with his hands and it seemed like he was making the clouds move. Elvis didn’t make a big deal out of it – he wasn’t trying to show me that he had special powers, just that there were powers we all had that we didn’t understand. I wasn’t so sure […].’’

So there you have it. From the nigh tipping over of a train to the ‘’hocus-pocus with his hands’’ and the reformation of clouds – there’s no-way that these 294 pages can possibly fail to entertain. Of course, whether or not you choose to believe it all is an altogether different matter. The assortment of black and white photographs are great though, especially the one – of Elvis and Klein leafing through some newspapers – right at the very beginning.

David Marx

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