I’ve been an Elvis fan since Heartbreak Hotel and a Beatles fan since Love Me Do. The number of books and articles I’ve read about both of them should probably embarrass me. You might think that I wouldn’t need to read any more, but John and Elvis by Matthew Langford takes a different approach and I recommend it to anyone interested in those times and those guys. What Langford has done that is different is to get inside the heads of both John Lennon and Elvis Presley in a way that makes you feel you understand why they did what they did in a way you hadn’t understood it before. I guess the best way of describing the book is that it’s a cross between a documentary and a novel – though a very fact-based novel.
It would be difficult to read this book without coming to the conclusion that Presley was as mad as a hatter and Lennon (to put it mildly) differently sane – but that’s probably inevitable when you reach that level of fame. Lennon pooh-poohs the very idea of religion but thinks it entirely rational to plan major life events on the basis of a study of numbers. Presley meets Ronald Reagan and finds himself wondering whether Soviet brainwashers have got at the President. (That’s right – Ronald Reagan. It would be difficult for most of us to imagine a less likely candidate).
When you get to the end of this book, you feel you’ve learned something about both Lennon and Presley that you didn’t know before. (You’ve also learned a few things about Paul McCartney, and a few others from that time). That doesn’t happen very often nowadays when you’re reading about people who have already been so thoroughly explored in print.