26.10.16

BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN - Born To Run Autobiography








Two of the best Bruce Springsteen shows I ever saw were at Wembley Stadium in July of 1985. They began with a triple blast of ‘Born In The USA’, ‘Badlands’ and, at the first, ‘Darlington County’ or, at the second and even better, ‘Out In The Street’, all three segued together with power, precision and the kind of reckless, aggressive passion that I’d loved with The Who and would have loved with The Clash if only I’d seen them. Then add a touch of Geno Washington’s Ram Jam Band show and double it, because the shows went on forever, or seemed to. It was spectacular and maybe even a bit over-the-top, and I was reminded of this as I was reading Springsteen’s autobiography Born To Run this last month. It too is spectacular and a bit OTT, Bruce letting his emotions rule his pen as he slaps his words down on the page with the same non-stop forward momentum that he brings to his shows. Hold on to your hats readers, you’re in for a hectic ride.
Just like in concert, he gives it all he has and although he has a tendency to overwrite to the extent that it occasionally becomes a bit cheesy, he has a novelist’s gift of putting you in the moment and describing a situation so graphically that you fully understand and experience what’s going on. This can be both personal and professional; when he writes about his difficult relationship with his father, which occupies many pages throughout, or falling in and out of love with Julianne Phillips and, not long after, in love with Patti Scialfa, and watching as their first son is born; or what it’s like to lead a band and appear on stage in front of an audience of 100,000 or more. Indeed, I have never read a more profound description of what it’s like to be a rock star facing massive crowds as I’ve read here, specifically about shows that included those very concerts I refer to above, though in his enthusiasm Bruce states they were in 1984 and not ’85, an odd error considering the attention to detail he brings to the book elsewhere.
Like Elvis Costello, whose book I reviewed here not long ago, Bruce has definitely written this himself, over a number a years, but unlike Costello, who was precise and measured, Bruce is a bit topsy-turvy and inclined to repeat himself. Also unlike Costello, Bruce writes chronologically and he bears his soul far more, most especially concerning the bouts of depression that have plagued him over the years, no doubt inherited from his grumpy, unfulfilled dad. There’s also a refreshing lack of name-dropping, with only rare cameos by stars like Dylan and Townshend and, towards the end of the book, some reminisces of Rock’n’Roll Hall of Fame appearances; Costello, of course, delighted in entertaining stories about his famous friends. 
What we learn about Bruce is that he is a restless soul, driven by demons and an almost superhuman ambition that take him onwards and upwards until he becomes the biggest rock star on the planet, a position he doesn’t much like and only grudgingly accepts when he gets there. ‘I didn’t sign up for this,’ is a recurring theme, especially when his private life is intruded upon. He loves to travel, preferably by motor bike, across America’s wilderness accompanied by biker pals that do not share in his musical life. Those that do – The E Streeters – come in for some character analysis that spares few blushes, and it is clear the loyalty runs in both directions. They know who’s the boss, and the boss takes the rap when all is not well. “I was leading the band, playing, singing and writing everything we did,” he writes. “If I was going to carry the workload and responsibility, I might as well assume the power.” Later he adds: “I look back on this as being one of the smartest decisions of my young life.”
Less smart was signing contracts, with early manager Mike Appel on the roof of a car, that would lead to a protracted legal skirmish that delayed the release of Darkness On The Edge Of Town yet, perversely, enabled Bruce to write and record a huge backload of usable material and, since they needed the money, take on a period of backbreaking roadwork that fine tuned the E Street Band for evermore. New manager and producer Jon Landau, he of the notorious ‘future of rock of rock roll quote’ in Boston’s The Real Paper, nevertheless had to inform Bruce that he was down to his last $20k after the Appel business was settled.
There are moving passages on the deaths of organist Danny Federici and, more especially, sax star Clarence Clemons, and a lovely stars-in-his-eyes description of rehearsing ‘Tumbling Dice’ for an appearance with the Stones. There are fine meditations on the arrival of Elvis, the futility of prematurely dead rock stars, the plight of Vietnam vets, band politics, not least the racial mix in his band, as well as exploratory sex and the temptations of booze – Bruce enjoys the odd bender – and every now and then he shows off a lively turn of phrase, like when his dogs raised the alarm after the 1994 earthquake hit LA: “… the mattress beneath us howling like somewhere under there, two pits bulls were fucking a porcupine.”
Like many such books, Born To Run is long on the making it – the scuffling years – and short on more recent glories; to wit, we have 400 pages up to The Ghost of Tom Joad (1995) and only 100 pages thereafter. But compensation for the imbalance comes with the inevitable realisation that the early years are the most interesting. As Bruce himself sang on ‘Better Days’: ‘Now a life of leisure and a pirate’s treasure don’t make much for tragedy.’ Perhaps he’s leaving room for a sequel. Either way, Springsteen has delivered a fine autobiography; candid, honest, revealing and refreshingly light in the self-serving department.



25.10.16

ELVIS KIDNAPPED - Extract 2


Elvis has disappeared, presumed kidnapped, though no word has been heard from his abductors. Graceland is in a flap. Priscilla Presley arrives from California and summons a police detective who, mindful of Elvis’ wellbeing, advises secrecy. She concurs but Colonel Tom Parker, Elvis’ manager, is keen to exploit the situation’s commercial potential and thinks otherwise. He flies to New York to brief the boss of RCA Records, knowing that the course of action he prefers will get a sympathetic hearing…

As the President of RCA Records, Rocco Laginestra presided over the affairs of one of the biggest and oldest established major record labels in the world. From his office high up above Sixth Avenue in Manhattan, he could make or break the careers of those artists signed to the label but deep inside he was acutely aware that the fortunes of RCA were nowhere near as propitious as those of his main rivals, Columbia and the WEA conglomerate. The principal reason for this was the innate conservatism that had prevented the company from embracing rock music with the enthusiasm and know-how of their rivals. As a result RCA was slipping and its owners, NBC, were on Rocco’s back to do something about it.
        In England the company was unusually excited about their glam-rock star David Bowie but Rocky couldn’t see this fey British boy, who admitted he was a faggot, capturing America with the ease with which he’d captured Europe. And Bowie’s manager, Tony Defries, was squandering a fortune of RCA’s money on tour support and funding his huge and flamboyant entourage. In Rocco’s opinion John Denver, the guitar-playing hick from Colorado who sang songs about the Rocky Mountains, was a much safer bet. His albums were shipping gold right now, which was more than could be said for Bowie. Then there was Elvis.
        In what was without doubt the boldest move in the company’s history, RCA had signed Elvis Presley to an exclusive and indefinite recording contract for $35,000 way back in 1955. At the time this seemed like an awful lot of money but the investment was unquestionably the shrewdest move RCA had ever made. Elvis proved to be far and away the biggest selling recording artist that emerged in the first phase of the rock’n’roll era, which made him the biggest selling singer in the world, and throughout most of the Sixties – despite intense competition from The Beatles and their successors – he remained a top seller. Then, just as sales were starting to dip in the second half of the decade, Elvis re-emerged after the 1968 Singer TV special and began a new career as a Las Vegas performer, the hottest ticket in town. Naturally, his new-found success on stage translated into record sales and for the next few years Elvis was rarely out of the Top 100 on the Billboard listings.
        In 1972, when sales of Elvis’ Records began to dip again, RCA and Colonel Parker reached an agreement that from Elvis’ point of view was a betrayal of monumental proportions. After a bit of horse-trading, the Colonel consented to a deal in which he and Elvis would relinquish all future royalties on Elvis’ back catalogue sales up to that point in exchange for $5 million dollars in cash that was split 50/50 between Parker and Elvis. Naturally Elvis paid tax on his share – leaving him with just over $1 million for his life’s work. From RCA’s point of view, this deal was as sweet as they come – they now owned Elvis’ back catalogue outright – and for Parker the deal provided a handsome nest egg for his eventual retirement.
        Laginestra and Colonel Parker enjoyed what could best be described as a relationship based on mutual respect, though a shade more respect went in the Colonel’s direction. Laginestra was wary of the Colonel’s ways but also well aware that his and Elvis’ fortunes were tied up with RCA for the duration. There was no way that any other record company could poach Elvis. He was – and would always remain – the jewel in RCA’s crown.


Colonel Parker’s flight had arrived in New York shortly after nine o’clock the previous evening and an RCA car was waiting to take Elvis’ portly manager straight to the suite he had booked at the New York Hilton. Tired after being aroused early in the morning in Palm Springs and the events in Memphis, he went straight to his room, undressed, climbed into bed and was soon asleep. The following morning he breakfasted on bacon, sausages, eggs, fried potatoes and toast, all of it washed down with sweet black coffee. By 10 am he was on his way to RCA’s offices on Sixth Avenue, sitting in the back of a black limousine smoking his first cigar of the day.
        On a previous visit to RCA’s offices in New York Parker had famously become trapped in the lift doors that refused to open sufficiently to allow him to leave. When he’d stabbed the button to open them he’d become trapped, with half his immense bulk inside the lift and half outside while the doors repeatedly slammed against him. Some saw this strange incident as an augury, a sign that the RCA behemoth was somehow avenging Parker’s shifty greed, but no such unbecoming calamity befall Parker on this visit.
        Rocco Laginestra ushered Colonel Parker into his office and dismissed his secretary. It was most unusual for Parker to come to New York for a meeting at such short notice and he was eager to learn the reason. The two men sat opposite each other across a coffee table strewn with music trade magazines. Parker relit his trademark cigar and settled back into the armchair. There was little need for pleasantries.
        “Are you sure we can’t be overheard?” asked the Colonel.
        “Quite sure,” replied the company man warily.
        “Very well... first I must have your word that everything I am about to tell you is in the utmost secrecy, that for the time being you will not repeat any of this to anyone, no one at the company, not your wife, not your mistress, no one.”
        Laginestra winced. How did the Colonel know he had a mistress? “Very well,” he replied. “You have my word.”
        “Well then,” said Parker, lowering his voice for effect, “Elvis has been kidnapped.”
        “What?” Laginestra’s voice registered the same shock and disbelief that had afflicted Lieutenant Shriver the previous day.
        “You heard me... kidnapped, abducted, whatever you want to call it.”
        “You’re joking.”
        “No. I am being absolutely serious. Elvis was kidnapped two nights ago while riding his motorbike. The man who was with him was knocked unconscious and didn’t see the kidnappers. Eventually he came to and returned to Graceland with the news. We haven’t heard a word since from whoever took him, or from Elvis of course. We have no idea where he is.”
        “How could this happen?”
        “That’s what I wanted to know... lax security, stupidity.”
        “How many people know?”
        Colonel Parker went on to tell the RCA president everything he knew, including the visit of the police lieutenant to Graceland, the presence of Priscilla and how they were attempting to keep a lid on the story.
        “If the press got hold of this....” began Laginestra.
        “Exactly,” interrupted the Colonel, cutting him off to allow his imagination to run wild.
        When Laginestra had fully absorbed what the Colonel had come to tell him, the pair discussed the situation at length. Like Parker, Laginestra was quick to realise that if the news were to be made public, then sales of Elvis’ records would skyrocket overnight. Neither wanted to be the first to mention this. Eventually the RCA man broached the subject. “What, if, let’s say, the news were to leak out or Elvis were to... er, come to some harm... heaven forbid.”
        “Heaven forbid... that would be terrible,” replied the Colonel.
        “Terrible.”
        “Maybe it might not be a bad idea to press up some extra Elvis records... er, just in case… a precaution…. To cater for potential demand in the event…”
        The RCA man considered the suggestion. “Well, maybe we could do just that. It might arouse some suspicion at the pressing plant but no harm in taking sensible precautions. Staff might assume that we stockpiling records in the event that Elvis doesn’t recover from his present illness.”
        “Yes, that would explain it. No harm in pressing them up at all... sound commercial sense.”
        “And if, er, for some reason or another, news of the kidnapping were to become public, then there might be a demand for more records too.”
        “Yes, but the police have strictly forbidden it... and Priscilla... you know,” said the Colonel.
        “Of course...”
        “But if it were to leak out accidentally...” said the Colonel, an idea forming in his mind.
        “It won’t come from me,” said Laginestra hurriedly.
        “No. But if something like that does happen, I would expect to be able to renegotiate our previous royalty agreements.”
        “I think we could come to some arrangement there,” said Laginestra, who had already anticipated such a request. “Let’s wait until things play out.”
        “Yes,” said Parker. “We’ll just have to wait and see.”
        Their meeting over, the two men rose from their seats and shook hands. Laginestra’s secretary showed Parker out and escorted him to the elevator.
        When Parker left RCA’s offices he went back to his hotel and called Graceland, only to learn from Lamar Fike that no one had been in touch with regard to his missing client. Then he took a cab to La Guardia Aiport and flew back to Memphis where he checked into a Holiday Inn near the centre of town. He didn’t want to stay at Graceland where Priscilla and Linda and everyone else would nag him for results – but he needed to be close to the action. When he got to his room he called Lamar Fike at Graceland again to tell him where he was and settled down to get some rest. It had been another long day.


19.10.16

ELVIS KIDNAPPED - Extract 1



This is the first of three extracts from my novel Elvis Kidnapped that I will be posting over the next two weeks in advance of the book’s publication via Amazon kindle, hopefully around the beginning of next month.
It is September 1975 and Elvis has been hospitalised after a season of shows in Las Vegas that was curtailed due to ill health. He is convalescing at the Baptist Memorial Hospital in Memphis…


Elvis Presley bored easily. Like many others upon whom Dame Fortune had showered fame and riches, the mundane was anathema to contentment and Elvis needed a constant charge to keep him amused. It could be any of many things: music, movies, pretty girls, fast cars, motor bikes, funfairs, travel, practical jokes, vandalism, food, sport, drugs or – his current favourite – impulsive gestures of unexpected random generosity. Hospital was boring and Elvis, as soon as he was feeling better than he did in Vegas, wanted out.
        When he was first admitted to the hospital immediately after his return from Vegas, huge sheets of aluminium foil were affixed to the windows of his room to keep out the sunlight. This enabled Elvis to maintain his Dracula-like routine of sleeping during daylight hours and coming alive at night, and the hospital was quite willing to bend their rules for such a famous patient.
        The official word was that Elvis was under treatment for ‘exhaustion’, but the truth was far more serious. Elvis’ liver was malfunctioning due to a grossly enlarged colon and he was suffering regular and painful intestinal spasms. His constant use of ‘medication’ ­– powerful, numbing pain killers during periods when he was awake and sleeping pills when he chose to sleep – and a junk food diet had upset his metabolic system, causing his weight to fluctuate wildly and putting additional pressure on his heart.
        Elvis briefly considered an intestinal by-pass operation but ruled that out when it was explained to him that henceforth he would have to adhere to a strict, frugal diet. Girlfriend Linda Thompson visited his private ward regularly and the pair would watch afternoon game shows on television together, and tune in to the hospital’s internal TV system, so they could check out the action in the public wards. Ever a snoop, this eased Elvis’ boredom for a while. So, after he’d been bedridden for two days, did a surprise phone call from the man who was once the highest in the land.
“Yeah,” said Elvis when his bedside phone rang unexpectedly. The line was silent for a few seconds. Then a voice he didn’t recognise came on the line.
        “Is that Mr Elvis Presley?”
        “Yeah,” said Elvis curiously. All calls to his bedside were supposed to have been screened by the hospital switchboard. “Who’s that?”
        “This is Ron Zeigler, the secretary to Richard Nixon, the former President of the United States. One moment please.”
        The one and only time Elvis had met Nixon was at the White House in 1970. Earlier this year he had phoned him when Nixon was himself hospitalised. Now, it seemed, the ex-President was returning the courtesy. The hot line crackled.
        “Hello Elvis, it’s Richard Nixon here. I’m speaking from my home in California. I just wanted to call to say how sorry I was to hear that you were unwell, and that I hope most sincerely that you’ll be feeling much better soon.”
        Caught off his guard, Elvis was momentarily speechless. “Thank you sir... er, Mr President, sir,” was all he could mumble in reply.
        From the library of his San Clemente home, Richard Nixon tried to sound chatty. “What’s the problem, Elvis?” he asked.
        “Er, just fatigue sir,” replied Elvis. “I just been working too hard I guess. A bit of a stomach problem too, so the doctors tell me. But I’m feeling better every day sir. I should be outta’ here real soon.”
        “That’s good,” said Nixon. “Well just you look after yourself now. You’re an important man in this country, our country.”
        “Thank you sir.” Elvis felt deeply flattered. He admired the former President, any President, very much. Emboldened by Nixon’s bonhomie, he decided to share some thoughts on current affairs. “I think you did a fine job up there in the Capitol, Mr President, sir, and I want to say that you had my full support in that Watergate business I kept seeing on television. I know you’re an honest man, Mr President, sir, and you had our country’s best interests at heart. I think that those people who were trying to harm you were, er, unpatriotic citizens who didn’t deserve a President like you, sir, er Mr President.”
        Nixon coughed discretely. Elvis’ grasp of the Watergate situation was evidently untainted by political reality. He decided to bring the conversation to an end.
        “Thank you very much, Elvis. I am confident that my position in history is secure,” he said, sounding far more confident than he really felt. “I gotta go now... State business, you know. Bye and best wishes Elvis.”
        “Of course. Thank you for calling, sir.” Elvis hung up and a swell of pride surged through his huge body. Goddam it, the former President himself calling to wish him well. Wait till he told the boys about that.
        Later the same day Elvis took a similar call from Frank Sinatra who also wished him well but his buoyant mood didn’t last. After a few days in the hospital he was itching to get back to his toys at Graceland, so much so that the hospital staff had little choice but to discharge him earlier than they planned.
        Linda visited Elvis every day and there was a sack of get well cards waiting to be opened at the foot of his bed. But Elvis was still bored.
       

16.10.16

JIM LEA – THERAPY



Back in 2009 Jim Lea, Slade’s multi-instrumentalist and chief songwriter, released an album of his own called Therapy which, in his own words, was ‘the product of a notoriously tricky journey into midlife and its incumbent crises’. If that sounds like a recipe for disaster, think again. Therapy was a thoughtful record, crafted with skill and imagination, a collection of 13 songs that only rarely echo the glam rock wham-bang of Slade. Painstaking recorded with immaculate attention to detail and a complement of strings, brass and woodwind, it would have exasperated Slade producer Chas Chandler, a firm believer in the in-and-out-as-fast-as-you-can style of recording.
Therapy was released on Jim’s own label, Jim Jam Records, which didn’t have access to decent distribution so it slipped by largely unnoticed except by a few Slade fans, though it’s sold consistently over the years through word of mouth. I don’t recall reading any reviews, and had Jim not told me about himself – and played me a few tracks in his car parked in the West End one lunchtime – I’d have been none the wiser. I was particularly taken with a song called ‘The Smile Of Elvis’ and though I wasn’t too keen on tracks that incorporated recitations, I warmed to the record as I listened to it while commuting. It was an album that could only have been made by someone who’d seen rock from the inside and now felt the need to comment as an outsider, and though I don’t think Jim intended it to be a concept work, there is a theme to the songs insofar as it does indeed reflect a journey into midlife, a bit deeper than most albums and certainly deeper than being all crazee now. This isn’t say it’s a moody trip – some of the songs rock out – but there’s a trace of maturity, of contemplation in the lyrics, that’s like an aged malt whisky.
I wasn’t aware until last week (when Jim told me) that Therapy has been re-released, along with three additional tracks. Its title is no out-of-thin-air whim for after Slade Jim enrolled in a psychotherapy college in London and trained as a therapist, though he has never practised. Throughout the Slade years he was alternately bemused, untouched and slightly exasperated by the impact of fame. While the other three members of the group seemed to enjoy being famous, Jim turned his back on unwelcome intrusions into his life, retreating to his home in Staffordshire to raise a family with his wife Louise, his childhood sweetheart. They are still married and still live in the same house.
Although Noddy Holder is widely assumed to be the cornerstone of Slade, the truth is that without Jim they’d have got nowhere. Noddy had – and probably still has, though we never get to hear it these days – a fantastic rock’n’roll voice, a cross between Little Richard, John Lennon and Rod Stewart, and he could come up with a nifty lyric when called upon to do so, but it was Jim’s innate skill in the creativity department that was the key element to the group’s success. Without him they’d have remained a covers band with no songs of their own, a damn fine bar band mind you, but still making a living belting out songs like ‘Born To Be Wild’ and ‘Reach Out, I’ll Be There’ in pubs around the Midlands, as they did for five years before ‘Get Down And Get With It’, another cover, reached the charts in 1971.
Jim played bass on stage and like all bassists in bands that became enormously successful – McCartney, Entwistle, Bruce, Jones – he came from a musical background. Born and raised in a pub where music was a source of laughter and merry-making, Jim played the violin from an early age, just like his grandfather, and it was soon discovered that he had a natural flair for music. Although he learned to sight read, he remains convinced that his musical skills are not something that came from dedicated practice – that’s not his style – but from something in his genes. He’s one of those slightly lopsided musical masterminds who can get a tune out of any instrument he turns his mind to, guitar, piano, strings, probably the bagpipes for all I know.
There is something else, too, in Jim’s make up. He is partially dyslexic. He doesn’t like to read books – he hasn’t even read my 1984 ‘official’ biography of Slade, which if I didn't know him as well as I do might have displeased me – and has trouble concentrating. There is a school of thought that believes dyslexia is a gift and not an affliction, and I’m inclined to agree. It might explain why Jim sailed through art classes a year ahead of his age group at college and looked set for a brilliant career in design until he answered an advert in the local paper placed by The N’Betweens, a Wolverhampton band that needed a new bass player. As I wrote in the liner notes to accompany a Slade hits CD in 2005, many tales are told of rock musicians finding employment through the quality of their equipment but the opposite was true with Jim. He brought his cheap bass to the audition in a bin liner and his amp was sub par too. Nevertheless, although he was just 16 – three years younger than Noddy, Dave and Don – his skills ensured he got the job over a bunch of hopefuls with Fender basses and Marshall amps. Gear means nothing to him – he wrote most of Slade’s hits on an old Spanish guitar that belonged to Louise.
Once Slade became popular, Jim hated dressing up in the glam rock outfits of the era. Neither was he impressed by the trappings of fame or the stars he came across – he had memorable fallings-out with Ray Davies and John Bonham – and found the challenge of making it far more satisfying than being successful. When the hits came off the production line with the regularity of 1-2-3, Jim felt it had become too easy so, unlike the others, he became frustrated, discontented, pondering on the emptiness of success. As Slade’s star lost its shine during the second half of the seventies, he was certainly up for a second trial of strength but like Noddy he knew when to call it a day, and now has no interest whatsoever in joining Dave Hill and Don Powell in their Slade II touring band.
Jim, of course, was half of Slade’s song writing partnership – perhaps the least well known half – so his royalties, alongside wise investments and disinclination towards self-indulgence, mean he has no need to exert himself. The PRS cheques for ‘Merry Christmas Everybody’ alone could feed a family of four for a lifetime. He still maintains the lowest of low profiles, believing that “a low profile led to an easier life”. Nevertheless, his contribution to Slade’s catalogue ought not to be underestimated. “For every new song I wrote for them, I also wrote some lyrics but I left it to Nod to finish them or rewrite them,” he says, adding that his role in the band went some way further than simply writing the melodies and playing bass. “After a few weeks with the band it became natural for me to do all the musical arranging for them,” he tells me. “It was never an imposition, more an enjoyable encumbrance.”


Finally, I should mention that Therapy comes with a second CD taken from the one and only solo gig Jim Lea has ever performed, at the Robin 2 R’n’B Club in Bilston in November 2002. Fronting a trio, singing and playing lead guitar as opposed to bass, Jim called his band Jim Jam and rocked out without mercy, probably as loud as Slade in their day and, believe me, Slade could be blisteringly loud. The set list includes covers, a handful of Slade hits and a couple of his own songs, one of them a tribute to Keith Moon called ‘Over The Moon’ which segues into ‘Substitute’, as good a cover of this Who masterpiece as I’ve ever heard. More importantly Jim shows off lead/rhythm guitar skills I hadn’t imagined existed, a touch of Hendrix on ‘Hey Joe’ and ‘Wild Thing’, a hint of jazz in the slippery chords of ‘Far Far Away’, a punk onslaught on ‘Pretty Vacant’ and an overall mastery of feedback whenever the mood takes him.
Jim also handles the introductions, anecdotes, self-effacing wit and a few dollops of homespun wisdom. “Nowadays bands take a year to make an album and tour for three weeks,” he says at one point. “In our day we had two weeks to make an album and toured for three years.”
          Far be it for me to say which method produces the best results.

10.10.16

ELVIS KIDNAPPED

For much of this year I have been working on an 80,000-word novel about Elvis Presley being kidnapped. This is a project that’s been floating around on my hard drive for ages, and only this summer did I find the time to give it the attention it deserved and finally complete it. Of course, it’s an ambitious, slightly far-fetched undertaking that might fly away in the lightness of its irrational caprice, but it’s kept me off the streets and been fun to write. Aside from the thriller aspect of Elvis being snatched, I’ve tried to imagine how Elvis would act in these circumstances and how he would relate to his kidnappers once the ‘Stockholm Syndrome’ kicks in, which it does.
I never saw Elvis perform but his music has thrilled me since I first heard it. Beginning with ‘Heartbreak Hotel’, it’s to blame for my life-long love of rock’n’roll music. Elvis’ life, the triumphs and the disasters, the magic and the missteps, has always fascinated me. As a boy of 12 I cut out photographs of Elvis from magazines and stuck them on my bedroom wall. I bought or was given 10 of the first twelve LP records he released (stopping after Blue Hawaii), four EPs, and about a dozen singles. I joined his UK Fan Club and at Christmas received a card from ‘Elvis and The Colonel’. In 1973, as Melody Maker’s US editor temporarily stationed in Los Angeles, I read Elvis: A Biography by Jerry Hopkins, the first serious account of his life, which prompted me to write to Colonel Tom Parker requesting an interview with Elvis. I never received a reply.
In 1977, a month before Elvis died there, I had my photo taken outside the gates of Graceland in Memphis. I actually had a ticket to see him at Nassau Coliseum on Long Island on the tour that was due to take place that Fall. In 1980, as the employee of RCA Records charged with handling PR for his estate, I stood on stage at an Elvis Fan Club convention in Leicester, made a speech and accepted an award on the company’s behalf. Reginald Bosanquet, unsober, was the guest speaker. Oddly, Colonel Parker died a few days before my own father, in January of 1997, and I remember reading obits at the nursing home where dad breathed his last. I’ve since read about 20 further books on Elvis, written a brief one myself (to accompany a cassette of his hits), and edited and/or been responsible for the publication of six more.
It’s my intention to publish Elvis Kidnapped privately, as an e-book, towards the end of this month, all assuming I can get clearances for a few lyrics that appear in the text, and between now and then I’ll post three extracts on Just Backdated. For starters, here’s the back cover blurb, as we call it in the trade.


ELVIS KIDNAPPED draws back the veil of secrecy on the most dramatic event in the life of Elvis Presley. In October of 1975 Elvis was abducted and spirited away to a cabin in the Kentucky mountains where he was made to sing for his supper. After a week in captivity a ransom was paid to ensure his release, a bizarre episode that was hushed up on orders from the White House.

An intriguing blend of fact and fiction, ELVIS KIDNAPPED is a psychological thriller that not only tells the dramatic tale of how Elvis was snatched but delves into the innermost thoughts of the King of Rock’n’Roll. How does Elvis react when he is treated like an ordinary person, told to sweep floors and chop wood? How does he interact with his kidnappers? Will his songs grant him his freedom? And how do those close to him, among them ex-wife Priscilla and manager Colonel Tom Parker, respond to the crisis?

“With all of his needs catered for by others, Elvis Presley was the very opposite of self-sufficient; simultaneously the neediest man that Priscilla would ever encounter yet at the same time in need of nothing. Elvis was a paradox, reared on a diet that had left him as helpless as a child when he wasn’t surrounded by his courtiers… whoever had kidnapped him, thought Priscilla, would soon realise what a handful he could be.”

ELVIS KIDNAPPED – Did it really happen? The only way to find out is to read the book.