John Lennon's Jesus Controversy

John Lennon's controversial statement that the Beatles were more popular than Jesus was first published in the London Evening Standard on 4th March, 1966. The reporter, Maureen Cleave, documented the eccentricities of Lennon's life and his dissatisfaction with fame and wealth; his musings on religion went almost completely unnoticed.


That all changed months later, when American shock jocks unearthed Lennon's comments, sparking widespread outrage, leading to a media frenzy that inspired boycotts, record burnings, and KKK death threats. In Memphis, fear reached its peak when a cherry bomb sparked panic during a Beatles concert - one of the last live gigs they would ever perform.


In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly expose the cynicism of the DJs who jumped on the Beatles-burning bandwagon; explain how the fallout from Lennon's statement lingered long after the tour, even inspiring Mark David Chapman’s fanaticism; and discover which board-game the Beatles used to unwind with in the evenings…


Further Reading:

• When John Lennon's 'Jesus' Controversy Turned Ugly (Rolling Stone, 2016): https://www.rollingstone.com/feature/when-john-lennons-more-popular-than-jesus-controversy-turned-ugly-106430/

• ‘Beatle bonfires’ (The Pop History Dig, 2017): https://pophistorydig.com/topics/tag/beatle-bonfires/

• ‘The Beatles Press Conference’ (Aug 12, 1966): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5ZaI7m1xpAg


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The Retrospectors are Olly Mann, Rebecca Messina & Arion McNicoll, with Matt Hill.

Theme Music: Pass The Peas. Announcer: Bob Ravelli. Graphic Design: Terry Saunders. Edit Producer: Ollie Peart.

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