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Careless Love: The Unmaking of Elvis Presley
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Careless Love: The Unmaking of Elvis Presley (Elvis #2)

4.34  ·  Rating details ·  2,531 Ratings  ·  209 Reviews
Careless Love is the full, true, and mesmerizing story of Elvis Presley's last two decades, in the long-awaited second volume of Peter Guralnick's masterful two-part biography.

Last Train to Memphis, the first part of Guralnick's two-volume life of Elvis Presley, was acclaimed by the New York Times as "a triumph of biographical art." This concluding volume recounts the seco
Paperback, 768 pages
Published February 10th 2000 by Back Bay Books (first published January 1st 1999)
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Manda It isn't bad at all. I think maybe some of the reviews are due to the fact that many Elvis fans cannot bear to have their idol shown in any light that…moreIt isn't bad at all. I think maybe some of the reviews are due to the fact that many Elvis fans cannot bear to have their idol shown in any light that is negative. Guralnick doesn't shy away from the changes that take place in Elvis once Gladys dies, and there are many changes that are very negative. If you want a realistic look at what happened, read the last book. Guralnick is real but he is also respectful. He gives Elvis the dignity he deserves while not shying away from any truth, regardless of how hard that truth might be to swallow. Guralnick does what most authors of Elvis (with the notable exception of Goldman, perhaps) usually do not: show him as a human with actual flaws. (less)

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May 15, 2007 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: elvis fans and people who like being depressed
Shelves: biographies
this book is sad as fuck.

i started out being a fan of the image elvis portrayed, the music that he brought into the world. then i made the mistake of wanting to get to know him as a person. after being thoroughly inspired by guralnick's first book, "last train to memphis," i delved almost immediately into this one, the second volume of the "definitive biography" on the king himself. i'd read countless reviews of this volume in preparation for the tragic ending. and tragic it is indeed.

as a matt
Dec 27, 2011 rated it really liked it
Harrowing. That's the best word to describe this brilliant, scrupulously researched biography of the King of Rock and Roll and his descent into lunacy. I've read many rock and roll biographies, mostly to satiate my inexplicable fascination with music and tragedy, and there have been some gems, man: Morrison, Hendrix, Joplin, Ian Curtis, Gene Clark, the list goes on and on. Still, none of those stories came close, remotely, to the tragic downfall of Elvis. Not only was he ten times more famous th ...more
Apr 01, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This massive two-part biography is one of the best books I've ever read. I would put it in a shortlist of the essential nonfiction books to read if you want to understand American culture.

Elvis was always an awkward and lonely person that loved all kinds of music. But our rapidly shifting culture made him look like a chameleon - he started out as a scandalous rock and roller in the mid-50's, then he was the patriotic symbol of post-war American exceptionalism in the late 50's, then he became th
Oct 17, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The miracle of Last Train to Memphis, Peter Guralnick's portrait of Elvis Presley's early years, was that it erased the memory of that bloated caricature of a performer who staggered across the stage in Las Vegas and elsewhere in his final years and presented us instead with the exuberant young man of the 1950s who was in the throes of fashioning a new kind of music.

Expect no such happy miracle in Careless Love: The Unmaking of Elvis Presley, the second volume in Guralnick's excellent and exhaus
Jun 08, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I always loved Elvis' music in the early 70s..... the powerful ballads, the top notch band behind him (that boy can sing!).

But, like many fans, I've always been limited by the media and the 'myth' of Elvis. Here's a book that takes you behind the scenes and gives you the real story. Believe it or not, he's an extremely insecure, frail human being. Yes, it's sad in many ways. The drugs, the objectification of women (he didn't respect his marriage at all), the pain from losing his mom, retreating
Carol Storm
Dec 18, 2013 rated it it was ok
There is no such word as "unmaking" in the English language.

Goldman -- sorry, I mean Guralnick -- is so desperate to absolve Elvis for all responsibility for his own life that he needs to describe the King's ignominious decline as an "unmaking." As if to say that Elvis didn't self-destruct, but was somehow dissolved, or disassembled by forces beyond his control. It's a strange thing to imagine a "hero" as entirely passive and ruled by fate. It implies that you don't really trust the man, or res
Jul 09, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
There's a moment from the film Pulp Fiction that ended up on the cutting room floor in which Mia Wallace asks Vincent Vega whether he's an Elvis man or a Beatles man. "You might like both," she tells Vincent, "but you always like one better." I'm a hardcore Beatles fan, but I'm still fascinated by Elvis -- especially the post-GI, bad-movie making, white jump-suited, bloated karate Elvis. And that's why I bypassed completely Last Train to Memphis -- the first book in Guralnick's two-part Elvis bi ...more
Priscilla Heard
Elvis Presley was an interesting man whom wanted love and friendship, yet felt that showering gifts upon people would win him their affection and loyalty which in many cases would backfire on him. He was sensitive and kind but also hot-tempered and cruel at the same time and his behavior would end up pushing away many people who genuinely cared for him. I was shocked to find out how he treated women, especially Priscilla and wondered why he could never find satisfaction and comfort in just being ...more
Jul 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This book is meticulously researched and executed, it's just horribly, horribly sad.
Mary Karpel-Jergic
Jan 26, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: biography
Wow, what a read! This is a tome, and requires a certain amount of commitment and dedication to complete but the journey is a worthwhile one. I am not a particularly big Elvis fan but I read something about the author Peter Guralnick and his attention to detail and accuracy in the portrayal of Elvis that peeked my curiosity into finding out more about this 20th century music icon. Guralnick had written an earlier biography of Elvis but this is the second and deals with his life from when he retu ...more
Dave Schwensen
Mar 08, 2014 rated it it was amazing
The American Dream Turns Into An American Tragedy

The second part of this two volume definitive look at the life of Elvis Presley slams the brakes on one of the most famous and notorious tales of living The American Dream. Whereas the author's earlier book, Last Train to Memphis, brought home the story of a young boy from a poor family who was blessed with unnatural talent and timing rising almost overnight to unimaginable heights of fame and fortune, Careless Love details his tragic end. A creat
Dec 16, 2009 rated it it was amazing
This was an excellent although incredibly sad book on the second half of The King's life. It covers his time in the army through his drug-filled decline and death. Guralnick's strength is in his evenhanded approach to Presley's life. He does not judge or condemn, nor idolize Elvis, rather simply reports on his research and thousands of interviews with those that knew Elvis, in an easily readable manner. It's a long book for sure, nearly 800 pages, but well worth the read for those true Elvis fan ...more
Nov 23, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: audio
I had always casually enjoyed Elvis' music, but it wasn't until I heard his soulful recording of "My Happiness" that I became intrigued by the legend - particularly considering that was the very first song he had ever recorded (as a gift for his mom). Even on his classic "Love me Tender", how delicate yet rich his voice and delivery! So, picking up this esteemed two-volume bio by Guralnick, I knew to expect that it ends badly because, of course, Elvis' sordid death is well-known American pop cul ...more
5 Track
Aug 05, 2014 rated it really liked it
Less enjoyable than part 1, but no less well researched. If there is a flaw, it's just that there was so much information to convey that readability got sacrificed. This is understandable & forgivable. And then again, this part of the story is a tragedy.

This could have been a treatise on what not to do, perhaps useful for the idols of today... But really, there is no time in this book to examine it so any instruction must be found between the lines & can be at best mere 2nd guessing. Elv
Jun 06, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Heartbreakingly detailed and comprehensive. I won't lie: it made me tear up. I'm a life-long Elvis fan and this book dispels some common Elvis myths. I was surprised by Guralnick's fairly even-handed take on (the usually demonized) Colonel Parker. At least Parker seemed to see Elvis' value and want him to be financially successful and pushed for bigger and better venues, like his initial plan to have Elvis pioneer pay-per-view concerts, even as he racked up huge fees on his own side of various d ...more
Peter Landau
Feb 15, 2014 rated it really liked it
This, the second and last volume in a two-book set chronicling the life of Elvis Presley by the great writer Peter Guralnick, focuses on the post-military career of the King. It's the Fat Elvis, the one we joke about, the caricature paraded through the schlock films of the 1960s and Las Vegas jumpsuits of the 1970s. We know how it ends, on a black toilet in a face full of vomit, dead at 42 in Graceland, his Memphis home, the city named after the Egyptian site of the pyramids of Saqqara and Giza ...more
John Gilbert
Jan 08, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Worthy companion to the author's "Last Train to Memphis", beginning when Elvis nears the end of his service in the army. Lot to be sad about, we see the roots of his drug addiction that troubled him for the rest of his life, womanizing, and the assembling of a crew of thugs, hangers-on, & leeches.

The book is copiously researched, with loads of financial & contractual figures, and has a nice recommendation article for the author's picks for the essential music collections - in the end, t
Aug 05, 2015 rated it it was amazing
One of the most dreadful and detailed books I have ever read. Very sad second volume, but accurate.
It made me wonder if soldiers in the US military, who are regularly given amphetamines, even today, to keep going when they are exhausted was the beginning of Elvis' decent into drugs. (See the 1st volume)
We seem to overlook the fact that Elvis' 'job' as an entertainer was a NIGHT job.
Having been exposed to the lifestyle of entertainers, I can attest that when work is over in early morning hours,
Jul 31, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Careless Love is the second volume of Peter Guralnick's biography of Elvis Presley, and it's a compelling and emotional read. While doing a masterful job of letting the reader inhabit the day-to-day life of an icon behind the scenes, Guralnick's prose is transcendent and physical in describing Elvis' music, his concerts, and his sessions in the recording booth, and renders those scenarios in a deeply effective and compulsively readable manner. To be sure, Elvis' life ended in a truncated tragedy ...more
Jacob Eckstein
Nov 16, 2015 rated it it was amazing
A very well done biography. The content was at times very sad as the well known story of Elvis's downward trajectory is told. The question is "what if". What if Elvis had not became his own worst enemy with his decisions to make forgettable movies? Would he have remained an artist who continued to be an important voice in the worlds music scene rather than an actor who's music was mostly soundtrack drivel. What if Elvis had partnered with John Lennon, Graham Parsons or CSN? Think of the music he ...more
Corgi Mom
Mar 06, 2016 rated it really liked it
Careless Love continues after the first book of Elvis' life, The Last Train to Memphis, by the same author. This is the second half of the story beginning after Elvis went to Germany as a young soldier. Much is described of the destructive behaviors that brought Elvis to the end of his life in such a tragic way. A very revealing biography of the king of rock 'n' roll. As a reader, it was hard for me to see how clueless, egotistical, and selfish Elvis was towards himself and how the people who lo ...more
Nov 17, 2009 rated it liked it
Just imagine what Elvis could have been were he not kept tucked away behind his phalanx of cronies and kept in thrall to the stunted Col. Parker. I feel as if maybe E never got to grow up, and even though a lot of his actions and products are tasteless and embarrassing he's a great figure, nevertheless.
Jan 04, 2008 rated it it was amazing
This second half of Guralnick's huge biography of Elvis looks at how he threw it all away, becoming increasingly overwhelmed by drug addiction and mental illness. It's terribly sad but, as with the first half of the book, compellingly readable - not sensationalising or whitewashing, but trying to understand. It's also once again great on the music.
Sep 21, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: all of my friends
The story of Elvis is so much sadder and stranger than I could ever have imagined, in spite of the calm, compassionate, and amazingly thorough nature of Guralnick's telling.
Donna Davis
This is the second volume of the definitive biography of Elvis Presley, renowned as the king of rock and roll. The first volume is Last Train to Memphis: The Rise of Elvis Presley, which I have also reviewed.
Biographer Guralnick spent 11 years with Presley, and he conducted hundreds of interviews in order to create a fond but balanced portrait of this key figure in American musical history. If you are going to read an Elvis bio, this is the one.

I came to read this through a combination of opport
Todd Miles
Sep 21, 2017 rated it really liked it
Reading this second volume was like watching a train, in slow motion, go off the rails and wreck. Tragic. From a music standpoint, my respect and appreciation was heightened. Elvis Presley was a performer who sang songs, and sang them with every ounce of passion he could muster (which was considerable). I can hear that even now as I listen; I am not sure there will be another like him.
But this second volume was really a fascinating exploration of the effects of unimaginable fame and riches. As
Aug 25, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography
In this second volume about Elvis Presley by Peter Guralnick, the author relates Presley's time in Germany as an enlisted man in the US Army, his introduction to Amphetamines, courting of a 14 year old Priscilla and eventual marriage to her, his growing addiction to pills of various types, his fawning sycophantic entourage, his decade of soul destroying performances in C-grade movies, his surprise 1968 comeback, his bizarre spending sprees, and his various relationships with women.
This is the
Oct 15, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography, music, memphis
This is the second half of what most people consider the definitive Elvis Presley biography (you will find my review of the first half under Last Train to Memphis: The Rise of Elvis Presley). Unlike the first volume, which deals with the unprecedented rise of a shy but optimistic young man from Tupelo, this volume shows us the excesses and pain that came with fame.

The thing that is hinted at in this book but never outright stated is that Presley had no idea how to deal with the sudden, hard-hitt
Oct 09, 2017 rated it liked it
Too many hours of Elvis--about 22 listening hours. Too much boring detail. I wanted to know how he derailed. He started out so straight. Didn't drink, liked going to amusement parks, didn't swear, etc. Then at the height of his celebrity he went into the military for 2 years where a superior gave him little white pills to make it through difficult night maneuvers and I feel like that's where the drug use started. Then he just gradually became corrupted by power, fame, money and tried to fill the ...more
Antoni Savander
Aug 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Olihan tämä surullista luettavaa! Loppuvaiheissa odotti vain, että milloin se elokuun 16:s tulee, että pääsee surullisen hahmon ritari kärsimyksistään. Viimeiset vuodet olivat ilmeisen tuskallisia, alamäki oli jyrkkä ja vauhti kova. Eikä kenelläkään ollut keinoja auttaa Elvistä.

Ajattelin lukiessa, että on kuitenkin lopulta hyvä, että näin kävi, koska sittemmin rokkitähdet ovat ainakin yrittäneet ottaa opiksi edeltäjiensä virheistä. Monelle on käynyt yhtä kehnosti kuin rokin kuninkaalle, mutta mo
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Peter Guralnick is an American music critic, writer on music, and historian of US American popular music, who is also active as an author and screenwriter. He has been married for over 45 years to Alexandra. He has a son and daughter, Jacob and Nina.

Guralnick's first two books, Almost Grown (1964) and Mister Downchild (1967), were short story collections published by Larry Stark, whose small press
More about Peter Guralnick...

Other Books in the Series

Elvis (2 books)
  • Last Train to Memphis: The Rise of Elvis Presley