40 Things Elvis Fans Need to Know about Gillian G. Gaar....

The Interview


Interview conducted in June 2014

(Reader feedback follows the interview)

Gillian G. Gaar, celebrated rock history aficionado and author, recently released her two Elvis books for 2014.......100 Things Elvis Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die and Elvis the King: The Authorised Book from the Graceland Archives.  Gillian previously authored Elvis Remembered 1935-1977 and a mandatory inclusion in the book library of all Elvis fans, the fantastic Return of the King: Elvis Presley's Great Comeback.

Gillian kindly took time to talk to EIN (and answer 40 questions) about her new Elvis books, Elvis in general and her other intriguingly eclectic music history interests. 

Join EIN as we get to better know Gillian and explore a deliciously eclectic range of fascinating Elvis and rock history issues including:

  • a guy named Elvis
  • EPE’s policy on Elvis’ later years
  • how EPE could market a DVD of the 1977 TV special, Elvis In Concert
  • Elvis and touring overseas
  • the role of Colonel Parker
  • the Memphis Mafia
  • Gillian's four books on Elvis
  • Elvis in the year 2525
  • writing for Rolling Stone, Mojo, Goldmine, Melody Maker, Q and Classic Rock
  • the Beatles, Green Day, Kurt Cobain, Nirvana and grunge rock
  • women in rock & roll including Big Mama Thornton, Janis Joplin, Patti Smith, Blondie, Pussy Kill, The Go-Go's
  • Quentin Tarantino
  • a shoot-out at the Graceland Gates (the O.K. Corral was booked) as digital publishing threatens the future of physical books
  • the time Elvis invited Ronnie Tutt upstairs at Graceland and played him a contemporary record asking why his own records didn’t sound like that.......Elvis knew something was missing from his records but didn’t know how to ask for that!
  • and along the way we find out what the other "G" stands for in Gillian's name!

Part A: The new Elvis books

EIN: Hi Gillian, many thanks for talking to EIN today.

GG: It is so great to be here!

EIN: Before we find out about Gillian Gaar can we first talk about your work for Elvis Presley Enterprises and your latest two books. How did you get the gig with EPE?

GG: I had done two books for the publisher, Carlton, before; Treasures of Nirvana, and Green Day Treasures. It so happened I suggested an Elvis book for 2012, the 35th anniversary of his death, and they were speaking with EPE about doing a book, so that’s how it came together. It was nice to be working “with” EPE, though I actually only dealt with the publisher. I guess they were like the intermediary, they dealt with EPE as far as getting artwork and the items to reproduce (the facsimiles). I had no involvement in any of that.

EIN: Do you have an ongoing commitment with EPE or is the arrangement on an ‘as required basis’?

GG: I don’t have an ongoing commitment, but I’d happily write something else for them, if they were interested!

EIN: Now out is ‘100 Things Elvis Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die’.  Its title suggests it is a ‘compendium’ but you have adopted a different structural approach to the common “list” type structure.  Was the use of a narrative/prose format a deliberate strategy?

GG: The publisher (Triumph) already had a series of books out with that title, for sports teams; 100 Things Seahawks Fans Should Know; Cardinals Fans, Cubs Fans, etc., so they already had the format. My first book I did in the series was on the Beatles. I used to have Beatles and Elvis columns at Goldmine magazine, so over the years had interviewed a number of people connected with them, visited Liverpool, Graceland, etc. So I had a lot of info to draw on, and adopted a conversational tone in the Beatles book, sharing the stories I’d gathered over the years in an informal tone which I carried on into this one. So I suppose that is “deliberate.” I’d read some of the other books in the series and they also wrote from the perspective of a fan, so that’s why I took that approach.

EIN: ‘100 Things...’ is also materially different to “compendium” releases in that you manage to very cleverly make its tapestry a chronologically obtuse, neo-Elvis biography.  Again, was this deliberate?

GG: It’s supposed to be a listing of “things” in order of importance, but I was told the Top 20 listings were the most important and not to sweat the order of the rest too much. So it’s sort of, but not entirely, chronological. And though it’s a list, it was also supposed to be more than just the bare bones information, so it was important to fill out reasons why something was included, so that naturally opened up the story. You had to relate each listing to the others. In writing about “Hound Dog” different times, I couldn’t just say the same things, so that enabled me to share more of the story.

EIN: There is a nice balance between subjects in ‘100 Things Elvis Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die’. The only element of Elvis’ career which struck me might not have received enough coverage is his ‘on the road’ live performances. Your new book certainly nicely covers the 50s ‘on the road’, Las Vegas shows and seminal concerts including the Madison Square Garden and Aloha performances – I was thinking more generally of the rigorous nature of the 1970s tours (e.g. in 1974 Elvis performed 150 shows ‘on the road’). In writing the book what was your thinking about the 1970s ‘on the road’ shows?

GG: Each listing is keyed around a specific event, so instead of talking about the ‘70s tours generally, I’d be pointing to a “highlight” of sorts, like you pointed out above; Vegas, Madison Square Garden, the Aloha shows, as well as “Elvis On Tour” and the final tour. So with all that, I felt I’d covered the main events of ‘70s touring. In retrospect, with all the touring Elvis did in the ‘70s, it really seems like it would’ve been the perfect time for him to tour overseas. There was certainly the demand for it, and it would’ve kept touring from becoming a rut; Elvis always did like a challenge.

EIN: In ‘100 Things Elvis Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die’ you write that in the film King Creole, "The tougher, edgier numbers like “Trouble,” “Hard Headed Woman,” “New Orleans,” and “King Creole” are the highlights". However one of the strangest Elvis facts is that the performance of the single “Hard Headed Woman” was actually cut out of the film. Was this a missed "Thing" that fans should know?

GG: Yes, that would’ve been good to note that you only hear it “in passing” as it were. It’s especially odd when you consider that the song was still released as a single.

EIN: Your other ‘new’ book ‘Elvis the King: The Authorised Book from the Graceland Archives’ (to be published in May 2014) appears to be a re-release of your earlier book  'Elvis Remembered' in a cheaper, less deluxe format. How much did you have to do with this new book and does your text content differ at all?

GG: I do believe it is a straight reissue aside from the packaging. The boxes on the previous version too easily got damaged (as mine did). I’d have liked a heads up though, to be able to correct any errors in the first book.

Part B: Getting to know Gillian G. Gaar

EIN: I know our readers would like to know who is Gillian Gaar? (capsule life summary)

GG: Hmm, let’s see. I started writing for Seattle music/entertainment monthly ‘The Rocket’ in the ‘80s and eventually became senior editor (the paper eventually became a biweekly before folding in 2000). So I got to see “grunge” develop first hand, which was exciting. Since then I’ve written for a variety of publications, including ‘Rolling Stone,’ ‘Mojo,’ ‘Melody Maker,’ ‘Q,’ ‘Classic Rock,’ ‘Goldmine,’ ‘Option,’ and others. My first book, ‘She’s a Rebel: The History of Women in Rock & Roll’ came out in 1992. I’ve also done books on Green Day and Nirvana, as well as Elvis. I’m now working on a coffee table book about the Doors.

EIN: You have the distinction of having the alliterative ‘GGG’ as your initials.  I have to ask.  Your middle name is?

GG: Gretel!

EIN: Growing up, what were your major music influences?

GG: When I grew up my mother listened to classical and musicals, my father listened to Herb Alpert, and my sister listened to the Beatles. I followed the Top 40, and liked all kinds of mainstream stuff like Abba and John Denver (my first concert was Barry Manilow!). I was a big Queen fan as well (‘70s era!). When the punk era came I discovered all kinds of new stuff. I was a big fan of the ‘Rocky Horror Picture Show.’ Marianne Faithfull is an artist from that era I still listen to, and then I discovered Kate Bush and Danielle Dax. And lots more after that, there were plenty of classic artists I didn’t listen to until later, like Miles Davis and the Beach Boys.

Nirvana's in Utero (33 1/3) (Softcover)

Amazon USA

Treasures of Green Day (Hardcover)

Amazon USA

Smells Like Teen Spirit (Kindle)

Amazon USA

EIN: When did you become an Elvis fan?

GG: I started getting interested when I heard “Hound Dog” in the fall of 1973; it was my first Elvis record! A few years later I saw ‘Jailhouse Rock,’ which was the first Elvis movie I liked; I’d seen some of the ‘60s ones on TV, but they hadn’t impressed me. And as I began to read more about the Beatles, they of course named Elvis as an influence, so that made me curious about him. I saw the ‘This Is Elvis’ film and bought the “Worldwide Hits” box in the ‘80s (already developing a preference for the ‘50s era), but I didn’t really start becoming a fan until 1995, when I went to Graceland for the first time, and read Peter Guralnick’s ’Last Train to Memphis.’ It was being there in Memphis, seeing the places he lived in, and just the whole atmosphere, plus having that embellished by Peter’s fine writing. Then a lot of CD reissues started coming out (the ‘50s box set came out only a few years before), so I began writing about those, and reading other books, and so on. I didn’t think then that I’d write an Elvis book though; let alone three!

EIN: Gillian, you are a prolific author having published numerous titles about your favorite band, the Beatles and the punk band Green Day and grunge band Nirvana.  Are the latter more of your musical passions?

GG: Well, certainly Nirvana from that above list. I guess from the ‘70s-on I was more interested in indie rock stuff, though Nirvana eventually became mainstream of course. I don’t know that I listen to much new music now, new artists I mean. I did discover Green Day through doing the books on them I’ve done, I knew who they were, but hadn’t really listened before.

EIN: Your interest in Nirvana. What factors facilitated the (origination) emergence of (the rock sub-genre) grunge in the Seattle area of Washington state in the mid-1980s?

GG: I think in part because the area was so isolated. It wasn’t unusual in the ‘80s for touring bands to skip Seattle altogether; they’d either stop at San Francisco, or go right up to Vancouver BC. So there weren’t as many outside influences; musicians weren’t trying to follow what other people were doing, they developed their own style. And they were more willing to take chances and experiment; no one thought of achieving great fame as no one thought it was possible to get famous in Seattle (those who wanted to be moved to LA), so that freed you up to do whatever you wanted. I’ve also heard it said the rain is a factor; you’re more apt to stay inside in when it’s raining and so you spend more time on practicing!

EIN: While many new forms of popular music originate as a (political) alternative to dissatisfaction with existing forms, the grunge aesthetic is quite different to that associated with its musical heritage including Elvis and the Beatles. Grunge exhibits a coarser, distorted guitar sound (hard rock) and a lyrical sentiment reflecting themes of social alienation, apathy and desire for freedom – arguably a much stronger political statement than that made by the rock music preceding it. Were you attracted to the underlying political sentiment in Nirvana’s music or just its sound?

GG: I wouldn’t say Nirvana had many political statements in their music, so it was more the sound; they all loved the Beatles, so I think that’s why their music has more of a pop sensibility than other grunge bands. They were politically aware, playing benefits for example, and expressing views in their interviews, but musically I’d say they were more obscure. They didn’t really have many songs saying “Smash the state” or something like that, though there are a few examples, like “Been a Son,” which addresses gender inequality. But though you could say “Smells Like Teen Spirit” addresses apathy, it hardly does so in a straightforward manner, plus the music’s kind of celebratory, so I wouldn’t say it’s a depressing song. It’s nice that over the course of three albums the band sounds very different; they’re growing, changing, it’s more interesting.

EIN: In their pre-fame days Nirvana recorded a cover of Shocking Blue’s “Love Buzz”. I am not familiar with that track, but given Shocking Blue’s pedigree with great early 1970s pop hits (particularly their #1 smash, “Venus”) I am intrigued as to what the Nirvana sound was in their formative days.

GG: I’d say “Love Buzz” was atypical to Nirvana’s early sound, which was heavier and harder, though they always had a pop edge. “Love Buzz” was in fact their first single, establishing their pop leanings, and you can hear it in a number of pre-“Nevermind” tracks like “Spank Thru,” “About a Girl,” “Been a Son,” “Stain,” “Sliver.” Krist had a Shocking Blue album that had “Love Buzz” on it, and suggested the band play it. Kurt never bothered to learn more than the first verse! I love the spiralling guitar in it as well. Shocking Blue’s version has a more stentorian lead vocal from Mariska Veres.

EIN: Gillian, you were recently involved with a TV crew at the home of Kurt Cobain in Aberdeen, Washington. Please tell us the back story to this.

GG: I was contacted by them via email and decided to go with them. A very long day though. It took forever to set up and film; I thought we’d get to a lot more places than we did. Then they’d film the main guy, then they’d bring me, then maybe film some more of the main guy, then do all kinds of background shots. Most of the crew didn’t speak English either, so it was kind of lonely; no one to talk to. I was supposed to get a link to the final piece, but I never did, so I don’t know how it came out. I did another piece for a different foreign crew; that seemed to get picked up by a number of outlets, as I heard from friends around the world who’d seen it, which was fun. For that one, I was filmed outside of the last house where Kurt lived in Seattle.

100 Things Beatles Should Know & Do Before They Die (Softcover)

Amazon UK

Elvis Remembered (Hardcover)

Amazon UK

Entertain Us (Softcover)

Amazon UK

EIN:  You note that you grew up a committed Beatles fan, but became fascinated by Elvis. Quentin Tarantino wrote the wonderful dialogue about people being either an Elvis OR a Beatles fan.  What do you believe?

GG: Well, some of that could be generational; if you were a teen in the ‘50s or ‘60s. John Lennon in interviews sounded like more of an Elvis fan than a Beatles fan, saying rock ‘n’ roll was the music he grew up with and that’s what he liked best. I guess I’d say in people I’ve known, there certainly is more of a preference for one or the other, even if they like both performers. Maybe it comes down to who you heard first, or who was the first to make a big impression on you.

EIN:  A few questions about your favorites: 

Of all the books you have written what are your favorites and why?: I would say ‘Return of the King: Elvis Presley’s Great Comeback’ and ‘Entertain Us: The Rise of Nirvana’ because I got to really dig into the subject and I had a lot of good info, and I think I’m a better writer then too. I’d also add ‘Green Day: Rebels With a Cause’ because it’s different from every other Green Day book, and ‘She’s A Rebel: The History of Women in Rock & Roll’* because it was the first book, so I felt it was quite an accomplishment! Plus I can’t believe I crammed so much info in there. Check out the 2002 edition, it has 3 new chapters!*

What is your favorite Elvis song?: Well, perhaps “Hound Dog” because that was the first Elvis song I really got into. But, I also enjoy turning people on to “Tomorrow is a Long Time,” because that’s a really remarkable performance.

Your favorite Elvis album?: “From Elvis In Memphis.” I could say the 2009 Legacy edition of that release, because it also includes “Back in Memphis”! That’s such a great period.

Favorite Elvis film?: I am always torn between “King Creole” and “Jailhouse Rock.”

Favorite Elvis moment? The live version of “One Night” from the Comeback Special!

Favorite Beatles album?: “Revolver,” the UK version, though that’s the standard version now (the original US version had fewer songs). To me it feels like a “concept album” even though there’s no underlying concept like on “Sgt. Pepper.”

Favorite Beatles song?: I narrowed it down to “She Loves You” and “Eleanor Rigby.”

* EIN Comment: Gillian's She's A Rebel: The History of Women in Rock & Roll is a superb read and justifiably regarded as one of the greatest books on its subject!

EIN: You mentioned your first book, the sublime She’s A Rebel: The History of Women in Rock & Roll.  Justifiably, many regard it as an indispensable tome about a very important part of rock history.  Who are your favorite female rock acts and why?

GG: I like Kate Bush because she was very different from everything else going on, and she’s very much done things her own way; ‘The Dreaming’ is one of my very favorite albums.

I tend to like a lot of female vocalists: Marianne Faithfull, Laurie Anderson.

In the ‘80s I discovered Danielle Dax, who’s more experimental; I still like her stuff a lot. Amy Winehouse is another.

I saw a lot of Sleater-Kinney shows when they were together, and I liked them a lot, their live shows were tremendously exciting.

EIN: I am going to mention a few names and ask for your thoughts about them (in one or more words) in relation to their importance to/impact on rock & roll:
  • Big Mama Thornton?  I wish more people knew she wrote “Ball and Chain.” ...................................................
  • Tina Turner? A great example of how to (finally) take control of your own life. An amazing live performer (I was lucky to see her once) ................................................................................................................................
  • Janis Joplin? One of the best voices in rock ‘n’ roll! ...........................................................................................
  • Blondie? Underrated. They weren’t seen as “arty” but were “just” a pop band. I liked how they mixed it up musically, drawing on pop, disco, rap .................................................................................................................
  • Patti Smith? She is such a compelling performer. One of the few to successfully integrate art and rock ‘n’ roll. ....................................................................................................................................................................
  • The Go-Go’s? Good clean pop! So much more entertaining than that other chart topping all female group, the Spice Girls ....................................................................................................................................................
  • Bikini Kill? Punk and feminism, together again! Revolution grrrl style now! Wish there had been a band like this when I was a teenager

Part C: Return to the King

EIN: Gillian, returning to Elvis, your 'Elvis Remembered' was a delightful presentation and overview of Elvis' life with some wonderful high quality photos and memorabilia. How much did you have to do with the selection of images (and memorabilia) that went with your text.

GG: I had very little to do with the images. I had done two books for the publisher (Carlton) by then (on Nirvana and Green Day), and for those they asked for help, and I referred them to people I knew who had pictures and memorabilia (I even had some of my own pictures in the Nirvana one). But because Carlton was working with EPE, that side was taken care of. I wish they’d used more lesser known shots, because EPE must have a large archive, but maybe Carlton was only offered certain things. I didn’t have any say in the memorabilia; I don’t think I even knew what was being used until I got my copy of the book! 

EIN: Did you ever see or read EPE's earlier 2002 similar formatted biography 'Elvis Treasures' by Richard Gordon? Your 'Elvis Remembered' was a delightful upgrade for an era in which printed books seem to be fading.

GG: When I submitted an outline for “Elvis Remembered,” the specification was that it should be different from Gordon’s book (which I do have). So, for example, I wrote more about specific albums, or genres like the religious songs. I wrote more about the films as well. Both books have a fairly general text; most serious fans would know all this basic stuff. But I tried to make it entertaining to read. Some things were edited; for example, the Sun period stuff I’d written in two sections and they melded them into one chapter.

EIN:  Your book 'Return Of the King' was a marvellous read about Elvis' 1968-69 comeback. How many people did you interview for the book and what did you discover that moved you?

GG: I just counted, and there are 29. I loved Norbert Putnam’s story about being with George Harrison in the mid-‘70s in England and his saying that Elvis should come over, and Norbert’s sadness because he knew that wasn’t going to happen. Or Ronnie Tutt talking about recording at Graceland, and Elvis asking him to come upstairs and playing him some contemporary record and asking why his own records didn’t sound like that; he knew something was missing from his records but didn’t know how to ask for that. You had the sense of a man increasingly trapped and feeling he had no way out. To balance that, Sandi Miller talked about her conversations with Elvis outside his house in California. There certainly aren’t many stars of Elvis’ calibre who would go outside and talk with their fans; he clearly enjoyed that.

EIN: Of all the Elvis associates you have interviewed who provided you with the most interesting and surprising answers.

GG: Well, I really loved the detailed answers I was able to get from people who worked on the Comeback special like Steve Binder, Bones Howe, Allan Blye, and Chris Bearde, and also the musicians on the American Sound sessions: Reggie Young, Mike Leech, Bobby Emmons, Glen Spreen.

I like interviewees who talk a lot, and that’s why I quoted from them so extensively. They opened up and talked about the process of working with Elvis, how the TV show/albums came together, how everyone worked with each other, which conveyed a real sense of what it was like working on those projects. A lot more interesting than simply asking “What was Elvis like?”

Opposite: Gillian in Elvis mood

EIN: Dr Nick, good or bad?

GG: Well, you want to say bad, because he was hired to look after Elvis’ health, and Elvis ended up dying in poor health, so Dr. Nick obviously failed in what he was supposed to do. But even before reading Dr. Nick’s book I had some sympathy for him. It’s clear Elvis wasn’t the easiest patient. His friends have said many times if he couldn’t get what he wanted from one doctor, he’d go to another. I think Dr. Nick had good intentions, but ended up being an enabler. As he put it in an interview, “I cared too much.”

EIN: The Memphis Mafia, good or bad?

GG: I’d lean towards bad, because they helped keep Elvis isolated from the world. But then Elvis always seemed to need to have people around him. When he toured in the ‘50s, before there was a “Mafia,” he’d bring friends and relatives along. He was clearly one of these people who doesn’t like to be alone, which I can’t relate to too well because I quite enjoy being on my own at times. I don’t think he anticipated how claustrophobic that set up could become though. When you become so famous, it’s important to try and stay grounded in some way. I think of Paul McCartney, who during the height of the Beatle years frequently went out on his own and even took public transport on occasion.

In Seattle, when bands got big during the grunge era in the ‘90s, it wasn’t unusual to see members of bands like Nirvana and Soundgarden in clubs and restaurants, and none of them had big entourages. But Elvis seemed to like having an entourage. Though towards the end they only seemed to be around him when he went out; the rest of the time he stayed upstairs in his room.

Oddly, even though he had all those people around, he seemed alone as well. One of the Beatles (forget which one), commented on how sorry they felt for Elvis because he had no one around him who could really relate to his situation, whereas the Beatles had each other. I think if he’d hung out with other performers more, it might have helped. Hearing them talk about their careers, their managers, etc., might have given Elvis a better sense of perspective.

EIN: Gillian, I am going to ask you to gaze into your crystal ball for the next question. Elvis continues to surprise many people with his ongoing presence in world culture more than 35 years after his death. In your opinion, what impact, if any, will Elvis have on the world in the year 2525*?

GG: I’ve wondered if in the future when archaeologists are digging through the rubble of our cities if they’ll end up thinking that we were a polytheistic culture and that Elvis was one of our gods…. More seriously, it’s hard to imagine what cultural things will last because you don’t know how it will all shake down; no one would’ve imagined in Van Gogh’s time that he would become one of our most heralded artists. Elvis might be remembered as more of a social force. He brought rock ‘n’ roll to the mainstream. To the burgeoning teenage audience, rock ‘n’ roll symbolized freedom, and I think some of the roots for the social changes that followed were planted then.

(* EIN says many thanks to Zagar and Evans for suggesting the date)

100 Things Elvis Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die (Softcover)
Return of the King (Kindle)
Elvis The King (Hardcover)

Part D: The Colonel and EPE

EIN: Hank Snow who was also managed by Colonel Parker and knew him for years once said, "I have worked with several managers over the years and have had respect for them all except one. Tom Parker was the most egotistical, obnoxious human being I've ever had dealings with." That's not a good character reference is it?

GG: Hardly! I don’t know when he made that remark; it would’ve been after Parker shoved him out of working with Elvis, so it was too late for Elvis’ benefit.

EIN: Elvis fired Parker in September 1973. It is a professional manager's role to see that his artist is being rewarded both creatively and monetarily but also to see that he is in a healthy, happy and fit state to undertake the workload arranged for them, in Elvis' case the touring and performances. Surely Parker completely failed as his role as a manager after Aloha?

GG: I think he failed from the point he decided Elvis should go into the army, which I don’t think he necessarily had to do. In your good list of what a professional manager should do, I think Parker was only concerned with getting the monetary rewards, and nothing else. It’s amazing to me that a star of Elvis’ calibre didn’t have script approval on his films, for example. I think it’s a big reason why Elvis was so frustrated with his career at times. Parker was good at promoting, but not so good at managing, I don’t think.

In the ‘60s, he could easily have had Elvis touring as well as making movies, and he’d still have made money. But it was easier to have Elvis just make films and soundtracks. And I guess in the ‘70s just keeping him on the road without giving him new challenges. Look at Paul McCartney; he’s on a sort of latter day Elvis schedule, touring a few weeks at a time, then time off, then touring again — and he makes an effort to go where he hasn’t played before. Elvis could easily have done something like that.

EIN: Chips Moman produced Elvis best material in years. The 1969 hits including 'Suspicious Minds' would be some of Elvis' biggest money making singles. So how stupid was Col Parker in not letting Elvis go back to American Studios for another recording session. After all it seems all that mattered to Colonel Parker was the money?

GG: He was definitely interested in money, but I think for Parker control ultimately trumped money. I think he wanted total control of Elvis, even if it was to Elvis’ ultimate detriment (and to Parker’s too, as he got a percentage of Elvis’ earnings). You see this from the start, when he was able to keep Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller away from him; having them asked to leave Elvis’ hotel room, having them told to not come up with ideas when they broached the subject of having Elvis do a film version of “Walk on the Wild Side.”

Parker went along with Steve Binder for the Comeback special, and Chips for the American Sound sessions, but saw to it that Elvis never worked with either again. Because neither of them would bend to Parker’s will, and honestly didn’t care if they got fired. This is what’s so frustrating about that period. The Comeback show and the American Sound sessions were some of the greatest things Elvis ever did, and it was a fight to have them done. How much more could Elvis have accomplished if he’d been able to work regularly with people like Binder and Moman, who really challenged him?

EIN: EPE's basic version of the story of Elvis always ends after Aloha. They have even gone to court to stop the CBS TV concerts being released to the public. Surely the general public all know nowadays how the story ended, so why hide it? Don't you believe that Elvis' legacy is so astounding 35 years on that it no longer matters, and it is misguided, that they try to ignore the final years?

GG: They still have a real hesitance to discuss that period, don’t they? I remember during Elvis Week at a panel in ’97, the EPE person on the panel said they didn’t want to release ‘Elvis In Concert’ because of fears about unkind things people would say about Elvis’ appearance. Well, people are making those comments any way, so keeping ‘Elvis in Concert’ out of the marketplace isn’t making any difference. I could definitely see some kind of package that featured DVDs with the broadcast show, and the two concerts it was taken from.

Commentary could frame the narrative; “Listen to him hit those high notes,” etc., have some kind of notation like, “He wasn’t in the best of health, but these are historic performances,” and so on. You could slip it out as a Follow That Dream release, and it wouldn’t attract much attention. It would be nice to have a good official copy of that TV show, as opposed to all the bootlegs out there. It’s sad to watch Elvis in the final years of his decline, but as you say, it is part of the story, one can hardly deny it. Maybe there are other interesting things in the vaults from that period as well. If for no other reason, they’re historic shows because they’re among Elvis’ last, and so should be out for that reason.

EIN: Also, EPE seems to have a major marketing focus on items such as trinkets and doll type products which hardly promote Elvis’ musical legacy. Do you have a view on this?

GG: I don’t have much of a view on it, because it’s pretty typical; I grew up seeing ads for Beatle dolls and games associated with whatever the hit TV series is. Of course then you didn’t have adults collecting that stuff the way they do now. I guess it must sell or they wouldn’t put it out. It would be interesting to know if it actually does make a kid who got an Elvis toy more interested in Elvis later on. That said, I did enjoy the film “Lilo & Stitch” and have a Stitch ornament in an Elvis jumpsuit!

Part E: The Future for Gillian G. Gaar and Publishing

EIN: Elvis In Print: The Definitive Reference and Price Guide lists more than 3,000 published books (not including magazines) about Elvis in more than 30 languages with numerous vibrant sub-genres including fiction (more than 250 titles), musicology, filmography, photo-books, hagiography/fan tributes, conspiracy and academic works.  The advent of cheap publishing options through ‘print on demand’ and ‘digital publishing’ has seen the Elvis publishing market reinvigorated, at least in the rising number of new Elvis books published each year.   In this context it was interesting to read in your latest release that, "Although innumerable Elvis books have already been published, in some ways it feels as if the surface has hardly been scratched."  What more can there be to read about?

GG: I could still see there being room for another films book, or an in-depth “making of” book on one of Elvis’ films. I think it’d be great if ‘Elvis Presley: A Life in Music’ and ‘Elvis Day By Day’ were updated. ‘A Boy From Memphis’ is a great look at the Sun Period, but you could imagine a book that just focuses on one aspect of that period, like ‘Elvis in Texas.’ Or something like ‘Elvis in Hawaii’ being expanded. Jonathan Gould’s ‘Can’t Buy Me Love’ looked at the Beatles’ work in the context of its times; it’s about the changes in society and how they were influenced/changed by the music of the Beatles. I could see such a book on Elvis, though there’s obviously a lot more music to cover. Or a book critiquing the religious music. A book on the Follow That Dream releases.

EIN: Aside from your own releases what are your favourite Elvis books?

GG: Well, Peter Guralnick’s of course! And Ernest Jorgensen’s. Elaine Dundy’s ‘Elvis and Gladys.’ I also liked ‘The Blue Moon Boys’ by Ken Burke and Dan Griffin, Sean O’Neal’s ‘Elvis Inc.,’ Alanna Nash’s ‘The Colonel,’ and Bill Burke’s books.

I still enjoy reading ‘The Rough Guide to Elvis’; I think if that had been updated it would’ve rivaled the Elvis Music FAQ/Elvis Films FAQ books. I also enjoyed ‘Elvis: The Illustrated Record.’ I guess I like reading books that critique the music.

Opposite: Gillian at home with Nirvana

EIN: Gillian, many of your books have been published in both physical and digital format.  Your opinion of E-Books vs the printed, real-deal?

GG: I prefer a physical book. I can see the appeal of e-readers, but I don’t want to have worry about batteries all the time. That said, I did just put out an book that’s only an e-book, on Nirvana’s song “Smells Like Teen Spirit” (‘Smells Like Teen Spirit: The Alterna-Teen Anthem of the ‘90s’). It’s short, and that’s a good format for that; there are more short e-books coming out and it’ll be interesting to see how they do.

EIN: Do you have another Elvis project planned?

GG: Not at present. Though I am writing a tour guide on Waikiki and Elvis will definitely be a part of it!

EIN: Is there one project (any subject) you would really like to do but the opportunity hasn’t yet arisen?

GG: An in-depth book about the ‘Rocky Horror Show’/‘Rocky Horror Picture Show.’ Or helping Kate Bush or Yoko Ono with their autobiographies.

EIN: Is there anything else you would like to say to our readers?

GG: This was a fun and entertaining experience, and I hope it makes you interested in reading my books!

EIN: Gillian, thank you so much for taking the time to talk to us. Your involvement and I know our readers will enjoy finding out more both about you and your perspective on Elvis!

GG: Thanks, and hope you enjoyed reading all of this!

(Questions researched, prepared and market tested by Piers Beagley and Nigel Patterson in a sterile, environmentally friendly environment. No books were burned or digital copies destroyed during this process and no clones were orphaned.)

Comment on this interview


Reader's Feedback

Keith Stamp: great interview thank u so much keep up the good work

AJ (USA): Enjoyed your interview with Gillian Gaar. Sounds like she saw Elvis mostly the same as  I do......He didn't want to be alone........{hence, all the hanger on's} but even with them there.......he looked, seemed & felt lonely......

Jenny Taylor: Wonderful interview! Gillian Gaar rocks!!!

Lorraine Newbury: Another great interview from EIN (cute Orphan Black nod too). Gillian Gaar is one cool lady. I just recently bought her book on Elvis' comeback and it is one of the best books I've read.

Read EIN's reviews of Gillian's books:

Return of the King: Elvis Presley's Great Comeback

100 Things Elvis Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die


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