John Lennon and the number nine

The long-awaited digital remasters of The Beatles' back catalogue were finally released on 9 September 2009, along with the group's Rock Band video game. The choice of 09-09-09 was no accident, for the number has had a recurring association with the group - and John Lennon in particular - over the years.

Lennon's songs included Revolution 9, One After 909 and #9 Dream. Revolution 9, in particular, had the most significant use of the number. It appeared on The Beatles' ninth original UK album, their self-titled double long-player commonly known as the White Album.

Revolution 9 featured a series of tape loops, the most memorable of which is the recurring 'Number nine' announcement. It was culled from examination tapes from the Royal Academy of Music, formerly stored at Abbey Road.

Revolution 9 was an unconscious picture of what I actually think will happen when it happens; just like a drawing of a revolution. 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. 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.
John Lennon
Rolling Stone, 1970

Revolution 9 was probably the main reason for the remasters release date being chosen as 9 September 2009. But the connections with The Beatles, John Lennon and the number nine didn't end there.

Lennon was born on Wednesday 9 October 1940 (some reports say at 6.30am) in Liverpool.

The first home he lived in was at 9 Newcastle Road, Wavertree, Liverpool - three names which each contain nine letters. Newcastle Road was his grandfather's house, and while living there Lennon later wrote One After 909.

I lived in 9 Newcastle Road. I was born on the ninth of October, the ninth month [sic]. 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.
John Lennon, 1980
All We Are Saying, David Sheff

Numerous events throughout Lennon's life were connected with the number nine, or numbers which add up to nine.

  • Lennon travelled on the number 72 bus to Liverpool Art College, where he was friends with Stuart Sutcliffe.
  • His first meeting in 1957 with Paul McCartney proved a pivotal role in Lennon's life. McCartney's surname has nine letters, as does Sutcliffe's.
  • The group became The Beatles in 1960, and disbanded in 1970, nine years later.
  • The Beatles' first appearance at the Cavern Club was on 9 February 1961.
  • Brian Epstein, The Beatles' manager, first saw them perform on 9 November 1961.
  • The group's contract with EMI was confirmed on 9 May 1962.
  • The Beatles' debut single, Love Me Do, was on Parlophone R4949.
  • Their record-breaking debut appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show was on 9 February 1964.

After The Beatles split up, Lennon embarked on a solo career. He also made a number of recordings with his second wife Yoko Ono, whom he met on 9 November 1966.

Various further connections with the number nine can be traced to this second stage in Lennon's life.

  • In April 1969 he changed his name to John Ono Lennon. There are nine 'o's in the combined names of John Ono Lennon and Yoko Ono Lennon.
  • Lennon and Ono lived for a time in an apartment on West 72nd Street, New York City.
  • Their first apartment in the Dakota Building was number 72.
  • Their son, Sean Lennon, was born on 9 October 1975, John's 35th birthday.
  • #9 Dream was a song on Lennon's 1974 album Walls And Bridges. The album was his ninth non-Beatles album, and was issued in the ninth month of the year.
  • The album's cover featured a painting done when Lennon was 11 years old. It depicts a footballer with a number nine on his back.
  • When released as a single, #9 Dream peaked at number nine on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in the United States. The refrain in the chorus - 'Ah! Böwakawa poussé, poussé' - featured nine syllables.
  • Mind Games and Rock 'N' Roll, the albums released before and after Walls And Bridges, each contained nine letters in their titles.
  • After he was shot, Lennon was rushed to Roosevelt Hospital on 9th Avenue, Manhattan. Roosevelt and Manhattan both have nine letters.

As a footnote, Lennon was shot in New York City on 8 December 1980. However, it has been pointed out that, due to time differences, it was 9 December in his birthplace of Liverpool.

Individually, these occurrences may amount to little more than coincidence. However, in his later years Lennon became fascinated with numerology, and was well aware of the role of the number nine throughout his life.

16 responses on “John Lennon and the number nine

    1. LTJ

      There is another notable instance in John:Lennon’s life when the number 9 came up. This was in John’s teenage years when his good friend, Pete Shotten, challenged him to a contest of which of them could masturbate 10 times in a single day. John failed to meet this very formidable challenge of “ten” – but only by one! Understandably, John was quite proud of what was to be his lifetime record of “nine times”. And even by teenage boy standards, it is (IMHO) an impressive display of libido. Perhaps it’s also early evidence of the powerful and potent Lennon imagination…

      NOTE: Episode described on page 73 of the book, JOHN LENNON: THE LIFE (2008) by Philip Norman.

  1. Andy

    •The Beatles’ first appearance at the Cavern Club was on 9 February 1961.
    •Brian Epstein, The Beatles’ manager, first saw them perform on 9 November 1961.

    9 months between them!

    1. Chris

      I’m here because I was listening to Whatever Gets you Through the Night on Walls & Bridges and in the intro John says something like “nine is a lucky number” and I wanted to see if he was referring to anything in particular. I agree that numerology is at the very least dubious.

  2. Rebecca Fannon

    I felt I needed to leave a reply here to make this the 9th response to the Article I just read. I find it fascinating that the number 9 occurred so frequently in John Lennon’s life!

    1. Paul Hayes

      Enneagram Type 9 – The Peacemaker

      Keeping peace and harmony

      Enneagram type 9 – The Peacemaker People of this personality type essentially feel a need for peace and harmony. They tend to avoid conflict at all costs, whether it be internal or interpersonal. As the potential for conflict in life is virtually ubiquitous, the Nine’s desire to avoid it generally results in some degree of withdrawal from life, and many Nines are, in fact, introverted. Other Nines lead more active, social lives, but nevertheless remain to some to degree “checked out,” or not fully involved, as if to insulate themselves from threats to their peace of mind.

      1. Bob

        Lennon has been variously typed by Enneagram experts. Some, including Tom Condon, say Four. One prominent scholar says Six. Nine is pretty much the least likely typing.

  3. NEIL

    I find it a bit confusing that the article states that the Beatles were together for nine years. They settled on the name Beatles in August 1960 and were effectively finished by Autumn 1969, but George joined in 1958 and Ringo in 1962. I think the relevance of the number 9 could be explained more clearly in this context.

  4. James

    It looks a bit contrived to say that the group were together as the Beatles for nine years when it was nearer 10 than 9. Perhaps the article should say that John left the group after they had spent 9 years together as the Beatles.

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