After his very detailed "Last Train to Memphis" (1994), which is considered to be "The Bible" among the Elvis Presley biographies, Peter Guralnick released his follow up earlier this year. Careless Love – The Unmaking of Elvis Presley is very different from its predecessor.Where Last Train is very detailed, almost day by day, Careless Love is much more general. This makes the book much easier to read, but sometimes you’ll have the feeling "Is this all there is to say?". Of course Elvis’ early years are much more interesting, and what’s more important: more influencing, but the books are out of balance.
More obvious is the difference in atmosphere. Where Last Train (The Rise of Elvis Presley) is the story of the all American dream, about a nobody who becomes rich and famous, Careless Love is more the story of the doomed. How can someone who had it all throw it away so easily? Of course it isn’t that simple, and even Guralnick can’t break through the barriers around Elvis’ mind. After reading Careless Love you have the feeling Elvis life after the army is one big misery, which is too gloomy in our opinion.
Another remarkable point in Guralnick’s latest work is the attitude towards Col. Parker. The Colonel is put in a much brighter daylight than one might have expected. Where the general opinion accuses Parker of short term thinking and only taking care of his own interests, while forgetting Elvis’ artistic interests, Careless Love tries to nuance it. Probably Guralnick has a point here, because Elvis was a grown up who should have been able to take care of business, as he demanded from others. You don’t need to study psychology to come up with one or more reasons why Elvis might not have been as mature as expected. Can someone’s mind handle it when at the age of 20, 21 one suddenly turns from "rags to riches" or "from a jack to a king"?
Overall Careless Love is still a very good book: complete, not too many mistakes and at least the few artistic highlights in Elvis’ later career are discussed well. We are looking forward to the co-production between Peter Guralnick and Ernst Jorgensen, a day by day overview of Elvis’ life, to be released later this year.