Beatles records are banned by the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC), due to John Lennon’s previous ‘Jesus’ comments


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Monday, 8 August 1966

In early 1966 John Lennon was reading about Christianity and when he was interviewed by Maureen Cleave for the London Evening Stadard on 4 March, said:

"Christianity will go. It will vanish and shrink. I needn't argue with that; 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 '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."

The comment was typically provocative and was ignored in Britain. Only five months later when an American teen magazine called Datebook reprinted part of the quote on its front cover did controversy erupt. In the piously conservative southern and Midwest states of the US, Beatles records and memorabilia were burned, radio stations refused to play their songs and concerts were cancelled.

In apartheid South Africa the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) joined in the conservative condemnation and banned the playing of Beatles songs. In 1965 the Beatles had 2 Top 20 hit singles on Springbok Radio, 1 in 1964, and 2 in 1963. The greatest hit of the 1966 Springbok Hit Parade was Nancy Sinatra's These Boots are made for Walking. Other hits of the year included Sgt Barry Sadler's The Ballad of the Green Berets and the Sandpiper's Guantanamera. Five South African artists features in the 1966 Top 20 list: Virginia Lee (8; Darling it's Wonderful), Dickie Loader (9; Sea of Heartbreak), Des Lindberg (11; Die Gezoem van die Bye), A-Cads (17; Hungry for Love), and Four Jacks and a Jill (20; Jimmy Come Lately).

• Miles, Barry (1997). Many Years From Now. Vintage-Random House.Maureen Cleave, The John Lennon I knew, The Telegraph. Website: South African Rock Encyclopaedia.

Last updated : 02-Aug-2013

This article was produced for South African History Online on 16-Mar-2011