The comments John Lennon had made in a March London Evening Standard interview were gaining international attention today in 1966. They were part of a series by Maureen Cleave called How Does a Beatle Live? and sported interviews with all four. She’d interviewed them many times since the start of Beatlemania, indeed they got along well, and when she mentioned that John had been reading extensively on the subject of religion, he was prompted to say, “Christianity will go. It will vanish and shrink. I needn’t argue about that…I’m right and I’ll be proved right. We’re more popular than Jesus now. I don’t know which will go first, rock and roll, or Christianity. Jesus was all right, but his disciples were thick and ordinary. It’s them twisting it that ruins it for me“. At home in England no one had paid much attention to the comment, but The Beatles press officer Tony Barrow thought the articles would show their fans that they were moving away from simple pop music toward more intellectual art, and offered reprint rights to American teen magazine Datebook, who put the meat of John’s quote on the front cover, and a s***storm ensued: The South African Broadcasting Corporation banned all Beatles records, as did more than a few American radio stations, especially across the “Bible Belt”. Many evangelical christian groups staged Beatles record burning events, and more than few bought their new album Revolver, which came out today in ’66, just to destroy it. In three days they would arrive in Chicago at the start of what would be their last tour, and Lennon apologized profusely in a press conference arranged by Brian Epstein, but their shows would be picketed by fundamentalist groups (including the two at the Seattle Center Coliseum on August 25th), and when someone threw a firecracker on stage at their Memphis show, the other three’s first thought was that John had been shot. They would never tour again.
By now exclusively a studio band, The Beatles were in a crosswalk in front of EMI’s studios in London today in 1969, with photographer Iain McMillan perched atop a ladder while a policeman held up traffic. He took six shots of them for the cover of the album that would forever change the name of the recording studio to Abbey Road. In the one they used, Paul McCartney, who had been wearing sandals on the hot August day, had taken them off, which compounded rumors started in an American college newspaper that he had been killed in a car crash two years earlier and been replaced by a look-alike, who somehow miraculously was able to sing, play, and write songs exactly like him.
Janis Joplin bought a proper headstone for her idol and greatest influence Bessie Smith today in 1970. Bessie had been buried with a simple marker in a Philadelphia cemetery after dying in 1937 after being refused admission to a whites-only hospital.
David Crosby was released from prison again today in 1986. He been busted for driving with a suspended license on an earlier drunken driving conviction after leaving the site of a crash into a fence in Marin county California and being found with a .45 handgun and cocaine the year before.
Metallica were opening for Guns-N-Roses in Montreal tonight in 1992, and their set was cut short when frontman James Hetfield was severely burned by misfiring pyrotechnics. Guns-N-Roses took the stage, but cut their own set short when singer Axl Rose complained of a sore throat. Fans were not pleased, and streamed out of the venue overturning cars, set fires, smashed windows, and looted stores.
KISS were playing Riverfront stadium in Cincinnati tonight in 1996 when a fan threw his prosthetic leg onstage. All four band members autographed it and threw it back to him.
Rock and Roll Birthdays
Dr. Hook and the Medicine Show drummer John “Jay” David is 72.
U2 guitarist Dave Evans, better known by his stage name “The Edge“, is 53.