It was 54 years ago today (June 24th, 1966), that the Beatles kicked off their final tour in Munich, West Germany. The tour, which saw the group performing in Germany, Japan, the Philippines, and North America, was plagued with controversy. In the Philippines, the Beatles, who had politely declined an invitation to attend a banquet with then-President Ferdinand Marcos, were virtually run out of the country for what the Filipinos believed to be a snub towards the first family.
Meanwhile, in the U.S., trouble was brewing after a statement John Lennon had made the previous spring in an interview with The London Evening Standard, during a philosophical discussion about religion, was taken out of context and printed in the U.S. teen magazine Datebook. The magazine, which printed Lennon's quote that “Christianity will go it will vanish and shrink. . . Jesus was alright, but his disciples were thick and ordinary . . . We're more popular than Jesus now,” ignited protests, including record burnings all over the “bible belt” and southern U.S. states.
The Beatles held a press conference on August 11th in Chicago, the night before they started the U.S. leg, where, after trying to explain exactly what he meant in the interview; Lennon essentially apologized — not for the statement itself, but for how it may have been interpreted. Death threats plagued the Beatles throughout the 14-date tour — especially prior to the group's August 19th show in Memphis — their only show in the South.