Pete Clark

The King Who Liked his Hamburgers Well Done

Last Train to Memphis: The Rise of Elvis Presley

By

Little, Brown 488pp £16.99 order from our bookshop

Despite what the more lurid American magazines periodically tell us, Elvis Presley is as dead as a doornail. What survives of him is his reputation and, of late, that too has been in rather poor health. The equally deceased Albert Goldman, in his biography of the world’s first great pop star, delivered an unforgettable picture of Presley stupefied by cheeseburgers and pharmaceuticals, trussed up in a giant nappy, surrounded by all the white-trash status symbols that unlimited wealth and stupidity could assemble, and meeting his end in the toilet.

Goldman’s savage demolition job, based on the somewhat unreasonable assumption that Presley should have been an intellectual aesthete, needed to be counterbalanced, and American music writer Peter Guralnick has duly obliged. Last Train to Memphis is the first instalment of a two-volume biography which aims to let some air out of the King’s bloated corpse and conduct an altogether kinder embalming. Guralnick comes to the job with decent credentials, in particular a terrific account of Southern soul entitled Sweet Soul Music.

Sign Up to our newsletter

Receive free articles, highlights from the archive, news, details of prizes, and much more.

Follow Literary Review on Twitter

  • Last Tweets

    • Same trouble, different decade. Turns out this is not the first time has graced our humble cover.… ,
    • 'Gresham played an essential part in ensuring the stability of Tudor rule, in ways not always recognised in textboo… ,
    • Iris Murdoch was born one hundred years ago today. Thirty-six years ago, we published this interview with her ,
    • 'The official narrative has been that since the end of coal-burning in homes in the 1950s and the demise of heavy i… ,
    • 'Porter’s is a cacophonous vision that continually recalls the playwright Tony Kushner’s characterisation of Americ… ,
    • Lucy Moore makes her way through the Italian city of Otranto, discussing the origins of the Gothic and the legacy o… ,
    • .@NJCooper_crime's July crime roundup includes 'horrifying' and 'imaginative' new novels by @sarah_hilary,… ,