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Music

The Elvis Presley song The Beatles called “a load of rubbish”

@TylerGolsen

The Beatles were never afraid to proclaim their fandom of Elvis Presley. Like most English kids coming of age in the 1950s, the Fab Four had skiffle as a musical outlet, but little else before The King opened the doors to an exciting new genre called rock and roll. “Before Elvis, there was nothing,” John Lennon once said. “’Heartbreak Hotel’ seemed a corny title, but then, when I heard it, it was the end for me.” 

Elvis covers never wound up on any of their official studio albums, but his music served as an early foundation from which The Beatles would build their own signature sound. Even though they were separated by a generation, the two acts were still contemporaneous for while: Elvis mostly focused on movies in the 1960s, but released plenty of music. Unfortunately, the early ’60s doesn’t contain much in the way of great material, as observed by The Beatles themselves.

Juke Box Jury was a BBC television programme that brought on a guest panel to rate the new music of the day. It was a cheeky concert: usually modern pop stars commenting on the newest songs from their peers. It was a novel concept, and stars like The Rolling Stones, Cilla Black, and even Sean Connery made appearances on the show. On a December 7th episode of the show, all four Beatles made up the celebrity guest panel, and one of the songs up for judgment was ‘Kiss Me Quick’ by Elvis Presley.

‘Kiss Me Quick’ was an album cut from Pot Luck with Elvis, released a year before. It became a single in the UK towards the end of 1963, and it basically sounds like a Roy Orbison song as interpreted by a bad lounge act. Elvis’ material was fairly limp at this time, without any of the ragged excitement of his early work. The schmaltzy single, unsurprisingly, did not find favour with the four Beatles.

“The only thing I don’t like about Elvis is the songs,” said Paul McCartney. “You know, I love his voice. I used to love all the records like ‘Blue Suede Shoes’ and ‘Heartbreak Hotel’ — lovely. But I don’t like the songs now. And ‘Kiss Me Quick,’ it sounds like Blackpool on a sunny day.”

George Harrison was even more unkind when asked if he liked ‘Kiss Me Quick’. “Not at all,” he said. “It’s an old track. And I think, seeing as they’re releasing old stuff, if they release something like ‘My Baby Left Me,’ it’d be number one because Elvis is definitely still popular. It’s just the song’s a load of rubbish. I mean, Elvis is great. He’s fine. But it’s not for me.”

Elvis had actually landed a number one song a few months prior with ‘(You’re the) Devil in Disguise’, and strangely enough John Lennon rated that particular song on an earlier appearance on Juke Box Jury. Lennon dismissed the song, derisively comparing Elvis to Bing Crosby. At the time of their group appearance on the programme, The Beatles themselves had the number one hit in the country with ‘She Loves You’ and would end 1963 on top as well with ‘I Want to Hold Your Hand’.

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