In her new book, "100 Things Elvis Fans Should Know and Do Before They Die," music journalist and author Gillian Gaar takes on the task of distilling Elvis Presley's career into 100 key elements. Students of the King of Rock and Roll can view this as a type of "CliffsNotes" to the life and times of Elvis.
The book, which comes out April 1, lists 100 facts and trivia about The King ranked in order of importance relating to Elvis' songs, albums, movies, career achievements, relationships and significant places in Elvis' life. "100 Things" is intended as a guide to the essential facts you need to know to be an informed Elvis fan. Gaar has also included sidebars of information featuring lesser-known trivia like when Presley was actually nicknamed "The King of Rock and Roll" and the true intended spelling of his middle name.
Gaar, who is the author of two other books on Presley and one on The Beatles, recently did an email interview with The Elvis Presley Examiner discussing her motivation to write the book. She also shares her view on how Beatles fans view Elvis and how she feels "100 Things" will fit into the vast array of Elvis Presley literature.
Question: Your publisher, Triumph Books, specializes in sports books and has published similar themed books, like "100 Things Jets Fans Should Know and Do Before They Die" and "100 Things Celtics Fans Should Know and Do Before They Die." How did you team up with them to do "100 Things Elvis Fans Should Know and Do Before They Die" as well as your previous book "100 Things Beatles Fans Should Know and Do Before They Die"?
Gillian Gaar: A woman who worked for them had previously worked at Goldmine Magazine, and she knew that I knew a lot about the Beatles and Elvis (I used to have Beatles and Elvis columns at the magazine). So she put them in touch with me, which was nice.
Question: In the book, you explain that you were a Beatles fan first before you discovered Elvis. As a fan of both myself, I find that many Beatles fans aren't really that interested in Elvis. Has that been your experience, and if so, why do you think that is?
Gaar: I think it works the other way too; many Elvis fans I’ve known aren’t that interested in the Beatles. Maybe some of it’s generational. I also think the interest in Elvis is more centered on his mythic persona. Whereas with the Beatles, there’s more focus on how they created their music, because they wrote most of their music, and Elvis didn’t. And I think Elvis felt threatened by the Beatles, and maybe this feeling is reflected in some of his fans.
Question: Can you give us some background on your music journalism career including your work for Goldmine Magazine?
Gaar: I started out at a music paper in Seattle called The Rocket, and kept plugging away over the years and gradually began writing for other magazines including Goldmine. An article in The Rocket led to my first book, “She’s A Rebel: The History of Women in Rock & Roll.” I’ve since written about Elvis, Green Day, The Beatles, and Nirvana (I also have an ebook out now, “Smells Like Teen Spirit: The Alterna Teen Anthem of the ‘90s").
Question: How did you come to write your two other books on Elvis: "Return of the King: Elvis Presley's Great Comeback" and "Elvis Remembered 1935-77"?
Gaar: With “Return,” I’d read a book on David Bowie that focused on his Berlin years. So I contacted the publisher and said I’d like to do a book covering Elvis’ 68-70 period, same concept as the Bowie book. They agreed and I think it came out really well. As for “Elvis Remembered,” I’d done a previous book on Nirvana for that publisher, and found out they were doing one on Elvis, so I asked if I could write that one.
Question: When you started to write the book, who was your intended audience? When you say "Elvis fan", do you mean a hardcore Elvis fan or a new Elvis fan, or both?
Gaar: I’m not really sure. I think of it more as a trivia book. If you don’t know a lot about Elvis, this would give you a good grounding in the basics. And I would hope it’s something a hardcore fan might find enjoyable to read, as when I’ve read guide-to-the-music-of type books about an artist, like "The Rough Guide to the Beatles"; I didn’t learn anything, but I like reading about the Beatles and it was fun reading it.
Question: Was there anything that you learned about Elvis while doing your research that really surprised you?
Gaar: I didn’t learn too much as I already knew most of this stuff. I did track down when Elvis began being referred to as “the King.” And also learning more about the origins of the Candlelight Vigil.
Question: In item #84, you address "The Best of the Rest of Elvis' Movies." What made you want to bring attention to many Elvis' movies that are usually overlooked?
Gaar: Most of the footage we have of Elvis is from his movies, so a fan would obviously want to see all of them. The bigger movies (like "Jailhouse Rock") got their own entries, but I didn’t want to leave any of the films out. There’s at least one fun moment in most of them.
Question: From my count, I found only 6 items on the list that were things "To Do." Were there things you had to cut out since you were limited to a list of 100?
Gaar: I was thinking that in writing about a record or film, the person reading it would then want to listen to/watch the record/film, which is something to “do,” and I guess I should’ve pointed that out more clearly!
Question: Can you give us some information on your new Elvis book coming out May 8, 2014 called "Elvis The King: Authorized Book from the Graceland Archives"? Is this a reprint of the book, "Elvis Remembered 1935-1977"?
Gaar: As far I know, it’s just a reprint of the earlier book, in different packaging.
Question: How do you see your book fitting into the vast array of published books on Elvis Presley?
Gaar: No idea! Hopefully after reading it, it will motivate people who didn’t know a lot about Elvis to seek out his music and films.