From!swrinde!!!ucla-ma!julia!dmac Wed Apr 6 02:36:21 GMT-0600 1994
Re: More popular than etc.<BR>

Re: More popular than etc.

References: <> <kess0005.765506317@gold> <>

In article <> (Stymie) writes:
>In article <kess0005.765506317@gold>,
(Jason R Kessler-1) writes:
>> Of course, the comment was taken out of context. It was actually in a
>> conversation with a reporter (not an interview, I forget who. I'm a bit
>> hazy on the details) anyway, this reporter published an article (I
>> believe without actual quotes) saying Lennon said the Beatles were bigger
>> than Christ. Actually, what the intention of it was, according to what
>> I've heard, was to point out as a SAD FACT that music and the Beatles were
>> becoming more important to kids than religion or, more specifically God
>> and Jesus.
>I think that's a little bit of a whitewash. The pertinent quotation is
>"Christianity will go. It will vanish and shrink. I needn't argue about
>that. I'm right and will be proved right. We're more popular than Jesus
>now...Jesus was all right but his disciples were thick and ordinary. It's
>them twisting everything that ruins it for me."
>I can't really see where John's intentions would have been to castigate
>Beatles fans for not being religious enough...

As the estimable Ed Chen mentions, it's worth looking at both the original Maureen Cleave article (reprinted in "The Lennon Companion") and at least a summary of "The Passover Plot", the book which had sparked Cleave's wry comment that Lennon was "reading extensively about religion", to get a sense of what was really going on.

But John's thoughts are only half-serious; he's obviously no significant religious theorist. If he'd had any grounding in the history of religion, he'd never had said such a thing. Rock 'n' roll's popularity is fairly impressive, even after forty years, but in no way does it equal the entrenchment of various world religions, whether Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Buddhism or a selection of your choice.

John did seem fascinated by the passion with which pop fans pursued Beatlemania; I think it awed him, and excited him a little, to consider what energy was expended upon rock 'n' roll at the expense of historical (and more mainstream) passions, like religion. It was the only way John could assess, for himself, just how big the Beatles were, and what they meant to the masses.

What I *don't* think John was saying, anywhere in the article, was that it was a shame that people were neglecting religion for pop music. He didn't believe that, and was only forced to appear to do so in his celebrated restatement, made during one stop in the Beatles' North American tour in 1966. By that point he felt understandably compelled to be serious about flippant religious analysis because a new audience had read and misunderstood the context. And their misunderstanding engendered a wrath the likes of which Lennon and his cohorts had never envisioned.

But take note of what "context" means! It wasn't that John's thoughts were being wrenched away from a surrounding text that would have made everything perfectly clear. The missing context was, in fact, the sardonic framework of the original piece, and the insouciance with which Lennon framed almost every answer. The American teen magazine that exerpted John's remarks failed in *its* responsibility to make this clear...though likely as not, "being journalistically responsible" was not in their upper echelon of concern. :-)

John seemed less intent on insulting longstanding religious belief and more eager to prove Cleave's point---that "his mind was closed round whatever he believed at the time"...a marvelous luxury for a man apparently answerable to no one and responsible for nothing other than amusing himself and a close journalistic friend. Perhaps it was John who lost his sense of context: the greater audience to whom he *would* be speaking, once the article transcended its humble original target. Or didn't he think it would really go that far?

It did, of course.

And this wasn't just the insular "Evening Standard" world of London, whose readers would buy their copy on the train heading for home and who'd likely dismiss John's words as just one more pop-star's sense of jocosity. Cleave's article was decidedly not a forum for serious philosophical statements. But religion is taken seriously in some parts of the world---as seriously as invitations from presidents, for instance :-) --- and the responsibility Lennon eschewed, unwanted though it was (that of role-model for fans and fanatics worldwide) was more a reality than he was ever willing to admit.

Witness McCartney's incredulity over public castigation a mere year later when Paul admitted (in print no less) to taking LSD. He spent a good deal of valuable "Sgt. Pepper" publicity time trying to explain away what he'd meant by his admission...and made halfhearted (if not entirely ineffectual) attempts to explain that he wasn't *advocating* drug use for anyone.

In some sense, I believe John did think that the Beatles *were* more popular than Jesus---at least at that time. He wasn't speaking, as he said, of a situation that *should* have been true; it was not his position to denigrate "Jesus as a person or God as a thing or whatever it is". He was being pressured into saying that he was wrong (the closest John could come to that was "it was taken wrong"---which it certainly was!) And it wasn't music as a whole which John felt had become more important than religion. It was his group. On the one hand, it must have baffled him; on the other, he must've felt a secretive, inner thrill at the power implied by his observation.

What's remarkable is that this statement continues to generate opinions that John (and thus the Beatles...and thus pop music) was antithetical to spirituality. Even Cleave's article indicates that John was beginning his search for something meaningful---if *only* America had bothered to read the entire thing....

"Their range invites comparison with Yma Sumac, their intensity of emotion with the victim in a Hitchcock film, and Caruso would envy their volume."
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