‘Burn the Beatles!’: Remember When John Lennon Said The Beatles Were More Popular Than Jesus?

KARW was a radio station in Tyler-Longview, Texas. The station broadcasted at 1280 kHz AM for 46 years, ending in 1994. In 1966, the “Beatles Bonfire” was an event that was both retrospectively comical, or extremely disrespectful, depending on how religious or into the Beatles you claim to be.

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“Christianity Will Go”

It all started in the fall of 1996. The culprit? John Lennon. It was all due to an offhanded comment in an interview with Maureen Cleave with the London Evening Standard.  In the interview in early August, John Lennon stated that his band, The Beatles, was more popular than Jesus Christ. Which, depending on who you ask, the fab four just might have been. Women were screaming, swooning, and passing out at shows, Beatles albums were being printed and sold at lightning speeds, and rock and roll was being changed forever. The comment was printed in Datebook, an American teen magazine and that’s when all hell broke loose. Because the only thing that can rival Jesus’ fandom is a boyband. Most people read the article and just dismissed it as pop music babble.

“Christianity will go,” Lennon stated, “It will vanish and shrink. I needn’t argue about that; I know 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 & roll or Christianity. Jesus was all right, but his disciples were thick and ordinary. It’s them twisting it that ruins it for me.”

It should also be noted that another quote from the exact same issue, Paul McCartney stated, “It’s a lousy country where anyone black is a dirty n***r”. To which I must say… Thank you, Paul? But also, many yikes, if I’m honest.  The Beatles promptly received a heavy amount of backlash, definitely only for the Jesus comment, in case you were wondering. Just think, what if The Beatles had ruffled the church AND stirred the civil rights movement up in one day? Your favorite rock band could never.

Struck by Lightning

When Cleave’s interview with Lennon’s comment reached Longview, a small city in Texas, they really didn’t like it. So much so, the station announced that they would no longer be playing any Beatles records. The program director dramatically stated that the word “beetle” would go back to simply referring to the bug. After that, the station gathered thousands of Beatles records and planned to burn as many albums by the rock n roll group as possible on August 12, 1966.

Apparently, a few other stations decided to jump on board with this waste of art masked as a ban, dubbed “The Beatles movement.” It was even happening in a few parts of Utah and New York. Few disc jockeys even smashed their records on air! As far as the Longview “burning Beatles record” event, it drew quite a crowd. Over 1,000 people showed up to watch and an additional 2,000 drove past to witness.

In an even more amusing turn of events the following day, the KLUE radio station transmitter tower was struck by lightning. The equipment was damaged and a new director, Phil Ransom who’d claimed that the Beatles member John Lennon was spouting anti-Christian rhetoric, was knocked unconscious. He was immediately transported to the hospital but eventually recovered. The day after that, the station was able to return to the air. But, Wow, what was that freak lightning storm about? Surely unrelated, no? [This is sarcasm, it was clearly karma]. I guess it’s true what they say in the church…”God don’t like ugly“!

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