Culture Shock: Everything You Need To Know About The Beatles
From humble Liverpool beginnings to becoming the most iconic band of all time, the Fab Four has had a long and storied history. Here’s a primer on The Beatles, so you can sound like a bona fide expert if this paradigm-shifting band ever comes up in conversation.
There were originally seven members of The Beatles, but three of them got lost on their way to the Ed Sullivan stage and missed out on the opportunity of a lifetime: Unfortunately, for Craig, Wesley, and Chip, it just wasn’t meant to be. By the time the three bandmates navigated their way back from the bathroom to the Ed Sullivan stage, John, Paul, George, and Ringo were already halfway through “I Want To Hold Your Hand,” and The Beatles craze in America was well underway. The four members who took the stage decided it would have been far too much work to get the country accustomed to three more members moving forward, so they ended up just cutting them loose.
The Beatles were the first band to ever score a major endorsement deal, culminating in an ad where Ringo is held down in a tub of Coca-Cola for 90 seconds: While musicians commercializing their success is nothing surprising in today’s world, The Beatles were considered trailblazers when they teamed up with Coca-Cola to make a commercial where Ringo nearly drowns in a tub of their famous soda. Both Coke sales and Beatles album sales soared after the commercial aired, and it’s a formula that’s been repeated countless times since.
Every one of The Beatles’ 12 studio albums includes at least one song about trying to steal Elvis Presley’s wife: This is one that you’ll miss if you’re not paying attention. On every one of The Beatles’ albums, they were always sure to include a few songs about stealing the wife of their enemy, Elvis Presley. Whether it was with “Eleanor Rigby,” “Dear Prudence,” or the early “Please Please Me,” The Beatles did everything in their power to lure Elvis’ wife away from him, all to no avail. But at least it made for some grade-A tunes.
The Beatles were the first band to make a music video, which comprises almost entirely of footage of John Lennon screaming at George Harrison for messing with the thermostat: While music videos have become a necessary part of the music business, it wasn’t always that way. The Beatles certainly turned a few heads when they introduced the first-ever music video, which was just raw footage of the notoriously temperamental John Lennon really laying into George Harrison for changing the temperature in the studio while “Fool On The Hill” plays. Lip-reading superfans have been able to glean John shouting, “Just pick something and stick to it!” and “You are this close to losing thermostat privileges!” but some of Lennon’s more effusive reprimands remain a garbled mystery. The artistic gamble paid off big time, as The Beatles are now credited with changing the music game forever.
The Beatles spent so much time in India because no pilot could deal with their constant singing on the flight back to London, so they kept turning around to drop them back off: The Beatles famously spent long stretches of time meditating in India, and it was largely because no pilot had the patience to fly them all the way back to England as they relentlessly sang and yelped. By the time the plane got to the proper elevation, pilots were already so irritated with the incessant crooning coming from the back of the plane that they’d turn right around and drop The Beatles back off. If it weren’t for these annoyed pilots, The Beatles never would have spent their transformative songwriting month in India, and the world would never have the hits “Blackbird” or “Revolution.”
Not everyone can claim to have been introduced to their significant other by Elvis, but that’s who led June Carter to Johnny Cash. Elvis and June (with The Carter Family) were on tour, and one day Elvis was trying to tune his guitar while singing, “A-ummm.” When June asked what he was doing, Elvis said, “I’m trying to sing like Johnny Cash.” When June confessed that she didn’t know who that was, Elvis replied, “Oh you’ll know Cash. The whole world will know Johnny Cash. He’s a friend of mine.” For the rest of the tour, Elvis would play Johnny Cash songs on jukeboxes throughout their travels.
Later, after that tour, Carter was backstage at the Grand Ole Opry, tuning her guitar and singing “A-ummm” like Elvis imitating his friend Johnny. When she looked up she saw Cash himself standing there. She wrote of that moment: “Johnny Cash took me by the hand and said, ‘I’ve always wanted to meet you.’ The strangest feeling came over me. I was afraid to look him in the eyes. It was one of the things I did best. I never stammered and still found myself not able to say much of anything.” Thirteen years later, they’d marry.
That is literally the cutest freaking thing I have ever read.
By 1967, Priscilla had been living with Elvis for five years. She
was twenty-one, certainly old enough to become a wife. Elvis and
Priscilla had been talking about getting married for over a year,
discussing when to do it and how it would affect his career. It was time
for him to get married, and he knew it. He had been with Priscilla
since she was barely sixteen, and there had to have been pressure from
her family. According to the Colonel, Elvis telephoned him in Palm
Springs. “Priscilla and I want to get married,” he announced. “That’s
fine,” the Colonel replied. “I want to get married in Vegas,” Elvis said. “Would you set it up?”
Colonel called Milton Prell, our friend who owned the Aladdin Hotel.
Then he asked Marty Lacker and me to meet with him and Elvis to make
arrangements. At about 4:00 A.M. on May 1,1967, Elvis, Priscilla, George
Klein, Joan and I snuck out the back of the Palm Springs house to avoid
the fans and press, some whom seemed to have gotten wind of the
marriage plans. We climed over a small wall and into a waiting car that
took us to the Palm Springs airport. There we boarded a private Lear jet
owned by Frank Sinatra and flew to Las Vegas, while Marty and the rest
of the wedding party took a larger plane. At the Las Vegas airport,
another car was waiting to take us to the courthouse to fill out papers
for the marriage license. I paid the fifteen-dollar fee because Elvis
wasn’t carrying money. Then we went to the Aladdin so Elvis and
Priscilla could rest before the wedding.
The Ceremony, performed
by Judge David Zenoff, a justice of the Nevada supreme court, took place
at ten the next morning in Milton Prell’s apartment in the hotel. The
guests included Milton and his family, the Colonel and his wife, Marie,
Colonel Beaulieu and his wife, their son Don, George Klein, Billy and Jo
Smith, Patsy Presley Gambil and her husband, Gee Gee, and Vernon and
Dee Presley. Priscilla’s sister Michelle was the maid of honor; my wife
Joan was the matron of honor; Marty and I were co-best men.
the time Elvis decided to marry Priscilla, Marty was the flavor of the
month. Elvis was like that. His moods changed and he was into different
people at different times. There were periods when Elvis couldn’t seem
to get enough time with a particular person. Then, without any apparent
reason, his interest would shift toward someone else. I was on the
interest list more often than not, whereas Elvis and Marty had a
love-hate relationship. After he’d asked Marty to be best man, he soured
him and asked me to be best man. That really upset Marty. “Joe, you be the best man,” he said with a martyred air. “No,” I said, “let’s both be the best man.” That worked out fine.
ceremony was over in a few moments. I handed Elvis the three-karat
diamond wedding ring and he slipped it on Priscilla’s finger. Afterward,
we had a huge reception with a five-foot-tall wedding cake. Then Elvis
and Priscilla held a press conference, and the news was flashed around
the world. They changed their clothes and we all flew back to Palm
Springs where we enjoyed a group honeymoon for three or four days,
beginning that night with a wonderful home-cooked wedding dinner. Elvis
was in a rare romantic mood. That afternoon, he had gone out to the
garden to pluck a rose for Priscilla, which he set next to her place on
the table. He even carried her across the threshold. If Elvis was
initially reluctant to get married, on his wedding day, he couldn’t stop
grinning. We were all happy, except for Red West, who was wounded
deeply because he hadn’t been included in the wedding party. Red and all
the guys in Vegas for the wedding, but the Colonel said there was only
room for the family. “Well, damn it,” Red said, “if I can’t go to the
damn wedding, then I shouldn’t even be here,” Some of the other boys
were upset too. Red stayed in his room and didn’t even attend the
reception. He and Elvis discussed it later, in Los Angeles, but of
course, Elvis blamed Red’s exclusion on the Colonel. A few weeks
after the wedding, we had another reception in Memphis for the rest of
family. Then Elvis and Priscilla had another honeymoon on the Circle G,
the ranch he’d bought shortly before their marriage.
We played a bit of pool with a few of his motorcycle friends, and at about 10 o'clock, Priscilla was brought in. To demonstrate the respect that country-and-western have for their wives? Sometimes it’s a bit on the surface - as maybe their situation was shown to be later. It was like ‘Here’s Priscilla’. She came in, and I got this picture of her as sort of a Barbie doll - with a purple gingham dress, and a gingham bow in her very beehive hair, with lots of makeup. We all said, ‘Hello,’ and then it was ‘Right, lads, hands off - she’s going.’ She didn’t stay long. I can’t blame him, although I don’t think any of us would have made a pass at her. That was definitely not on - Elvis’ wife you know! That was unthinkable. She didn’t need to be put away quite so quickly, we thought.
Paul McCartney, on meeting Priscilla Presley for the first time with the Beatles at Elvis Presley’s home on August 27, 1965.