John Lennon and Yoko Ono's infamous 1969 "Peace Bed-In" in Montreal.
The Beatles were so big they created their own cultural weather system, which could turn from sunny to stormy, depending on the mercurial moods of band members and fans alike. Among the various Fab Four controversies, myths and hoaxes that hijacked headlines during The Beatles' heyday, these five stand out.
The Beatles are 'more popular than Jesus'
John Lennon's quip in 1966 about The Beatles' absurd level of fame literally lit a fire, prompting some religious-minded fans and disc jockeys to organize Beatles album bonfires. The comment stirred no controversy when it was originally reported in a British publication. But when it was reprinted months later in the American teen magazine Datebook, the reaction was so rabid that manager Brian Epstein considered canceling the band's U.S. tour. A perplexed Lennon apologized at a news conference in Chicago and said, "If I'd said television was more popular than Jesus, I might have got away with it."
The butcher album cover
The Beatles' mid-'60s image was that of mop-topped boys next door, cheery lads you'd love to have over for a spot of tea. But the quartet tried to tweak that view with 1966 U.S. album Yesterday ... and Today, which featured songs culled from the band's British releases. Photographer Robert Whitaker took a series of shots of the four in white smocks, draped with dismembered baby dolls and raw meat. Although The Beatles were smiling, the effect was macabre. Intended by the band as a commentary on the Vietnam War, the cover was interpreted as a jab at Capitol Records for "butchering" the band's albums. After copies were sent to reviewers, negative reaction built quickly. Capitol decided to replace the cover with an image of The Beatles standing next to an empty steamer trunk, a retreat to a safer presentation of its world-famous product.
Does 'Lucy' mean LSD?
The Beatles' seminal 1967 album, Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, was perfectly timed with the surge in interest in hallucinogenic drugs, the king of which was LSD, or lysergic acid diethylamide. Perhaps it came as little surprise when fans decided that the song Lucy In the Sky With Diamonds was an ode to an acid trip that cleverly played on the drug's initials. Although John Lennon denied the connection - he said the inspiration was son Julian's painting of a favorite classmate named Lucy - the BBC banned the track. In 2004, Paul McCartney told Britain's Uncut magazine that many of the band's tunes were about drugs, noting it was "pretty obvious" that Lucy referred to LSD.
John and Yoko's Bed-Ins for Peace
In the spring of 1969, the Vietnam War was raging, and John Lennon was feeling liberated from his Beatles persona. He and his new wife, Japanese performance artistYoko Ono, decided they wanted to make a stand for peace, and they conducted two "bed-ins" at hotel rooms in Amsterdam and Montreal. The honeymooning duo invited the press, which relayed images of two dark-haired hippies dressed in white, surrounded by posters and peace signs. The Canadian event resulted in the enduring live recording of Give Peace A Chance. Stunt or not, the bed-ins went down in cultural lore. British rockers Oasis referenced them in Don't Look Back in Anger asNoel Gallagher sang, "I'll start a revolution from my bed."
Paul is a dead man, miss him, miss him
In the fall of 1969, word began to spread that Paul McCartney had died in a car accident several years earlier and that his image and voice since then had been provided by an imposter. The rumor is thought to have a variety of origins, including an Onion-style satirical piece in the University of Michigan student newspaper, which included clues that soon mushroomed into the hundreds. They included eerie messages in Beatles songs, such as John Lennon singing "I buried Paul" onStrawberry Fields Forever, which turned out to be "cranberry sauce." Radio DJs fanned the fires, suggesting that Paul being barefoot on the cover of Abbey Roadmeant he was a corpse. The rumor was more or less put to rest when McCartney emerged for an interview with Life magazine that November.
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