John Lennon Wrote The Beatles’ ‘Revolution’ Because He Was a ‘Coward’

John Lennon explained one of the lyrics from The Beatles’ “Revolution.” He said he wrote that line from The Beatles’ “Revolution” because he was a coward. In addition, he said he used the song to criticize some of the political activists of the era.

John Lennon said The Beatles’ ‘Revolution’ reflected his political ambivalence
The book Lennon on Lennon: Conversations with John Lennon includes an interview John did with Tariq Ali in 1971. Ali is a communist activist. During the interview, Ali asked John if he was “knocking politics” in The Beatles’ “Revolution.”

John Lennon said he used The Beatles’ song to criticize followers of Chairman Mao Zedong
Notably, The Beatles named the single version of the song “Revolution” and the album version “Revolution 1.” The former is a hard-rock song, while the latter is a blues number. In the interview, John discussed the differences between the renditions.

“On the one I released as a single, we did it in a more commercial style — the single is much faster than the album version — and I left out ‘count me in,’” he said. “Because I’m a coward — I don’t want to be killed and all the rest of it.”

“Oh, sure,” John said. “There’s two versions of the song ‘Revolution.’ Of course, the underground left picked up on the one that says, ‘Count me out.’ But the original version, which ended up on the LP, said, ‘When you talk about destruction, you can count me out in.’ In and out — I put both in ’cause I wasn’t sure.”

Notably, John criticized Chairman Mao Zedong’s followers in the song. “I didn’t really know that much about the Maoists, but I just knew that they seemed to be so few, and like, painting themselves green and standing in front of the police and getting picked off … I just thought it was unsubtle,” John said. “I don’t think the original communist revolutionaries went around shouting about it. They kept quiet.”

How ‘Revolution’ and ‘The White Album’ performed on the pop charts
The single version of “Revolution” became a modest hit in the United States when it was released as the B-side of “Hey Jude.” There, “Revolution” reached No. 12 on the Billboard Hot 100, staying on the chart for 11 weeks. The slower version of the song, “Revolution 1,” appeared on The White Album. That record peaked at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 for nine weeks, staying on the chart for 215 weeks.

According to The Official Charts Company, “Revolution” did not chart in the United Kingdom. On the other hand, The White Album reached No. 1 in the U.K. and remained on the chart for 37 weeks. In 1987, The White Album reacharted at 18, lasting on the chart for two weeks. “Revolution” is a classic song — even if John felt it was cowardly.

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