My Yoko Problem… and yours?

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Michael Gerber

Publisher at The American Bystander
is Blogmom of Hey Dullblog. His novels and parodies have sold 1.25 million copies in 25 languages. He lives in Santa Monica, CA, and runs The American Bystander all-star print humor magazine.
Michael Gerber
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Ballad of John and Yoko

“Me and Yoko and a backing group…”

In the thread regarding Ruth’s excellent review, longtime Dullpal @Sir Huddleston Fuddleston wrote this:

“I guess what I’m saying is, whatever the problem, it’s Yoko’s fault. A failed ‘concept artist’ took the most successful popular musician in history, by a long way, and made him think his work was shit. By comparison, it’s nothing to make him hand the keys to Klein.”

To some degree, I agree with this. John’s self-appraisal post-Yoko is so woefully off that you want to check him for a skull fracture. “Mr. Lennon, did you get hit on the head with a coconut?” But agreeing with @Sir HF placed me upon the horns of a familiar dilemma. On the chance that either you feel it yourself, or will be interested in the issue, I wanted to take a post and unpack it a little bit.

When I read stuff like this, I want to reply, “Fuckin’ A! THIS is the kind of thing we should have a panel on at Beatlefest! I will personally pay for Ann Shulgin to come and tell us whether LSD can make a person that nuts.” But if I do set that kind of tone, the level of discussion descends rapidly. Yoko is simply too divisive; she hooks into people’s personal stuff. For me, she hooks into my dislike of bullies (see also my take on Allen Klein). For others, she is a feminist icon who has had to be “a bitch” to get anywhere in a world stacked against her.

Worst of all, Yoko herself has always tried to blur the line between herself as a person, and herself as an artist. In Yoko’s opinion (and John’s), to dislike Yoko’s work is to be a racist or sexist or a square, and to like it is to sign off on John’s proclamations of her as a world-changing genius. Any discussion about Yoko immediately becomes distorted and intemperate, and that’s largely why she’s still a cipher.

The Act You’ve Known For All These Years

Nearly fifty years after she came on the scene, first as John Lennon’s girlfriend and later his wife, Yoko Ono is probably the most problematic figure in the Beatles’ story. It seems to be impossible to care about the group, and not have a really strong opinion about Yoko. Even figures at the center of the story don’t elicit such strong opinions — have you ever heard a Beatles fan say he/she hates Brian Epstein or George Martin or Patti Harrison? “That fucking George Martin with his dry English wit! What a prick!” Even in the temperate climes of Hey Dullblog, whenever Yoko is introduced into a Dullblog comment thread, steam begins to come out of people’s ears.

I did a ton of research on John Lennon’s later life for my novel Life After Death for Beginners and the reason I have not, and will not, actively promote the novel is this: John Lennon’s later life sucked. It was a really unpleasant place to be. Maybe that comes out in the manuscript, maybe it doesn’t, but I simply can’t face diving into all that again. Yuck.

It is pretty clear that the Ballad of John and Yoko was not the reality. Whether it was the outright warfare suggested by Goldman, the intermittently affectionate portrait sketched by Fred Seaman, or the peculiarly cool, almost businesslike arrangement suggested by John Green’s book, it was not your typical marriage. But it worked for them, I suppose, after a fashion, and as I’ve aged I’ve definitely come to the conclusion that a post-acid John Lennon was much too damaged to be judged like a normal person. Perhaps the very things that make me crazy about Yoko — her mania for control, her haughtiness, her aggression — are precisely what John needed in a partner, after being hollowed out by his Beatles experience. He often seemed like a snail without his shell. I’ve said more than once that I think Yoko saved John Lennon’s life in 1968…but I also think she pretty much destroyed any chance he had to become a bonafide adult. When I read about John and Yoko, I constantly had the thought, “You guys should really get divorced. Split the money however, and meet for hot hotel sex twice a year. Both of you would be much happier.”

My Yoko Problem is two-fold. The first is, once you depart from the Ballad, it’s impossible not to feel a bit angry; if the Ballad isn’t true, it’s an utterly cynical (and largely unnecessary) attempt to manipulate the public. While John has some sound reasons for doing this — he was made cynical by his Beatle experience, and needed the protection of a false image so that his real one could flourish unmolested — Yoko really doesn’t. Yoko was never mobbed by fans or prevented from living her life; she never saw how stars can either get away with murder, or lose everything for being human. For her, JohnandYoko must be a means to an end, a game, a trick she’s playing on Beatles fans, the people who pay her bills. Much has been made of Yoko’s aristocratic heritage, but she seems to lack noblesse oblige. As I’ve written many times before, it was John’s moments of humanity that made everyone love him so, and it cost him nothing. The world desperately wants to love Yoko — but she seems, as ever, only interested in people as assistants.

Lennon marylebone drug bust

John’s own Yoko problem: Was the bust punishment for dumping Cynthia?

The second part of my Yoko Problem is this: as we’ve discussed in several recent threads, patriarchal double-standards are real, and the sexual politics of the Sixties were abysmal. Anti-Japanese sentiment was real in 1968 Britain; the Second World War was only twenty-five years in the past. The idea of a Beatle, one of our boys, dumping a nice English girl for a Japanese weirdo did offend many people for purely racist reasons. When you add this to Yoko’s other systemic hindrances of misogyny and anti-intellectualism, it is impossible not to marvel at what it must’ve taken for her to rise the way she has. Mere meme or lived reality, it was salutary to have a Japanese person become the adored wife of the Chief Beatle; meme or reality, it was salutary for John and Yoko to reverse the standard roles and have him be the househusband.

It is difficult to tease out all the various strands at work here: Yoko Ono is, in my opinion, a complex person with a profoundly unlikable personal image (she may be lovely as a person), whom John Lennon clearly loved. Or at the very least depended on, maybe to the point of her keeping him alive. She is a successful artist, interesting in her own right, who has overcome systemic racism and sexism to achieve iconic status; female artists in the generations since have frequently thought of her as a trailblazing figure. On the other hand, it’s unlikely that she would’ve achieved anywhere near the cultural significance she has, had she not married well. She is unlikable because she does unlikable things. And her relationship to John’s cultural legacy can veer strangely into frenemy status.

Yoko Ono was, without a doubt, one of the stressors that led to the breakup of the Beatles, and to claim otherwise is to ignore a mountain of first-person evidence. Paul can give her a pass, that’s his right (and she’s his business partner), but we should go where the evidence leads. At the time, she seems to have considered them all as threats to her relationship with John, especially Paul. She introduced John to heroin, an idea that must rank as one of the world’s worst ever. On the other hand, in recent years she seems to have intermittently recognized that the world’s love for her husband’s band is more important than her own multi-decade pissing contest with Paul McCartney.

For better or worse, she was the woman John picked. If she was a bad fit with the group we love, that’s ultimately on him — so much so that I believe he picked her precisely because she would break up the group. The question is, why, and that’s at the heart of what we’ve been talking about this year. How does one square the John Lennon of 1940-1967, who surely met and dismissed many people like Yoko, with the Lennon of May 1968 and after, who seemed to be a wholly owned subsidiary of Yoko Ono, Inc.? In the end, a Beatle fan’s Yoko Problem is really a John Problem, and therein lies the real rub, and why it will never go away. It can’t.

What do you think? If you want to let ‘er rip, this is probably the comment thread in which to do it.

POSTSCRIPT: Within thirty seconds of hitting “post,” I received a Facebook comment: “what a load of shit”.
Me being me, I immediately responded, “[x person], please go comment. The post is all about how Yoko engenders such passion, pro and con. If you think she’s gotten a raw deal, say why. People will be respectful.” The poster refused, saying she’d read enough anti-Yoko garbage, and that we were being removed from her feed.

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138 Comments

  1. Avatar Hanna wrote:

    Hi! Great blog, I’ve just recently found it and I really enjoy this intellectual and un-biased discussion here. I’ve noticed that in many Beatle forums fans can’t (or don’t want to) look things deeper but believe in things they want to believe, maybe taking it little too personally. I’m so glad that here folk is willing to analyze every “fact” and possibly re-consider their opinions. And I think that in Yoko’s case people take it the most personally of all Beatle surrounding subjects, exactly because of racism, feminism, aristocracy and other issues you mentioned. Those issues touch many people and it’s difficult to look at them neutrally. Personally I think that Yoko has consciously chosen how to portray herself and how to act, she`s not an innocent, fragile creature who cannot defend herself so she should be able to take criticism, but that of course doesn’t justify any racist or sexist insults shot to her. I believe she had a part in break-up because she came to the situation from outside without knowing too much about the group dynamics but still thought she knew what was best for John (leave the group, move to avant-garde) or maybe she just acted very selfishly. Anyway, there wasn’t single guilty party in the break-up (I think the biggest reason was just stress which led to other things) but John and Yoko’s relationship was part of it. And about her relationship with Paul, I think Paul has more reasons to be mad at her than vice versa (not that Paul is a saint either) but I respect both of them for (at least seemingly) burying their grudge. It’s very mature and it wouldn’t bring Beatles or John back if they continued their “pissing contest”. (By the way, I’m from Finland, English isn’t my native language so I apologize for every possible typo or grammar mistake.)

  2. Michael, thanks for taking the time to think about what I had to say. I’ve tried to get to the bottom of why I think Yoko’s existence itself did a disservice to humanity, and the reason is this: she took what did not belong to her. I’m not saying that she was not an acceptable partner for him; if she floated his boat, more power to her, and may they be happy together. But that’s not all there is to being with John Lennon — like it or not, creative geniuses are not like you or me. Quick, think of how many non-creative types you can recall from history, who weren’t madmen: not many. What we remember from the past, what we cherish, is the art. In retrospect, what matters about the Beatles is their art; that is what deserves to survive, and what *will* survive, the centuries.

    To that end, an artist also belongs to history, to all of us. It may be a psychopathic thing to say, but the best thing for history would have been to preserve the Lennon-McCartney for as long as possible. Because that product is what we care about. Again, I’m not saying it should come at the cost of the artists’ health or happiness, though to be honest many of us would trade both to be eternally remembered. Salieri was right — it didn’t matter that he had fame and fortune in his time, what drove him insane was that he knew that Mozart’s music would be what survived. Show of hands — who felt shattered when watching Amadeus? Who else saw himself or herself in Salieri? I know I did. Alexander the Great took a poet with him on his conquests, because he knew that he would truly only survive in art.

    I’m so annoyed with feminists who deride those who deride Yoko for not being a housefrau in the background. All those feminists can (as it were) suck it — Yoko wasn’t less important because she was a woman; she was less important because McCartney was a demonstrated great artist and she wasn’t. The only person who believed any of her bullshit “concept art” (which is an oxymoron — all real art is modern, and all postmodern art is not art, it is commentary) was her. Her name would not last unless it was liked to his, professionally as well as personally.

    So: it was a disservice to humanity, not that Yoko married Lennon, but that she presumed to be his equal in the historical record. It’s her appalling lack of humility that, well, appalls me. First of all, it’s not true what she said, when she said when she met John at the Indra that she did not know him. Years before she went around collecting musical scores for a project of John Cage. She approached Paul, who directed her to John, who gave her the MSS of I-forget-which-song, which appeared in Cage’s book. So she sure knew who John was, and what his legacy would mean. Only a preening narcissist would say to herself “meh. I’m as good as he is. If he leaves McCartney and collaborates with me, that’ll be great.” In the JohnandYoko version of history, she became glued to him at his request. Ok, maybe, but which one of us, sitting in Abbey Road, would dare to pass judgement, as she often did, on the music? I’d be saying “please, guys, you know what you’re doing, just keep doing it.” Which one of us would be brave enough or stupid enough to imagine that he or she should second-guess the Beatles in the studio? Again, only somebody who says “eh, it’s only popular music. I’m a *real* artist, because I declare myself to be, because I declare my spectacles to be “art.”

    Which is why we’re now stuck with these albums, half of which at least try to be music, while the other half is self-indulgent crap?

    That’s the gist of it — I hate Yoko because she has no shame. It’s obnoxious for anybody to assume that the public would want to hear what we have to say. I doodle me some jazz piano, but I sure would know not to cozy up to Miles Davis (with the heroin, again like Yoko) and then say “yo, Miles, I’m *better* than Bill Evans — Bill Evans! — *I* should play with you.” Miles, to his everlasting credit, would have had enough self-respect to say “get the fuck out of here, motherfucker.”

    TL/DR; As Miles would say, know your place (motherfucker). You can get on the album when you can blow the horn, not before. Leave the music to the musicians. Don’t inflict yourself on humanity unnecessarily.

    • @Sir, you write an intense blog comment. 🙂

      Where I, and perhaps others, cut Yoko a ton of slack is this: in that day and age, women who stayed quiet — who didn’t push themselves forward — didn’t get the opportunities. One of the reasons that Yoko is so meaningful to other women (artists and not) is precisely how she demands an equal place at the table, even from John/Paul/George/Ringo. And that, in the end, has been a very good thing.

      I do wish there’d been a way to have our cake and eat it too — have the Beatles survive, and even thrive, in the post-Yoko years — but as I said, that’s a John problem, not a Yoko problem. John Lennon was an adult; if he wanted to keep working with Paul and the others, he would’ve done so. I think he hid behind Yoko a lot, which isn’t fair to her.

  3. Avatar Ruth wrote:

    I have no doubt that part of the public reaction to/resentment of Yoko, regarding both her art and personality, was influenced by her gender. At the same time, I have serious reservations with anyone who regards Yoko as some sort of feminist icon. She may promote feminism in interviews, and John may/may not have become a newborn feminist following their relationship (whether John actually practiced the feminist ideals he preached would be a post in and of itself) but there’s little proof, that I have seen, that Yoko treated other females with the respect that she demanded she receive.
    ———————
    She seemed to use feminism as a cause when it suited her purpose, but failed to practice it in her own life. She either implicitly or explicitly approved of John’s abysmal divorce-era treatment of Cynthia: she pressured her female employee, May Pang, into an affair with her husband, which is sexual harassment; she never publicly defended Linda when either John or a reporter mocked Linda’s looks, and, according to May Pang, by “Mind Games,” was (evidently with a complete lack of irony) banning girlfriends and wives from the studio because they were too distracting. According to May, Yoko helped sabotage May’s career, making it difficult for her to get another job in the music business. There are different levels of feminism, of course, and her refusal to allow what was undoubtedly a racist and sexist society to totally suppress her is admirable. But her actions indicate that much of her feminism was at least as rooted in self-interest as genuine belief in sexual equality: she used the propaganda of feminism when it suited her goals, but failed to practice it when it inconvenienced her.
    —-
    There are numerous other issues regarding Yoko: — Her polarizing divisiveness is something I find fascinating — but I’ll repost something I tacked on to the end of the Douglas thread and then shut up.

    I’d argue that any assessment of Yoko’s character *has* to include her constant claims to victimization. Her and John’s breakup-era narrative depends on portraying themselves as the victims: of the Eastman’s, Paul, commercialism, squares, the establishment, racists, misogynists, etc. Even after the narratives shifts and facts indicate otherwise, John and Yoko are still claiming victimhood: of Klein’s manipulations, of a constricting press, of proscribed gender roles, commercialism. But they take their victimization to the extreme, in that no one else is allowed to have been victimized, and everyone else’s suffering is inferior the theirs.
    —-

    I’ve never seen an admittance by Yoko that perhaps their treatment of Julian was less than stellar; or that John was displaying massive hypocrisy, lambasting Paul privately and publicly as a chauvinist for his treatment of Yoko while writing letters attacking Linda’s “petty little perversion of a mind,” publicly mocking her looks, and predicting that Paul and Linda’s marriage would only last two years. Yoko even identifies John as the victim of “How Do You Sleep,” criticizing fans for “attacking” John for writing it when they simply asked for an end to the public feuding. That victimization continues throughout the decades, as does that utter refusal to acknowledge something as basic as, “Maybe my being in the studio, all the time, wasn’t the best thing.” Yoko is even the victim of John, when she argues that she only stayed in the studio, all the time, because he demanded it. Both she and John seem to wallow in this perception, believing that their suffering made them superior artists/people. If you support the suffering artist trope, perhaps this makes their story more palatable. For those who don’t, it adds more than a tinge of hypocrisy their behavior.

    • Great comment, @Ruth.

      “(whether John actually practiced the feminist ideals he preached would be a post in and of itself)”

      Sounds like a Call for Submissions if you ask me!

      I also find her polarizing divisiveness fascinating — hence the post, which I knew would be stirring up the bees. But Yoko’s genius for inspiring adoration and loathing is really remarkable, and one can’t address this topic without running into it again and again and again. What’s it about? I’m hoping we can make some sense of that.

      • Avatar Nancy Carr wrote:

        I’m sorry that the Facebook commentator wasn’t willing to share her perspective here, because I would really appreciate having the chance to think about it. It can be hard for me to get past my own filter, and one of the things I enjoy about our comment threads is hearing things from a different point of view.
        .
        My own struggle is with JohnandYoko–specifically, with what I see as the distance between the ideals they advocated in their work and what we know of some of their actions toward specific people. And I have a hard time distancing behavior from art in their case, because they insisted that the two be considered together and because they promoted honesty/integrity/no bullshit as their defining quality as a couple.
        .
        I can’t square feminist ideals with their treatment of Cynthia Lennon or May Pang, and I can’t square peacemaking ideals with their vilification of Paul (and, to a lesser degree, the other Beatles). I can’t hear “Imagine” without hearing “How Do You Sleep?” in the background, and to me the latter severely undercuts the former. For peace to be a real possibility I believe we have to begin with the circumstances of our daily lives and the people close to us. It’s comparatively easy to talk about peace and love for the world; it’s much harder to practice compassion and forgiveness toward the people we live or work with (and I am certainly speaking from experience here). Similarly, it’s much easier to blame others for bad situations than to accept our own responsibility for helping create or worsen them. I would feel a lot more enthusiastic about John and Yoko if, at least by 1980, they were saying things like “Looking back, we probably should have treated some people differently.” (If I missed them saying such things, please somebody tell me.)
        .
        I don’t think John and Yoko are/were terrible people. Their failings (which most of us share to some degree) don’t prevent me from appreciating a good bit of what they accomplished. I just can’t embrace the Ballad narrative wholeheartedly or hear some of the work without inner reservations.

        • “one of the things I enjoy about our comment threads is hearing things from a different point of view”

          Me too! Speaking personally, it’s why I stay interested in the blog.

          John and Yoko in 1980 weren’t saying “mea culpa,” they were actually doubling down on a lot of the earlier stuff, and that speaks of real mental health issues. Nothing that a good competent therapist for each and marriage counseling for both couldn’t have handled. But to have them trot out that old dog-and-pony show, when we now know that divorce had been seriously considered in 1979, and that neither seems to have been very happy after about 1971 or so, and that Yoko basically began living with Sam immediately after John’s death… well, then painting a picture of marital bliss shades from reasonable privacy to actually selling the public a bill of goods. Which stars do — but I find Beatles fans who still believe in the Ballad of John and Yoko to be exactly the same as Liberace fans who believed that “Lee just hasn’t found the right woman.”

  4. Avatar ODIrony wrote:

    Great conversation, folks! As I’m re-reading Tune In (this time the expanded edition), it strikes me that one of the things that must have been a magnetic attraction for John was precisely that Yoko assumed herself and demanded to be taken as an equal. Lewisohn frequently mention’s that John didn’t care about age, nor at least in the case of Lindy Ness about gender. Yoko’s self-esteem and intellect, her ability to make contact with John’s penchant for the unusual, the off-beat, the grotesque, must have been a powerful attraction.

    Now, I say all of this from the perspective of someone who despised her at the time of the Beatles’ breakup, and never quite gained any appreciation of her work until hearing “Feeling the Space” sometime in the mid-seventies. In the end, we can hate her for the fact that through her presence, and that of others – Klein, etc – the Beatles came to and end but realistically, the intimacies of one’s relationship with a significant other can only ultimately be understood by the two people in question.

    Again, great discussion!

  5. Avatar Karen Hooper wrote:

    MY ISSUES WITH SISTER YOKO:

    First: The facebook poster sounds like he/she is from the “JohnandYoko peace and love meme. That’s their usual reaction to any criticism.

    1. Yoko is not a feminist. Feminists embrace their sexuality. They don’t use it to control people or manipulate men. They don’t wear clothing that screams sexual power. (I’m not talking about dressing like a nun, but geez–does she EVER wear clothes where her boobs AREN’T hanging out?). Any woman who claims to be a feminist and does that is deluded or a liar.


    2. She’s disingenuous. She blatantly lied about pursuing John, knowing about the enormous popularity of the beatles (“the moptops or something”–really?”), and she treated John’s family shamefully.


    3. She made John’s world smaller, not larger. That’s not what lovers should do. Or even good friends. And she did it to further her own agenda.


    4. She denies her own role in the Beatles’ breakup. This “John made me come to the studio” is crap. She wasn’t a wind-up doll or a child; she could have stayed the hell home. She wanted to be there and have a presence.


    5. She insisted she was an artist of equal stature to John, although she had never been in a recording studio, made a record, or sung anywhere except probably in the shower.


    6. to me, the emperor has no clothes. And Yoko–you are buck naked.

    • “3. She made John’s world smaller, not larger. That’s not what lovers should do. Or even good friends. And she did it to further her own agenda.”

      This, this, 1000 times this. I think the sanest way for an outsider to judge a relationship is by the effects it has on the people in it. Being with each other seems to make John and Yoko worse versions of themselves. John gets more unsure, less productive, more paranoid, more self-righteous, and less funny after he’s with Yoko. (And he gets markedly better in the 1974-75 period.) Maybe he would’ve developed worse psychological health as he got older regardless of who he was with; but here’s the kicker for me: Yoko actively discouraged John from seeking any kind of therapy or counseling after Janov, and considered Janov to be a threat, just as she had Paul. It’s clear that Yoko’s own flaws exacerbated John’s, and vice-versa. People can be attracted because they reinforce each others’ flaws, and I think this is the case with John and Yoko.

      That’s why it always pains me when people hold J and Y up as a model couple (and people do!). I think to myself, “Is THAT what you think a healthy friendship looks like? Is that how you’re trying to live? I am really very sorry.” I genuinely worry for the person.

  6. Avatar Dan wrote:

    “in that day and age, women who stayed quiet — who didn’t push themselves forward — didn’t get the opportunities.”
    That applies to anyone, male or female, in any age. But being a Beatle Wife was a pretty good opportunity in itself. Yoko had a perfect public platform to promote her art, but she insisted on interfering in John’s. Jane Asher and Linda didn’t use their relationships to promote their acting/journalism careers. Even Heather Mills kept out of the recording studio!

    “One of the reasons that Yoko is so meaningful to other women (artists and not) is precisely how she demands an equal place at the table, even from John/Paul/George/Ringo.”
    Demanding is not the same as deserving.

    • @Dan, I think I probably agree with you more than not on these issues, but I personally keep a couple of things in mind at the same time:
      1) The whole “JohnandYoko” thing is very much of the age. There’s a kind of identity-loss experiment going on which fit with John and Yoko’s time and place. If Bill Gates and his wife suddenly started signing documents “BillandMelinda” and using the bathroom together, it would be a bit more notable.
      2) Demanding isn’t the same as deserving, but for the vast majority of the last 2,000 years, those who determined who was deserving have been white men. So while I don’t think Yoko’s stuff merits anywhere near the publicity it’s gotten — I don’t believe she’s a particularly important or interesting artist, and (not said often enough), basically stopped growing as an artist around ’68 — I also think it’s harmless, with the significant benefit of widening out the playing field, as it were. There are people who will argue that Yoko is Important or Yoko is a Genius, but even on her own terms she seems dated and gimmicky to me — in Andy Warhol’s words, “Corny.”

  7. Avatar ChelseaQW wrote:

    Mmmm.

    OK, I’ll just come out and say: I actually quite LIKE Yoko. For awhile I used to say that my favorite Beatles were Paul and Yoko. Which I’m sure sounds odd to a lot of people, but feels normal to me. First of all, I have NEVER bought into the “Yoko broke up the Beatles” thing because… that’s just stupid. So when I entered Beatles fandom (at age 12/13), I didn’t carry that prejudice into it. John was my initially my favorite Beatle, which I think also helped me form a positive impression of Yoko (because he would never shut up about how awesome she was). I enjoy some of her music, especially “Fly” which I think includes “Mrs Lennon,” which is cool and morbid. She has an interesting personal history. In the 1980 Playboy Interview she sometimes says some interesting things. (I mean, some of her ideas are batty, but some are decent) I met her once (she signed a thing for me) and might’ve flirted with her (?!?)… I mean, the woman is not without charm. I’m VERY sympathetic to all the unearned bullshit people have heaped on her over the years (yes, including sexism and racism). And I just kinda sometimes think she was Punk As Fuck in the 70s.

    What I don’t like is when she says disrespectful things about Paul. I don’t care about credit reversals and being outbid on the catalogue and all that shit… those are Paul’s issues. But the Salieri/Mozart comment was, IMO, extremely disrespectful. Even though it was inherently STUPID and the worst analogy ever, I’m sure there are people out there who bought that shit. And that makes me feel defensive/protective about Paul who should be able to laugh off something so idiotic but can’t (because of his own insecuritites). Paul and Yoko are a very odd combo, and I’m kinda always car wreck-fascinated by them. I sometimes think they secretly like each other, in a hate-fuck sorta way. Listening to the LIB tapes, there is some FASCINATING banter between Yoko and Paul. They strike me as being more alike than they are different. (But I digress…..)

    Oddly enough, I don’t get worked up about her marriage to John and whether or not it was good for him, because… well, John is a consenting adult. He married her (and went back to her), so if Yoko wasn’t good for him that’s on John. I mean, I feel bad for him sometimes, but she had to live with him, too. GAH.

    I will just ALWAYS want to push back when I hear people talk about how Bad Pussy Destroyed a Great Man.

    • Avatar Nancy Carr wrote:

      Chelsea, I agree that blaming Yoko for breaking up the Beatles is crazy — it was John’s choice to start down the breakup trail and keep going down it, IMO. I think, in Michael’s words, that he sometimes “hid behind Yoko” to do it, but that’s still far more on him than on her.
      .
      That “Salieri” comment says a lot about Yoko’s insecurities, I’d say. Why should she have continued to feel the need to put Paul down, especially after he helped broker her and John’s reconciliation? The thing that bugs me about her is that it feels like she’s continually lobbying for the position of #1 Person in John’s Life. The degree to which she’s built her public image around being his widow, even though she’s apparently had other serious relationships (with Sam Havadtoy, for example) seems sad to me.
      .
      I rather wonder if Yoko fears that SHE’S the Salieri to John’s Mozart. The public perception of her is often that she’s a much lesser artist, especially musically. And in term of artistic collaboration, after the first few experimental albums (“Two Virgins,” etc.) I don’t see them creating work in tandem so much, even though they talked about it a lot. Even on “Let It Be” John and Paul did songs that drew lyrics from both of them (“I’ve Got a Feeling”) and that they sang together (“Two of Us”). On “Abbey Road” they’re still contributing musical ideas to each other’s songs. But on “Double Fantasy,” the only non-experimental album John and Yoko made in tandem, their songs feel quite separate (and that apparently reflects the way they were recorded, according to Jack Douglas). I wonder if it irked/irks her that she and John didn’t/couldn’t collaborate musically with the same ease and effectiveness that John and Paul had.
      .

      Also: I agree that Paul and Yoko do seem rather alike. Which only makes sense, when we consider that they’re the two people John said he collaborated fully with.

  8. Avatar ChelseaQW wrote:

    OK… here’s what I see as the fundamental problem. John from his own self-centered POV, views Paul and Yoko as equals. Because he is viewing them relative to himself… he’s saying that they are of equal value to him as partners. And for that reason, he portrays them as artistic equals, which they absolutely are NOT. And I say that with all due resepct to Yoko, who is not without artistic talent. But to compare her to Paul McCartney is ludicrous. And this is what drives Paul insane, IMO. Paul earned his status with all the music he produced. Yoko didn’t. Yoko earned her status as a mildly interesting, marginally successful avant-garde artist. But she did not earn her way into the Beatles.

    The things that’s annoying is how John, with his childish, binary mentality, is always simultaneously comparing Paul to Yoko and pitting them against each other. He says it over and over again, these are the two partners of his life. But I think John conflates his emotional attachment to both of these people, or the pleasure of collaborating with them with artistic value. And it’s not the same thing. I’m sure he loved Yoko every bit as much as he loved Paul, but his artistic output with her simply doesn’t compare to this work with Paul. Everything John and Paul did together was GOLD. Those partnerships are NOT creatively equal. Emotionally, sure, they are of equal value to John. But… what’s love got to do with it? 🙂

    “I rather wonder if Yoko fears that SHE’S the Salieri to John’s Mozart.”

    @Nancy, this is genius! So astute.

    @ODIrony (awesome name, btw): “it strikes me that one of the things that must have been a magnetic attraction for John was precisely that Yoko assumed herself and demanded to be taken as an equal.”
    YES, this. Here’s the thing. If John Lennon is all of a sudden like “Oh My God, you’re an artistic genius and I love you! Come to the studio with me and my band, I’d love to hear what you think” then can we really get mad at Yoko for opening her mouth a few times? The important thing to remember is that she really DIDN’T know all of John and Paul’s crazy, co-dependent psychology when she stepped into it. How could she? Of course she knew who the Beatles were, but I totally believe she didn’t know about all the Stuart Sutcliffe drama, or John’s insane jealousy, etc. She really just knew that John brought her in and probably sold her some bullshit about how it would be just fine with the guys (and if not, don’t worry, they’ll come around). And honestly? If John is presenting her and treating her as an equal… isn’t it incumbent on her to live up to that? What was she supposed to do? Keep her mouth shut and be seen and not heard?
    Don’t get me wrong, I completely understand where Paul (and the others) were coming from at the time. And I definitely feel for him, but that’s because I know John and Paul’s backstory. But did Paul ever man up and say to John “Hey, Yoko’s terrific and I’m happy for you two, but I would prefer that in the studio it’s just us” ? I don’t think he did. So that’s on Paul, not Yoko.

    • “I’m sure he loved Yoko every bit as much as he loved Paul”

      I’m not sure about this at all, and get less sure the older I get and the more I learn about people. I think John and Yoko had a very brief period of incredible intensity — basically May ’68 to September ’69 — where Yoko pushed John to do a bunch of very public “tricks” to prove his devotion (the Two Virgins cover, the Bag One lithographs). This put him in the position of either having to commit to the One Great Love story, or to eventually say to the public, “You know that woman who I drew myself eating out? She dumped me.” For someone as proud (and as wounded) as John Lennon, that was intolerable. So for the rest of his life, he talked about how much he loved her, how special and remarkable and world-changing she was, while she… sat there. The Leibowitz picture.

      But I do think there was real passion there, of a sort, for a time. This was cooled by heroin addiction, John’s incredible neediness (which increased after his “divorce” from the Beatles), and Yoko’s simply being a pretty cool customer. John Lennon craved closeness to the point of disappearance; Yoko seems to crave the opposite — that everybody else be “assistants.” No boundaries versus impenetrable boundaries. Janov increased tensions between John and Yoko because it made John even more vulnerable; and he began giving Janov authority in his life that Yoko wanted for herself. By 1971, it’s clear that the bargain is, “I will let you cling to me if you always do everything I say.” And when John rebelled against that, as he inevitably had to because stasis is not natural, she kicked him to the curb in late ’72 early ’73. That, to me, is the end of the relationship. What happened from 1975-80 is something different.

      “But did Paul ever man up and say to John ‘Hey, Yoko’s terrific and I’m happy for you two, but I would prefer that in the studio it’s just us’ ? I don’t think he did. So that’s on Paul, not Yoko.”
      Well…sort of. Paul wanted the group to continue, and knew that if he said that, John would leave it. If you want the Beatles to keep going, as I think Paul clearly did in ’68 and ’69, you can understand the wait-it-out strategy. As well as Paul’s own conflict-aversion, which I agree is on him.

      • Avatar ChelseaQW wrote:

        @Michael: OK. I don’t really disagree with your take on John and Yoko’s relationship. I just… try not to think about it, because it’s depressing.

        “Well…sort of. Paul wanted the group to continue, and knew that if he said that, John would leave it. ”
        Right, but I guess my point is… that says more about John and Paul’s dysfunctions than it does about Yoko. Was it worth it for him (Paul)? To make those last three Beatle albums? Probably. It destroyed his life for awhile, obliterated his self-esteem and allowed John to forever scapegoat him, but I guess he’d probably do it all over again. It just seems like… I dunno. Why did all that mind-fuckery need to occur in the first place? It all comes back to John. Yoko is a tool in the break-up (I think most of us agree on that). John doesn’t have the balls to formally, properly end things with Paul so he tries to force Paul to do it (and eventually this actually works!). I HATE John for that. And I can’t help but bristle when Yoko gets blamed. That’s getting mad at the mistress but not the cheater.

        • “That’s getting mad at the mistress but not the cheater.”
          Yep. Utter bullshit.

          Things I get mad at Yoko for: being overbearing, disrespectful, controlling, unkind. Jerky. Things that, because I don’t know her and she’s not my friend, don’t really matter.
          Things I get mad at John for: systematically trying to break up the group from the moment he and Paul get back from New York. Something that really did/does matter, because The Beatles weren’t The Moody Blues.

          I think it’s important to push back, gently, on The Ballad, because some people really believe it. I had one couple tell me it was the closest thing they had to a religion. So if it’s that big in someone’s head, I think it’s worth saying, “Hold your horses. That’s a fantasy.” People have gotten killed over the concept of Virgin Birth; the world doesn’t need more myths, because when people hold reality up to myths, great suffering occurs. Lennon suffered a great deal, because he wasn’t grown-up enough to leave Yoko; Yoko suffered too, until John died. One thing that I think we can’t argue that Goldman got right was that Yoko after John seems much more comfortable in her own skin. The Ballad of John and Yoko hurt those two most of all.

          • Avatar Nancy Carr wrote:

            Michael, you wrote that “I think it’s important to push back, gently, on The Ballad, because some people really believe it. I had one couple tell me it was the closest thing they had to a religion.”
            .
            In what context, and did you get any sense they were joking? (Please say yes.) Ultimately, THAT is what bugs me about JohnandYoko, and about much of what Yoko has done since John’s death: promoting the Ballad as capital-T Truth. That gets in the way of my being able to appreciate Yoko’s work, and some of John’s solo work, far more than any of the breakup stuff. And Paul gets called the “PR guy!” It just boggles my mind.

          • @Nancy, they were absolutely NOT joking. It was an awkward moment, because I’m sure my face revealed some alarm.

          • Avatar ChelseaQW wrote:

            I hope I haven’t lost all credibility by saying I like Yoko. 🙂

          • Not with me, @Chelsea. It’s why I wrote the post and am trying to nurture the discussion. I genuinely think a lot of thoughtful, well-read Beatles fans struggle with it.

            Yoko had to have something going on to get John Lennon to fall in love, and stay in love. Her art and public persona is significant. Plus, it is undeniable that she has become an icon of empowerment and moxie to others. She’s reputed to be nice in person. And then there’s all this …other stuff. It’s a genuine conundrum.

      • Avatar Michael wrote:

        “John and Yoko had a very brief period of incredible intensity — basically May ’68 to September ’69 — where Yoko pushed John to do a bunch of very public “tricks” to prove his devotion (the Two Virgins cover, the Bag One lithographs).”

        I completely agree. And what does this sound like? There’s LSD (in earnest, from Sept. ’66 – February ’68), the Maharishi (August ’67 to April/May ’68), Janov (1970), Abbie Hoffman et al (Sept. 1971 – Nov. 1972), Harry Nilsson et al (late 1973 – January 1975), plus some things we sort-of know about from the Dakota lost years, like evangelicalism. Not to mention Klein, Magic Alex, etc., etc. In other words, Yoko was another one of John’s Next Big Things, for which he was constantly searching—especially after the Beatles stopped touring and he had much more time to himself, and had that much more time to behold the howling void and psychological trauma he carried. In every single one of those cases, John made some very dramatic, very public pronouncement(s). The difference is, Yoko was his lover, not a guru or a psychologist or an activist whose ideas he parroted in interviews and a new batch of songs. He very publicly left his wife for Yoko and decided to split up The Beatles for Yoko. Thus, as you say, when the Yoko Next Big Thing had run its natural course—as did all of John’s quick fixes—he was stuck in a way he could not undo with a simple “ah, he/they/it were a fraud, not the answer. I know now.” And unlike Janov, or the Maharishi, or even Klein, Yoko acted quickly and decisively to bring John under her thumb in a very comprehensive way, by undermining his sense of self-worth as a member of the Beatles, by introducing him to heroin, by forcing him to play very publicly by her rules and according to her ethos. John’s Dakota years are what happens when a very great, very scared artist is denied everything that inspires him and feeds the better part of his genius.

  9. Well, I’m no fan of Yoko the artist or Yoko the human being and certainly not of Yoko the would-be rock n roller, and I do believe that even her own words have established that she didn’t realize how important Lennon was until he was dead — but neither do I buy into the notion that John was some sort of unwitting dupe, a half-wit Mozart to her scheming Salieri. He consciously chose to join himself to her hip and whether at her instigation or his, forced her on the band, not something she could have pulled off on her own under any circumstances no matter how tough she was. And he left the band because he wanted to — wanted to, I believe, as early as 1966 while sitting around in Spain filming How I Won The War — not because she made him.
    .
    Yoko was the lever perhaps but John was the one on the business end of it.

    • Could not agree more, @Mythical. And that’s why any Beatle fan with a Yoko Problem, really has a John Problem.

      Of course, John had a problem, too — he, unlike Paul, couldn’t see that his greatest potential as an artist would be as part of a group. Lots of artists don’t really know what makes them great, or even what makes themselves tick. John was, as my wife would say, “high on his own supply.”

    • Avatar Karen Hooper wrote:

      @Mythical Monkey said: “but neither do I buy into the notion that John was some sort of unwitting dupe, a half-wit Mozart to her scheming Salieri. He consciously chose to join himself to her hip and whether at her instigation or his, forced her on the band, not something she could have pulled off on her own under any circumstances no matter how tough she was.”
      .
      John wasn’t an unwitting dupe but he was a person with overwhelming psychological issues who was easily manipulated by persons he viewed as his saviour.

      • “who was easily manipulated by persons he viewed as his saviour.”
        …and even MORE SO once he
        1) didn’t have Brian Epstein shielding him from the heaviest crazies (like for example The Process Church);
        2) was messed up on acid and worse (STP? synthetic DMT?) constantly; and
        3) probably meditated too intensely without proper instruction.

        The John of May ’68 is not the same guy as he was May ’67 or May ’64. Thinking that he is, is one of the major traps Beatles fans willingly fall into when digging into this issue. The one thing you can’t say to a John and Yoko fan, is that “fucking drugs wrecked John Lennon.”

        (BTW, click that link about DMT, it’s kinda neat.)

  10. Avatar Ruth wrote:

    “The things that’s annoying is how John, with his childish, binary mentality, is always simultaneously comparing Paul to Yoko and pitting them against each other.”

    I know I’m diverging from your overall point, (which I wholeheartedly agree with) Chelsea, and I apologize, but turn it over and look at this from Yoko’s point of view. We know John cast Paul up to her in public — “I wish I was back with Paul!” — and in private: “Paul is worth 25 million. How come we’re not worth that much? Go into business and make me a fortune so that we’re worth as much as Paul.” John may have gotten off the boat named Paul and gotten on the boat called Yoko, but he chained the “Paul” boat to his ankle and kept dragging it behind him and, when it suited him, used it as a stick to beat her with.

    Given how much John rants about Paul publicly during the breakup era, and how much Paul-mentioning he displayed publicly for the rest of his life, how sick do you think Yoko got of hearing John reminisce/complain/denounce/obsess over Paul, and being compared to him both artistically and as a person? Its like a new marriage where one spouse can’t stop obsessing over/comparing his new wife to his ex-wife. That would be bound to provoke resentment on Yoko’s part — both of John and of Paul.

    • Avatar Nancy Carr wrote:

      Great point, Ruth. I wonder how much Yoko, after the Beatles breakup, thought “wow, what have I gotten myself into?” I suspect it was one thing to be in “you and me against the world” mode while the Klein debacle/lawsuit was ongoing, and quite another to be married after the breakup was history.
      .
      And, I know I’ve said this in a comment on another post before, but I find John’s describing himself as getting off the Paul “boat” and getting on the Yoko one pretty disturbing. What kind of relationship is it if one partner sees himself or herself getting on the “boat” of another person? That analogy, to me, speaks of a scary level of dependency: “You set the course and I’ll be a passenger, OK?”

    • Avatar ChelseaQW wrote:

      Oh yes, absolutely, @Ruth! You’re not diverging from my point at all, you’re making it for me. 🙂 That was the other half of my argument and why I absolutely understand Yoko’s POV too. Who can function under the weight of that legacy? How can she not resent Paul? Their competition over John remains TO THIS DAY. Because Paul sure as hell is never letting go.
      Like I said in another thread, if I completely understand why Yoko wouldn’t even want/allow John and Paul in a room alone together.

      • Avatar Nancy Carr wrote:

        Chelsea, do you see Yoko and Paul as equally “never letting go”? I’d like to hear more of your take on that.
        .
        It’s interesting to me that Yoko felt threatened by John and Paul working together again while Linda evidently did not.

        • Avatar Ruth wrote:

          “It’s interesting to me that Yoko felt threatened by John and Paul working together again while Linda evidently did not.”

          I find that interesting as well, Nancy. I think much of that could be attributed to Linda, who certainly appears psychologically healthier overall than John, Yoko and (given his time in the Beatles) Paul. I don’t think anyone would dispute that Paul and Linda’s relationship overall was leaps and bounds healthier than either John and Yoko’s or John and Paul’s. I’d speculate that Linda felt less-threatened by John than Yoko did by Paul because 1) Linda didn’t regard herself as a musical artist, the way Yoko did, and therefore didn’t regard John as a rival for Paul’s creative attention, the way Yoko evidently viewed Paul 2) Linda, as I mentioned, seems to have been psychologically healthier 3) Unlike John, we have no evidence that Paul spent the ten years after the breakup constantly comparing her, his new wife/life to his previous songwriting partner/previous Beatles life. Really, Linda’s tolerance — even encouragement — of some sort of Lennon/McCartney reunion is remarkable, given how despicably John treated her, Paul, and her family during the breakup period.

          One of the points everyone keeps making is how Yoko’s actions indicate that she identified Paul, and particularly his creative/personal relationship with John, as a threat to her personal/creative relationship with John. A few authors have mentioned this as well, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen an in-depth discussion or analysis of “Why?” Why is Paul such a threat to Yoko? In the “Let it Be” tapes, its Paul whose urging the others not to force John into an either/or decision, and its Paul who provides the notes for “Two Virgins,” and accompanies John on “The Ballad of John and Yoko,” and its Paul who helps reunite John and Yoko during The Lost Weekend. During much of the breakup period, Paul appears to be adopting a strategy of somewhat grudging accommodation to the new Yoko-infused Status Quo: George is more vocally anti-Yoko than Paul is. Paul clearly chafed at Yoko’s presence, but he’s not the one who turns it into an either/or choice, John and Yoko do that. At what point, and why, did Yoko determine that Paul was an obstacle that needed to be removed in order for her to have the relationship with John that she wanted? Doggett mentions the flip side in You Never GIve Me Your Money when he talks about John’s reunification with Yoko, rather than Paul, in 1974 — “It appears Lennon had to choose between Ono and McCartney: he could not have both” — but no one discusses it from Yoko’s perspective.

          • Avatar ChelseaQW wrote:

            — “It appears Lennon had to choose between Ono and McCartney: he could not have both”

            @Ruth, I think the simplest answer is that Yoko provided an ultimatum. That has always seemed obvious to me, without having explicitly read it. I guess it’s the kind of thing people can assume but not prove.

            As to why Paul was so threatening to Yoko, I also think the simplest answer is also the one people don’t like to talk about: that John was at one point crazy-in-love with Paul and that he remained obsessed with him (perhaps intermittently obsessed would be more accurate?) until he died. That is the blunt truth as I see it. What was one of the first things Yoko said about Paul after hooking up with John? “If he was a woman, he’d be a threat.” I think it’s clear what she means by that. Well, the only reason to stipulate “If he was a woman” is because she initially assumes John couldn’t feel for a man what he could feel for a woman. But I think she eventually realized that assumption was off the mark.
            Maybe there are other explanations (i’d love to hear some!) but that is honestly the one that makes the most sense to me, over and over again.

          • Avatar Karen Hooper wrote:

            Paul is a threat to Yoko because of his lifelong importance to John, emotionally and creatively. Doggett’s comment about John believing he couldn’t have both applies to Yoko too.

          • Avatar ChelseaQW wrote:

            @Ruth: As far as Linda goes, I agree with all your reasoning. I also always got the feeling that Paul was totally open about John with Linda, whereas John was absolutely not open about Paul with Yoko. Of course this is just an impression, and I could be wrong. But Paul seems to have a much better handle on his feelings for John (post break up) than vice versa. And I think it’s because Linda helped him work through all those feelings openly instead of making them a weird, dirty secret. Linda’s like, “I totally get it. He’s your best friend, of course you love him,” etc and normalized Paul’s feelings. That’s what “Maybe I’m Amazed” is about, right? Paul’s in the middle of something that he doesn’t really understand, and Linda is the only woman who could ever help him understand. 🙂

            So why would Linda feel threatened? She wants her husband to be happy and repair this massively important friendship (and/or partnership, if that was a possibility).

    • Avatar Karen Hooper wrote:

      @Ruth said: “Given how much John rants about Paul publicly during the breakup era, and how much Paul-mentioning he displayed publicly for the rest of his life, how sick do you think Yoko got of hearing John reminisce/complain/denounce/obsess over Paul, and being compared to him both artistically and as a person? Its like a new marriage where one spouse can’t stop obsessing over/comparing his new wife to his ex-wife. That would be bound to provoke resentment on Yoko’s part — both of John and of Paul.”
      .
      [big head nod here]. Yes. It was almost as though John was doth protesting too much–something even Paul alluded to (‘he’s slagging me off to clear the decks with Yoko’.) John thought if he criticized Paul at every turn, Yoko would rest easy. Unfortunately for him, Yoko was too smart for that. The more John slagged Paul off, the more threatened Yoko felt.

  11. Avatar ChelseaQW wrote:

    It seems to me that Paul, over time, has taken complete ownership over his relationship with John. In other words, Yoko has her relationship with John, she has John&Yoko, but Paul has Lennon/McCartney and Yoko needs to stay the fuck out of that. My feeling is that Paul does not believe Yoko gets to inherit John’s entire legacy/memory. If we go by John’s own account, Paul has ample reason to feel this way, because John repeatedly (and publicly) divided his life into Paul (part 1) and Yoko (part 2). In the hot haze of the Beatles-break up flame wars John sometimes tried to rewrite history in regards to how miserable he was with Paul, but unfortunately for John we can watch the videos. It’s obvious that they were very happy together for a long time (not perfect, but at the very least extremely productive), sometimes deliriously so. And I think that at some point Paul made peace with the break-up and just decided to cherish those 12 years or so that they had. But he’s (Paul) never letting go of those 12 years before Yoko showed up.
    As for Yoko… I tend to think she wants John’s entire legacy for herself. I mean, I can understand not wanting to share it. But I don’t think she has much of a choice, because people will always love the Beatles, and always love Lennon/McCartney.

    • Avatar Nancy Carr wrote:

      That’s my sense too, Chelsea (about Paul’s holding on to his sense of his early relationship with John). “Early Days” on “New” is explicitly about that:

      “They can’t take it from me, if they tried
      I lived through those early days
      So many times I had to change the pain to laughter
      Just to keep from getting crazy

      Dressed in black from head to toe
      Two guitars across our backs
      We would walk the city roads
      Seeking someone who would listen to the music
      That we were writing down at home.

      [Chorus:]
      But they can’t take it from me, if they tried
      I lived through does early days
      So many times I had to change the pain to laughter
      Just to keep from getting crazy

      Hair slicked back with vaseline
      Like the pictures on the wall of the local record shop
      Hearing noises we were destined to remember
      We willed the thrill to never stop

      May sweet memories of friends from the past
      Always comes to you, when you look for them
      And your inspiration long may it last
      May it come to you time and time again

      Now everybody seems to have their own opinion
      Of who did this and who did that
      But as for me I don’t see how they can remember
      When they weren’t where it was at

      [Chorus:]
      They can’t take it from me, if they tried
      I lived through those early days
      So many times I had to change the pain to laughter
      Just to keep from getting crazy

      I lived through those early days
      I lived through those early days

    • Avatar Karen Hooper wrote:

      @ Chelsea said: “As for Yoko… I tend to think she wants John’s entire legacy for herself.”

      This. She has spent the past 35 years refashioning John’s legacy to the point that he’s barely recognizable.

      • She can refashion all she wants; that’s just for her comfort during her lifetime, regardless of what she thinks. The legacy — and artist — is beyond her, or anyone’s, reach. For one thing, there’s a LOT of source material out there on Lennon; once you release “The Lost Lennon Tapes,” all that is out and can’t be put back in the vault. For another, she can pump stuff into the media, but it’s becoming less and less effective. “John was a hitter!” — knew that already. “John was bisexual!” — knew that, too.

        After her death, I expect there will be a bunch of “revelations” in the printed archives that she has controlled for 35 years, but smart folks will take that with a grain of salt; do we really doubt that she is tossing anything that’s not flattering to herself?

        But the work is there. And Lennon’s work from 1962-68 is what he will be remembered for.

        • Avatar Karen Hooper wrote:

          @Michael said: “After her death, I expect there will be a bunch of “revelations” in the printed archives that she has controlled for 35 years, but smart folks will take that with a grain of salt; do we really doubt that she is tossing anything that’s not flattering to herself?
          But the work is there. And Lennon’s work from 1962-68 is what he will be remembered for.”
          .

          I hope so. I don’t think Sean is nearly as motivated as his mother to perpetuate a revisionist portrayal of John and that once Yoko is gone John’s entire history can be celebrated.

  12. Avatar Karen Hooper wrote:

    This:

    “Ono’s weirdest piece of video trickery comes on the recently released DVD “Lennon Legend: The Very Best of John Lennon.” On one film, for the classic song “#9 Dream,” Ono has edited herself into the original video. There you will find her mouthing the backup vocals that were sung on the original hit recording by Lennon’s girlfriend at that time, May Pang.

    Pang, of course, was not thrilled to hear this had happened. “She is trying to erase everyone who had anything to do with John with her alone,” says Pang, who is a popular figure in the New York music scene. “I am definitely upset at her misleading everyone into thinking she is on ‘#9 Dream.’ She had nothing to do with this particular album and it was John’s only No.1 album and No. 1 single during his lifetime. Boy, do I understand how Paul feels.”

    I don’t know how Ono fans reconcile this bit of treachery with their admiration of her.

    • @Karen, I honestly think a certain type of Lennon fan has decided that whatever she does, she knows best. There’s a submissiveness, celebrity-worship, and a profound guilt involved.

      • Avatar Karen Hooper wrote:

        …and a freaky kind of dumbing down. It’s like your facebook commentor: “what a load of shit” is what you say when you don’t have data to support your position, but you cling to it anyway.

        • I think it’s worse than that, @Karen — I think it’s a relic of the Culture Wars. John’s on Our Side, so any examination of his life and marriage — which he and his wife made into fair game, over and over and over — is seen as a slam against the legacy of the counterculture. Anti-feminist, anti-artist, anti-peace. But that silly. “Just gimme some truth/all I want is the truth.”

      • Avatar ChelseaQW wrote:

        I just want to be clear that I’m not this person. 🙂 I feel very detached from Yoko, so while I am often horrified by her I am also sometimes amused and even impressed by her. I don’t feel as objective about John and Paul, who I feel like I “care” about- as much as one can care about random celebrities that you don’t know (one of whom is dead).

        • Yes, agreed, @Chelsea. John and Paul are like favorite Uncles. Yoko is like the Aunt who my Uncle married when I was 30 or something. “I wonder what he sees in her? I mean, she’s OK I guess.” There’s a general “glad you exist” but no heart-connection for me there. So when she does something nutty, like call Paul Salieri or box Julian out of some of his father’s belongings, I think, “C’mon, lady. Do your art and live your life and maybe see a therapist so you can stop acting out?” But not a lot of vitriol. My vitriol is for fans who swallow the Ballad — for reasons earlier in the thread.

    • Avatar ChelseaQW wrote:

      “There you will find her mouthing the backup vocals that were sung on the original hit recording by Lennon’s girlfriend at that time, May Pang.”

      Gross.

  13. Avatar Hologram Sam wrote:

    .
    What’s with having two black kids? The song is about he and John for crying out loud.
    .
    I like the video. It’s an eternal story, not specific to John & Paul. The story repeats every generation, every century, with different players of different backgrounds and nationalities. What I’m glad they didn’t do was make the video two young John&Paul lookalikes in early Liverpool. What would be the point of something so literal? We already have “Nowhere Boy” for that.
    .
    Yoko was fortunate that she fit a certain post-adolescent fantasy/fetish/ideal that John had been carrying around with him: An art school wife. Dress in black, Asian (he admitted this was part of his fantasy), artsy, intellectual. He met Cynthia in art school, but she was more the conventional wife (he remade her in his childhood blonde Bardot fantasy). His ideal was a freak; a mirror image of himself; someone who …understands. Cyn was from art school, but she was not a freak like John & Yoko.
    .
    Yoko stalked him because she saw him filling a need; John resisted but ultimately allowed it because he saw her filling a need: A wife/lover who could also be a best pal. Men of John’s generation (and the attitude continues) believed you could have your buddies who shared your interests, your creative partners… and your wife, who loving and nurturing but not… someone who could share interests.
    .
    Yoko was probably flattered and baffled by how much he projected onto her. How he didn’t seem to care about her as a person, but as a symbol.
    .
    I remember Chris Rock doing a standup bit about the myth of the Perfect SoulMate. His fantasy: she loves Seinfeld AND Wu -Tang Clan! A comedy nerd who appreciates his taste in hip hop. He finally concludes such a thing is so rare as to be impossible. You can’t wait for someone who is a mirror image of yourself. You’ll stay alone.
    .
    John wanted all people blended into one soulmate: Someone he could sit up with all night playing with tape recorders, someone he could jam with, someone he could piss off the straights with, someone he could eat out and then discuss philosophy with. Cyn wasn’t that person; couldn’t be. But in reality, neither was Yoko.

    • Avatar Karen Hooper wrote:

      “I like the video. It’s an eternal story, not specific to John & Paul. The story repeats every generation, every century, with different players of different backgrounds and nationalities. What I’m glad they didn’t do was make the video two young John&Paul lookalikes in early Liverpool. What would be the point of something so literal? We already have “Nowhere Boy” for that.”
      .
      To each his or her own of course. I think the point of making it so literal is that Paul is singing about his literal experience–one that has been denied him for the past 35 years. That’s the whole point of the song. Nothing ambiguous about it.
      .
      Interesting point about Yoko filling a boyhood fantasy for John, post Bardot. I tend to think he fell in love with the fantasy more the the reality.

      • “he fell in love with the fantasy more the the reality.”

        It happens, right? I think people with strong imaginations, artists, are particularly susceptible. And also particularly susceptible to falling out of love when reality crashes in.

    • @Sam, you beat me to something with this. As I was falling asleep last night I was thinking about the thread, and realized there was something I’d meant to put in the original post, but had forgotten: John’s fantasy — from Skywriting By Word of Mouth — of a mystical dream woman from the East. It’s real Sax Rohmer stuff, racist but in a positive way. And you hit on the operative word: adolescent. John and Yoko’s relationship was fundamentally adolescent.

      You can see this in how Lennon was dressing in 1980; how obsessed they both are about keeping their weight/shape as it was at 17; how they endlessly talk about Their Relationship in interviews and self-dramatize; how, as Ruth has mentioned, they duck responsibility for anything. John’s room is an adolescent’s room, a hideaway filled with all his favorite stuff, where he can go and lock the door and do drugs and look at porn.

      All of which is fine. Horses for courses. Except when people really believe in it, holding it up as a kind of modern version of Courtly Love — when it was really closer to a counterculture version of Citizen Kane with D/S undertones. A tycoon at his zenith throws his wife over for a struggling artist, puts her in the spotlight via his money and connections (damaging everyone in the process), then after it’s clear that the public does not share his adoration, retreats to a hermetically sealed fantasy world underwritten by his wealth.

      Contrast this to Lennon’s actual adolescence, in which he was utterly focused on the outside world — he was doing The Daily Howl to prepare to be a writer/artist; he was hanging with Stu, and then with Paul; he was leading a band. Yoko is, without question, a retreat for John, a diminution of him not an expansion, and that is I guess why I’ve never understood the worship of John and Yoko as a couple. You can see John — supposedly the reason any Beatles fan is interested in the first place — becoming less and less present, less and less a person any sane woman would want to be with. Some women’s Courtly Love fetish goes quite deep?

      • Avatar Karen Hooper wrote:

        @Michael said: “A tycoon at his zenith throws his wife over for a struggling artist, puts her in the spotlight via his money and connections (damaging everyone in the process), then after it’s clear that the public does not share his adoration, retreats to a hermetically sealed fantasy world underwritten by his wealth.”
        .
        I want this embroidered on a pillow. Your assessment of the “Ballad” is spot on, Michael.
        .

        “Just like John, and Paul, Yoko carries around a very wounded little person inside her, and unlike someone whose external circumstances force them to change, her great wealth and power have made it possible for her to stay unhealed, and act out in ways that haven’t been kind. “

        .
        At the risk of sounding uncharitable, maybe Yoko just is self-centred and egotistical. There’s nothing in her personal narrative (or what we know about it) that shows us a different kind of person. I think the difficult times she’s experienced in her life only served to set those traits in concrete.

  14. Avatar Karen Hooper wrote:

    @Michael said: “Nancy, they were absolutely NOT joking. It was an awkward moment, because I’m sure my face revealed some alarm.”
    .
    Truly an OMG moment. The sound of Michael’s jaw hitting the ground could be heard for miles. 🙂

  15. Let’s not forget, Yoko also froze Pete Shotton out of John’s life. Pete was certainly not artistic competition, he was just John’s oldest mate.
    *
    It’s pretty clear that it was all about control. She controlled who he associated with, she controlled his money (and was very good with it), she controlled where he travelled. She even gave him a child and said “Here, you raise him” in order to tie him down further. Every aspect of those final 5 years screams control.
    *
    It may be that it’s no more complicated than that. It wasn’t about money, it wasn’t even about promoting her own career. It was simply about controlling him.

  16. Avatar Hologram Sam wrote:

    I’m curious what Mark Lewisohn will have to say in his third volume. And will he have to work around Yoko, or will she talk to him?

    • Oh, me too. The third volume will reveal the brief he’s been working under all these years. Is all this just embroidery, or will he go where the evidence points, no matter what?

      Reality doesn’t care what we think is possible. For example: earlier in the thread we had a commenter asking why in the world Yoko would consider Paul a threat? There is an answer that, accurate or not, is by far the most logical, most obvious, and simplest. But “going there” requires us to admit that a public person may be able to hide a really fundamental part of themselves under the most intense scrutiny — which begs the question: in the end, how reliable are the tools of reportage and research? Few people are comfortable with existential questions regarding their professions; yet after one reaches a certain level of mastery, they become inevitable (cf. Robert Benchley and the value of comedy, @Sam).

      Volume Three will tell us almost as much about Mark Lewisohn as it will the Beatles.

      My guess is that Lewisohn’s schedule will solve his Yoko problem to some degree. But if Yoko is alive when Lewisohn begins to research 1967-70, she will never, repeat never, submit to him — because that is how she’s see it. But whether she cooperates or not, the whole conventional narrative will fall apart at that point, and will be replaced by a more nuanced, ultimately more interesting (but less romantic) picture.

      • Avatar Ruth wrote:

        “For example: earlier in the thread we had a commenter asking why in the world Yoko would consider Paul a threat? There is an answer that, accurate or not, is by far the most logical, most obvious, and simplest.”

        I was the one who asked that question, both because I’m very interested in what everyone else thinks, and because I personally think there’s been far too little “why?” regarding the hard questions in Beatles historiography. Far too many authors prefer to repeat the accepted wisdom, because asking “why” on some topics leads them down risky and unpopular avenues. But If you want a clearer picture, you can’t leave “why” out of the equation, even if its leads you down paths that are unpopular and ultimately speculative. So long as you differentiate between authorial speculation, authorial interpretation of evidence, and hard evidence, theorize away!
        ———-
        Then see if your theory fits in with other related issues. The”simplest, most logical, and obvious reason” explaining why Yoko regarded Paul as the preeminent threat to her relationship with John also helps explain what Nancy and I were discussing: why Linda didn’t regard John as an equivalent threat to her relationship with Paul.

        • @Ruth, I’m with you on this. My “simplest, most logical” reason that Yoko treated Paul as her main rival for John’s affections was… he was the main rival for John’s affections. And Linda didn’t feel the same threat because Paul liked women better than he did men. Right or wrong, the theory that emerged through the “Were John and Paul Lovers?” thread explains the actions of all four people quite efficiently, fits with everything we know, and is utterly predictive of what happened next. The only thing we don’t have is physical confirmation; a letter from one of them spelling all this out — but we wouldn’t. (Or maybe this tape has something on it?)

          How many books have been written about Lennon and McCartney, and on that period specifically, and not one of them has seriously suggested that John might be a bisexual man in love with his songwriting partner and closest adult companion? Now, we have writers timidly peeking out and saying, “Gee, it’s almost as if John was in love with Paul.” Has the evidence changed? Not much. Have we as a society become more educated and tolerant? Yes. There were plenty of lesbians before the Kinsey Report on the Human Female, but a lot of people thought otherwise. The conclusions we come to are bounded by the prejudices of our era, and this obvious fact becomes dangerous when people practicing arts (like history or medicine) claim they are practicing sciences.

          History is not, in the end or even the beginning, based on “hard evidence.” A letter saying “I love Paul” with hearts all over it in John’s handwriting, signed by Lennon in the presence of a witness, is not interpretation-free hard evidence like a barometric reading or a counting of coins in a trove. It is a data point of a sort, but it’s subject to so much interpretation that I think calling such stuff hard evidence is problematic to say the least. From 1964-2000 or so, the only reasonable interpretation of that mythical letter would’ve been “I love Paul (as a friend, in a non-sexual way)” and any author that suggested another reading was ridiculed and defamed. Even Goldman didn’t go there. Now, given other data points, and the changing sexual mores of the West, a sexual/romantic interpretation of that letter would be somewhat more accepted.

          But — and this is what I’m endlessly banging on about, sorry — that’s us, not the letter, and certainly not the writer of the letter. Most “hard evidence” reflects solely what the biases of the researcher allows it to reflect. Keeping this in mind is paramount, but there is a fetish in the historical community to treat its craft as a branch of science, rather than literature, and this emerged in the late 1800s-early 1900s, when science was granted a special cultural authority over “softer” stuff. It has not, IMHO, been a good development for history, even though it might have been for historians.

          There has been little “why” in Beatles historiography because historians realize that one’s answer to “why” is a direct window into themselves. “Why” in a topic like this, is risky; to suggest the possibility of a romantic relationship between John and Paul makes people wonder about your own sexual mores — whether you are part of the proper tribe. And academia is sensitive to these kinds of issues, more than ever before. There is great risk in writing history; when you are dealing with people, their thoughts and motivations, it is ALL authorial speculation, and in this way I think perhaps the ancients’ conception of it was more honest, or at least more workable. History is much more like police work than it is chemistry, and like cops, historians are in some sense to be given great sympathy. They are people driven by a craving for certainty, who are destined to find only likelihood. And often, not very much of that.

          • Avatar Ruth wrote:

            “A letter saying “I love Paul” with hearts all over it in John’s handwriting, signed by Lennon in the presence of a witness, is not interpretation-free hard evidence like a barometric reading or a counting of coins in a trove.”

            I wouldn’t categorize that hypothetical letter as “hard evidence” either, Michael. When I mentioned distinguishing between authorial speculation, interpretation, and hard evidence, what I should have clarified was the essential aspect of documentation. There is lots of hard evidence in Beatles historiography — contracts, birth certificates, sales figures — but when the author mentions the information contained in that evidence but doesn’t tell you where they got that information — when they don’t tell you where they got that hard evidence by citing a source — its difficult to separate those actual, indisputable facts from other, less credible information and from authorial speculation. I entered Beatles historiography as a blank slate a few years ago, and would read a biography which would make claims/interpretations/convey hard facts and lesser “facts” but they never tell me where they got that information. This made it impossible for me, in my ignorance of the topic, to figure out what was hard fact/disputable evidence/interpretation/speculation. Which, as a historian, was about as enjoyable for me as chewing glass.

          • But wait — contracts are often disputed; birth certificates forged; sales figures fudged. (Witness Brian’s buying a bunch of boxes of “Love Me Do”, long rumored, now accepted fact?)

            So even “hard evidence” requires a kind of interpretation on the part of the historian, who is often painfully naive. You wouldn’t characterize that hypothetical love letter as hard evidence, but you would characterize the Beatles reaching #17 on the charts as a true reflection of audience demand — which it turns out it was not. That chart position was “hard evidence” created by fraud one step below. It is like planting a gun with a fingerprint at a crime scene. The gun is there; it bears the fingerprint. It is hard evidence of the kind seldom questioned because — well, where would it end?

            It is that faith in “hard evidence” that makes journalists and historians painfully easy to manipulate. Just know what they take seriously, and manipulate that. Don’t lie, but work one level lower, creating facts that support your narrative. This is why the history of intelligence, for example, is laughable.

            I’m not trying to argue you anywhere in particular, @Ruth, only to highlight these issues, which I think are seldom discussed.

          • Avatar ChelseaQW wrote:

            I have nothing constructive to add to this discussion, but really wanted to let you know @Ruth and @Michael, that I am seriously enjoying it. From my POV as a consumer (i.e. not being a journalist) I don’t think I’ve ever heard such an excellent discussion on journalism… you’ve given me so much to think about. This blog is the Bee’s Knees.

          • @Ruth’s the pro, @Chelsea. I’m just a concerned citizen. (Who’s read a TON about the 60s, and sees how that history got manipulated. There’s a playbook, and it works. Historians and journalists and anybody else performing “the watchdog function” for our society need to be a lot growlier.)

          • Avatar ChelseaQW wrote:

            You guys are bringing up some very REAL stuff for me here. Particularly the historical counter-narrative I need to provide to my children, the oldest of whom is already being taught history from a White Supremacist Viewpoint in 1st grade public school. It’s a constant struggle for me, gauging how much info is too much at what stage of development… UGH. All I can say is, it’s one thing to consume a bullshit view of history, but it’s quite another to be expected to regurgitate it, especially when it’s actively harmful to humanity. Thank you for providing the discourse in a context that is relatively “safe” for me to deal with emotionally right now. 🙂

          • Avatar ChelseaQW wrote:

            Just saw this. Made me laugh, with respect to your comment.

          • That’s great.

            My instinct is that the J/P/Y/L friendship could’ve worked, if John and Yoko hadn’t been so emotionally damaged. There was goodwill there, and then all the sudden it was nothing but disdain. (BTW, I don’t believe the “you and your Jap tart” story — it sounds like how an American thinks British people talk to each other. What do you think?)

  17. Avatar Hologram Sam wrote:

    .
    A tycoon at his zenith throws his wife over for a struggling artist, puts her in the spotlight via his money and connections (damaging everyone in the process), then after it’s clear that the public does not share his adoration, retreats to a hermetically sealed fantasy world underwritten by his wealth.
    .
    Citizen Dr. Winston O’Boogie.
    .
    John’s boyhood fetish was the blonde bombshell type. Once he got famous, he could satisfy it to his heart’s (and other organs’) content. No doubt there were thousands of Bardot types available. But once he was sated, what else was there to do? The post-adolescent fantasy: The artsy intellectual. There were journalists and actresses to fit that bill and go gaga over (He must have been babbling when he dropped the Jesus quote on Maureen Cleave).
    .
    Yoko was someone to hide behind. “You go talk to the lawyers, I’ll be upstairs.” She’s an artist [check] she’s “oriental” [check] she’s damaged from a traumatic childhood[check] and Bonus! she’s “good” with money! She can buy cows and bully the suits while I play with my drum machine.

  18. Avatar ChelseaQW wrote:

    “John and Yoko’s relationship was fundamentally adolescent.”

    Blech. I’m squicked by how correct this sounds.
    You all have made fine points, but can I play Devil’s Advocate for a minute? While I absolutely agree that Yoko was/is controlling (and definitely agree that John liked to be controlled), I’m not sure she was 100% cold and power-mad all the time. I think it’s more likely that she enjoyed being the dominant partner AND that she loved John as well. John and Yoko seemed genuinely into each other for at least the first 2-3 years. But she’s not Hitler or a cartoon.
    @Michael- boy, I would love to read that manuscript.

    • @Chelsea, my sense with Yoko has always been that she does what she does because she is still terrified, on a basic level, of being destitute again. This explains her behavior’s excessiveness, while still giving her the space to be loved and loving — not a stereotype, nor a cartoon villain, but simply (!) a really bright, really driven woman scarred by war as a child and doing the best she can as an adult.

      Two clicks on Google: http://ajw.asahi.com/article/behind_news/people/AJ201312050082

      Just like John, and Paul, Yoko carries around a very wounded little person inside her, and unlike someone whose external circumstances force them to change, her great wealth and power have made it possible for her to stay unhealed, and act out in ways that haven’t been kind. I genuinely pray that she’s been able find some peace — not “peace,” but genuine personal contentment — a sense of serenity, happiness and wholeness as this world turns. You know, we talk a lot about all these people on Dullblog, but please when you’re reading my posts or comments, know that there’s such love and compassion for all of them. ALL of them.

      Skywriting‘s published, @Chelsea. Easily found on Amazon for a buck or two.

    • Avatar Nancy Carr wrote:

      Chelsea, I also believe that Yoko genuinely cared for John, and that she’s no cartoon villain. As much I dislike the ongoing promulgation of the Ballad of J&Y, I have a good deal of sympathy for Yoko as a person.
      .
      For one thing, I think she, and Linda to a lesser extent, found themselves in pretty impossible positions once they married John and Paul. After the loss of Brian, and then the loss of the Lennon/McCartney partnership and the structure of the group, John and Paul were both deeply needy. When the band broke up they pretty much lost the whole extended circle of people (George Martin, Geoff Emerick, Mal Evans, etc. etc.) who had supported them both practically and emotionally. And both John and Paul took all those needs, which had been spread out over a number of people, and put them on ONE woman each.
      .
      Now that might sound romantic at first — “you’re all I need!” — but I bet it got scary pretty fast. “Meet ALL my needs!” Yoko got a much harder deal, because John was both more emotionally damaged and more pharmaceutically adventurous than Paul. I think she deserves props for helping to keep him alive and for giving him some direction/activities in the late 60s and early 70s that gave him some kind of balance.
      .
      And I don’t think Linda’s gotten enough credit for pulling Paul back from the brink during that late 60s/early 70s period. From what I’ve read he was depressed and drinking very heavily during their initial time in Scotland, and Paul has said it was Linda who held things together. When I imagine living in a rustic, fairly isolated cottage with a young child, a newborn, and a depressed, drunken husband, man do I give Linda props for hanging in there and helping to spur Paul on to work. (I also think “Ram” doesn’t get enough recognition as a work of spousal collaboration, but I’ve banged on about that album enough on this site that I’ll stop there.)
      .
      In my opinion BOTH Yoko and Linda deserve more compassion, and more respect, than they tend to get from many Beatles fans.

      • Avatar Ruth wrote:

        “And I don’t think Linda’s gotten enough credit for pulling Paul back from the brink during that late 60s/early 70s period. From what I’ve read he was depressed and drinking very heavily during their initial time in Scotland, and Paul has said it was Linda who held things together.”

        I think some of this lack of appreciation for Linda’s strength in this time period could be attributed to how neither Paul nor Linda even talked about Paul’s depression until the 1984 Playboy interview, by which time the shallow, Teflon image of “Macca” was well established. And even when Paul did mention it in 1984, it seems to have passed over a lot of people’s heads: when Doyle’s book came out, there were a lot of “revelations” about how depressed Paul was during this time period, and about how Linda saved him.

        But the other part is simply that a lot of Beatles writers and fans don’t or can’t look at it from Linda’s perspective. The amount of strength she demonstrates here is admirable and remarkable.

        Her situation is terrible: The fans hate her, because she had the audacity to marry the “Cute” Beatle; the mainstream British press hates her because she’s not Jane Asher; the rock and roll press hates her family because of the Klein/Eastman conflict. Her NY friends are angry that she’s not talking to them.

        Meanwhile, she’s trying to cope with a fragile seven year old and a newborn baby. Having a newborn baby is one of the most stressful things you will ever have to cope with in your entire life, period, even under the most idyllic of circumstances. Even if Mary was the most well-behaved baby in the history of the world, Linda is still having to change diapers 5/6 times a day and feeding every two and a half-three hours, so she’s averaging about six hours of sleep a night. Later, when Mary is crawling, Linda can’t take her eyes off of her for one second, because otherwise Mary might put something in her mouth and choke on it, or toddle herself right off the end of the bloody edge of the Mull of Kintyre. Linda is doing all the cooking, cleaning, and parenting, because Paul is drinking, “feeling worthless,” not getting out of bed, and having a nervous breakdown. Linda somehow manages to deal with all this stuff and still coax Paul out of his depression and back to work. She must have had an enormous amount of patience, compassion, and a spine of steel.

        • @Ruth, this is marvelous, building on @Nancy’s own marvelous comment.

          I also think that Paul’s depression has been understated because it went directly against the Lennon Remembers narrative. Far from being a narcissistic egomaniac, Paul was heartbroken over what John was doing to The Beatles; out of the four of them, he seems to have been the one who recognized what we all knew/know. To watch the post-India period from that viewpoint is to suffer with Paul, be angry with George and Ringo for being so weak and profligate, and be furious with John and Yoko. What Beatle fan wants that? Much easier to do what Paul seems to want us to do, which is brush it off, minimize it in that stiff-upper-lip-way.

          Linda was heroic.

        • Avatar Nancy Carr wrote:

          “The fans hate her, because she had the audacity to marry the “Cute” Beatle; the mainstream British press hates her because she’s not Jane Asher; the rock and roll press hates her family because of the Klein/Eastman conflict. Her NY friends are angry that she’s not talking to them.”
          .
          Very good point, Ruth. When I add that to all the incessant child-care tasks you describe, I respect Linda even more for surviving that Scotland period and coming out with her marriage and family intact.
          .
          Also, I wish I could upvote this 1000 times: “Having a newborn baby is one of the most stressful things you will ever have to cope with in your entire life, period, even under the most idyllic of circumstances.” PREACH!

        • Avatar ChelseaQW wrote:

          @Ruth: “Having a newborn baby is one of the most stressful things you will ever have to cope with in your entire life, period, even under the most idyllic of circumstances.”

          Word x 100000!

      • Avatar Karen Hooper wrote:

        @Nancy said “In my opinion BOTH Yoko and Linda deserve more compassion, and more respect, than they tend to get from many Beatles fans.”
        .
        I’ll respect Yoko when: she admits she was disingenuous in her narrative about how she met John and what she knew of the Beatles; when she admits she mistreated his Liverpool family, including Julian; when she admits she was a willing participant in the Beatles’ deconstruction; when she admits she narrowed John’s world, to his detriment; when she admits she’s been unfair to Paul and the other Beatles in business dealings—which means I’ll never respect her, because she will never do any of these things.

        • Avatar Nancy Carr wrote:

          Karen, when I say “more respect and compassion than they tend to get from many Beatles fans,” I don’t mean giving either Yoko or Linda a pass on all their behavior or adopting either as a role model — I literally mean “more respect and compassion” than the kind of name calling and super-harsh blaming that is sometimes directed at them.
          .
          All the behaviors of Yoko that you list bother me as well, some of them (like her treatment of Julian) a great deal. But I do tend to agree with Michael G. that those behaviors have their roots in childhood damage, and that they must be causing her to suffer in addition to the harm they cause/have caused others. I don’t think that to understand all is to forgive all, but I think someone as seemingly locked in to defending a strict storyline as Yoko is has got to be in some real pain. That, to me, is where the compassion can come in.

          • someone as seemingly locked in to defending a strict storyline as Yoko is has got to be in some real pain

            100% agree with this. Only if you think money can buy you happiness has Yoko “gotten away with” anything. Whatever she’s done, she’s suffered for sure.

            Which is not to defend/excuse her missteps and misdeeds, only to take solace in the essentially balanced nature of this place we’re all in — you cause someone suffering, you get your own suffering. For me, the times when I’ve caused the most suffering have been when I’ve been focused on the misdeeds of somebody else — and that makes sense, right? I’m not paying attention to the effects of my actions, because I’m distracted.

          • Avatar Karen Hooper wrote:

            @Nancy said: “I don’t think that to understand all is to forgive all, but I think someone as seemingly locked in to defending a strict storyline as Yoko is has got to be in some real pain. That, to me, is where the compassion can come in.”

            I think where we part company is that I don’t see her behaviour, as we’ve seen it unfold over the past 40 years, as driven by trauma. I see it driven by personality. At any rate, she’s been a one-woman wrecking ball in the personal lives of many, many people and I applaud you for having found compassion for her, in spite of this.

  19. Avatar Dan wrote:

    I was so disappointed by Robert Caro’s latest volume of the life of LBJ, after the incredible first volumes. I really hope Lewisohn stays the course.

    On the subject of ‘why couldn’t they sit down and sort out their problems in 1968/9?’, I think it’s very easy to underestimate the emotional stuntedness of that postwar generation of northern Englishmen. And the Beatles were worse than most, anything to do with serious feelings to them was just “soft”. According to Paul, he and John never discussed their mothers’ deaths in all their time together. Expecting them to sit down and ‘work through their issues’ is a bit optimistic.

    In fact the only people more buttoned-up than the postwar English were… the postwar Japanese.

    • @Dan, can you give me the short version of why Caro’s trilogy disappointed you?

      Very astute re: buttoned-upness.

    • Avatar Karen Hooper wrote:

      @ Dan said: “According to Paul, he and John never discussed their mothers’ deaths in all their time together. “
      .
      Not so, actually. I don’t have the quotes handy, but Paul has said countless times that he and John shared their feelings about their mothers’ deaths, beginning at Key West and over the years. It would just “hit In” according to Paul, and we would “cry together about it.” (I’m paraphrasing of course.)
      .

  20. Avatar ChelseaQW wrote:

    (Sorry, Hitler was a bad example. He had a girlfriend, too)

  21. Avatar ODIrony wrote:

    @Michael and @Sam: You’ve both touched on something I’ve been reticent to even mention: What will Mark Lewisohn uncover and reveal to the world? My reticence has been due to a fear that if Yoko thought he just might go ‘there’ she’d move heaven and earth to prevent him having access to the people and documents that would allow him to authoritatively expose the truth.
    .
    That said, I suspect the second and third volumes of his Bio will be earth-shattering on many levels. One thing he’s already laid the groundwork for is how totally incompetent the Beatles were absent Brian Epstein. Another is the growing picture of John’s brokenness from a personal/psychological standpoint, his use of anything he could find to self-medicate himself against the pain his life had cast on him, his need for a companion, someone to affirm him personally. (It is this latter point that I believe we’ll see Paul crucially play, and perhaps discover that his early departure from Rishikesh was at some level seen by John as a betray.)
    .
    As the historic evidence is to some publicly available already regarding Yoko’s pursuit of John before their Indica Gallery ‘meeting,’ I believe Lewisohn will tell what he finds and let the cards fall where they may. I think this will also affirm the above discussed ‘adolescent’ nature of JohnandYoko, What Lewisohn is already establishing in Tune In is the way to Brian totally mothered the Beatles, preventing them from having to deal with anything they didn’t want to deal with. After his death, Mal Evans, Neil, and the several others who “looked after” them more or less stepped in to fill the gaps to the extent they were able. Had any of them been capable of truly handling the finances, it’s likely that much of the turmoil of Apple might have been avoided.
    .
    But the one thing Brian’s death inevitably led to was four men approaching 30 who hadn’t grown into adulthood in any real sense. If not fully psychologically, at least emotionally, the Beatles were still experiencing/perceiving life as when they were teenagers. It is in that context that I think we’ll eventually walk away with a much more nuanced understanding of John’s relationship with Yoko. In the end, I think we’ll find no true villains and ultimately no heroes.
    .
    Sorry, I didn’t mean to ramble on so. 🙂

    • Ramble away, God knows I do. 🙂

      “she’d move heaven and earth to prevent him having access to the people and documents that would allow him to authoritatively expose the truth.”

      Thing is, I don’t think there’s any “there” there. The world has pretty much decided what it thinks about John, and also Yoko. But I think it’s an instinct, a craving, a modus operandi on Yoko’s part — which is why the Estate has been buying up the rights to photos, documents, et cetera for many years now.

  22. Avatar Karen Hooper wrote:

    I too wonder about Lewisohn. For some reason I think he’ll miss the boat on that one. He’s good at technical research (what happened when and who recorded what) but I don’t think he’s particuarly skilled in the Beatles’ emotional landscape. Time will tell I guess.

    • Avatar Matt wrote:

      Hi Karen…

      Maybe that’s Lewisohn’s strength here – for this particular project he’s undertaken any way? Heaven knows we’ve had enough authors and books about The Beatles veering towards the emotional and the opinionated even. What I think Lewisohn should do is offer up the facts as close and accurately as he possibly can so that in decades (and centuries?) to come, historians and future generations will have something as accurate as can be to read and not data that is muddied by emotion and opinion. I think that’s perhaps what Lewisohn is looking to achieve – i.e. a reliable historical record. A book with its facts based on hard, cross-referenced, double and triple-checked research.

  23. Avatar Paul Saxton wrote:

    Fascinating stuff and some great insights. Wonderfully expressed. too – both in the original post and in the comments, A sterling example of what makes Hey Dullblog so essential and enjoyable. Long may it continue.
    Personally, I don’t have anything to add about Yoko that hasn’t already been said here. Sometimes I think she’s ok, sometimes I think she’s bloody awful, But most of the time I try not to think about her – and her relationship with John – because (as someone said above) I find it quite depressing.
    Most recently I was struck by how much I like to not think about it while reading Philip Norman’s Lennon biography. I felt a real aching sadness, a yearning for things to go differently, when it came close to them being reunited after the lost weekend: “John! Don’t go back to her! Don’t be an idiot! Stay with May! Hang out with Paul and Harry! Carry on being a dickhead rock star in LA for a while! You’ll be ok!”
    Of all the bad decisions John ever made, I think that was probably the worst.

  24. Avatar Paul wrote:

    That said, I do like her music. A lot. The first two LPs in particular and the collaborative Yes, I’m A Witch – especially on Jason Pierce’s reworked Walking On Thin Ice which shows that she could occasionally be a great singer.

  25. Avatar Dan wrote:

    @Karen
    Yes, sorry, you’re right about them discussing their mothers deaths that night in Key West etc. I was thinking of their early days.

    @Michael – Caro’s 4th book, about LBJ’s time as VP (Passage of Power), I found very superficial compared to the depth of the first three. For example, the Billy Sol Estes scandal was huge at the time and nearly got Johnson indicted, but Caro doesn’t even mention it.

  26. Avatar Ruth wrote:

    I think, regarding Yoko, Lewisohn will always go where the evidence leads, but there are varying options available to him.

    Methodologically, Lewisohn has demonstrated already in “Tune In” what he does when he has two separate, equally credible sources (such as John and Paul’s disagreements over whether Paul initially approved of Brian as manager): he provides both and allows the reader to decide. This is a balanced but also somewhat safe choice. The Brian-Paul relationship doesn’t exert a great deal of partisanship in Beatles readers: Yoko, as we know, does.

    We know beyond a doubt that Yoko pursued John: I think its safe to say that, on that issue, Lewisohn will reiterate the facts rather than repeating Yoko’s version of events. Will he ask “Why?” and draw interpretations and conclusions from that question? That’s where I’m skeptical. He’ll tell us, without attempting to excuse it, that Yoko introduced John to heroin almost immediately in their relationship. Will he ask “Why?” I don’t know; I’m inclined to believe he won’t. He *can* — so long as he differentiates between his speculation and evidence, he can theorize all he likes — but I’m inclined to think he won’t. Lewisohn’s strength is in research, facts and evidence, and methodology. However, even if he doesn’t — and this is crucial — his research will lay the groundwork for other authors to ask “Why?” and speculate and interpret in ways that hopefully reveal greater truth and are willing to reject the accepted wisdom.

    Lewisohn’s other option is somewhat messier. There’s evidence supporting both sides on various Yoko issues, so he can use historical methods and determine which source is more credible and therefore which version is more credible, and present that version. But if he does that, he’s going to have to explain how and why he chose the version of events that he did. I have not yet seen Lewisohn do that on a particularly divisive topic, in part because we haven’t really delved into Beatles historiography’s really divisive topics yet, given where he left off in “Tune In.” (Its worth noting that, in “The Beatles Day by Day,” Lewisohn never acknowledges the existence of any of Goldman’s claims regarding John’s later years). Unless a piece of evidence is demonstrably superior in credibility to another, I am guessing that Lewisohn will simply provide both and let the reader choose.

    • “He’ll tell us, without attempting to excuse it, that Yoko introduced John to heroin almost immediately in their relationship. Will he ask ‘Why?’ I don’t know; I’m inclined to believe he won’t.”

      Then he’s not doing his job, @Ruth. Lewisohn’s set is meant to be the definitive history of the band and the phenomenon; “why” is included in that brief. Anybody who cares to know, already knows that Yoko introduced John to heroin almost immediately in their relationship. Stating that fact, then offloading interpretation onto the reader, is ridiculous. We look to historians to be experts on the topic they are discussing; they, not us, have spent the time collecting and arranging the data, reading the sources, interviewing, etc. An historian that offloads interpretation of anything sticky is… well, it’s like a cable news network airing Trump without calling his ideas “racist xenophobia.” It’s a misapplication of the idea of objectivity, intellectually corrupt, and a betrayal of the authority they ask us to grant them.

      Yoko’s introducing John to heroin does not happen in a vacuum; it has a mountain of data preceding it, and everything that was happening simultaneously, and afterwards. Waiting for someone like Yoko Ono to “come clean” (heh) about why she did it is foolish — and believing whatever she would tell you about it is even more so. “We did it because we were artists” — come on, seriously?

      Lewisohn’s a person, he lives with people, and he more than any of us should have a sense of what all the participants are/were like. He must say why, or he’s writing a different book than the one he claims to be writing. Would I want to incur the wrath of any of these people by saying something they didn’t like? No. But that’s why I haven’t dedicated my life to unearthing the history of the Beatles (although now that I think on it…) But I tell ya now: if Lewisohn’s books don’t ruffle some serious feathers, they’re just Anthology tarted up in subfusc.

      • Avatar Ruth wrote:

        “Then he’s not doing his job, @Ruth. Lewisohn’s set is meant to be the definitive history of the band and the phenomenon; “why” is included in that brief.”

        I agree. So does Gaddis, in “The Landscape of History.” “It’s not enough simply to chronicle what a person did. Biographers must also try to determine why he or she did it.” And perhaps I’m wrong: my speculation that Lewisohn won’t ask that “Why” it comes to the starkly partisan issues such as Yoko and heroin is just speculation, mainly because, IIRC, we haven’t seen Lewisohn venture into that sort of issue before. (However, he preemptively declared his position on the great Lennon vs. McCartney debate by declaring them equals in “Tune In’s” Introduction, so he doesn’t refuse to wade into some contentious waters — although that’s not a “Why” question).

        • @Ruth, your comment is really interesting to me. You’re absolutely right that “Yoko and heroin” is “starkly partisan”, but as I read that I wondered why. There’s no disagreement that Yoko introduced John to heroin; there’s no disagreement that John was an emotionally fragile person with a long history of drug abuse. Where is the “pro” side coming from? That John would’ve taken it anyway? That really nothing Yoko does can be criticized because: widow?

          It’s simply beyond debate that nobody but Yoko introduced John to smack, and that it was a terrible idea to do so — at least irresponsible and unloving, at worst starkly manipulative and Machiavellian. I guess this gets to the heart of the post for me: Yoko doesn’t deserve unfair criticism — but neither should she get a pass. She seems to have an absolute genius for fomenting and nourishing partisanship which obscures her authentic self almost entirely.

          • Avatar Karen Hooper wrote:

            @ Michael said: “It’s simply beyond debate that nobody but Yoko introduced John to smack, and that it was a terrible idea to do so — at least irresponsible and unloving, at worst starkly manipulative and Machiavellian. I guess this gets to the heart of the post for me: Yoko doesn’t deserve unfair criticism — but neither should she get a pass. She seems to have an absolute genius for fomenting and nourishing partisanship which obscures her authentic self almost entirely.”

            .

            All of this.
            .
            I’m currently reading Doug Sulpy’s book about the Let it Be sessions, and there’s a passage where Yoko asks John for heroin (in a disguised fashion, of course.) John tells her that he’s given her all of his but she says she needs more. Sulpy caught the exchange and noted it. I also remember Yoko herself saying that she got back onto heroin in 1980, but proudly stated that John was clean. It must have been a herculean task for John to quit heroin while married to a full-fledged heroin addict, among other things.

  27. Avatar Hologram Sam wrote:

    Elvis Costello did a fine cover of Walking On Thin Ice
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FMdAvrLECs4
    John was listening to a lot of Elvis Costello & Nick Lowe in 1979-80. When Lennon made his 1980 comeback, I remember thinking (like a fool) that the ’80s would be John’s decade.

    • Avatar Matt wrote:

      I – like many of us(?) – wonder what John would have served up musically during the 1980s, and he was – by his own accounts – a fan of the ‘New Wave’ scene of the time and of the British-based Ska / Two Tone acts such as Madness, e.t.c. Unfortunately, there’s a side to me that thinks he would have fallen short of emulating or surpassing these contemporary sounds during the decade that was before him but that he sadly never came to see. His attempts to pick up the Ska / Two Tone, Reggae and B52s-type sound on his albums ‘Double Fantasy’ (but especially ‘Milk and Honey’) were – IMO – sadly lacking.

  28. Avatar Hologram Sam wrote:

    .
    I genuinely pray that she’s been able find some peace — not “peace,” but genuine personal contentment — a sense of serenity, happiness and wholeness as this world turns. You know, we talk a lot about all these people on Dullblog, but please when you’re reading my posts or comments, know that there’s such love and compassion for all of them. ALL of them.
    .
    Your heart (like Cab Calloway’s Minnie’s heart) is as big as a whale. That’s what makes you a fine comedy writer.
    .
    I tend to demonize these people (“Yoko’s isolating John from friends and family is textbook spousal abuse!”) but at the end of the day they were all just insecure people following the voices in their heads. At least John left us the music. Thanks to Parlophone for those wonderful recordings.

  29. Avatar evilpants wrote:

    Hi everyone, just thought I’d drop an unrelated comment into here:

    Mark Lewisohn, asked once again about what time period “All These Years” will go up to, last night said that he has absolutely no interest in going up til “now” – he said he’s not interested in what any of them did in recent years. But he said he is absolutely dying to tell the story of the years 1971-1975; he said as far as he’s concerned, it’s simply never been told, and there’s such a rich story there.

    But, he said, volume 2 is so huge already, it’s likely that to stay in any kind of feasible range he will have to stop volume three in 1970.

    And then he said: “which leaves me with the question of whether to turn three volumes into four”. That’s the first time I’ve heard him saying this, and there was excitement in the room when he said it. Personally, I think they should’ve made that decision when volume one came in at 1800 pages. I would love to see him be able to be true to his word – to tell the story til it ends. But, as he said in a previous interview, he finished volume one on a bank loan because the advance he got was for all three volumes, and he’s already well over his deadline even for volume 3. So I don’t know how generous his publisher is being, and whether there’s enough money to be made to justify them paying him to do another book. If Kickstarter hasn’t collapsed under the weight of its own hand-washing when things go wrong by then, maybe we can all finance Mark’s pension by gathering the money ourselves.

    But if I had a 4 volume set of extended editions, at 1800 pages each, I think my life would be complete 🙂

    • Kickstarter’s exactly what I thought, @Evilpants! He could raise a cool million, I think, and not have to give 85% of his sales to a publisher.

      I mean, my God — if Lewisohn’s taking out a bank loan against advances, I’ll help him run the Kickstarter myself! This man’s a treasure, he should not be under financial pressure, and it’s only the arcane insanity of the book publishing business that he would ever be.

  30. Avatar Ruth wrote:

    The ‘reply’ button on this blog is like the Cheshire Cat; sometimes its there, and sometimes its not.

    “So even “hard evidence” requires a kind of interpretation on the part of the historian.”

    Interpretation and/or authentication. That’s part of the job.

    • I know, I know — I’m going to change the theme over the holidays.

      “Authentication” is the sticking point. We can’t reasonably expect journalists/historians to assume that every #17 hit is a fraud. But it would be nice if the system enabled journalists/historians to be truly adversarial when it really matters.

  31. Avatar Ruth wrote:

    “There’s no disagreement that Yoko introduced John to heroin; there’s no disagreement that John was an emotionally fragile person with a long history of drug abuse. Where is the “pro” side coming from? That John would’ve taken it anyway? That really nothing Yoko does can be criticized because: widow?”

    I don’t know what the pro-Yoko fan says regarding the heroin issue, because this is the only Beatles-related forum I pay attention to.
    The pro “Ballad of John and Yoko” writers, such as Norman and Coleman, ignored it when they could, downplayed it when they couldn’t, and certainly never, *never* asked *why* Yoko introduced John to it. I don’t recall if the first edition of Shout! even mentions John and Yoko using heroin at all, (I don’t think so) but I know it doesn’t mention that Yoko introduced John to it. Coleman’s first edition of his John biography drops it in a sentence — something to the affect of “And then John and Yoko sought treatment for their heroin addiction” — and then ignores the entire topic. It doesn’t receive much more expanded coverage in his later editions, either. Again, that Yoko introduced John to it is ignored and not mentioned. In the 2008 John bio by Norman, Yoko argues that it was part of their cohesiveness: that John chose to take heroin because she was already using it; he didn’t want to be left out of what she was experiencing — and that they never, of course, injected it. Any psychological consequences it might have had on John, Yoko, and the delicate mechanism of the Beatles is summarily ignored. The damage it might have done to Yoko’s relationship with Kyoko, or John’s with Julian, is ignored. (Which, I have to say, is such a glaring omission by these authors its infuriating. I had a daughter approximately Kyoko’s age when I first read Norman’s bio of John, and he’s describing John and Yoko in the recording studio all day, lounging around in bed, and doing heroin, and I’m thinking “Where the hell is Yoko finding time to do this when she has a six year old, when I can’t find ten minutes to take a shower!” — the answer being, of course, that Kyoko gets booted to the curb).

    That’s the scope of the pro-ballad writers on the subject: Ignore, deflect, minimize and never, never ask “Why.”

    Paul doesn’t address the “Why” in MYFN, but he does state that it was John’s heroin use that made him so suddenly difficult to talk to during the breakup period, and Peter Brown argues that it was John’s heroin use, more than any other single factor, that broke up the band. The anti-ballad writers such as Spitz don’t ask why: They outright state that Yoko introduced John to heroin in order to control him. So does Tony Bramwell.
    —-
    I have to add: while I personally believe that Yoko’s introducing John to heroin was deliberate in order to gain more control over him is reinforced by what we know of her, part of me reflexively wants to reject it. There’s a long, well established historiographical tradition of blaming the faults and actions of males on manipulative, sexualized women; its a pattern that goes back to the historic depictions of Antony and Cleopatra. In the case of John and Yoko, it appears to be a valid interpretation; part of me simply cringes at reinforcing that well-worn and sexist trope.

    • @Ruth, I love your comments so much.

      That trope is doubly odious given that, for most of the last 3,000 years, controlling/influencing a powerful man really was the most efficient and quickest way for an ambitious woman to gain power for herself. In some societies (ancient Rome for example) it was the only way to amass power, if you were female. And given that intelligence, ability, ambition and drive are distributed evenly, that meant there was a LOT of pressure on women to employ this strategy, despite the massive social price they paid for doing so, even when they were successful. (See: the portrayal of Livia by Tacitus, Dio, etc.)

      But that doesn’t make it OK for Livia to poison people (if she did). And Yoko Ono wasn’t living in Ancient Rome. Yes, the 60s and 70s were woefully backward in their sexual politics, even the counterculture — but if indeed Yoko does fit that Lady Macbeth stereotype, to a certain degree it’s on her. As Yoko’s defenders endlessly point out, she was a fully fledged professional artist with a career when she met John Lennon. She didn’t need to seduce a Beatle to put food on the table; and yet she pursued him relentlessly, and once close to him, seemed to do everything she could to bind him to her. Yoko pointedly did not do what Jane Asher did, for example — date a Beatle, but retain her autonomy. Alternatives were possible, that’s worth noting, and people have noted it in this thread — Linda McCartney’s uxorious behavior in the ’69/’70 period, for example. Linda seems to be foundational in Paul’s sense of self-worth and autonomy; Yoko seems to gnaw at John’s.

      At this late date, people interested in the issue have to acknowledge that Yoko’s “bad vibes” aren’t all “bad press,” and to me untangling that issue in as fair a way as possible is the joy of this thread. It’s a knotty issue, surrounded by endless unfair bullshit and hard-to-see prejudices. But I think to treat it as 99% of Beatle authors have, which is to sidestep it entirely, probably out of fear, is irresponsible. John did what he did, and we judge; Yoko did what she did, and we judge. Too often, Yoko gets a pass because: racism/sexism (or now, wacky arty old lady), and that’s simply not fair to all the people who suffered as much or more under an unfair system which continues today, but did not introduce their boyfriend to smack. Manipulation for personal gain is part of Yoko’s personality, and it’s also what makes her good at business. To look past that is to miss something on the order of JFK’s sexual profligacy.

      TL;DR — we are not simply our virtues, and a fairer society isn’t hastened by doling out free passes. If anything, that’s another form of men wielding power, playing the “treats for sex” game.

      • Avatar Karen Hooper wrote:

        @Michael said: “As Yoko’s defenders endlessly point out, she was a fully fledged professional artist with a career when she met John Lennon. She didn’t need to seduce a Beatle to put food on the table.”
        \.
        And we know this is patently false. They were living hand to mouth, essentially.

    • Avatar Karen Hooper wrote:

      @Ruth said: ” I have to add: while I personally believe that Yoko’s introducing John to heroin was deliberate in order to gain more control over him is reinforced by what we know of her, part of me reflexively wants to reject it. There’s a long, well established historiographical tradition of blaming the faults and actions of males on manipulative, sexualized women; its a pattern that goes back to the historic depictions of Antony and Cleopatra. In the case of John and Yoko, it appears to be a valid interpretation; part of me simply cringes at reinforcing that well-worn and sexist trope.”
      .
      It’s only sexist if it isn’t true.

  32. Avatar huzzlewhat wrote:

    Long time lurker, first time commenter… I probably should have done a formal introduction before jumping in to this, of all topics!

    I personally don’t know much about Yoko’s history, so I want to ask those who know more. I’ve always assumed that much of Yoko’s bad behavior regarding drugs was a result of her, herself, being an addict. Just as we can look at some of John’s bad behavior during this time period and trace it to the heroin, can’t the same be true of Yoko? Not that she isn’t responsible for having taken the drug, but it makes it harder to see her introducing John to it as purely manipulative if she was addicted at the time, and had ceded much of her judgment to the drug.

  33. Avatar Karen Hooper wrote:

    HI huzzlewhat 🙂
    .
    I think addiction can only account for behaviour which is atypical. The usual behavioural trajectory for drug addiction is a marked change in behaviour or mood, which steadily worsens. This is certainly the situation in John’s case.
    .
    There is no such trajectory in Yoko’s narrative. While her behaviour was likely exacerbating by drug use, the foundational behaviours were already there.

    • @Karen, have you heard of the idea that addicts’ emotional maturity is frozen at the time in which they first became addicts?

      This is a different point, but that’s what I get from the Two Junkies period — John and Yoko are just mind-blowingly immature. Which is not, generally, how Lennon appears before May ’68.

      • Avatar Karen Hooper wrote:

        Absolutely @ Michael,particularly when the addiction occurs during adolescence.

        Addiction, in and of itself, is the continued pursuit of reward-seeking behaviour, so in general terms addicts of any age tend to regress as a consequence.

  34. Avatar Karen Hooper wrote:

    @ Michael asked: “So can you unpack Lennon’s seeming regression after 1968, from an addictive-behavior standpoint?”
    .

    Hmm. That’s an interesting challenge. I’ll give it a shot but bear in mind my field of psychology isn’t in addiction. 🙂

    .
    It all starts with dopamine. Dopamine is the neurotransmitter that motivates us to seek pleasure (food, sex, etc) and plays an important role in the brain’s executive functions, such as judgement, memory, and learning, which are essential for the perpetuation of the species. While the brain can effectively regulate naturally occurring dopamine rewards from food and sex, it cannot regulate the massive dopamine hit caused by addictive drugs. In that instance, the brain tries to handle the onslaught by shutting down dopamine receptors, like a damn during a flood.
    .
    When dopamine receptors go on strike a number of things happen for the addict. First, they need higher and higher doses to get that high, until eventually there is no high at all. Second, they lose their interest and capacity for pleasure. Third, their ability to reason, execute decisions, and learn from experience becomes impaired.
    .

    The “frozen” phenomena is actually the brain shutting down important functions in its attempt to regulate dopamine. The addict, for all intents and purposes, becomes a child again, particularly in terms of the incapacitation of the brain’s executive functions.
    .
    I have no doubt that John’s heroin addiction during the late 60’s contributed to his strange and uncharacteristic behaviour during that period. And his drinking during his “lost weekend” explains it again. But what explanation is there for his regressive behaviour post 1975, if he wasn’t using drugs? I tend to think it’s a conflation of years of drug use, and his untreated mental health issues.

    • Oh @Karen, I think he was using drugs massively during the Dakota years. A guy who’s used drugs massively since 1962 doesn’t just stop in 1975 because of brown rice and the love of a good woman.

      This explains John’s anhedonia very succinctly, don’t you think?

      • Avatar Karen Hooper wrote:

        @Micheal–I had always thought that John’s drug use petered out by the mid to late 70’s. Hmm. It does explain his Howard Hughes-like existence, for sure.

        • Well, that’s what he said — something like “pot and the occasional mushroom to visit the Cosmos” — which could be true, I mean we all want it to be true. But he doesn’t act like that. He acts like a guy with a serious drug problem. And the fact that we know that Yoko was using again in the late 70s suggests that, too. Recovered addicts don’t hang around users…because they don’t want to become users again. The associations are just too intense.

          You and I have talked a lot about Lennon being a manic-depressive/bipolar, who medicated via drug use. That really rings true to me. And if that’s how it worked for him, the impetus to use was there in 1978 just as it was in 1968. Maybe even more so.

          • Avatar Karen Hooper wrote:

            “You and I have talked a lot about Lennon being a manic-depressive/bipolar, who medicated via drug use. That really rings true to me. And if that’s how it worked for him, the impetus to use was there in 1978 just as it was in 1968. Maybe even more so.”

            .
            Yoko always claimed that John was “clean” when he was killed. I wonder if she was referring to heroin only (or lying completely.)

  35. Avatar King Kevin wrote:

    He was supposedly coked up during the filming of that in-studio Double Fantasy video- I’m too busy to find it now. I actually think that the coke use and cigarette smoking were starting to destroy his voice. See Dylan, Bob for the final results of that experiment.

    • @Kevin, I’d read that his coke use was so significant that he was scheduled for septum surgery in early 1981.

      Which makes total sense. Cocaine was, in the words of someone who was in the comedy business at that time, “so accepted, it wasn’t even considered bad for you.”

  36. Avatar Randie wrote:

    John Lennon is a great example of people can change and are not fixed to be a certain way as a man or a woman.Yoko changed John into a much better person as a pro-feminist man and the feminist changes *are* for the better, and many pro-feminist men have recognized this too! They say it has freed them and allowed them to develop and express more of all of the shared common *human* traits,emotions,behaviors,abilities and reduce and prevent male violence against women and children etc. Definitions of “masculine” and “feminine” differ across time periods, and in different societies.

    John Lennon is a great example of how feminism changing limited artificial gender definitions and roles,changed him for the much better. John as a child and teenager had a lot of traumas that permanently psychologically damaged him,but because of his and Yoko’s beautiful loving relationship,and as he said she was a feminist before he met her,(and he said that because she was a feminist before he met her,they were going to have to have a 50/50 equal relationship which he never had before) he went in to primal scream therapy and Yoko went with him and he dealt with all of his pain and anger for the very first time at age 29.

    When John was a young guy,he was often drunk getting into fist fights with men,hitting women,and womanizing including cheating on his girlfriends and then his first wife Cynthia.Of course Paul,George and Ringo did the same with all of the groupies all 4 of them had while touring from 1963-1966. I hadn’t watched these Mike Douglas shows in years until December 2010 when it was the 30th anniversary of John’s tragic crazy murder.

    Out of the 5 Mike Douglas shows that John and Yoko co-hosted for a week that was taped in January 1972 and aired in February,a young criminal lawyer Rena Uviller(she went on to become a Supreme Court Judge) who worked with juveniles was on, and she,Mike Douglas,John and Yoko were discussing the then very recent women’s liberation movement. George Carlin was on too.

    Rena said,she agrees with Yoko,that the idea of Women’s lib is to liberate all of us,and she said ,I mean we could talk hours on the way men really suffer under the sex role definitions.Yoko agreed with what she said too. Rena said that men don’t really realize they have only to gain from Women’s Lib,and that she thinks that maybe with a little more propaganda we can convince them.

    John then said,yeah there is a lot to gain from it,just the fact that you can relax and not have to play that male role,he said we can do that,and he said that I can be weak,( but notice how then in a male dominated gender divided,gender stereotyped,sexist society,and even unfortunately still now in a lot of ways,the “female” role was defined as the weak one,and the male role as the strong one) I don’t have to protect her all the time and play you know that super hero,I don’t have to play that,she allows me to be weak sometimes and for me to cry,and for her to be the strong one,and for me to be the weak one. John then said,and it really is a great relief,after 28 years of trying to be tough,you know trying to show them,I don’t give a da*n and I’m this and I’m that,to be able to relax.and just be able to say,OK I’m no tough guy forget it.

    Rena then said,I think in some funny way,I think girls even as children,have a greater latitude because a little girl can be sort of frilly and feminine or she can be a tomboy and it’s acceptable,but a little boy if he’s not tossing that football,there’s a lot of pressure on him.John said,there’s a lot of pressure,not to show emotion,and he said that there was a lot of pressure on me not to be an artist,to be a chemist and he said he discussed this on another Mike Douglas episode.

    Rena said that unfortunately some of the leaders in the Women’s Liberation movement fall victim to being spokesmen,for Women’s Lib, and yet at least in public personality they seem to really have a certain amount of contempt for the hair curled housewife and there is a kind of sneering contempt,and she said I think it’s a measure of their own lack of liberation.And Yoko said it’s snobbery,and Rena said yeah,they really don’t like other women,but I’m sympathetic,and Mike Douglas then said a sexist woman-hating statement,saying,well women don’t like other women period.Rena said,no see that’s very unliberated and Yoko said, in response to what Mike Douglas said,that’s not true,that’s not true.And John said,you see they are brought up to compete with men.

    Yoko said that even though in Japan they say they don’t have much of a woman problem and women already had some liberation,there is still a long way to go that she really agrees with Rena that so many female liberation movement people basically hate women,and we have to first start to understand women and love them whether they are housewives or not,and she said that snobbery is very bad and we have to somehow find out a way to co-existing with men,and she asked Rena don’t you think so and she said most definitely. George Carlin said,that actually many successful women are acting out male roles just like a lot of blacks think they escaped are acting out white roles.John also said that he thinks that women have to try twice as hard as to make it as men,and he said you know they have to be on their toes much more than a man.

    On another Mike Douglas episode from the same week,former actress and acclaimed film maker Barbara Loden was on and Yoko had requested her as a guest.John asked her ,Did you have any problems working with the men,you know like giving them instructions and things like that and Barbara said,I did, but I think it was because I was afraid that they would not accept what I said,and I wasn’t quite that authoritative in my own self.John said it’s certainly a brave thing to do,and Yoko said it is.

    Mike Douglas asked Yoko if John’s attitude had changed much towards her since The Female Liberation Movement,and at first Yoko says John’s attitude from the beginning was the same,and that they met on that level.John then says,twice, I was a male chauvinist and Yoko says,yes he was a male chauvinist but,and then John says,Can I say how you taught me,and Yoko says yes.John says,How I did it in my head was,would I ask Paul or George,or would I treat them the way I would treat a woman? John then said,it’s a very simple thing maybe it’s fetch that or do that ,and I started thinking if I said that to them,they’d say come on get it yourself,and if you put your wife or your girl friend in the position of your best friend,and say now would I say that to him,then you know when you’re treading on some delicate feelings.

    Mike Douglas said years later that after this week of John and Yoko co-hosting his show,many young people who had never watched his show before,(and his main audience was middle America and people older than their 20’s and even mostly their 30’s) told him they loved the show,and that it was great and his ratings went up high for those shows.Even if John didn’t always live up to his feminist ideals and beliefs in his personal life,(although he did with Yoko because of her and this why and how he emotionally evolved into a caring,nurturing,house husband and father to Yoko and Sean),just the fact that he spoke out as a man in support of the feminist movement on a popular TV show back in early 1972 when most of the sexist male dominated woman-hating society looked down at it and considered it crazy which in some ways it’s still unfortunately wrongly misunderstood(and it’s really the male dominated,sexist,woman-hating society that has always been so wrong and crazy!),and the fact that John was (and still is) greatly admired and influential to many young people male and female,he did *a lot* to legitimize it and show it was rational,reasonable,needed and right!

    A few months later he was performing Woman Is The Ni**er Of The World on The Dick Cavett Show and then months after that live in Madison Square Garden.In his very last radio interview done by Dave Sholin etc from RKO Radio just hours before he was tragically shot and killed, John said I’m more feminist now than I was when I sang Woman Is The N**ger,I was intellectually feminist then but now I feel as though at least I’ve put not my own money,but my body where my mouth is and I’m living up to my own preachings as it were.

    He also said what is this BS men are this way, women are that way,we’re all human.He had also said that he comes from the macho school of pretense of course *all* men really are they are just too conditioned all of their lives to realize and admit it.And he said that men are trained to be like they are in the army,and that it’s more like that in England but he knows it’s this way over here too,he said that they are taught as boys and men don’t react,don’t feel,don’t cry,and he said he thinks that’s what screwed us all up and that he thinks it’s time for a change.

    Barbara Graystark of Newsweek interviewed John September 1980 and part of what she said to John is,You’ve come a long way from the man who wrote at 23,”Women should be obscene rather than heard.” And she asks John how did this happen? And John said that he was a working-class macho guy who was used to being served and Yoko didn’t buy that. John then said that from the day he met Yoko,she demanded equal time,equal space,equal rights. He said that he said to Yoko then,don’t expect him to change in any way and don’t impinge on his space. John said that Yoko said to him then she can’t be here because there’s no space where you are everything revolves around him and that she can’t breath in that atmosphere. John then says in this interview that he’s thankful to her for the ( meaning feminist) education.

    http://www.beatlesinterviews.org/db1980.0929.beatles.html

  37. Avatar Randie wrote:

    Mike Douglas also said to John and Yoko,You’re both so different,you had such different childhoods. John said,it’s incredible isn’t it? Yoko said,Yes! Mike asked,What do you think has attracted you to each other? Yoko said,We’re very similar.John then said,She came from a Japanese upper-middle class family.Her parents were bankers and all that jazz,very straight.He said they were trying to get her off with an ambassador when she was 18.You know,now is the time you marry the ambassador and we get all settled. I come from a an upper-working class family in Liverpool,the other end of the world. John then said,we met but our minds are so similar,our ideas are so similar.It was incredible that we could be so alike from different environments,and I don’t know what it is,but we’re very similar in our heads.And we look alike too!

    Mike also asked John about his painful childhood,and how his father left him when he was 5,and John said how he only came back into his life when he was successful and famous(20 years later!),and John said he knew that I was living all those years in the same house with my auntie,but he never visited him.He said when he came back into his life all those years later,he looked after his father for the same amount of time he looked after him,about 4 years.

    He also talked about how his beloved mother Julia,who encouraged his music by teaching him to play the banjo,got hit and killed by a car driven by an off duty drunk cop when John was only 17 and just getting to have a relationship with her after she had given him away to be raised by her older sister Mimi when he was 5.

    And John also said,And in spite of all that,I still don’t have a hate-the-pigs attitude or hate-cops attitude.He then said, I think everybody’s human you know,but it was very hard for me at that time,and I really had a chip on my shoulder,and it still comes out now and then,because it’s a strange life to lead .He then said,But in general ah,I’ve got my own family now …I got Yoko and she made up for all that pain.

    John’s psychologist Dr. Arthur Janov told Mojo Magazine in 2000( parts of this interview is on a great UK John Lennon fan site,You Are The Plastic Ono Band) that John had as much pain as he had ever seen in his life,and he was a psychologist for at least 18 years when John and Yoko saw him in 1970! He said John was a very dedicated patient. He also said that John left therapy too early though and that they opened him up,but didn’t get a chance to put him back together again and Dr. Janov told John he need to finish the therapy,he said because of the immigration services and he thought Nixon was after him,he said we have to get out of the country.John asked if he could send a therapist to Mexico with him,and Dr. Janov told him we can’t do that because they had too many patients to take care of,and he said they cut the therapy off just as it started really,and we were just getting going.

    Also this great article by long time anti-sexist,anti-men’s violence,anti-pornography former all star high school football player and author of the great,important 2006 book,The Macho Paradox:How Some Men Hurt Women and How All Men Can Help, Jackson Katz.John Lennon on Fatherhood,Feminism,and Phony Tough Guy Posturing http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jackson-katz/john-lennon-on-fatherhood_b_800333.html

    Also Cynthia Lennon is quoted in the great John Lennon biography Lennon,by award winning music journalist and former editor of The Melody Maker Magazine and good friend of John’s for 18 years,Ray Coleman as saying somethings like she knew as soon as she saw John and Yoko together she knew that she lost him,and that it was a meeting of the minds and that she knew that they were right for each other.She also said that she told John before he started his relationship with Yoko that she sees and incredible similarity between him and Yoko and said to him that there is something about her that is just like you.She told him that he may say that she’s this crazy avant garde artist and that he’s not interested in her,but that she can see more into John’s future with Yoko then he can.

  38. Avatar Randie wrote:

    In this January 1971 interview with Red Mole John says that Yoko was well into liberation before he met her and that she had to fight her way through a man’s world and he said the art world is completely dominated by men and said so Yoko was full of revolutionary zeal when they met. Then John said there was never any question about it that they had to have a 50-50 relationship or there was no relationship and he said he was quick to learn and he said that Yoko did an article in Nova more than two years back in which she said Woman is the Ni**er of the world.A year later he co-wrote with Yoko the song Woman Is The N*gger of The World,and bravely performed it live on The Dick Cavett show and at Madison Square Garden in 1972 and the song was banned off a lot of radio stations.

    John also says in this same interview that it’s very subtle how you’re taught male superiority.

    http://www.beatlesinterviews.org/db1971.0121.beatles.html

  39. Avatar Randie wrote:

    Paul has said through the years as he did in this April/May 1982 Music Express interview that he really thinks that John getting together with Yoko was the best thing to ever happen to him for his personal happiness.

    http://www.beatlesinterviews.org/db1982.0400.beatles.html

    He also admitted on the David Frost show in 2012 that Yoko didn’t break up The Beatles.

    • @Randie, when it comes to Yoko’s effect on the Beatles, the surest guide is stuff they said at the time (see the Twickenham tapes, for example). It’s pretty clear that while Paul respected John’s choice and wanted him to be happy, Yoko’s presence in the studio (invited by John) and her speaking for him in meetings after May 1968 (once again, John’s decision), was a huge stressor and contributed to the souring of the Beatles creative process. As John surely knew it would. So the interesting question is, did John sour the Beatles on purpose?

      Yoko simultaneously benefits enormously from her association with the Beatles — you and I wouldn’t be talking about her here otherwise — and laments that people see her as Lennon’s widow, that her career was ruined by it, etc. I think we can, and should, acknowledge both of these things: that she has benefitted, and also suffered. She wasn’t a passive participant.

      IMHO, you should take Paul’s subsequent pronouncements on this topic with quite a large grain of salt. In 1982, the world was still full of grief over Lennon’s death, and there was no possible way that Paul, viewed as a lightweight and worse after the “Drag, innit?” comment, was going to speak in anything but honeyed tones about John and/or his chosen mate. And 2012? Paul and Yoko are business partners. Once again, there’s a huge disincentive for Paul to say anything but positive things about Yoko (or John, for that matter).

      So I’m dubious — which is not to blame Yoko for the breakup (that’s on John, IMHO). It’s to identify her as one of several factors, as they did in the Anthology Director’s Cut. We have to take the sources you give here, and in your other comments, and add them to the whole picture.

  40. I’m a whole year late to this discussion, but I just wanted to say that these are the best (and most respectful) discussions of Yoko that I have seen on any Beatles board. The last Beatles site that I was on (which will remain un-named), I was told that I was anti-feminist and possibly subconciously racist because I didn’t believe in the whole JohnandYoko myth.

    Regarding Lewisohn. I am a little worried about how he will approach Yoko–he thanks her at the beginning of Tune In for giving him access to some sort of archive (possibly John’s childhood letters, but who knows). I don’t think that he will change his writing about her due to that favor, but it is a possibility. And I doubt very much that he is going to conjecture much regarding Yoko’s motivations re the heroin. His answer would probably be “how could I possibly know for sure?” Just judging from his interviews and the first book, I don’t see him doing a lot of conjecture regarding psychological motivations.

    Not a Yoko fan here at all, mostly due to her appalling treatment of others, her isolation of John in the later years and her mythologizing of the JohnandYoko relationship after John’s death. (Not that John didn’t do most of the mythologizing when he was alive). And yes, if she wasn’t a musician, she should have kept quiet in the studio. If George had brought in Patti and insinuated to the others that she was more or less a 5th Beatle now, there would have been hell to pay.

    I think that John was a damaged person who always had to have something (the band) or someone (Julia, Paul, Stu, Brian) to hang on to in his life. I don’t think that Yoko was a good influence, judging from the recollections of those around the Dakota those last 5 years.

    If she had gone through with the (possible) divorce in 1979/1980 though, I don’t think that John would have magically become a happier person, reaching out to old friends and reconnecting with his family. However, SHE might have been happier. As much as I dislike her, living with John, who was often depressed and bored in those last five years, probably wasn’t a picnic. I feel bad that John, who had always been sort of a social person, cut himself off from so many of his friends in the last years of his life. I don’t have any problem with him deciding to take a time-out in the 1970s. He’d lived several lifetimes in the 1960s (seriously, I just exhausted reading about their schedules). I’m surprised that they all didn’t end up with PTSD after the last tour….It sounds as though Mimi was about the only person that he kept in regular contact with.

  41. Avatar Aimee wrote:

    Hi @Michael Gerber, great post and discussion as always! Another straggler here, a few years after the original post, but I must say it’s excellent. Everyone handled this red-hot subject with care and grace. I am very much of the opinion that we mustn’t dehumanize anyone in the Beatles story, even someone who proves to be a divisive character in the drama.

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