April 02 - Gordon Minto Reviewed Elvis Day By Day 2020

Renowned author and Elvis expert Gordon Minto reviewed my book 'Elvis Day by Day 2020 - The Year In Review' and made some interesting observations on the - state of the - Elvis world today. 

2020 The Year In Review

The year 2020 may have been like no other in living memory for just about everyone in the world, gripped as it was in the midst of a global pandemic, with a corresponding impact on every aspect of our lives and a tragic loss of life, but in the Elvis world – delays to releases notwithstanding - things were pretty much business as usual, as Kees Mouwen’s second volume in the Elvis Day By Day series chronicles in what is, at times, depressing detail.  

Don’t get me wrong: like its predecessor, this book – all 300 pages of it – drawn from Mouwen’s daily blog, is an interesting and useful round-up guide to just how much Elvis stuff is available out there, and the author carries out his mission well, ably assisted by a number of well informed (and fully acknowledged) contributions from Piers Beagley and Nigel Patterson of the Australian Elvis Information Network website. And his summation of the major – and minor - releases and events in 2020 is thorough. The book is colourful and easily accessible, though some of the images used are dull – not helped by the use of matte paper, I suspect – though that is of secondary importance overall, as it’s the information that is of primary importance.  

Personally, I would like to have seen a greater editorial rigour applied to how much space was allocated to certain products or reports, for not all entries are equally deserving, I believe. For example, reproducing countless detailed live concert reviews (issued on CD, either as bootlegs or FTD soundboards) and the ever-increasing ‘limited edition’ vinyl releases of old titles, hardly warrants multiple pages of comment. I would also like to see a clearer distinction made between what the producers of a product say (the inevitable advertising hype) and what constitutes an objective review – perhaps by using italics or different colored font? Equally, I think some of the entries are spurious and could have been omitted. For example, who cares that Bono, of U2, thinks that ‘Heartbreak Hotel’ ranks fifteenth in his list of ’60 songs that saved my life’? Oh dear! Pretentious or what! (That’s Bono, not the author, by the way!) 

Yet, unintentionally perhaps, Kees’ decision to diarise such events into a book form has turned a spotlight on what I think is a serious issue and one which has made me think carefully about the whole Elvis ‘scene’. Yes, I knew there was a lot of stuff out there but had no real comprehension of just how extensive it was – and this book only relates to 2020! There’s no reason to suppose that 2021 will be any different.  

Truly, when browsing through the myriad of news items and countless releases (CDs, books, DVDs, a welter of vinyl releases – many of them promoted as ‘limited editions’) and peripheral information (anniversaries and other minutiae), I was not only taken aback, but actually found myself quite depressed at the degree to which the Elvis brand has been hijacked and exploited by all and sundry. Product relating to Elvis – some of it only tangentially – is being manufactured on an industrial scale – and I’ve not even factored in stuff bearing Elvis’s image pedalled by the ever-thrifty EPE. Incidentally, with respect, I would take issue with the legend on the front cover which says that this is ‘a yearbook about him’. Actually, it’s not.  Essentially, it’s a yearbook about how many people have chosen to produce merchandise of whatever sort (and quality) as a means of making money out of his name. I can almost hear Colonel Parker whooping ‘Attaboy!’

The Elvis fiefdom is often referred to as a ‘broad church’, encompassing a wide range of interests and tastes – and, for once, I think the religious connotations are relevant – as, to my mind, a great deal of the product written about here borders on being sacrilegious in that it only serves the vanity and greed of those peddling what are gratuitous and pointless releases. For example, I love Don Robertson’s songs and Elvis’s sensitive handling of them but who, for Christ’s sake, needs a vinyl EP of some of them? And who is actually going to play them, as opposed to listening to a CD or even a downloaded version? 

And it is this re-kindled and irrational love affair with vinyl (bordering on the obsessional, in my view) and producing it in every conceivable color and format that runs like a main artery throughout the whole book. As a former serious collector of U.K. vinyl (who needs no reminder of  how irrational, addictive and expensive such collecting can be!), I find myself genuinely dismayed that new (and old) collectors are being beguiled by the idea of collecting what are either quirky and questionable re-treads or revised compilations – each which comes with a hefty price tag, I might add - when much of it is junk and will, like last week’s papers, be quickly worthless.  

Now I realise that some people will radically disagree with my view of this, arguing - quite rightly, I suppose – that this a free market and that within the law people can buy and sell what they want. Except that it isn’t. It’s anything but free: it is highly costly, even if you only buy a small amount of the stuff on offer. Of course, supporters of the free market would claim that this comes down to individual choice – which, admittedly, is hard to challenge. The fact is, though - as even a cursory glance at the author’s detailed overview amply illustrates - the Elvis market is saturated and my chief concern is that worthwhile product (of which there is still quite a bit - and not simply confined to official sources) that offers entirely new or a different angle, boasting decent production values, risks being swamped and so lost.  

Of course, what I need to make absolutely clear here is that this isn’t Kees Mouwen’s fault in any regard (no more than we should blame crime reporters for writing about an upsurge in crime) and is certainly no reflection on the merits of his book which simply sets out to chronicle faithfully events from the relevant time-frame – and succeeds. However, seeing it all laid out in such graphic detail did make me feel rather uneasy – and queasy.  

One of the main things we can extrapolate from this book is that there is virtually no control of the Elvis market – nor can there be, of course. It is largely unregulated, and anyone is free to produce and retail whatever they want, irrespective of merit. And lest you think that this is a direct swipe at bootleggers or other third parties, it’s certainly not, for some of their product is imaginative and worthwhile. Indeed, it is fair to say that some people have expressed similar anxieties regarding the amount of material marketed by FTD – which far exceeds its original concept and planned release schedule – and contributes to the strain on the financial resources of many collectors.  

In conclusion, despite my reservations, this book represents a useful adjunct to the ever-growing library of Elvis-related literature. If you are a regular visitor to the many websites and blogs, then this may not hold much appeal, but as someone who is very cautious about accessing social media platforms - and concerned how they have infiltrated and influenced our lives (much of negatively, sad to say) - distilled into book form, I found it instructive.  

© Gordon Minto – April 2021

Elvis Day by Day 2020 is available at:

The book is available at the >>> Memphis Mansion online shop.

Due to the Covid-19 pandemic and the Brexit shipping from Europe is expensive. So for a for Elvis fans outside Europe, the book is available through your local Amazon shop. 

Click here for >>> Amazon.com.
Click here for >>> Amazon.co.uk

The book comes in two editions, just like the 2019 edition, a paperback version and a hardback. The latter, a bit more expensive as it is made print-on-demand', comes with 24 bonus pages holding 8 additional reviews. 

Hardcover edition available >>> from Blurb

More reviews

More reviews and previews are available on the >>> Day Bay Day 2020 page. 

Elvis U.K. 3

Gordon Minto's latest book, 'ELVIS UK3 - The Ultimate Guide to Elvis Presley British CD Releases 1983-2005' is available from his website >>> Elvis U.K. Books.