This Was The Most Bizarre Beatles Controversy

When the Beatles first appeared on "The Ed Sullivan Show" on February 9, 1964, they gave rock 'n' roll music — which had seemingly gone stale in the years since Elvis Presley was discharged from the Army — a much-needed shot in the arm. As their singles kept topping the U.S. pop charts on a regular basis, several other U.K. bands followed in their wake and enjoyed massive success across the pond as part of the so-called "British Invasion." And when they broke up in 1970 amid continued infighting within the group, rock music as we knew it was barely recognizable from what it was before the Fab Four became international superstars. 

Given their worldwide popularity and their status as arguably the most influential rock band in history, it's no surprise that the Beatles were involved in myriad controversies during their time together. And we here at Grunge recently took five of the most well-known Beatles controversies and asked you, our readers, what you thought was the most bizarre of them all. Based on the results of our survey, it was a very close race between two notable events involving one specific Beatle. But since we're not going to reveal the winner just yet, let's first take a look at the controversies that weren't weird enough to make it to the No. 1 position in the poll.

The 'butcher' cover of Yesterday and Today was pretty shocking for its time

Out of 600 people who responded to our survey, only 7% chose the feud between John Lennon and Paul McCartney, which occupied the bottom at fifth place. Although the two men who wrote most of the Beatles' songs were already at each others' throats during the Fab Four's final years as a band, their beef was at its most intense during the early 1970s, when Lennon responded to McCartney's solo track "Too Many People" with "How Do You Sleep?," an even more pointed tirade directed at his former songwriting partner, as explained by Groovy History.

At fourth place with 9% of the vote was the controversy over the "butcher" album cover of "Yesterday and Today," a 1966 release for the U.S. market. The cover, which featured all four Beatles wearing butcher coats and posing with raw meat and decapitated dolls, may look safe compared to your average death metal album cover, but back in the '60s, it was pretty shocking for most music consumers, to say the least. As the "butcher" cover was eventually replaced with a boring old band photo (as seen above), it has since become quite the collector's item for Beatles fans, according to Rolling Stone.

The 'Paul is dead' urban legend wasn't bizarre enough for the top spot

Coming in at third place at 23% was the urban legend of Paul McCartney's supposed car crash death. We could go on about the "clues" in Beatles songs that allegedly corroborated the "Paul is dead" rumor and the claim that he was replaced by one William "Billy Shears" Campbell — the same guy referenced in the first two songs of "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band." But as we all know, Paul is very much alive, and that last line toward the end of "Strawberry Fields Forever" is little more than a random food reference (via Beatles Daily) and not John Lennon announcing matter-of-factly that he buried his bandmate.

Speaking of Lennon, it was inevitable that he and his wife Yoko Ono would be included in a survey like this, as the couple's anti-Vietnam War "bed-ins" took second place with 30.33% of the vote, barely missing the top spot. Per The Washington Post, these protests took place in various cities around the world, and mostly involved John and Yoko sitting in bed, fielding questions from reporters, and entertaining celebrity guests as they sought to spread the message of peace. Ono, however, courted controversy during the Montreal bed-in, as she told cartoonist Al Capp that if she had the chance, she would stop Adolf Hitler by being his girlfriend and spending 10 days with him in bed, according to the Boston Globe. If only it was that simple...

The Beatles' biggest controversy: Lennon's 'more popular than Jesus' comment

He could have said that the Beatles were bigger than Muhammad Ali, bigger than any given world leader, or bigger than Elvis — as the King was far busier making cheesy B-movies than he was recording hit singles at that point in his career, that would have made perfect sense. But no, John Lennon had to say in a 1966 interview that the Beatles were "more popular" than Jesus himself. A total of 184 readers — or 30.67% of respondents — felt that comment represented the most bizarre Beatles controversy ever, allowing it to narrowly take the No. 1 spot in our survey. But was it really worth all the radio station boycotts, record-burning sessions, and death threats?

According to Slate, the other Beatles made several racist and sexist remarks during the interview that would have likely gotten them canceled in modern times. For example, Paul McCartney uttered the N-word while criticizing racism in America, while Ringo Starr quipped that his then-wife Maureen's parents "signed her over to me" when they got married. Sure, it was a different era back then, but it's hard to fathom how the public only seemed to be bothered by Lennon's "bigger than Jesus" comment.

As the outrage continued unabated, Lennon reluctantly issued an apology, telling reporters at a press conference that he wasn't implying that the Beatles are "better or greater" than Jesus Christ or God (via Ultimate Classic Rock). That appeased the Fab Four's detractors for the most part, but the furor over Lennon's remarks was among the many factors that convinced the Beatles to stop touring after they completed their August 1966 dates.