Elvis Presley Meets the Beatles : August 27, 1965
July 7, 2005 - 10:02:00 PM
There's this dead silence in the room until Elvis says, 'Well, what-the-hell, if you guys arenâ€™t going to talk to me Iâ€™m going to my bedroom'. And then everyone started to laugh and that broke the ice.
The Beatles Remember
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 or enunciated very well. Suddenly, there's this hillbilly hiccuping on tape echo and all this bluesy background going on. And 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 a noise that was great.
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 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.
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 in whatever was around, and we played and sang. He had a jukebox, like I do, but I think he had all his hits on it. But if I'd made as many as him, maybe I'd have all mine on.
John Lennon: We'd tried to meet Elvis during our first tour of the States in 1964, but couldn't make it because of his commitments and ours. But when we came in the summer of 1965 we found we'd be in Hollywood at the same time Elvis was filming there. And that's how we met Elvis on the night of Friday, August 27, 1965. It still took three days of planning to set up the get together in Elvis' house -- which we hoped would be a secret.
But the fans and the press still got wind of it and were there in their hundreds trying to get in, and although we were used to crowds, the thought of Elvis and the Beatles being together at one time just blew the minds of some of the people. 'Anyhow, Elvis was inside waiting to greet us.
He looked great in black slacks, a red shirt and close fitting black jerkin. He said hello in his quietly spoken way and led us into this huge circular room. We were joined by some his staff as well as Colonel Parker and Brian Epstein. I know Paul, George, and Ringo were feeling as nervous as I was. This was the guy we had all idolized for years--from way back when were just starting out in Liverpool. He was a legend in his own lifetime, and it's never easy meeting a legend in his own lifetime.
However, Elvis tried to make us feel at home. He sat - Paul and me on one side of him and Ringo on the other. George sat cross-legged on the floor. A huge color television was on in the middle of the room with the sound off, while a record player was playing the latest tunes. We could have just walked in on an average Elvis-at-home evening. Elvis obviously liked to treat everybody he met the same, whoever they were. He finally broke the silence that had fallen over the room.
'Look, guys', he said, 'if you're just going to sit there and stare at me, I'm going to bed'. He smiled, and we all laughed. 'Let's talk a bit, huh?' he went on. 'And then maybe play and sing a bit?' That's just what we all wanted to do, and you could feel the tension in the room begin to ease. One of Elvis' staff brought us drinks, but while we all drank scotch-and coke or bourbon-and-Seven Up, Elvis only had Seven Up.
He didn't touch any of the cigarettes that were offered around, either. After a bit Elvis said, 'Somebody bring in the guitars'. Again one of his men jumped up, and within moments three electric guitars had been plugged into the amplifiers in the room. Elvis took a bass guitar, and I took a rhythm guitar. Elvis obviously wasn't that familiar with his instrument, so Paul gave him some instructions.
'Here's how I play the bass', he said, strumming a few chords. 'It's not too good, but I'm practicing'.
George was busy looking over his instrument, and it was a few minutes before he joined in. If I remember correctly, it was Cilla Black's hit record 'You're My World' that we first got off together.
After that I said, 'This beats talking, doesn't it' -- and we had at last found a way of communicating through music. Only Ringo looked a bit down. He could only watch us and drum on the side of his chair.
'Too bad we left the drums in Memphis', Elvis said, as if trying to console him.
After a while, Paul put down his guitar and went over to the large white grand piano that stood in a corner by the bar. He began to pick out some notes and we got into one of the Shadows tunes.
While all this was going on, Brian and the Colonel sat chatting at the back of the room. Then they went out into the games room to play some roulette. I think Brian won a bit, and the Colonel lost a little.
Playing the instruments certainly helped us feel at ease with Elvis. After about an hour we stopped and began to talk about the thing we all knew best --entertaining. In particular, the experiences we'd all had on tour.
'Some funny things happen to you on the road, don't they?' Elvis smiled. 'I remember once in Vancouver we'd only done a number or two when some of the fans rushed the stage. It was lucky the guys and I got off in time. They tipped the whole damn rostrum over!'
Paul immediately followed up Elvis' words. 'Yes, we've had some crazy experiences, too. I remember one fellow rushed on stage when were performing and pulled the leads out of the amplifiers. Then he turned to me and said, 'One move and you're dead'. Elvis replied, 'Yeah, it can be pretty scaring at times. 'I chipped in. 'But you're on your own, I said. 'At least we've got each other up there. If somebody pushed me on stage and said, 'You're on your own, like they do with you, I don't know how I'd cope'.
The conversation then moved on to the problem of flying, which Elvis admitted could bother him.
'I once took off from Atlanta, Georgia, in a small two-engined plane', he recalled, 'and one of the engines failed. Boy, was I scared! I really thought my number was up. We had to take everything that was sharp out of our pockets and rest our heads on pillow between our knees. When we finally got down safely, the pilot was soaking with sweat, although there was snow on the ground outside'.
George told Elvis a similar story about when he had been flying from Liverpool and the window beside him had suddenly sprung open. 'Yeah', agreed Elvis again'. We pay the price for fame with our nerves don't we!'
I also remember I talked to him about cars. Everyone knew how much he loved them, and he'd just got himself a Rolls-Royce Phantom Five. 'Snap!' I told him. 'I saw it outside. Mine is just the same except I've had all the chrome bits painted black'. It was 2 AM when we finally quit. Elvis had been a great host and gave all of us a complete set of his records. It was a night none of us would forget.
As we were about to leave, Paul said, 'Elvis, we'd like you and the other guys to come up to the place where we are staying tomorrow night'. 'Well, I'll see', Elvis replied. 'I don't know whether I can make it or not. But thanks all the same'. He smiled and shook our hands. We never saw him again. It was Elvis' sense of humor that stuck in my mind. He liked to laugh and make others laugh, too.
Paul McCartney 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 favor 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.
We played a bit of pool with a few of his motorcycle mates, and at about ten o'clock, Priscilla was brought in. To demonstrate the respect that country-and-western people have for their wives. Sometimes it's a bit on the surface - as maybe their situation was shown to be later. It was like, 'Here's Priscilla'. 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.
That was the great thing for me, that he was into the bass, So there I was, 'Well, let me show you a thing or two, El...' Suddenly he was 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 and friendly and a little bit shy. But that was his image. We expected that, we hoped for that.
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.
These were great times, so even if you didn't enjoy all of the events that much, you could still go home to Liverpool and say, 'Well, you know who I met?' I mean, to meet Elvis, or anybody like that, or to say you've been to Sunset Strip - it was very impressive.
Joe Esposito Remembers
Q : How about that historic night with the Fab Four. We have the different angles from some of the other guys who were there. Why don't we have you just take us through it.
A : The day Elvis and the Beatles met. There's a lot of different versions of this story. We've all gotten older. All our memories are different. And maybe when you read things or believe certain things you read, which you know are not true but eventually they become real. My recollection - - only mine -- is when the Beatles first came to the United States, I think it was 64. They wanted to meet Elvis and it never worked out. So in 65 when they came back again, Brian Epstein and Colonel Parker got together and talked about seeing if they could arrange a meeting. Basically what it was, they said fine.
Elvis was making a movie at the time, I forgot which one it was. And we were at MGM studios and their road manager Malcolm Evans, nice man, he was the biggest Elvis fan in the world. I mean he was amazing, bigger than the Beatles were. So Malcolm came over to the studio to meet the Colonel and he was all dressed up nice in his suit and tie, and everything like that. So Colonel Parker called me on the set and he said, 'Joe, I need to talk to you'. So I went over to the Colonels office. He introduces Malcolm. And he said, 'Take Malcolm over to the set to meet Elvis and talk about what night were going to get together'. And I said, 'Great'. So I took Malcolm over there. He was a nervous wreck, the poor guy. I mean, he was just shaking in his boots, I mean. You know, when somebody meets somebody they idolize they don't know what to say, they can't talk. And I introduced Malcolm to Elvis and he was so nervous he shook his hand and that was it. There was nothing to say. You know, say something Malcolm, you know. But he just said how much he admired Elvis and the Beatles are really anxious to meet him and all of that. And basically all that happened that night. So then I took Malcolm back to the office and Malcolm was just thrilled. He couldn't believe his -- he says, 'I didn't know what to say'. He says, 'All my years wanting to meet Elvis and I didn't know what to say'.
So, OK we made arrangements for one night a couple of days later. What happened is that Colonel Parker and myself had two limousines picked us up at Elvis house. At the house was Elvis and Priscilla, and my wife Joan and a bunch of the guy's girl friends and wives and stuff. And I went to the house. The two limousines. The boys had a house rented up on Coldwater Canyon. We went up there -- two limousines -- we went inside, met the guys and a couple of their friends with them. Got in the limousines. Colonel was with John and Paul in one limousine. I was with Ringo and George Harrison in the other car and a couple of other guys, Malcolm the road manager. And we all go back to the house. The Colonel, you know, being the promoter that he is, he leaked it out that the Beatles are meeting Elvis tonight. So we get out there and there's thousands of kids hanging all over the walls, climbing the trees, and reporters. And we pull in, go into the driveway and all the boys get out and we went to the door and Elvis was there to greet them.
Now some people say that Elvis wasn't there, but Elvis was standing there, from what I remember and a lot of the other guys remember. Elvis and Priscilla were there to meet the guys, and they were introduced and Brian Epstein and people like that all walked in to the living room -- the family room. And the TV was on -- Elvis always had a television on -- all the time. I don't care what it was, it was always on. It was like his company, I guess. So we sat down and they talked for a little while. It was really quiet. They all just sat there and looked at Elvis. They didn't know what to say. The same thing I told you about before. I've met big stars too and I didn't know what to say either. So they're the same way. And like John Lennon said, 'If it wasn't for Elvis Presley, there would be no Beatles'. So they idolized this guy. And that's where Elvis got up off the couch and he said, 'Well, if these guys are all going to sit around and look at me, I'm going to sleep'. And they said, 'No Elvis, we're sorry we didn't know what to say. Let's sit down and talk and relax'.
Then they went and got a couple of acoustic guitars and sat around and started playing some old songs. You know oldies, but goodies songs --Chuck Berry tunes and just some instrumentals. I mean, that's what I remember. Some guys say they didn't play. Some guys say they do.
I heard them I thought. Unless I'm losing my mind, too.
But at that time, we owned this roulette table. Actually it was a coffee table and when you picked it up, you drop the legs off, took the top off, it became a roulette table, like in Vegas. So, the Colonel said, 'You want to play a little roulette?' So, I was the house. I was the banker. So we started playing and Ringo would come over and play a little bit and George Harrison played a little and a few of the guys. I was losing for a while there and I was really hurtin'. All of a sudden I started winning and we won. The other guys were playing guitar and singing and everything was a real quiet evening. Very nice. it was polite.
It lasted for about two or three hours and there were no cameras taken -- no pictures whatsoever. People say there's pictures. No recordings, nothing like that. The only pictures of that meeting were outside taken by fans and photographers. Nothing on the inside. No pictures taken together. And it was great. It was real enjoyable. They were real nice guys. I'm a big fan of the Beatles too and that was it for the night.
Q : Did that night change Elvis perspective on the Beatles once he got the chance to get to know them?
A : Well, Elvis loved the Beatles music. I mean, let's face it, he recorded three of their songs. He just did -- Yellow Submarine that period of time. He didn't care for those songs. Elvis was a very believed in songs with a lot of good words and meaning with something behind them like 'Michelle' and 'Yesterday' and 'Hey Jude' and those songs. He didn't care for that period of time. That was a drug time which was ironic. So, those songs he didn't care about. But he didn't say anything bad about the Beatles. I mean, there's always stories about him putting the Beatles down and stuff like that. And we all say different things about different people at different times and really don't mean. But overall, he respected them.
Priscilla: Some stars want to meet other stars. Some stars have to hang out with other stars. Not Elvis. I can't remember him once telling the Colonel to arrange a meeting with anyone famous. He saw Hollywood as the home of phonies. He certainly felt out of place, which is why the minute the movie wrapped he was gone.
One memorable evening, the Colonel arranged for Elvis to meet four famous people. But I believe it was the Beatles who were eager to meet Elvis, not the other way around. In fact, when John, Paul, Ringo and George walked in, Elvis was relaxing on the couch, looking at TV without the sound. He barely bothered to get up. Naturally he was curious about the Beatles. He respected them. Mostly he respected the way they had achieved their artistic freedom. He saw how they did whatever they liked to do.
He appreciated their songs and especially their film 'A Hard Day's Night' where their creativity and sense of fun came through so powerfully. 'Help!' was out or just about to be released. He also admired Bob Dylan and appreciated Dylan's serious songwriting.
But Elvis, like all iconic entertainers, was conscious of competitors. He understood that generational idols come and go, and that, for this new generation, the Beatles were the new idols. He viewed this whole world of music coming from England - the Beatles and Stones and the Dave Clark Five - with tremendous interest and I suppose some trepidation. He acknowledged their talent and energy - he told me so on many occasions - but he worried about losing popularity. And in 1965, no one was more popular than the Beatles.
The night they arrived at our house on Perugia Way in Bel Air there were nearly as many security men outside as fans. This was definitely treated as a summit. The fact that Elvis greeted them with studied casualness didn't mean he didn't care. He did. He was simply affirming his role as Original King. The Beatles respected that role enormously. When they were escorted into our living room and finally greeted Elvis, all they could do was stare, especially John and Paul. Intimidation was written all over their faces. They couldn't have been more humble. At first it was awkward. They looked to Elvis for an agenda.
Clearly Elvis was running the show. But Elvis was simply content to recline on the couch and watch soundless TV. Was this going to be the extent of the evening's activities?
Thirty minutes or so into their visit, Elvis got up, put a song on the stereo, picked up his bass and began playing along with the music. It might have been something by Charlie Rich, I'm not sure, but it broke the ice. Out came the guitars and a jam session was under way. Paul was surprised Elvis played bass. The truth is that Elvis had been teaching himself bass for a while and, given his natural talent, was accomplished within no time. For the rest of the evening there was more music than talk. I don't think Elvis asked the Beatles a single question and I know the Beatles were too overwhelmed to ask a question of Elvis.
But they got along and made sweet music together. I regret that no one had a camera or tape recorder to record the historic moment. When it seemed Elvis was ready to retire, the evening came to an end, but not until we all enjoyed several hours of music and idle chatter. John and Paul invited Elvis to their place - they had leased a house in nearby Benedict Canyon - the next night. Clearly they wanted to maintain and extend this relationship. Elvis smiled and said, 'We'll see'. But I knew he had no intention of returning the visit. Elvis rarely went out in Hollywood, not even for show business royalty. Several of Elvis' boys, though, took up the offer. When they returned they said that John wanted Elvis to know that without him there would be no Beatles.
He was their first and best inspiration.
Elvis liked hearing that, but even such a compliment wasn't enough to invite them back.
Larry Geller Remembers
Another important event was Aug 27th 1965 when The Beatles came over.
What can you tell me about that night?
LG - The Colonel had set up the meeting between Elvis and The Beatles. Before hand Elvis & I were in the bathroom and I was doing his hair. Elvis was very quiet & drumming his fingers on the ledge. He looked at me and said, 'Man, I know what those guys are going through. I've been there, I've done it. They're playing to big audiences and I'm doing these bad teenage movies - I'm so embarrassed'.
Elvis looked so phenomenal that night. He used to wear these bolero shirts and had them in every colour, expect brown. He hated brown! He wearing a blue shirt that night. We all went to the den and all of a sudden we heard screaming, like thunder, as if a bomb went off. The front door opened and outside there were thousands of fans everywhere. The word had got out. What we heard was the front door open as The Beatles walked in! The Beatles came in with Brian Epstein, their manager. They walked up to Elvis and were introduced, and Elvis sits down on the chair. The Beatles all sit down on the floor right in front of Elvis, in a semi-circle, and they look up and they are just gaping & 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. I remember them looking at Elvis' TV and saying, 'Wow look, colour Television!' because they'd never seen colour TV before. After that Ringo & Billy Smith & Marty & Richard all went off & played pool in the pool room.
What about the famous jam-session?
LG - Paul McCartney and John & myself, & possibly Jerry Schilling were sitting around all talking when Paul asked Elvis if he could try one of Elvis' guitars. Elvis says, 'Sure man, go right ahead'. So Paul picks up one and starts strumming followed by John and then Elvis too. So the three of them start jamming for about 20 minutes and I think, 'This is unbelievable! I'm in the centre of the universe right now. The Beatles and Elvis!' The real trip was that Col Parker was such a control freak that he wouldn't even allow one picture to be taken of Elvis & The Beatles together! How ridiculous is that?!
Now at a certain point I wondered where George had got. So I walked outside where it was pitch black but the minute I went out there I knew he was there because I could smell some reefer! There's George sitting by a tree smoking a joint. I sat around and chatted to him for a while. We had a great talk because I knew that George was into Hindu stuff and later became very close to Sri Daya Mata as well. We had a real spiritual connection. I was so sad when he died last year.
Have you seen those very poor amateur photos of that night?
LG - Yes, I know them. Elvis appeared and said, 'Hey you guys! I want to show you something'. First we went outside and looked at his new Rolls Royce. It was mayhem with the crowds screaming both 'I Love You Elvis' & 'I Love You Beatles'. I remember some teenage girls had climbed high into the trees and used their flash cameras. I think that is where the 2 bad photos of the night come from. Next Elvis took them inside to see his new present from Col parker which was a new sauna-bath off Elvis' bedroom. Paul looked in to check out the mirror and said to Elvis, 'Who's that in there?' Elvis didn't know and when we all looked in we found this teenage girl who was hiding under this little wooden bench. She had somehow got by the security. When she saw us she screamed and jumped on Elvis and we had to pry her off!
After The Beatles left and Elvis had said goodbye he & I walked back towards his bedroom and he said, 'I really like those guys, they are really good guys. But what's going on with their teeth?!' Of course, because of the post war shortages in England there was a lack of good food and their teeth were bad. Anyway Elvis said, 'I don't get it. They have the money why don't they get their teeth fixed?' Just as we headed for bed Elvis said, 'Just remember Larry, there are four of them there is only one of me!'
Did you get to see The Beatles again?
LG - Well, of all the Beatles Elvis definitely liked John Lennon the most.
For a few days afterwards John phoned up several times wanting us to all go over and party with them. However the guys all went for the next 3 or 4 nights but Elvis wouldn't go. The other guys had a great time but I ended up staying with Elvis to keep him company.
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