John Lennon Opines Jesus

John Lennon Opines Jesus

July 29, 1966

August 1966 interview about his March opinion 
John Lennon Opines Jesus

Looking for trouble

By 1966, it could seem that the whole world  knew who Beatles were and that most of the world liked their music and them, too. Of course there were many who did not like the Beatles’s music nor the Beatles themselves. Critics made wise cracks about them needing a haircut, looking like girls,  their looks in general.

Rock and Roll was just a teenager and there were plenty of people who were suspicious of the music and anyone associated with it. The Red Scare and McCarthyism of the 1950s still echoed in the early 60s, the Soviet Union was still our arch nemesis, and the re-invigorated civil rights movement threatened the status quo, however unjust that status quo was.

Parents warned their teenagers, “If you go looking for trouble, you’ll find it.” Teenagers knew, “If you want to find a reason to dislike my music, you’ll find a reason.”

John Lennon Opines Jesus

Maureen Cleave

Journalists knew that a Beatle interview was money in the bank.  Maureen Cleave, of the London Evening Standard, ran a series of interviews called “How does a Beatle Live?”

On  March 4, 1966, Maureen Cleave interviewed John Lennon for the series.

During the interview, Lennon, who had been reading about various religions said, “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 ‘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.”

John Lennon Opines Jesus

The article appeared and that was that.   No outrage by the British.
John Lennon Opines Jesus

US reaction

Tony Barrow was the Beatles press officer. He offered the rights to all four interviews to US teen magazine, Datebook.

John Lennon Opines Jesus

On July 29, 1966 the article appeared with a headline featuring the Lennon Christianity quote, which was only a small part of the entire interview.

John Lennon Opines Jesus

It became national news on August 4. A NY Times article lead sentence read: “Dozens of radio stations throughout the United States are banning music by the Beatles because of a statement by one of the rock ‘n’ roll singers that his group is more popular than Jesus.

The article’s last sentence read: “Several radio stations scheduled bonfires for the burning of Beatle records and pictures.

John Lennon Opines Jesus

Some support

The US negative reaction was not universal. A Kentucky radio station declared that it would give the Beatles’ music airplay to show its “contempt for hypocrisy personified”, and the Jesuit magazine America wrote: “Lennon was simply stating what many a Christian educator would readily admit.”

John Lennon Opines Jesus


The Beatles toured that summer, but it was their last. While the Christianity comment alone did not cause that cessation, it was a part of it.

And in 2008, the Vatican issued the following statement: “The remark by John Lennon, which triggered deep indignation, mainly in the United States, after many years sounds only like a ‘boast’ by a young working-class Englishman faced with unexpected success, after growing up in the legend of Elvis and rock and roll. The fact remains that 38 years after breaking up, the songs of the Lennon-McCartney brand have shown an extraordinary resistance to the passage of time, becoming a source of inspiration for more than one generation of pop musicians.” [BBC article]

John Lennon Opines Jesus

Summer Jam Watkins Glen 1973

Summer Jam Watkins Glen 1973

July 28, 1973

Summer Jam Watkins Glen 1973

Summer Jam Watkins Glen 1973

Another Woodstock?

Rock festivals had become a normal part of the warm months and 1973 had the biggest ever, at least in terms of attendance.  Shelly Finkel and Jim Koplin produced the Summer Jam at Watkins Glen, a one-day event with only three bands.

The three bands weren’t just any bands. They were arguably the three biggest rock bands of the time: the Allman Brothers, The Band, and the Grateful Dead. Some attendees bought tickets, 150,000 at least. If that number is accurate, then 450,000 people saw the event for free, because the estimated number of people at the event is 600,000, far outnumbering Woodstock in 1969.

Summer Jam Watkins Glen 1973

July 27, 1973

The plans called for the bands to do their soundchecks the day before. Like Woodstock, there were already thousands of fans waiting the next day’s concert, but The Band decided to do their soundcheck anyway. The Allman Brothers followed with a couple more songs.

Like no other band before, since, and perhaps ever, the Dead ended up doing 90 minutes with two full sets. Deadheads rate this “show” as one of the best ever!

Set 1

  1. The Promised Land
  2. Sugaree
  3. Mexicali Blues
  4. Bird Song
  5. Big River
  6. Tennessee Jed

Set 2

  1. Mississippi Half-Step Uptown Toodeloo
  2. Me And My Uncle
  3. Jam ->
  4. Wharf Rat
  5. Around And Around

And like most Dead shows, there are several recordings available: soundboard, audience, and a wonderful matrix.

Summer Jam Watkins Glen 1973

Watkins Glen acoustics

With 600,000 attendees the area resembled the already 4-year-old Woodstock Music and Art Fair: clogged highways, impromptu parties, dazed wanderers, and seat searchers.

A crowd of that size required some clever acoustic technology. Every two-hundred feet from the stage, the crew erected additional sets of sound towers.  Seven sets altogether. That alone would have created  acoustic Doppler mayhem with the original sound lagging  behind the forward groups of towers, each delayed and piling upon each other.

The key was setting a 0.175 second delay for the first set speakers and additional delays for each set outward. Such a system created a “single” sound to the brains of guests. (insert joke here)

Summer Jam Watkins Glen 1973


The word “jam” in the event’s title lived up to its name. The Dead opened the day with a three-hour plus show. The Band followed with a rain-interrupted two hour set.

The Allman Brothers followed with its own three-hour set after which all three bands joined for a 45 minute set of Not Fade Away, Mountain Jam, and Johnny B. Goode.

Summer Jam Watkins Glen 1973

Not Woodstock

Despite its location (New York) and its size, Watkins Glen is not nearly as famous as its iconic neighbor in Bethel, 145 miles away. And it is not famous for some of the same reasons that the three dozen plus other festivals of 1969 remain mainly in obscurity: no soundtrack and no movie.

In fact, one can argue that the fate of Woodstock would be similar to that of Watkins Glen if not for it having a movie and album.

Summer Jam Watkins Glen 1973

Eric Burdon Animals Sky Pilot

Eric Burdon Animals Sky Pilot

July 1968

Eric Burdon

Eric Burdon with the Animals were part of the British Invasion in 1964. Their “House of the Rising Sun” stuck an earworm into  American teenagers’ heads that still resides there. What Boomer can hear those first few guitar notes without immediately recognizing the song? Perhaps it was one of the first licks you learned on guitar? (click and see!)

American blues dominated the Animals’ early albums, but like Bob Dylan’s job on Maggie’s farm and John Lennon’s Norwegian wood lover, Eric Burdon did not stay with the girl he brung to the dance.

Eric Burdon Animals Sky Pilot

Eric Burdon & the Animals

With his release of Winds of Change (the title echoing,  of course, Dylan’s “The Times They Are a-Changin” as well as his line in “Subterranean Homesick Blues,” “you don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows”), Burdon allowed the times to change his content.

Such compositions as “The Black Plague” and “San Franciscan Nights” signaled those changes.

The Twain Shall Meet

Eric Burdon Animals Sky Pilot

In 1968 Burdon released “The Twain Shall Meet” album. On it was the now classic “Sky Pilot.” The Vietnam war raged and demonstrations regularly filled streets. Campuses seemed to have become places to sit in to protest, not to sit in a desk.

Even more than the popular “Monterey” on that album, Burdon’s reflections on the Monterey Pop Festival, an event he and the Animals performed at, “Sky Pilot” is the album’s strongest song.

Sky Pilot

Eric Burdon Animals Sky Pilot

He blesses the boys

As they stand in line

The smell of gun grease

And the bayonets they shine

He’s there to help them

All that he can

To make them feel wanted

He’s a good holy man

In some ways the song is as powerful as Jimi Hendrix’s Star Spangled Banner. Hendrix’s performance declared that those who were anti-Establishment were also entitled to our nation’s anthem.

“Sky Pilot” (particularly with its inclusion the traditional bag piped “All the Bluebonnets Are Over the Border”) questions not only war, but whether God was on our side, or whether God’s self-appointed representative, the Sky Pilot, was even on God’s side.

Released as a two-sided single, many radio stations stated that its length too long and style not “pop” enough.  Be that as it may, the song remains among the elite of anti-war songs.

The whole band wrote the song: Eric Burdon, Vic Briggs, John Weider, Barry Jenkins, and Danny McCulloch

Eric Burdon Animals Sky Pilot

All the Blue Bonnets

It is interesting to listen to just the bag pipes song after listening to the Animal’s song with its inclusion.

Eric Burdon Animals Sky Pilot