Book Review:

Teenagers' Hero, Volume 1

Teenagers’ Hero, Steve Rino, Italy, 2008, Soft cover (cloth bound), 402 pages, Illustrated, ISBN: none.

Reviewed by Amber Smith (with Nigel Patterson), March 2009

Recently released in Italy is Teenagers’ Hero by Steve Rino.  A self-published effort, Teenagers’ Hero is the result of a mammoth effort and the result shows……..

400+ pages……..445 photos…….50 concert newspaper ads……..90 newspaper & magazine clips…….and all on one of the most important years of Elvis’ amazing career…..…1956!

The book sequentially chronicles Elvis during the first half of his most powerful and important year (at least in the 50s). 

All of the hundreds of photographs are in black & white.  This reflects photography at the time.  What gives Teenagers’ Hero its bang for a buck (it isn’t cheap) is its chronological compendium of facts, photos, newspaper articles, reviews and pot pourii of tit bits from Elvis’ electrifying 1956. From 1 January to mid 1956, the reader becomes immersed in the undying phenomenon of Elvismania at its deafening peak.

There have been few books to focus on Elvis in 1956.  Brian Petersen’s excellent 1994 published The Atomic Powered Singer is the most notable.  Other books including Early Elvis: The Sun Years (Bill E. Burk) and Howard DeWitt’s Elvis: The Sun Years, are in their own way, equally impressive, but both cover a time span beyond just 1956.

Both the Rino and DeWitt books have electric merit thanks to their proliferation of primary archival material which vividly brings to life the excitement and potency that the Hillbilly Cat exuded at the peak of his rocking’ powers. Teenager's Hero stands proudly alongside these earlier releases.

Beatlemania has been very well chronicled and preserved.  Elvismania, as powerful, sadly, less so, and books like Teenagers’ Hero help redress that skewed imbalance.

There is a potent urgency to the material presented by Steve Rino, one that perfectly showcases the raw energy of the most sexual and idolised performer the world has ever seen. Rino's book presents a vivid picture of the young King of Rock 'n' Roll as he struts and swaggers and gyrates his pelvis right into the shocked faces of conservative mainstream America. This is indeed, rock 'n' roll heaven.

I am dumbstruck by the negative comments on Teenagers’ Hero, much of which come from several well known people in the Elvis world.

Let’s look at the negative comments, one by one:

The paper used is too thin - Hey guys………Teenagers’ Hero is a big book!  With over 400 pages and the exorbitantly high costs of publishing a book in the noughties, selecting a slightly thinner paper stock is a good compromise in getting a book to print.  And it’s not like the pages are flimsy and falling apart.  They are a respectable 150gm glossy stock!  This is a well produced, perfect cloth bound release. 

It may lack the quality glossy pages we sometimes get from US, Japan and UK releases, but those books usually only have around 100 pages. I would suggest this allowed the authors to select a heavier page for their book.  Looking back at early Ger Rijff books, they were no where near the quality of his later glossy, hardback “classics”.  And Mr Rijff, on the FECC forum, has regularly commented on the problems, costs and lack of demand for 1950s Elvis books today!

The photos are too dark - Here I have to agree.  There is a dark tone to the book due to too much black background, at times making it difficult to read the words.

Most of the photos aren't previously unpublished - OK, Steve Rino says most of the photos are previously unpublished, but we recognise most of the visuals. Despite this, it has to be said there are so, so many great photos and archival reproductions, as well as several rare photos in Teenagers' Hero, and importantly, they all delight! Steve Rino is forgiven here for his unnecessary hyperbole.

Teenagers’Hero is a scrapbook - Hello?? What is your point?  Since when is publishing a scrapbook type book a crime?  There are many Elvis books in a similar format.  Is the format redundant or something?  I don’t think so.  If anything, it works really well in presenting the vibrancy of the first half of the Hillbilly Cat’s most potent and important year in his rock ‘n’ roll defining decade. Much of what still exists from 1956 is newspaper articles which are perfectly suited to the scrapbook format.

When we buy a book there are a few questions we need to ask to decide if our purchase has been a good one:

  • Does the book add to our knowledge of the Elvis story?
  • Is the archival material good?
  • Is the book well designed?
  • Are there previously unpublished photos?
  • Is the book good value for money?

In the case of Teenagers' Hero, the answer to all of these questions is YES!!!

EIN recently showed Teenagers’ Hero to a group of 7 fans.  Not one found the book to be one they wouldn’t want in their collection!

Teenagers’ Hero is hoped to be the first in a series by the author.  Fingers crossed sales are healthy enough to see further volumes.

Verdict: Don’t believe the nay sayers,  Teenagers’ Hero is a great book.  Coming from a country (Italy) not renowned for Elvis publications, Teenagers’ Hero is different from most other recent Elvis books and with its focus on the most important year for the young Hillbilly Cat it is a goldmine of photographic, narrative and archival information.  Shame on those who have to criticise………their motivation does not appear to based on objective reasons!

Visit the "Teenagers' Hero" website

Australia/New Zealand Fans - contact EIN for ordering details

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