Elvis Presley vs. The Beatles “If I could find a white man who had the Negro sound and the Negro feel, I could make a billion dollars.“ – Sam Phillips In August 1953, 18-year-old Elvis Presley walked into Sun Records in Memphis, Tennessee. According to legend, he intended to make a record that he could give to his mother. Sam Phillips, owner of Sun Records, found the singer he had been looking for. Elvis Presley In July, 1954, Elvis recorded his first single, “That’s All Right.” Country and Western radio stations refused to play the song because Elvis sounded too much like a black artist. Rhythm and Blues radio stations refused to play the song because he sounded too much like a “hillbilly.” A new style of music was born. By blending two racially segregated musical forms, Elvis recorded black music that was fast, sexy, and catchy. It was music that could be danced to easily and with excitement. As white, middle-class teenagers began listening to these “race” records, horrified adults – particularly parents – tried to stop the music from growing in popularity. Teenagers who listened to Rock and Roll were labeled juvenile delinquents and “greasers.” 10 WEEKS AT NUMBER ONE RCA Victor released Presley’s self-titled debut album in March, 1956. The album featured the rockabilly anthem “Blue Suede Shoes” and the moody, unusual “Heartbreak Hotel” Elvis Presley On June 5, 1956, Elvis performed his new single, “Hound Dog,” on the Milton Berle Show. During the performance, Presley abruptly halted an uptempo rendition of the song with a wave of his arm and launched into a slow, grinding version accentuated with energetic, exaggerated body movements. His performance created a storm of controversy. "Mr. Presley has no discernible singing ability. ... His one specialty is an accented movement of the body ... primarily identified with the repertoire of the blond bombshells of the burlesque runway.” (The New York Times) “Popular music has reached its lowest depths in the 'grunt and groin' antics of one Elvis Presley. ... Elvis, who rotates his pelvis ... gave an exhibition that was suggestive and vulgar, tinged with the kind of animalism that should be confined to dives and bordellos.” (The New York Daily News) Ed Sullivan, whose own variety show was the nation's most popular, declared him "unfit for family viewing." The “bad boy” image of Elvis Presley became synonymous with rock and roll music itself. Religious groups across the nation tried in earnest to censor the music. Juvenile Delinquency, Reverend Jimmy Snow As Elvis became more popular, the entertainment industry quickly cashed in on his celebrity status. Although Ed Sullivan swore he would never have Elvis on his show, he changed his mind after The Steve Allen Show earned higher ratings with Elvis as guest. On September 9, 1956, Elvis made his debut on The Ed Sullivan Show. 60 million viewers tuned in, but they did not see a repeat of Elvis’s “obscene” gyrations. Sullivan’s film crew was ordered to film him only from the waist up. Hollywood came next. In November, 1956, Elvis made his big-screen debut with the musical western Love Me Tender. The original title—The Reno Brothers – was changed to capitalize on the advanced sales of the title song "Love Me Tender". Three more films – LovingYou, Jailhouse Rock, and Kid Creole – followed. The iconic dance sequence to Jailhouse Rock is usually cited as his greatest moment on screen. Elvis Presley On December 20, 1957, Elvis Presley received his draft notice. On March 24, 1958, Presley was inducted into the U.S. Army as a private at Ford Chaffee, near Fort Smith, Arkansas. Presley announced that he was looking forward to his military stint, saying he did not want to be treated any differently from anyone else: "The Army can do anything it wants with me." Elvis Presley Elvis received his military haircut, and just like that, his pompadour was gone. There would be no more grease for two years. Elvis’s two years of military service did not end his musical career, but it did remove him from the spotlight. When he returned home in 1960, rock and roll music had changed considerably. Imagine a football team winning the Super Bowl one year, and then losing to injury, free agency, or retirement its starting quarterback, and its best receiver, running back, defensive lineman, and cornerback, as well as its coach and half the front office, all over the course of the next season. Not likely to win another championship, or even a game, for quite some time. By 1959 this was what had happened to rock and roll. The iconic figures that had shaped this new musical genre – including Elvis who was stationed in Germany while serving in the army – were gone. When Elvis returned to the states in 1960, rock and roll had become a genre of teen idols. Rock and roll was no longer sexy, rebellious, or dangerous. Now, it was whitewashed, cute and nonthreatening. When Elvis returned, his primary focus was no longer on music, but film. His movies were family-friendly, and like the teen idols holding the top spots on Billboard’s charts, Elvis had lost the “bad boy” image that had defined him five years earlier. Naturally, the older generation let down its guard, thinking "Thank goodness that's over with!" Following the assassination of President Kennedy, American teenagers were looking for someone or something to believe in. Four young men crossing the Atlantic on Pan Am Flight 101 were about to breathe new life into a defeated youth culture. The Beatles Before touching down on American soil, the Beatles were already the nation's number one musical group. Unprecedented hysteria filled John F. Kennedy Airport, the Plaza Hotel, and the streets of New York City, surrounding the Beatles' every move. Beatlemania had swept the nation. The Beatles The Beatles performed on The Ed Sullivan Show on February 9, 1964. It remains one of the highest-rated nonsports programs of all time. Nielsen estimates 45 percent of the country watched the show -- more than 73 million people then. Apocryphal tales maintain that not a single crime was committed in New York during the Sullivan hour. They were witty, cocky, and youthful, and they appeared more intelligent than earlier rock and rollers had been. But mostly, they were a lot of fun. Adults did not seem to object to their sound, only their trademark moptop hairdos . But even these were forgiven once the Beatles had charmed American audiences. Even Ed Sullivan, no fan of rock and roll, could not hide his admiration for the four boys from Liverpool. Sullivan – who had labeled Elvis Presley obscene and vulgar in 1956 – praised them as “four of the nicest youngsters we’ve ever had on our stage.” On July 29, 1966, Datebook, a popular teen magazine printed a quote by John Lennon. “We're more popular than Jesus now; I don't know which will go first - rock 'n' roll or Christianity.” The quote, which was taken out of context, brought the Beatles their first bout of controversy. The Beatles John was not comparing the Beatles to Jesus. In context, he was describing the mass hysteria of Beatlemania. Still, radio stations in the south banned Beatles music. Churches held bonfires where Beatles albums were burnt and teenage boys and girls were encouraged to smash their Beatles records. John recieved death threats. And the Ku Klux Klan made headlines when they protested a Beatle concert in Alabama. The Beatles By 1967, the controversy had subsided. The Beatles had stopped touring. In their attempts to push musical boundaries, they were less interested in hit singles. Instead, they began working on concept albums. They were still the most popular rock band in the world. 1968 The creative differences between John Lennon and Paul McCartney were beginning to tear the band apart. George Harrison felt restricted in his contributions to each new album. And Yoko Ono – John’s wife – was a frustrating presence in the recording studio. This was the beginning of the end of the Beatles…. … And Elvis Presley was about to stage a record comeback. Having learned about Elvis Presley and the Beatles, what can we infer about greasers and socs based on their tastes in music?