John Lennon Said Fans ‘Missed the Whole Point’ When It Came to The Beatles Message

John Lennon was typically the most outspoken member of The Beatles. He made points his bandmates Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, and George Harrison would not express to the press. Lennon’s most revealing interview was given just before his December 1980 death. There, Lennon shared his opinion that fans “missed the whole point” of The Beatles’ message.

John Lennon, Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, and George Harrsion sit on the steps of Brian Epstein's house.
John Lennon, Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, and George Harrison | John Downing/Getty Images

John Lennon historically spoke his mind as a public figure

Historically, Lennon was known as the intellectual Beatle and was the most outspoken of the band’s four members. The dark-natured part of his personality often underpinned his humor. He often spoke his mind both unabashedly and in a tongue-in-cheek manner.

Lennon caused significant controversy in 1966 when he declared that the Beatles were “more popular than Jesus.” These words prompted mass burnings of The Beatles’ records in the American Bible Belt. As he further evolved as a public figure, Lennon became an anti-war activist.

The release of “Give Peace a Chance,” a 1969 tune that contrasted the prevailing public hostility toward anyone who resisted the Vietnam War, cemented Lennon’s status as one of the most influential activists of his time.

Lennon didn’t take long to recognize that he could use his celebrity status to communicate ideas about the world and change how people thought about the day’s issues. Until his death on December 8, 1980, Lennon remained faithful to the anti-war activism that had shaped much of his life. 

John Lennon once said fans ‘missed the whole point’ when it came to The Beatles’ message

Paul McCartney, John Lennon, Ringo Starr, and George Harrison sporting multi-lingual 'Love Is All You Need' sandwich boards at the EMI studios in Abbey Road, as they prepare for 'Our World.'
Paul McCartney, John Lennon, Ringo Starr, and George Harrison | Jim Gray/Getty Images
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In a 1980 interview with Playboy Magazine, as reprinted by the website The Beatles Interviews, Lennon addressed his belief that fans “missed the whole point” when it came to the band’s “message.”

“But nobody’s perfect, etc., etc. Whether it’s Janov, Erhardt, Maharishi, or a Beatle, that doesn’t take away from their message. It’s like learning how to swim. The swimming is fine. But forget about the teacher. If the Beatles had a message, it was that. With the Beatles, the records are the point, not the Beatles as individuals,” Lennon explained.

“You don’t need the package, just as you don’t need the Christian package or the Marxist package to get the message. People always got the image I was an anti-Christ or antireligion. I’m not. I’m a most religious fellow. I was brought up as a Christian, and I only now understand some of the things that Christ was saying in those parables. Because people got hooked on the teacher and missed the message,” he continued.

Lennon said that message of the sixties needed to evolve as the calendar moved forward

Lennon theorized that the message of the sixties was critical. However, if his peaceful message was going to remain relevant, it had to evolve with the times.

“If the Beatles or the Sixties had a message, it was to learn to swim. Period. And once you learn to swim, swim. The people who remain hung up on the Beatles’ and the Sixties’ dream missed the whole point when the Beatles’ and the Sixties’ dream became the point,” Lennon explained.

“Carrying The Beatles’ or the Sixties’ dream around all your life is like carrying the Second World War and Glenn Miller around. That’s not to say you can’t enjoy Glenn Miller or the Beatles, but to live in that dream is the twilight zone. It’s not living now. It’s an illusion,” Lennon said, over a decade from his first message of peace in the late 1960s.