Press Conference in Chicago, Illinois (1966, August 12)
|The Beatles flew into Chicago on August 11th, holding the first press conference of their 1966 American tour. The next day on August 12th, a second press conference was held. Questions regarding the so-called 'Jesus statement controversy' were still forefront in the minds of Reporters.
Q: "Mr. Lennon, we've been hearing a great deal of interpretations of your comment regarding the Beatles and Jesus. Could you tell us what you really meant by that statement?"
John: "Uhh. I'll try and tell ya. I was sort of deploring the attitude that... I wasn't saying whatever they were saying I was saying, anyway. That's the main thing about it. and uhh, I was just talking to a Reporter - but she also happens to be a friend of mine and the rest of us - at home. It was a sort of in-depth series she was doing. and so, I wasn't really thinking in terms of P.R. or translating what I was saying. It was going on for a couple of hours, and I just said it as - just to cover the subject, you know. and it really meant what... you know, I didn't mean it the way they said it. It's amazing. It's just so complicated. It's got out of hand, you know. But I just meant it as that - I wasn't saying the Beatles are better than Jesus or God or christianity. I was using the name Beatles because I can use them easier, 'cuz I can talk about Beatles as a separate thing and use them as an example, especially to a close friend. But I could have said TV, or cinema, or anything else that's popular... or motorcars are bigger than Jesus. But I just said Beatles because, you know, that's the easiest one for me. I just never thought of repercussions. I never really thought of it... I wasn't even thinking, even though I knew she was interviewing me, you know, that it meant anything."
Q: "What's your reaction to the repercussions?"
John: "Well when I first heard it, I thought 'It can't be true.' It's just like one of those things like 'Bad Eggs In Adelaide' and things. and then when I realized it was serious I was worried stiff, you know, because I knew sort of how it'd go on. and the more things that'd get said about it, and all those miserable looking pictures of me looking like a cynic, and that. and they'd go on and on and it'd get out of hand, and I couldn't control it, you know. I can't answer for it when it gets that big 'cuz it's nothing to do with me then."
Q: "A disc jockey in Birmingham Alabama, who really started most of the repercussions, has demanded an apology from you."
John: "He can have it, you know. I apologize to him if he's upset and he really means it, you know, I'm sorry. I'm sorry I said it for the mess it's made. But I never meant it as a lousy or anti-religious thing, or anything. You know, and I can't say anymore than that. There's nothing else to say really, you know - no more words. But if an apology - if he wants one, you know, he can have it. I apologize to him."
Q: "Why is it that the American journalists did not treat it in the same light?"
John: "I don't know. I think it's because, when it came out in England it was a bit of a blab-mouthed saying anyway, but they could sort of... A few people wrote into the papers, and a few wrote back saying, 'So what he said that. Who is he anyway,' or they said, 'So, he can have his own opinion.' and then it just vanished. It was very small. But by the time it got... you know, when it gets over here and then it's put into a kid's magazine, and just parts of it or whatever was put in, it just loses its meaning or its context immediately, and even moreso. and it's miles away and everbody starts making their own versions of it. You know, I think that's how it... whatever you said."
Q: "John, are you familiar with - that in the American press, a great many ministers have agreed with you in the full context of what you said, and that most of the concern and oversimplification of what you said came from what we call the 'Bible Belt,' quite notorious for christian attitude?"
Paul: "Yeah. The thing is that they seem to think that by saying that, you know, John's gettin' at them. But he isn't at all, you know. It's just a straight comment on something, which may be right and may be wrong, but he's gotta answer as he feels honestly, you know. and if they think that for him to say that is wrong then they don't believe in free speech, you know. and I thought everyone here did."
Q: "The point is, by many thinking Americans, it was just that."
Paul and George: "Yeah."
Paul: "That's it. Well you know, and it's..."
George: "But they always write about the bad things much more than the good things, anyway. So that's why it got to this scale."
Q: "It's always the 'Superior' Americans that are more verbal."
John: "Well, you know..."
Paul: "Well, good luck to them. That's what I say."
Q: "Do you personally believe...?"
John: "I think that... My views are only from what I've read or observed of christianity and what it was, and what it has been, or what it could be - it just seems to me to be shrinking. I'm not knocking it or saying it's bad. I'm just saying it seems to be shrinking and losing contact."
Paul: "and we all deplore the fact that it is, you know. That's the main point about it all."
John: "Nothing better seems to be replacing it, so we're not saying anything about that."
Paul: "and if you say something that you think may vaguely in a way be helpful, you know... because if it is on the decline in any way, then to say it's on the decline must be helpful, rather than destructive, you know."
John: "It's silly going on saying, 'Yes, it's all fine, and yeah yeah, we're all christians and we're all doing this' when we're all not doing it. You know, I just said what I thought."
Paul: "and you know, they'll probably say we said we're for christianity now."
Q: "Mister Lennon, are you all christians?"
John: "Well, we were brought up... I don't profess to be a practicing christian."
John: "Although, I think Christ was what he was, and if anybody says anything great about him, I believe. But I'm not a practicing christian like I was brought up to be. But I don't have unchristian thoughts!"
Q: "Was there as much repercussion and reaction to your statements throughout Europe and other countries of the world as there was here in America?"
John: "I don't think Europe heard about it. They will now."
John: "But it was just England. and I sort of got away with it there inasmuch as nobody took offense and saw through me. and over here it just, you know... what I said. It just went the other way."
Q: "Some of the wires this morning on UPI said that Pan American had provided each of you with Bibles."
Paul: "We never did see it, though."
John: "We never saw that."
Q: "Mister McCartney, could you tell us what the meaning of your line in your latest song concerning Father MacKenzie who writes sermons that nobody hears."
Paul: (exhales) "See, that's the same thing. That's exactly the same thing, you know - that there do happen to be people connected with religion who do write... you know. I mean, It was a song about lonely people."
George: "and it's a generalization, anyway, isn't it."
Paul: "But it was just a song about one lonely person who happens to be this priest who's darning his socks at night, you know, and he's lonely. That's all there was to it."
John: "and Eleanor was pretty lonely, Paul. You told me Eleanor was."
Paul: "and Eleanor was lonely. Hmm."
Paul: "But that's what that means, you know."
Q: "What about your further comment, also in that same series of interviews, that America is a lousy country where anyone who is black is called a nigger."
Paul: "Well, you see, this is it - that if you say anything against, say, the way Civil Rights gets treated over here, then there are bound to be extremest people who'll think that we're wrong for saying that colored people are the same as white people, you know. But I honestly believe that. and if anyone wants me to give the showbiz answer 'We're just good friends,' I will, but I personally believe it's better to be honest about it."
Q: "Don't you have that same situation, however, existing in England?"
Paul: "Oh yeah. It's existing everywhere, you know, but it's about time people..."
George: "...did something about it."
Paul: "I mean, everyone here knows it is, you know. It just needs to be said occasionally, that's all."
Q: "I think, John, that if Jesus were alive today, in the physical form not a metaphysical one, he would find 'Eleanor Rigby' a very religious song. A song concerned with human experience and need."
Q: "I'm curious about your impression of that."
John: "Well, you know, I don't like sort of supposing that somebody like Jesus was alive now and pretending - imagining what he'd do. But I mean, if he was Jesus and he held that he was the real Jesus that had the same views as before, well 'Eleanor Rigby' wouldn't mean much to him. But if it did come across his mind, he'd think that, probably."
Paul: "It was written because there are lonely people, and uhh, it was just a song about..."
George: "and we had to have another track to fill up the LP."
Paul: (laughs) "Anyway, what you said is right."
Q: "Do you think the Americans lack a sense of humor?"
Paul: "The thing is, you know, when we talk about all these things you say 'The Americans,' but as you said, the Americans can't all be the same person. They can't all think the same way, you know. Some Americans lack humor and some Britains lack humor. Everybody lacks it somewhere. But there are just more people in the States so you can probably pick on the minority classes more, you know."
Q: "I read something recently that you were..."
John: (jokingly) "Never said it!"
Q: "...worrying about the Beatles being brought down - that certain people were interested in getting the Beatles over with."
John: "Oh, I don't know. I think that's a bit of one that's... you know, I don't really know about that story, honestly."
George: "Sounds like a homemade one."
John: "There's nobody, sort of, get... pull us down. I'd agree, that if we were slipping, there's lots of people that'd clap hands daddy-come-home."
Q: "What kind of people do you think would be interested in..."
John: "I don't know, because they never show themselves until that time arises when it's right for them."
Q: "Do you feel you are slipping?"
John: "We don't feel we're slipping. Our music's better, our sales might be less, so in our view we're not slipping, you know."
Q: "How many years do you think you can go on? Have you thought about that?"
George: "It doesn't matter, you know."
Paul: "We just try and go forward and..."
George: "The thing is, if we do slip it doesn't matter. You know, I mean, so what - we slip and so we're not popular anymore so we'll be us unpopular, won't we. You know, we'll be like we were before, maybe."
John: "and we can't invent a new gimmick to keep us going like people imagine we do."
Q: "Do you think this current controversy is hurting your career?"
John: "It's not helping it. I don't know about hurting it. You can't tell if a thing's hurt a career or something - a space of time - until months after, really."
Q: "You were also quoted as saying that you were not looking forward to the American tour, and that the only part of the tour that you really wanted to get to was the California part of the tour."
George: "I think I said that."
John: "Well, somebody probably said, 'Which place do you like best in America,' and we probably said, 'We enjoy L.A. most because we know alot of people there.' and that's how that comes to be 'We only want to be in L.A.' You know, it just so happens we know a few people there, and we usually get a couple of days off, so we usually say L.A."
George: "We usually eat different food from hotel food. (jokingly) Not that there's anything wrong with hotel food!"
George: "But, you know, it's a break from hotels because we get a house."
Q: "Are there any southern cities included in your tour this trip?"
John: "Memphis, we're going there. Yeah."
Q: "What is your feeling about going down south where most of this controversy has arisen?"
John: "Well, I hope that if we sort of try and talk to the press and people and that, you know, you can judge for yourselves what it meant, I think, better by seeing us."
Paul: "The thing is, if you believe us now - what we're saying, you know - and we can get it straight, then uhh..."
John: "It might get through."
Paul: "'Cuz, I mean, we're only trying to straighten it up, you know."
John: "'Cuz we could've just sort of hidden in England and said, 'We're not going, we're not going!' You know, that occured to me when I heard it all. I couldn't remember saying it. I couldn't remember the article. I was panicking, saying, 'I'm not going at all,' you know. But if they sort of straighten it out, it will be worth it, and good. Isn't that right, Ringo?"
Q: "Do you ever get tired of one-another's company?"
John: "We only see each other on tour - all together as four at once, you see."
Q: "To what do you ascribe your immense popularity?"
John: (jokingly to Paul) "You answer that one, don't you?"
Ringo: "I thought Tony Barrow answers that one."
Paul: "Really, if you want an honest answer, none of us know at all."
Q: "This is your third trip to Chicago. Have you had a chance to SEE Chicago yet?"
Paul: "No, we - It looks nice out the window!"
George: "This is the first time we've actually stayed here, I think."
Q: "Do you hope to someday see some of these places that you've just flown in and out of?"
George: "We can go to everywhere, really, I suppose. Everywhere we want to go when... (jokingly) 'when the bubbles burst.'"
Q: "John, Your music has changed immensely since you first started out. Is this because you've become more professional, or is it that you're trying to show the public..."
John: "It's not trying, or being professional. It's just, you know, a progression."
George: "It's trying to satisfy ourselves, in a way. But you know, that's why we try and do things better - because we never get satisfied."
John: "It's only that, you know. It's not sitting 'round thinking, 'Next week we'll do so-and-so and we'll record like that.' It just sort of happens."
M.C: "Can we make this the last question please."
Q: "Yeah. A short one for Ringo."
Ringo: (jokingly) "Oh, no!"
Q: "Two weeks ago, we had a World Teenage show here in Chicago."
Ringo: (jokingly) "and you won."
Q: "There was a set of drums there on the floor, cordoned off, that said 'These are the drums that Ringo Starr will play when he's in Chicago.' Now today at the airport, I saw some girls screaming when they saw an instrument case, apparently containing your drums, being loaded into a truck. Which drums are yours? Where are they?"
Ringo: "Well, I hope they're both mine. I don't know. Malcolm (Mal Evans) will tell you about that, you know - He just puts 'em in front of me. I just play them."
Ringo: "He's the one who... Have we got two kits? No? ...oh, don't tell 'em that."
Q: "One more question regarding your marital status. Has there been any change that you could tell us about?"
Paul: "No, it's still three down, and one to go."
M.C: "Thank you very much."
Beatles: "Thank you!"
Source: Audio copy of the press conference