The Beatles vs. The King

OK, I’ve never seen this brought up before (sorry if it has been), but I thought it deserved to go in great debates: Who’s more influential in rock music, The Beatles or Elvis Presley?

I like Elvis, but I’ve always been a Beatles fan, myself. Elvis came first, of course (and I know there were others before him, but for the purposes of this post, ignore them), but I’ve always thought of Elvis as merely a performer. The Beatles, on the other hand, wrote and performed their own music, and introduced a lot more different styles to rock music. Plus, I simply like their music better. :slight_smile:

So whaddaya’ll think?

I think the question has an obvious answer. if Elvis influenced the Beatles then he in proxy influenced everything the Beatles influenced.

Culturally I think the Beatles influenced a lot more in contrast to Elvis, if you discount his influence on them.

John has been dead nearly 19 years. :frowning:

Influential? The Beatles by a mile…

All Elvis did was take music that black people already were making and made it commercially acceptable (AKA put a white face to it).

Also, The Beatles, while they initially were nothing more than a pop band (though much smarter than the average pop band), eventuallky grew and from Rubber Soul onward, challenged the constraints of rock and popular music while remaing a commercial entity.

While you can debate the commercial accomplishments of both artists, all one has to do to come up with an answer to the “important” question is simply look at <sgt. Pepper* and compare the influence of that single record to the entire influence that Elvis’ whole career gave us.

Yer pal,

Hands down the Beatles are more influential and impressive. The caveat is that they credit Elvis as one of their biggest influences as has been mentioned. I think part of this was a PR move, especially once they made the US invasion. Elvis wasn’t very diverse, evolved only in appearance and attitude but not in style, and rarely wrote anything original. I guess I’d say that Elvis had a big cultural and popular influence, but a minimal musical influence. The Beatles however had a massive musical influence, evolved to a huge cultural influence, had a political influnce, and undoubtedly large popular influence. Based on this differentiation I’d say you can credit Elvis with part of the Beatles cultural, and popular influence by proxy, but the rest sets the Beatles ahead of the King.

I much prefer the music of the Beatles, for a host of reasons. But I can’t let pass the oft-repeated slander that Elvis was nothing more than a white boy doing inferior renditions of songs done better (and earlier) by black artists.

No question about it, rock and roll long predated Elvis. But Elvis was no PAt Boone, doing lame, wimpy white bread renditions of black music. Elvis’ early work combined a LOT of styles and showed a score of influences, and not just black ones. Elvis’ music owed as much to Hank Williams and Bill Monroe as it did to the blues, and his role model as a singer wasn’t Chuck Berry or John Lee Hooker- it was Dean Martin!

I tend to agree with John Lennon’s quote that “Elvis died when he joined the Army,” in that he didn’t produce much good music after 1960 (aside from the occasional great single like “Little Sister” or “Suspicious Minds”). But in 1956, Elvis was as good as it got… and I KNOW how good the competition was. A collection of Elvis’ best work from 1955-57 would be better than a similar collection from even greats like Fats Domino and Chuck Berry.

P.S. When ELvis covered a song or a style of music done earlier by a black artist, he usually did it a lot BETTER! That’s the difference between Elvis/The Beatles and, say, Vanilla Ice/Pat Boone.

Elvis’ version of “Hound Dog” was fifty times better than Big Mama Thornton’s. TRY to forget the image of the bloated joke in a white jumpsuit and give the man credit for his REAL early accomplishments.

The Beatles wrote and played their own stuff, and it is an amazing body of work in and of itself. On top of that, they had pretty decent voices. But their live performances, IMHO, were rather stiff. They weren’t “performers”, they were musicians.

Compare that to the king. Elvis was a PERFORMER. That’s why people still mimic him. It wasn’t his music, necessarily, but the whole package: his body, his passion, his bluesy delivery, his sneering lip, his “bad boy” image, the fact that he was drop dead gorgeous. Oh yeah, and his music was pretty good.

Separate Elvis from his sexuality and you get a couple decent songs. He was the predecessor of the Back Street Boys, Madonna, et al. And they are entertaining, don’t get me wrong.

But as far as timelessness, as far as influence, the Beatles, more specifically McCartney and Lennon, kick Elvis’ butt. Why? Because they were exceptional songwriters. The music will live on through other musicians’ interpretations of their songs. Future generations may not know WHO Paul and John were, but they’ll know their music.

I’m as big a beatles fan as anyone else, but too many people rag on Elvis because it’s popular. Those same people that say Elvis wasn’t good, probably can’t name but a few of his songs (as compared to his collection).

Yeah, most of the Beatles songs are more technically proficient, but when it comes to music and what it’s suppossed to do to you, I think one guitar and a powerful voice is all you need. And Elvis was a good, no great singer. His voice was much more powerful than John or Paul’s. Just ask anyone who’s ever heard “peace in the valley”. That song will make you cry and hug your mama.

And besides that, Elvis was an all around good guy. He served his country when he was called. Most performers would have tried to get out of it (my opinion). he built a home for his mama, and he stood for what he believed in. The beatles were just pop stars.

And if you have any doubt to Elvis’ influence, show up to graceland on his birthday.

The only way to rid yourself of temptation is to yield to it–Oscar Wilde

Oh yeah, one more thing. all artist go through that down period in their old age. so if you have to consider fat vegas elvis, then you also have to consider ringo and his all star band.

The only way to rid yourself of temptation is to yield to it–Oscar Wilde

I’m too late in the game here to do much more than agree with the general consensus (the Beatles over Elvis).

I think {b]PunditLisa** said it best. Elvis was a performer, the Beatles were musicians.

The Beatles were much more diverse in their (short) body of work than Elvis Presley ever was. It’s a shame that individually they never lived up to their peak as a group. Only John Lennon came close in his solo career.

And also politically and culturally the Beatles had a much larger impact. They were part of the influence on the psychedelic era, the experimentation with drugs, anti-war protests, etc…

The Beatles made the transition from “performer” to “songwriter/performer” and encouraged individual creativity in rock music.

Also the Beatles had more of a global influence than Elvis ever did.

La franchise ne consiste pas à dire tout ce que l’on pense, mais à penser tout ce que l’on dit.
H. de Livry

yay beatles!

apples and oranges. I think everyone agree’s that they were both great.

The only way to rid yourself of temptation is to yield to it–Oscar Wilde

In the area of ‘most influential’, you’d have to throw Frank Sinatra into the mix. We’re all too young to remember it, but Sinatra revolutionalized popular music. Before Sinatra, pop singers were basically backups for the band. Sinatra virtually invented the singer-with-a-microphone as a musical style, and almost singlehandedly brought upon the downfall of the big band era. He was also the first ‘pop’ singer with groupies, etc. He also was tremendously innovative with his voice, using trombone phrasings and such to add richness.

If you were to ask me to rank 20th century pop artists in terms of influence, I’d probably make it the Beatles, Elvis, and Sinatra, in that order.

Hell with the King and the Mop Tops both.
Jimi Hendrix forever.

Armed, dangerous…
and off my medication.

Me thinks we are forgetting a lot of people…Jerry Lee…Little Richard…but as for influencing rock…I really don’t think either of them did very much. I think it had a life of its own. Without either…it would have grown. Were not the Stones a bigger influence than either?


pfffft…they died along with the 70’s, thank Bog.

Definitely concur with dhanson as regards the Chariman. Sinatra single-handedly created the individual as performer genre. Elvis expanded on that role.

I have more respect for Elvis as a performer than I used, and verily every performer builds on the accomplishments of their predecessors, but as far as musical influence is concerned, the Beatles had a hand in practically every type of popular music available since the 60’s.

Flush out your headgear, metroshane, Elvis was also a racist, but things like that don’t enter into estimations of ability or talent. If you’re into that kind of thing, Paul McCartney is a virulent (albeit nauseating) spokesman for animal rights, John Lennon was one of the most influencial peace activists of his generation; Harrison and Starr are, well, generally not offending people, so…

The upshot is, all that don’t really enter into it.


All those who believe in psychokinesis raise my hand.

Flush out your headgear, metroshane, Elvis was also a racist

I knew this would come up somewhere, in fact i almost brought it up first. but declined because like you said, it doesn’t have anything to do with talent.

  1. Elvis grew up in the south in America in the 40-50’s before civil rights.

  2. Elvis was one of the only white kids in his neighborhood.

  3. Elvis found his roots in the black gospel church.

  4. At first, people criticized Elvis for playing “negro” music.

People perputate these rumors with no real documentation, only because it’s natural to knock someone off a pedastool (sp). I’m not saying E never said a discouraging word, but the logistics suggest he had more in common with the ‘black folk’ in his early days.
No matter who you talk about, someone somewhere has an ‘asshole’ story about them.

Also, yes lennon and mccartney have stood for great things, but not until late in their career, when the beatles were practically over.

I treated Art as the supreme reality, and life as a mere mode of fiction–Oscar Wilde

I will side with the general consensus that the Beatles were more influential than Elvis, although all the Beatles wrought wasn’t good, after all they were indirectly responsible for some of the most bleated excesses of the 70’s, EG. Concept Albums. You never hear anyone being described as “Presleyesque”, but you always hear bands being described as “Beatlesque”. I guess it is a lot easier to sound like a band rather than an individual. If you have read any books on Elvis you would find out that even though he couldn’t play guitar that well, the band always keyed on his “banging” Peter Guralnic (SP?) also did a good job in his books dispelling the Elvis as Racist myth. Some of his friends were more than a bit racist, but Evis wasn’t. I could ramble on but most of my other points have been made. If you want to open a can of worms you should think about how influential Sly and the Family Stone was and how underrated they are.

Living on Penny Lane by Heartbreak Hotel

PS In my university days I was voted most likely to be a rock critic.

You want brilliance BEFORE I’ve had my coffee!!!


Don’t do it, man! Unless you like Mac & Cheese, Top Ramen and living off of a girlfriend you don’t particularly like.

Translation: Trying to become a rock critic is just as hard as trying to be a rock star, except you never get laid because you wrote a particularly good album review.

Trust me, I know!

Yer pal,

Dhanson, zoony:

Sorry, but the first superstar singer to really work the microphone was Bing Crosby.

Not to take anything away from Frank, but if you’re gonna spank the baby-boomers for short memories, make sure you’re not coming up short yourselves.

Before he got hold of that god damn pipe and started pouring out the Minute Maid orange juice, Der Bingle was quite the Hep Cat. Recorded with Bix Beiderbecke and everything, back in the 1920s.

Also, since when were pre-Sinatra pop singers “backups for the band” ? Look at Ma Rainey, Bessie Smith, Russ Columbo, Theresa Brewer, Ida Cox, Rudy Vallee…THESE were the names that sold the records, not the boys in their bands!