John Lennon – God ——— Songs that reference The Beatles

I don’t believe in Elvis, I don’t believe in Zimmerman, I don’t believe in Beatles

Before recording this album, John and Yoko began “Primal Scream therapy,” which was a very emotional time for them. Lennon was dealing with the breakup of The Beatles and focusing on the death of his mother a decade earlier. His interviews at the time had a “scorched earth” feel about them. He basically was breaking ties with his past completely and starting anew.

John could be a walking contradiction.

In a 1969 interview John gave that was broadcast on the BBC recently he was asked about the “The Beatles bigger than Christ” he gave in 1966.

“It’s just an expression meaning the Beatles seem to me to have more influence over youth than Christ.  Now I wasn’t saying that was a good idea, ‘cos 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.” 1969.

This song is as strong as any of his Beatles songs. The word I would use would be Powerful to describe it. God was released on his debut album  John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band album in 1970. The song is so personal that sometimes I feel uncomfortable listening to it.

When Lennon was recording this at Abbey Road studios, George Harrison was next door completing work on All Things Must Pass. George Harrison said “I was in one room singing ‘My Sweet Lord’, “and John was in another room singing ‘I don’t believe in Jesus, I don’t believe in nothing’.”

John Lennon: “I was going to leave a gap, and just fill in your own words: whoever you don’t believe in. It had just got out of hand, and Beatles was the final thing because I no longer believe in the myth, and Beatles is another myth. I don’t believe in it. The dream is over. I’m not just talking about the Beatles, I’m talking about the generation thing. It’s over, and we gotta – I have to personally – get down to so-called reality.”

From Songfacts

Lennon wrote this about the worship of false idols. He felt organized religion did more harm than good. In “Imagine,” he sang about a better world where there was “no religion.”

Lennon was not an atheist but believed that God was something different to everyone. He also believed that people focus too much on the teacher (God) rather than what is supposed to be taught. In songs like this one and “Imagine,” Lennon was trying to send the message that we should not let religion and other things get in the way of how we think life should be lived. In “Imagine,” “Living for today,” means to live as if there is no afterlife or god and to do the best you can. In this song, “I just believe in me,” states his belief in his life regardless of anything else. 

At the time, Lennon had some hard feelings toward The Beatles, especially Paul McCartney. He made a statement that he was moving on with the line, “I don’t believe in Beatles.”

Billy Preston played the piano on this track. He also played on some of The Beatles’ songs, including “Get Back.” Preston, who came from a gospel background, was troubled by the song’s atheistic vibe but kept his feelings to himself. He had similar issues when performing “Sympathy For The Devil” on tour with the Rolling Stones.

Ringo Starr played drums. He and Lennon had a good relationship even after The Beatles broke up.

This contains the classic line, “The Dream Is Over.” This summed up the feelings of many who felt their idealistic goals of the ’60s were not going to come true.

In the January 1971 edition of Rolling Stone, Lennon said that this, “was put together from three songs almost.” He went on to the explain that the words for this “just came out of me mouth.” The former Beatle continued: “I had the idea that ‘God is the concept by which we measure pain,’ so that when you have a word like that, you just sit down and sing the first tune that comes into your head and the tune is simple, because I like that kind of music and then I just rolled into it. It was just going on in my head and I got by the first three or four, the rest just came out. Whatever came out.”

Among the list of idols in this song, which Lennon said he didn’t believe in was The Beatles. Lennon explained why to Rolling Stone: 

Lennon starts this song with the line, “God is a concept by which we measure our pain.” He explained to Rolling Stone that, “pain is the pain we go through all the time,” Then added: “You’re born in pain. Pain is what we are in most of the time, and I think that the bigger the pain, the more God you look for.”


God is a concept
By which we measure
Our pain
I’ll say it again
God is a concept
By which we measure
Our pain

I don’t believe in magic
I don’t believe in I-Ching
I don’t believe in Bible
I don’t believe in tarot
I don’t believe in Hitler
I don’t believe in Jesus
I don’t believe in Kennedy
I don’t believe in Buddha
I don’t believe in mantra
I don’t believe in Gita
I don’t believe in yoga
I don’t believe in kings
I don’t believe in Elvis
I don’t believe in Zimmerman
I don’t believe in Beatles
I just believe in me
Yoko and me
And that’s reality

The dream is over
What can I say?
The dream is over
I was the dream weaver
But now I’m reborn
I was the Walrus
But now I’m John
And so dear friends
You just have to carry on
The dream is over

Author: Badfinger (Max)

Power Pop fan, Baseball fan, old movie and tv show fan... and a songwriter, bass and guitar player.

24 thoughts on “John Lennon – God ——— Songs that reference The Beatles”

  1. John Lennon. He was complicated. The more he tried to simplify, the more complicated he got. This maybe anathema to you, Max, knowing your thoughts about Southern Rock, but Lennon was the anti-‘Simple Man’. Perhaps he could have been happier if he had found comfort in the ideals and beauty behind the lyrics of the Skynyrd classic. But, then again, Lennon found happiness in his own wisdom and genius. His voice, to me, was perfect–as was his songwriting sensibilities, but I always thought McCartney was a better person.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Lennon could be too honest…to a point at times. He was honest at that moment…it may not be what he would feel the next day or the next hour. Also he loved to shock and to stir emotions.

      It would have been great if he could have found happiness in simpler ways.
      McCartney was more grounded no doubt…
      He was always searching for answers looking for the next big thing…

      With fans meeting them…from what I’ve read John was the one that had real conversations and actually became semi friends with some…Ringo was the one you didn’t want to meet.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Wow! That surprises me about Ringo. I know he was very uptight about all madding crowds and the crazy girls clawing and tearing at them. Plus he had a drinking problem, he said because of those crowds.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Paul came out and said it in an interview…Ringo was always uncomfortable with fans and sometimes grouchy. Paul would be polite and move on…

        There was one story where kids were piling on John’s car and just crushing it…he just said…well it’s ok…they paid for it.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. The lyrics in this song are front and center. There’s no realizing later you didn’t pay attention to the words. It is so ‘John’, once again fighting and sorting his way through pain and bewilderment.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. It really is… It’s so powerful that I’m feeling that I’m reading a diary and not listening to a song. As far as stirring emotions…this may be…for me his strongest. It’s not Imagine, not super catchy but he just lays it out there.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. Runse, you make a very good observation here. It’s almost as if he had sought solace in each of these things, only to come-up empty handed. I’m not sure if it’s better to go through an itemized list of what it’s not, or to simply say, I’m still searching…

      Liked by 2 people

  3. In reading John’s comments over time- you are right Max- he tended to be too honest- and had no filter. And if you asked him one day about something he would say what he felt- maybe the next week he’d give another answer. I read some of the comments he made putting down his own work with The Beatles- and can’t help but think if he had lived a normal lengthy life he would have become more thoughtful on his comments and also more complimentary of The Beatles work. .. he was complicated for sure- and like you said Max from what I’ve heard he would have been one the average fan would have wanted to have met on the street. The critic Robert Hilburn who has been a rock journalist forever out in LA- has written that John was the most down to earth rock star he ever met.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I do think he would have changed with the times a bit like you said and been a little more even.

      He did like to shock also to get a reaction.

      Have you ever seen that quote before Hans? The one I left a link to? I thought someone made it up but I went to various sites to confirm and it was from a lost interview that they played on BBC recently.

      It didn’t really surprise me that he said it…because you never knew what you would get from him… I just never heard it before.

      Of all of them…he is the one I would have wanted to meet…probably more later in his life than earlier.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I had never seen those comments before today. interesting. … You know with John I was 20 when he was assassinated- you were an early teen- he was old enough to be our father– now that I am older than he was– 40 was so young. I think some of his off the wall comments were made to shock like you said- I think as he grew older he would be a little more reflective on things.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. When I turned 40 I automatically thought of John…he was just beginning the second half. Never thought about it that way…but yes he could have been wow. He was just two years younger than than my dad.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. By the time John died Paul and him were ok…it was George and John who didn’t talk as much. George wrote a book and hardly mentioned John at all as an influence…it really pissed John off.

      Liked by 2 people

    1. They are… just brutally honest.
      You know I saw a quote by Bowie on Lennon that was interesting. He said Lennon had the talent to take Avant-Garde and sell it to the masses… That is true. Look at I Am The Walrus and other things he did.


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