THE original autographed magazine in which John Lennon claimed the Beatles were more popular than Jesus Christ is being auctioned in the US next week.
“Christianity will go”, Lennon said in the September 1966 edition of Datebook magazine, which he autographed above his photo.
He said: “It will vanish and shrink. I needn’t argue about that; I’m right and I will be proved right. We’re more popular than Jesus now. I don’t know which will go first – rock and roll or Christianity.”
The magazine is expected to sell for between $8,000 to $12,000 at the auction, which is being held on a website between August 31 and September 16.
Lennon, whose middle initial is W. for Winston, signed his magazine photo “John C. Lennon”, for Datebook publisher Arthur Unger, and reportedly told the controversial publisher: “You know what the C stands for”.
Professor Brian Ward, expert on the Beatles and American popular culture, said: “Given that the mysterious C in John’s signature falls right under the C in Christianity (in the Datebook article), and knowing Lennon’s mischievous sense of humour, he was probably just punning on the name of another well known ‘JC’,”.
Lennon's original comment had been made to the London Evening Standard journalist, Maureen Cleeve, a good friend of the band, and had passed off without much comment in the UK.
But when the article was reprinted in American teen magazine Datebook the outrage it caused seriously threatened the Beatles' popularity in the US.
Professor Ward said the uproar was most intense in the American South, where the Ku Klux Klan and many preachers condemned Lennon’s remarks as blasphemous. He added that most Beatles fans were easily able “to reconcile their love of the Lord with their love of Lennon”.
A spate of public burnings of the Beatles' records and widespread radio bans followed. A number of concerts were cancelled and even the Vatican became involved with a public denouncement of Lennon's comments.
On August 16, Lennon was forced to make a grudging apology for his original comments saying, "I suppose if I had said television was more popular than Jesus, I would have gotten away with it, but I just happened to be talking to a friend and I used the words ‘Beatles’ as a remote thing. I just said “they” are having more influence on kids and things than anything else, including Jesus. But I said it in that way which is the wrong way".
Lennon later retracted his apology claiming he was glad his comments had caused such controversy as he claimed it was one of the reasons the Beatles stopped touring.
The auctioneers RRAuction, who are based in New Hampshire, specialise in selling celebrity autographs and recently auctioned an autographed photo of Albert Einstein wagging his tongue for a record $74,340.