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Exploring the connection between John Lennon and the number nine


When The Beatles was first released in November of 1968, fans clamoured to hear what the most legendary band in the world had been working on over the past year. Included on the album were searing rock tracks, jaunty folk numbers, music hall throwbacks, and quite a few experimental pieces. The most inscrutable of all the songs was the penultimate track ‘Revolution 9’, which was less of a song and more of a haphazard sound collage created by John Lennon, Yoko Ono, and George Harrison.

“‘Revolution 9’ was an unconscious picture of what I actually think will happen when it happens; just like a drawing of a revolution,” Lennon told Rolling Stone in 1970. “All the thing was made with loops. I had about 30 loops going, fed them onto one basic track. I was getting classical tapes, going upstairs and chopping them up, making it backwards and things like that, to get the sound effects.”

Perhaps the most ear-catching part of the track is the repeated incantation of “Number Nine”, spoken in a rather droll way but looped and repeated until it became a mantra. It’s one of the first sounds heard in the piece, and it later reappears throughout the nearly nine-minute track. It was only after the fact that Lennon found a spiritual connection between himself and that particular number.

“One thing was an engineer’s testing voice saying, ‘This is EMI test series number nine’. I just cut up whatever he said and I’d number nine it,” Lennon continued in the Rolling Stone interview. “Nine turned out to be my birthday and my lucky number and everything. I didn’t realise it: it was just so funny the voice saying, ‘number nine’; it was like a joke, bringing number nine into it all the time, that’s all it was.”

As he followed the thread, Lennon found out that he had quite a few connections towards that particular digit. “I lived in 9 Newcastle Road. I was born on the ninth of October, the ninth month [sic],” Lennon told David Sheff in 1980. “It’s just a number that follows me around, but, numerologically, apparently I’m a number six or three or something, but it’s all part of nine.”

There were other connections and happenstance that aligned with Lennon’s connection to the number nine. The Beatles first played at the Cavern Club on February 9th, 1961, and exactly nine months later, Brian Epstein first saw the band play at the same venue on November 9th, 1961. Three years later, The Beatles’ legendary first performance on The Ed Sullivan Show took place on February 9th, 1964.

Before he had internalised the connection, Lennon had even written a pre-fame song with Paul McCartney entitled ‘One After 909’ which was later revived during the Get Back sessions and included on Let It Be. After The Beatles had broken up, Lennon even recorded a song for his Walls and Bridges album entitled ‘#9 Dream’, which appropriately peaked at number nine on the Billboard Hot 100.

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