Maybe a bit ironic, the first FTD book to come without an accompanying CD, A Moment in Time–4 Days in '56 (released in November last year), is one of the best from the label so far. Not only does the author Michael Rose present literally hundreds of never before seen photos from Elvis' late spring tour in 1956, with the help of a well written text he also tells the story behind the images.
I guess you could call A Moment In Time–4 Days in '56 a “textvisual documentary,” as opposed to the “audiovisual documentary” concept used on earlier FTD books that include CD's. And it's an approach that works extremely well. I found myself engulfed in the book, reading it from cover to cover while simultaneously studying the photographs.
As for the photos, they are the result of two national magazines, Seventeen magazine and Look magazine, sending photographers and writers to find out what Elvis was all about. Spending several days with him on the road, from Detroit to Columbus, then on to Dayton and finally home to Memphis, the resulting candid shots shows Elvis performing, meeting his fans, relaxing between shows and at home with his family.
For example, there are some great shots in the beginning of the book of Elvis spending time at a local arcade in Detroit, playing pinball and shooting a carnival gun. A couple of pages later the text tells the story of Elvis meeting five winners of an “Why Teenagers Like Elvis Presley” essay contest run by a local newspaper. And looking at the pictures, sure enough, there is Elvis hanging out with the kids, playing the piano for them, signing autographs and finally posing for a souvenir photo.
And then there's lots and lots of photos capturing Elvis on stage, showing just how dynamic and explosive he was in front of his audience. Accompanying some fantastic shots of Elvis driving the crowd wild at the Fox theater in Detroit (one of which was used on the cover of the Young Man With The Big Beat box set), is a quotation taken from a lucky fan who saw the 4 p.m. show:
I'll never forget how he dressed, the way he held the microphone, moved around the stage. He stood legs apart to swivel, then crouched down to touch outstretched hands. He was original and, damn, he was cool. The girls today would say 'hot,' and he was.
Speaking of fans, the book includes a couple of photos from one of the shows in Dayton of young girls screaming so much that they probably couldn't hear a word of what Elvis was singing. A local police officer standing close by watches them with an amused look on his face.
The book ends with Elvis spending some time at his new home in Memphis on Audubon Drive. There's photographs of him relaxing in the sofa between his mother and father, trying out his Harley-Davidson motorcycle and sitting in his 1956 three-wheeled Messerschmitt “microcar.”
The photographers also followed Elvis into his bedroom where he posed with his stuffed animal collection. In one of the final shots Elvis can be seen sitting on his bed, holding his mother's hand and looking happy and content. It must have felt good to be home again.
In December last year, Arjan Deelen, tour manager of The Original Elvis Tribute show, told me that A Moment In Time–4 Days In '56 is a real keeper. I couldn't have said it better.