Elvis Presley: A Life in Music – The Complete Recording Sessions

By Ernst Jorgensen, Foreword by Peter Guralnick

Elvis Presley - A Life in Music

Elvis Presley - A Life in Music

This book is essentially my Elvis bible. My copy looks slightly travel weary with pieces of paper, paperclips, and bookmarks stuck in various points and some corners bent up from being in my purse a lot of the time. While listening to the over 400 favorite songs by Elvis on my music player, I sometimes need to refer to this book to remind myself where he was, who were the musicians and back up singers playing with him, what was his state of mind and all the other hundreds of little details that go into knowing as intimately as possible what it was like to be in the studio with Elvis on any given day.

And let there no mistake about it, Elvis was a genius when it came to knowing what he wanted in the studio and getting it. Most people don’t know that Elvis produced nearly every song he recorded.  He did the arrangments and he decided who did what on every song.

This book gives us details of the frustration Elvis had with all the really crappy tunes that came his way thanks to Tom Parker’s influence. You must understand that the sham that was Parker was a formula kind of flim flam man who felt that if something worked and made a lot money, then everything after that should be pretty much the same. Just look at Elvis’s movie career and tell me I’m wrong. But Elvis was anything but formula and if you know his music, you know that he could and would sing anything that he felt like singing. Thankfully, a lot of the recordings that were never released because they didn’t meet the “Parker formula” have been released in later years and Elvis fans worldwide are being given a chance to hear what Elvis really could do with a microphone and tape machine.

On the other hand, we also get to feel what it must have been like to be in the presence of genius. Elvis could nail a song with one take and would memorize words to songs after only one reading. In contrast, he could also take all night to get a song  just the way he wanted it to sound. He was enormously patient with the studio musicians and back up singers seldom losing his temper because somebody wasn’t getting it right. Elvis was never a diva, he just wanted to sing a great song.  In this book you almost get the feeling that you’re there during the rehearsals.

Another little known fact is that although Elvis was often seen with a guitar, it was the piano that he was really proficient at playing and many of his recordings include him on the piano, not the guitar.  The guitar was used as a prop in his earlier years but notice that once he hit Vegas and was doing the big concerts, you rarely saw him with a guitar.

In this book, we also learn a lot more about the players in Elvis’s life who helped him make his way up from a no name Memphis boy who sang at the fairgrounds once a awhile to the international household name he eventually became. From Sam Phillips at Sun Studios to Steve Sholes at RCA, everybody who had a hand in Elvis recording career is introduced to us in this book.  Love them or hate them, they were instrumental in helping Elvis become the icon he is and this book shows them all without bias.

Even though it’s obvious the author loves Elvis and his music, there is no sugarcoating things trying to make Elvis look like anything but a regular human being. If Elvis was in a crappy mood, late for the session or just being difficult, the author brings that to the story. If he had a cold or was otherwise sick, you’ll know it and once you do, you will actually listen closer and hear the music differently. Because now you can hear Elvis sniffle or wheeze slightly while taking a breath. As an example, listen again closer to Tomorrow Never Comes.  He’s actually very congested and you can hear it him snort or sniffle 2 or 3 times. Miraculously, his voice never falters.  These small nuggets of information somehow bring Elvis back to life for the true Elvis music fan. We are reminded of what Elvis was really about when you banish all the bad press that overshadowed his career after his death. It was the music.

Between the covers of this book, there is more factual information about Elvis’s music and recordings then can be found anywhere else, including complete recording information and session data keys on every song Elvis recorded, both in the studios and at home.

If you love the music of Elvis, old fan or new, you absolutely must have this book.

What Others Said:
“A comprehensive, insightful, and absorbing account of Presley’s recording career…focuses the reader on the one thing that truly matters in the Presley saga – the music – and it belongs on every rock fan’s bookshelf.” BILLBOARD

Even for important pop artists…there are only one or two books that actually matter. And for Elvis Presley, there has been only one book of real consequence, Peter Guralnick’s brilliant biography, Last Train to Memphis. Now, there are two.” THE CHICAGO TRIBUNE

“Of the hundreds of books written about Elvis Presley, only a handful are worthy of a music library. Elvis Presley; A Life in Music…is one of the few…We gain insight into Elvis the artist, of course, but also get a new perspective on Elvis the man. The book, beautifully illustrated with great photos, is a must for the Elvisphile.” THE WASHINGTON POST

“Far and away the most detailed guide to Elvis’s recordings and one of the small handful of indispensable books about Presley.” BOSTON HERALD

“This is a gloriously obsessive book that revels in endlessly fascinating detail and returns the focus to where it should have been all along: the music.” COLIN ESCOTT, AUTHOR OF GOOD ROCKIN’ TONIGHT AND HANK WILLIAMS: THE BIOGRAPHY

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