On August 4, 1966, several Connecticut pop music radio stations joined a nationwide boycott and refused to play Beatles music in response to perceived anti-Christian remarks made by John Lennon.
The offending interview actually took place in March of 1966, when journalist Maureen Cleave asked John Lennon a series of questions about the rock star’s daily life. During the interview, Lennon went off on a rambling tangent about organized religion, espousing his belief that Christianity was in decline and declaring the Beatles were “more popular than Jesus now.”
Lennon’s remarks flew under the radar in Britain, but made waves five months later when the American magazine Datebook republished excerpts from the British interview and slapped another Lennon quote (“I don’t know which will go first – rock ‘n’ roll or Christianity!”) on the cover. The issue hit American newsstands in late July, and the backlash was instantaneous. Amid outraged op-eds and letters to the editor in newspapers across the United States, numerous DJs loudly proclaimed that they would refuse to play Beatles songs on their radio stations. While most of these highly-publicized radio boycotts originated in the ‘Bible Belt’ states of the southern U.S., the protest quickly spread to every corner of the country. On August 4, 1966, several Connecticut radio stations — spanning the entire state from Stamford to Putnam to Manchester to Old Saybrook — joined the movement, refusing to play any music by the Beatles.
While Connecticut’s radio boycott was far from absolute (several stations, including the hugely popular WPOP out of Hartford, continued to air the Beatles), it was part of a huge backlash that soon expanded beyond American border, inciting anti-Beatles protests and admonishments in places like Mexico and Vatican City. Music historians point to the global controversy as a turning point for the famous band; the remainder of their 1966 U.S. tour was marred by protests, canceled shows, and negative press coverage, and after their final tour date on August 29, 1966, the Beatles never played a live concert again.
Jordan Runtaugh, “When John Lennon’s ‘More Popular Than Jesus’ Controversy Turned Ugly,” Rolling Stone