Why John Lennon Censored the ‘Give Peace a Chance’ Lyric Sheet

John Lennon’s “Give Peace a Chance” includes a lot of unusual, disjointed lyrics. John worried that a single word in the lyrics would cause controversy.

John Lennon‘s “Give Peace a Chance” would not inspire controversy today. Despite this, John censored the tune’s lyric sheet. In addition, he worried one of The Beatles’ songs from the same era would cause an uproar.

John Lennon’s ‘Give Peace a Chance’ had 1 risque word that he replaced on the lyric sheet

The chorus of “Give Peace a Chance” repeats the song’s title over and over. The rest of the song is mostly nonsense. The verses mention a bunch of random things, including rabbis, evolution, psychedelic guru Timothy Leary, and masturbation.

According to the 2019 book And in the End: The Last Days of The Beatles, John changed the lyric sheet to say “mastication” instead of “masturbation.” This was because he didn’t want to deal with censorship. He already anticipated the lines about crucifixion from “The Ballad of John and Yoko” would get censored.

John Lennon said ‘Give Peace a Chance’ wasn’t about ‘a new format for society’

The book Lennon on Lennon: Conversations With John Lennon features an interview from 1980. He discussed the way people reacted to him and Yoko. “People kept saying, ‘What are you doin’? What are you doin’ in the bed-in? What are you doing in Two Virgins? What are you doin’ together? What are you doin’? What are you doin’?’” he recalled. “That was where we first came out with ‘All we’re sayin’ is give peace a chance.’ [It] literally came out of my mouth as a spoken word to a reporter.

“After being asked millions and millions of times, ‘What are you doin’?’” he added. “‘Well, all I’m sayin’ is give peace a chance.’ Not that I have the answer, or I’ve got a new format for society, ’cause I don’t, and I don’t believe anybody else has. ‘Show me the plan’ as ‘Revolution’ said. The Beatles’ ‘Revolution,’ my ‘Revolution’ song, said, ‘Show me the plan.’ Before we knock all the buildings down.”

How the song performed in the United States and the United Kingdom

“Give Peace a Chance” became a modest hit in the United States. The tune climbed to No. 14 on the Billboard Hot 100, staying on the chart for nine weeks. The track appeared on the compilation album Shaved Fish. The record peaked at No. 12 on the Billboard 200 and lasted on the chart for 32 weeks.

According to The Official Charts Company, “Give Peace a Chance” hit No. 2 in the United Kingdom and stayed on the chart for 18 weeks. On the other hand, The Official Charts Company says Shaved Fish reached No. 8 and remained on the chart for 29 weeks.

“Give Peace a Chance” is one of the most famous protest songs of all time — even if John censored its lyric sheet.

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