Saturday, January 31, 2009

Lennon's Greatest Faux Pas

It's an acknowledged Beatles fact that John Lennon, after the band returned from their harrowing trip to the Philippines, got the band mired in controversy by saying that "the Beatles are more popular than Jesus." The statement was made in an interview with British reporter Maureen Cleave. In the United States, the statement resulted in a Birmingham radio station calling for the burning of Beatles records. This may or may not have been a joke or off-the-cuff remark, but the trend of burning Beatles' singles and LPs spread throughout the country. In England, the statement didn't cause nearly as much of a stir. Reluctantly, Lennon apoligised for his remarks at a press conferennce in Chicago on August 11, 1966. The apology was typical Lennon, who technically apologised but did so in words that basically said between the lines that he was taken out of context.

In an interview for a Beatles documentary four years ago, author J.K. Rowling, author of the Harry Potter series and a major league Beatles fan all her life, said that the remark was blown out of proportion inasmuch as she believed that, at the time, the Beatles certainly did exert more interest in the bands' teen fan-base than did religion. It is a logical conclusion to draw, and if this is indeed the case, it is probable that the statement was indeed taken out of context, and that Lennon was merely making an honest sociological observation.

1966 was a tough year for the Beatles. They had barely escaped with their lives trying to leave the Philippines, John had made his infamous remark about Christianity, and the Beatles were tired of playing out of tune to audiences who weren't listening. A few days after the Chicago press conference, the Beatles gave their last concert at San Francisco's Candlestick Park and retreated to the studio.

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