Beatles 1966 press conference tapes for auction in LA

LOS ANGELES Tue May 11, 2010 6:48pm EDT

The only known audio recording of a 1966 Beatles news conference -- in which John Lennon is quizzed about controversially stating the band was more popular than Jesus, is shown in this undated publicity photograph. The tape is expected to fetch about $20,000 at an auction by Bonhams & Butterfield in Los Angeles in June 2010. REUTERS/Bonhams&Butterfields/Handout

The only known audio recording of a 1966 Beatles news conference -- in which John Lennon is quizzed about controversially stating the band was more popular than Jesus, is shown in this undated publicity photograph. The tape is expected to fetch about $20,000 at an auction by Bonhams & Butterfield in Los Angeles in June 2010.

Credit: Reuters/Bonhams&Butterfields/Handout

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LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - The only known audio recording of a 1966 Beatles press conference, in which John Lennon is grilled about saying the band was more popular than Jesus, is expected to sell for about $20,000 at auction in June.

Auction house Bonhams & Butterfields said the 14 minute reel-to-reel tape recording was the only known surviving audio record of the August 17, 1966 press conference by the Fab Four at the King Edward Hotel in Toronto.

It includes John Lennon and Paul McCartney joking about how long The Beatles would stay together.

"We're obviously not gonna go around holding hands forever," Lennon is heard to say. McCartney adds "...it would be a bit, you know, embarrassing at (age) 35..."

Bonhams said journalists also had lots of questions about Lennon's controversial "Jesus" remark months earlier, and that Vietnam and the generation gap were also discussed.

The press conference was well reported at the time but there is no known television or audio record.

"We do know what they said that day. We have just never heard it," Margaret Barrett, director of entertainment memorabilia at Bonhams & Butterfields told Reuters.

She said the tapes were made by a young photojournalist and Beatles fan who attended the press conference.

"He tried to sell them in 1966, but no-one thought they were important," Barrett said.

The two reels lay in a drawer for over 40 years but now carry an estimated price of $20-25,000 and are among the most expensive items at the June 13 auction in Los Angeles.

Also up for sale is a rare watercolor from the animated 1940 Walt Disney film "Pinocchio," estimated at $30,000-$40,000, and another of Michael Jackson's white rhinestone gloves ($14,000-$16,000).

(Reporting by Jill Serjeant, Editing by Belinda Goldsmith)

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