The Lost Beatles Album — “The Beatles Sing Elvis”

Beatles Help!

APRIL 1, 2023. One of the few remaining mysteries in Beatles history surrounds, The Beatles Sing Elvis!, the album that the Beatles intended to release in late 1965. The story of this album remained buried for years until it was uncovered during Dave Hunter’s research for his 1991 book, Seven Levels: The Beatles in 65. While reviewing the diaries of Beatles assistant Neil Aspinall, Hunter came across an entry for September 4, 1965, that read: “Gave lyrics to “Gonna Sit Right Down And Cry Over You” to Lennon for next Beatles record. Lennon immediately started singing “Gonna Sit Right Down and Cry on the Loo.”

Hunter knew that this was one of the songs that Elvis Presley had recorded on his RCA debut (the actual title is “I’m Gonna Sit Right Down And Cry (Over You),” and that the Beatles had performed it on the BBC in 1963. But why was Lennon requesting lyrics in September of 1965? There was no record that Lennon or the Beatles rehearsed, recorded, or performed the song that year. Hunter reached out to Aspinall to find out. As Hunter recalled: “At first, Aspinall had no recollection of the event. But after a few moments, I could see his eyes light up. ‘Ah,’ he exclaimed, ‘That was for the Elvis tribute album.’ I was stunned. All I could say was, “WHAT Elvis tribute album?!?”

Beginning with that interview, Hunter was able to piece together the story that has since been verified by several other Beatles historians. The genesis of ‘the Elvis album’ dates back to August 27, 1965, when the Beatles met Elvis for the first and only time. The Beatles enjoyed meeting their hero, but their roadie Mal Evans was on Cloud Nine long after the visit had ended. Well before he entered the Beatles circle, Mal had been an avid Elvis fan and even a member of the Elvis fan club. As the Beatles limo pulled away from Elvis’ Beverly Hills mansion, Mal threw out a crazy idea – the Beatles should record an album of Elvis songs performed in the ‘Beatles style’ (as Mal put it).

The Beatles had released cover songs of many of their favorite rock and roll acts, including Buddy Holly, Little Richard, and Chuck Berry. Yet they had never recorded an Elvis song despite performing some of his songs during their early days. Still, all four Beatles initially dismissed Mal’s idea.

The Beatles’ manager Brian Epstein had a plan for the Beatles to release at least two albums and two singles each year. In the first half of 1965, the Beatles had released the singles ‘Ticket to Ride” and “Help!”, the album Help!, and the film Help! All that in addition to their constant radio and TV performances and world tours. By September, they were completely exhausted. Epstein had been pestering the group about their second album for 1965. With no new material and limited time, Mal’s idea no longer seemed so farfetched.

The Beatles met with George Martin on September 3 to discuss the idea. Martin suggested they try and replicate the sound of Elvis’ early Sun recordings by recording them at nearby Quadrant Studios rather than at EMI. With everyone in agreement, the studio was booked for the week of September 6.

The list of songs the Beatles considered for the Elvis album included his hits “Heartbreak Hotel,” “Don’t Be Cruel,” and “Love Me Tender,” along with several of the tracks from his first album (“Blue Suede Shoes,” “I’m Gonna Sit Right Down And Cry (Over You),” and “Money Honey”) and the B-side “Got Ants In My Pants (and I Gotta Dance).” It is unclear how many of these songs were actually recorded since Quadrant didn’t keep the meticulous notes that EMI kept for their Beatles sessions.

There are conflicting reports on why the Beatles interrupted their recording sessions only two days later on September 8. There are reports that Martin was dissatisfied with the quality of the Quadrant staff after one of the tape operators stamped out his cigarette on Martin’s newspaper. Others claim that Lennon walked out of the sessions because he felt the Beatles should be recording their own material. Still, others point to McCartney’s tantrum when the other three Beatles wouldn’t let him add a string quartet to “Hound Dog.” In any case, the sessions were put on hold until early October.

Whatever the reason for the breakdown in recordings, there was another event that put the final nail in the coffin for the project. By now, word of the Beatles’ sessions had reached Elvis and his manager, Colonel Tom Parker. Fearing that the Beatles’ versions would eclipse Elvis’, Parker called Epstein and threatened to tell ‘nasty secrets’ about him to the press if the Beatles went ahead with their Elvis album. It turns out that Brian, like The Colonel, was once a carnival barker, and worried such a revelation would harm “his boys.” He convinced the Beatles to halt the recording sessions, and he had George Martin destroy all the tapes.

With the album canceled, the Beatles were back to square one – no new material and, at this point, only a month to record an album in time for a November release. Any other band might have thrown in the towel. But not the Beatles. They entered EMI Studio on October 10, 1965, and they came out one month later with one of the greatest albums ever recorded, Rubber Soul.

(Please note the date this post was published.)

-Scott Freiman

Photo via Getty Images

31 comments on “The Lost Beatles Album — “The Beatles Sing Elvis”

  1. NJ Riley

    I’ve never heard that Brian was a carnival barker! Seems more likely Colonel Parker was threatening to reveal that Brian was gay!

  2. Back in “the day,” being revealed as a former carnival barker would have been a much greater shock – especially if “the day” is April 1…

    • NJ Riley

      I’m friends on Facebook with Scott and I wrote to ask him if the article was all an April Fool’s Day joke!

      • bryanirvine44@gmail.com you Irvine

        What’s a carnival barker?

        • wwpmanga

          The guy that stands up and yells trying to get people to come to see the show with JoJo, the horse face boy, or something like that. He basically is like “Step right up folks, come and see,..”

  3. This is a fascinating revelation, Scott! Almost as interesting as the infrequent but curious rumors that Tom Jones took John’s place for the recording of Abbey Road, but was erased from most of the tracks (except for the screams on “I Want You (She’s So Heavy) after demanding that the title be changed to Flabby Roast, as a tribute to his mother’s signature Sunday dinner.

    • You’re thinking of Warren Zevon, the Excitable Boy who rubbed the pot roast all over his chest. John, sadly, didn’t know WZ, but telepathically picked up on the kid’s vibe years before that song was written! Tom Jones didn’t like it much, being erased and all that, but when he heard the masters, he agreed and John, as a kindness to Tom, left his vocals on the last bit bc John was just so goddamn generous.

  4. This is a joke!

  5. Well done! Unfortunately, I had ordered medium rare.


    Please explain why the album “The Beatles VS The Four Seasons” on VeeJay records is so rare, it was released in 1964, which makes it next year 60 years old, was this one of their earlier releases for both bands, yes I know it was a “Battle of the Bands” thing with a score card on the album for the best song on the album. I still have my copy, still sealed from the time I bought it, is it still a rare album to have.

  7. William M.

    I’ve always wondered what strings on Hound Dog would sound like.

  8. Carl G Schultz

    Yes, April Fool to you, too.

  9. There’s was talk of Elvis sitting in with the Beatles, but unfortunately Col. Parker had some legal trouble in Europe and therefore forbid Elvis from traveling overseas.

    • NJ Riley

      George, “Col. Parker” was actually an illegal immigrant from the Netherlands whose real name was Andreas Cornelis van Kuijk. Therefore he could not get a passport and wouldn’t let Elvis tour internationally because he couldn’t explain why he couldn’t go too.

    • Bob Taylor

      The worst mistake Elvis ever made was not firing Parker in 1960. Brian Epstein was unknown then, but by way of comparison, imagine if Epstein had become Elvis’ manager in 1960. Or Derek Taylor. Or Neil Aspinall a few years later. Or hundreds of other people in showbiz. Many people had the smarts and the confidence to have protected Elvis’ interests and kept him from the becoming the self parodying spectacle he became after 1970. A different manager would certainly have arranged for him to tour Europe, and would have sought out good projects for Elvis to test his acting abilities in instead of the utter s*** he put onscreen in the 1960s. What a waste. A real tragedy.

  10. Was this before or after the Beatles’ cover album of Sinatra hits, ‘We Dit It Our Way’?

  11. Bill Pranty

    It’s an April Fool’s joke, people.

  12. Howard Levin

    The only version of an Elvis song we have left (as it were) is the one of “I’m Gonna Sit Right Down and Cry Over You” on the foggy Star Club recordings. Surprised you missed that.

    • NJ Riley

      Howard, he didn’t miss it – reread the article. The song is listed there.
      Anyway, the whole thing was just an April Fool’s Day joke!

  13. Dwyer Jones

    Mark, you drew me in and almost fooled me. Well done!

  14. Patrick Stibbs

    Nice, but you have to add a “disclaimer” at the bottom, you insult your audience (yeah, we saw the date published… in BOLD font… hint, hint, nudge nudge) and you lose your AFD cred. Just a hint for next year.

    • We totally understand about the over-explaining; but this post has been getting a lot of post-April-1 traffic; and we didn’t want to mislead anyone. Hence the after-the-fact disclaimer…

  15. If you couldn’t tell this was an April Fools piece, then that’s Your Fault! Haha, well-written piece, here. You put a lot of thought into this one. Bravo! People actually fell for it and discussed it! You win.

  16. Thomas Tarwater

    As April Fool’s jokes go, this was the best! But would it have been really something if the Beatles had ACTUALLY recorded an Elvis tribute album. That would have been one for the ages.

  17. Tim Thompson

    As a fan of both Elvis and The Beatles I fell hook line and sinker for this article 😭 this would’ve been absolutely fantastic. But that line about Paul throwing a tantrum because he was denied a string quartet for hound dog 🤣😂 that was one of the two things I was skeptical about another thing I was skeptical about was Epstein was a “Carnival Barker” when he was actually a furniture salesman that ran a record store out of his father’s department store.

  18. Frank B&Efan

    I just found u people out there, and couldn’t be happier to know u r !

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