Most people think that The Beatles and Elvis Presley were rivals in the music business. However, it was quite the opposite. The Beatles, of course, looked up to Elvis as their biggest musical idol. But as soon as Beatlemania hit the States in 1964, it was rumored that Elvis Presley, The King of Rock and Roll, felt threatened by The Beatles and their success.
If The King of Rock and Roll felt threatened by The Fab Four’s success, he never expressed it in public. In his 1968 “Comeback” television special, Presley talked about how the music business had changed since he first started in the 1950s. He then admitted: “I like a lot of the new groups, you know, The Beatles and The Byrds and the . . . whoever, but I really like a lot of the new music.”
In fact, beginning in 1969 when he returned to the concert stage after a 8-year absence, Presley incorporated several of The Beatles’ hits into his live act. Since Elvis was not a songwriter, he was always on the lookout for a good song to sing. He rose to worldwide fame in the 1950s as a result of having an uncanny ability to select the right songs that shot to the top of the charts. So it’s not surprising that Presley was astute enough to cover songs by The Beatles, a band who as John Lennon explained would not exist without Elvis.
However, none of the Beatles songs that Presley covered were “Lennon” songs. They were all “McCartney” songs except for one written by George Harrison.
The following are the five Beatles songs that Elvis Presley sang:
Probably the most prominent Beatles’ song covered by Elvis is “Something” due to the fact that Presley sang it live during his “Aloha from Hawaii” concert special in 1973. This concert was broadcast all over the world via satellite and has been captured for posterity on the concert DVD and album.
George Harrison revealed in “The Beatles Anthology” from 1995 that he met Elvis a second time (after the Beatles infamous meeting with Presley in 1965) in New York at Elvis’ Madison Square Garden concert in 1972. Harrison intimated that at the time he did not like Elvis’ 1970s sound and wished he would go back to singing his old 1950s hits. Ironically, a few months later, Elvis showcased Harrison’s “Something” with a pinnacle performance in Aloha from Hawaii.
Elvis joined the list of performers who have recorded “Yesterday”, the most covered song of all time, when he sang the song during his August 1969 shows in Las Vegas. The concert recording (click here for audio) was released the following year on the album called On Stage.
Watch Presley singing the song during the rehearsals for his 1970 Las Vegas concerts which were filmed for a documentary called That’s The Way It Is.
3) Get Back
The King of Rock and Roll was known to jam during his Vegas shows and would blend one song into another from time to time. Elvis felt that a great song to blend in to his hit “Little Sister” was The Beatles’ “Get Back.” The song was officially released in 1980 on the box set,Elvis Aron Presley.
Watch Presley singing the song combo during the rehearsals for his 1970 Las Vegas concerts in That’s The Way It Is.
4) Hey Jude
“Hey Jude” was probably not the best fit for Elvis’ vocal range, at least not the impromptu version that he recorded during his 1969 American Studios sessions in Memphis. The song was never completed properly, but released without Presley’s approval nevertheless on the album Elvis Now three years later in 1972.
Recorded less than six months after The Beatles released the song, listen to the audio from Elvis Presley’s studio version of “Hey Jude.”
5) Lady Madonna
Elvis recorded a strictly informal version of The Beatles’ “Lady Madonna” during a May 1971 recording session for a new Christmas album. It’s obvious that the recording was impromptu since Elvis did not know all the words to the song. The song was officially released as an “informal” recording on the box set Walk A Mile In My Shoes.
Listen to the audio from a studio outtake of Elvis Presley singing The Beatles’ song, “Lady Madonna.”
In 2002, a rare EP collection containing all five songs was released on CD called Elvis Sings Beatles’ Songs.
September 14, 2018 at 2:12 pm