Elvis Presley’s relationship with The Beatles was fuelled by jealousy, and, famously, The King was terrified about their impending industry dominance. The Beatles stopped Elvis from being the poster boy for the youth of America, and as a result, he astonishingly attempted to have the group banned from the United States.
Understandably, as much as he respected Elvis as an artist, Ringo Starr didn’t have the same admiration for him as a person. They only met once, and Starr was thankful to not have a repeat of the dismal episode, which left the drummer feeling “so angry”. Years later, when he discovered Presley had secretly been campaigning against The Beatles, the drummer became even more furious.
The conference between the two music industry giants came in the summer of 1965, during the height of Beatlemania. Elvis wanted to check them out for himself to see if they were the real deal and visit them face-to-face. However, both had their entourages in tow, and the two packs didn’t integrate.
According to The Beatles’ former press officer, Tony Barrow, who was also in attendance, it was an awkward affair. He told the BBC: “There was this embarrassing silence between the mega-famous five, stood there facing each other, with very little of import being said”.
Ringo was always confused by Elvis, especially his two-faced tendencies, which left a bitter taste in his mouth. In public, he pretended to be a fan of the group and even once covered their material. During a press conference for his comeback tour in 1968, Elvis said: “I really like a lot of the new groups—The Beatles, the Beards, and whatever.”
Meanwhile, two years later, he reportedly told President Nixon: “The Beatles had been a real force for anti-American spirit,” and claimed: “The Beatles came to this country, made their money, and then returned to England where they promoted an anti-American theme.”
A major issue for Ringo was the people who surrounded themselves with the singer. The drummer explained, “He was just surrounded by these sycophants,” Ringo said before bursting into an impression of one of Elvis’ cronies who’d follow the star everywhere and bend their personality to suit their leader. “You know, it was just so strange, and I was just so angry because he wasn’t making any music. He wasn’t doing what he should have been doing,” he added.
Starr continued, “I mean the saddest part is now that years and years later is that we found out he tried to have us banished because he was very big with the CIA, and everything. That’s very sad to me that he felt so threatened, and that he felt like a lot of people, that we were bad for the American youth.”
When you consider Elvis’ deceit and his devious plan to disrupt The Beatles’ career, it makes sense why Ringo felt “sad” and “angry” by Presley’s behaviour. Not only do his antics reflect badly on him, but they also shine a light onto the level of access achieved by The Fab Four and how it left everyone else quaking in their boots.