“Nothing affected me until I heard Elvis.
Without Elvis, there would be no Beatles” – John Lennon
In January 1956, Elvis Presley released “Heartbreak Hotel,” and the rest is rock and roll history.
The song had a huge impact on many young British male teenagers. Some would become the next generation of rock stars, like Paul McCartney, who said: “It was Elvis who really got me hooked on beat music. When I heard ‘Heartbreak Hotel’ I thought, this is it.”
Elvis interpreted the song, not with his usual rockabilly or country style, but with “pure blues which could be heard in his tone and pacing,” says author Ace Collins. “His voice sounded mournful, his pain was obvious, and his loss could be felt in the words.”
“When I first heard ‘Heartbreak Hotel’… me whole life changed from then on, I was just completely shaken by it,” John Lennon said.
As teenagers, The Beatles, especially John Lennon, were strongly influenced by Elvis Presley. They started wearing their hair slicked back like Elvis. They admired his rebelliousness and his appeal to women, not to mention his musical talent.
As depicted in the 2010 film, Nowhere Boy, Lennon was inspired to create his first band the Quarrymen after discovering Elvis. He even asks his mother, Julia, “Why can’t God make me Elvis?”
Lennon’s best friend, Pete Shotton, recalled the impact that Elvis had: “We all automatically wanted to dress like Elvis, look like Elvis, swagger, strut and sneer like Elvis – and every snide remark from Aunt Mimi, our teachers or the newspapers only served to reinforce our new idol’s grip on John’s and my young psyches.”
Lennon’s first band, The Quarrymen, was formed in 1957 and evolved into The Beatles over a few short years. John, Paul, George and Ringo all shared a strong passion for Elvis Presley and other rock and roll artists.
Elvis represented the pinnacle of success in rock and roll, and he set the model for The Beatles’ achievement of success. The goal of becoming “bigger than Elvis” helped propel the band into worldwide fame which in some ways surpassed The King.
Just 8 years after “Heartbreak Hotel” was released, The Beatles had conquered America and were already being compared to Elvis: