Reviews for Walk A Lonely Street
Outstanding research and a tale to be told
As a long-time member of two popular Elvis Presley discussion forums, I have been aware for maybe 5 or more years that this book was in development. It seems that the author, Tony Plews, was intrigued by several elements in the musical story of Elvis, including the spontaneity or otherwise of Elvis’s first studio recording of That’s All Right Mama, and the truth behind the oft-quoted story of an event that lead to the writing of Heartbreak Hotel, Elvis’s first nationwide hit record. Thus began a musical archaeological dig which turned up more coincidences and connections than Tony could ever have dreamed of.
The results of this are now presented in chronological order in the form of mainly short and seemingly inconsequential anecdotes which, however, begin to knit together to form a musical tapestry charting and channelling the history of folk, country and some blues elements in the development and emergence of 1950s rock and pop culture, with specific relevance to the Elvis story. That story also encompasses the wheeling and dealing that was increasingly taking place in the country music field, particularly within the realms of ‘artist and repertoire’, artist management and music publishing, following the Second World War. The tale starts at the end of the American Civil War and the bulk of the book builds to Elvis’s breakout year, 1956. The final 50 pages, of nearly 700, relate the various significant and connected events relating to Elvis and his story - mainly the key milestones - right into the early 1990s.
As I write, I would stress that I am only part-way through the book but there is an enjoyable tension building, along with the bringing to the reader of an enlightenment and understanding of the behind-the-scenes activities in the music business in USA, through the first half of the 20th Century. The format of this book means that it is possible to read the ‘anecdotes’ in isolation and still derive enjoyment. Among the many hundreds of books about Elvis that have been published in the now 43 years since his death, there have occasionally been some that have focused on the real reason for Elvis’s fame – his musical output. Writers such as Greil Marcus and Ernst Jorgensen stand out in this field along with Peter Guralnick, Elaine Dundy and Alanna Nash in the biographical field. It is hoped that, after a passage of time, this book will be spoken of in the same breath. It deserves to be.
One of the most original and superb music and historical studies in decades. This book was seven years in the making.
And yeah, to disclaim, I am cited in it. But believe me please, it's over 700 pages of beautifully episodic American history with a beat. It takes half-century-old truisms, myths and legends and through years of intensive research, tosses them in the trashcan. While the reasoning behind the confabulated legend is understandable, it's simply not true.
What you're left with are newly discovered truths - truths more exciting than than the clichés that preceded them. This is a remarkable literary work. And very moving too.
If you love American vernacular music, you need this book. If you are an all-around music aficionado, you'll very much enjoy this book. If you are a music or American history scholar, you MUST get this book.
And if you love to read original literary style, you'll adore this book.