The Beatles’ George Harrison Said Listening to This Elvis Presley Song Was a Spiritual Experience

One of Elvis Presley‘s early songs had a huge impact on The Beatles’ George Harrison. During an interview, he said the song offered hope to the people of Great Britain. He also compared the song to the music made by a Hindu deity.

Elvis Presley playing songs on a guitar
Elvis Presley | Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

George Harrison ‘couldn’t believe’ the way this Elvis Presley song sounded

According to the book George Harrison on George Harrison: Interviews and Encounters, George cited several 1950s rock ‘n’ roll artists as his inspirations. He said Chuck Berry, Buddy Holly, Chuck Berry, Little Richard, Carl Perkins, and Jerry Lee Lewis were formative influences on him. He also revealed one Elvis song in particular had a massive impact on him.

“When I heard Elvis’ ‘Heartbreak Hotel,’ I was on my bike passing somebody’s house, and they must have had a gramophone playing,” he recalled. “I couldn’t believe the sound of that record.”

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Why The Beatles’ George Harrison felt the song offered hope to the people of Great Britain

George suspected “Heartbreak Hotel” inspired similar reactions from his fellow Brits. “And it’s the same, I suspect, for everybody!” he said. “But you’ve got to remember that in the 1950s, America was more cool than Britain, with everybody having their little Chevys or Cadillacs. We were coming out of a world war, and it was depression. So for us, that was like the sound of hope.”

In a separate interview, George compared “Heartbreak Hotel” to the music made by one of the Hindu gods. For context, George famously converted to Hinduism. “In a way, when I heard ‘Heartbreak Hotel’ by Elvis coming out of somebody’s radio when I was a kid on my bike, that is still Krishna’s flute,” he said. “The music is still that mystical sound that’s saying, ‘Hey, come on!'” George said the music of Krishna’s flute has the power to “wake us up.”

The Beatles' George Harrison playing songs on a guitar
George Harrison of The Beatles | Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

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The way the world reacted to Elvis Presley’s ‘Heartbreak Hotel’

George probably wasn’t the only one who liked “Heartbreak Hotel.” According to The Billboard Book of Number 1 Hits, “Heartbreak Hotel” topped the Billboard Top 100, the predecessor to the Billboard Hot 100. The track topped the chart for eight weeks. It was the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll’s first chart-topper and Billboard said it was the most successful single in the United States in 1956.

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“Heartbreak Hotel” was very popular in the United Kingdom as well. The Official Charts Company reports the song was the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll’s first song to chart in the U.K. It peaked at No. 2 in the U.K. in 1956, staying on the chart for 22 weeks. In 1996, Elvis’ estate rereleased “Heartbreak Hotel” as a double A-side with “I Was the One.” The song peaked at No. 45 in the U.K., staying on the chart for two weeks. “Heartbreak Hotel” had a huge impact on George and many others.