Erik Lorentzen’s superb Elvis books have by now earned the high reputation they deserve from dedicated Elvis collectors. His key publications being the extremely detailed and well-researched ‘Elvis Files’ series of books. (look here for EIN's previous 'The Elvis Files' in-depth book reviews)
Sometimes it's hard to decide exactly what Elvis product you can afford to buy. There seems to be so many Elvis photo books being published nowadays that it's hard to keep up and I certainly can’t afford to buy them all. (partly due to the expensive overseas postage to Australia.)
To be a worthwhile purchase I need a book to contain never before published photos of Elvis, high-quality printing and plenty of accompanying text. There is no way I can afford a photo book that is only worth one flip-through before is it filed away on the shelf.
When I first started buying Eric Lorentzen’s Elvis Files volumes, where each volume features only a couple of years of Elvis' life spread over 500 pages or so, I thought I would never need to buy another photo book again! - How wrong I was!
However there are some core periods in Elvis’ legacy that are all well-worth examining in greater detail.
‘King Creole’ is one of my favourite Elvis films so I had no trouble in buying Lorentzen’s ‘King Creole Frame by Frame’ volume, similarly his 520-page look into Elvis’ comeback special was another stunner.
But now with his discovery of hundreds of un-published photos from Elvis’ 1957 tours Lorentzen decided that an expanded look into Elvis’ Gold Lamé touring period of 1957 was well worth a new volume.
And what a stunner it is!
I have never seen so many glorious photographs of Elvis on tour in 1957 and find it hard to believe there are so many photographs I have previously not seen, as well as such a large number in stunning quality and presented as glorious full-page images. The book's design is perfect for the era with a nice use of retro day-glo colours.
....Glittering in an unborn calf skin suit, which was completely covered with 24-karat gold cloth, and 24-karat gold shoes, Elvis seemed to be somewhat groggy as he greeted the record crowd. Assuming his provocative stance, he tilted the microphone, embraced it and began rotating his pelvis. The words he sang were inaudible because of the roar, but, a reporter was assured, it didn't make any difference because most were kids who knew the lyrics by heart. As Elvis bounced across the stage and came to a jarring, grinding halt, his enthralled devotees exploded into a shrill crescendo..
It is such an incredible shame that there weren't more colour photographs taken of Elvis in his stunningly iridescent Gold Lamé suit but of course at that time most of these photographs were taken for newsprint which in those days was solely black-and-white.
Regarding the accompanying text, in this new volume I counted around 96 articles taken from fifties’ newspaper reviews or stories. It also includes nine interviews with Elvis plus around nine contemporary articles about 1957 written by the likes of James V Roy - Scotty Moore Web master and concert specialist.
The articles help explain the craziness of this period of Elvis’ career.
From The Chicago American March 29, 1957.
....Many of the squealing, shrieking girls lapsed into crying jags, apparently frustrated by their inability to touch their idol. Some became hysterical. Others seemed to go berserk. First aid station attendants said some girls, upon regaining consciousness, didn't wait for medications, but bounded out of bed and darted back into the arena to avoid missing anything. Martha Shafer, 15, from 10025 Norwood Avenue, Des Plaices, a sophomore at London township high school, collapsed after triumphantly touching a part of the platform where Elvis had stood, shivering and sobbing...
Strangely missing from the book is a basic list of how many concerts he played and their dates, since it is actually a little hard to get your head around how a few concerts Elvis did in 1957 compared to 1956 when you're looking at so many stunning new photographs of Elvis live onstage.
In 1957 Elvis in fact only played a total of 28 concerts, which was such a low figure compared to the hundreds performed in 1956 (~236).
Fans who previously bought Lorentzen’s Elvis Files 1957-1959 need not worry that they are buying the same product all over again because this is a very different. While the ‘Elvis Files 57-59’ book dedicated around 120 pages to Elvis’ tours of 1957 here we get 420 pages of glorious photographs and articles of Elvis on tour.
This book leaves out the extras of Elvis filming Loving You and Jailhouse Rock, associated recording sessions etc and concentrates purely about Elvis action on tour.
While key concert reviews of course are duplicated in this new 1957 Gold Lame volume, previously published articles (Alan Hanson, Mike Eder) are not in this book and instead we get a wealth of new newspaper articles, reviews and interviews. Surprisingly little is actually duplicated and alternate shots used where possible within the layout.
Elvis live at the Pan Pacific Auditorium, Los Angeles Oct 1957 - Shown with a CD cover overlaid to help demonstrate the size of the marvellous full-page images.
March 30, 1957 Elvis at the press conference before his performance in Fort Wayne.
Note that Elvis is wearing his Gold Lame shirt under his jacket.
... The interview's end came with a series of poses for the photographers.
Elvis, always ready to please, matched pancake makeup with several beauties. It was part of the job. In several minutes he was again bounding. This time it was onto the stage amidst sounds heretofore heard only at hog ringings. He had about $2,000 worth of gold jacket on. He was a new man. The reaction was altogether different than at the press conference. One distaff worshiper of the golden idol followed the entry of `the Pelvis' with egg-shaped eyes - so wild, so hopeful, so hungry. It was the look of an Arabian washer woman asking King Saud for a palace position. Elvis wriggled, twisted and bent his knees. He still had on the trousers with the tiny hole in the knee.
The wealth of material in this book is stunning. Taking his Ottawa Canadian appearance as an example, where Elvis performed two concerts in a single day. The book features the first fabulous article “The Pelvis Arrives” and continues over forty-two pages of articles and stunning images. There are 10 articles alone from Ottawa’s various newspapers and two interviews with Elvis. And yet he was there for a single day!
This kind of mind-blowing media attention helps demonstrate what extraordinary power Elvis had at the time over the media, the parents, the children and his ever adoring fans.
“Elvis Fans Give Me A Headache”
by Helen Parmelee, Ottawa Journal - April 4, 1957
... Some wept, some moaned, some clutched their head in ecstasy; everybody screamed, stomped, clapped hands, flailed arms, and one person got down on all fours and pounded the floor. Elvis "sent" them wild. Elvis "sent" me too - home with a bursting headache
This is supposed to be a "woman's eye view" of Elvis Presley. His fans will consider it a "worm's eye view". I'm still bewildered. Last night's contortionist exhibition at the Auditorium was the closest to the jungle I'll ever get. But it wasn't the Memphis wiggler who's the "missing link" - it was his audiences, in Ottawa and elsewhere.
I don't know if his gyrations excite them, or merely give the teenagers chance to let off a lot of steam. But, let off steam they did, and I have my headache to vouch for it.
The photographs of Elvis performing on stage in Portland in September are some of the best in the book and are spread over eighteen wonderful pages.
Two sensational images of Elvis live in Portland. You can see how skinny Elvis is in the first photo.
Sept 3 1957 Portland Journal.
A gold suit, an oft-plucked guitar and a sideburned bundle of the most enchanting, gyrating, and just plain droolin', rock 'n' roll charmer ever to hit this world, plopped right into the laps of thousands of hysterical Portland teenagers on Monday. How they loved it! They jammed the Union station, the Multnomah Hotel, the stadium gateways. They thrilled to every word, every breath of the famed entertainer. Here was heaven, a haven In an otherwise conservative life of studies, dishes and mowing the lawn. Here was a miracle wrapped handsomely in a single package - a miracle wearing the exciting name of Elvis Presley.
I [Dorothy Smith] was completely shook up Monday night. Who wouldn't be after exposure to two Elvis Presleys, in one evening? There's definitely the on-stage Elvis and the off-stage Elvis. And there was an equally shakeable Elvis in his dressing room for the mass press, radio, and TV interview before he donned the gold jacket to enter the stadium. This Elvis was impeccably clad in black slacks and shoes, white shirt with handsome black and silver tie and stickpin, and a suave, light blue dinner jacket. The off-stage Presley answered the countless questions fired at him during the interview - a few of them sharply barbed - with poise and good humor. Concerning Anita Wood, the glamor-girl whose name is romantically linked with his, he said: "There's nothin' serious. We're more than friends, but nothin' serious."...
At this point it is worth noting how much I also enjoyed the Alan Hanson 'Elvis '57 - The Final Fifties Tours' book about Elvis on tour in 1957. Hanson’s text captured the excitement of Elvis’ 1957 tour in a similar way and featured plenty extracts from newspaper articles of the time. However here you get the complete original newspaper articles plus hundreds of amazing photographs to go with them. Gordon Minto’s introduction to ‘A Touch Of Gold Lame’ also points out how complementary both these books are to each other.
There are so many newspaper articles featured here, both positive and negative that they provide a narrative all on their own.
Tossed Eggs Misses Elvis - Philadelphia, April 7, 1957
Elvis Presley was throwing 5,329 poople into a frenzy at the Arena last night when an egg came sailing at him from the balcony.
The egg missed him by a good three-foot, and landed with a splash on the guitar of Scotty Moore, one of his three instrumental accompanists. Presley's sideburned face darkened into a frown, but he managed to finish his song, "All Shook Up".
"He got egg on his guitar," Presley told the audience. "Whoever threw that will never make the Yankees."
The master of the grind and the bump, by this time, appeared to be 'all shook up' himself a little. Turning to the audience, he said again, "Most of you people came here to enjoy the show. The guy who threw the egg will never make it." His blue eyes flashing Presley turned toward the direction from which the egg came and remarked with emphasis: "I mean it, Jack. We're just trying to put on a nice show." By this time, police were racing up the balcony, where a group of screaming girls were pointing to four youths.
For his final appearance, Presley, a one-time truck driver, wore a gold braided jacket with white sequins on the cuffs, pockets and lapels. He also wore a white satin shirt, black pants and gold shoes. As he strode onto the stage for the start of his performance, the audience went wild with screams. Hundreds of camera flash bulbs went off. From time to time, as Presley warmed up to his act, many of the girls went into hysterics. Some burst into tears. After the show ended at 10:15 p.m., about twenty policemen rushed Presley off the stage and into a waiting automobile parked at the curb on 45th St. Fifty girls watched their idol being hustled into the car and fought to get near him.
Reading all the hype and excitement along with the stunning photos just makes it all so exasperating that not one of these hugely publicised 1957 concerts were recorded by RCA and Col Parker. What on earth were they thinking?
At the time Elvis would have been heading into the army and no one knew whether he would ever manage a comeback into the pop charts which makes Parker’s lack of filming or recording any concert beyond belief.
Left: Elvis at Portland's Union Station. Right: Even the audience shots capture the stunning impact of Elvis' performances in 1957
Elvis’ 1957 concerts started with him playing to 13 ½ thousand fans in Chicago on March 28 and ended in Hawaii playing to a packed Honolulu Stadium and finally a more low-key affair for army personnel at the Schofield Barracks November 14. Combined with two movies and four Billboard number ones it had been a hell of a year, the like of which would never be repeated.
||One of my favourite shots from 'A Touch Of Gold Lame' . A back-lit tousled haired Elvis on stage in Fort Wayne, March 30,1957.
The book wraps up perfectly with a wonderful article called ‘God Is My Refuge’. After such an amazing year, the continuing controversy in the media, plus such astounding adoration from his fans and the explosion of his popularity overseas, at the end of 1957 the enormous impact Elvis was having must have been truly hard for him to comprehend.
.... If there are people who feel that there is some secret meaning, some evil implication in the way I perform, I can only t ell them, right from my heart, that they are wrong. I wish the people who criticize me would try to remember how they felt when they were young. Maybe a lot of them didn't think Sinatra was the greatest, or that Rudy Vallee was the Vagabond Lover. But at least they could understand why their friends felt that Sinatra was the best or why the girl of yester-year experienced a funny kind of feeling over a Rudy Vallee record. Why can't they understand that some people like to hear me sing? Those who don't like the way I perform on stage - go to see someone else. That's the way it should be. I wish there was some way I could get everybody to understand that. People have a right to their opinion. ...
I have as much fun as I can. In that respect, I don't think I'm any different than any other young fellow.... I think that most people, if they think about it, can remember doing the same things when they were young.
But no matter what I do, I don't forget about God. I feel he's watching every move I make. And in a way it's good for me. I'll never feel comfortable taking a strong drink and I'll never feel easy smoking a cigarette. I just don't think those things are right for me....
After all, this was less than two years since Elvis started recording for RCA.
No wonder he was already searching for answers and some personal peace.
I did spot a couple of duplicated photos, ie a crowd photo from April 1957 that also features in a Vancouver September article but amongst a book of this magnitude there is nothing to spoil the overall impact of the story.
Overall Verdict: ‘A Touch Of Gold Lame’ truly surpasses my high expectations. I have owned this book for a week and I certainly haven’t read it all from cover to cover, it is that packed with new articles. But overall it is the mouth-watering full-page photos of Elvis in concert that impress the most. This really is a “Touch-Of-Gold” only twenty-eight concerts over 400 plus pages and not a jumpsuit in sight!
In the same way that the Comeback Special deserved an expanded ‘Elvis Files’ book all to itself, Elvis’ dynamite 1957 concerts deserve this glorious book. The only disappointment, not having a live 1957 concert included as a bonus CD!!
FOR MORE example pages from the book GO HERE to 'Elvis Files Releases 2015.'
(Note that I did contribute my EIN interview with Ottawa fan Janet Fulton to the book - but I had no other input, nor saw any finished content, before rec eiving the book in the post last week).
Review by Piers Beagley.
-Copyright EIN October 2015
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