In 1957, Elvis Presley was the epitome of cool. But what a difference a decade makes. By the Summer of Love, the still-pompadoured singer was - at the ripe old age of 32 - a musical anachronism in a year that brought the Doors, Jefferson Airplane, Monterey Pop and Sgt. Pepper's
Plus, he'd been churning out shitty movies with lame soundtracks for the entire decade, and the only live performances he gave were for the Memphis Mafia and various underage female guests behind the gates of Graceland.
But two events happened before decade's end that would poise the King for a great comeback: The 1968 NBC-TV special and the 1969 recording sessions at Chip Moman's Memphis studio which resulted in amazingly mature and creative work like "In the Ghetto," "Suspicious Minds" and "Kentucky Rain."
Author Gillian Gaar did exhaustive research for the book, including many contemporary interviews with Presley's bandmates and associates. Her most interesting chapters delve into the background behind the TV special - simply titled Elvis
, but universally known as "The Comeback Special."
Director Steve Binder (who also helmed The T.A.M.I. Show
) wanted anything but the cheesy Christmas program that tight-controlling manager Col. Tom Parker insisted upon. Instead, he produced an incredible piece of television loosely tracing the singer's rise with great production numbers, dancing, and live performances.
Of course, the show's most memorable sequence showcased Elvis in That Black Leather Suit, informally performing sit-down/stand-up jams with a crack band (including original guitarist Scotty Moore and drummer D.J. Fontana) through a string of hits and favorite covers.
Presley's sex was on fire long before the Followill boys sang about it, with the suit almost transforming him into a rock superhero. In probably the book's most, um, offbeat revelation, we learn that Presley was so excited during his performance at a 6 p.m. taping, he actually ejaculated in the leather pants. He also sweated so much that it had to be peeled off his body and dried with hair-dryers to look fresh for the 8 p.m. taping.