How The Beatles paid tribute to Elvis Presley in ‘Hey Jude’

The Beatles have an interesting relationship with Elvis Presley. It’s one that is pretty much defined by the cliché of never meet your heroes. As George Harrison once said: “I mean, I met Elvis—Elvis impressed me when I was a kid, and impressed me when I met him because of the buzz of meeting Elvis, but you couldn’t later on go round to him and say, ‘Elvis, what’s happening in the universe?’”

A few years earlier, Harrison and the rest of The Beatles would’ve had no cause to even bother asking such questions; they were young lads interested in holding pretty girl’s hands, and the hip-snaking ways of ‘The King’ were thrusting this bright new future towards them. A few years later, however, the ‘Fab Four’ were f–king with the fabric of the cosmos, and hand-holding seemed like a banal bygone.

However, there was no denying that Elvis was part of their lineage and history—without him, there probably would be no ‘Hey Jude’. The Beatles may have onto new things, but this point was never lost on them, and they continued to pay homage to their old hero even when their focus had shifted beyond what The King was selling.

One influence that remained with them forever was how Elvis had the full package of pop culture nailed down. It was one thing to hear his greased tones spilling out of the radio, but it was another thing entirely to witness his gyrating on the TV screen. In fact, CBS were so startled by his ‘full package’ performance that they decreed he should only ever be filmed from the waist up.

With that in mind, The Beatles were pioneers of the new world of music videos, and one of their most famous outings was for the anthemic ‘Hey Jude’. It’s one of the most poignant popular songs in history, but that didn’t stop the band from cracking a few jokes in the preamble to their performance. One gag included a brief homage to an old classic made popular by ‘The King’.

Just before breaking into song, the ‘Fab Four’ offer up a brief hollering rendition of Elvis’ song ‘It’s Now or Never’ in a hat tip to a hero that is hidden amid a little piece of history. Elvis’ tune itself also fittingly has a historical backstory. The track is based on an Italian song called ‘O Sole Mio’.

This borrowing and bending of the old into the new is something that defined pop culture and neatly sutures the journey of pop music from its early beginnings to the chanted introspection of ‘Na-na-na-na’ that ‘Hey Jude’ brought to the fore.

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