In 1965, John Lennon and the rest of The Beatles met one of their longtime heroes, Elvis Presley. The band had all been fans of the American artist for years and were thrilled that they had the opportunity to meet him. When they met, The Beatles were dealing with Beatlemania and turned to Elvis for advice. He’d been famous for years, and Lennon hoped he could offer insight on how to deal with rabid crowds. The answer Lennon received from Elvis was likely not what he’d been expecting.
John Lennon and the rest of The Beatles met Elvis in 1965
In 1965, The Beatles traveled to America and met Elvis. Lennon told the media that they’d been looking forward to the visit more than anything else.
“There was only one person in the United States that we really wanted to meet, and that was Elvis,” he said, per the book Here Comes the Sun: The Musical and Spiritual Journey of George Harrison by Joshua Greene. “It was difficult to describe how we felt about him. We just idolized the guy so much.”
The band said Elvis was a big part of why they wanted to be musicians, and they were starstruck to the point of speechlessness when they met him.
“They just looked up at him, and I’m telling you their jaws dropped,” Larry Geller, Elvis’s stylist, said. “This went on for a while, no one saying a word. The silence was palpable. All of a sudden, Elvis got up and said, ‘Well, if you guys don’t want talk to me, I’m going to bed.’ That broke the ice. They started talking and didn’t stop.”
The American musician gave the band harsh advice
During their time together, Lennon and Paul McCartney picked up two of Elvis’ guitars and began playing with him. Ringo Starr began playing pool, and George Harrison wandered outside. At some point, Lennon asked Elvis for advice on how to deal with crowds. Everywhere the band went, hundreds of screaming fans followed. They even learned about the meeting with Elvis and gathered at the gates outside his home.
“Elvis,” Lennon said, “the crowds are crazy wherever we go. It’s dangerous. Sometimes it scares the hell out of us.”
The response Lennon got from the show business veteran likely wasn’t what he was expecting. Instead of helpful advice, Elvis gave him a harsh reminder.
“John, if you’re scared of crowds, you’re in the wrong business,” he said.
John Lennon and Elvis didn’t remain friends
While Lennon was looking forward to the visit with Elvis, he later spoke about the declining quality of his music. He believed that after 1958, his music took a downward turn. Lennon blamed Elvis’ time in the military for the change.
For his part, Elvis wasn’t the biggest fan of The Beatles. When he visited Richard Nixon in 1970, he railed against the band. Per Vox, he said that “The Beatles had been a real force for anti-American spirit.” He believed that they used American audiences to make money before returning to England.
“The Beatles came to this country, made their money, and then returned to England where they promoted an anti-American theme.”
Suffice it to say, The Beatles and Elvis didn’t have many more friendly jam sessions.