Sunday, July 3, 2016

Remember When: John Lennon Proclaimed the Beatles Were More Popular Than Jesus

March 4th, 1966 started out like any other day for John Lennon. He did an interview with his journalist friend Maureen Cleave. It was one of many they would do for a series of articles published in the London Evening Star, titled "How Does a Beatle Live?"

One section of the interview covered Lennon's take on religion. In it, Lennon said, "Christianity will go. It will vanish and shrink. I needn't argue with that; I'm right, and I will be proved right. We're more popular than Jesus now: I don't know which will go first - rock 'n roll or Christianity."

In England, the quote went pretty much unnoticed. But in the United States, DATEbook, a teen fan magazine, got a hold of the quote, and printed it out of context, making Lennon, and the Beatles, appear to be a group of godless huns.

The front page of that magazine featured a picture of Paul McCartney, and a  series of pull quotes from Lennon, McCartney, and Timothy Leary, among others.

The cover quote from Lennon was, "I don't know which will go first - rock 'n roll or Christianity."

Not long after this a couple of Alabama DJs created a "big stink" about how the Beatles were irreligious. In no time, they had kids out there, smashing and burning their Beatles albums in protest.

John issued an apology, or at least what he thought was an apology, saying " I just said what I said was wrong, or was taken wrong and now it's all this?"

He later added, if he'd said TV was more popular than Jesus, he "might have gotten away with it."

Those were confusing times. 

The Beatles were just getting ready to start a big American tour, and they were forced to apologize for Lennon's comment. But, it just may be, a little bit of the devil could have been a good thing for their tour. 

Lennon revisited his comments in an interview with Leonard Gross, published in the December 13, 1966, issue of Look Magazine. He said, "I said it. I said we were more popular than Jesus, which is a fact." He went on to explain his religious beliefs - that Jesus, and Buddha, and the other prophets were all right. They all said basically the same thing. Their message was "love and goodness." The problem was, their followers distorted their message.

Two years later, rock 'n roll, and the devil cemented a closer relationship when the Rolling Stones released "Sympathy For The Devil." 

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