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(Credit: Press)

Music

Explaining why the authorities censored John Lennon's album

The Beatles have never been without their controversies. For instance, take the widely reported story of John Lennon claiming that the Beatles were more popular than Jesus Christ, which led to protests during the band’s 1966 tour of America.

Then came the persistent questioning of whether ‘Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds’ was about LSD, seeing as the words in the song’s title seemed to spell out the acronym for the psychedelic drug. In fact, much of the Beatles’ drug use would lead to the band being constantly harangued by the global press of the somewhat conservative society at the time. After all, the Beatles had initially been marketed as nice, clean poppy boys and not ordinary working-class men from Liverpool with a natural penchant for chemical experimentation.

Another controversy involving the Beatles was revealed when John Lennon recalled that his solo album, Some Time in New York City, was censored because of its cover art. Yoko Ono had made the cover for the album, which featured two world leaders in the buff.

“You see how they banned the picture here,” Lennon once said. “Yoko made this beautiful poster: Chairman Mao and Richard Nixon dancing naked together, you see? And the stupid retailers stuck a gold sticker over it that you can’t even steam off.”

“At least you could steam off that Beatles cover,” he added. “So you see the kind of pressure Yoko and I were getting, not only on a personal level, and the public level, and the court case, and the fucking government, and this, that, and the other, but every time we tried to express ourselves, they would ban it, would cover it up, would censor it.”

Some Time in New York City was Lennon’s third solo album with Yoko Ono after he left the Beatles in 1970. The album was part-studio and part-live performance and was far more politically charged than Lennon’s previous solo efforts.

It seems cruel that the cover of the album was censored, though it was likely done as tensions were high during the ‘eye-for-an-eye’ era and the potential of nuclear conflict during the Cold War. The American and British governments would not have wanted to ruffle any unnecessary feathers, especially considering the global reach of the former Beatles star. 

Elaborating on the Beatles’ album cover mentioned above, Lennon said, “That was a repackage for the Americans called Yesterday and Today. The original cover was the Beatles in white coats with figs and dead bits of meat and dolls cut up. It was inspired by our boredom and resentment at having to do another photo session and another Beatles thing.”

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