US single release: The Ballad Of John And Yoko

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’.

The Ballad Of John And Yoko single artwork – USA

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…’
John Lennon

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.

Last updated: 31 May 2018
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