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The Ballad of John and Yoko by John Lennon

The Ballad of John and Yoko

by John Lennon, from Skywriting by Word of Mouth

I’d always had a fantasy about a woman who would be a beautiful, intelligent, dark-haired, high-cheekboned, freespirited artist (a la Juliette Greco).

My soul mate.

Someone that I had already known, but somehow had lost.

After a short visit to India on my way home from Australia, the image changed slightly – she had to be a dark-eyed Oriental. Naturally, the dream couldn’t come true until I had completed the picture.

Now it was complete.

<-<–>->

Of course as a teenager, my sexual fantasies were full of Anita Ekberg and the usual giant Nordic goddesses. That is, until Brigitte Bardot became the “love of my life” in the late Fifties. All my girlfriends who weren’t dark-haired suffered under my constant pressure to become Brigitte. By the time I married my first wife (who was, I think, a natural auburn), she too had become a long-haired blonde with the obligatory bangs.

Met the real Brigitte a few years later. I was on acid and she was on her way out.

<-<–>->

I finally met Yoko and the dream became a reality.

The only woman I’d ever met who was my equal in every way imaginable. My better, actually. Although I’d had numerous interesting “affairs” in my previous incarnation, I’d never met anyone worth breaking up a happily-married state of boredom for.

Escape, at last! Someone to leave home for! Somewhere to go. I’d waited an eternity.

<-<–>->

Since I was extraordinarily shy (especially around beautiful women), my daydreams necessitated that she be aggressive enough to “save me,” i.e., “take me away from all this.” Yoko, although shy herself, picked up my spirits enough to give me the courage to get the hell out, just in time for me to avoid having to live with my ex-wife’s new nose. She also had had side-interests, much to the surprise of my pre-liberated male ego.

They got the new nose. And I got my dream woman. Yoko.

<-<–>->

Having been brought up in the genteel poverty of a lower middle-class environment, I should not have been surprised by the outpouring of race-hatred and anti-female malice to which we were subjected in that bastion of democracy, Great Britain (including the nowreformed Michael Caine, who said something through his cute Cockney lisp to the effect that “I can’t see why ‘ee don’t find a nice English girl”). What a riot! One of “our boys” leaving his Anglo-Saxon (whatever that is) hearth and home and taking up with a bloody Jap to boot! Doesn’t he know about The Bridge on the River Kwai? Doesn’t he remember Pearl Harbour!

<-<–>->

The English press had a field day venting all their pent-up hatred of foreigners on Yoko. It must have been hard for them: what with the Common Market and all, they’d had to lay off hating frogs, wogs, clogs, krauts, and eye-ties (in print, that is), not to mention the jungle bunnies. It was humiliating and painful for both of us to have her described as ugly and yellow and other derogatory garbage, especially by a bunch of beerbellied, rednecked “aging” hacks; you are what you eat and think. We know what they eat and are told what to think: their masters’ leftovers.

<-<–>->

It was hard for Yoko to understand, having been recognized all her life as one of the most beautiful and intelligent women in Japan. The racism and sexism were overt. I was ashamed of Britain. Even though I was full of race and anti-female prejudice myself (buried deep where it had been planted), I still thought that English fairy story about the Yanks being the racists: ‘Not us, old boy, it just wouldn’t be cricket.” The “Gentleman’s Agreement” runs from top to bottom. But I must say I’ve found on my travels that every race thinks it’s superior to every other; the same with class (the American myth being they have no class system).

<-<–>->

It was a horrifying experience. I thought of asking Johnny Dankworth and Cleo Lane for advice, but never did (they were the only other biracial couple I’d heard of in Britain). The press led the howling mob, and the foulmouthed Silent Majority followed suit. The hate mail from the cranks was particularly inspiring. I tried to publish it at Jonathan Cape but they thought … Still, it made a change from the begging letters which always coincided with whatever well-publicized particular problems we were facing at the moment. e.g.:

I’m sorry to hear of your wife’s recent miscarriage. We, too, have suffered the same tragedy as you, sir, but unlike your good selves do not have the wherewithal to purchase a nice semidetached in the south of France, and as you have so much money, you would be making a 1OO-year-old spastic and his deaf wife and little crippled children very happy. Sir, it’s not too much to ask,… etc.

or:

I, too, was planted and wrongfully arrested by the world-renowned British police {another myth down the drain], and, also recently narrowly escaped death in a car crash in Scotland, and wondered if you could see your way to helping a blind priest and his invalid mother get to church on Sundays . . . etc., etc., etc.

And was Jerusalem builded there? I doubt it.

<-<–>->

Apart from giving me the courage to break out of the Stockbroker Belt… Yoko also gave me the inner strength to look more closely at my other marriage. My real marriage. To the Beatles, which was more stifling than my domestic life. Although I had thought of it often enough, I lacked the guts to make the break earlier.

<-<–>->

My life with the Beatles had become a trap. A tape loop. I had made previous short excursions on my own, writing books, helping convert them into a play for the National Theatre. I’d even made a movie without the others (a lousy one at that, directed by that zany man in search of power, Dick Lester). But I had made the movie more in reaction to the fact that the Beatles had decided to stop touring than with real independence in mind. Although even then (1965) my eye was already on freedom.

Basically, I was panicked by the idea of having “nothing to do.” What is life, without touring? Life, that’s what. I always remember to thank Jesus for the end of my touring days; if I hadn’t said that the Beatles were “bigger than Jesus” and upset the very Christian Ku Klux Klan, well, Lord, I might still be up there with all the other Performing fleas! God bless America. Thank you, Jesus.

<-<–>->

When I finally had the guts to tell the other three that I, quote, wanted a divorce, unquote, they knew it was for real, unlike Ringo and George’s previous threats to leave I must say I felt guilty for springing it on them at such short notice. After all, I had Yoko-they only had each other. I was guilty enough to give McCartney credit as a co-writer on my first independent single instead of giving it to Yoko, who had actually co-authored it (“Give Peace a Chance”).

I started the band. I disbanded it. It’s as simple as that. Yoko and I instinctively decided that the best form of defense was attack – but in our own sweet way: Two Virgins, our first LP, in which the sight of two slightly overweight ex-junkies in the nude gave John and Yoko a damned good laugh and apoplexy to the Philistines of the so-called civilized world! Including those famous avant-garde revolutionary thinkers, Paul, George and It’s Only Ringo. I bear them no ill will. ln retrospect, the Beatles were no more an important part of my life than any other (and less than some).

<-<–>->

It’s irrelevant to me whether I ever record again. I started with rock and roll and ended with pure rock and roll (my Rock and Roll album). If the urge ever comes over me and it is irresistible, then I will do it for fun. But otherwise I’d just as soon leave well enough alone. I have never subscribed to the view that artists “owe a debt to the public” any more than youth owes its life to king and country. I made myself what 1 am today. Good and bad. The responsibility is mine alone.

All roads lead to Rome. I opened a shop; the public bought the goods at fair market value. No big deal. And as for show biz, it was never my life. I often wish knowing it’s futile, that Yoko and I weren’t famous and we could have a really private life. But it’s spilt milk, or rather blood, and I try not to have regrets and don’t intend to waste energy and time in an effort to become anonymous. That’s as dumb as becoming famous in the first place.

All We Were Saying was Give Peace a Chance

Our next move was the famous “Bed-In” for peace. It had taken us a year of shy courting before the two “free-spirited” artists actually got in bed together. But when we did, we invited the whole world. We knew that we could never get married and hide away on a honeymoon without being hounded by the press, so we decided to put the situation to good use and have a few laughs at the same time. This was to be real “Living Theater. ”

Who could forget the sight of half the world’s press pushing and trampling each other at the door of our bedroom in the vain hope of seeing the Beatle and his nigger doing it for Peace in the Amsterdam Hilton’s honeymoon suite? Or the sighs of disappointment when it dawned on them that there was to be no sex and we weren’t even naked!

For seven days and nights we made ourselves available (9 in the morning till 9 at night) for photographs and interviews. We allowed the fifth (of Scotch) estate to ask us anything they wished. No holds barred. They came up with zilch; only one or two people out of a few hundred visitors to our bedside had any idea whatsoever what was going on. We filmed them all, of course. But we accomplished what we had set out to do; that is, point them in the direction we wanted them to go, rather than suffer them gladly.

It was no use pretending to have a private life; none of that Mick and Bianca bullshit: having tantrums outside the church after they had invited everyone to the wedding in the first place. Daft, I call it.

<-<–>->

We tried to repeat our great success in America, by taking the show to Broadway (the Plaza, actually). But the U.S. government decided that we were too dangerous to have around in a hotel bed, talking about peace. So we took the act to Montreal and broadcast (by radio and TV) across the border. I wonder if they thought of sending G. Gordon “Burn, Baby, Burn!” Liddy afrer us? Many big egos came to see us there: Al Crapp, Dick Gregory, Tim Leary and Rosemary, Tommy Smothers (all except Crapp sang on “Give Peace a Chance”) Did you ever stop to think that Timothy Leary and Gee. Gordon Liddy are opposite sides of the same coin? Two Micks don’t make a WASP.

<-<–>->

At the same time whilst we were in Canada, my lithographs of John and Yoko fucking and not fucking were being smuggled across the U.S./Canadian border in trucks (these drawings had been arrested in swinging London) Today, they’re available at your local gallery at a hundred bucks for one. The Two Virgins album cover sells for two hundred. Life doesn’t imitate art; Life is art (that’s what confuses so many up-andcomings; they’re too busy being artists to live).

At that period of our life, people accused us of doing everything for the sake of publicity. Wrong again. Everything we did was publicised anyway. It still is – even though we haven’t talked to the press in a number of years. It makes no difference; it seems they can’t get along without us. Our pressclipping service, which is world-wide, is full of the most bizarre stories. Amongst my favorites is the one that I’ve gone bald and become a recluse “locked in my penthouse”-a cross between Elvis Presley, Greta Garbo and Howard Hughes – occasionally making cryptic statements like “I’ve made my contribution to society and don’t intend to work again”‘ If bringing up a child isn’t work, what is?

The reality behind the mystery is simply that we are doing what we want to do. Period.

We’d All Love to See the Plan

Next came our “revolutionary period,” which blossomed shortly after we landed in the States for a visit. We never intended to live here permanently (although an English astrologer, Patrick Walker, had foretold that I would leave England for good a year earlier). I had no intention of leaving home, for tax or any other reasons. It just happened that way.

We’d got a bit of a reputation from hanging out with the Cambridge Graduate School of Revolutionaries in the U.K. They made us feel so guilty about not hating everyone who wasn’t poor that I even wrote and recorded the rather embarrassing “Power To The People” ten years too late (as the now-famous Hunter “Fear and Loathing for a Living” Thompson pointed out in his Vegas book). We kept the royalties, of course.

Anyway, upon our arrival in the U.S., we were practically met off the plane by the “Mork and Mindy” of the Sixties – Jerry Rubin and Abbie Hoffman – and promptly taken on a tour of New York’s “underground” which consisted mainly of David Peel singing about dope in Washington Square Park. Jerry and Abbie: two classic, fun loving hustlers. I can do without Marx and Jesus.

It took a long time and a lot of good magic to get rid of the stench of our lost virginity, although ir was fun meeting all the famous underground heroes (no heroines): Bobby Seale and his merry men; Huey Newton in his very expensive-looking military-style clothes; Rennie Davis and his “You pay for it and I’ll organize it”, John Sinclair and his faithful Ann Arbor Brigade and dear old Allen Ginsberg, who if he wasn’t lying on the floor “ohming” was embarrassing the fuck out of everyone he could corner by chanting something he called poetry very loudly in their ears (and out the other).

We Fought the Law and the Law Lost

The price of that kind of fun was too high. It was almost five years before our battle with the Nixon government was over (presuming it is over). It was Strom “May He Be Enlightened” Thurmond who cast the first stone; he wrote to the then Attorney General of the United States, John “Take My Wife” Mitchell (they took her, R. I. P. Martha), suggesting that somehow they throw us out of America before the Republican National Convention in San Diego. I understand the reasoning behind the attack, especially after one of our bigmouthed revolutionary heroes had broadcast to the world that John and Yoko were organizing a massed rally to blow away the Republicans at San Diego.

There had been a grand pow-wow at our Bank Street apartment. All the heroes were there. It seemed that without John and Yoko’s drawing power, there wasn’t going to be a revolution. The Left and Right were both labouring under that illusion. I think Ginsberg was the only one there besides ourselves who thought that the whole idea stunk, and was not only dangerous but stupid. But apparently, the “leaders” of the movement wanted another “Chicago”. And we were to be the bait, only we said no. It didn’t make much difference, because simply putting out the message through Rolling Stone that we were coming would convince enough people that we had agreed to it. It convinced Nixon’s people.

Mae “They’re Coming Through the Windows!” Brussel and Paul Krassner told us that Jerry and Abbie and the whole of the Chicago Seven were double agents for the C.I.A. (except Krassner, of course). We never did find out.

The thing that bothered most of our revolutionary brothers was the fact that we weren’t against anything, just for things, you know, like peace and love and all that naïve crap. That was not macho enough for the tough Jewish Haggendass (not the ice cream). I mean, man, they were the Chicago Seven and knew the Black Panthers. Whilst they tried to “use” us, we tried to “convert” them. We even got them on The Mike Douglas Show, but none of them knew how to talk to the people -never mind lead them!

The other thing no one liked was the fact that we always insisted on keeping physical and legal control over any film footage which included us in it. John Sinclair threatened to sue us, even after we helped get him out of prison! “It ain’t fair, John Sinclair.” All in all, we had a few laughs and a lot of drugs.

The bottom line was Nixon’s government vs. John and Yoko, a few friends, a lot of fans, and a small black psychic from Chicago, introduced to us by Dick “I’ll Never Eat Another Thing” Gregory. All of whom we are profoundly grateful to.

So, it was “Bell, Book, and Candle” against Mr. Six Six Six Nixon. Yes, we used magic, prayer, and children to fight the good fight.

The Mysterious Smell of Roses

The biggest mistake Yoko and I made in that period was allowing ourselves to become influenced by the male-macho “serious revolutionaries,” and their insane ideas about killing people to save them from capitalism and/or communism (depending on your point of view). We should have stuck to our own way of working for peace: bed-ins, billboards, etc. And now here we were, fighting the U.S. government with a lawyer who at first didn’t believe that it was a politically-motivated court case (he thought we weren’t “that important”), or that the F.B.I. was harassing us with phone taps and the like.

He believed later when his own phone was tapped.

We stopped them when we announced on The Dick Cavett Show that they were following us and bugging us. (This was the same show where the liberals got a little upset when I said that I didn’t believe in this “overpopulation bullshit.” But they weren’t as upset as an English audience on a similar show back home where they actually booed and hissed us in a most unpleasant manner for being pacifists, backed up by that famous darling of the “serious” music world, none other than Yehudi “Zometimes You Haft to Kill” Menuhin. He, that rumor has it, records one note ar a time!)

In the car the first morning on the way to court, we were both very nervous. We had followed the psychic’s instructions carefully: read the right passages in the King James Bible, had put the right verses in our boots, and dowsed our ritually folded handkerchiefs with the magic oil.

From pilgrimages to India with magic Alex Mardas, to what turned out to be a phony miracle worker called Babaji (?), who performed conjuring tricks such as pulling cheap watches with his picture on them “out of nowhere” to a packed house of mainly middle-agecl American women (whilst outside the camp, thousands of crippled Indians were selling the same cheap stuff to make a living), we found ourselves living outside of San Francisco in San Mateo in the home of an alcoholic Kung Fu master and acupuncturist and his family. It was he who was responsible for helping us survive methadone withdrawal, which had almost killed Yoko. He also convinced me that my English doctor was wrong (the guy had told me that we could never have babies because I’d blown my sperm with years of misuse of drugs, etc., causing me to have a terrible depression, especially after immigration authorities had revoked my visa in the middle of Art Janov’s primal therapy and we had immediately got hooked on smack). Withdrawing cold turkey by taking a boat to Japan from L.A. (similar to a boat trip that Dr. Hong told us he had taken in his youth to get off opium), we arrived in Yokohama, drug-free and happy. It was then that I met Yoko’s parents for the first time.

When we recovered from the methadone trip with the good doctor, his good-cooking wife, and helpful daughter, he said, “You want baby? Stop taking drugs, eat good food, in one year you will have it. I promise you.” God bless him, he was right. He died without seeing Sean in the fiesh, but we did manage to send him a Polaroid I’d taken of the baby when we were still in New York hospital. We are still in touch with the Hongs.

<-<–>->

I was talking’ to Helen (well, at Helen, really), and as usual I found myself on the defensive about “mystics.” I didn’t get too frantic for a change. Anyway, I found myself saying something like the following – that many, if not all, great men and women were “mystics” in a sense: Einstein, who at the end of his life remarked that if he had to do it over, he would have spent more time on the spiritual; Pythagoras and Newton were mystics. But the main point I was getting at was the fact that in order to receive the “wholly spirit,” i.e., creative inspiration (whether you are labelled an artist, scientist, mystic, psychic, etc.), the main “problem” was emptying the mind.

You can’t paint a picture on dirty paper; you need a clean sheet.

<-<–>->

Van Gogh’s “going crazy,” Dylan Thomas’s “drinking himself to death,” etc., were just efforts on their behalf to break our of the straightjacket of their own minds. I include myself and my generation’s so-called “drug abuse ” Self-abuse would be a more apt expression.

Anyway, I saw the life of Gauguin on TV, and it struck me that he’d died in such a pitiful way (V.D., for which the “cure” was mercury), with a foot broken and twisted from a drunken brawl after returning home for his first “successful” opening in Paris. He had gone to Tahiti to escape his own straightjacket: Working at a bank. A wife and children, one whom he was particularly fond of, a daughter to whom he had been dedicating a personal journal he kept whilst living in the South Pacific, explaining why he had left his family. When he returned to Tahiti, he received a letter from home telling him his daughter had died! What a price to pay to “go down in history.” He finally finished his large “masterwork,” and died, the point being that, O.K., he was a good painter, but the world could manage quite well without one scrap of his “genius.” I believe the “masterwork” was destroyed by fire after his death. The other point being, had he had access to so-called mysticism… fasting… meditation… and other disciplines (as in disciple), he could have reached the “same space.” Hard work, I grant you, but easier than killing yourself and those around

<-<–>->

It’s the same with the Christians (so called). They’re so busy condemning themselves and others, or preaching at people, or worse, still killing for Christ. None of them understanding, or trying in the least, to behave like a Christ. It seems to me that the only true Christians were (are?) the Gnostics, who believe in self-knowledge, i.e., becoming Christ themselves, reaching the Christ within. Christ, after all, is Greek for light. [We all recognize that the accepted translation of Christ is ‘the anointed one.” We, however, were told that in the original Dead Sea Serolls it is revealed that the true translation of Christ is “light,” which to us made more sense.-Y.O.L.] The Light is the Truth. All any of us are trying to do is precisely that: Turn on the light. All the better to see you with, my dear. Christ, Buddha, Mohammed, Moses, Milarepa, and other great ones spent their time in fasting, praying, meditation, and left “maps” of the territory of “God” for all to see and follow in our own way.

The lesson for me is clear. I’ve already “lost” one family to produce what? Sgt. Pepper? I am blessed with a second chance. Being a Beatle nearly cost me my life, and certainly cost me a great deal of my health – the drinking and drugs having started before we were professional musicians – all in an effort to reach “out there.”

I will not make the same mistake twice in one lifetime. This time around, inspiration will be called down by the ancient methods laid down for all to see.

If I never “produce” anything more for public consumption than “silence,” so be it.

Amen.

John Lennon
1978

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2010-02-02T04:27:56+00:00 February 2nd, 2010|Yoko reads|