Beatles and Blasphemy

Post image for Beatles and Blasphemy

March 11, 2012

It’s funny what you remember decades after a memorable news event. Consider the intense controversy over John Lennon’s claim in 1966 that the Beatles were more popular than Jesus Christ. Futility Closet sent me back to that time with one its “miscellany of compendius amusements.” Christian groups from Southern Baptists to the Vatican went nuts, charging blasphemy of the highest order. I remember the protests, including record burnings, radio stations refusing to play Beatles songs, and stores banning sales of anything Beatles related. Over the Christmas holiday break that year, I turned sixteen while working at the J.C. Penney in Winter Park, Florida, which still wasn’t selling Beatles albums five months after Lennon’s comment.

For the first time I realized the power — and danger — of merely expressing an opinion. What I forgot or never read was that the Ku Klux Klan joined the protests, picketing Beatles concerts and even nailing an album to a cross, ironic symbolism no doubt lost on the group and its racist followers. Or that lightning struck the broadcast tower of a Texas radio station and injured its news director the day after the station organized a mass burning of albums. If only lightning had struck the KKK cross.

Imagine the outcry if Lennon said now what he did then, and today’s ubiquitous media of all ilk stoked the flames with vile and venom every minute of every day. Fox News might not be the safest place in a thunderstorm.

UPDATE: Creaking memory cogs now suggest that J.C. Penney continued to sell Beatles albums but kept them out of view under the counter.

Comments on this entry are closed.