BBC Radio 2 will devote three days of programming to The Beatles and Elvis over the Bank Holiday weekend at the end of August.
The date marks the 50th anniversary of a meeting between Elvis Presley and The Beatles, and programmes will include a drama, a series of documentaries, special features and their music.
The weekend culminates in a drama, starring Tom Hughes as John Lennon, which is inspired by a secret meeting that took place in Elvis’s Bel Air mansion on August 27th 1965. No cameras, no recording equipment – and only those who were there really know what happened. ‘When Elvis Met The Beatles’ (Monday 31st August, 7pm) recreates that evening, bringing alive the story when they met exactly 50 years ago, inviting listeners to be a fly on the wall.
Tom Hughes from BBC Two drama ‘The Game’ plays John Lennon, alongside Kevin Mains as Elvis Presley.
Tom says: “It’s said that you shouldn’t meet your heroes, I’m not sure that’s true. John Lennon is a hero of mine. I’ll never have the chance to meet him, so playing him is the next best thing. I was delighted to be asked and I just hope that in some way I’ve done this great man justice.”
The drama is by Liverpool-based screenwriter and playwright, Jeff Young. “I was a big Beatles fan when I was younger but for this project, initially, I knew very little about the Elvis and Beatles meeting,” he said. “Then as I began researching the story, the strangeness of the meeting and the psychological dimensions, the dramatic opportunities became obvious. The larger than life characters involved, including Brian Epstein and Colonel Tom Parker, all set against a backdrop of corrupt American politics and the disastrous war in Vietnam, made for a strange and compelling narrative.”
He continues: “The piece that has emerged is a kind of fake documentary. Elvis’s life was an American Tragedy and the seeds of it are sown here in this meeting between the King and the pretenders to the throne. The Beatles were so young, bewildered and overwhelmed by their rapid rise to fame. In writing this drama I went back my old Beatles records and I became a Beatles fan, all over again.”
Other programmes across the weekend include:
Johnnie Walker Meets Priscilla Presley (Thursday 27th August, 6pm), an in-depth personal conversation in which Priscilla talks about meeting Elvis, his extraordinary music and film career, the ‘68 Comeback Special, the profound effect he had on her life, plus a brand new project involving Elvis recordings backed by The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra.
Elvis’s Suitcase of 78s (Wednesday 26th August, 10pm), tells the story of Elvis Presley’s personal collection of 78 records.
There will also be Beatles and Elvis features within the network’s regular weekend shows including ‘Elaine Paige On Sunday’, ‘Sounds Of The 70s’, ‘The Radio 2 Arts Show’ and ‘America’s Greatest Hits’ with Paul Gambaccini, ‘Sunday Love Songs’ with Steve Wright, and Clare Teal; with ‘Sounds of The 60s’ and ‘Pick Of The Pops’ featuring the musical legends in their charts.
And on Bank Holiday Monday 31st August, from Sara Cox at Radio 2 Breakfast through to Simon Mayo at Drivetime, there will be an ‘Elvis Vs The Beatles’ countdown of the Top 50 best-selling songs in the UK, with Mayo playing the Number 1 track at the end of his show.
And in his Pop Master quiz, Ken Bruce (9.30am-12pm) will offer bonus rounds on The Beatles and Elvis.