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Peter Guralnick w/Conan - Long Interview

Fri May 24, 2013 11:58 pm

Peter Guralnick shared a link to this just a few hours ago. Not sure if anyone's seen it; the show is called "Serious Jibber-Jabber with Conan O'Brien."

Can't embed. Here's the link. It's over an hour, almost all Elvis. It's pretty much what you might expect, but there are controversial moments, too, involving his personal interaction with "Colonel." In any event, here you go:

http://teamcoco.com/video/sjj-guralnick-full-episode

rjm

Re: Peter Guralnick w/Conan - Long Interview

Sat May 25, 2013 12:17 am

Thanks for sharing, rjm!

Re: Peter Guralnick w/Conan - Long Interview

Sat May 25, 2013 1:26 am

Look forward to reviewing this discussion.

Re: Peter Guralnick w/Conan - Long Interview

Sat May 25, 2013 1:53 am

I just finished watching their discussion. Very interesting to hear their thoughts. I was a tad surprised that neither of them could come up with the title of "Unchained Melody" at the end of the interview while discussing Elvis' singing it in concert at the piano. Not a big deal, but still....

Thanks so much for the link!

Re: Peter Guralnick w/Conan - Long Interview

Sat May 25, 2013 2:04 am

SteveFBS wrote:I was a tad surprised that neither of them could come up with the title of "Unchained Melody" at the end of the interview while discussing Elvis' singing it in concert at the piano. Not a big deal, but still....


I thought that was odd, too. It's unusual because probably the majority of members here would know the song immediately. ("I feel like it was a Roy Hamilton song...") It was a rare mental glitch for Peter Guralnick.

Re: Peter Guralnick w/Conan - Long Interview

Sat May 25, 2013 2:29 am

Thank you for sharing that link, Robin. I've only gone through the first 15 minutes so far but what an interesting man to listen to... it's so refreshing to hear someone as knowledgable as Peter Guralnick talk about Elvis without any bias toward the man... it's particularly interesting to me having just finishing his second book about Elvis. I look forward to hearing the rest of this discussion.

Re: Peter Guralnick w/Conan - Long Interview

Sat May 25, 2013 2:43 am

Conan could easily be a member on this board.

Great stuff.

Re: Peter Guralnick w/Conan - Long Interview

Sat May 25, 2013 2:51 am

Many thanks for posting the link!

I just finished watching it, very interesting.
Conan is big big fan and he knows about Elvis.
True, Guralnick could not remember the title of Unchained Melody, but when he mentioned the piano, Conan immediatly said "oh the song where Charlie Hodge is holding up the microphone?", this he knew! Both just forgot the title. Things happen.
Guralnick also forgot the title of Are You Lonesome Tonight, and after he mentioned "now the stage is bare" again Conan right away knew what song he was talking about.

Loved the part where they discuss the dreadful movies and soundtracks, raising the question why Elvis did not demand Leiber and Stoller to write him good songs.

And also 72-73 being described as the Depression phase after which the downfall really sat in.

Great stuff! Thanks again.

Re: Peter Guralnick w/Conan - Long Interview

Sat May 25, 2013 2:57 am

Just finished it. FANTASTIC overview. Thank you for posting.

Re: Peter Guralnick w/Conan - Long Interview

Sat May 25, 2013 3:45 am

Great interview, I have always thought (being an only child myself and being very close to my mother) that Elvis's unmaking was really the death of his mother. Peter explained it so well, how everything was happening in perfect order than he is drafted and then his mother dies. You always have to wonder if he had guilt about that as well, that he could possibly conclude that if he hadn't went into showbiz, maybe his mother would've died.

Re: Peter Guralnick w/Conan - Long Interview

Sat May 25, 2013 3:50 am

Just finished. That was truly fascinating and very emotional for me to watch. Peter is such a pleasure to listen to and his recollections of Tom Parker were also an eye opener for me... as well as the discussion about the impact of Glady's death on Elvis. The most emotional part for me was when he spoke about Vernon standing over Elvis' body... powerful.
Anyway, I really want to get my hands on a copy of Day by Day.
I was also surprised at how educated Conan is about Elvis.
Great, great discussion and thanks again Robin for posting that link!!! It absolutely made my day!!
::rocks

Re: Peter Guralnick w/Conan - Long Interview

Sat May 25, 2013 5:14 am

Just a great, great interview. Thanks for the link rjm!

Re: Peter Guralnick w/Conan - Long Interview

Sat May 25, 2013 5:21 am

Conan's a big Elvis fan. He covered "Polk Salad Annie" (quite well, I might add) on his "Contractually Prohibited from Being on T.V." tour, or whatever it was called.

Re: Peter Guralnick w/Conan - Long Interview

Sat May 25, 2013 5:29 am

elvis-fan wrote:Just finished. That was truly fascinating and very emotional for me to watch. Peter is such a pleasure to listen to and his recollections of Tom Parker were also an eye opener for me... as well as the discussion about the impact of Glady's death on Elvis. The most emotional part for me was when he spoke about Vernon standing over Elvis' body... powerful.
Anyway, I really want to get my hands on a copy of Day by Day.
I was also surprised at how educated Conan is about Elvis.
Great, great discussion and thanks again Robin for posting that link!!! It absolutely made my day!!
::rocks


Peter broke down Gladys death and the impact it had on Elvis' life, magnificently!

Re: Peter Guralnick w/Conan - Long Interview

Sat May 25, 2013 5:35 am

I thoroughly enjoyed the interview. Thank you for posting it.

Re: Peter Guralnick w/Conan - Long Interview

Sat May 25, 2013 6:16 am

You're most welcome! It popped up, I jumped on, listened to the whole thing first (and was rather longer than I expected at first), and then posted it.

I also couldn't believe he forgot something like "Unchained Melody." (It became quite "unchained" ;) ) But more than that, he couldn't recall "Are You Lonesome Tonight?" and that really surprised me. I know there are hundreds of songs, but that was one of the really big hits, so that was hard to figure. And especially since he described his rather pleasant relationship with "Colonel," who had suggested the song. (It would be like a Beatle biographer going "what is that song . . . "Let it . . . uh ???? Billy Preston was on it. Don't remember the name." Hard to imagine.)

It was that relationship that does get under the skin a bit. Did he let himself be manipulated by a master manipulator? He sounds a bit defensive about it, be he holds firm, too. Surely, he knows the financial details and conclusions that came out later in court. The judge in that case was enraged at what came out, yet Guralnick is not. The whole "partnership" notion is was a con, yet he goes for it. Judge Evans did not know Colonel Parker, and perhaps that was a good thing, but seriously, this can be a problem in the doing of biography. One can allow oneself to become much too personally entangled with certain persons involved in the research. In other words, Parker became less of an object of research for him, than a source with whom he allowed himself to become too friendly. Well, if not friendly, at least on very good terms.

And in the context of an Elvis Presley biography, Parker ought to be an "object" of study - not a friendly source of information. It's the kind of a problem that can only happen to a biographer who got VERY involved in the biography. In essence, he got pulled into Elvis's world a little too far, cared too much, you could say. And "Colonel," as Guralnick came to call him in the familiar, was a master at doing just this with people.

What is interesting is that he is aware of this on some level, and wanted to make sure people knew that there was more than one source for the paranoia regarding a European tour when Elvis was involved with various substances. Tom Hulett was a good, absolutely trustworthy source. Hulett knew the rock business very well, and was deeply involved in Jimi Hendrix's career, his life, and the aftermath of his death. And I feel certain that Elvis himself might have been a key source of this fear, and communicated it to Hulett, who communicated it to the Colonel. Elvis was just not going to go down like that: under no circumstances would there be a drug bust. I suppose it might have something to do with his father's history, and an almost primal fear of the idea of "prison." So, I believe it, in this sense, that it was not just the Colonel's immigration status. (Though it is quite wrong - silly, even - to say he would be a candidate for "the Dream Act." He had more than one opportunity over those many years to settle this out, including the 1986 amnesty. And he never did.)

I like his view of Vernon, and how he sees the tragic, helpless situation in which he found himself. No, I don't think Elvis ever would have said "there's the door" to his father, but I'm sure Vernon was at a loss as to what to do. He was out of his depth.

Again here, Guralnick is spot-on in de-mythologizing the "pre-Betty-Ford" era in terms of addiction. He feels that even today most of these "interventions" do not work as advertised. It's just not easy. When someone finally loses their fear of death, what then can motivate them? I think Guralnick sees that loss happening quite early on: he sees clinical depression during the mid-sixties when Elvis wouldn't enter a studio, excepting his film obligations. (And one film used older songs.) And he roots that depression in unresolved grief over his mother. I think he sees that a part of Elvis just didn't really want to live anymore when that happened. He managed to pull himself "back to life" for a while - first when he came back from the service and had to secure his future, and then once more when he saw that his career had fallen to the bottom of a deep well, while he had been sleeping. Elvis spoke of this in a rare, wonderful interview from 1965, with a Memphis paper: "I withdraw not from my fans, but from myself."

So it was fascinating on many levels, and offers insight into the writer that maybe we haven't seen before. And oh, about Conan, he is a serious fan. And yes indeed, he'd have a lotta fun here! (And so would we. :D )

rjm

Re: Peter Guralnick w/Conan - Long Interview

Sat May 25, 2013 6:27 am

Great!

Re: Peter Guralnick w/Conan - Long Interview

Sat May 25, 2013 12:23 pm

I've probably watched every show of Conan's since he started in 1993 and started to sense that Conan was a big fan and then his first interview with Guralnick and David Halperstan sealed the deal. Then a few years ago there was the writers strike and Conan started playing Elvis songs to kill time on his show.

Letterman is also a big Elvis fan. He revels in any story a guest has about Elvis and he was overly gracious to Lisa-Marie when she first came on his show.

Re: Peter Guralnick w/Conan - Long Interview

Sat May 25, 2013 2:38 pm

Now that was an entertaining and insightful interview. Thanks for the link. I can't wait for Peter Guralnick's biography of Sam Phillips to appear.

Re: Peter Guralnick w/Conan - Long Interview

Sat May 25, 2013 5:17 pm

That was a really great interview with Peter Guralnick,i enjoyed it very much,but i think he was hypnotized by one of Col.Parkers old Carnaval tricks because he is being way too kind about Col.Parker,and i think Conan was probably thinking the same thing.
Last edited by SUN-RCA on Sun May 26, 2013 5:43 pm, edited 2 times in total.

Re: Peter Guralnick w/Conan - Long Interview

Sat May 25, 2013 5:37 pm

I agree with everyhthing above, and still, the thought gets to me: despite all this, the depression, the bad movies, the endless tours and overmedication: his talent never ceased to shine through. There were the great tracks recorded during the worst Hollywood years. Later, even during the darkest periods, there were signs of his genius, be it in the studio or on stage. His talent never left him, but he sickened his body and mind with legally prescribed drugs, which made him passive towards himself, towards cultivating that talent. But again: despite all this, the man remained active, scoring hits, selling out concert halls and stadiums, showrooms... influenced countless people, and is considered the most popular entertainer of all time. It's amazing how he achieved that, an incredible accomplishment.

Re: Peter Guralnick w/Conan - Long Interview

Sat May 25, 2013 5:44 pm

For my money, he wrote the 2 best books about Elvis and its the only 2 one would ever need about Elvis' life & career.

Re: Peter Guralnick w/Conan - Long Interview

Sat May 25, 2013 5:55 pm

:smt023
r&b wrote:For my money, he wrote the 2 best books about Elvis and its the only 2 one would ever need about Elvis' life & career.


Absolutely correct,i feel the same way. :)

Re: Peter Guralnick w/Conan - Long Interview

Sat May 25, 2013 6:10 pm

brilliant interview, thanks Robin for posting that.
he's a very articulate Man, Peter, his books on Elvis will not be surpassed, Careless Love is heart breaking to read though

Re: Peter Guralnick w/Conan - Long Interview

Sat May 25, 2013 6:49 pm

That was the best Elvis-related thing I've seen in a very long time, and I watched the whole thing. Revelatory to me was the discussion about Elvis touring overseas. I suppose that Elvis' pharmacological dalliances as the excuse to not tour Europe makes more sense than the Colonel's immigration status. Not sure I totally buy it as THE reason, but of interest nonetheless. If you look at it that way, Elvis himself was the biggest barrier to playing there, which jives with the idea that Elvis would stand up to the Colonel if it was important enough to him. Maybe Elvis knew he couldn't clean up enough to go, and certainly didn't want to risk a bust. At the same time, I would have asked Guralnick about the difference between Elvis' "legal" drugs, and the illegal drugs that the rock stars he listed were busted with. Would that have made a difference in Europe? I think so, but I'm positing that looking at it through U.S. drug policy. Would it have been different over there? Would he have been busted for prescription drugs (even though the amount would have been staggering)? I don't know.