October, 2011, Liverpool, England – ELVIS has entered the building…of the Beatles. A new exhibition opened October 5 at the Beatles Story Museum in Liverpool called Elvis and Us, highlighting the legendary influence that the Beatles and Elvis Presley had on each other. (see video at left, and slideshow of photos, courtesy of Beatles Story and Richard Hector-Jones, Creative Concern)
Julia Baird, John Lennon’s sister and devotee of her brother’s history (besides authoring books about him, she’s on the Board of Directors for the Cavern Club and very involved with the Beatles Story exhibits), attended the festivities of opening night on October 4 at the museum with great excitement, and she wrote me to describe the event. Traveling a great distance for this gala night was no issue for her, as she has great memories of dancing to Elvis records with her mum Julia, and her then-young brother John in their living room. Their cat’s name was even Elvis.
In her 2006 book, “IMAGINE THIS: growing up with my brother John Lennon”, Elvis is listed on no fewer than 14 pages. On pg 76: “We’d had a record-player for a long time, with a heavy contraption holding the needle. A monstrous piece of walnut furniture….within a minute we were listening to ‘Hound Dog’ at full volume, followed by ‘Heartbreak Hotel’ and the front room was rocking to the sounds of Elvis Presley, the new singing sensation from America. My mother was mad about Elvis. She danced with my father, with John and with Liela when she stayed with us….this was our introduction to the King of Rock and Roll and the beginning of hero worship for John, and for all of us.”
THE BEATLES STORY HAS PARTNERED WITH ELVIS PRESLEY ENTERPRISES AND Graceland to bring many previously unseen Elvis artifacts to Liverpool. It is the first time that Graceland has done a joint exhibition of this magnitude and displayed Elvis artifacts so far away from home. Called a “transatlantic partnership”, the exhibit explores how The Fab Four were influenced by the man everyone dubbed the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll. (Read about the exhibit here at Elvis and Us.com)
JOHN LENNON WAS QUOTED as saying “Before Elvis, there was nothing”, and “Without Elvis, there’d be no Beatles.” These quotes are themed into the exhibit as manifestos of Lennon’s initial divine inspiration that drove him headlong into the world of music. On the Tom Snyder show in 1975, he recounts watching Elvis “on the screen” as a young boy with all these girls screaming. Lennon said, “and I thought, that’s a good job!”
JULIA’S letter about opening night of ELVIS AND US, shared with her permission:
I was invited by the Director of Beatles Story, Jerry Goldman, to attend the opening of this latest exhibition, ELVIS AND US, in Liverpool, on Tuesday, October 4th. I arrived in Liverpool, parked the car and walked down to the waterfront, known to us Liverpudlians as the Pier head, or The Liver Buildings. It is a magical setting at the best of times, but in that early evening dusk, it was truly outstanding, with the magnificent architecture, the lighting, the River Mersey, the boats, the twilight skies. I spent ten minutes outside, sending phone photographs to my children, who all now live elsewhere in the country.
“Then I saw the car! The team from Memphis, which included Jack Soden, the Director of Elvis Presley Enterprises, had brought with them a pink Cadillac! It was parked outside the Beatles Story Museum building…a brilliant start to the evening.
“As I approached the door, I began to hear voices….and as I entered, I saw the Gospel choir of Liverpool standing on the balcony, singing a greeting to all the guests…‘Amazing Grace’…and AMAZING it was. This was wonderland!
“I then met Jack Soden for the third time…I have met him in Liverpool, at Graceland in Memphis…and now again…along with other E.P E members…and Jerry and Julie Klein, who helped to host us in Memphis back in 2004. There were speeches, as you would expect, describing how the exhibition came to be…we were addressed by Jack, by Jerry Goldman and by The Mayor of Liverpool.
“He had one surprising and lovely announcement to make…annointing Jerry Goldman an ‘Honorary Scouser’, on account of his tireless promotions of Liverpool as a fabulous tourist destination. He actually blushed! He was given a scroll, tied with a red ribbon. As Jerry speaks “BBC English”, I bought him a ‘Learn yerself scouse’ booklet the next day, so that he can begin to speak properly.
“Then, for the exhibition proper….I can only give my own opinion, although I seemed to share everyone else’s… IT IS ABSOLUTELY FANTASTIC…….with wonderful footage of Elvis and The Beatles, interviews, shoes, clothes, jewelry, costumes, instruments, music…..truly an extremely engaging event….if you can come to Liverpool over the next two years, I encourage you to do it….to see this amazing exhibition on the world’s most beautiful waterfront.
“I was in the exhibition space for maybe half an hour, which was enough to give me a taster….I now have to return, so that I can listen to the interviews in depth, featuring The Quarrymen, Pete Best and many others and to watch Elvis in all his glory. This is an outing that needs time!
When we were all leaving, two hours later, the Gospel Choir was singing again, as we went down the stairs….a magical touch….and the pink Cadillac had gone… with love Juliaxxxx”
See Julia Baird’s website at http://www.juliabaird.eu. Here she talks about her 2006 book, “IMAGINE THIS: Growing up with my brother John Lennon” (UK, Hodder, 2006—published in 2007 in U.S. by the title“The Private Life Of John Lennon”). You can buy her book there, as well as the “Paul Talks” CD featuring her 1987 intimate interview with Paul McCartney, and in her words, “a fab Cavern poster.”
The exhibit Elvis and Us regales in the glory days of pop stardom and the mutual admiration that the two pinnacles of musical greatness shared. The exhibit will be in Liverpool at Pier Head for two years. Tickets are £15.95 for adults and get you into the Elvis exhibit as well as the Beatles Story exhibit.
©Shelley Germeaux 2011 – Thanks to Julia for sharing her wonderful night at Elvis and Us, and to Richard Hector-Jones and the Beatles Story for permission to post these photos.