In February of 1966 reporter Maureen Cleave, a good friend of John Lennon’s, did an interview with the Beatle intended to be the basis of a behind-the-scenes personality piece.
The article, published in the March 4, 1966 edition of the London Evening Standard, was 31 paragraphs long, stretching 2,180 words.
Forget Lennon’s cars, a tour his house, and his gorilla suit. It was a lone paragraph from the article that heated up attention and discussion all around the globe. Those few sentences were just enough. And too much.
Experience has sown few seeds of doubt in him: not that his mind is closed, but it’s closed round whatever he believes at the time. “Christianity will go,” he said. “It will vanish and shrink. I needn’t argue about 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. Jesus was all right but his disciples were thick and ordinary. It’s them twisting it that ruins it for me.” He is reading extensively about religion.
In August of that year Lennon spoke at a news conference in Chicago that was part of the band’s US tour.
“When it came out in England it was a bit of a blab-mouthed saying anyway… A few people wrote into the papers, and a few wrote back saying, ‘So what, he said that. Who is he anyway,’ or they said, ‘So, he can have his own opinion.’ And then it just vanished. It was very small. But… you know, when it gets over here and then it’s put into a kid’s magazine, and just parts of it or whatever was put in, it just loses its meaning or its context immediately… and everybody starts making their own versions of it.”
When the damaging article came out in March of 1966 this record debuted on the Billboard chart at #25 and peaked at #3.
The Beatles continued to perform, sell mountains of recordings, and their popularity remained huge.
Why all this focus on John and Jesus?
Rolling Stone Magazine recently published a list they’ve dubbed “The 50 Worst Decisions in Music History.” John’s “We’re more popular than Jesus now” came in at #14.
Who/what was #1? Check out the complete list here.