“The ‘C’ is for Christ”: Arthur Unger, Datebook Magazine and the Beatles

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This article argues that it is impossible to understand the genesis, evolution, or cultural significance of the “more popular than Jesus” controversy which engulfed the Beatles in 1966 without paying close attention to Arthur Unger, the man whose decision to reprint an interview with John Lennon in his magazine Datebook sparked the furore. Contrary to the conventional wisdom repeated in countless books and articles dealing with the “Jesus” controversy, Datebook was not a typical teen magazine, but rather a politically progressive publication that gay publisher-editor Unger used to expose various kinds of intolerance and bigotry to American teens. The article explains how Unger had been working with the Beatles both to make money and to advance his liberal social agenda for several years prior to the events of 1966. Far from cynically ripping the Lennon quote—and an equally important one from Paul McCartney on racism—out of context and without permission to make a quick profit, Unger had been encouraged to use the interviews by the Beatles' own management. The article concludes with a consideration of Unger's motives and Datebook's politics more generally.

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/03007766.2011.608978

Publication date: October 1, 2012

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