At this time of day, sitting with a cup of coffee, I was thinking about what needs to be done which snowballed rapidly into thoughts of John Lennon. Next month would have been his 73rd birthday, he was, as we have been told, a man of many layers, husband, father, home body. He would stop and speak to those of us lucky enough to come into contact with him. He was a great man, a genius, a man of the people. Yoko has stayed in the Dakota building, not to ponder his death, but to remember all the good times they shared there. No matter what he may have done, or didn’t do, he was a man who lived and breathed peace. Anti-war since the 60’s, he was prevented from speaking out against the war in Vietnam by Brian, which probably helped the Beatles but left John frustrated. After all the Beatles achieved until Brian died, once he’d gone the gaps became chasms. Paul recently said that Yoko didn’t tear the group apart and I never thought she had. Imagine if you can, four young men who came together in the 1950’s to play rock ‘n roll music, a new exciting sound coming over the pond from America. They went through some tough times together, losing a friend along the way. They watched the other acts playing in Hamburg in the early 60’s and met Ritchie. I think that was the time when the magic started to happen.
They fought, as all young men do, internal strife is nothing new, but they would forget their own quarrels if anyone started on one of them. The group started to gel, as long as they were kept busy with touring to support an album then cutting a new one ad infinitum they could maintain the structure. Once things started to go wrong, and the death threats were real, the cycle had to be broken. What do you do then? Recording slowed down to one album a year, Paul and John spent less time together and more time with nothing to do does take it’s toll. This has all been well documented and I’m not trying to go over the past once more. George found Indian music and culture, including religion, filled the gap left. He tried to get the other 3 interested and did for a time. John was always the cynical one but I think he managed to find purpose about this time. He went off to make a film, “How I won the war”, without the others. This was the time of hallucinogens which all four Beatles admitted taking. The music became grander, more effects being used, after all they wouldn’t be recreating this on stage.
Sgt Pepper, I think, took everyone by surprise. If I’m right in thinking that a year earlier sitar’s had found there way into rock music thanks to George and Brian Jones. Live the Stones had the edge over the Beatles, but in the studio throughout the 60’s the Stones were always lagging behind. The media focused on the battle between these two groups, in reality they hung out together, and John and Paul appeared on We Love You, so why was John outspoken? He spoke candidly to reporters. Trying to get his thoughts to the fans in a manner they would understand he often simplified things. This lead to his comment on the falling number of people going to church on Sundays. Unfortunately, the journalist he said this to was over-ruled and it was published verbatim. This was his, and the groups, downfall. This was the statement he would be killed for some fifteen years later. Those of us who knew John only through the music, didn’t understand what the furore was about. We knew the large demand for tickets for a concert meant some going away disappointed, those of us still attending church saw the empty seats. John spoke of this in terms he knew, he was talking, not of the group the Beatles, of the movement of Rock n Roll.
He was not passing judgement, merely stating fact. I think he was surprised at the fall out of this off the cuff comment. The Americans, particularly in the “Bible-Belt” were very outspoken and no matter how John, and the other 3 plus Brian Epstein, tried to apologise and explain what the comment tried to portray the angrier the back lash became. Anyway that’s what I started thinking, in the words of Sir Paul McCartney when my mind is wandering who knows where it will take me (or words to that effect).