Five days after its UK release, The Beatles’ second single of 1969, ‘The Ballad Of John And Yoko’, was released in the United States.
Its catalogue number was Apple (Capitol) 2531. As with the UK version, its b-side was George Harrison’s ‘Old Brown Shoe’.
Although it topped the charts in The Beatles’ home country, in the US it fared less well. A number of radio stations refused to play it, considering the lines “Christ you know it ain’t easy” and “they’re going to crucify me” to be blasphemous, particularly in the wake of John Lennon’s 1966 remarks that The Beatles were “more popular than Jesus”.
The Ballad Of John And Yoko, by the way, was banned over here [in the USA]. So what they did was, because they don’t like the word ‘Christ’ – unless you’re wearing a white robe, you can’t say ‘Christ’ here – they turned it round so it would go: ‘Rrrrp, you know it ain’t easy…’
Earlier in the week Lennon had explained from his Montreal bed-in the thoughts behind the lyrics. Speaking to Bob Lewis of WABC-FM in New York, he said:
It’s like a prayer. You know, ‘Jesus, you alone should know it ain’t easy.’ And it has that street language connotation, too. But even when it’s used irreverently, it’s in effect a prayer, too. It’s a gospel song. I’m a big Christ fan – the song is a prayer.
US audiences remained largely unimpressed, however, and the single peaked at number eight in the charts.
Also on this day...
- 2022: Paul McCartney live: JMA Wireless Dome, Syracuse, New York
- 2022: Ringo Starr live: Bank of New Hampshire Pavilion, Gilford, New Hampshire
- 2012: Paul McCartney live: the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee concert, London
- 2012: The Beatles named as UK’s biggest-selling singles act in Queen’s reign
- 2007: UK album release: Memory Almost Full by Paul McCartney
- 1991: US album release: Unplugged (The Official Bootleg) by Paul McCartney
- 1968: Recording, mixing: Revolution 1
- 1967: McCartney and Harrison watch Jimi Hendrix in London
- 1965: UK EP release: Beatles For Sale No 2
- 1964: The Beatles’ world tour begins in Copenhagen, Denmark
- 1964: Recording, mixing, editing: Long Tall Sally, Matchbox, I Call Your Name, Slow Down, When I Get Home, Any Time At All, I’ll Cry Instead
- 1963: Live: Town Hall, Birmingham
- 1962: Rehearsal: Cavern Club, Liverpool
- 1961: Live: Top Ten Club, Hamburg
- 1960: Live: Grosvenor Ballroom, Wallasey
Want more? Visit the Beatles history section.
If I had a Number 8 hit in the USA, I’m sure I would not think “US audiences are largely unimpressed”! It was a hit surely? – just not a Number 1.
That is the first time I have seen the sleeve photograph for the single. It would be interesting to hear what the other band members thought of Yoko being included on the cover.