Name: Elvis the spy.
Age: Born 1935.
Appearance: All things considered, a trifle conspicuous.
Are we talking about Elvis Presley? Yes, the legendary singer and spy.
I’ll admit I didn’t really know about the second part. That’s how spying works. According to new reports, Elvis was recruited as a spy in the 1970s by none other than Richard Nixon.
To spy on whom? On John Lennon.
Where are these reports coming from? From Bob Harris.
You mean Whispering Bob Harris? Yes, the celebrated DJ and spy tracker. Speaking on the Rockonteurs podcast, Harris said that Nixon “had detailed Elvis to gather as much information about John Lennon as he could”.
Why? “Nixon loathed Lennon, he really did,” Harris said, due to the latter’s outspoken criticism of the Vietnam war. By 1972, Nixon was trying to get Lennon deported from the US. Elvis and Lennon also disliked each other when they met in 1965. “It was hate at first sight,” said Harris.
But is this story about Elvis spying for Nixon true? Harris claimed that Nixon and Elvis were great friends, and while that may be an exaggeration, it is true that the King and the president had a famously weird meeting at the White House in 1970.
What was the meeting about? Elvis was apparently trying to secure a Federal Bureau of Narcotics badge. According to notes taken at the time: “Presley indicated that he thought the Beatles had been a real force for anti-American spirit.”
So Elvis did hate the Fab Four. His voluminous FBI file makes it clear. “He is of the opinion,” read one report, “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.”
And that’s why he needed a badge? To fight the Beatles? According to his former wife, Priscilla, Elvis was under the impression that “with the federal narcotics badge, he could legally enter any country both wearing guns and carrying any drugs he wished”.
I must say Elvis doesn’t really strike me as the undercover type. Really? Then how do you suppose he’s managed to keep such a low profile over the years?
I don’t know – by dying in 1977? Not necessarily. One theory holds that Elvis faked his own death to enter a witness protection programme after helping the FBI infiltrate an organised crime syndicate.
Is there any evidence to back that up? No.
I didn’t think so. But the idea that Elvis didn’t die persisted, and supposed sightings were common in the years after his demise.
Do say: “Not all heroes wear capes.”
Don’t say: “Even if Elvis had lived, he’d still be dead by now.”