Elvis in Europe: the NME interview with the King

In 1960, NME writer Derek Johnson jetted over to Germany for a chat with Sergeant Presley

In partnership with Warner Bros.

Elvis Presley treated me to one of his smouldering, heavy-lidded glances, and the corner of his mouth curled into a faint smile. “I don’t know if I shall manage to get to the top again,” he said. “I only wish I did know. I hear that trends have changed, so it might be pretty difficult for me. But I’ll tell you this – I’m gonna try hard.”

I was talking to Elvis in the Ray Barracks, Friedburg, some 30 miles north of Frankfurt, just before the singing phenomenon flew back to America this week for his discharge from the Army. This was the first time Elvis had been able to speak freely since his arrival in Europe – and I was there on behalf of the NME.

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When I asked him about the future, he was extremely cautious – and a little apprehensive. “I’m completely away from showbusiness,” he told me. “I only have newspaper clippings to keep me up to date with what’s going on. That’s where the NME comes in very useful – I get it regularly… read every week.”

It occurred to me that Elvis might be particularly concerned about the new crop of singers, who sprung up into the limelight in his absence. So I asked what he thought of his new rivals, like Fabian and Frankie Avalon.

“Well to start with, I don’t consider them as rivals,” he explained. “I’ve always believed that there’s room for everyone in show business – and if other people can make it, then good luck to them. I’ve been down the same road they’re walking on now, and I don’t begrudge them their success one bit.”

Presley’s immediate plans on discharge are to go home and take a short rest, before starting work with Frank Sinatra on the television spectacular he is doing at the beginning of May – and the film GI Blues, which he is scheduled to make.

Elvis
Austin Butler in ‘Elvis’ (Credit: Warner Bros.)

He has no definite recording plans, although he assumes that making new discs will be one of the first items on his schedule. “I haven’t had a new record out for ten months, and that’s taking a big risk,” he said.

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Will it be difficult for Elvis to settle down in civvy street? “Well, I guess it won’t be too difficult to adjust myself from 108 dollars per month to about a million per year,” he grinned. “But I suppose it won’t be too easy readjusting to the entire life.”

I was most anxious to know if Elvis intended to go back onto the rigid rock’n’roll path. Didn’t he perhaps consider that he was getting too old for a rocker?

“Well, I don’t know – that’s the first time I’ve ever been asked that question. But I don’t think so – I’m not an old man yet!

What about Elvis’ movements, which have come in for a great deal of criticism in the past? “I know they shocked a lot of people, but they were all spontaneous, I just couldn’t help the way I presented my songs – I guess it was just a part of me.”

And those celebrated sideburns? “I’ll let them grow again a little, but they won’t be as long as they were. I reckon I got over that kick!”

Elvis confirmed to me that he is definitely contemplating visiting Britain next year, as part of a lengthy tour of Europe. “It’ll be completely new territory for me, and I’m really looking forward to it,” he declared.

By now, Elvis Presley is back in America. And he’s taken with him the best wishes of all NME readers, which I delivered on your behalf. What’s more, I can assure you that he was genuinely pleased to receive them.

Getting personal with Presley

Has he lost any weight since he’s been in the Army?

“Yes, about ten pounds. I tip the scales at about 170 now.”

Any thoughts on getting married?

“I don’t know yet. I guess I’ll wait until the bug bites – and it hasn’t bitten yet.”

Has he sung at all while he’s been in Germany?

“Only for the guys in my platoon.”

Is he taking any souvenirs back to America?

“Two German guitars and a camera.”

Take a look at NME’s special film edition Elvis digital magazine right here. Don’t miss Baz Luhrmann’s Elvis starring Austin Butler and Tom Hanks, in cinemas June 24. Book tickets now.

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