Praise for The Beatles

L’Osservatore Romano has taken a tolerant view of John Lennon’s famous quip that the Beatles were more popular than Jesus.

Just some mind games from a musical young Brit who had made it big, the Vatican newspaper commented in a retrospective about the Beatles published on Saturday.

In a 1966 interview, Lennon said, “Christianity will go. We’re more popular than Jesus now. I don’t know which will go first, rock ‘n’ roll or Christianity. Jesus was all right, but his disciples were thick and ordinary. It’s them twisting it that ruins it for me.”

In its article about the Beatles, L’Osservatore Romano said, “The remark by John Lennon, which triggered deep indignation mainly in the United States, after many years sounds only like a ‘boast’ by a young working-class Englishman faced with unexpected success, after growing up in the legend of Elvis and rock and roll.”

The Scotsman newspaper notes that Lennon’s remark triggered angry protests, especially among American Evangelicals.

“In the deeply religious American South and Midwest, conservative groups organized public burnings of Beatles albums, radio stations banned their songs and some promoters cancelled concerts,” said The Scotsman.

The L’Osservatore Romano article was published on the 40th anniversary of the release of the Beatles’ “White Album,” regarded by many as the zenith of the Fab Four’s musical creativity.

The Vatican newspaper said the White Album was much more creative than today’s “standardized and stereotyped” pop music.

Said L’Osservatore Romano, “Forty years later, this album remains a type of magical musical anthology: 30 songs you can go through and listen to at will, certain of finding some pearls that even today remain unparalleled.”

— Tom McFeely