The reason why John Lennon was obsessed with the number nine
As the original leading member of The Beatles, John Lennon’s freedom of thought saw him become one of the greatest songwriters of his generation. That same pursuit of wisdom also saw the singer become the voice of his generation and like much of his generation, Lennon was always searching for the meaning of things.
The pursuit saw him travel continents with Transcendental Meditation, traverse religions with the Tibetan book of the dead, and eventually turn to the concept of numerology. Perhaps more specifically his infatuation with the number nine.
John Lennon’s connection with the number nine goes all the way back to his birth. Born on Wednesday 9th October 1940, the singer would be followed by the number throughout his life and as he became infatuated with numerology following the slowing of his musical career, his obsession only grew.
Back in Liverpool, Lennon’s first home was at 9 Newcastle Road, Wavertree, an address which saw a number of different nine-letter words. It was here that a Beatles song featuring the fabled number was written, ‘One After 909’. “That was something I wrote when I was about seventeen. I lived at 9 Newcastle Road,” remembered Lennon, speaking with David Sheff of Playboy
“I was born on the ninth of October—the ninth month [in the Chinese calendar]. It’s just a number that follows me around, but numerologically, apparently, I’m a number six or a three or something, but it’s all part of nine.”
Looking back towards another Beatles classic ‘Revolution 9’, a song which featured on the band’s ninth original studio album. The song features the number over and over, least of all in the looped tape of the recurring ‘number nine’ announcement. Remembering the track in 1970, Lennon said: “I was getting classical tapes, going upstairs and chopping them up, making it backwards and things like that, to get the sound effects. 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. 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.” But the joke seemingly took on more importance when Lennon reflected on his life in 1980. And it’s hard to not see a few links.
Lennon’s bus route as a child was the number 72, a destination on which saw him meet Stuart Sutcliffe for the very first time. Paul McCartney doesn’t escape the numerology either, with ‘McCartney’ having nine letters. The first time Brian Epstein ever saw the band was the 9th of November, they signed a contract on 9th of May the following year.
It continues too. ‘love Me Do’ arguably one of the band’s most pivotal songs was released on Parlophone R4949 and their iconic appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show came on 9th February 1964. Just to cap it all off, Lennon’s tenure with The Beatles was nine years long. The various connections to the number nine continued after he left the band too.
Lennon and Yoko Ono’s first apartment in the Dakota Building was number 72, their son Sean was born on Lennon’s birthday (9th October) and ‘#9 Dream’ was a song featuring on John Lennon’s ninth solo album which was released in the ninth month of the year. Truly these connections can go on and on forever and once you start seeing them it’s hard to stop.
Taken one by one these occurrences seem like just that, a simple coincidence or perhaps even more benign, a happening. But when strung altogether it is difficult to ignore a seemingly poignant connection to some of Lennon’s most pertinent life experiences with the number nine.
It’s certainly something Lennon became intrigued by in his later days, fascinated by numerology and the level of influence the number nine seemingly had on his life.
Reflecting on his career and his life at age 40, it’s not too much of a jump to consider that despite being a little bit older, perhaps a bit wiser, John Lennon (like the rest of us) was still searching for the meaning of it all.