Book Review:

Return Of The King Elvis Presley’s Great Comeback (Gillian Gaar)

Return Of The King Elvis Presley’s Great Comeback, Gillian G. Gaar, Jawbone books, USA/UK, 2010, Softcover, 270 pages, Illustrated, ISBN-13: 978-1906002282

Reviewed by Nigel Patterson, July 2010

Once in a while a book comes along which re-opens our eyes and minds to the majesty of Elvis as a person and/or performer. Gillian Gaar's Return Of The King Elvis Presley's Great Comeback is one of those books!

From its opening near condemnation of the Colonel's grab for a bigger piece of the Presley pie to how Elvis re-established himszelf as the King and his eventual deterioration, Gaar has written a wonderfully detailed and absorbing analysis of what transpired during the "second great period of Presley's career" from 1968 to 1977 (and beyond).

Using first hand accounts and intellectual rigor the result is engaging, sometimes confronting, often revealing, and at all times reader friendly.

Gaar’s prose is strong and incisive.  On Elvis’ sublime studio recording of You’ll Think of Me, the author observes:

Elvis’ wistful vocal is musically complemented by Reggie Young’s sitar line, using the same instrument he’d played on The Box Top’s ‘Cry Like A Baby’ and B.J. Thomas’s ‘Hooked On A Feeling’.  “I don’t know how that came about, but it was there in my arsenal of gimmicks!” he jokes.  The mood is bittersweet, Elvis singing that even though he loves his girlfriend he must move on, due to his “heart that’s haunted,” a feeling echoed both by the mournful backing vocals, and the lyrical suggestion that while the girlfriend is destined to find a new love, the singer apparently isn’t.

The first hand accounts of events combined with the author's understanding of the bigger picture really give the book a strength not matched by most other books about the period; while Gaar's critique of Elvis' recording and performing output from 1968 is erudite and illuminating:

But the underrated gem of the session was 'A Little Less Conversation'. After a snappy drum into, the baseline sets up the funkiest groove that had yet appeared on an Elvis record. The excitement builkds as the strings and horns enter, and Elvis handles the complicated lyrics with ease.

If the '68 Comeback Special was a triumphant return for the King, so was his return to live performing in Sin City (Las Vegas):

The audience was on its feet cheering before he even began to sing, and their enthusiasm didn’t let up the entire show. “When we ended that first song, the place went crazy,” says Jerry [Scheff].  And I could see the look change on his face.  It’s like, ‘Oh God, they still love me!” From then on it was too easy for him.”

Throughout Gaar's narrative there are moments of incredible revlation such as this account from Steve Binder, Director of the '68 Comeback Special:

"And so in the dark Elvis sang 'If I Can Dream'. And it was one of those unbelievable moments where nobody gets to see it except a handful of people who are sitting in the control room, looking out the glass at the big vast studio. And there's Elvis, literally on the ground in the fetal position with his hand mic, singing the song."

Elvis' sad deterioration during the final years of his life are poignantly addressed by Gaar. Symbolising her respect for Elvis and appreciation of his predicament, the opening paragraph to the penultimate chapter perhaps says it all:

The last six years of Elvis Presley's life were a slow fade; a gradual slide into what some would see as an ignomonious caricature. But Elvis's physical appearance during his later years - the frequent target of much derision - was only a sign of a greater, deeper, malaise. By the end of his life, it seemed as if Elvis had lost the most precious thing that a performer has: faith in his talent and in himself.

Return Of The King Elvis Presley's Great Comeback is illustrated with quality color and b&w visuals and comes with a sturdy soft cover.

Verdict: Gillian Gaar's excellent examination of the last deacde of Elvis' career is fascinating and enlightening reading. Highly recommended.

About the author: Gillian Gaar is author of several books about music, including She’s A Rebel: The history of Women in Rock & Roll; Green Day: Rebels With A Cause and The Rough Guide to Nirvana.  She has also contributed articles to Mojo, Rolling Stone, Record Collector and Goldmine, among others.

 Comment on this review





EIN's Best of Elvis YouTube
Spotlight on the King
Interview: Lamar Fike
CD Review: High Voltage
Book Review: Inside Graceland

Almost Elvis

Book/FTD Review: Elvis The Way It Was
CD Reviews
Other Reviews
CD: High Voltage
Book: Elvis' Secret Legacy
'Wild In the Country' FTD Soundtrack -
FTD: An American Trilogy
Book: Growing Up With The Memphis Flash
Book: Ancestors of Elvis Aaron Presley
Book/FTD: Live In L.A.
Book: In Search of Elvis
Book: Elvis The Biography (Jerry Hopkins)
Articles (Spotlight)
New Elvis sculpture
Is the new 'T.T.W.I.I' Classic Album release just a rehash of the 30th Anniversary BMG issue?
Spotlight:The '68 Special - 40th Anniv Celebration
The Night Elvis Reclaimed His Crown:
Breaking down Presley & Beatlemania
Why can't Elvis compete on album sales??
Is Britney today's Elvis?
Ron Strauss, Pilot of the Lisa Marie
Sale of EPE: Elvis by the numbers
Joseph Pirzada (Pt. 2)

Lamar Fike

Michael Hoey (Hollywood producer & director)
Mark Bego: co-author of Fike: An Uncommon Journey

Jerry Schilling

The Dangerous World of Elvis Bootlegging; Vic Colonna reveals all!
Lorina Bolig, Elvis Genealogist
Best of Elvis on YouTube
Graceland cam
Charmaine's Elvis Graphics
EPE's Multimedia Elvis Gallery
Sirius Elvis Satellite Radio
Elvis Radio (ETA's)
Elvis Express Radio
Elvis Only Radio
"Images in Concert" PhotoDatabase
Sanja's Elvis Week 2007 Photo Gallery
'EIN's Best of Elvis on YouTube'
All about Elvis
All about Elvis Tribute Artists
All about Graceland
All about Lisa Marie Presley
Ancestors of Elvis
Contact List
Elvis and Racism
Elvis as Religion
Elvis Books in 2007-08
Elvis CDs in 2007
Elvis DVDs in 2006
Elvis Film Guide
'2007 New Releases'
Elvis Presley In Concert "downunder" 2006
Elvis Online Virtual Library
Elvis Research Forum
Elvis Rules on Television
Graceland - The National Historic Landmark
How & where do I sell my Elvis collection?
Is Elvis the best selling artist?
Links to Elvis' family & friends
Links to other Elvis sites
Online Elvis Symposium
Parkes Elvis Festival 2008 (Australia)
Presleys In The Press
Sale of EPE (Archives)
6th Annual Elvis Website Survey
Spotlight on The King
"Wikipedia" Elvis biography
Did You Miss?
How did Elvis get turned into a racist?
Online Elvis Symposium
The most controversial Elvis article ever!