Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Time-Lapse Photography

Eagle-eyed commenter Sonia posted this picture set regarding an earlier post, but I found it so striking, I wanted to give it a full post.

David Bailey took the ones on the left. Anybody know who took the second set?


143 comments:

Anonymous said...

I've seen those before and all I can say is "Wow." John knew exactly what he was doing when he took those photos with Yoko, assuming it was his idea for those poses. We all know that he favored one of the Bailey photos that was hanging at his studio in Kenwood. Cut to a few years later, and here he is in the same poses with Yoko. Looks like he's sending a message out to Paul saying, "Look! You've been replaced!". Paul did say in an interview at the time that "John's in love with Yoko and he's no longer in love with the three of us." We all know that when he said "the three of us", he really meant to say "me".

Ok, I'm not going to beat around the bush. I'm a huge Beatles fan and I have to say that I truly believe that John was in love with Paul and possibly vice versa. I think this caused major problems and things went terribly wrong which is what ended the Beatles. There have been breakups in many bands but the Beatles breakup was so intense, emotional and brutal. I can't think of any other explanation besides the nature of the Lennon/McCartney relationship. Whether or not it was a romantic/sexual relationship doesn't matter. It was obvious that these two men had very complex and intense feelings for each other.

Anyone out ther have these kinds of thoughts?

Nancy Carr said...

Certainly seems as if John needed to underline publicly the fact that Yoko had replaced Paul as his partner. Interesting that there are tons of photos of Paul and Linda McCartney together, but none (to my knowledge) that so replicate the Bailey poses.

A large number of Bailey pics here, including many of John alone and Paul alone:

http://iwasdreamingofthepast.blogspot.com/2011/06/behind-photoshoot-lennon-and-mccartney.html

Michael Gerber said...

Oh absolutely, @Anon, and I think people who focus on the romantic/sexual possibility are missing the forest for the trees—nobody has ever seriously suggested that they were getting it on, but that's beside the point. These two guys had an incredibly intense, emotional relationship forged by a kind of pressure that nobody but them could understand.

Think about it: every time you write a hit, the pressure builds for the next song. And YOU know there's no magic behind it, just a lot of work; and YOU know your own weaknesses. Your partner saves your ass over and over again, in public, and you save his.

Add to this their common background, the time they spent together when they were young, all the shared experiences, and the fact that even George and Ringo couldn't really relate to what they were going through/what was expected of them, and the fact that they really loved each other's work...I have no doubt that they were in love with each other. If "being in love" doesn't describe how John Lennon felt about Paul McCartney and vice-versa, it's so limited a phrase as to be useless.

Here's an interesting, provocative statement: maybe what happened when Brian died was that John suddenly needed more from Paul than Paul was comfortable giving...and Paul rejected John. That would explain a lot, wouldn't it? John would reject Paul back, and replace him, and try to sabotage the thing they'd built together, and slag him in public...There is a vitriol in Lennon towards McCartney (and The Beatles) post-India that simply has never been adequately explained. This could be it.

Anonymous said...

Something definitely happened in India. John wanted to take their relationship further and Paul said "no." With John it was "all or nothing" in all his relationships. Another theory is that I think Paul decided to stop whatever it was that was going on or happening between them. I think he was afraid. Didn't he propose to Jane a few months before the India trip? I think Paul decided it was time for him to settle down with a woman and move away from the complexity and confusion of the relationship that he had with John. But I think later on, he realized he made a mistake, once John got with Yoko. I've read some of the dialogue from the Let it Be sessions and boy, Paul is so worked up over the John/Yoko thing! John was communicating to him in every way that Yoko was replacing him as his partner. And this hurt Paul so much. Why else was he so depressed after the breakup? Luckily he found another soulmate in Linda. I wonder if she knew.

Anonymous said...


It's interesting how discomforted some Beatles fans get when you suggest that John and Paul were "in love" with each other. (And I'm with Michael in that I doubt "in love" ever meant anything romantic/sexual.) Philip Norman in his books on the Beatles and on Lennon keeps stupidly insisting that John and Paul's relationship was purely "professional" -- even in the face of those quotes from Yoko about Paul being "John's princess" and about John saying Paul's name in a subservient kind of way, Norman still refuses to see the personal bond between John and Paul. Lots of Beatles fans are like that. And again, I'm not talking about sex here; I'm talking about love.



Absolutely. The opposite of love, as they say, is not hate, it's indifference. They were never indifferent to each other -- ever. Something happened in that post-India period -- something that had nothing to do with Yoko. She just became Paul's replacement. And John was so passive-aggressive in forcing her presence on the group -- as is evident from the Let It Be tapes where he keeps insisting that Yoko speak for him, and the idiocy of "lets bring her bed into the studio." John was TRYING to piss off Paul. And when did John most lash out in his life? When he felt abandoned and rejected.

There's a great book to be written here about all this. But I'm afraid that only 2 people know for sure. One of them is dead and his wife has no doubt burned any evidence that the John/Paul bond was as deep as the John/Yoko bond. And the other is still with us but ain't talking.

-- Drew

Steve said...

The bottom photo of John and Yoko were on the cover of Look Magazine I believe - for a story called 'John and Yoko, Inc.' But this is from my memory. I could be wrong.

Anonymous said...

John was obviously a fan of the photos from this session. He had one of the pictures hung in his Kenwood recording studio.

Anonymous said...

In the early days, I wonder if people around them thought John and Paul were "a couple"? They sure acted like it.

Were there ever any rumors going around I wonder? Or any open secrets in the industry?

Anonymous said...

Drew said:
There's a great book to be written here about all this. But I'm afraid that only 2 people know for sure. One of them is dead and his wife has no doubt burned any evidence that the John/Paul bond was as deep as the John/Yoko bond. And the other is still with us but ain't talking.

So true. I've always wondered why critics, writers, filmmakers, fans, musicians never focused on the obvious. The John and Paul story needs to be told. Who wants to write it?

Anonymous said...

I think some people, like Norman, who refuse to see how deep the emotions ran between John and Paul do so because the reality of it makes them uncomfortable. Like others, I'm not talking about if it was ever romantic/sexual, I'm just straight up talking the emotional intensity of that relationship. Because, even when they were fighting and bitching at each other after the break-up, it was always emotionally intense. And the only word that can be used to describe such intense emotions is "in love" . . . because, even then, being on the outside of it, even that probably dosen't fully describe all the deep, intense and complex emotions that were going on these between the two of them.

Linda McCartney even said in an interview that it - the relationship between John and Paul - was deeper than any of us could ever know: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iaKCFbUaFV0

-- MGAnon

Nancy Carr said...

I don't think we're going to see a good in-depth treatment of the Lennon/McCartney partnership, for a number of reasons. First, as others on this thread have pointed out, our culture generally doesn't know what to do with passionate, nonsexual friendships--especially those between men. And then, as Drew said, neither Yoko nor Paul is interested in telling the full story. Without their full cooperation, it can't be completed adequately. And even if they did cooperate, John's absence would make it at best only partial.

I wonder if Paul doesn't talk about it in depth because he's had such mixed experiences with the press: in his place, I don't know that I'd speak freely about something so emotionally charged and difficult to explain. Add to that the fact that downplaying the Lennon/McCartney partnership is central to much Lennon mythologizing, and Paul's got every reason to lie low.

For an example of what I mean about Lennon mythologizing, here's Robert Christgau and John Piccarella in Rolling Stone's "The Ballad of John and Yoko" (1982): "It's the fecund if often theoretical Lennon-McCartney songwriting partnership that makes it especially hard to sort John out from the band. That's why it's important to remember that John chose Paul, deliberately encouraging this alien alter ego to modify and distort his music."

Here's a counter, from Wilfred Mellers' "Twilight of the Gods: The Music of the Beatles" (1973). Writing about the musical fighting between Lennon and McCartney, which ends with "Dear Friend," Mellers says this: "It would seem that between John and Paul the sparks still fly; and that even in separation and mutual hostility they still need one another as impetus to their finest work."

I think Mellers gets it right.

Just a Beatles fan said...

"We [Penn & Teller] got together to form a business. Lennon and McCartney, Martin and Lewis, they fell in love. Those were love affairs. So the second they didn't get along, it was heartbreaking." - Penn Jillette

(Source: "Penn and Teller Cut Through The Bull," Douglas J. Rowe, The Associated Press, June 28, 2009)

Some of us are not the only one's who see it. It's a shame that Beatles fans still get weird about John and Paul possibly being in love or having an affair.

No wonder Paul is very protective of The Beatles legacy. The jokes and mean things people would say even today. Can you imagine the HELL it would have been for them all if anything came out about John and Paul back then..

LIKE THIS
[Lennon] adds that he had never met an attractive woman that had sexually aroused him to any great degree.

*This is actually quite a sad tidbit. It suggests that “From Me to You” may have been written in tribute to a particularly good scone Lennon once ate.*

http://www.nbcphiladelphia.com/entertainment/music/Own-A-Very-Awkward-Piece-Of-John--Yokos-History-65180902.html

Just a Beatles fan said...


"I look at early pictures of meself, and I was torn between being Marlon Brando and being the sensitive poet - the Oscar Wilde part of me with the velvet, feminine side. I was always torn between the two, mainly opting for the macho side, because if you showed the other side, you were DEAD." John lennon - The Last Rolling Stone Interview: By Jonathan Cott, Rolling Stone Magazine 1980

Anonymous said...

Just to clarify: The "absolutely" in my earlier post was meant to be in agreement with Michael's comment, "There is a vitriol in Lennon towards McCartney (and The Beatles) post-India that simply has never been adequately explained. This could be it." (I put it in italics but it disappeared.)

And to reiterate: I think there is plenty of evidence to suggest that the John/Paul relationship was never sexual/romantic. I agree with Nancy in that theirs was a passionate, nonsexual relationship -- an interdependence that is much harder to understand and write about.

But it is interesting that John was close with a gay man (Brian Epstein) and Paul was close with a gay man (Robert Fraser). So it's possible that both were bisexual, or that those close friendships with gay men were purely platonic. I just think the pressures and tensions between John and Paul seem more of the repressed-emotions variety than of the secret-love-affair-gone-wrong variety.

I think the theory that John suddenly needed more from Paul than Paul was comfortable giving has some merit.

Or maybe this speculation is all just nuts. :)

-- Drew

Michael Gerber said...

@Drew, I actually think the conventional story is just nuts. In February 1968, Lennon's as much of a Beatle as he ever was. By May, he's essentially left the group (which he still leads) and is determined to sabotage it. It's a violent change.

Now you can say, "John acted like that," but he didn't before India. He was basically the same guy from 1962 to 1968. More or less the same friends, same outlook, same beliefs. Then India happens, and he does a complete 180 about all major aspects of his life: his wife and kid, his job, his politics, even his music.

Why? What happened? John gave lots of reasons after the fact--"I was miserable" "I was trapped" "Paul was bossy" etc. But none of these--not one--were being reported at the time, and more importantly, this supposed depression ISN'T reflected in his work. It's in India that he's writing "I'm So Tired"; In '67, he's writing peace anthems and psychedelic story songs. None of his '66 or '67 work has been decoded to say "I am miserable," by him or anybody else. In Spain, when he's supposedly going through a dark night of the soul, he's writing Strawberry Fields, not Cold Turkey or Mother or even Help!

The only way you can believe John Lennon about the mid-Beatles period is if you believe him when he says he was putting on a front for all of it--in other words, lying. But if he was lying then, might he not be lying NOW?

I'm hardly an expert, but I know enough about meditation to suspect that what John was doing in Rishikesh was bringing up a huge amount of internal turmoil, conflict, and pain. These kinds of traditions come with LOTS of pre-training, sometimes years, and to take a rich, famous, drug-addicted English rock singer and dump him into an Indian village for talks and marathon meditation sessions was not wise, or kind to him. He was stripping away a lot of coping mechanisms, and a lot of things that he'd sublimated were probably right in front of his eyes. It was probably pretty terrifying, and certainly emotionally wrenching.

There was no way for the Maharishi to know what he was dealing with, in John Lennon; John himself didn't know. But opening up that box, having one's demons pop out, then freaking out and running back to England and drugs and Yoko resulted in him basically being a raw nerve for the rest of his life--totally reactive. Not really functional, in the way he'd been before.

So, what can we surmise from this? Was one of the things that popped up in India, sexual desire for Paul? Impossible to say; if so, it would've been difficult to reconcile--and it does seem to track with some things that Yoko has said. Never underestimate the cultural taboo against male/male emotion and friendships. "Mates" is OK, but anything more than that--well, he nearly beat Bob Wooler to death with a shovel. It's fair to say that John Lennon was not a stranger to gay panic.

Is there any doubt that John and Stu were in love? Then why doubt that John had those kind of feelings for Paul (and probably vice-versa)? And imagine the stakes against ever ever EVER admitting anything of the sort. John seems to RUN to Yoko in May 1968--someone he'd known for a year--and that is interesting to me. More than that is impossible to know, but as usual I am left with a feeling of compassion and gratitude that these guys produced what they did.

Anonymous said...

Okay, I'm just going to say it - I do think John was bisexual, but could never really fully reconcile it, even in 68-69, after the India trip. Yoko has been dropping hints this way for way too long now . . . and honestly, John has in an interview or two in the 70s as well. (Plus, you know, there's that "Awkward Piece of John and Yoko History" tape Just a Beatles fan posted above.)

I agree with Michael that the meditation in India - coupled with being off drugs like LSD for the first time in years - probably awakened him to the fact, and that his feelings/desires/whatever for Paul probably ran deeper than he'd been willing to confront until then. But I don't think it was directly after India where John might have gone to Paul about it - if he ever did. Remember, after India the two of them went to New York to announce and do press about Apple Corps. And everything still seems to be okay between them during this interview - the last interview they did together:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qp0i90n0BP8

It was after this trip that John and Yoko officially first got together by all accounts, and the rift between John and Paul began. So if John was to confront/question/ask anything of Paul about it, I think it might have been then. Personally? I do think he asked, and he probably got a "no" in return. Commence the running to Yoko and actively showing that *she* is now his new partner and Paul is being replaced.

Thus, a few years later, giving us things like the pictures above.

-- MGAnon

Nancy Carr said...

I think it's also possible that in India one of the things John realized was that his leadership of the band was slipping away -- that Paul and George were no longer consistently looking to him for direction. India was George's idea. And "Sgt. Pepper's," with its huge popular and critical success, was Paul's idea.

One of the major things that shifted from '62 to '68 was that Paul and George came into their own. Once George was recognized as a peer by people like Eric Clapton, he wasn't going to be put back into the #3 Beatle slot. And once Paul realized that it was often his songs becoming hits, and his ideas driving the band after "Revolver," he wasn't going to play John's second in the same way.

We've discussed on this blog before the way that John's actions around the breakup look like an attempt to reassert control (something Mikal Gilmore analyzes in his "Rolling Stone" piece, and that Peter Doggett also gets at in his book). And Paul was the one who wouldn't fall into line, the one who wouldn't agree to Allen Klein and who kept pushing for live performance.

I don't think you need an explicit sexual dimension to explain John's actions, although I agree that there are things that suggest a strong erotic charge, at least -- and particularly on John's part.

John could forgive Stuart Sutcliffe for leaving the band. He couldn't forgive Paul for staying in the band but refusing to do what John wanted. I think that's why John felt so betrayed by Paul, and vice versa. John felt that Paul broke the unspoken rule that John was always the leader, and Paul felt disrespected by John and as if the band moved away from him.

Michael Gerber said...

All true, @Nancy. Here are a few thoughts I had.

As somebody who postulated the Gilmore theory of the breakup before Gilmore did--ie, John did it (on purpose, systematically, and in lots of ways), and then regretted doing it ever after--I don't think you NEED a psychosexual motivation. But IMHO it does explain the suddenness and vitriol of Lennon's behavior better than either the Gilmore theory or the Ballad of John and Yoko do. For whatever that's worth.

I also think it's an interesting idea that likely to have been UNDER-talked about, rather than the rest of the breakup, which has been endlessly analyzed. And it also seems to explain Yoko's peculiar "I've-got-a-secret" behavior regarding John's possible bisexuality.

And I think it's an idea whose time has come. Beatles fans should be able, in 2013, to entertain the possibility of erotic charge between John and Paul. It impacts their legacy and work not a whit, and fans that think it smacks of sensationalism--that it would somehow demean either man to have those feelings, acted on or not--should, perhaps, investigate that attitudes.

As to your other points:
Remember with Klein, Mick Jagger had already warned Lennon against him; and the whole Nanker Phelge thing--utterly unethical and anti-artist--was already going on. By 1970, The Stones had fired Klein and were suing him. So Paul wasn't standing up to John by resisting Klein, he was acting with businesslike caution. In 1969, The Beatles could've had their pick of anyone in the business. That Lennon picked a known sharpie who was already screwing over his friends, on the basis of liking his streetwise attitude and his respect for Yoko, is totally irresponsible. It's one of the first real instances of Lennon's post-Yoko "I-don't-care" infantilism, and I don't think it's something that an earlier Lennon would've ever, ever done.

Finally, I don't think Paul felt disrespected by John--I think Paul WAS disrespected by John, post-Yoko. Because that's a huge shift from how things had been during the earlier ten years, I think one has to account for it, and I don't think a new lover is enough to do that, really. That explanation makes sense to fans because to be a fan is to simplify someone. The Ballad is a simple story--that's why it's always been a fantasy. To what degree only the people involved can know.

The question remains: what happened between February 1968, when The Beatles were a unit functioning much as they had since 1962, surrounded by most of the same people, and May 1968, where Lennon was so soured on the arrangement that he spent the next two years alternately trying to escape it and destroy it?

Gaby said...

I remember the first time I saw that set of photos and I went "Holy Shit! not so sublte my dear John, not so subtle."

I agree with @anon that John was trying to send a message to Paul, a message that Paul surely got and understood.

I also agree with the ones who believe that John was in love with Paul and I wouldn't doubt that Paul loved him back.

Paul was utterly hurt when Yoko came into the picture and you can hear/read that in the "let it be sessions" transcripts and audios. I guess, in the beginning he didn't really thought of Yoko as a real threat, he thought it was just a phase and it would go away. When she stayed and fought her place in the studio and in John's life he wanted to get John back, but he didn't know how to do it. By then, John was on heroin and sharing that habit with Yoko which I think somehow made them bond. You can hear Paul trying unsuccesfully to get to John. And it's a really sad thing to hear.

I also think that John was not madly in love with Yoko in the beginning. If I am honest, I think that as some of you say, something happened in India, and that something had a lot to do with Paul and their feelings for each other, and probably the not being able to sort things out and make them work. If my mind isn't playing games on me, I think that homosexuality was not illegal in England anymore. I think that John probably wanted a slightly more open relationship with Paul, not so secret (telling family and close friends) but Paul didn't. Plus, Paul always wanted kids, and with John that was not going to be possible, at least not kids of his own. He would have Julian somehow, though. That's when, like Michael says, back in England John goes to Yoko.

The break up was not a band's break up. It was John and Paul's break up and everyone around them (including their wives) had to put up with it and deal with it. Thank God Paul found Linda, she really helped him through all that mess.

There are many things to look at in this relationship. Their weddings so close in time to one another. The way they spoke about the other and how it was very common for them (more for John, I guess) to compare their wives to their ex partner. There are also many quotes from people who were really close to them that makes you think that what they had went way beyond friendship.

I'm not saying that they had a sexual relationship, but I do believe that they were in love, as in "couple in love" not just a deep emotional feeling that you have for someone.

In my humble opinion we are discussing one of the most epic, yet sad love stories of all times. Two man that for being who they were (two beatles) and being born and raised in a time when being in love with another man was not acceptable and was considered an illness had to go on different paths.

Gaby

Anonymous said...

I think there's some confusion in this thread about what the word 'romantic' actually means. On the first hand, if John and Paul were a man and a woman, nobody would have hesitated by now to say they were in love. And nobody would have had to explain that 'in love' means that they were romantic about each other. The thing is that, while people can believe that a man and a woman might have been in love without needing Proof of Sex Happening, when it's two men, somehow the whole suggestion can be laughed off unless they're actively caught in flagrante delicto. But 'romantic' does not mean 'sexual'. John and Paul's attitude towards each other was one of romantic possessiveness and passion, always, even if there is no demonstrable sexual element. And that is what a romantic friendship is. Note the extent to which John and Paul as teenagers were invested in the poetic world of the late Victorian and early 20th century where this kind of romantic but non-sexual attachment between men was normal, even idealised; it's not at all surprising that they would have been drawn all the more to each other as they started to become close and to create things together (not just songs, in their teenage years!) in recognition of the fact that they, too, might have that Brideshead connection.

Anonymous said...

I don't have any doubt that John and Paul's relationship was so psychologically and emotionally intense that it was, as Michael puts it, "charged"—whether outright erotically charged or not is almost beside the point. It was something more complex, and harder to categorize than, say, John's friendship with Ringo. John always needed an ally, and Paul replaced Pete Shotton and Stu Sutcliffe, but as a true partner and compliment, not a sidekick or a mentor. In a way, I think it's tempting to posit that something of a sexual nature affected things in early 1968, since it would help explain the dramatic change, but I think it overlooks how emotionally repressed and deeply screwed up John Lennon was by February 1968 even if he was completely heterosexual.

"I think one has to account for it, and I don't think a new lover is enough to do that, really."

Possibly. But don't forget that Lennon spent the previous two years eating acid all the time. As soon as he got off the treadmill of the Beatlemania era, he avoided confronting the massive amounts of pain (and, possibly, undiagnosed mental illness—there's at least as good a case for John Lennon having clinical depression or even manic-depressive/bipolar disorder as there is for anything else) by tripping constantly. Constantly. From there, he goes to India, and at that point, a man who had been relying on drugs—alcohol, speed, pot, LSD—almost every single day of his life since age seventeen to distract him, numb him, whatever, was sitting alone and confront himself. I don't think it's too implausible that the combination of multiple withdrawals (God knows what pills he was taking), plus all of that time in self-contemplation, was more than his (arguably LSD-affected) psyche could handle. Throughout this period, Yoko—who he's already made love to, mind you, and invited to the "Fool on the Hill" recording session—is sending him notes. How likely is it that John Lennon the needy romantic can't stop thinking about this strange, strong, controlling woman, even as he's in close quarters with Cynthia for the first extended period of time since, what, 1961? 1960?

Lennon was probably sitting on levels of repressed rage that most of us can't really imagine—the 1970 interviews and music only hint at it, I think. I think what happened in 1968 is more like what Nancy's suggesting. John the bully, the insecure kid who had to compensate for all his own vulnerability by lashing out at others, re-emerged, fueled, upon his return to England, by absolutely insane drug binges. This is when he began doing heroin, before he got together with Yoko, not in July or August 1968. He was in a total crisis, a crisis that had been delayed or averted since late 1964 by the Beatles' relentless schedule, then by pot, then by acid. The longer he went, though, the more he overloaded his psyche. In India the dam broke.

In a way, I think the John-wanted-Paul theory makes it too easy. I don't doubt that their relationship's intensity and, put simply, their love made the breakup and aftermath as complicated and fraught as it was, but the idea that John discovered he desired McCartney sexually and the rest of the breakup was him recoiling in horror from that doesn't really add up, to me. It might make more sense if he hadn't been abandoned by his mother and father and then his mother died and Aunt Mimi wasn't so withholding of affection and Uncle George hadn't died and Stu Sutcliffe hadn't died and Brian Epstein hadn't died and Cynthia didn't understand him anymore. But Lennon's entire life was a mess.

Also, for contrast, look at Jagger and Richards. I fully believe there's some erotic charge there; one look at them sharing a mic in the early Seventies reveals waaaaay more sexual energy between the two than anything with Lennon and McCartney. I think John may well have been frightened by his dependence on Paul, though.
-Michael

Stew said...

Michael Gerber wrote, "Never underestimate the cultural taboo against male/male emotion and friendships. "Mates" is OK, but anything more than that--well,"

Actually, I think that cultural taboo is vastly and habitually OVERestimated when people talk about the Beatles. (Yes, even taking the Wooler incident into account.). The truth about the Beatles cultural milieu is quite different from what is generally assumed, as described rather well in the following:

"Meet the Beatles: A Cultural History Of The Band That Shook Youth, Gender and The World" by Steven D. Stark:

On Liverpool's gay subculture:

"Though it's seldom mentioned in analyses of the Beatles, Liverpool's status as a major port had two major effects on male and female roles that affected the group. First, like other port areas, it fueled a booming gay subculture both in some of the city's pubs and, more important, on ships, where the repressive English laws against sodomy were rarely enforced. Brian Epstein, their future manager, was hardly the only gay man in Liverpool.

"In fact, more than a few stewards on ships were said to be gay (or bisexual), and the crews often had elaborate ceremonies with feasts where men would cross-dress and "marry" one another. One steward who loved to direct such routines was Freddie Lennon, John's father. "There was little prejudice against the gays on the ships where they were accepted," wrote his second wife in her biography of her husband.

"What's more, the notion that a man can be both macho and effeminate is typical of port and sea existence, where, in the old phrase "Ashore it's wine, women and song--aboard it's rum, bum and concertina." (The more modern version is "Nothing queer once you've left the pier.") Though rarely discussed, especially in polite English company, gender bending is hardly unusual in sea culture."

The author goes on to discuss the androgyny of the Beatles' hair, clothes, on-stage movement style, and choice of lyrics, ("Boys," anyone?), then writes:

"...All this emphasis on androgyny was accompanied by a more relaxed attitude toward homosexuality among the English compared to their American--and even Continental--counterparts. After all, it is the French who call homosexuality "le vice Anglais". "There's more terror of that hint of queerness--of homosexuality--here than in England, where long hair is more accepted," Paul once said of America."

Basically, John and Paul grew up in a place more gay-friendly than Greenwich Village or San Fran, had family members directly involved in the gay subculture, joined the arts/show biz world in their teens, made it big with an androgynous act with initially gay male fans, and had majority gay friends for most of their adult lives. The idea that they were deeply susceptible to "gay panic" deserves healthy skepticism.

Michael Gerber said...

@Michael, your comment makes sense. I agree that it's hard to over-emphasize the role of LSD and other chemicals in the John Lennon story, and maybe that's all that was required. Honestly, I feel it's a real step forward for fans to acknowledge that something extraordinary did happen--that this idea that "our eyes met and we fell in love so hard and deep that we had no choice but to start doing H and for me to abandon my son profoundly and treat my co-workers like shit" is defensible in any way.

The exact proportion of drugs to meditation to isolation to stardom to sibling rivalry to sexual attraction to actual Beatle-on-Beatle action doesn't matter so much to me as beginning to see clearly how self-destructive it all was. John's busting up with Paul was a kind of suicide, that's for sure. Maybe it was necessary; maybe it couldn't've happened any other way. But in the stripping away of the romance (or at least reducing it to a more adult, less adolescent tenor) I sense a more accurate picture emerging.

The one thing more I will say (yeah right) is this: for all the litany of misfortunes that John suffered through, none of them were so extraordinary--except for the circumstances of his mother's death. That's a big "except," I know, but what's really unique about John Lennon's life is the money, power, and fame. The attention. So while all the things that happened to John before Beatledom may have caused him pain and difficulty, there's something about fame/fortune/power itself that was the real problem, the real pain, the real difficulty.

Being that rich and famous and powerful isn't good for anybody, but it seems that it was particularly bad for John Lennon.

(Has anybody else watched "Behind the Candelabra"?)

Michael Gerber said...

@Stew, that's fascinating. And super-convincing.

On the other hand, John Lennon nearly beat a friend to death with a shovel, in public, for suggesting he was gay. If that's not "gay panic," what is it?

If it were alcohol, there would be stories of Lennon habitually beating the crap out of people on tour, which I've never heard. Ditto if it was psychosis.

What's your feeling?

Anonymous said...

"On the other hand, John Lennon nearly beat a friend to death with a shovel, in public, for suggesting he was gay. If that's not "gay panic," what is it?"

It's "gay panic." But Wooler was referring directly to John's having gone to Spain with Brian Epstein. No matter what Lennon's orientation was or wasn't, there's no way he was, at 22, self-confident and self-assured enough to not have all sorts of issues about that, especially in—all those quotes aside—1963 Northern England.

Who knows what was going on with John in taking that trip. I don't buy the "he was just being a savvy, Machiavellian bandleader and securing his status in the group" story, even if that might have been part of the reason. Nor do I buy "John and Brian were having sex from 1962 until 1967." Brian was a mentor, a father figure, someone who believed in John—and he was also the conduit to a totally unexplored and quite possibly, to a young, adventurous man unsure of his identity, appealing world. John did send Brian flowers after some episode of Epstein's, in 1967, with the note "You know I love you—I really mean that."

But it's a leap, nonetheless, to conclude from John's reaction, at 22, before any real stardom, to being taunted about that trip that he had or requested or even decided he wanted any kind of romantic or physical affair with Paul. It proves that Lennon wasn't secure with his sexual identity, that's for sure, and the absence of other outbursts, as Michael points out, suggests that something more was at stake here than drunken anger. Nonetheless, something in the footage and recordings we have of John and Paul interacting with each other, to me, doesn't quite stack up with the idea that Lennon went off the deep end because of unrequited or psychologically unnerving attraction to McCartney. In fact, it almost seems to me that if there were a point when those feelings would have come to the surface for John, it would have been earlier—in 1962 or 1963, maybe, when they were living in close quarters all the time and perhaps at the peak of their intimacy as friends and collaborators and whatever else. By 1968, I think we have so much—so much—evidence for Lennon's troubles that there's a sort of Murphy's Law logic at play.
-Michael

Stew said...

@Mike Gerber- Well, according to Spencer Leigh, Wooler said that story was "rubbish":

"The book of memoirs that I was planning with Bob Wooler fell down over his refusal to describe the events at Paul McCartney's 21st Birthday party on 18 June 1963. Most Beatle books describe Wooler making insinuations about a holiday John Lennon had taken with Brian Epstein in Spain. Lennon punched Wooler, which put him in the hospital and led to a modest out-of-court settlement. At one stage, I listed the various accounts of what had happened that night. "All rubbish," he said, "None of them were there. Only myself, John Lennon and Brian Epstein know what actually happened that night. "Wooler would not discuss the matter further. He once asked me if I wanted any of his possessions when he died. "Nothing," I said "just a letter telling me what happened that night."

"When we discussed his autobiography, he was intent on producing an honest book. He described most of the Beatles memoirs as "Pinocchio-time""

If I had to guess what caused John's rage, I'd say a cocktail of alcohol, hypomania, and anger at something Wooler said and/or did, particularly as it related to the context of Paul's party. Carlin has suggested Wooler was making a pass.

And yes, there are stories out there of random violence from a drunk John, including trying to strangle May Pang, slamming a woman's hand in the door and laughing, burning a woman's hand on a stove, and beating up Stu and worrying for decades if he caused his death.

Anonymous said...

John Lennon's sexuality is old news. Everyone who was anyone in the industry knew about it. What I want to know is why Paul McCartney, after a successful 30-year marriage and a less successful second marriage, still has a reputation in the music biz as a "bottom." Care to explain, Sir Macca, you and your "immovable heterosexuality"?

- G

Michael Gerber said...

@Stew, that's a great tidbit re: Wooler. If the scandalous angle was rubbish--a typical drunken punch-up--why refuse to discuss it any further? Do you have a feeling about this?

I'm aware of those stories about John, but to me, they make physically violent gay panic more likely, not less. Understand that I don't care whether John was straight, gay, or bi--the categories themselves strike me as a peculiar modern construction, as arbitrary as the ancient Romans' taxonomy of "penetrator/penetrated." I'm just trying to explore this angle to see if it's a better answer than the current one.

For example: if we believe as @Michael says that Lennon's drug use was prodigious--and every source agrees on this--then the question becomes: why? It appears that he invariably used chemicals not to alter his consciousness, but to bludgeon it beyond recognition. Why? What was biting him in the ass? Repressing bisexuality fits the bill, perhaps too nicely. But it fits it just the same.

If John Lennon was a violent drunk--if he was a hypomanic alcoholic who acted out like that--why aren't there lots of tales of him wrecking hotel rooms, raping women, and getting up to all the things that violent drunken rockstars after The Beatles got up to? Why doesn't he have the reputation of a Keith Moon or a John Bonham? Lennon was on the road from 1962-66 without cease--if the stories existed, we'd know them. Even in the 70s, Lennon's rep is relatively clean, and it's Ringo who's known as the hard partier. I know of literally no footage showing a drunken, or even inebriated, John Lennon, and he was the most-filmed person of his generation. I'm not saying all those stories are wrong, I'm just trying to assemble a consistent picture. Help me out if you have an opinion.

@G, are you teasing us or is there more to this? When did the industry know about John? I'd be absolutely unsurprised to hear that Lennon was considered to be bi, certainly by the age of Bowie and Elton. Who knew, and how? Can you tell?

Top, bottom, straight, gay--however they went through life, I hope John and Paul got at least a little of the pleasure back that they gave the world. Seems only fair.

theoneyouallhate said...

just a comment: There aren't films of Lennon drunk but his lost weekend in the mid 70s was the stuff of drunken legends including him getting obnoxiously drunk during a Smothers Brothers show at the Troubadour that made national news

Michael Gerber said...

Right, @theone. And there's also a story about him in the parking lot of some club, totally drunk out of his mind, letting fans tear off his clothes. And maybe Goldman has a story about him wrecking Lou Adler's house (am I remembering that right?).

But compare that to Keith Moon, for example. Doesn't it seem like awfully weak tea, if the guy was a psycho?

Karen said...

Hard to believe that a relationship so intense for so long didn't have a sexual component--even if not acted upon.

The greatest bromance ever, and no-one has written about it, for it's own sake.

What a shame.

Anonymous said...

Why has Paul ever commented on the Wooler incident? It was at his 21st birthday party after all. I'm sure he saw/heard the whole thing.

Anonymous said...

Sorry but I think the comment from "G" is completely inappropriate on this blog and should be deleted. It hs no relevance to this discussion. Why on earth is some anonymous person posting such rumors here? The whole tone is like a smug Gossip Girl, proud of spreading a rumor. And whether it's true or false, what the heck does it matter? It doesn't relate to this discussion of John and Paul's relationship -- at all.

It's none of G's business and it's none of our business. And it's completely unsubstantiated gossip.

-- Drew

Anonymous said...


"G" is a fantasist. Unfortunately there are lots of them in Beatles fandom and some of them prove dangerous. Let's hope G is just a harmless sad troll looking for attention.

theoneyouallhate said...

@Michael Gerber
Right. there are stories like that, most of them from May's book

Anonymous said...

I've always been intrigued by the Bob Wooler incident, but it seems like we are never getting the truth about it, unless Paul really knows what happened and is willing to share, but I doubt he does. At least not the full story.

@G: what do you mean when you say that people in the industry knew? Say a little more, come on ;)

Anonymous said...

This is a fascinating thread. Here's a tidbit that a lot of Beatles fans may not know about. In Christopher Isherwood's recently published diaries he describes meeting Mick Jagger in the Australian outback on the set of "Ned Kelly," I think in 1968. He writes

"[Mick] also seems tolerant and not bitchy. He told me with amusement that the real reason why the Beatles left the Maharishi was that he made a pass at one of them: “They’re simple north-country lads; they’re terribly uptight about all that.” Am still not sure if I believe this story."

Nancy Carr said...

@ G, more information needed to know what to make of your assertions.

From what I've seen, it makes sense to consider John as at least occasionally interested in bisexuality -- how much he acted on it being another question. His intense friendship with Stu Sutcliffe, his willingness to go to Spain with Brian, and the hints Yoko has dropped seem like enough to establish that.

As for Paul's alleged reputation as a "bottom," that's the first I've heard of it. Anyone go on record saying anything about this?

And the "immovable heterosexuality" quote comes from Philip Norman, where he's reporting Yoko's comments on John's sometime attraction to the idea of sexual experimentation with Paul.

Interesting that Norman chooses to paraphrase instead of quoting Yoko directly. He says that John was interested in experimenting with Paul because "bohemians should try everything," but he was "deterred by McCartney's immovable heterosexuality." Which is somewhat coy on Norman's part: did Yoko say John was deterred from trying, or turned down? So it's Yoko/Norman labeling Paul as being "immovably heterosexual," not something Paul said about himself. (And at this point he's in an apparently happy third marriage.)

Michael, I tend to agree that 62-63 would make more sense as a time where the Lennon-McCartney attraction (sexual or otherwise) was at its height. But I can also believe that in 68, Lennon was feeling vulnerable and threatened enough to act out emotions he might have been suppressing and/or to be paranoid about perceived slights.

Michael Gerber said...

Reading back over this thread, I was especially tickled by the phrase "Proof of Sex Happening."

"Ken Kesey's first Proof of Sex Happening was held at Golden Gate Park in August, 1966."

The other thing to keep in mind during this discussion is: Beatle sexuality, whatever it was, didn't take place in the same world as yours or mine. It existed in a world of practically infinite supply, endless variation, and on-demand access. (Yes, even for the Married One.)

This is why I personally don't think John and Paul would've acted on any impulses in 1962-63, even though that may have been their period of greatest personal intimacy (though I would say that 1967, with its acid trips and great artistic success, gives it a run for its money). Since it appears that both men were at least primarily hetero, and "hunting the female hordes" was not only approved of but expected, and "hunting the male hordes" would've likely ended their career before it had started, I think the Beatlemania period was spent wearing their equipment down to a nubbin with the ladies.

It's only after that--after Hetero John has had all the girl-sex, in every possible variation and combination, that he could possibly imagine--that he might've looked over at Paul and gone, "Hmm." This is total conjecture obviously. I have no Proof of Sex Happening. (totally using that as much as possible, @Anon)

My feeling about Beatle sexuality is that, if people do it, they probably did it. What else is there to do, locked in a hotel room in the middle of Cincinnati on a Saturday night? :-)

It's a similar dynamic to why George slept with Ringo's wife Maureen. In a world where every appetite is indulged, taboo can become obsession.

Anonymous said...


"Anyone go on record saying anything about this?:" Of course not! This is standard internet troll tactics. Protected by anonymity, you pretend to be an insider because you get off on that, and basically call the guy's entire life a sham. It's ridiculous and more than a little unfair to Paul. Why are people here acting like this unnamed poster has any shred of legitimacy? It's laughable. And a bit pathetic.

Do people here REALLY think it's appropriate to discuss the Beatles' sexual practices? Why? Would you want people speculating about your bedroom habits on a blog?




Michael Gerber said...

@Anon,
Do people here REALLY think it's appropriate to discuss the Beatles' sexual practices? Why? Would you want people speculating about your bedroom habits on a blog?

Here are my feelings about this:
1) What artists do in bed has an impact on what they create. So--within common-sense boundaries, which spring up naturally out of a proper empathy and respect--speculation on sexual matters is in-bounds to me. It is, or should be, no more incendiary than speculating on dietary practices or religious beliefs. It's not the speculation that's sticky, but the negative beliefs some can attach. Saying, "I wonder if John was bi" is perfectly acceptable; saying, "If John was bi, there was something wrong with him" is about the speculator, not John Lennon.
2) People speculate about other people's bedroom habits all the time. It's totally natural human behavior and harmless, unless it's done in an unkind way. Even if HD could say "out of bounds! no thinking about Beatle sex!" it's the intent that counts.
3) Speculating is not the same as demanding to know. It really, truly, DEEPLY doesn't matter to me what sexuality J/P/G/R were/are--except in how it might explain their work. Knowing that they were all born in Liverpool during WWII, for example, is interesting and valuable context.
4) It's not the sex, but the society around the sex. The thing about Brian Epstein wasn't that he was (mostly) gay, or liked rough trade (so they say), but that those preferences put him in contact with unsavory types, got him beat up, etc--which had a direct impact on The Beatles' story. If Brian had gotten married to a nice boy named Steve in 1961, and they'd lived in domestic bliss just like a happily married hetero couple, things would've been vastly different for The Beatles.
5) Respect for the people involved. Just because someone is famous doesn't mean they have no rights. Dullblog has high standards in this area, and while Devin, Ed, Nancy and I can take some credit for setting that tone, it's been the commentariat that's done 95% of the work. The reason I think people are reacting to @G's comment of yesterday is that it's not the usual thing here. Since it would take many, many more commenters like that to change the tenor of the site, so I am interested in bringing @G to our level of discussion--respectful, often sourced, always thoughtful, and built on a base of real affection for these four men and their work.

These are just my immediate thoughts, @Anon. Please feel free to rebut/continue talking--we love comments and I am grateful for the opportunity to put all this into words.

And BTW, folks--my periodic requests that people don't post as "Anonymous" is designed to damp down trolling and create a sense of community. Of course it's all right if you choose not to use a name, just know that's why I prefer you do.

Anonymous said...


Hello again, I'm 10:02 anon. Thank you for your response. I lurk here reading and enjoy the blog. I usually think it's fine to post one's personal opinion anonymously as long as you're not hurting anyone. But I think it's cowardly to make prurient, potentially libelous accusations about any of the Beatles and hide behind the cloak of anonymity. I'm thinking I should stop posting anonymously altogether so my comments are not confused with the cowardice of G's snickering comment, which was intended to harm Paul's reputation.

I have no problem with any of the discussion on this thread EXCEPT for G's comment. That crossed the line. I'm still appalled at the schoolyard "I've got a secret" tone of the post. This person suggested Paul's whole life is a sham without presenting any facts or evidence. Because there is none. Who is G? Heather Mills??? She already tried the tactic of making accusations without evidence.

There's nothing wrong with speculating about whether John and Paul were gay, whether they were in love, whether they were bisexual. I can see merit in the idea that any of those things were true. But when you move from harmless speculation -- based on facts -- to prurient speculation about someone's SPECIFIC sexual practices based on anonymous rumors posted purely to get a reaction, without a shred of evidence, it's just plain irresponsible, IMO.

It's unfair to the Beatles and its a violation of what little privacy they had.

Michael Gerber said...

All fair points, 10:02 Anon, and it's commenters like yourself that have made HD pretty darn unique on the web. Thanks for chiming in, and please write more!

Stew said...

@Micheal Gerber - I do think Wooler probably said something about John and Brian and/or made a pass at John as Carlin asserts, but, rather than John's reaction being "gay panic," I think his anger may have had other sources. Publicly implying that John was gay in front of Paul's family would have been a sure way of jeopardizing the John/Paul partnership at that time, which may have already been jeopardized by the trip. None of Paul's interpretations of the reasons for John's trip are very positive - I don't think he thought very well of it. And John frequently suggested that Paul had a choice in life, between his father and John. So, Paul's father having another reason to deeply dislike John, if there is public gay flirtation going on, would have been a problem for John.

As to the drug use, I do think John was self-medicating some bipolar and post-trauma symptoms. I think during the tour years, the structure, and Paul's supportive and maybe rescuing behaviors probably kept John more stable. But sitting around with little to do would have been very de-stabilizing, especially after he was truly imprisoned by fame.

Michael Gerber said...

@Stew, great comment. Much to ponder.

Paul's supportive and maybe rescuing behaviors

This sounds exactly right to me. Things that Paul did from 1957-68--the rules of the friendship that had been set down by both of them--were suddenly "bossy" and "stifling" post-India.

It is axiomatic that a meditation practice--like any significant personal/spiritual investigation--shakes up one's close relationships. As I've said before in the thread, I don't think Maharishi was responsible in how he ran that process for the four guys. Was that because he, as an Indian person involved in spirituality for decades, had no clue what the experience would be like for hyper-famous, wealthy, drug-using English rockstars? Or was this where he was using The Beatles and their fame?

It does explain Lennon's rage towards him. If you're experiencing a LOT of discomfort during something like that (and I can attest that it's a particularly icky kind), it's natural to turn on the person advising you. That makes a lot more sense than John getting exercised over Maharishi's absolutely typical seduction of an acolyte.

Stew said...

@10:02 Anon - I'm not sure why you feel G's comment was intended to harm Paul's reputation. There is nothing wrong with being a bottom or an open-secret-bi, and it does not mean your life is a "sham."

Has anyone else here read Geoff Baker's novel Rock Bottom? It comes out as a relatively sympathetic portrayal of an open-secret-bi-leaning-gay rock legend, and it has some similarities to @Michael Gerber's Beatle novel.

Anonymous said...

I have to agree with Drew. "G"'s comment sounds like creepy trolling, making the claim that folks in the industry know about bottoms, etc. I've been obsessively reading about the Beatles for forty years, and I've never come across anything like that. Sometimes people troll to get an angry reaction out of the host, and seeing Mr. Gerber's desire to elevate "G" into the conversation is a reminder to me why I love the tone of this blog so much.

But why was John so pissed in '68? Why did he go from a functioning member of our Beatles to an enraged saboteur? Here's my opinion: Because Paul George and Ringo didn't show the respect he wanted when he introduced them to Yoko.

Before that, he was the "leader" of the lads. Whatever he was enthusiastic about, the others followed, or at least respected. So he believed that when he brought Yoko around, the others would say "wow John, you're right, she's so cool! Such a creative artist, and highly desirable as well! Once again, you've shown us all!" Instead, they sniggered behind her back. George said she gave off "evil vibes." How humiliating for John.

About 25 years ago (if you'll pardon the personal reference), I married outside of my "race." Most of my friends were accepting. A few people (who I'd thought of as friends) reacted in weirdly racist ways, making comments that I found offensive. I remember the rage I felt toward them, and my desire to cut off all contact with them.

Maybe I'm projecting here, but I think when the other Beatles failed to appreciate Yoko, and went as far as to be insulting, it was like a slap in the face.

- Hologram Sam

Michael Gerber said...

@Stew, I'm always amazed when I find out that someone has read that book I wrote. My feelings on the topic shift so frequently that I'm sure if I wrote it today, it would be different. But I hope you enjoyed it. I did my level best with a topic that proved to be 1000 times more difficult than I thought it would be.

I tried to finesse that character's sexuality, in the same way that people in showbiz often do--to imply a gap between an image for public consumption and a private, "real" person known by insiders, the size of the gap between the two varying from star to star. Intuition tells me that sexuality was one of the areas where Lennon's gap was biggest--which doesn't necessarily mean that he was bisexual, only that he was (mostly) private about what he was, truly. Stuff like Two Virgins and the lithographs don't feel like authentic sexuality as much as political statements using sex, like nudity as a result of "Cut Piece."

And so maybe that's why I'm a bit more tolerant of @G's comment; it strikes me as offhand and catty in the way showbiz people are, and maybe mostly in jest. I have friends who talk like that about comedy people. Do I believe them? Not really. Do I consider that they might be telling the truth? Absolutely.

Do you think Rock Bottom was intended as a portrait of Lennon, @Stew?

@Sam, I'm so glad you like the blog. We aim to please. I can totally see the casual racism of the Beatles' circle as being a HUGE issue in Lennon's rage and sabotage and pulling away. On the other hand, I wonder why he didn't engage in a bit of one-on-one "consciousness raising"? Wanna work for peace, John Lennon? Teach your Beatles to be better people!

Anonymous said...

Stew: I don't know what world you live in. It must be nice there. But I live in the real world. And it's naive at best to think that rumors like this, if spread, would do anything but wreck McCartney's reputation.

Plus it's just common decency. (1) you don't "out" people anonymously; (2) you don't spread rumors about people without foundation or evidence and (3) and you don't pretend that a married rock legend wouldn't be ruined if people started to believe these unsubstantiated idle gossip. And you certainly don't spread that gossip just because you want everyone to think you're an insider.

Anonymous said...

Lots of great discussion going on here.

First, I think whatever caused the rift between John and Paul it didn't happen in India. At least, not fully. Because, after the India trip was done, John and Paul both went to New York to do the announcement and press for Apple Corp. And they seem perfectly fine with each other, as can be seen in their final interview together:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qp0i90n0BP8

So whatever caused the split to really form between John and Paul, I think it started sometime during their trip to New York. It was after this trip that John and Yoko recored Two Virgins, and were pretty much attached at the hip from then on.

Paul has never talked, to my knowledge, about the Bob Wooler incident. He hasen't even given his own opinion about it, unlike the even't that supposedly cause the fight between John and Bob Wooler - the trip Brian and John took to Spain.

Personally, I do think John was bisexual, but I honestly don't think he was confortable with it, or could really acknowledge it to himself too much. (No, I don't think he and Brian had some long-term affair going on, and I think whatever happened between him and Stu could be filed under "college experimentation.") But I think he was bi no only because of thing he himself said (like never meeting a woman that sexually aroused him in any way), but things Yoko has hinted and implied as well.

One other thing: In the Norman book, Yoko says that John said he couldn't see himself having a sexual relationship with a man unless he was in love with that man. Then, a few paragraphs later Norman drops the bomb that John had contemplated having sexual affair with Paul. (Only being deterred from it by Paul's "immovable heterosexuality"). So, honestly, by the logic laid down by Norman in the book, John had to have been in love with Paul in some way to have at least contemplated the idea of wanting to have a sexual affair with him.

-- MGAnon

Anonymous said...

"Sometimes people troll to get an angry reaction out of the host."

And sometimes people troll because they get a kick of being perceived as having some secret knowledge that they don't actually have. They want to be the focus of attention so they disrupt a conversation. And somehow we all let the troll take over.

I feel like this thread has gotten less and less valuable the more it's focused on G's creepy post. Disappointing because this thread started off so well.

-- Drew

J.R. Clark said...

I don't believe Paul had as deep of a relationship with John or any of the other three as some of you assert.

Music was the most important thing to Paul. I believe Paul LOVED collaborating with John and certainly LOVED working with George Martin, John, George, and Ringo. I've no doubt Paul LOVED performing with John, George, and Ringo.

There doesn't seem to be a lot of evidence that John and Paul socialized with each other even remotely to the same extent that John socialized with George and Ringo. The only time John and Paul vacationed together was the trip to Paris in 1961!

If photo and documentary evidence is proof, it seems as though John and George had a much closer social relationship from 1964 to 1968 than did John and Paul.

One of the things that has struck me in studying The Beatles' history is how often Paul stood aloof from the other Beatles and sought to create physical and social space apart from John, Paul, and George. I believe that Paul's tendency to chart his own course created then tensions within the group that came to a head in 1968.

For example, in January 1962 when The Beatles agreed to be managed by Brian Epstein, Paul took Brian aside and told him that no matter what happened to the band (and by extension, he means John, George, and Pete), Paul intended to continue his musical career and he wanted Brian to represent him as a solo performer.

In 1963, Paul hated the communal flat Brian rented for the group at Green Street. Paul mentioned this hatred enough times that Jane Asher suggested Paul could live with her family.

John, George, and Ringo let Brian Epstein's financial advisers move them to Weybridge/Esher. Paul demurred, and it is telling that when he finally bought a home he chose to live within walking distance of Abbey Road rather than close to John, George, and Ringo.

In 1965, John and George experienced LSD and were keen for Paul to join them in a trip. Paul resisted Beatle peer pressure, which according to George and John created significant tension within the group. When Paul finally did try acid, he did so in the company of Tara Browne, not John Lennon.

In 1966, John, George, and Ringo demanded to cease live performances. Paul resisted the pressure for as long as he could and only reluctantly agreed with the others to stop touring.

In 1967, John cooked up the idea that The Beatles and their entourage should live apart from society in a communal group on a Greek island. Marianne Faithful said that, had the sale of the island gone through, Paul would not have wanted to live with the other three and their retainers. Paul himself in MYFN said the same thing.

In 1968, after the failed attempt to buy a Greek island, John and George attempted to recapture the communal living model at the Maharishi's ashram in Rishikesh, India. Based on the primary sources regarding that episode, it seems as though Paul got fed up with George's "we're here to meditate, not work" attitude and John's increasingly (even for him) nutty behavior.

If John had made a sexual overture toward Paul, I doubt Paul would have invested too much meaning to it. After all, this was the same guy who would stand in front of a microphone on national television or before a concert crowd of 55,000 and bellow, "YONAWKWAPATA!!!"

J.R. Clark said...

Are we all so convinced of Paul McCartney's pleasant insincerity that we can't listen to what the man said about John Lennon's sexuality? Paul said that he had spent numerous nights in John's company and NEVER saw any indication of homosexuality in John.

As for Paul's sexuality: Over the past fifty years, numerous women have come forward admitting to sexual relationships with Paul McCartney. In that same time, not one man has come forward with a similar admission.

Nancy Carr said...

@ Sam and Michael G, while racism certainly played a role in the other Beatles' reaction to Yoko, and in John's reaction to that, I don't think race was the PRIMARY issue. If John had been romantically linked with Yoko but hadn't brought her into the studio constantly or presented her as as a new collaborator the other guys had to accept right away, I don't think they would have reacted nearly so negatively to her.

The primary issue was John's power play. Race was, IMO, an easy (and despicable) way for the other Beatles to express their disapproval of John's move, by targeting Yoko. And after the fact (again IMO), race became a convenient peg for John to hang the band's whole reaction on -- even though he had to know it was far more complex than that.

For example, I can't imagine that John would have accepted Paul bringing in a romantic partner, of whatever race, and presenting her as now all up in the Beatles' business.

Stew said...

@Michael Gerber - Yes, I enjoyed the book immensely, and I can certainly relate to how hard it is to write that character. Occasionally people do a nice job - there was a fun piece in Vanity Fair on Lennon's 70th birthday, for example - and when they do, I find it to be great fun.

I did feel you left room for a nuanced view of John's sexuality. Have you read Skywriting by Word of Mouth? Were there some intentional references to it in your book with character names, etc., or was that coincidence?

I think you have it right about @G. I know him from elsewhere on the Internet, and he definitely believes what he is saying, and is a huge Paul fan. His comment, IMO, is harmless gossip, not to be taken too seriously as either gospel or a threat to anyone's reputation. @Anon - bigger "threats" to Paul's sexual reputation have already been made by Howard Stern, who wrote in his book that he couldn't believe Paul stayed with Linda for so long, and that she must have "f*cked him in the *ss really well for 10 years," and by Geoff Baker, who wrote about being a press agent for a closeted rock star, formerly of a famous group, with an estranged ex-songwriting partner, ahem.

@Michael Gerber - I think Baker's character is an amalgam of Lennon and McCartney, and, of course, fiction.

Michael Gerber said...

Loving this. Thanks, everybody.

@MGAnon:
I don't think he and Brian had some long-term affair going on
Why not? My own best guess is that the two hooked up in Spain--that's what the Spain trip was for--and ever after they reconnected occasionally. I don't think the relationship was primarily sexual, but I find it difficult to believe that, if John was bi as I also believe, and Brian was definitely gay and definitely in love with John, that some fooling around didn't take place. I don't think it was a primary focus for either of them, though they clearly did really love each other.

To me, Lennon saying he "never met a woman that sexually aroused him in any way" means one of two things:
a) he's homosexual, and 'way far at the end of the bell curve on that, which the record doesn't seem to support; or
b) he's indulging in typical post-Yoko hyperbole, which always sounds like BS. Not that Yoko couldn't be great and his soulmate and all that, but he took that to a creepy, damaged degree which, if he truly believed it, was a tragedy for both of them.

@JR, that's a superb post, and utterly convincing to me. But it actually reinforces the idea that a needy post-Brian post-India John approached Paul, was rebuffed, and rebounded to Yoko. Who was in New York. The scorn of the rejected lover explains how John acted towards Paul ever since much better, IMHO, than the conventional narrative. Which doesn't make it the truth, but it's interesting to consider.

And FWIW, @JR, I don't believe Paul's being insincere. I don't, generally, think Paul is insincere--I think he believes whatever he does/says at the moment he's doing/saying it. I think Paul does, however, "make nice," especially in public, partially for personal reasons and partially because he believes that's what entertainers are for. Paul's Old Show Biz, through and through. And the Old Show Biz thing to do in that situation is to protect the reputation of your old partner--not because YOU think there's anything wrong with being gay, but because someone in the audience might. On the other hand, I sometimes think Yoko might have a thing about gay men (based on perceived slights in the art world?), because the hints she drops always strike me as having undertones of "he was unmanly" or "lemme tell you something nasty about your hero." Imagine, if Yoko had been bisexual, how rapturously Lennon would've characterized it, to the tenor of her hints.

I'm delighted to hear that you enjoyed the book, @Stew. All shout-outs were intentional, and based on three years of writing and revision, which nearly drove me insane. I wonder what the book could've been if I'd had the support of a major house--I mean, pre-1980 style support. I think a lot of my energy was expended in struggling with contradictions in the historical record (the very things that we're talking about now), which make the historical John Lennon a mass of contradictions. That's fine if you're watching Anthology or listening to Pepper (as I am now), but if you're writing a fictional character that you want to be 3-D (which was my guiding intention for the book), you have to make decisions on all those little gray areas. And the reader can go "oh no way!" at any decision. My end-run was to try to make the voice so strong, and the witty asides and wordplay so prevalent, that readers could be carried on that way--the strategy I think John Lennon himself used. But I think the presence of another close reader in there, telling me where it worked and where not, and generally applying the same kind of knowledge and brainpower on this very thread...God knows how great the book could've been.

Someday I plan to create a website that tracks all the references in the book, because there's so much wonderful stuff. It's really in every sentence. It's my own love letter to post-war Anglo-American history.

Anonymous said...

J.R.: You make some good points but I think you're underestimating how close John and Paul were to a great degree. John and Paul didn't make a move without consulting each other. John may have socialized more with George and Ringo (as per John's usual of needing a male posse around him) but the one John DECIDED things with was Paul. And perhaps Paul went his own way to some degree because he saw himself as John's equal -- not just a member of John's posse, but a partner.

At any rate Paul spent a lot of time driving out to Weybridge to work with John on songs, or having John at Paul's house.

Also, I think the distance you site between Paul and the other 3 can be explained in two ways.

(1) Paul liked being taken care of. A filthy bachelor pad was not his idea of being taken care of. Even in Liverpool, his aunties had made things homey at his Dad's house. He was always seeking that comfort. And he found a cozy home -- and a mother -- at the Asher home where Jane's mom supposedly doted on him. It really is amazing when you think about Paul -- at the height of the Beatles in the 60s -- living at his girlfriend's house for three years.

(2) Paul didn't want to move out to suburbia. He was always the most social Beatle. He wanted to be part of the happening scene in London -- not hanging out in boring suburbia. I've seen quotes before from Ringo about how Paul was so restless, couldn't sit still, and always wanted to know what's next, what's next? Like a relentlessly hyper and curious labrador. :) That is, no doubt, why John, who tended toward the lazy, chose to go on vacation with a more laidback George. Maybe John couldn't relax with Paul saying "let's go here" or "lets write a song" or whatever.

"In the Norman book, Yoko says that John said he couldn't see himself having a sexual relationship with a man unless he was in love with that man. Then, a few paragraphs later Norman drops the bomb that John had contemplated having sexual affair with Paul. ... So, honestly, by the logic laid down by Norman in the book, John had to have been in love with Paul in some way to have at least contemplated the idea of wanting to have a sexual affair with him."

Interesting. I had never made that connection before. Huh.

-- Drew

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

"In the Norman book, Yoko says that John said he couldn't see himself having a sexual relationship with a man unless he was in love with that man. Then, a few paragraphs later Norman drops the bomb that John had contemplated having sexual affair with Paul. ... So, honestly, by the logic laid down by Norman in the book, John had to have been in love with Paul in some way to have at least contemplated the idea of wanting to have a sexual affair with him."


----Huh, very interesting. There is a youtube video of an interview with Phillip Norman and he is asked about John's "lust for Paul" and Norman plays it down saying that John was not sexually attracted to Paul. He said John was a bohemian and experimental and Paul was a convenient choice because he happened to be around at the time. I don't think I buy this. So why not George? Ringo? Neil? Mal? The mention of Paul in the book is significant even if he tries to backtrack.

Michael Gerber said...

@Anon, that backtrack may be Norman's honest opinion, or it may be that he didn't want to do anything that might scotch his ability to bio Paul.

The moment his Lennon bio came out to decent sales, better believe a McCartney bio was being discussed.

Annie McNeil said...

I definitely believe the Lennon/McCartney relationship was intensely close, intensely deep, and intensely... well, intense. This is well-established by numerous quotes from numerous people who actually knew them.

@JR, I don't find your examples convincing. IMO, they merely illustrate Paul's wariness of becoming too enmeshed in John's dysfunctional need for symbiotic codependence (come on -- an ISLAND?!), which seems perfectly rational -- wise even, to me. Far from undermining the "depth" of their relationship, it shows how well Paul understood John, and his ability to walk a fine line was probably key to the partnership lasting as long and being as productive as it was.

For the record, to my mind, a sexual/romantic element answers a lot more questions than it raises.

Anonymous said...

@J.R - First: on the John and Paul vacationing together thing. How do we KNOW they never went off together anywhere? For instance, you didn't mention that John and Paul met up together in Paris in September 1966, during a break John has in filming "How I Won The War." And I bet I know why you didn't mention it - it's because, to this day, most people don't know about it. Because it was Maggie McGivern, Paul's secret lover during the years he was with Jane Asher, who first mentioned that trip back in the 90s when she finally talked about her relationship with Paul.

In her interview Maggie talks about how Neil and Brian were there, but she never saw them - she only spent time with John and Paul.

If news about THAT trip only came to light because Maggie, again someone the rest of the world had no idea Paul was sleeping with before she revealed it in the 90s, told it, who knows what-else, or where-else, Paul and John might have gone off together that we don't know about.

For instance, when did everyone first hear about the 1961 hitchhiking trip to Paris? Because I swear I didn't first hear about it until the late 90s.

Second: Cynthia to the former members of The Quarrymen have all talked about how close John and Paul were, pretty much from the moment they met. So it isn't just Paul who has said he and John were close. And I'm sorry, but being 16 and 15 respectively when they first met I don't buy AT ALL the argument that they only thing they had in common, or liked about each other, was music. When you are 16 and 15 you don't hang around people you don't like (to the point that people around you, 50 some-odd years later, continue to say that the two of you were "attached at the hip" or were like "siamese twins") just because you both have a love for music . . . or are just "business partners."

For the recored, I've always thought the "they were just business partners" thing about John and Paul was bull, because of the age they were when they first met. No 16 and 15 year old thinks that way about someone they don't like - "this person can help make me money!" - unless their parents force it on them. And, by all accounts Jim McCartney didn't like John and the influence he had over Paul (Paul's grades in school started to slip, and he even failed his O-Levels the first time around), and Mimi didn't like Paul because Paul was a lower class than John was. Only Julia appeared to have like Paul and had no problem with John's friendship with him.

Third - after Paul finally dropped acid with John in 1967 (the description of which is interesting in and of itself) it's been reported in various biographies that John and Paul were constantly together (this was all during the making of Sargt. Pepper). Apple Scruffs would commonly see them coming out of Paul's London house together, John having obviously stayed over.

PS - from people who have actually tried LSD that I've seen discussion about from, some have talked about how they purposely did NOT try it for the first time with people they were close to. Because LSD strips you of your inhibitions, and they were too afraid of how they might act in such a situation with someone they were close to. So Paul, being the control freak we know him to be, dropping acid with Tara first over John makes perfect sense in that context.

-- MGAnon

Anonymous said...

Forth: We honestly have NO IDEA why Paul left India when he did. Sure, the "official" line is that Paul just wanted to get back to work, but why are we just buying the "official" line here? The official line for why John and George left is because the Maharishi was flirting with the girls . . . but then we have Mick Jagger saying it was because the Maharishi hit on one of The Beatles. Not to mention, years later, George actually went back and visited the Maharishi and apologized for the way they acted and then left.

*Shrug* Maybe it's me, but I just don't by the "official" lines when it comes to the whole "leaving India" incident.

I think the two of them were very close - closer than some people care to see - but the intensity of it all meant that even *they* needed a break form each other now and then. (Which is something Cynthia also said about them). Plus, like I said, I doubt we know of every single time they may have taken time off together - as the Maggie McGivern story shows.

@Michael - I'm saying nothing happened between John and Brian in Spain. In fact, I tend to think something did. I just don't think it was an ongoing thing *after* Spain. Yeah, John loved Brian, but I don't think he was *in* love with him. That's the difference. And I just don't think John was that confortable with his sexuality to actually have some ongoing affair with him for years.

-- MGAnon

Anonymous said...

"2) Paul didn't want to move out to suburbia. He was always the most social Beatle. He wanted to be part of the happening scene in London -- not hanging out in boring suburbia. I've seen quotes before from Ringo about how Paul was so restless, couldn't sit still, and always wanted to know what's next, what's next? Like a relentlessly hyper and curious labrador. :) That is, no doubt, why John, who tended toward the lazy, chose to go on vacation with a more laidback George. Maybe John couldn't relax with Paul saying "let's go here" or "lets write a song" or whatever. "

Great point @Drew. Plus, are we forgetting that John HATED living in the suburbs? Being stuck out in the suburbs is part of what contributed to his massive LSD binging. I'll have to find it, but there is a newspaper clipping (from '66 I believe) of John talking about moving to London because he didn't like it out in Weybridge. And, after he got together with Yoko and the band broke up he really let loose on how much he hated living in the suburbs.

John would have much preferred to be living in London the way Paul was. So why the heck would Paul want to live in the suburbs?

And anyway, Cynthia says the two of them use to call each other constantly when Paul was living in London; even playing songs over the phone at each other. I can only imagine what it would have been like if they had had cell phones back then.

-- MGAnon

Stew said...

John and Paul also took a motorcycle road trip together in the US at some point. I will go try to dig up the source on that, sorry, don't have it at the moment.

Nancy Carr said...

@MG Anon, I think you brought this thread back to its main point: Lennon and McCartney were "closer than some people care to see." The exact dimensions of that closeness are impossible to establish, but the music and their reactions to each other, especially after the breakup, leave no doubt that they were VERY close artistically and emotionally, at least.

Philip Norman accuses Paul of trying to rewrite history -- and there's some truth to that -- but the Beatle who REALLY tries to rewrite history, IMO, is John. In the interviews closest to the breakup, he's hellbent on downplaying his collaboration with Paul, and on downplaying the Beatles' whole musical legacy. The "our music went to hell once we put on suits" line is from this time.

Going back to the books written by Lewisohn and Emerick about what happened in the studio, it's clear that John and Paul contributed to each others' songs in all kinds of ways (and Harrison and Starr contributed ideas too -- we could do a whole thread on that). But it was John and Paul who were each other's finest collaborators -- they always brought out the best in each other's songs. To take two post-India examples, John put that bangin' piano intro on "Ob-la-di, Ob-la-da," and Paul slowed down "Come Together" and created that swampy bass line. Critics like Christgau & Piccarella (and Philip Norman) like to separate John out from the band as its only genius, but the reality is more complicated.

As for their emotional closeness, I know I've said this here before, but the vitriol John and Paul unleased on each other is an inverse marker of their interdependence before that. You only get that hot and bothered about someone you really care(d) about.

@Stew, those Stern and Baker remarks sound, in the absence of any evidence, like garden-variety showbiz bitchiness. (We could probably do a whole thread on Linda-bashing, and another on Yoko-bashing.) Like others on this thread, I find it pretty unbelievable that Paul could have been conducting a secret life for 30+ years with so little public trace. He's certainly not that good an actor :-)

I agree with Michael G. that Paul isn't "insincere" but is old show-biz, in the sense Michael describes.

Nancy Carr said...
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Michael Gerber said...
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Michael Gerber said...

If all this site does is move the needle on 40 years of nonsense about the Lennon/McCartney partnership, it will have been well worth doing. That's why I don't even mind speculation about Beatle-on-Beatle action: at least it's not the odious "John's the genius, Paul's a show-biz phony" talking point...which is not supported by the basic facts. Lennon can be forgiven for lying about it, it was his life and we all spin things to our liking. But look at the sales, read the contemporary sources, listen to the songs--John's wrong; Rolling Stone is wrong; Christgau and any other Lennon-worshipper is wrong. And if The Beatles are important enough to talk about, they're important enough to try to get right. Disliking Paul McCartney doesn't make "Mind Games" into "A Day in the Life." (Or "My Love" into "Yesterday," for that matter.)

Strangely, after The Beatles broke up, John stopped being a genius! Not one solo song, with the possible exception of "Imagine," has proved as durable or beloved as any of his Beatles highpoints. Plastic Ono Band was an interesting, courageous experiment which lead nowhere, really. Imagine is his version of Band on the Run. And if you remove the tragic circumstances from the Double Fantasy tracks, it's reduced to Walls and Bridges (or Venus and Mars)--standard 80s MOR rock. Fine music--not genius. Nutopia's not genius. "Skywriting" is not genius. Solo Lennon isn't even the best work being done at that time.

Whatever those guys were, they were it together, and that was especially true for John and Paul. Obviously one would undervalue one's old partner at the beginning of a (terrifying) solo career. But if there's one thing the solo careers of all four Beatles demonstrate, it's that none of them were the genius in the group.

Yoko will promote JohnandYoko, whatever the truth of it, until the day she dies (and beyond, if she can arrange it). Paul can't do the same without appearing weak or coattailing, but he doesn't have to: 95% of what John Lennon will be remembered for is the result of JohnandPaul, not JohnandYoko.

Honestly, this is so obvious, I really do wonder if there's some homophobia behind it. Like "those guys were TOO close." It's time to see JohnandPaul for what they were, at least in public--whatever they were in private.

Anonymous said...

Michael Gerber said:
"Whatever those guys were, they were it together, and that was especially true for John and Paul."
YES.

"John Lennon will be remembered for is the result of JohnandPaul, not JohnandYoko.

Honestly, this is so obvious, I really do wonder if there's some homophobia behind it. Like "those guys were TOO close." It's time to see JohnandPaul for what they were, at least in public--whatever they were in private."

I CONCUR!
---
I'm really enjoying this discussion folks, keep it going. It's a much more refreshing direction than the old and tired "John vs Paul"debate. Let's talk more about J and P when they were TOGETHER. Like Paul says, when they were working together, they were "shit hot". haha! I'm sure Paul has a lot of info that he is keeping from the public and he has his reasons. His relationship with John was very special and meaningful to him. I don't blame him if he wants to keep those memories to himself. But at the same time, it's fascinating for us to talk about it and look at their relationship from different angles. The Beatles story has been told over and over again and I'm sure it's like that game Telephone. As it goes down the line, the story twists and turns and at the end is probably not the whole and complete truth anymore. Oh, but it's fun to use our detective skills to try and figure it all out!

Anonymous said...


There's one other factor that explains why John and Cynthia went on vacation with George and Patty, and that is the Jane Asher factor.

Jane Asher is one of the few people who never liked John and never saw his charm. She thought he was a boor. And she said that Paul became "a different person" around John, and she didn't mean that in an admirable way. So a key reason why Paul and Jane did not go on vacation with John and Cynthia is because Jane didn't want to.

-- Drew

Anonymous said...

Good point @Drew. Jane Asher never liked John, and she was Paul's official girlfriend during the majority of The Beatles era. So any vacations they went on, I'm sure she wouldn't want John around, whom she didn't like. (And I can't totally say I blame her for her dislike of him, give what he reportedly said to her when they firs met).

And, of course, the vacations he went on with Jane would be more well reported - and well known - than the ones that, for example, Maggie took with them to Paris. And, from what little is known, John and Maggie got along fine.

-MGAnon

Michael Gerber said...

I just had a stray thought that seems worth lobbing into this thread: What about Lennon's pretty vicious teasing of Brian Epstein over his sexuality? This habit is well-established, and apparently continued until the end of Brian's life (I'm thinking of "Baby You're a Rich Fag Jew").

This has always seemed to me to go well beyond matey teasing, even given the time and place. Cruel, unquestionably--but was it more than that?

Anonymous said...

As far as the vicious teasing: Wasn't Lennon like that with everyone? Even Jack Douglas said Lennon kept up a constant teasing banter with him, whenever he'd run into him at the health food store, or wherever. And he was constantly on Ringo about his nose, if you listen to the early recorded interview horseplay.

Here's a thoughtful essay I just saw about Lennon, and about learning to hate:

http://therumpus.net/2013/06/hateful-things/

What I've come to understand about myself (after years of thinking I would have been Lennon's best buddy if I'd been born in a different time and place) is that I would have absolutely loathed John in person. Because my experience in school and work and with family; I truly dislike passive-agressive types who confuse being verbally abusive with being witty.

People who scan others for any physical or emotional weakness, then create unwanted comedy routines. When I see it being done to someone else, I get mad, when someone tries to do it to me, I get mad and then real tired.

And this was Lennon, right up to the end of his life, no matter what role he was playing (contented househusband, political activist, charming entertainer). So naturally, when confronted with Epstein in 1962, how could he refrain from doing "queer jew" comedy bits? The words must have tumbled out of him before he realized what he was doing.

But why? My experience with the verbally abusive; I've noticed they come from families where such "teasing" is acceptable, even encouraged. Older siblings, sadistic fathers, uncles and mothers. Where did Lennon learn his behavior patterns? His uncle was quiet and mild-mannered. From Mimi? He wasn't bossed around by older brothers. How did he become such a bully?

- hologram sam

Annie said...
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Annie McNeil said...

@hologram sam,

I think he got it from Mimi, primarily. Several sources suggest she could be cold, narcissistic, cruelly critical. I think John came by those faults honestly.

Nancy Carr said...

Good question, @Sam: I'm thinking part of the answer to where Lennon learned to hit out verbally might be "at school." But there's probably more to it.

Another stray thought: I find it fascinating that John and Yoko constructed such a photographic gallery of their attachment. Not just the Bailey-esque pictures that prompted Michael's post, but the "Two Virgins" photos, the photo of John grovelling at Yoko's feet, the later photos of naked John/clothed Yoko, the photo of them naked and lying together on the inside of "Milk and Honey" -- why did they need/want to display their relationship in this way?

What's striking to me is that relatively few of these photos, to my eye at least, seem erotic. The famous 70s photo of them clothed and looking at each other on stage -- that's one of the few that really does capture a spark between them. [Here's the one I mean: http://johnlennonquotes.net/images/john-lennon-yoko-ono02.jpg]

Michael Gerber said...

@Sam, I think Mimi was a much nastier, angrier person than has come down to us. Which is totally OK with me. :-)

That's interesting, @Nancy; especially how it was evenly spaced--every so often, another photo like that would appear. Don't think if it as love and romance, think of it as branding/marketing, then it makes sense. It's not sharing a private moment, it's an advertisement--they were describing the relationship to the public (whatever it was in private) in the way they wished people to perceive it.

Annie McNeil said...

@Michael: I agree with you about Mimi. I think John came honestly by his narcissism and cruelty.

(Hope this isn't a double comment; I tried to post something similar earlier but got my google IDs mixed up or something...)

Anonymous said...

I hate to go the "childhood trama" route wrt John and his cruel streak, but I don't think we can underestimate how the kind of childhood he had affected how he acted with people later.

Plus, remember the times he was growing up in. I'm sure he encountered mean comments from people asking why he didn't live with his mom and dad, but with his aunt and uncle. So a lot of that cruel streak he had probably developed as self-defense mechanism.

Has anyone here heard abou the Jim Taylor incident. Taylor was the bass player for the band The Turtles. While in a London club, but band got to meet The Beatles, and John bullies and was so cutting to Taylor - who viewed Lennon as a hero - that Taylor quite the band and quit music that night. He never played music again.

You can read a short account of the incident here: http://www.nypost.com/p/news/opinion/books/happy_endings_P7tVbGfYOOjRfuIkTchM5J

There was also a movie made about it called My Dinner with Jimi.

Why did John bully Jim Taylor that night? I think it was a cross between seeing a weakness in Taylor, along with Taylor's obvious hero-worship of John. Not to mention probably also being drunk and/or high at the time as well. So I think , especially coupled with drugs, John could lash out quite cruelly at people, especially if someone pushed any emotional vulnerable buttons he tried to hide or suppress.

So yeah, to go back to @MichaelGerber original question on this about John's teasing of Brian, at least over Brian's sexuality, some if might have come from John's own mixed-up/confused feelings about his own sexuality. Especially if he and Brian really did have a sexual encounter in Spain.

--MGAnon

Anonymous said...

Ugh. I said Jim Taylor. I meant Jim Tucker, sorry. :p

-- MGAnon

Michael Gerber said...

Lennon had a totally distorted sense of self--that's what "part of me suspects I'm a loser and part of me thinks I'm God Almighty"--which came from not having parents who reflected a reasonable sense of self back at him: "You have talents and challenges and we love you regardless of either."

This is why he would lash out at fans, because they would be disagreeing with who he thought he was at that moment--either "I'm a loser, and you're a fool for not seeing it" or "I'm God Almighty, and you're NOTHING, don't bother me."

And of course the drink and drugs and fame and money and leeches and pressure didn't help. He had some stuff to work on, as we all do, but the circumstances of his adulthood made it almost impossible for him to grow. A really tough break.

Michael Gerber said...

OK, so, now here's an attempt to REALLY draw together all the strands of this comment thread:

We know Yoko was Aunt Mimi--that's accepted wisdom. So...who was Julia? Was it Paul? Brian Epstein? Or someone else entirely?

And if it was Paul, doesn't John's seemingly violent, implacable falling out with McCartney after May 1968 make a certain amount of psychological sense?

Rachel said...

Great question, Michael. At first thought, however, I would say that Yoko was a combination of both Mimi and Julia for John. She seems to have a stern, Mimi-like, resolve coupled with a wilder, more whimsical, Julia-ness. I might argue that Paul's two sides, the controlling taskmaster and the breezier, artsy bloke reflect both of John's formative influences and were lodestones for John.

Anonymous said...


Interesting question, Michael. I think Paul is Julia. Julia was someone who taught John things (banjo chords) just like Paul taught John guitar chords. Julia was always supportive and proud of John, just as Paul would always make proud comments promoting John's books or songs or defending John when people said he was boorish ("you just don't know him" etc.).

Yet Julia was always at arm's length -- never fully there for John, never totally committing to him, always off looking for fun. Just as Paul was always at arm's length from John, always wanting to maintain the equal partnership, always wanting to go his own way and see what was happening in London rather than hanging out at John's in suburbia.

Julia was said to be fun and lively and charming. Who does that sound like?

-- Drew

Anonymous said...

My take on things, for what it’s worth.

I think something we have to factor in here is John’s childish rebellious streak and resentments. Mimi was “you have to be adult and follow the rules”. Julia was “laugh at rules”. Early on, Brian was Mimi. Intellectually, John knew that he had to make compromises to be famous, but he resented it, so Brian became the authority figure to rebel against and be mean to. All well and good, as the Beatles needed Brian as their parental figure to rebel against AND to take care of them.

As to Paul. John was a “are you better or worse than me?” sort of person. When Paul was a teenager, he was just the really clever, talented high school kid while John was the art school rebel. Then, fame hits and suddenly, Paul is living the life John would have wanted for himself: talented, gorgeous girlfriend, popularity, and hanging out with artsy types. John was stuck in the suburbs with responsibilities. So, there was tension there.

Paul wouldn’t initially screw himself up by taking acid, so John could look down at Paul for not being “hip”. More tension. But then John takes way too much acid and can’t keep up with the sheer number of songs and ideas Paul has. John resents Paul pushing him to write songs. More tension. Pepper is an artistic triumph. All of a sudden John isn’t the artsy one, Paul is. Brian dies. Paul starts telling the Beatles that they need to grow up and run the business of Apple. Uh oh, Paul is now Brian, which means he’s now Mimi, which means John gets rebellious and even more resentful.

In India, whatever happened, John is let down by a father figure. John’s lost. Then Yoko starts feeding John’s ego. “You’re the artist. Paul’s a middle-brow entertainer,” she tells him. Paul says, “We need to get serious about doing an album.” Yoko says, “You’re an artist. Even your most self indulgent noodlings are art.” Who would John rather be with? The guy that says that you have to work and grow up? Or the woman who’s willing to do hard drugs with him and do crazy stunts that get John, as opposed to the Beatles, all the attention?

Yoko was Julia. So was Paul. But each of them in their own way was also Mimi, trying to make John get off his butt and do something. They had to be because John, for all of his brilliance and talent, emotionally was a small child who didn’t want to grow up and take responsibility for his life. I see the hatred towards Paul as the child inside John saying, “No one tells little Johnny what to do.”

Nancy Carr said...

Most recent Anon, I think you make a very convincing case for both Yoko and Paul having aspects of Mimi and Julia. And I agree absolutely about John's resenting Paul's free-and-easy London life, while John was stuck in the suburbs with a wife and child (well, relatively stuck, with significant excursions, sexual and otherwise).

Brian was absolutely crucial to the Beatles' balance. He was the supportive authority figure who could tell them to do things. Once he was off the scene, things were bound to come unglued, because the Beatles weren't set up psychologically to have a member take on that role. So as you say, when Paul assumes it, John (and George) deeply resent it.

I also agree with you and Michael about the artist narrative Yoko offered John. Hard not to be attracted to the story that "We're Artists, we don't have to do what anyone says, we have an epic love that entitles you to throw over your wife and child abruptly, and anyone who tells you anything you do is wrong is a bourgeois fool."

And THAT explains Paul's sense of betrayal and resentment, I think. Suddenly his longtime songwriting partner is seeing himself not only as the boss (bringing in Yoko and Allen Klein) but a capital-g Genius. No wonder Paul was writing "Can you take me back where I came from?"

Which goes right back to the original post's photos. Why the need to underline publicly the change of artistic/emotional partner? To commit to that new narrative and mark the end of the old, a la "God."

Anonymous said...


While I'm enjoying this part of the discussion about what Paul represented to John -- 'Was Paul Mimi or Julia or some combination?" -- I wonder about the other side of the coin:

What did John represent to Paul? Why did young Paul -- who people back in Liverpool described as confident, gregarious, charming, and ambitious -- need John at all? Who does John represent to Paul?

I read a quote from John once where he was talking about how none of the Beatles would have made it on their own. About himself, he said something like, "I wasn't attractive enough" (he meant in the teenage idol sense). And John said Paul wouldn't have made it on his own because "he wasn't strong enough."

I've always wondered what John meant by "strong." And perhaps that's what John represented to Paul: strength in the face of rejection, criticism, setbacks. I suppose John also represented freedom -- from his parents' expectations, freedom to dream, freedom to pursue rock-and-roll rather than a university career. Thoughts on this? What did John mean by Paul wasn't strong enough?

-- Drew

Annie McNeil said...

Which goes right back to the original post's photos. Why the need to underline publicly the change of artistic/emotional partner? To commit to that new narrative and mark the end of the old, a la "God."

I think John put his partners on impossible pedestals, and applied the "piece of shit/God Almighty" dichotomy to them as well as to himself. This sort of black-and-white thinking, and strange need to publicly disavow the past while shouting the present partner from the rooftops, is almost like the fervor of a new religious convert. Reminds me of the quote from the Jesus-uproar era. When asked if he himself was religious, John said, "Paul McCartney is a god. Cynthia is a goddess. Aren't I lucky to have such a religion?" Which I would write off as just a funny, if not for the demo of "I Found Out" from the Lennon Anthology, where John sings the line "I've seen through religion from Jesus to PAUL" and practically screams the name, all primal-like. Don't think he was talking about the Apostle, there. :/

Nancy Carr said...

@ Annie: Yup, don't think it was Paul of Tarsus that Lennon was referencing in "I Found Out." And a good point about Lennon's applying the POS/God dichotomy to those he was close to.

@ Drew, on what John represented to Paul: freedom, smarts, art, humor, true friendship, heroism. It was Paul who contributed the ""When two Saints meet it is a humbling experience. The long battles to prove he was a Saint" tagline for "Two Virgins," after all. [Barry Miles says Paul picked it randomly from the newspaper, but Paul went with it as a public statement about John (& Yoko).]

I think Paul was emotionally devastated by the meltdown of his and John's partnership, precisely because of all the things that partnership meant to him. Those photos of Yoko literally occupying his former place with John must have hurt terribly.

Anonymous said...

I think Paul was emotionally devastated by the meltdown of his and John's partnership, precisely because of all the things that partnership meant to him. Those photos of Yoko literally occupying his former place with John must have hurt terribly.

One of the saddest lines of Paul's, from the Let It Be era:
"You and I have memories longer than the road that stretches out ahead."

- hologram sam

J.R. Clark said...

"John and Paul didn't make a move without consulting each other."

REALLY? Then why was John so surprised and outraged when he found out Paul bought several thousand shares of Northern Songs without informing him?

And let's leave the John and Paul slash fiction out of this discussion. There is NO primary or secondary source that backs up a claim that John and Paul took a motorcycle trip across America!

Anonymous said...

As to what John could give Paul? Paul was a teen when they met. John was cool and worldly and a rule-breaker, while Paul was smart, curious, and did well in school. John may have given Paul the bravery to take more risks with who Paul was and what he really wanted to do with his life. Being 15, I also think Paul wanted John’s big brotherly approval and validation concerning his identity and his songwriting. That was approval that John could never entirely give because John had such ego issues (the classic inferior/superiority teeter-totter). So Paul kept chasing John’s approval, not realizing that the more accomplished he became, the more threatened John would become.

I think another thing we have to really analyze was that Yoko wasn’t Paul’s had to deal with the fact that one of John’s artsy friends was as important to John as he was. Like Yoko, Stu was someone John brought into the group dynamic because of emotional closeness as opposed to experience/talent in rock and roll. Stu, for all of his lack of talent in pop music, was sophisticated, older than Paul, and an artist, all the things John wanted to be, but couldn’t quite be because he flunked out of art school. Stu left the group, ending Paul’s jealousy. Stu died, leaving John to cling to Paul as his Rock of Gibraltar. But John must have always felt like he let the artist in himself down by not applying himself to art school, not to mention the earful Mimi must have given him!

Then came Yoko. Cool, older than Paul, and an artist. Add to it, she gave John the excuse/philosophy that John WAS an artist, it was just that art school was too stuffy to recognize his ahead of his time “genius”. Take that, Mimi, I was too a genius and an artist. Emotionally, Paul must have felt like he was a young man back in Hamburg, unable to get the closeness to John he needed to keep the partnership thriving. That must have hurt like crazy. Again, this time after YEARS more of true friendship and loyalty, Paul was seen by John as the outsider, the clever kid competing with the “genius” for John’s attention.

How could Paul win against the reincarnation of Stu, especially when Yoko was validating John’s long lost dreams of being a hip artist (without John having to pay even the smallest amount of dues in terms of actually learning the craft part of doing art)?

No matter how accomplished, talented, and smart Paul was, John could kick him in the teeth simply by saying statements that added up to, “My artist lover says I’m the real artist, you people pleasing sell out.” But John knew that wasn’t the case, that Paul was a consummate musician and an influential commercial musical artist, so John grew ever more vicious to cover the cognitive dissonance. Why? Maybe because Paul's very existence showed John that John was just a very talented Liverpool song-writer playing at being Mr. Avant Garde? Who knows?

At least that’s my take on things. Obviously, it’s always more complicated, but I think that those elements do exist in J and P’s relationship.

---Barb

PS---Thank you all for creating a Beatles forum where people speak in reasonable terms and respect each other's opinions!

Anonymous said...

@J.R.

"REALLY? Then why was John so surprised and outraged when he found out Paul bought several thousand shares of Northern Songs without informing him?"

Um, I think you just answered you're own question. John was angry BECAUSE Paul didn't talk to him about it first.

Not that telling John about it first before he did so would have necessarily made John not angry about it. When Paul talked to John about working with George Martin on "The Family Way" score, John made no indication to Paul that he had a problem with Paul doing so. Yet, later, John *still* considered it a slight that Paul had done so. So, even with consulting John first before doing it didn't stop John from feeling angry and slighted that Paul would work on something without him.

--MGAnon

Michael Gerber said...

@JR, that's exactly the point (to me, at least)--Paul buying Northern shares on the sly (in 1969) was a huge change from how the partnership had run prior to May 1968. Both John and Paul went to NY to announce Apple--so even in business ventures, the two were equal partners and wanted to be seen as such. The introduction of Yoko fundamentally changed the rules of that partnership.

The question is, did John want things to remain as they had been with Paul BUT with Yoko as his main collaborator? (For example, he does Two Virgins with Yoko, but Paul contributes the liner notes.) Or was he systematically pulling away from Paul--and the others--effectively replacing he/them with her? I think certainly by the end of 1968, the latter seems to be more likely. "Why" is the question. What happened? Was there a fight? A rejection? At what point did John suggest, "This is what I want The Beatles to become" and Paul say, "no"?

@Barb, I think the suggestion that Yoko was a reprise of Stu is a hugely smart way to look at this, and I'm annoyed I didn't think of it myself! :-) Does anyone doubt that, had Stu lived, he would've been involved in Beatle projects regularly, contributing LP sleeves and enjoying Beatle-backed shows like "You Are Here"? And does anyone doubt that, had John tried to make Stu the fifth Beatle post-1964, the others would've screamed bloody murder? And had every right to do so? It doesn't matter that Yoko was Japanese or a woman or a conceptual artist. The point was, the group wasn't John's plaything, especially by 1968; it was a collection of four grownup musicians, and a whole orbit of support people, and financial arrangements. That's what success makes groups into, and John knew that perfectly well.

But the thing is, Yoko didn't *need* to become a Beatle for her to occupy the lion's share of John's time and attention, collaborate with him on projects, travel the world, give interviews and whatever else they wanted. It certainly wasn't about striking a blow against racism or sexism, or asserting grownup sexuality or any of the other figleafs John and Yoko trotted out at the time and after. There was no other reason to make Yoko a Beatle other than to destroy The Beatles, and specifically hurt Paul McCartney.

Re: motorcycle trip: I'm more interested in investigating the possibility than assuming that, if it hasn't been talked about, it didn't happen. I agree it seems almost vanishingly unlikely, but...there's a lot of stuff that The Beatles did, separately and together, that isn't talked about, much less in the official histories. Can the commenter who brought that up point us to a source?

Anonymous said...

"JR, that's exactly the point (to me, at least)--Paul buying Northern shares on the sly (in 1969) was a huge change from how the partnership had run prior to May 1968. Both John and Paul went to NY to announce Apple--so even in business ventures, the two were equal partners and wanted to be seen as such. The introduction of Yoko fundamentally changed the rules of that partnership."

Paul has never provided a plausible explanation for why he did this. The only explanation I can think of that makes sense is: Paul was watching an increasingly unstable, unpredictable John who was doing all sorts of public stunts to bring attention to him and Yoko without a care about what it meant for the Beatles. So Paul, seeing his world spin out of control, bought those shares in a bid for some shred of control. He probably thought, "I can't control John, but if I can control more shares, I can control what happens to my legacy."

As for the "motorcycle trip," I've never heard a word about that anywhere. Seriously where did that rumor come from??

If Paul perceived that Yoko was the new Stu, no wonder Paul was so crushed in 69-70. After all that he and John had achieved, after all they'd created, to be basically told you weren't smart enough, weren't intellectual enough, weren't "new" enough by your partner must have shredded Paul's ego to bits.

-- Drew

Michael Gerber said...

@Drew, speaking as somebody with a longtime writing partner, Paul's behavior re: Northern makes total sense to me, given what was going on in the group and between him and John.

Should he have asked John if he wanted in? Absolutely. But I can see some pretty sound reasons why he didn't.

1) John professed utter disdain for anything financial, and took all of it incredibly personally. Why should Paul give John another opportunity to call him a capitalist pig? If, that is, Paul could talk to John at all; most likely Paul would have to talk to Yoko who, in his eyes, wasn't his business partner, and in most people's eyes, considered him a threat.

2) John's finances--like John's life--were a mess. That having been said, for as long as the friendship had been strong, Paul showed every willingness to be 50/50 with John. If John was Paul's best friend, and they trusted each other, that's one thing--you do things for friends. But if John wasn't Paul's best friend anymore (which is how John seems to have wanted it, post-Yoko), then Paul's under no obligation to look out for John financially. There are consequences to living the way John was living, and it was no longer Paul's job to take care of John. Who made that clear? John did, in a million ways.

3) By early 1969, it was clear that John was actively sabotaging The Beatles, mainly as a way to hurt Paul. John (and Yoko) did not have Paul's best interests at heart, and their signing with Allen Klein casts their judgment into a poor light. Anything involving The Beatles catalog was likely to end in an Nanker Phelge-type scam, and Paul knew that. That's why the Eastmans screamed bloody murder when Klein tried to work out a deal with ATV.

4) John's inability to act in a businesslike fashion--ie, like an adult--caused endless problems during this period. The "fat arses" comment probably cost he and Paul millions of dollars. Telling John raises the possibility that John will say something, either to Klein or to the press, that would've made it either impossible, or much more expensive to buy the shares.

All this having been said, Paul should've told John what he was planning before he did it. He had no obligation to do so, and doing so might've ruined the whole thing, but the alternative was disastrous, as we saw.

Anonymous said...

Maybe you all can answer some Beatles questions that have always bugged me. Why would someone like John sign a contract with the other Beatles to essentially marry his business concerns to theirs for life (and beyond) and then, after getting together with Yoko only months later, do everything possible to launch himself as JohnandYoko instead of as part of the group he just went into big business with? Did John think that Apple would handle itself or that Paul would run it? If John really didn’t like the direction that Paul was taking the group (e.g. MMT), why incorporate in the first place? I know, I know, taxes and how do you find another manager who loved the group as much as Brian? But if I had issues with someone, whether I expressed them or not, I wouldn’t tie myself to that person contractually like that. Well, at least until I’d talked to the guy about my concerns.

Michael, I totally agree that, in spite of the Beatles’ backbiting, their dislike of Yoko (mostly) didn’t come from her gender or her race. It seemed to come more from someone who knew nothing about pop music being drafted into the group dynamics without John even discussing it with the others first. It almost seemed like John was trying to say, “I want out OR a drastic change in direction in the group.” Maybe John set up a disruptive factor to make the others react so he could have a rationale for going off on his own without having to shoulder the media blame for leaving a superpopular group? It’s easier to justify leaving the Beatles if they were jerks to Yoko than it is to leave just because he didn’t want to stay. Maybe that’s why he plays victim, martyr, AND hero in the Rolling Stone interview?

---Barb

Michael Gerber said...

@Barb, the timing you speak of is largely why I think John was acting impulsively--rejecting Paul and the group impulsively, grabbing Yoko impulsively--for whatever reason. Then, he grew more and more stubborn and frightened and dependent as he saw the mess that was being made.

It was a "burn the boats" moment for him; "Don't Let Me Down."

Nancy Carr said...

@Barb, I agree with Michael that John was acting impulsively -- making things up as he went along. I think he did use Yoko as the kind of disruptive force you describe; the question is to what extent he consciously expected introducing her into the group the way he did to cause the Beatles to implode. Did he know what was probably going to happen?

At one level I think he had to know; but at another level I think he didn't want to know. One thing the Yoko-authored narrative of Misunderstood Artists offered John was a way out of the Beatles that made John look like a hero for leaving.

Also, one thing that hasn't been explicitly stated in this thread is that Yoko offered John artistic partnership plus sex -- and sex of a caliber that (apparently) John hadn't enjoyed before. "I guess no one ever done me like she done me," etc. Being with Yoko allowed John to unify and simplify his life, getting rid of the romantic life/working life split that had plagued him.

But that meant narrowing things down to a sharp point, so that reality = "Yoko and me." Talk about burning boats: there could be no going back after adopting that stance.

Michael Gerber said...

And @Nancy, this is why I always come down more on the Paul side rather than the Yoko side. Whatever the quirks and neuroses of the two men, the rules of JohnandPaul were apparently wide enough to include the whole world; the rules of JohnandYoko were as big as a lifeboat in the middle of the Pacific Ocean--and nobody can really thrive, longterm, in an arrangement like that.

I just watched a really interesting documentary about Richard Pryor the comedian, and was struck by how much he reminded me of Lennon. These people--so precious, so broken.

Anonymous said...

Nancy, the role of impulse in John’s life can never be underestimated, nor can the role of his subconscious impulses! Just another reason I can so feel for Paul towards the end of the Beatles. How does a guy who believes in his group and what it can accomplish both artistically and commercially deal with a guy that essential doesn’t want to play anymore? And, yeah, we can’t forget the role of physical intimacy in the J&Y relationship. I mean, I first saw those erotic lithographs when I was something like 13 years old and believe me, I got a super-quick education and insight into at least a couple of reasons that John was so into his lover!

Someone on this blog said it’s not appropriate to speculate into the Beatles’ sex lives. While I sympathize with the whole right to privacy idea, John made his sex life into an area for speculation by being so obsessed with it in print, photos, etc. I mean, for the Woman video, he’s simulating sex with his wife! Maybe it’s all part of being John’s definition of Artist and Genius, but it’s a little discomfortingly “in your face”. John did have a kind of immature need to shock, but it’s also as if he’s trying too hard to say, “Screw the Beatles, screw Paul and Linda’s happy marriage, this is the love to end all loves.” So, people shouldn’t be surprised that we fans speculate a little concerning intimacy issues. As long as we do it tastefully and with respect and without judgment, I don’t see it as being harmful.

Michael, I’m with you totally about how strangely small JohnandYoko’s artistic and personal worlds were. The Beatles and McCartney solo invited the audience to enjoy the work. I never felt excluded (c.f. the excellent “Paul’s songs of empathy” blog post!). But when I listen to Lennon’s solo work, he’s either berating the audience for liking him or preaching at us (we go from “freaks on the phone” to “comrades and brothers” with an appalling speed). When John does a solo love song, he makes sure that there’s no universality in it. It’s about Yoko and the rest of you better not see anything that matters to your petty little lives in it. Paul writes a love song like the exquisite “I’m Carrying” and I don’t feel excluded. I think of my husband’s love for me and I get where the song is coming from. It could be apply to anyone, even though it’s most likely about the Lovely Linda. Yet, even in “Imagine”, we’re excluded by the lyrics “I hope someday you’ll join us…” So, I’m war-mongering chowder-headed outsider and only John and Yoko were brilliant and creative and sensitive enough to believe in world peace and love?

In picking a rather childish form of self-expression over artist to audience communication and universality, John locked the door on those who could have otherwise identified with his solo work. While I admire the sound of JL/POB and Instant Karma, sadly, I find Lennon’s solo work to be mostly unlistenable. Then again, maybe it’s just that I was only 12 when I heard POB and I was moved almost to tears by how much hate for the audience there was. “Why do you hate me? I’m just a kid who bought an album!” I thought. Maybe I never got over that.

---Barb

Anonymous said...

re: Lennon/McCartney cross country motorcycle trip:

I'm almost certain that never happened. First, they would have needed Mal Evans trotting alongside them the whole way, with tea and sandwiches. Also, could they travel unmolested by fans anywhere in the U.S.? And finally, could they actually operate motorcycles? According to Goldman, Lennon could barely drive a car.

There are some things I can't imagine Beatles doing. I can't imagine them operating heavy equipment. I can't imagine them riding motorcycles cross country. Certainly not surfing. Playing any sort of competitive sports. If it weren't for photos I've seen, I couldn't even imagine them swimming in a pool. I don't know why this is. I just imagine them sitting around in suits and beatle boots, strumming guitars, joking and singing.

This image is probably fixed in my mind from way back when I saw them as a six year old in Hard Days Night.

- hologram sam

J.R. Clark said...

Hologram Sam, I completely agree with you re the John and Paul motorcycle trip.

Paul couldn't even ride a moped without requiring dental work and a stitched lip!

I could maybe see George and Ringo accomplishing it, but definitely not John and Paul.

Anonymous said...

"There are some things I can't imagine Beatles doing. I can't imagine them operating heavy equipment. I can't imagine them riding motorcycles cross country. Certainly not surfing. Playing any sort of competitive sports. If it weren't for photos I've seen, I couldn't even imagine them swimming in a pool. I don't know why this is. I just imagine them sitting around in suits and beatle boots, strumming guitars, joking and singing."

OK, that made me laugh out loud. And I pretty much agree. However! In Paul's defense, he was much more of a handyman type than John was. According to Barry Miles, when he was getting the Indica bookstore ready for opening, Paul was in there drywalling and painting. Up in Scotland, at Paul's farm, not only did he shear sheep, he also painted his barn (there is photographic evidence!) and built a table for the house ("not a bad little table" as Paul puts it now. It's apparently still up there on the Mull of Kintyre). Still, I have never seen a photo of Paul operating heavy machinery. LOL.

Also in the 1970s, there are photos of Paul and Linda riding a motorcycle (without helmets!!!).

Still, I agree with you all, that this John/Paul motorcycle trip is someone's fantasy. The idea of John operating a motorcycle is frightening.

-- Drew

king kevin said...

I think that Lennon was really feeling the pressure of turning out great work with the Beatles, especially with Paul and George at the top of their respective games. I can't even imagine what that would have felt like, with expectations so high for each new release. With Yoko, he had the opportunity to make difficult music that would baffle and anger fans... I think that appealed to him in a big way. He had a ready 'out' of having to innovate and keep up with the other boys, and he could piss fans off and feel like a SERIOUS ARTIST all at the same time. As well as do his own pop music, of course. Which suffered greatly from the absence of the others... esp. Paul and George Martin. Turns out he mostly still did mainstream rock and songwriterly stuff, even after the heavily Yoko/avant inspired years of 1968-69. Go figure.

J.R. Clark said...

All this John and Paul relationship talk, and not a word about the intensity of the John/George relationship?

I don't think Paul ever snatched John's National Health glasses off his face and then smashed them, as George famously did.

Anonymous said...


Well, IMO, there's not that much interesting to say about the John/George relationship. It's easy to analyze why it fell apart. George idolized John and supported John in his power struggle against Paul. Then, after George had done everything John wanted (and taken sides with John and Klein against Paul), John made clear that: (1) he didn't view George as an equal musically or intellectually, (2) wasn't interested in writing songs with George, (3) wasn't interested in creating a new band with George, and (4) had decided to replace Paul with Yoko.

George was pissed. And his relationship with John suffered throughout the 70s because George had hoped to be the one to replace Paul as John's partner. George's jealousy of Paul and idol worship of John helps explain why George always blamed Paul for everything and overlooked John's dismissive attitude toward George's songs.

I can't say that I blame George for feeling betrayed by John after he got what he needed from George in the epic John/Paul War. Still I also think George had a bad tendency to feel sorry for himself and failed to understand that just because he wanted to talk endlessly about religion didn't mean everyone else did, and it didn't make him a superior being.

The John/Paul relationship is much more mysterious and, thus, much more fascinating. IMO of course.


-- Drew

Anonymous said...

"Well, IMO, there's not that much interesting to say about the John/George relationship. It's easy to analyze why it fell apart. George idolized John and supported John in his power struggle against Paul. Then, after George had done everything John wanted (and taken sides with John and Klein against Paul), John made clear that: (1) he didn't view George as an equal musically or intellectually, (2) wasn't interested in writing songs with George, (3) wasn't interested in creating a new band with George, and (4) had decided to replace Paul with Yoko. "

Well said @Drew. The John/George relationship was a classic case of Hero Worship on George's side, and John sometimes using George's Hero Worship of him to his advantage: such as during the recording of She Said She Said, or getting George on his side during the great Lennon/McCartney Feud of the early-70s.

However, as George him yelled at John later on, when was John ever there for *him* in that kind of way? With the exception of "Something," John was always putting down George's songs. To the point that he didn't even try bother showing up when the recording of them was taking place toward the end of it all.

Look, I think all four of the guys, The Beatles, were probably closer to each other than anyone else; but, internally within that, I think John and Paul had a connection that left George and Ringo on the outside of it all something. (George even said once that John and Paul were sometimes so busy being "John and Paul" that they forgot anyone else was there). George *wanted* them, but John especially, to see him as a equal. Part of me even thinks George thought he had a shot at being John's new songwriting partner once the Lennon/McCartney partnership began to implode.

But John never did so. Even during the hight of the feud John - and Yoko too - compared George's style and awareness unfavorably to that of Paul's then they were being interviewed on a talk show. (I wan't to say it was Dick Cavett, but I'm going to have to check on that). And, again, this was during the hight of the Lennon-McCartney feud!

So yeah, while I do think John and George were friends, tight friends even thank to their shared experience in The Beatles, their whole dynamic was that of one person Hero Worshiping the other; while the person who was being Hero Worshipped either used that to his advantage when necessary, but otherwise couldn't really be bothered to give a whole lot back for it.

And the Hero Worshiper never getting what he really wanted in the end - to be viewed as an equal.

--MGAnon

Michael Gerber said...

I think Lennon never forgave Paul for becoming his equal, and I think he felt the same way about George in the 70s. And that's why he and Ringo remained friends.

I think it was possible that, had Brian not died and the balance remained the same, that John could've accepted Paul at the height of his powers, not been threatened by him. That's how it seemed to be trending in 1967. And if he'd been able to do that with Paul, he could've done it with George. Both Paul and George seemed to be admiring and supportive to John--until he began cutting them unfairly. I don't know, but I get that sense.

Sadly, in summer/fall 1968 John Lennon made a bunch of decisions, all at once and not really thinking any of them through very well, that basically ensured that The Beatles would end, and that he'd become a dried-up self-loathing hermit during the 70s. But all they were, were decisions--he could've changed his mind at any time if he were able to say, "I was wrong. I'm sorry." My sense is that in 1980, that process had begun.

Nancy Carr said...

@ J.R., re: John and George, I agree with Drew and MG Anon. John never regarded George as an equal, however much George might have wished for it (and felt he deserved it, after taking John's side in the whole Allen Klein showdown).

For all John's sniping at Paul, it's clear that he did see Paul as a partner/equal. In his final 1980 interview with Rolling Stone, he says "I've selected to work with ..only two people: Paul McCartney and Yoko Ono. That ain't bad picking."

One reason the Traveling Wilburys were such a powerful experience for George was that he was treated as a full partner with musicians he respected.

Michael Gerber said...

After a bit of thought, I think there is something interesting to say about the John/George relationship: I think John saw George's genuine religious interests as incompatible not only with the status quo he preferred within The Beatles (John is God), but the beliefs he practiced post-Yoko (John and Yoko are God, with Yoko being more God than John is).

The moment that Lennon broke from Maharishi, he was also breaking from Harrison, and knew it, and that made the cleaving to Yoko that much more necessary and violent. As with Paul, admitting any part of that decision as a mistake opened the door to all sorts of other mistakes...so he just let the friendship be one-sided until George got pissed off--just like John did with Paul.

John's post-Maharishi persona depended on him being a secular guru--that's what the Year of Peace, the white suits, and "Imagine" are all for--and it was impossible for that to appear authentic next to all of George's holy men. Who, whatever their flaws, are people who dedicated their lives to spiritual pursuits, not making rock music. John felt insecure, just like Bono feels it when he stands next to the Dalai Lama. What's more, George wasn't shy about saying it: Swami so-and-so was the real thing, whereas John was just his friend John. Whatever one believes about George's religion, it wasn't simply something he and his wife made up between interviews. For better (it's a time-tested authentic lifepath that seems to have nourished George for the rest of his life) and worse (his endless Gita-thumping).

This may be simplistic, but I think there's a case to be made that George, the hero-worshipper, simply moved from Lennon to various gurus, with Ravi Shankar as a half-step. This explains Lennon's disdain for George's solo success, need to belittle him, and hurt at not being more prominent in I, Me, Mine. And it explains a lot about Yoko--how John insisted she was entitled to the same kind of reverence George gave HIM; that George seemed to treat her as a species of fraud; and that Yoko treated George as a second-class citizen, just as John did, but without the vast friendship underneath all that.

The real source of the rancor between John and George--as with John and Paul--was the similarity of the two men's natures, and quest. But it's implicit in finding The Answer that the other guy's Answer is wrong. When John was willing to entertain that George might be onto something--in 1967, certainly, but even into 1968 and 69--the two men could be as close as they ever were. But the moment that John's Answer became Yoko, the common ground between he and George had to grow smaller and smaller, until finally each was a convenient version of the enemy. Answering a fan's questionnaire in 1976, John called George "lost." I suspect George felt the same way about John, for the very same reasons.

Michael Gerber said...

Response to @Barb's comment on George she made here.

I think the idea that George never had a chance to find himself is hugely important. His own identity had to fight against this huge thing called The Beatles--not to mention John and Paul! I think he had to fight so hard to carve out a space, and because he used Hare Krishna as the tool to fight with, his "default" position regarding it was aggressive, almost antagonistic.

George was, also, super-young; as a Beatle and even after, he was still just starting on his journey. From 1967-80 or so, I sense a lot what is sometimes called "spiritual bypass." Meaning, using a spiritual practice to avoid addressing difficult emotions, personal traits or issues. It's like the person who prattles on about "everything is One" and then says, "uh, that's the spot I usually put my yoga mat."

I've found it particularly common in religions with a lot of pixie dust. Getting transmissions or wisdom or zaps from a Very Special Person can apparently make one feel like no more work needs be done, or that you're now elevated above the run of common folk. George's life experiences predisposed him towards this approach to spirituality, and its pitfalls.

I do not know if any of his teachers ever worked with him on this stuff, but it certainly seems like George could've benefited from it because, as you say, he doesn't seem happy. I think George was just as angry as John was and--compared to how John dealt with it--George's method was much healthier. Total props for that. But just as living with genuine humility and charity would've been a much more effective way for John Lennon to work for peace, being genuinely happy and content would've been the most powerful advertisement for seeking God consciousness George could've come up with.

George's genuine spiritual failings--if one can presume to call them that, who are any of us to judge?--perhaps aren't falling prey to sense-pleasures like cocaine and women. Perhaps they are when he indulges anger and disdain, and loses sight of the fact that all us little people are working through Karma, too; and that the very idea of little people is an illusion. The velvet rope is maya in its purest form; naturally one cannot move absolutely freely (as John Lennon found out), but one can work to see the relative truth of being a rich rock star without losing the absolute truth of interconnection.

Michael Gerber said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Stew said...

@Michael Gerber wrote:

I just had a stray thought that seems worth lobbing into this thread: What about Lennon's pretty vicious teasing of Brian Epstein over his sexuality? This habit is well-established, and apparently continued until the end of Brian's life (I'm thinking of "Baby You're a Rich Fag Jew").

This has always seemed to me to go well beyond matey teasing, even given the time and place. Cruel, unquestionably--but was it more than that?


I just realized no one ever responded to this. I guess I'm wondering why you think it went beyond matey teasing? There is certainly evidence of John and the other Beatles vigorously defending Brian from homophobic slights, as well as evidence of genuine, deep affection between John and Brian, so why assume that any of John's camp or gay jokes were truly cruel?

John can be heard camping and making constant jokes about homosexuality on studio out-takes and even released albums ("*shriek* You bounder, you cheat!!"), so it was certainly not a topic he reserved merely for Brian.

Michael Gerber said...

@Stew, I don't know anything you don't on this topic, but my personal experience is that men who "tease" constantly about one topic aren't really teasing. This even goes for professional comedy people.

There's a boundary-crossing element, but I don't think John joked about homosexuality simply for that frisson--just as I don't think John's jokes about "cripples" and "spastics" were just for the fun of breaking taboo. I think that John joked about what he was afraid of. He was afraid of physical weakness, he was afraid of being gay.

I also think John was genuinely frightened of anybody in authority over him. Brian and John were close, and loved each other and had each other's back; but Brian was John's boss, and John knew it and resented it, and used "teasing" to put Brian down. That is, in his place, under John. (Take that however literally you wish.)

I think Brian put up with it because 1) John was making him a lot of money, 2) there was genuine affection between the two men, and 3) he liked being humiliated by men of a lower class than himself. Don't overestimate 3)--I don't think the teasing was overtly sexual--but it does fit with Brian's major kink, and John's too. So it worked for both of them, but I don't think it was affectionate, I think it was rough. If it had been affectionate, it wouldn't have scratched either man's itch to dominate/be dominated.

As to Lennon's putting on campy voices and such, that seems to be pretty straightforward Goon-like humor to me. I can see lumping it in with "Rich Fag Jew" but to me, it feels different. And I think it's telling that I've never heard/seen/read of Lennon dressing in drag, which is the standard British comedy trope (see Monty Python, or John's friend Peter Cook dressed as Greta Garbo). Lennon wasn't very campy, not in the way I understand that term; in fact he seems to have been quite quick to dismiss something as "faggy." Weybridge doesn't look campy, especially the sunroom; John's studio doesn't either. I just don't think John was sure enough of his sexuality to allow himself to be campy; and his public expressions of sexuality--Two Virgins, the lithographs, the "Woman" video--are all the opposite of camp, carefully managed expressions of hyper-HETERO behavior.

This is all just a theory and YMMV, of course. What do YOU think?

Anonymous said...

Wait... isn't this Lennon in drag, in the famous beatles shakespeare sketch?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DOpEZM6OEvI

and camping it up rather mightily?

- hologram sam

Stew said...

@Michael Gerber - I agree with you that an obession with "joking" on a few particular topics is not a coincidence, but belies some kind of preoccupation. (btw I'm totally envious of your access to comedy gossip, but anyway ...) I do think John's focus on "cripples" and sexual/gender transgression says something about his psyche, but I'm not sure I'd call it "fear" exactly. To me, the "cripple" stuff was a way of mocking the worshipful reaction of the crowd, similar to his impulse to give a Hitler salute when he found himself on a balcony above an adoring crowd. It wasn't because he feared the Nazi in himself, IMO. It's more like, he loses respect for people as soon as they seem to adore him too much, and begins to demonstrate that they don't even know who it is they're cheering. Not sure if this is making sense, but to me it fits in with a lot of his behavior toward fans and other admirers.

IMO, the obsession with homosexuality was because he was bisexual (among other naughty things) and thought it hilariously funny and surreal that he became a teen idol, played for the queen, took over the British economy, etc.

I'm surprised you say that John had an itch or a kink to dominate. Many first-person accounts claim otherwise - pointing out his need for strong women and mother figures, and even in how they characterize the Lennon/McCartney dynamic. Many of the bios say that, while John needed to be seen as the leader, Paul was pulling the actual strings, and if you wanted something done, you'd better make sure Paul was on your side. Paul himself says he used to boss John around, and there must be a reason he was called "princess" around Apple.

I agree Lennon wasn't effeminate, and I've never seen anything about him using drag, although there are accounts and photos of him enjoying spending time with others in drag. A friend of mine says he wore drag from the waist down to the premier of the Rocky Horror show, but that is unsubstantiated rumor. Campy, though, is different, and I have heard plenty of studio outtakes of John camping or using "effeminate affectations" as Doug Sulpy calls it. But I take your larger point - this doesn't necessarily mean anything. It does seem to be an extremely common form of British humor. Then again, how many British comedians are straight? (Come on, tell me. Just kidding.) And yes, the hyper-HETERO stuff speaks volumes, to me. But, again, not necessarily about Lennon's own denial. Being an unprecedentedly famous sexual deviant can be dangerous. The more hetero naked pictures out there, the better.

Just my thoughts, and inchoate at that. Remember, you asked! :-)

Anonymous said...

Okay, here's a color clip (I've never seen it in color before!) of Lennon camping it up as shakespeare's "beauteous lady."

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BhJ67QsFg1Q

- hologram sam

Michael Gerber said...

Well, hell, @Sam, if you're going to bring in actual EVIDENCE... @Both of you: I may need to rethink my thinking on this. Thanks for such a great back-and-forth.

(@Stew, my store of comedy gossip is rather meagre but is about to explode, I'm launching a new national humor magazine. But to the topic at hand.)

I think John's humor changed around the time we're talking, 1967-68. John's spastic impersonation seems to be a prominent feature of his humor consistently in the early days, and my guess is that it was (in part) encouraged by the disabled people in the front row of their concerts. But the other part was a genuine fascination with/horror of misshapen or "different" people, which comes through in his drawings and prose quite clearly. It's kid stuff, like drawing junk in the back of class, and doing a bit to crack up your friends. (Full disclosure: I have a slight case of cerebral palsy, so John's cripple bits always make me wince.)

The Hitler saluting thing is, I think, 100% situational--that's the joke ANY funny person of John's generation would think of when on a balcony in front of a mass of fans. The difference is, only a really ballsy person would do it, and if someone did it today, TMZ and Twitter would effing BREAK. Compare John Cleese, John's contemporary, doing impressions of Hitler as a boy. This doesn't mean he's a Nazi; but if Cleese had worked up a Marilyn Monroe impression, I would look at that a little differently.

he loses respect for people as soon as they seem to adore him too much
This is the key to understanding John Lennon during the Beatlemania years, IMHO. When you loathe yourself, as I believe he did (and so many of us do), adoration either strikes you as absurd or as "falling for the act." This explains Lennon's two settings towards the fans: Olympian bemusement, or a kind of rage.

an itch or a kink to dominate
Absolutely. Earlier in the thread, someone asked about John's comment that Paul was too soft to succeed on his own. Showbiz is very, very hard, and to get your shot requires an incredible reserve of...well, "will to power" is the best way I can put it. John had a tremendous drive to be successful as a young man, and would not let anything stand in his way. Furthermore, his whole stage persona is about domination, dominating the audience--not seducing them like Paul, or playing hard to get like George, or charming them like Ringo. It's pure "I'm in charge and you're gonna lay there and enjoy it" type stuff.

That is the drive to dominate I'm talking about, and it would've been expressed sexually, as well; to work, it's gotta be who you are. It would not have been expressed within the group--"let Paul do it"--as long as he was the unquestioned alpha dog. But the moment he felt he wasn't, it would've come back. (And did.)

People who are very dominant in their public persona are often more passive privately, and vice-versa. This makes sense in that people are a mix, a balance. So I think that John was definitely very aggressive, very dominant, from 1957 to 1966 or so; dominant in public, passive in private. Then, with the help of acid, first got in touch with his softer side, then overcorrected into it (which necessitated Yoko, the "bloke" that did all the hard stuff and allowed John to be the dreamy one). The problem was, Yoko wasn't temporary, and so by the mid-70s, you have a situation where John either has to be passive all the time, or have it out with his wife. Which he didn't want to do, for lots and lots of reasons.

But with all this stuff, the first thing that has to be recognized is that the Lennon pre-1968 is simply a different guy than he was later, and the world is changing, too. So I am perfectly willing to believe that John could've been a super-aggressive, homophobic, gay-panicky a-hole in 1964, and gone to Rocky Horror in a dress ten years later.

Michael Gerber said...

As I was proofing my comment I thought of one more thing:

I'm paraphrasing because I can't find the quote, but Ringo said that recording with Lennon after the breakup was very sad, because his bandmate would simply break down. That John wasn't the same guy he used to be, in the Beatles. I think what Ringo was seeing was John's loss of the confidence and inner drive to dominate, the "will to power" that was so present in him prior to 1968.

Anonymous said...

A very brief clip of happier times:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iGOcn4hKkWY

- hologram sam

Michael Gerber said...

When was that do you think, Sam? I'd guess but I always get it wrong...:-)

Stew said...

NME poll winners' concert 1965.

Anonymous said...

Judging from their suits, I'd say '66, one of their last concerts.

Also, please keep us updated on your new humor magazine.

- hologram sam

Annie McNeil said...

"will to power" is the best way I can put it. John had a tremendous drive to be successful as a young man, and would not let anything stand in his way. Furthermore, his whole stage persona is about domination, dominating the audience--not seducing them like Paul, or playing hard to get like George, or charming them like Ringo.

Yes. In addition (or, in other words?) John had that ineffable quality of inspiring people to follow him. He as an individual seemed able to inspire the same sort of filial love that people usually reserve for institutions -- their countries, kings, family names, etc. Some potent mix of charisma, talent, enthusiasm -- all qualities the other Beatles had, but John had that something extra. I honestly can't think quite how to express it.

Of course, this dynamic played out in all sorts of unhealthy ways -- the classically narcissistic power-play of "I'm divorcing my wife, so everybody else better cut her off, too" comes to mind. John threw his weight around for plenty of petty reasons, and the fact that people were so willing to follow his lead is, frankly, a bit alarming.

And the unhealthiness seemed to increase as time went on. It's like a corruption crept in as more and more John claimed authority/leadership/whatever, not as an Artist, based on personal merit (which must be continually proven and proven again), but as a Political Leader/Guru, based on his already-established fame and fortune. It's as if things started falling apart once John began seeing himself as an institution.

But that kernel of pure inspirational leadership was always there, and is tremendously rare and special and I believe it's a big part of why he is so beloved by so many.

I have no idea if this is what John meant when he said Paul needed him because Paul "wasn't strong enough" on his own. Paul is more effective and more comfortable in the First Officer position; he's said so himself. He too brought something to the table that John couldn't -- discipline, diplomacy, his own artistic vision, sure, but at the end of the day I think Paul had more true wisdom than John ever did.

Michael Gerber said...

Paul had more true wisdom than John ever did

I suspect so--just look at their lives--and I think JOHN realized that, too, and it's one of the many, many things that he came to resent Paul for. "How dare you, the square, be able to navigate life more calmly and successfully than I, the Artist?" It's the "having things sorted" thing.

Paul's wisdom may be small-w wisdom--thoughtfulness on a human scale--whereas what John seemed to be seeking was Grand Eternal Wisdom, but the first seems to me to be a necessary precondition for the second.

It's as if things started falling apart once John began seeing himself as an institution.

Absolutely, and this is what Yoko is about; at heart, she's a branding/marketing person. I've said this a million times, but it's this turning himself into an icon--an institution--that made John ultimately so lost. People can't live like that, and if you don't resist it (like Dylan has) you usually die (Marilyn Monroe, Elvis, etc). John knew this, so why did he do it?

When he hooked up with Yoko, I don't think he really wanted to go on. For reasons only he knew, he seems to have felt so utterly defeated by the circumstances of his life post-India that Yoko's idea of turning them both into icons--a type of living art--seemed like a lifeline. It was something to do, and a way to create victory out of defeat. But if you're a sensitive person, as John Lennon was, that's no place to live.

And even though Lennon proved the folly of this life-strategy--or maybe you think the 70s were fun for him?--Yoko's still doing it, marketing and branding. As if making their son be a musician and putting him into white suits and National Health glasses makes him into John. Either that's incredibly cynical ("his fans are so stupid they'll believe it") or it's really peculiar, a fundamentally religious act.

What made/makes John Lennon so meaningful to people was the whole of who he was and what he did, and clothing his son in his symbols is an attempt to confer reverence Sean has not, and cannot, earn. The obvious attempt at "transmission" to Sean is weird, the stuff of Eastern religions, not rock and roll or celebrity. You didn't see Lisa Marie Presley dressing like her dad and becoming a singer--how absurd, right? It's no less creepy when Sean does it. Not that he CAN'T do it, it's his business, but...

Anonymous said...

"When he hooked up with Yoko, I don't think he really wanted to go on. For reasons only he knew, he seems to have felt so utterly defeated by the circumstances of his life post-India that Yoko's idea of turning them both into icons--a type of living art--seemed like a lifeline. It was something to do, and a way to create victory out of defeat. But if you're a sensitive person, as John Lennon was, that's no place to live."

This cuts to the quick of it, I think—more than debates about whether John wanted to put the moves on Paul, or whatever. Who knows what he confronted up in the mountains in India, or how much he invested in the Maharishi as a father figure/Brian replacement, or what, but the way India ended seems to have kicked off a crisis that we really don't hear too much about because drawing too much attention to the fact that John Lennon returned to England and started behaving in ways that weren't just reckless, like his acid binges had been, but utterly self-destructive, even suicidal, puts his hooking up with Yoko in a weirder light. I personally think he, in all his naïveté, truly believed that the Maharishi was going to "slip him the answer", at which point all of the problems—ALL of them—that had been bedeviling him would be solvable. The anger he felt toward the Maharishi is the betrayal of someone who went into that situation expecting salvation, not simply of a pop star who felt duped.

Now, why would John have expected that from the Maharishi? Michael's absolutely right that the 1964 Lennon wouldn't have. I honestly think LSD sapped him.
-Michael

king kevin said...

I agree that LSD sapped John. I think that he was left physically ill and spiritually wasted by his 2 (or 3?) year acid bender. I've never taken the stuff myself, so I can't personally speak to its power, but the stories of him alternately "destroying his ego" and professing to be Jesus Christ don't paint a real pretty picture. I'm sure there were magic moments aplenty (Derek Taylor's wife spins a yarn or two in the Harrison doc), but all of that acid dumped onto a fragile psyche? Wow. As far as John being gay? I don't see it. Of the four, he was the most likely to have experimented privately with his sexuality, but secretly gay or even bi? I don't think so.

Anonymous said...

I think John was an androgynous person, with both masculine and feminine characteristics. I think it both flattered him and freaked him out that both men and women found him attractive. I also think he was bi-curious. When Brian fell for him, John so welcomed love and attention, he probably thought, “Why not try it?” As to John’s subsequent cruelty towards Brian, I think it was possibly because he saw that Brian was uncomfortable with his own sexuality and John always targeted people’s most vulnerable spots.

But it’s also soo complicated. It wasn’t always just anti-homosexual jibes against Brian on John’s part. The jibes were often anti-Jewish, too. I wonder sometimes if there isn’t a class thing going on here, too. Brian was of “the merchant class”. The closest America has is the concept of the nouveau-riche. In the British class system of that time, the best that you could usually expect was to do was to become just a little better off than your parents. But Epstein’s family was quite well off, not because they came from money, but because they worked for it. And Epstein had those posh manners and that upper-crust accent, so did John dig at Brian for trying to have airs? Did he see Brian as less than genuine or trying to hide what he was? John would have hated that or might have resented the idea that Brian, by cleaning up the Beatles’ image, sort of hid parts of who they were. John was willing to do anything to break out of the class system, but that didn't mean he liked what he had to do.

I think initially there was a push on Brian’s part to make them a bit more acceptable, a bit more like Cliff Richard, “the all-around entertainer” type. I just listened to a BBC documentary where Pete Best said that Brian picked the Decca demo songs and did so to show their “versatility”. I’m not blaming Brian. Before the Beatles, teenaged music/pop music was so young that pop idols either had a few hits and then faded away or took the route that Sinatra and even Elvis eventually did of becoming more “all-around entertainers”. It’s always amazed me that the Beatles paved a totally new way for pop stars to have long careers. John’s cruelty could have been just another way to say to Brian, “Stick to your percentages”.

I once saw a press conference with the Beatles. Towards the end, Brian whispered in John’s ear that it was time to end it. John put his fingers to his own chest as if to say, “Me? How can I stop this craziness?” But then he did as Brian asked. That made me think, “There were very few people John listened to in his early years. Stu, Paul, Brian, and to a lesser extent, George Martin. Brian must have understood how special that made him. John only listened to those he respected (and could get him what he wanted out of life). That respect must have made a lot of difference to Brian.”

Yes, Brian loved John. But remember, Brian failed at many things he tried before he made a success of NEMS. So like John and the Beatles themselves, he had something to prove. He had to prove that he could be a success on his own terms, doing things his own way. If I had something that important to me to prove, I could imagine myself putting up with some harsh words here and there, especially if I understood that underneath it all, I mattered. And that I didn’t just matter in terms of affection, that I mattered in making something I believed in a massive success. Maybe that’s why Paul put up with John, too. It wasn’t just friendship and love. They also built something amazing together; something that at times must have seemed like an impossible dream.

---Barb

Michael Gerber said...

Interesting, @Barb, thank you.

I think John had a much more complex relationship to "the class system" than people realize. I don't, for example, think he despised it. I think he despised not being at the top of it.

When I lived in New York, I knew two types of English people:
1) Upper-class people trying to leverage that into money and access here in the Big Time. For example, Oxbridge types or teenage mustard barons.
2) Talented, driven middle- and lower-class people trying to end run the UK class system.

Neither group really longs for a fairer world, and John, who was solidly in the 2) camp, didn't want that. Sure, he sang he wanted that, but everything he did reflected the conventional hierarchy. If John Lennon had been born a landed Duke, he would've been perfectly happy staying in England (as Harrison was) because he did the American version of that. John Lennon was incredibly status conscious, aware of social distinctions and--while he had an admirable "common touch"--showed NO desire to live like a normal person, especially after 1968. People loved him for mingling with them, just like the did Princess Diana, but at the end of the day John didn't seem to have much interest in "being one of the gang." Compare Paul McCartney who seems to actually enjoy that sensation.

John was Mimi's son, and by all accounts judged the hell out of people based on their outward signifiers. That's what made him such an easy mark.

Annie McNeil said...

Paul's wisdom may be small-w wisdom--thoughtfulness on a human scale--whereas what John seemed to be seeking was Grand Eternal Wisdom, but the first seems to me to be a necessary precondition for the second.

Yes, exactly. There's no shortcut to enlightenment. And there's a fine line between seeking enlightenment, and seeking to Be A Grand Wise Enlightened Person. You can't get far with the latter; you've sabotaged it by making it all about yourself.

What made/makes John Lennon so meaningful to people was the whole of who he was and what he did, and clothing his son in his symbols is an attempt to confer reverence Sean has not, and cannot, earn.

Thank you for articulating this so well. I've tried my best not to feel skeeved by all that stuff, because who am I to tell Yoko and Sean how to treat John's memory? He was much more theirs than mine to lose and to remember. But yeah. It's odd.

Anonymous said...

I'm loving this discussion, so many excellent points.

I agree it's difficult to understand Lennon without understanding the UK class system. Interesting that he wrote "working class hero" but he was higher up the food chain than the other Beatles. Mimi was a landlady! He had his own room, living a posh little teenage lifestyle, like the spoiled teenage Lenny Bruce with his own bedroom and radio, before his parents split.

I remember seeing an interview with the Beatles around the time of "In His Own Write." The interviewer, an older chap who could barely conceal his disdain for the moptops, made the sarcastic comment that he didn't know there were any writers in Liverpool. If you watch the interview, you can actually see Lennon's startled reaction, before covering it up with some jokes. No matter how pampered his upbringing, he saw himself as firmly in the working class, even though he regarded many of its members as dumb. (Didn't he say that he hoped wealth would insulate him from stupid people, not having to deal with them on a daily basis?)

Years ago I met my friend's aunt, a woman from Liverpool, who implied the Beatles exaggerated their scouse accents. Despite the class envy, it wasn't popular to be seen as an upper class twit.

One of the truest lyrics from Lennon's last period, about loving humanity, but it's "people that you just can't stand."

- hologram sam

Anonymous said...

I wasn't sure where to post this, but I thought it was interesting, and this is the most recent "massive John thread".

WENNER: What do you think was going on with [Jonh]? What do you think motivated him?
JAGGER: Wanted to be the most famous person in the world [laughs].
WENNER: I think he said as much.
JAGGER: Did he really?
WENNER: Along that line. “We want to be more famous than Elvis.” Something like that.
JAGGER: Yeah. Elvis just did it all wrong, didn’t he? Put all these silly ideas into people’s heads. And John picked up on it.
WENNER: Do you think that drove him?
JAGGER: It seems incredibly crass and superficial, doesn’t it?
WENNER: Yeah, but if you feel you have this big message for everybody... and at the end, he did.
JAGGER: Yeah, he did have a big message. I don’t think he had a message in the beginning, although he might have thought he was gonna get one. Or you think the message is to be famous, and then I’ll think of the message later [laughs].

Michael Gerber said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Karen said...

@JRClark: Julius Fast wrote a biography on the fabs and details the trip that John and Paul took on mopeds. I have the book.

Your (angry) insistence that John and Paul weren't close strikes me as personal, as if you have a vested interest in this belief. Not sure why.

Karen said...

@JR Clark: the moped trip was detailed in Julius Fast's bio. I have the book.

Stew said...

@Karen - Thanks, I could not find that source for the life of me! I was beginning to think I'd imagined it!

Michael Gerber said...

@Karen, where is it in the Fast book? I have it right here--what a tidbit, so surprising. Thank you.

Karen said...

@michael gerber--its half-way through the book (I have the e-book, having lost the paper copy years ago, and the page number would probably be irrelevant) but it's in the chapter "Touring Great Britain and Filming Help". Here's the relevant paragraph:

"Including the Liverpool concert, this tour took in 18 different towns in England, Scotland, and Wales. The tour had arranged one free day....John's Aunt Mimi had moved to a seaside resort so John and Paul visited the McCartneys...

They got up very early...and Paul fetched his two moped bikes...."

They biked around the city, checking out the shops until they got recognized and had to get the police to rescue them.

Michael Gerber said...

Super @Karen, thank you.

Anonymous said...

Back to the photos... I'm reminded of John explaining (Anthology book) that "the walrus was Paul" was John's weird own way of saying to Paul: thank you, it's been great, but I'm moving on with a new partner. (I can't recall the exact quote...) but the idea of him replicating the poses of some famous photos of him and his old partner doesn't seem so odd.

Michael Gerber said...

Anonymous, I'm moving your comment over to the new blog. This thread will continue over at www.heydullblog.com.