by Darrin Lee
DL Books, Inc, 2005, Illustrated, 251 pages
Available in softcover format with E-Book supplement
Written with an engaging writing style it is easy to become enmeshed in the juicy narrative.
The titular theme is of course the infamous monologue Elvis delivered in Las Vegas on September 2, 1974, an amazing piece of Presleyana appropriately issued on the bootleg 2CD release, Desert Storm Closing Night September 2, 1974, from the Fort Baxter label (see cover picture below).
A detailed track-by-track analysis of the Desert Storm album combined with first hand accounts from members of the audience and other material, mounts a persuasive case suggesting Elvis may not have been "strung out" on the night as is widely believed by many fans.
And there is a lot more in Desert Storm than its titular issue. Some of the other fascinating and often little known incidents in Elvis' life include:
The author's perspective on Elvis' split from Linda Thompson in 1976 is also controversial. Did Linda leave, as many biographies suggest, or did Elvis progressively phase her out of his life? Again, Darrin Lee offers a thought provoking analysis.
In discussing the famous Bill Cosby incident, Darrin Lee at one point borrows a telling observation from Ernst Jorgensen's excellent book, "Elvis Presley: A Life In Music":
"Elvis' constant and lengthy interruptions grew increasingly bizzare as the show progressed. He introduced Bill Cosby from the stage, though he wasn't actually there".
And Rocky Barra's "on the spot" critique of Elvis' Summer Festival in Las Vegas in 1974 adds further weight to Darrin Lee's carefully considered points.
The author's comprehensive research and analysis also provides us with a detailed record of Elvis' humorous on stage antics and brings to life a sub text in Elvis' stage performances, his recurrent use of direct sexual references and innuendo.
Another seminal revelation is Elvis' use of 'religious recitation' during a performance of You Gave Me A Mountain. The author also makes important observations on Lisa Presley and the dreaded paparazzi.
Not surprisingly, Desert Storm has met with criticism on at least one of the Elvis messageboards.
Analysis of the criticisms shows that Darrin Lee's critics have either picked on several minor aspects of the book (eg. the Sheila Ryan "Playboy" spread) or missed the significance of others. The relevance of the movie magazines as sorely overlooked media texts influencing public opinion about Elvis is a case in point, as Darrin Lee cleverly uses the magazines to illustrate many of his points. In my opinion, these widely read tabloid releases are an aspect of the Elvis story worthy of detailed sociological analysis.
In criticising the author for allegedly not providing substantive argument the critics conveniently overlook the various "official" documents presented in Desert Storm including the legal papers for Elvis and Priscilla's divorce and the Patricia Parker paternity suit.
The E-Book: Supplementing the softcover book edition of Desert Storm is a 100 page E-Book. The E-Book is comprised of around 50 pages of transcripts from the 9/2/74 Dinner and Midnight Shows. The inclusion of these allows fans to further their understanding of all Closing Night dialogue, song lyrics, and audience interaction.
Desert Storm is a well designed and neatly laid out book. It is printed on high grade paper stock and features numerous black & white photos throughout its 251 pages (maybe we could have color visuals in its 2nd printing, I think these would add another dimension to its appeal). Detailed Notes and Credits sections round out the quality production.
Conclusion: Regardless of whether or not you agree with all of the author's views, there is no doubt that in writing Desert Storm, Darrin Lee has spent many long, painstaking hours researching a broad range of sources. This gives Desert Storm a solidity and legitimacy that is missing from many other books released about Elvis.
The strength of Desert Storm is its willingness to openly confront and seriously question widely accepted positions in the Elvis world. The reader doesn't have to accept all of the author's arguments but if read with an open mind, the book is a rich and rewarding experience.
Desert Storm is the most controversial book to be published about Elvis since Alanna Nash's 2002 release, The Colonel: The Extraordinary Story of Colonel Tom Parker and Elvis Presley. If one measure of success is debate, then Darrin Lee has well satisfied this criterion by bringing life back into the increasingly staid and repetitive world of Elvis literature.
Verdict: There will be critics and undoubtedly some will want to malign. However, this in no way devalues the strong merits of Desert Storm: The Shattering Of A Myth! Darrin Lee is to be commended for writing a controversial, challenging and enlightening entry that is a delight to read. I unreservedly recommend Desert Storm to all fans....just read it with an open mind.
Darrin Lee's Upcoming Projects:
Elvis Presley: The College Park Hoax!
Elvis Presley: CBS TV Special - The Truth At Last
"Elvis Presley is the supreme socio-cultural icon in the history of pop culture"
(Dr. Gary Enders)
" Elvis is the 'glue' which holds our society together....which subconciously gives our world meaning"
"Eventually everybody has to die, except Elvis"
(humorist Dave Barry)
"He is the "Big Bang", and the universe he detonated is still expanding, the pieces are still flying"
(Greil Marcus, "Dead Elvis")
"I think Elvis Presley will never be solved"
"He was the most popular man that ever walked on this planet since Christ himself was here"
"When I first heard Elvis' voice I just knew I wasn't going to work for anybody...hearing him for the first time was like busting out of jail"
"When we were kids growing up in Liverpool, all we ever wanted was to be Elvis Presley"
(Sir Paul McCartney)