Books: The End of Lonely Street Sky-High on Prescribed Drugs, He Wore a Bureau of Narcotics Badge with Pride. Charles Shaar Murray Asks Where It All Went Wrong for the King; Careless Love: The Unmaking of Elvis Presley by Peter Guralnick Little, Brown, Pounds 19.99, 766pp
Murray, Charles Shaar, The Independent (London, England)
THE BEST one-sentence summary of the bizarre trajectory of Elvis Presley's life and career is still Little Richard's. Elvis, opined the Bronze Liberace, "got what he wanted, but he lost what he had". In Last Train To Memphis, the justly-lauded first volume of this monumental biography, Peter Guralnick told the story of how Elvis got what he wanted. In Careless Love, we watch Presley losing what he had. As his sly, manipulative manager Colonel Tom Parker once remarked, "When I met Elvis he had a million dollars worth of talent. Now he has a million dollars."
Careless Love picks up in 1958, with the 23-year-old Elvis's induction into the US Army and the death of his beloved mother, Gladys. These were pivotal events: the man was never the same after the bereavement and the artist was never the same after military service. He went in a threat to Western civilisation and came out a middle- American icon; a clean-cut family entertainer specialising in "Bing Crosby pictures".
An exhilarating late-Sixties return to form turned out to be little more than a mirage, and he spent the Seventies degenerating into the bloated, incontinent "Fat Elvis" who died in his bathroom, face down in a pool of vomit with his gold pyjama bottoms around his swollen ankles. He had 14 different drugs in his system. Elvis's position on the subject of drugs bears an eerie similarity to Bill Clinton's on sex. Elvis believed that having something legally prescribed by a tame doctor classified it as "medicine", as opposed to "drugs", which were for hippies and subversives. The logical conclusion was the grotesque spectacle of Elvis, weighted down with guns and higher than a Branson balloon on the kind of expensive heavy-duty chemicals about which street dopers could only fantasise, boolsheeting his way into Nixon's Oval Office to offer his services as an anti-drug campaigner and blag himself a Bureau of Narcotics badge. How did it all go so hideously wrong? As his buddy Lamar Fike remarked, "Elvis always kept his own world with him; he kept his bubble." One of his last girlfriends …
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Publication information: Article title: Books: The End of Lonely Street Sky-High on Prescribed Drugs, He Wore a Bureau of Narcotics Badge with Pride. Charles Shaar Murray Asks Where It All Went Wrong for the King; Careless Love: The Unmaking of Elvis Presley by Peter Guralnick Little, Brown, Pounds 19.99, 766pp. Contributors: Murray, Charles Shaar - Author. Newspaper title: The Independent (London, England). Publication date: January 3, 1999. Page number: 14. © 2009 The Independent - London. Provided by ProQuest LLC. All Rights Reserved.