3 Times The Beatles Stirred Controversy in Their Careers

The Beatles were the biggest band of the 20th century, and with their fame came a number of controversies. Some were benign and a bit silly, while others were quite serious and created a media firestorm around the band. Let’s take a look at three times The Beatles found themselves in hot water due to controversy.

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1. The Whole Jesus Fiasco

If we’re going to make a list of Beatles controversies, this whole debacle has to be at the top of it. Back in 1966, The Beatles frontman John Lennon made a comment about the band’s fast rise to explosive fame. Specifically, Lennon said, “We’re more popular than Jesus now. I don’t know which will go first, rock ‘n’ roll or Christianity.”

Lennon inadvertently lit a fire underneath The Beatles, and it led to many religious fans and right-wing political zealots burning their albums en masse. It was a massive scandal that almost resulted in the band’s upcoming tour getting canceled. Later, Lennon noted, “If I said television was more popular than Jesus, I might have got away with it.”

2. The Original Yesterday And Today Cover

In the early 1960s, The Beatles had a very boys-next-store image. They wanted to change that when the late 1960s rolled around. The band opted for a controversial album cover for their now-famous 1966 album Yesterday And Today. Specifically, the image depicted the band in white butcher outfits, smiling with decapitated plastic baby dolls and chunks of raw meat draped over them. 

It was certainly a surreal album cover, and album reviewers hated it across the board. So, the cover was changed to something just a bit more palatable for US audiences.

3. The “Paul is Dead” Rumor

This isn’t really a controversy caused by The Beatles… or is it? In 1969, a massive rumor spread across The Beatles’ fanbase that Paul McCartney had tragically died in a car crash several years prior. It was believed that his image and voice in later works were that of a doppelganger or impersonator.

Nobody knows where the original rumor came from. Some believe it started in a satirical newspaper piece. Others believe that John Lennon dropped hints that Paul was dead in the backing vocals for “Strawberry Fields Forever”. Regardless, it got so bad that McCartney had to interview with Life Magazine later that year to put the rumors to bed.

Photo by J. Wilds

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