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George Harrison Critiqued an Elvis Presley Song for a Questionable Line

In their formative years, John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr held Elvis Presley in high regard as an idol, acknowledging the American artist’s profound influence on their musical aspirations. However, as time passed, The Beatles became more discerning in their views of Elvis. George Harrison, in particular, found one Elvis song briefly covered by The Beatles to be less than impressive, prompting an eye-roll from the guitarist.

George Harrison Disapproved of This Elvis Presley Song

In the early days of The Beatles’ musical journey, they not only performed their original compositions but also delved into covering songs by various artists. Sharing his recollections in The Beatles Anthology, George Harrison mentioned the inclusion of “Anna” by Arthur Alexander on one of their albums. Having been a fan of Arthur Alexander’s work, John sang several of his songs, including “Soldier Of Love,” which made its appearance in the BBC recordings. Attempting to replicate Alexander’s distinctive drum pattern proved challenging for The Beatles, leading them to invent something uniquely original in the process. Harrison noted, “A lot of the time we tried to copy things but wouldn’t be able to, and so we’d end up with our own versions.”

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Among the covers, The Beatles also took on Elvis Presley’s “That’s When Your Heartaches Begin.” However, Harrison didn’t hold it in high regard. Expressing his opinion, he remarked, “Sometimes we learned songs and did them once or twice and then gave them up: like Paul at the Aintree Institute singing ‘That’s When Your Heartaches Begin,’ the Elvis record where he talks in the middle.” Harrison didn’t shy away from critiquing a specific line from the song, calling it a “dumb line”: “‘Love is a thing that we never can share.'”

George Harrison’s Distraction During The Beatles’ Meeting with Elvis Presley

A few years after McCartney performed “That’s When Your Heartaches Begin,” The Beatles had the opportunity to meet Elvis. However, according to Harrison, much of the visit was overshadowed by his quest to find some marijuana.  “I don’t remember even seeing Priscilla [Presley],” he recalled. “I spent most of the party trying to suss out from his gang if anybody had any reefers. But they were ‘uppers and whiskey’ people. They weren’t really into reefer-smoking in the South.”

He disagreed with the alterations the American artist made to his career

As time passed, Harrison’s admiration for Elvis’ career trajectory waned. While he had been an idolized figure in Harrison’s youth, the music and performances of Elvis in the 1970s left him disappointed. Despite his reservations, Harrison attended an Elvis performance at Madison Square Garden in 1972.

Recalling the encounter in an interview with Creem Magazine, Harrison described the backstage scene, noting, “And I’m sitting there, think­ing ‘Well, where’s Elvis, then?’ And fin­ally he came out of the back and he was … immaculate. I felt like this real grubby little slug and he looked like Lord Siva or something.”

Although Elvis appeared impeccable, Harrison felt the performance fell short. “I wanted to say to him, ‘Why don’t you just come out in your jeans and your black shirt–­get rid of all them horrible women singers in your band, all them horrible trumpet players and just have James Burton and the drummer and the bass player and the piano player? Just come out and do ‘That’s All Right, Mama.’”  Despite Elvis’ impressive appearance, Harrison found his performance lacking.

“I wanted to say to him, ‘Why don’t you just come out in your jeans and your black shirt–­get rid of all those horrible women singers in your band, all those horrible trumpet players and just have James Burton and the drummer and the bass player and the piano player? Just come out and do ‘That’s All Right, Mama,'” Harrison expressed.

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