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The Day The Beatles Met Elvis Presley

 

The most infamous rock and roll meeting of all time occurred when Elvis Presley met The Beatles. On August 27, 1965, John, Paul, George and Ringo along with their manager, publicist and assistants came to Presley’s house on Perugia Way in Los Angeles to meet their rock and roll idol.

The Beatles were the ones who pushed for the meeting. After all, it was Elvis who was one of the main influences for John Lennon to start the band. “Without Elvis, there would be no Beatles,” Lennon famously remarked in later years.

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Why Elvis Presley got paid much more than The Beatles for The Ed Sullivan Show

Elvis vs. The Beatles
Surprisingly, inflation did not play a role in the fee The Beatles were paid for performing on The Ed Sullivan Show in February 1964. When compared to the amount Elvis Presley was paid, $50,000 for three performances in late 1956/early 1957, The Beatles worked for peanuts, a measly $10,000 for three shows.

The fact is The Beatles were paid five times less than The King of Rock and Roll for the same number of appearances eight years later. Was it simply due to the superior management skills of Elvis’ manager, Colonel Tom Parker, compared to The Beatles’ manager, Brian Epstein, or were additional circumstances at play?

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John Lennon’s lifelong obsession with Elvis Presley

lennon-elvispin-color75It’s no secret that John Lennon was a huge fan of Elvis Presley when he was a teenager. Lennon formed his first band, The Quarrymen, which would later become The Beatles, as a result of his love for Elvis Presley and rock and roll.

“Without Elvis, there would be no Beatles,” John Lennon stated matter-of-factly in a 1980 interview.

But Lennon’s teenage love for Elvis didn’t stop when he became an adult. In fact, throughout his life, even though he criticized Presley in his later years, Lennon never stopped being a fan. Just like any other passionate music fan, Lennon had a lifelong obsession for The King of Rock and Roll.

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The Five Beatles songs that Elvis Presley sang

elvis-beatlesMost 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.
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My new book, ELVIS AND THE BEATLES: Love and Rivalry Between the Two Biggest Acts of the 20th Century, proves otherwise detailing how Presley and his manager, Colonel Parker, were quite welcoming to The Beatles during the 1960s.

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New book, ELVIS AND THE BEATLES, reveals surprising relationship between The Fab Four and The King of Rock and Roll

ELVIS AND THE BEATLES bookRock and roll fans know about the historic meeting in 1965 between Elvis Presley and The Beatles. However, most mistakenly believe that was the only connection between the two biggest rock and roll acts of all time.

After that meeting (and even before), there were many positive ways that The Beatles and Elvis Presley connected personally and professionally, and at the very least, had empathy for each other. However, on the surface, it looked like The Beatles and Elvis couldn’t be farther apart.

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Why Elvis Presley dissed The Beatles to President Nixon

Don’t believe what you hear in the recent Elvis & Nixon film regarding The Beatles. This “comedy” about the infamous meeting between The King of Rock and Roll and President Nixon at the White House unfortunately  enforces false stereotypes about how Elvis felt about The Fab Four.

elvis meets nixon

“What do we have on this guy?” Nixon asks his aide in the Elvis & Nixon trailer.

“He’s one of the most famous men on this planet,” the aide explains. “Loves guns, hates The Beatles.”

While it’s true that Elvis did say some disparaging remarks about The Beatles to Nixon, it wasn’t all cut and dried as to what motivated him to say it.
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Elvis had a spontaneous impulse while flying to Washington DC to try to meet President Nixon. It was December 1970 and Elvis was still troubled by the traumatic experience a few months earlier of receiving a specific threat to end his life by an anonymous person during one of his concerts in Las Vegas.
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Fueled by his passion for guns and police badges, he thought that a trip to DC could help him get an official Federal Agent Narcotics Badge. During the plane ride, Presley wrote an impassioned letter to the President requesting a meeting. Written on American Airlines stationery, the five-page letter also expressed Elvis’ desire to help with the war on drugs.
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Here’s an excerpt: “The drug culture, the hippie elements, the SDS, Black Panthers, etc. do not consider me as their enemy or as they call it the establishment. I call it America and I love it. Sir, I can and will be of any service that I can to help the country out. …I can and will do more good if I were made a Federal Agent at Large and I will help out by doing it my way through my communications with people of all ages.”

As Jerry Schilling, long-time friend of Elvis who accompanied him on the trip, explained: “He had lived the American dream and wanted desperately to be able to give something back to the land that had made his wonderful life possible. He didn’t consider his years of army duty to have settled the debt. He was going straight to the highest authority in the country to try to find a way to use some of his power in a constructive way.”

The letter, which Presley personally delivered to White House security guards after arriving on a red-eye flight, set off a chain of events that hours later had the “King of Rock ‘n’ Roll” shaking hands with the most powerful man in the world. Security prevented Presley from presenting the President with his unique gift, a World War II-era Colt 45 pistol, but Nixon’s aides accepted it on his behalf.

At 12:30 pm on December 21, 1970, Elvis Presley was welcomed into the Oval Office of the White House. According to Egil Bud Krogh, Deputy Counsel to the President, who was present at the meeting, Presley quickly began trying to convince Nixon that he was “on his side, that he wanted to be helpful and that he wanted to restore some respect for the flag which was being lost.”

To justify his position, Presley specifically named The Beatles as a threat to America’s youth. The White House meeting notes describe this exchange:

“Presley indicated that he thought the Beatles had been a real force for anti-American spirit. He said that the Beatles came to this country, made their money, and then returned to England where they promoted an anti-American theme.

The President nodded in agreement and expressed some surprise. The President then indicated that those who use drugs are also those in the vanguard of anti-American protest. Violence, drug usage, dissent, protest all seem to merge in generally the same group of young people.”

While Beatles fans may see that as an outright attack on The Fab Four, it is not likely that Elvis had it out for The Beatles. According to Jerry Schilling, Elvis “loved The Beatles.” Schilling explained that Elvis was just trying to look more patriotic to the President and, in effect, used The Beatles as a scapegoat.

In an interview in 1969, Elvis praised The Beatles to a British reporter: “They’re so interesting and so experimental,” Elvis said. “But I liked them particularly when they used to sing ‘She was just seventeen. You know what I mean.'”

Presley gave The Beatles the most flattering compliment of all when he sang several of their songs during his live shows in later years, including “Something” during his 1973 Aloha from Hawaii concert.

Whatever Elvis’ real motive for calling out The Beatles in this historic meeting, the end result was in his favor. He received a Federal Agent Narcotics badge from President Nixon.

As The Washington Post reported: “‘See that he gets it,’ the President directed his top enforcement adviser, Egil (Bud) Krogh. Unable to suppress his excitement, Elvis hugged the startled Nixon.”

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Note: But the story doesn’t end there.

The book, ELVIS: Behind The Legend: Startling Truths About The King of Rock and Roll’s Life, Loves, Films and Music, reveals the real reason why Elvis wanted to fly to Washington DC in the first place.

New in 2018: Read more about the surprising behind-the-scenes relationship between The King and The Fab Four in the new book, ELVIS AND THE BEATLES

ELVIS AND THE BEATLES BOOK

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‘Elvis: Behind the Legend’ reveals behind-the-scenes Beatles stories

Editor’s note: In honor of the anniversary this month of “When Elvis met The Beatles” we are posting this review of the book (written by the editor of Daytrippin’) that was released last year which contains many Elvis/Beatles stories.

Book review
by Shelley Germeaux,
The John Lennon Examiner

The new book, Elvis, Behind the Legend: Startling Truths About the King of Rock and Roll’s Life, Loves, Films and Music by Trina Young, reveals many surprising new stories and viewpoints about Elvis Presley’s life, including several about his association with the Beatles. Young does not attempt to re-write Elvis’ biography, but instead focuses on several behind-the-scenes revelations that few know about, even seasoned experts. The stories are sure to alter the reader’s perception of the man behind the title, “The King of Rock and Roll.”

Elvis: Behind The LegendThe John Lennon Examiner has received a digital copy of the book from the author, and found it to be incredibly enlightening, enjoyable, and as the subtitle suggests, “startling.” The author wrote, “Often taking a back seat with historians to The Beatles in terms of rock and roll influence, Presley’s legacy has been marred by misconceptions of the man as an entertainer and human being.” As most Beatles fans are aware, Elvis was John Lennon’s biggest hero, the one he emulated, the one he idolized—until Lennon was bemused with Elvis’ career after spending two years in the Army.

At 145 pages, each of the thirty-two chapters brings to life a different story, written chronologically throughout his life. To name just a few, the book begins with a revelation concerning his speech impediment, a fact that is not well-known. The identity of the mystery woman behind the famous 1956 photo called “The Kiss” is revealed, and how Elvis is responsible for making the Arizona Memorial in Pearl Harbor a reality. Readers will learn about the secret girlfriend he was going to see in Washington, when he inevitably met with President Nixon.

Young points out that Elvis developed a private spiritual life, and connected with gurus long before the Beatles made their association with the Maharishi so public. His association with the Beatles is addressed in several chapters, shedding light on various aspects, such as: the difference in earnings from their appearances on The Ed Sullivan Show, the day The Beatles met Elvis in 1965 at his home in L.A., and the truth behind his “grudge” against the band. The disparaging statements he made to President Nixon about the Beatles—something fans have been angered by for years– are explained from a different vantage point.

In addition, included in the appendix is a comparison of record sales between Elvis and the Beatles, which may surprise fans of both. The book is well-researched, with a sizable bibliography, and a great read. The John Lennon Examiner recommends this book for Beatles and Elvis fans alike. It is an enjoyable and fun read that will shift readers’ perceptions about “The King of Rock and Roll” for the better.

See the official website for Elvis: Behind the Legend. The paperback and kindle editions can be purchased on Amazon.

Follow Shelley Germeaux on Twitter and Facebook