The Beatles and Elvis Presley met one time. The Boys from Britain were on their second U.S. tour, in August 1965, when they stopped by the King’s Bel Air home for a meet and greet. The Beatles were somewhat let down by the awkward encounter, and Elvis a bit envious of the group that was making the girls scream the way he used to. “There’s four of them,” he lamented to a friend afterward. “But there’s only one of me.”
Yet, for many fans, there was only one indispensable Beatle. John Lennon was the Liverpool teen who founded the band, né the Quarry Men, and who brought Paul McCartney into the group even though he knew the younger kid was a better musician and might challenge his own supremacy. Lennon was the group’s guiding spirit, its defining wit, its most committed rebel—its “artist.” If Elvis’s death of a drug overdose in 1977 seemed sadly inevitable, Lennon’s murder three years later was a shock that still reverberates—the tragedy that not only ended any lingering fantasies of a Beatles reunion but put a final period on an era of rock history.