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John And Elvis: Imagine The Suspicious Minds

Updated on October 25, 2014

What If John and Elvis Had Performed Together?

John Lennon and Elvis Presley, two greats of our time, but imagine if they had performed together. Would it have worked? Maybe not, but as a couple of music powerhouses of the sixties, they were both extraordinary performers. I know Paul McCartney and others were up there too, and many have followed since.

Having lived in Africa and not knowing about the popular music of the day, you can imagine what a baptism of fire it was for a young boy, when in 1963, our family left Kenya following the country's independence to return to the UK. Suddenly there was a plethora of different music from 'Telstar' by The Tornados, 'Stranger on the Shore' by Acker Bilk, The Beatles, Rolling Stones and Elvis, not to mention Sam Cooke, Bob Dylan and loads more.

A far cry from listening to the noise of a stick beating on a tin-can drum or a few ululating African women singing while working in the fields. But, wow! 1963 has gotten to be one of those extraordinary years for me, my family and probably many others.

Elvis and John, 'Suspicious Minds' - the two of them, 'Imagine' the fun!

Clipart graphic of each artist above is in the Public Domain

Created on 16 April 2013

Wind-up Gramophone Music

Preparing for pop!

We had no television in Kenya, and I would have been too young or disinterested in listening to music, preferring to be playing at boy games outdoors. However, my parents owned a wind-up gramophone (record player), and a number of 78's (vinyl records that spun at 78 rpm - that's fast!), and they listened to quite a bit of music, such as Duke Ellington, Tommy Dorsey, Glen Miller and others.

My memories are listening to events rather than music on this machine, which incidentally used Spike Thorn Tree thorns as needles because they were easier to come by in the bush and instantly replaceable. Dad, being a Scout leader, often played the Scouts Jamboree song which was stirring stuff used to galvanize young scouts of the world at that time. But because the record spun so fast it was over in a minute or two, so would be repeated over and over again, unlike the 33's and 45's (33 1/3 rpm & 45 rpm records) that were soon to follow and lasted much longer by comparison.

Some of the vinyl 33's were of bird and animal sounds of Africa interspersed with Bach and Rachmaninoff, Tchaikovsky and Rimsky-Korsakov.

John Lennon

A Musical Initiation

Beat and syncopation

I was a young lad who got his kicks from playing with homemade catapults or simple slingshots, shooting arrows from a homemade bow and rolling the rim of a bicycle wheel down a hill with a stick. It might sound like I had a deprived childhood, oh no, not a bit of it, it was fun and exciting. My playmates at the time were local African boys, sons of agricultural workers employed by my father on his mixed dairy, arable, sunflower and coffee farm.

We had to make our own entertainment as there was no technology to distract us as there is today. Communication was by means of a tin can phone, two cans joined by a piece of string, a hole was drilled into the base of each can and the string inserted through the hole and tied with a knot, the same to the other can. Then pull the string tight (important) and speak into the can. It really works!

When it came to music, I can remember drums and cans being beaten by hands and sticks in a typical mode of African syncopation.

Image part (top left): Hoop rolling - Wikipedia

An Introduction to Sixties Pop Culture

Such an exciting time

My parents tell me that when my sister and I arrived in England, we were constantly agape at all the new experiences and sites on offer. We were unfamiliar with the speed of life generally, the trains often sped through stations without stopping, and when they did, we only had a few minutes to board. Unlike what we'd been used to in Kenya, when the Nairobi to Mombasa train would wait for a few hours for embarkation enabling the passengers loads of time. Buses and black taxis rushed passed us in London, there was so much going on, this was going to be fun!

We had entered a fast and exciting new world, and it wasn't long before we were listening to music at friends and relations houses. Those first records I remember were 'She Loves You' by the Beatles, "I Wanna Be Your Man" by the Rolling Stones and funnily enough 'Telstar' by the Tornados.

Our sixties musical appetite had been whetted, and we wanted more.


Source: Wikipedia

Nothing really affected me until Elvis

— John Lennon

How John Lennon was Influenced by Elvis Presley

It was 1956 when John Lennon first heard a song on Radio Luxembourg by the 21 year old Elvis Presley, called "Heartbreak Hotel", that something in him clicked. The song referred to Elvis being in a near suicidal state of the blues after his 'baby' had left him, and the morbid lyrics were sung in an aggressive manner.

The music and the way it was sung had an immediate effect on John, as here was someone else who had experienced the darkness and loneliness of a breakup. The music appeared to talk to John about exactly what he'd gone through, he took an instant liking to the style of Elvis's music, and the language was appealing.

Till now John had been used to listening to a more gentle type of sound with simpler lyrics, associated with parents, by the likes of the Drifters and Bill Haley, but times for John were going to change. John had to find out more about Elvis and that he did mighty quick. Very soon he began to change his image, he grew the trademark sideburns, slicked his hair like Elvis and even wore drainpipes (extra tight jeans). He was getting a moody look, just like Elvis, and Elvis after all was the King!

John was now well into rock 'n' roll, and the world was at his feet.

Image credit:

Books on John and Elvis

John Lennon: The Life
John Lennon: The Life

This book covers mainly Lennon's early life, pre the Beatles days. Norman focuses directly on John and different aspects of his troubled life and relationships. We won't ever get a Lennon autobiography, but this has a good shot at it.

Elvis by the Presleys
Elvis by the Presleys

This is such a delight to read about 'The King' and written by those who knew him and loved him the most. Any Elvis fan would love this book for its sheer honesty.


The Day the Beatles met Elvis...

...and John Lennon put his idol's nose out of joint

In 1965, the Beatles were on their summer tour of the States, and at last they met Elvis for the first and only time at his mansion in Bel Air, California. It seemed like it was going to be a clash of the two greatest of rock'n'roll acts of the time, but all was not as it seemed.

On approaching the house, the Fab Four walked passed a collection of Harley Davidson motorcycles and Bentley cars; however, John must have been somewhat unimpressed. And it looked as if the meeting may be in trouble before it even started, when John pointedly asked, even if a bit tongue-in-cheek, "what's happened to the old rock'n'roll Elvis?" The conversation became stilted, and Presley laughed off the comment and suggested they settled down with their guitars and start jamming, which they did (except poor old Ringo who opted for a game of pool or two with the roadies).

The music made by this super-group did the talking which ignited the conversation, so it appears John's earlier little quip only made a tiny dent in the relationship. There's no question that Elvis had a huge influence on the Beatles judging by history.

Elvis Presley and John Lennon

Image credit: Elvis Information Network


This is a beautifully written book by Cynthia with fabulous early days photos of John. She tells us of the difficult times in her marriage dealing with with John's behavior and how he changed from his art student days to when they divorced in 1969.

Last Train to Memphis: The Rise of Elvis Presley
Last Train to Memphis: The Rise of Elvis Presley

If you love Elvis, you'll love this encyclopedic book, there's so much great stuff to keep you interested for ages. The fantastic photos are in both color and black & white , many of which I hadn't seen before.


Image credit: Beatles Leaving Elvis

Elvis and Lennon

Elvis and Lennon
Elvis and Lennon

The meeting in Bel Air was arranged by their friend and co-author of this book, Chris Hutchins.

Find out what actually happened between the anti-war idealist John, and the former tank corp sergeant Elvis.


"He was our little Elvis"

What Paul McCartney said of John Lennon

Source: Wikipedia

John Lennon On Elvis

Do Opposites Attract And Similarities Repel?

Elvis obviously attracted the attention of John from a very early stage, and as John once said, "there wouldn't have been the Beatles had it not been for Elvis". Like two sparring rivals in their early days, did both Elvis and John bring out the better of each other when it came to music? I think they definitely did.

When two hefty rivals spar, one frequently brings out the best in the other, and I'm sure these two megastars did just that. They both had the talent to play the guitar well, and each had the special ability to write beautiful, tuneful lyrics. As youngsters, John had a difficult upbringing while Elvis had been a bit of a loner and was a little shy. But, did their similarities end there?

Apart from their musical talent, in some ways they were opposites, take their their stances on war and conflict, Elvis had served in the U.S.Army for a couple of years and had a fiery temper while John was an avid advocate for peace and harmony. John reckoned that Elvis went downhill after joining the army and was vociferous about his change of image - the gloves were definitely off!

When John Lennon's name was ever mentioned in front of Elvis, regarding John's anti-war feelings, Elvis would fly into a rage. It's well known that Presley assisted Edgar Hoover, Director of the FBI to try to get Lennon deported from the U.S. Elvis confided in his good friend, Tom Jones, and told him that he and John had appeared on a show in England and Elvis told Tom that he "wanted to take him (John) outside and see what sort of hiding his intellect would withstand." Just as well they didn't as these opposites seemed to repel and they could have ended up doing the "Jailhouse Rock."

Read more: Girls, guns and why Tom Jones and Elvis BOTH wanted to beat up John Lennon

John Lennon

Lennon Legend: The Very Best of John Lennon
Lennon Legend: The Very Best of John Lennon

There is little question that John Lennon was ahead of his time with his music. As a Beatle with Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr, they were all greats in their own way. And following the split of the group each member forged an individual style of their own.

But it was John who seemed to push the boat out further and developed iconic songs like Imagine, which is still one of the most popular songs of all time.

This CD containing 20 songs shows John at his best. Makes a wonderful Christmas gift.


Elvis, the Singer or the Actor?

Was Elvis a better singer or actor or as good at each?

See results

Elvis Presley

The 50 Greatest Love Songs
The 50 Greatest Love Songs

The multi-talented Elvis is shown at his best with this compilation CD of his love songs. Many of them are classics that we all know and love.

Like with all popular artists, there are undoubtedly several favorites omitted due to the sheer volume of his work - you can't keep all the people happy all the time however this CD has a go!

Are you Lonesome Tonight, if so, you'll be Always on my mind?


Julian and Sean Lennon Inducting Elvis Rock n Roll Hall of Fame

'Suspicious Minds'

by Elvis Presley

"Suspicious Minds" was possibly the most notable hit of Elvis's career. It was written by songwriter Mark James but failed commercially, and was then handed to Presley who achieved a number one hit with it in 1969. Some say it was the song that got his career back on track. Elvis would have identified himself with the song lyrics as they are all about mistrust and a dysfunctional relationship.

The song was first performed by Presley at what used to be the Las Vegas International Hotel (now the Hilton) in July 1969 while the single (45 rpm) was released during the fall. It achieved the number one spot in the U.S. and was to be Presley's very last number-one single before his death. A few others followed posthumously.


by John Lennon

John's career with the Beatles is well documented, and there's no question that he was a genius song writer. Lennon was inspired to write the lyrics for the song after a collection of Yoko Ono's poems, and he selfishly admitted to not crediting her for the song.

'Imagine' was the best-selling single of John's career as a solo artist, and really encapsulated what he dedicated his life to, that of a world living in harmony devoid of troubles and foes. The song tells how humanity should live in peace, without the excesses of material possessions and the divisions of nationalities, borders, and religions. It reached number one in the UK after Lennon's death in December of 1980.

Difficult Choice - It's only for fun

Sorry guys and gals, I'm giving you a tough choice here, but let me know why you choose who you did.

Who's your favorite, is it John or Elvis and why?

John Lennon's Music

I'll Remember You ( A John Lennon Tribute by Elvis Presley)

From Other Elvis Wallpapers

Any 1963 Thoughts or Stuff About John or Elvis - Thanks for coming by, it's appreciated

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    • Jukebox LM profile image

      Jukebox LM 4 years ago

      Way to define "culture shock"! Fascinating to hear about your childhood and the plunge into western pop culture... equally fascinating to consider the similarities and differences, influences and conflicts between the music of Elvis and John, not to mention the personal aspects. I really enjoyed reading this!

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      What a unique journey you share with us our of your experience and you made me look up "ululating", you are always teaching me vocabulary, you stepped into a whole new world and I love your Mom's "agape"! This is a treasure you have put together here. I heard a lot of Elvis growing up and had a cousin who had everything he put out in singles and albums and still love to listen to him. I saw both Elvis and the Beatles for the first time on the Ed Sullivan show and was mesmerized both times. I hadn't heard the story of the first meeting....two legends meet together again here so very nicely! FB loved, because I do! :)

    • aesta1 profile image

      Mary Norton 4 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      I used to be awed by Elvis as well.

    • WriterJanis2 profile image

      WriterJanis2 4 years ago

      What a combo performance this would have made.

    • SusanDeppner profile image

      Susan Deppner 4 years ago from Arkansas USA

      What a great topic and a very interesting lens!

    • Heather426 profile image

      Heather Burns 4 years ago from Wexford, Ireland

      unique lens. I have pages about both of them, and Elvis was my cousin.

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      I was always a Beatles fan and had little time for Elvis until I heard Suspicious Minds which i still regard as one of the greatest singles of all time. Excellent lens!