A few years ago, Clayton (and Tim Hill) put together an excellent collection of rare photos of The Beatles from the archives of the Daily Mail. Of the 600 photos of the Fab Four, nearly a 1/3 had never gone beyond a contact sheet for the newspaper. There were a lot of great behind the scenes shots of the band escaping fans, relaxing behind the scenes and maturing in public. The book was a success and the publisher and Clayton reunited to focus on another rock icon: Elvis.
It's hard to determine how much of this Elvis photo collection is "unseen." Instead of being able to tap into a great resource such as a newspaper, Clayton uses the photo archives of the movie studios, Sygna and Bettman, Corbis. A lot of the photos look familiar. But there are great shots from small moments. My favorite is on page 298. The scene is George Klein's Las Vegas wedding in 1970. Elvis wears a high collared, crushed blue velvet suit, black leather gloves, giant gold sunglasses and his gold belt buckle for his Vegas attendance record. He's sucking away on a cigar and talking to Glen Campbell. But what's makes this photo amazing is that Elvis is holding a mineral water in his right hand and what appears to be a flashlight in his left hand. What was going on at this wedding? It was as if Elvis was Best Man and parking attendant at the ceremony. In other color photos of the wedding, Priscilla looks sizzling in a tight, light blue dress. They were so stylish, they outshined the bride and groom on their special day.
As a photobook, "Unseen Archives" delivers the goods. Most of the photos fill up the pages so there's no skimping on image in the nearly 400 pages. You won't have to break out the magnifying glass to tell Elvis from Charlie Hodge. There are a few photos of the later tours. The heavy-set Elvis appears, but isn't overexposed. There is a selection from the final concert.
Clayton's captions are sometimes confusing in the details. She describes "That's The Way It Is" as a tour film. She uses Peter Guralnik's books as a guide for her text and you're better off going straight to the source. There's nothing new as far as interviews or insights. This is a cut and paste job intended to make "Unseen Archives" a series and not a one off title. Please don't take that as a complaint.
The book is a great gift for any Elvis fan because in an era where coffeetable books go for $50 on up, "Unseen Archives" sells for only $10 at Barnes and Noble. This is a perfect price for since the quality of the pictures are up to snuff - including the color plates. Just make sure you remove the sticker from the cover so they'll think you spent a king's ransom on this tome.
Elvis Presley Unseen Archives by Marie Clayton
Parragon Publishing, Bath, England