THE BEATLES: John, Paul, George & Ringo talk about Elvis Presley
February10, 1964 Elvis Presley sends a congratulatory telegram to the Beatles
PAUL We met Elvis Presley at the end of our stay in L.A. We'd tried for years to, but we
could never get to him. He was our greatest idol, but the styles were changing in favour of us. He was a pretty powerful image to British people. You'd look at photos of him doing American concerts, and the
audience would not even be jumping up and down. We used to be amazed, seeing them sitting in the front row - not even dancing.
: When I first heard "Heartbreak Hotel," I could hardly make out what was being said. It was just the experience of hearing it and having my hair stand on end. We'd never heard American voices singing like that. They'd always sung like Sinatra who
enunciated well. Suddenly, there's this hillbilly hiccupping with echo and all this bluesy background going on. We didn't know what the hell Presley was singing about or Little Richard or Chuck Berry. It took a long time to work out what was going on. To
us, it just sounded like great noise.
PAUL We tried many times to
meet Elvis, Colonel Tom Parker, his manager would just show up with a few souvenirs, and that would
have to do us for a while. We didn't feel brushed off we felt we deserved to be brushed off. After all, he was Elvis, and who were we
to dare to want to meet him? But we finally received an invitation to go round and see him when
he was making a film in Hollywood.
Meeting Elvis was one of
the high-lights of the tour. It was funny, because by the time we got near his house we'd
forgotten where we were going. We were in a Cadillac going round and round along Mulholland,
and we'd had a couple of "cups of tea" in the back of the car. It didn't
really matter where we were going - it's like the comedian Lord Buckley says, "We go into a native village and take a couple
of peyote buds, we might not find out where we is, but we'll sure find out who we is." Anyway, we
were just having fun, we were all in hysterics. (We laughed a lot. That's one thing we forgot about for
a few years - laughing. When we went through all the lawsuits, it looked as
if everything was bleak, but when I think back to before that, I remember we
used to laugh all the time.) We pulled up at some big gates and someone
said, "Oh yeah, we're going to see Elvis," and
we all fell out of the car laughing, trying to pretend we weren't silly, just like a Beatles
known photos taken in 1965 when the Beatles met Elvis
the upper left hand corner you can just make out Elvis
In the foreground wearing white pants is John
Beatles Arriving to met Elvis Presley
John Lennon can be seen in the backseat with Paul McCartney
The Beatles sit down on the floor right in front of Elvis, in a semi-circle, and they look up and they are just staring at him. There's this dead silence in the room until Elvis says,
'Well, what-the-hell, if you guys aren’t going to talk to me I’m going to my bedroom'. And then everyone started to laugh and that broke the ice.
It was very exciting, we were all nervous as hell,
and we met him in his big house in L.A. - probably as big as the one we were
staying in, but it still felt like "big house, big Elvis." He had lots of guys around him, all these
guys that used to live near him (like we did from Liverpool, we always had thousands of Liverpool
people around us, so I guess he was the same.) And he had pool tables! Maybe a lot of American
houses are like that, but it seemed amazing to us. It was like a nightclub.
was pretty excited. We were lucky because it was
the four of us and we had each other to be with. The
house was very big. We walked in, and Elvis was
sitting down on a settee in front of the TV. He was
playing a bass guitar, which even to this day I
find very strange. He had all his guys around him,
and we said, "Hi, Elvis." He was pretty shy, and we
were a little shy, but between the five of us we
kept it rolling. I felt I was more thrilled to meet him than he was to meet me.
PAUL He showed us in. He
just looked like Elvis - we were all major fans, so it was hero worship of a high degree. He said, "Hello, lads - do you want
a drink?" We sat down and watched telly, and he had the first remote any of us ever seen. You just
aimed it at the telly and - wow! That's Elvis! He was playing Charlie Rich's quot;Mohair Sam" all evening - he had it on a jukebox.
JOHN He had his TV
going all the time, which is what I do; we always have TV on. We never watch it - it's just there with
no sound on, and we listen to records. In front of the TV, he had a massive
amplifier with a bass plugged into it, and he was up playing bass all
the time with the picture up on the TV. So we just got in there and played
with him. We all plugged whatever was around, and we played and sang. He
had a jukebox, like I do, but I think he had all his on it. But if I'd made as many as him, maybe I'd have all mine on.
PAUL That was the greatest.
Elvis was into the bass, So there I was, "Well, let me show you a thing or
two, El..." Suddenly he as a mate. It was a great conversation piece for me.
I could actually talk about the bass, and we sat around and just enjoyed ourselves. He was great.
Talkative. Friendly and a little bit shy. But that was his image. We expected that, we hoped for that.
At first we couldn't make him out. I asked him if he was preparing new
ideas for his next film and he drawled, "Ah sure am. Ah play a
country boy with a guitar who meets a few gals along the way, and ah sing a
few songs." We all looked at one another. Finally Presley and Colonel
Parker laughed and explained that the only time they departed from that
formula - for Wild in the Country - they lost money.
came in, and I got this picture of her as a sort of a Barbie doll - with a
purple gingham dress and a gingham bow in her very beehive hair, with lots of
makeup. We all said hello, and then it was, "Right, lads, hands off - she's
going." She didn't stay long. I can't blame him, although I don't think any
of us would have made a pass at her. That was definitely not on - Elvis's
wife, you know! That was unthinkable - she didn't need to be put away quite so quickly, we thought.
don't remember even seeing Priscilla. I spent most of the party trying to
suss out from the gang if anybody had any reefers. But they were uppers and
whiskey people. They weren't really into reefer smoking in the South.
It was nice meeting Elvis. He was just Elvis, you know? He seemed normal to
us, and we were asking about his making movies and not doing any
personal appearances or TV. I think he enjoys making movies so much, We
couldn't stand not doing personal appearances, we'd get bored - we get
bored quickly. He says he misses it a bit. We never talked about anything
else - we just played music. He wasn't bigger than us, but he was "the
thing." He just wasn't articulate, that's all.
PAUL It was
one of the great meetings of my life. I think he liked us. I think at that
time, he may have felt a little bit threatened, but he didn't say
anything. We certainly didn't feel any antagonism. I only met him that once,
and then I think the success of our career started to push him out a
little, which we were very sad about, because we wanted to coexist with him,
RINGO I saw him
again. I remember one time I got really angry with him because he just
wasn't making any music. He'd stopped everything and was just playing
football with his guys. So I said, "Why don't you go into a studio and
give us some music here? What are you doing?" I can't remember what he said
- he probably just walked away and started playing football again.
JOHN Up until Elvis
joined the army, I thought it was beautiful music and Elvis was for me
and my generation what the Beatles were to the '60s. But after he went
into the army, I think they cut "les bollocks" off. They not only shaved
his hair off but I think they shaved between his legs, too. He played some
good stuff after the army, but it was never quite the same, It was like
something happened to him psychologically. Elvis really died
the day he joined the army. That's when they killed him, and the rest was a living death.
performed their last concert in Candlestick Park, San Francisco on 29th August 1966. In this exclusive excerpt from
the book The Beatles Anthology recounts what it was like to come face-to-face with their idol Elvis