In August 1977 the world stopped when Elvis Presley passed away. As we acknowledge the 40th anniversary of his passing, it is appropriate to remember the full extent of the man’s legacy, a legacy that continues to grow. Elvis Under The Covers explores his influence through the artists that have recorded his most often covered original songs. We asked author Michael Madden about the book.
What gave you the idea to produce an Elvis Presley book that’s not just about Elvis Presley?
I was asked by my 13-year-old son Zac, “Why is Elvis Presley so famous?” That’s a tough question to answer! He was comparing The King to Justin Bieber, and especially their respective hits on YouTube. I explained that Elvis passed away 28 years before YouTube was even created, and that Elvis’s legacy is there for all to see, and will remain forever so. And of course it is, but if you don’t go looking for it you might find yourself swamped with Bieber and completely overlooking the most important musical icon that ever lived! So I put this together to show the legacy through those that have covered Presley’s songs.
The book has an impressive list of contributors, including Suzi Quatro. How did that come about?
I was researching a particular Elvis impersonator who, by coincidence, came from my home town. He responded quite quickly, and he seemed genuinely pleased to be asked about his passion. So I emailed some more people, and very soon I had a deluge of responses. One of the first was Mary Coughlan who came across as a really warm person as we exchanged emails about being grandparents, Ireland, music and, of course, Elvis Presley. She inadvertently encouraged me to be more ambitious, and when I got a response from Suzi Quatro I was a bit more than pleased. I remember Suzi on Top Of The Pops when I was around 13 or 14. Dressed from head to toe in black leather and strutting her stuff with a bass guitar. She was my first real crush, and now here she was emailing me. She has a real ‘connection’ with Elvis, and she just wanted to give more, so I asked her if she would write the foreword. She didn’t hesitate, and within a day or so we had the finished piece. I think as well that you just have to imagine these people as just that - people! They are only human, and if you can get through the layers of management they are only too pleased to offer words, which says a lot about the individual artists and even more about Elvis.
Did any refuse?
Yes, of course. There were many I didn’t get a reply from, and a couple of artists who didn’t want to contribute, but they did at least take the time to reply!
Whose response thrilled you the most?
Well that has to be Suzi Quatro for the reasons already stated. But it would be unfair to single her out. Eddi Reader gave me a really nice quote, and to receive responses from Wanda Jackson, Stella Parton, Tanya Tucker, Al Kooper, well, there are just so many. Oh, and I mustn’t forget Kenny Vance. Kenny didn’t just want to give me a sentence, so he called me. We spent a very fine Sunday morning discussing Elvis, the 1950s, Brooklyn and Doo Wop. Another memorable one came from Ondřej Hejma of Czech band Žlutý Pes. When you read that you realise how lucky we are to have easy access to arts, culture and especially everything Elvis.
Why the top tens?
Oh, that was just a bit of fun! A book full of facts and figures should hopefully generate lots of debate – so I thought I would get mine in first!
Rock and roll entertainer Mike Sanchez has provided several pages, I believe there is some history there?
Yes, I wrote Mike Sanchez Big Town Playboy, which is Mike’s authorised biography. It was a lot of fun, and I got to meet Robert Plant, Jeff Beck and several other great artists. We still keep in touch, and I go to see him whenever he is in the area. Truly one of the greats, and when it came to Elvis he jumped at the chance to write a few paragraphs. Of course, when you are Mike Sanchez you have to be a bit over the top – so it ended up being several really well written pages.
That was published by Music Mentor Books. Did you approach them about this book?
No. George Groom-White at Music Mentor is one of the most professional people that I have ever come across. A real perfectionist and a pleasure to work with. But this was more a labour of love and I wanted full control, including putting it out on Kindle which George is not really keen on.
Is it a lot more work?
It is in the sense that I have to do all of the design and the typesetting, though Createspace provide templates so its really quite easy. I had a copy editor for the Big Town Playboy book, and I have 2 editors working on this one. There’s a lot of cross checking and re-reading, but that’s the same with any book. I have to give a shout to Hollie Crankshaw who created the artwork for the cover. She is very talented, and I am sure she has a great career ahead of her. I worked with her previously on The Raven, an adaptation of Edgar Allen Poe’s work that I wrote for the Buxton Festival Fringe. She provided makeup and special effects for four bizarre characterizations and they were superb. August promises to be a whirlwind, with 5 radio interviews in the pipeline and several book signings, with hopefully more to follow.
Most of the book is dedicated to those who have recorded Elvis’s songs rather than Elvis himself. Do you think that will put people off?
Not really, because its all about Elvis’s legacy. These people, by their sheer diversity, extend that legacy to their own fans and music lovers the world over. I mean, they range from Bob Dylan to Daffy Duck, and from classical to punk. Just about every genre is covered, including some great jazz performers.
Who knows?! I have published books on music, cookery, adult fiction and children’s rhymes. At one time I did think …Under The Covers could be a series, with maybe Chuck Berry next. I’ll have to see how this one goes. I have got a teen fiction zombie book that should be out for Christmas, and a sequel to my cookery book! You can find details at www.michael-madden.co.uk. Hopefully I will find time to update my website some time soon!
Elvis Under The Covers by Michael Madden is available from Amazon in paperback and Kindle from August 2017.