Press conference in Chicago #2 • Friday, August 12, 1966

Press conference • Interview of The Beatles
Timeline More from year 1966
Astor Tower Hotel, Chicago, USA

Related tour

Related concerts

Chicago • International Amphitheatre • USA

Aug 12, 1966 • 3pm show • USA • Chicago • International Amphitheatre

Chicago • International Amphitheatre • USA

Aug 12, 1966 • 7:30pm show • USA • Chicago • International Amphitheatre

Songs mentioned in this interview

Eleanor Rigby

Officially appears on Revolver (UK Mono)

Other interviews of The Beatles

One More For The Road

October 2000 • From MOJO

Fantastic voyage

October 1999 • From MOJO

Calm down! It's The Beatles. Their only interview!

December 1995 • From Q Magazine

Andy Gray talks to the Beatles, 1968

Jul 13, 1968 • From New Musical Express

Interview for The Kenny Everett Show

Jun 09, 1968 • From BBC Radio 1

Interview for The Village Voice

May 16, 1968 • From The Village Voice

Interview for WNDT

May 14, 1968 • From WNDT

Interview for The Tonight Show

May 14, 1968 • From NBC

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Flying from London via Boston, The Beatles landed on August 11, 1966, at 4:55 pm in Chicago. They were brought to the Astor Tower Hotel, where the group was staying that night and where a press conference was hastily arranged. The main theme of the press conference was, obviously, John Lennon’s recent comments about The Beatles being “more popular than Jesus”.

On this day, August 12, The Beatles participated in a second press conference in Chicago, with the reporters traveling with them and select local reporters and DJs, still discussing John’s comments.

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 Lennon: 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, er, 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 PR 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, ’cause 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 Lennon: Well, when I first heard it, I thought it can’t be true. It’s just one of those things like bad eggs in Adelaide, but when I realised it was serious, I was worried stiff because I knew how it would go on. All the nasty things that would get said about it and all those miserable looking pictures of me looking like a cynic. And they’d go on and on and on until it would get out of hand and I couldn’t control it. I really can’t answer for it when it gets this big. It’s nothing to do with me now.

Q: A disc jockey from Birmingham, Alabama, who actually started most of the repercussions, has demanded an apology from you.

John Lennon: He can have it. I apologise to him. If he’s upset and he really means it, you know, then I’m sorry. I’m sorry I said it for the mess it’s made, but I never meant it as an anti-religious thing, or anything. You know, I can’t say anything more than that. There’s nothing else to say, really, no more words. I apologise to him.

Q: Mr Lennon, are you a Christian?

John Lennon: Well, we were all brought up to be. I don’t profess to be a practising Christian, and Christ was what he was and anything anybody says great about him I believe. I’m not a practising Christian, but I don’t have any un-Christian thoughts.

Q: Was there as much of a reaction to your statements throughout Europe and other countries around the world, as there was here in America?

John Lennon: I don’t think Europe heard about it, but they will now. It was just England and I sort of got away with it there, in as much as nobody took offence and saw through me. Over here, it’s just as I said, it went this way.

Q: Some of the wires this morning said that Pan American Airlines had provided each of you with free Bibles.

John Lennon: We never saw that.

Q: If Jesus were alive today in a physical form, not a metaphysical one, he would find ‘Eleanor Rigby’ a very religious song, a song of concern with human experience and need. I’m curious about your expression of that.

John Lennon: Well, I don’t like supposing that if Jesus were alive now, knowing what he’d like to say or do. But if he were the real Jesus, the Jesus as he was before, Eleanor Rigby wouldn’t mean much to him. But if it did come across his mind, he’d think that, probably.

Paul McCartney: It was written because there are lonely people, and uhh, it was just a song about…

George Harrison: And we had to have another track to fill up the LP.

Paul McCartney: Anyway, what you said is right.

Q: Do you think the Americans lack a sense of humor?

The Beatles: No.

Paul McCartney: 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 humour and some Britons 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 Lennon: Never said it!

Q: …worrying about the Beatles being brought down, that certain people were interested in getting the Beatles over with.

John Lennon: 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 Harrison: Sounds like a homemade one.

John Lennon: 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 Lennon: 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 Lennon: 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 Harrison: It doesn’t matter, you know.

Paul McCartney: We just try and go forward and…

George Harrison: 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 Lennon: 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 Lennon: 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 Harrison: I think I said that.

John Lennon: Well, somebody probably said, ‘Which place do you like best in America,’ and we probably said, ‘We enjoy LA most because we know alot of people there.’ And that’s how that comes to be ‘We only want to be in LA’ 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 LA.

George Harrison: We usually eat different food from hotel food. Not that there’s anything wrong with hotel food! 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?

Paul McCartney: Yeah.

John Lennon: Memphis, we’re going there. Yeah.

Q: What is your feeling about going down south where most of this controversy has arisen?

John Lennon: 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 McCartney: The thing is, if you believe us now, what we’re saying, you know, and we can get it straight, then uh…

John Lennon: It might get through.

Paul McCartney: ’cause, I mean, we’re only trying to straighten it up, you know.

John Lennon: ’cause 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 Lennon: 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 Lennon: [to McCartney] You answer that one, don’t you?

Ringo Starr: I thought Tony Barrow answers that one.

Paul McCartney: 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 McCartney: No, we – It looks nice out the window!”

George Harrison: 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 Harrison: We can go to everywhere, really, I suppose. Everywhere we want to go when… ‘when the bubbles bursts.’

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 Lennon: It’s not trying, or being professional. It’s just, you know, a progression.

George Harrison: 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 Lennon: 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.

Tony Barrow: Can we make this the last question please?

Q: Yeah. A short one for Ringo.

Ringo Starr: Oh, no!

Q: Two weeks ago, we had a World Teenage show here in Chicago.

Ringo Starr: 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 Starr: Well, I hope they’re both mine. I don’t know. Malcolm [Evans] will tell you about that, you know. He just puts ’em in front of me. I just play them. 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 McCartney: No, it’s still three down, and one to go.

From Paul McCartney of The Beatles is interviewed at Chicago International… News Photo – Getty Images – (MANDATORY CREDIT Koh Hasebe/Shinko Music/Getty Images) Paul McCartney of The Beatles is interviewed at Chicago International Amphitheatre Office, August, 12 1966. Japanese music journalist Rumiko Hoshika holds out a microphone. (Photo by Koh Hasebe/Shinko Music/Getty Images)
From Paul McCartney of The Beatles is interviewed at Chicago International… News Photo – Getty Images – (MANDATORY CREDIT Koh Hasebe/Shinko Music/Getty Images) Paul McCartney of The Beatles is interviewed at Chicago International Amphitheatre Office, August, 12 1966. (Photo by Koh Hasebe/Shinko Music/Getty Images)

Last updated on August 7, 2023

Going further

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Read more on The Beatles Bible


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