As Beatles fans remember John Lennon 30 years since he was shot in New York, Channel 4 News archive researcher Ian Searcey unearths a rare ITN interview with the band from their US tour of 1966.
The Beatles arrived in the US for their third (and final) tour in August 1966 to face a storm of criticism from the religious right over remarks John Lennon had made in March to Evening Standard journalist Maureen Cleave to the effect that the Beatles meant more to the kids at that point than Jesus did.
To the “Bible belt” in the US, the remarks, printed some time later and taken out of context of the whole article, became the famous “Beatles are bigger than Jesus” quote and despite retractions, apologies and explanations, the tour would be plagued with death threats, claims of empty seats, protests outside venues and fans being encouraged to burn records on huge bonfires.
After three years of hectic recording and touring schedules and having already been threatened and roughly treated by Manila police after a concert in the Phillippines, when the group were accused of snubbing President Marcos and his family, the stresses and strains of fame and Beatlemania were obviously beginning to tell on the increasingly disillusioned Fab Four.
A clearly worried Paul McCartney makes valiant attempts to calm things down and keep things in perspective, while an obviously unhappy Lennon gives his views on politics, free speech.
Tired of living in a media fishbowl that meant every word they said, however flippant, was constantly pored over by a voracious press and realising that the growing sophistication of the Rubber Soul and Revolver albums meant their music was getting harder and harder to reproduce on stage (not that the screaming teens were listening!), Lennon and Harrison, in particular, were desperate to give up life on the road and concentrate on the recording studio.
These are extracts from an ITN Reporting ’66 documentary in which Richard Lindley, looked at the background to the protests and joined the band on their US tour to get their view of the situation.
Hardly recognisable as the smiley, young upstarts of 1963 and relatively free of amusing quips, a clearly worried Paul McCartney makes valiant attempts to calm things down and keep things in perspective, while an obviously unhappy Lennon gives his views on politics, free speech, upsetting monks and the growing criticism of the band.
Crowds gathered around the Imagine mosaic in New York’s Central Park for the 30th anniversary of John Lennon’s death on Wednesday, sharing his music and recalling the moment they first heard Lennon had been killeed. He was 40 when he was shot on December 8, 1980 by Mark David Chapman.