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When Elvis met Nixon, one of his goals was to take down the Beatles

Elvis and Nixon meet.
Elvis and Nixon meet.
Phil Edwards is a senior producer for the Vox video team.

The iconic meeting between Elvis Presley and Richard Nixon on December 21, 1970, has drawn a lot of attention over the years. Pundits have analyzed Elvis's bizarre gifts to the president (a mounted Colt .45), his unique obsessions (Communist brainwashing), and, of course, his outfit. The meeting spawned fictional interpretations too, from Drunk History to a TV movie (and a possible future film starring Kevin Spacey as Nixon).

But beneath the sideburns, there lies a darker truth about the time Elvis and Nixon met: the King wanted to take down the Beatles.

Elvis sounded more paranoid than Richard Nixon

The National Archives maintains a record of the historic meeting, and the records show the meeting notes taken by lawyer Egil "Bud" Krogh.

First, Elvis said, "The Beatles had been a real force for anti-American spirit." He then claimed that "the Beatles came to this country, made their money, and then returned to England where they promoted an anti-American theme."

Those comments put Richard Nixon in the atypical position of being the less-paranoid person in the conversation. Krogh writes that while the president nodded in agreement, he "expressed some surprise." The conversation quickly transitioned to general complaints about drugs and protest culture.

Elvis's anti-Beatles tirade wasn't just a one-off, either. In early 1971, Presley took a tour of the FBI offices, and had some words to pass on to J. Edgar Hoover. After calling the FBI director the "greatest living American," Presley targeted the Beatles yet again. According to notes, Elvis said that "the Beatles laid the groundwork for many of the problems we are having with young people by their filthy unkempt appearances and suggestive music." He also criticized the Smothers Brothers, Jane Fonda, and other entertainers.

Elvis and the Beatles were, at best, frenemies

The Beatles, a few days after they met Elvis.

Getty Images

The Beatles, a couple of days after they met Elvis. (Getty)

Elvis's insults in the White House are a sad coda to the relationship between the pop stars.

At best, Elvis and the Beatles had a strained relationship. There's only one well-publicized meeting between the two, which occurred on August 27, 1965 when the Beatles visited Presley in his Beverly Hills home. Some reports make the meeting sound like a lovefest (John Lennon dug the King's sideburns!) while others focus on tense moments (Paul McCartney later revealed that "I don't like [Elvis's] new stuff half as much — we told him that last night"). Most reports recount a jam session between the King and the band, though some dispute this claim.

But either way, Elvis and the Beatles never remained close after that. Their culture clash mixed with the inevitable tension between a group on the rise and a singer with an uncertain future, and the relationship frayed completely in just five years. That rapid breakdown makes Elvis's anti-Beatles stance a highlight of an already unusual meeting.

Elvis and Nixon meet, in Gif form.

Elvis and Nixon meet. (NARA)

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