The Beatles and Elvis Presley. When the Beatles Met Elvis. Elvis and Beatles 1965On August 27, 1965, the two biggest music icons world of the time, the Beatles and Elvis Presley, met at Presley’s home in Bel-Air, Los Angeles. The Beatles visit Elvis home in Bel-Air on Friday August 27, 1965 during their second USA tour. The Beatles visit lasted 4 hours during which time they told stories, joked and listened to records. The five of them even had an impromptu jam session – at the time no one thought to record the historical event.
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.
Paul McCartney made his first visit to Graceland and left a gift behind. The former Beatle, dropped a personal guitar pick on Elvis Presley’s grave and said it was “so Elvis can play in heaven.” McCartney was in Memphis to play a show on the North American leg of his “Out There” tour.
JOHN LENNON 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 this bluesy background. 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.
GEORGE HARRISON 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 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 cartoon.
Only known photos taken in 1965 when the Beatles met Elvis
In the upper left hand corner you can just make out Elvis
In the foreground wearing white pants is John Lennon
Beatles arriving to met Elvis,
John Lennon can be seen in the backseat with Paul McCartney
The Beatles sit down on the floor 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’. Everyone started to laugh and that broke the ice.
JOHN 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.
RINGO STARR I 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.
JOHN 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.
PAUL She 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.
GEORGE I 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.
JOHN 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.
The Beatles 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 Presley