MUSIC MONDAY The Beatles Song They’re Afraid to Play: Too Much Religion?

Come Together – John Lennon (Live In New York City)

George Harrison – Here comes the sun Subtitulada en Español

LET IT BE

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The Beatles – Yellow Submarine

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The Beatles Song They’re Afraid to Play: Too Much Religion?

Seldom-played hit “All those years ago’’ is crucial to Beatles history

Joseph SerwachAug 12, 2020 · 5 min read

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The Beatles were wearing MSS caps on their 1964 tour of Australia. Photo by Willie M via Wikimedia Commons.

A wave of Beatlemania filled the earth moments after the December 8, 1980 assassination of Beatles leader John Lennon. He was barely 40.

“There is no funeral for John,” his widow, Yoko Ono, announced the next day. “John loved and prayed for the human race. Please do the same for him.’’

Lennon was shot four times in the back at 10:50 p.m., pronounced dead at a hospital around 11:15 p.m. ABC’s Howard Cosell broke the news during “Monday Night Football’’ then NBC interrupted Johnny Carson.

Every radio station began playing Beatles music almost non-stop. Without a funeral or public memorial, demand for Beatles music exploded:

  • Sales of Lennon’s final solo album, “Double Fantasy,’’ rocketed skyward.
  • The 10-year-push for a “Beatles reunion’’ intensified.
  • Beatlemania, a group of look-alike, sound-alike performers imitating the Beatles, began a near 40-year-run recreating their beloved songs and look.
  • The three surviving Beatles then contributed to a new tribute song by George Harrison, “All Those Years Ago,’’ which debuted in May 1981.

In that brief span from December through May, three significant figures were shot: Lennon (who died), Ronald Reagan, and Pope John Paul II (who both survived assassination attempts).

“All Those Years Ago,’’ in 1981, was and is the closest thing the world would have to a “Beatles reunion’’ between their 1970 breakup and the mid-1990s.

In 1995, for the Beatles Anthology series, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr completed two Lennon “demo’’ songs, “Free as a Bird’’ and “Real Love.’’

While the 1981 song was mainly a Harrison creation, it was the remaining Beatles’ only song (including all three surviving Beatles collaborating) written as a post-death tribute to Lennon. They considered him their founder, and leader. It’s rated one of Harrison’s best songs.

McCartney later did his own solo version of a tribute, “Here Today,” that wasn’t released as a single.

We are regular listeners of the SiriusXM Beatles channel and happened to hear “All Those Years Ago” once in 2020 (the first time in 30-plus years) on a countdown show of 1981 hit songs.

The song went to №1 on the adult contemporary chart, №2 on the Hot 100 chart, and ranked 74th for the top hits of 1981). Why is it so seldom played?

The quiet, mystic Beatle focused most on spiritual themes

Harrison, considered “the quiet mystic,” was the youngest of the Beatles, born in February 1943. All looked up to John (the founder).

Spirituality is a common thread in many of Harrison’s top hits, including songs like “What Is Life,’’ “All Things Must Pass,’’ and “Give Me Love, Give Me Peace on Earth.’’

Harrison, probably the most religious of the four, was raised Roman Catholic, becoming fascinated with Indian and Hindu culture in the mid-1960s.

He was also the first Beatle to record a solo album and the first to go to №1 on his own with a song dedicated to God, “My Sweet Lord.’’

What is striking about hearing “All Those Years Ago’’ on the radio is how much it’s a song of faith and belief. It’s sung for and about Lennon. It also sounds like a song about Jesus or a Christ-like figure. The message is jarring.

Today, Christian songs are primarily confined to Christian platforms while “All Those Years Ago’’ is about Lennon so that you won’t hear it on a religious station.

Yet, this song calling out the importance of God and the threats of the devil make it entirely unlike anything you will hear in modern pop music. And it is perhaps as bold or bolder than any popular Christian song.

The defiant lyrics are more moving four decades later

Was Harrison speaking about Lennon, Christ, or both? He begins the song talking about a man who shouts “about love’’ while being treated “like a dog.’’

The first Christians are also called The Way. The song goes on about giving and showing “the way to the truth’’ in Lennon songs like “All you need is love.’’ The Way to Love and Truth, of course, is the core teaching of Christianity.

Differentiating between “good and bad,’’ Harrison sings of looking up to his hero and the coldness remaining after his loss.

Today, Lennon’s killer is called a mentally ill fan. But Harrison, in a phrase seldom spoken outside churches today, describes Lennon’s killer as “the devil’s best friend’’ and a man “who offended all.’’

Lennon died in darkness. So Harrison describes a dark world where “I send out a prayer to you.’’

Sounding very much like Heaven, he tells us his hero is now in a “world of light’’ where a spirit can be “free of the lies” and all the hated things of our world.

Nearly four decades after Lennon’s death, Harrison cried out a warning

“They’ve forgotten about God,’’ Harrison sings in the most unforgettable lyric of the song.

Lennon had his own debate with God, enraging believers by saying in 1966 that the Beatles were “bigger than Jesus’’ then backtracking, insisting that he only meant to say the Beatles had more daily influence on young people.

In a 1969 interview, Lennon said, “I’m one of Christ’s biggest fans. And if I can turn the focus on the Beatles on to Christ’s message, then that’s what we’re here to do.’’

Like many artists and like St. Augustine, Lennon saw the attraction to surrendering to God, though “not yet.’’ Both Lennon and Harrison would take a five-year hiatus from recording music only to return to the studio before each died (Lennon in 1980 and Harrison in 2001).

Lennon would repeatedly write and communicate with religious leaders and experts, however, seeking to learn more, saying in one interview:

“Whatever they celebrate, God and Christ, I don’t think it matters as long as they’re aware of Him and His message.”

Some of the Beatles’ most essential songs, including “Let it Be’’ and “Hey Jude’’ (written mainly by Lennon partner Paul McCartney, baptized a Catholic), are similarly praised for their Christian messages.

Lennon’s 1971 hit “Imagine,’’ is considered an “anthem for atheists’’ with questions about imagining existing without Heaven or religion. Nearly a half-century later, four decades after Lennon’s death, worship services around the world would be halted due to a global pandemic.

Lennon, ironically, was struck down on December 8, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, marking the belief that God chose to allow Mary, the Mother of God, to be conceived free of original sin from the moment she was conceived.

Harrison’s warnings about forgetting about God are unsettling in the far more secular world of the 21st century. Harrison reminds us the world attacked Lennon (like Jesus), for the way he taught a seldom-listening world how to love one another.

Again, Lennon’s widow had one thing to share after his death. She asked the world to pray for him, assuring us our slain hero loved and prayed for us.

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“Woody Wednesday” ECCLESIASTES AND WOODY ALLEN’S FILMS: SOLOMON “WOULD GOT ALONG WELL WITH WOODY!” (Part 6 MIDNIGHT IN PARIS Part E, A FURTHER LOOK AT T.S. Eliot’s DESPAIR AND THEN HIS SOLUTION)

December 16, 2015 – 4:56 am

In the last post I pointed out how King Solomon in Ecclesiastes painted a dismal situation for modern man in life UNDER THE SUN  and that Bertrand Russell, and T.S. Eliot and  other modern writers had agreed with Solomon’s view. However, T.S. Eliot had found a solution to this problem and put his faith in […]By Everette Hatcher III | Posted in Francis SchaefferWoody Allen | Edit|Comments (0)

“Woody Wednesday” ECCLESIASTES AND WOODY ALLEN’S FILMS: SOLOMON “WOULD GOT ALONG WELL WITH WOODY!” (Part 5 MIDNIGHT IN PARIS Part D, A LOOK AT T.S. Eliot’s DESPAIR AND THEN HIS SOLUTION)

December 9, 2015 – 4:41 am

In MIDNIGHT IN PARIS Gil Pender ponders the advice he gets from his literary heroes from the 1920’s. King Solomon in Ecclesiastes painted a dismal situation for modern man in life UNDER THE SUN  and many modern artists, poets, and philosophers have agreed. In the 1920’s T.S.Eliot and his  house guest Bertrand Russell were two of […]By Everette Hatcher III | Posted in Woody Allen | Edit|Comments (0)

“Woody Wednesday” ECCLESIASTES AND WOODY ALLEN’S FILMS: SOLOMON “WOULD GOT ALONG WELL WITH WOODY!” (Part 4 MIDNIGHT IN PARIS Part C, IS THE ANSWER TO FINDING SATISFACTION FOUND IN WINE, WOMEN AND SONG?)

December 2, 2015 – 4:50 am

Ernest Hemingway and Scott Fitzgerald left the prohibitionist America for wet Paris in the 1920’s and they both drank a lot. WINE, WOMEN AND SONG  was their motto and I am afraid ultimately wine got the best of Fitzgerald and shortened his career. Woody Allen pictures this culture in the first few clips in the […]By Everette Hatcher III | Posted in Woody Allen | Edit|Comments (0)

“Woody Wednesday” ECCLESIASTES AND WOODY ALLEN’S FILMS: SOLOMON “WOULD GOT ALONG WELL WITH WOODY!” (Part 3 MIDNIGHT IN PARIS Part B, THE SURREALISTS Salvador Dali, Man Ray, and Luis Bunuel try to break out of cycle!!!)

November 25, 2015 – 4:32 am

In the film MIDNIGHT IN PARIS Woody Allen the best scene of the movie is when Gil Pender encounters the SURREALISTS!!!  This series deals with the Book of Ecclesiastes and Woody Allen films.  The first post  dealt with MAGIC IN THE MOONLIGHT and it dealt with the fact that in the Book of Ecclesiastes Solomon does contend […]By Everette Hatcher III | Posted in Woody Allen | Edit|Comments (0)

“Woody Wednesday” ECCLESIASTES AND WOODY ALLEN’S FILMS: SOLOMON “WOULD GOT ALONG WELL WITH WOODY!” (Part 2 MIDNIGHT IN PARIS Part A, When was the greatest time to live in Paris? 1920’s or La Belle Époque [1873-1914] )

November 18, 2015 – 5:36 am

In the film MIDNIGHT IN PARIS Woody Allen is really looking at one main question through the pursuits of his main character GIL PENDER. That question is WAS THERE EVER A GOLDEN AGE AND DID THE MOST TALENTED UNIVERSAL MEN OF THAT TIME FIND TRUE SATISFACTION DURING IT? This is the second post I have […]By Everette Hatcher III | Posted in Woody Allen | Edit|Comments (0)

“Woody Wednesday” ECCLESIASTES AND WOODY ALLEN’S FILMS: SOLOMON “WOULD GOT ALONG WELL WITH WOODY!” (Part 1 MAGIC IN THE MOONLIGHT)

November 11, 2015 – 12:02 am

I am starting a series of posts called ECCLESIASTES AND WOODY ALLEN’S FILMS: SOLOMON “WOULD GOT ALONG WELL WITH WOODY!” The quote from the title is actually taken from the film MAGIC IN THE MOONLIGHT where Stanley derides the belief that life has meaning, saying it’s instead “nasty, brutish, and short. Is that Hobbes? I would have […]By Everette Hatcher III | Posted in Atheists ConfrontedWoody Allen | Edit|Comments (0)

The Characters referenced in Woody Allen’s “Midnight in Paris” (Part 20, King Louis XVI of France)

June 28, 2011 – 5:44 amBy Everette Hatcher III | Posted in Current Events | Edit|Comments (1)

The Characters referenced in Woody Allen’s “Midnight in Paris” (Part 19,Marie Antoinette)

June 27, 2011 – 12:16 amBy Everette Hatcher III | Posted in Current Events | Edit|Comments (0)

The Characters referenced in Woody Allen’s “Midnight in Paris” (Part 18, Claude Monet)

June 26, 2011 – 5:41 amBy Everette Hatcher III | Posted in Current EventsFrancis Schaeffer | Edit|

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