When you’re 26 years old, have just released a genre-bending album that will change the way pop music is made and listened to, and you’re part of an unbeatable, unflappable four-man armada called the Beatles, the most natural thing to do is to utter something that megaphones your feeling of supremacy.
That’s pretty much what John Lennon did in 1966 at a press conference during the height of Beatlemania. He said that he did not know which would die out first, Christianity or rock’n’roll. He then topped it up by stating that the Beatles “were more famous than Jesus Christ”.
While the British media laughed the comment off like most people, some serious-minded folks in the American Bible Belt started campaigning against the Beatles, holding Beatles-record-smashing sojourns. This wasn’t too dissimilar from the boycott campaign against Dixie Chicks records in the US, when the American country music group announced that its members were “ashamed that the President of the United States is from Texas”.
But it’s one thing to take on a war-mongering President and quite another to cock a snook against the founder of the Christian faith. So marking the 40th anniversary of the Beatles’ 1968 classic double-album popularly known as ‘The White Album’, the Vatican has finally forgiven Lennon for his outré comment the year John VI was the pope. In an article praising The Beatles, L’Osservatore Romano said Lennon had just been showing off.
The singer-songwriter who went on to write a song in 1969 with the words, “Christ you know it ain’t easy,/ You know how hard it can be./ The way things are going/ They’re gonna crucify me” was described by the Vatican publication as “showing off”. It was the “bragging by a young English working-class musician who had grown up in the age of Elvis Presley and rock and roll and had enjoyed unexpected success”.
Wonder how our gents will react 40 years down the line if, say, Himesh says one of these days that he’s more famous than Gandhiji? But hang on, hasn’t Lata already said that somewhere?