Throughout the Quarrymen/Beatles' existence, they played a total of at least 31 Elvis Presley tunes during in their live shows (as dictated in Lewisohn, page 361-65).
- "All Shook Up", 1957-60
- "Are You Lonesome Tonight", 1961
- "Baby I Don't Care (You're So Square)", 1960-61
- "Baby Let's Play House", 1960-62
- "Blue Moon of Kentucky", 1957-61
- "Blue Suede Shoes", 1957-62
- "Don't Be Cruel (To a Heart That's True)", 1959-61
- "Good Rockin' Tonight", 1958-62
- "Heartbreak Hotel", 1957-61
- "(Marie's The Name of) His Latest Flame", 1961-62
- "Hound Dog", 1957-61
- "I Feel So Bad", 1961-62
- "I Forgot to Remember To Forget", 1960-62
- "I Got a Woman", 1960-62
- "I'll Never Let You Go (Little Darlin')", 1960-62
- "I'm Gonna Sit Right Down and Cry (Over You)", 1960-63
- "It's Now or Never", 1960-62
- "Jailhouse Rock", 1958-60
- "Just Because", 1960-61
- "Lawdy Miss Clawdy", 1957-62
- "Love Me Tender", 1960-61
- "Loving You", 1959-60
- "Mean Woman Blues", 1957-62
- "Mystery Train", 1957-59
- "(Let's Have a) Party", 1957-60
- "That's All Right (Mama)", 1957-1962
- "That's When Your Heartaches Begin", 1959-61
- "Tonight is so Right for Love", 1960-62
- "True Love", 1960
- "Wild in the Country", 1961-62
- "Wooden Heart", 1961-62
The sheer quantity of Presley covers in the band's stage repertoire (at least twice as many as any other recording artist) is a clear illustration of just how important and influential Elvis was to the band members. However, despite the huge number of covers, only a handful were ever recorded; and only a handful more have been unofficially released.
Paul sang about a minute of "All Shook Up" during a session on 03 January 1969.
The Beatles recorded "Blue Suede Shoes" twice during the Get Back session in January 1969. The first was made on 03 January, and the second on 26 January as part of a medley/jam along with "Rip it Up" and "Shake Rattle and Roll".
Somewhat surprisingly given that both Lennon and McCartney named it specifically as a major influence, no recording of the Beatles playing "Heartbreak Hotel" exists of any kind. They apparently never played it during the Get Back sessions.
A recording of the Beatles covering "I Forgot to Remember To Forget" was made on 01 May 1964, released on the album Live at the BBC.
was made on 16 July 1963 and released on the album Live at the BBC.
In addition, many of the former Beatles covered Presley songs in their solo careers, which includes but are certainly not limited to:
- Paul recorded "Just Because" in 1987
- Ringo recorded "Don't Be Cruel (To a Heart That's True)" in 1992
- John recorded "Hound Dog" live several times, and it was released it on the album Live In New York City in 1986
- Paul recorded "It's Now or Never" in 1990, released on the album The Last Temptation of Elvis
- Paul, George, and Ringo made a brief recording of "Blue Moon of Kentucky" in 1994, released as part of The Beatles Anthology
- Paul released "Mean Woman Blues" on his 1991 Unplugged
The influence of any given musician on another, however, is hardly limited to covers (although that is obviously the most clear such example). And in the case of Elvis Presley's influence on the Beatles, that influence is extended to the Beatles' original compositions in addition to their Presley covers.
Paul McCartney has further cited Elvis as an influence on the Quarry Men's first professionally made original recording, "In Spite of all the Danger", which McCartney described as "a self-penned little song very influenced by Elvis" (Anthology, page 23). He also stated, "It's very similar to an Elvis song. It's me doing an Elvis ... but I'm a bit loathe to say which!" (Lewisohn 1988, page 7). Some have suggested the song "Tryin' To Get To You" as the inspiration, and indeed that's as good a guess as any. But I don't hear Elvis' influence at all - the two-part vocals are much more like the Everly Brothers than Elvis Presley. Regardless, in Paul's mind perhaps he was trying to sound like Elvis, and in that respect Elvis did indeed influence not only "In Spite of All the Danger" but also many other early attempts at songwriting, even if the end results are quite different from what the young composer was attempting to emulate.
There is also at least one very obvious instance of Elvis' lyrical influence on the Beatles. "Baby Let's Play House" inspired the opening lyrics of Lennon's "Run for your Life", the concluding track of Rubber Soul: "I'd rather see you dead, little girl, than to be with another man" is word-for-word identical. Of course, Elvis was an interpretive artist and not a creative one, so he didn't actually write those lyrics himself, but it was his singing of them that influence Lennon's lyrics on "Run for your Life".
Most importantly, though, the influence of Elvis Presley was in attitude, not in music. Lennon's childhood friend Pete Shotton sums it up: "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" (Shotton, page 79). In fact, Presley's music can be seen as the way by which he presented and conveyed that infamous teenager attitude. In that sense, the attitude is actually more important and more fundamental to Elvis Presley and what he symbolized than the music itself. This is no doubt as true for the Beatles specifically as it was for 1950's adolescent culture at large.
Elvis' conversion from the young, handsome singer to gaudy Hollywood sellout, then, is why the Beatles never released any Presley covers on their albums. Because by the time the Beatles started making recordings (their first single, "Love Me Do"/"P. S. I Love You", was released on 05 October 1962, two years after the release of GI Blues), their respect for The King of Rock 'n' Roll had diminished. Even so, there can be little doubt that Elvis Presley was the single biggest influence on the Beatles.
Beatles, The. The Beatles Anthology. Chronicle Books, San Francisco, CA, 2000.
Lewisohn, Mark. The Complete Beatles Chronicle. Pyramid Books, an imprint of Octopus Publishing Group Limited, London, UK, 2006.
ibid. The Beatles Recording Sessions. Harmony Books, New York, NY, 1988.
Shotton, Pete. The Beatles Lennon and Me. Stein and Day Publishers, New York, NY, 1983.