Sunday, March 24, 2019

John Lennon: A Natural High

John Lennon:  A Natural High
By Alan Smith

Hit Parader
January 1970

The sun burns brightly through the Savile Row window and it's a hot and sticky busy day at Apple, with Yoko hammering away at the electric typewriter and John Lennon in conversation and all the while the beautiful No 1 smash sound of an unreleased Lennon song called, "Give Peace a Chance," soaring and thumping around the room.

A statement of fact is that this record will sell several million and that, like "All You Need Is Love," it will echo like an anthem across the world.

A pleasant and intriguing Irishman named Cecil McCartney has been in, not to claim some long-forgotten Beatles' relationship but to talk about war and peace and his loathing for the fiery death they call Napalm.

Lennon has been inspired and the result is that several hundred plastic dolls have been bought and now await mutilation and destruction in a grisly protest burning in London's King Road the following day.  One of them lies on the table, naked and pink and innocent and with its feeding bottle aloft.

"We're only at the beginning of selling our peace product,"  John is saying, "and I think and I hope it's beginning to work.  Yoko and I can only go on the reactions we get from people when we're going down the street together - of course.   I know we don't' get people really against us.  some of them do give us a dirty look, but the others ..... bus drivers and lorry drivers and that... some of them say, "Ow yer doin'?' and 'Good luck,' and all that stuff.

"The way I see it is, even if they don't get the gist of us, or why are those people hamming in nails or staying in bed... they know we're in favor of peace.  They know what we stand for.   This is only the start of the campaign.  And they'll soon all know our message, and what we're trying to say.   Sure, I know we've been criticized by some papers.  but you know some of these journalists and people talk as if they feel they represent somebody.

"One journalist might think we need more communication...but that's unfortunate.  They must get out of the habit -- newspaper men and pop stars, anybody -- must talk for themselves.  I mean, how does one journalist know how most people feel?  O.K., so the people in his office might agree with him.  But how many straights does he know -- how many people that aren't boozy journalists?"

I nod, swigging swiftly at the bottle of whiskey I whip from my pocket in a sudden secretive scoop.

"In the same way, I can only judge from my side in that how many straights do I know besides of Apple, or those I meet?  I can only judge the reaction I get by people waving or sending me letters.  and that happens.  Sure, Yoko and I both know the criticism about us spending $4,000 at the Hilton on a bed-in when we could spend it feeding babies in Biafra.

"The situation is, I've done that as well -- the charity bit.  And I respect the sentiments behind charity, and I will continue to do things like that.  But it doesn't solve the problem.   It's like nursing the cancer after somebody's got it. There's a lot of cancer to be cured.  But it still doesn't stop research.  And we look on what we're trying to do for peace as research -- to prevent Biafra happening next time.

"I could give all my money to Biafra and maybe a few thousand kids would be safe for that day.  But the war would still go on.  I'm using my money as an overall campaign to advertise the cause of peace.   You know, these people who criticize ... what are they doing?  You've got to remember -- all of you -- that this is me and Yoko's best effort.  It's with both of our minds.

"So if any of you out there can think of a better idea, then we'll do that.  But until you come up with an alternative, and not just why don't you give it to the spastics and not the deaf then we'll stick to the way we are.  The thing about trying to bring change in that everybody in the world sits back and blame everybody else.  The whole human race is like that.  We vote people into Parliament and to run the Government for us, and then we sit back and claim how badly they're doing it.  We always use a scapegoat, and the whole system's just like that.  Everybody sits in the armchair and says Harold Wilson did this and Harold Wilson did that ... but it's our fault, not Harold Wilson's. "

He picks up the pink doll and pull its plastic arm out of the socket, and pauses for a moment and looks at the table and listens as Yoko speaks rapid Japanese into the telephone.

"Once,"  I told him, "you used to frighten the hell out of me.  There was a time when I'd expect your next words to be 'you four-eyed git,'  Now, I find myself more at ease in your company.  You're far more mellow."

He tries to push the doll's arm back into place as he says, "That's because I'm more myself now.  I'm introverted and in saying that, it would have been to prevent you saying 'four-eyed git' to me.   It's just a case of simple games.  The Games People Play.  It's just that I had the game of aggression.  Aggression was my defense.  As soon as somebody came near me, I'd make the first punch.  If they couldn't handle that then maybe I'd be cruel or maybe I'd be kind.

Now I'm relaxed enough to be myself and be less frightened of what people are going to say.  Another thing is when I didn't wear glasses I used to be more uninhibited.  In Hamburg, for instance, when I could never see the audience -- I'd just get carried away on my own."

He looks around for a prying instrument and then he puts down the baby's arm and takes hold of the feeding bottle, and then he tries to jam the bottle into the empty armpit.  He doesn't say anything, but he gets it in, in the end -- one arm, one feeding bottle.

"The thing about performing now is," he says, "we still just don't agree on it.  We're just four middle-aged teenagers, who don't agree on it.  We're all professional musicians, sure, but musicians aren't necessarily performers.  I mean, I'd go out.  But you're talking to me, and The Beatles as such, don't want to go out on the road.  I don't mind having a bed-in is being out on the road as far as I'm concerned.   I think George and Ringo don't really fancy it, but I don't want to point a finger at them and say they're the reason.  Maybe there's a little something inside me saying the same thing.

"Singing in front of an audience and playing, I'd enjoy.  But the rest of it all ... that's the problem.  Maybe in ten years, like Elvis, who knows?"

He takes hold of the spare arm and he pulls it and presses it and molds it to a pliable plastic.

"I'm happy with life," he answers me, "as happy as anybody can be.  The only blots are violence and war and starvation and all that.  You can't be happy with all that going on.  If I have a good percentage of happiness, it's because I'm grateful for life, and I'm in love and I'm happy with my wife and I thank God for it.  And all that bit.

"In fighting and doing my bit for peace.  I don't believe that thing that man will always fight because it's in his nature.  That's just the Establishment, for thousands of years, telling us that.  They say that because it suits the Establishment, it suits the military, to tell us we're all basically soldiers.  We're just as much non-violent as we are violent.  It's all that 'be a man my son' thing we get a 'you wouldn't be here today if it wasn't for me, my son.'  'I fought..." you know the whole thing.  I believe you can use music as some sort of a platform to bring people together, but so can you use dancing and painting and even walking and all of the media."

Musically, adds John Lennon, the Beatles have more than ever before to say, and they have one album ready and another one-half ready.

"The Beatles album that's ready is like an unfinished rehearsal for that show that we never did.  It's The Beatles show that never was.  There's bits of dialogue on it and 'Get Back's' the most finished tune.  So you can imagine what some of it's like.   We've no date for it yet because there's a book with it and that's not ready yet.  There is another album and that's by John and Yoko -- and that's also got a book with it. It's like a wedding album.  And it's great."

"In all this new Beatles' stuff there's obviously McCartney hits there...and there's one beautiful ballad called 'Let it Be' which is a cert for somebody.  A cert.  And there's quite a few cert hits on it for other people."

He twists the doll's arm inside out and looks down at it with some satisfaction.

"I think Apple's running much better," he says.  "I don't know if you can tell.  We're rectifying the past mistakes.  Clearing up. It's also been convenient for people to leave at this time.  I like that expression, 'Convenient to leave at this time.'  I'd like Apple to be more commercial for sure.  I'd like it to be economically viable.  I don't care about respect.  We'd still like to attract talent but we want it to be self-contained and to be able to look after itself.  In the past, all we got when we said 'Come to Apple' was people who'd been turned down everywhere else.

"At the moment, there's only really us and Mary Hopkins as names on Apple, although George's done some good stuff with Billy Preston and I think he's got good possibilities."

It is time to go and he smiles warmly and proffers the inside-out doll's arm, with its hand which now faces in the wrong direction. I get the impression he only now appreciates the subconscious havoc he has piled upon it.

These days, John Lennon is happy to talk but not to drop himself into some new, fresh drag of controversy.  And on some topics, he's becoming pleasantly and null evasive in the way that only Paul McCartney has really developed to a fine art.

He told me:  "there's one film idea we're interested in, but I'm not telling you what it is.  There's certainly hope for us doing another film.  It's being kicked around.  The only reason I don't want to talk is that other people are naturally involved and I don't want to screw 'em up.  Anyway, we got a fantastic film out of making our next LP.  It really is incredible.  Just the sweat and strain of four guys making an LP.  It's being pared down to about four hours.  It could make a major movie.

"About our music...these characters who talk about us progressing or not, really null mind their own business. Progressing to what?   Music is music.  All these characters complain about us and Dylan not being progressive, but we're the ones that turned them on to the other stuff -- so let 'em take our word for it.  This is music, baby.  When we feel like changing, then fine.

"Not that I'm interested in classical music.  I think it's history, and I'm not interested in history, only as a hobby.  I'm interested in NOW.  And the future."

About America:  "I can't disguise that to get my visa back means a lot.  A lot.  I need to go there, for business at least.  I'll just have to keep trying.  Anyway these days, I don't take drugs, alcohol or meat.  They all interfere with my head.  And that's straight.  Or sugar --- I think it's all bad.   These days, I'm completely macrobiotic.  I know it sounds strange, but it's great and it keeps you high all the time.  you don't just get high now and then, this way you're permanently high."


  1. WOW, At this late date John sounds like he still had faith in The Beatles. You always think that they are completely finished by Jan. 1970. Sounds like they still had plans. This also had to be right before John cut off his hair no ?

  2. As Elton John said in his beautiful tribute song to Lennon "a gardener like that one no one can replace . . ."

  3. he was permanently high at this time & quite some after but not due to macrobiotic diet

    1. saw him drunk in NYC 1972 and it wasn't pretty

    2. Do tell, Anon 1:25! Even if it’s not pretty, I’m sure there are plenty of people here who would love details (please)!

  4. Alex, they all talked of future work with the Beatles at this time except Paul. First mention in press of split that I can find was by Paul in 1969/Life magazine. “The Beatles thing is over.” John had a tendency to run his mouth (as we all know, ha!) as Paul has said. Strangely enough, Macca told Howard Stern it was John who broke them up, but I don’t buy it. The self-interview for the McCartney LP didn’t end them as there was still talk of getting together by the other 3 afterward. What really did them in was when Paul sued them to dissolve the partnership: 12/31/70. That really marks the end. It changed attitudes and ended talk of reconciliation. For my $, John didn’t end them, Paul did. And the central issue was Klein. And John was prepared to go with Eastman. Until Yoko. That and all the other reasons put her squarely at the epicenter of the split. There was nothing inevitable about it. And while John could have kept tight-lipped about the split because Klein asked him to until contract renegotiations concluded, Paul didn’t, and he was supposedly “the Beatleholic” right? John had many many opportunities to tell the press they were done, but he didn’t until he finally realized they were finished. And then his tone and narrative changed. You not only have to examine who said what but *when* they said it.

  5. "Permanently high"? Screw you! You're no fan.

    1. Lennon himself wouldn't want to be on the mountain top you have him on- guess what/ he was human and liked his liquor and drugs

  6. I don't care too much for Yoko Ono but I feel there is still an element of subconscious rascism and hate towards her in blaming her for the Beatles breakup. It can't be more than coincidence that the blue-eyed, blonde haired, butter wouldn't melt in her mouth Linda McCartney has been sanctified in all of this. Linda presented herself and made her opinions known at the Beatles' business meetings just as much as Yoko did. I don't what it was, but Paul changed the day he married her, becoming more surreptitious, and defensive, in his business dealings and in his songwriting. He recorded his first solo record in secret - why? It may be an unpopular opinion, but I'd say both of these women did a lot of whispering in their husbands' ears.

    1. believe you're correct 1:07

    2. agree too with 1:07 - an honest and true observation

  7. For the most part I do agree with you Anonymous with a few exceptions. John did quit first. Supposidly there was a huge fight at Apple right after their last photo session at Johns house where he stormed out yelling that its over. Klein talked him into keeping his mouth shut so he could negotiate a better record deal. He supposedly told the Plastic Ono Band he quit The Beatles on the plane ride over to Toronto for Live Peace. I do agree with you that John was always running off his mouth and could have changed his mind but as you stated the McCartney album/Let It Be thing did them in . The business broke them up. I agree with you .
    The hard part to figure out is the 1973-1976 period when they almost got back. At one point or another they were all in to it but not together at the same time. My spin is twofold: cause of the drugbusts and suppenas it was hard to get all 4 of them together in the same place. Also I believe ( don't crucify me over this ) is that when John was away from Yoko he was more open to playing together with the rest. May Pang swears this is true.
    Another thing is there seems to have been a big problem between John and George. One thing to me is certain is it is sad such a great thing ended the way it did.
    One more thing Anonymous, do you often speak to yourself LOL.

  8. While I didn’t write the “permanently high” entry, John had a serious heavy drug issue from mid 68 to [insert what time frame you want to believe here]. He was so loaded during LIB that he threw up during an interview and then resumed the conversation. So calling John on his heavy, self-destructive, very troubling (especially to the other guys) use doesn’t make someone less a fan. Just my two cents, though some opinions aren’t worth that much!

    1. ta anonymous; am a fan of John's music too but he was messed up and that's my two cents opinion as well

  9. Hi Alex. I’d never crucify anyone over anything said on a forum. Disagreement works for me in that you can always learn from it. Agree for the most part with what you said. Think the incident you mention took place at Apple. He said he quit but never did. And besides, Ringo walked (8/68?) and George (1 or 2/69) but both were persuaded back. “Quitting” was therefore nothing new. The band was left in limbo as they had finished recording Abbey Road. If John was truly out, why not tell the press? That would have done it. Macca did just that with Life magazine and later with the self-interview (“do you see... working with John again? No.”) Why talk to the press either saying a) he didn’t know what the future held or b) they would probably get together to make another LP as their issues resolved? It was Paul who refused to settle for Klein - the straw that broke the Beatles’ back.

    It’s evident that the farther John managed to extricate himself from Yoko, the closer they got to a reunion. Did you know there were 2 occasions during the recording of Double Fantasy where John & Paul were supposed to get together but both times it was nixed by Yoko? Same thing happened in early 75 when John was scheduled to see Paul in New Orleans and do some recording. And a minute few still think she had nothing to do with the split? LOL. Without question she kept them apart. Is it a great leap to believe the woman is precisely what has been written about her? It isn’t sexism or racism, it’s well earned disdain for completely justifiable reasons. Yoko nixed the idea of Paul wanting to reverse the credit on some Lennon-McCartney songs (like Yesterday which was a Paul solo effort) as they were ingrained in the public consciousness as “Lennon-McCartney.” But now she gets a writing credit for “Imagine?” Apparently, Yoko’s rules don’t apply to Yoko. If Yoko deserves writing credit for Imagine, then Ringo deserves it for A Hard Day’s Night and Tomorrow Never Knows, the Jamaican Paul knew who used the phrase “obladi, oblada, life goes on, bra” deserves it, the taxi driver who said he’d been working 8 days a week deserves it, etc. etc. ad nauseum. Yoko inspired John as he openly said and he did say she deserved credit, but she didn’t write the tune any more than the other people, places, and things that inspired their art did.

    Only part you lost me on Alex is the speaking to myself bit, but it’s all good.

  10. I guess there are two anonymous that is where I got confused. I knew about the almost get together down New Orleans but never heard about the Double Fantasy get togethers. What a friggin shame. Then of course there was 1974 in LA with Paul playing Ringo's drums .
    In fairness to her and believe me I am no Yoko fan, John picked her over his mates.
    I like how you stated where song inspirations came from. I think in the case of OBLA Di Paul paid out of pocket to that Jamacian singer. Mal Evans always said to he helped Paul on a few songs on Sgt. Pepper. One more is George should have gotten a credit for coming up with the guitar riff on And I love Her.
    I agree not liking Yoko has nothing to do with racism etc. I don't want to get into this but isn't Yoko the one that turned John onto heroin at the time of The White Album/Let It Be ?

    1. George shouldn't have received a credit for the riff on And I Love Her. If you go down that road it just opens up Pandora's Box. They all helped each other with their recordings.

  11. The part of speaking to yourself comes from is the above trail with I guess some one else called anonymous is writing. Maybe I'm confused.
    Personally I didn't like when Paul tried to reverse the Lennon/McCartney credits. I hated it when it first came out in the seventies. I bought Wings Over America when it first came out and I believe the credits were reversed on the record.
    As for Yoko I also remember hearing her stuff on Double Fantasy was cutting edge and Johns stuff was by an old washed up songwriter .
    These supposedly were her thoughts.
    It does seem history is changing and she is no longer a factor in the breakup.
    I remember an interview with George and he stated that The Beatles were over for him when John let her in the studio.
    Can you imagine Lennons reaction if Ringo insisted he must have Maureen in the studio cause he was so in love with her in 1965 ?

  12. @Alex Re: Yoko/heroin, yup. The John Dunbar crowd seemed to like their smack. Can’t recall if the obladi guy (Jimmy Scott) was actually Jamaican or me just thinking so because of “bra.” He wanted credit for the tune but he didn’t get it. Been a long time since I glanced at my 3 LP set of Wings Over America, but I remember it the same way. Pat Benatar did the same thing (1981?) on her Precious Time LP with (I think) Helter Skelter. I didn’t like it one damned bit either. Very soon after 12/8/80 too.
    I don’t think John left the Beatles for Yoko. The group collapsed around him so he didn’t have a whole hell of a lot of choice, did he? Remember, up to a certain point, 3 (J G R) of them talked about getting together again. And as far as the internet, most books, and fan considerations are concerned, Yoko Ono is considered a major reason for the split with John being called out as a nutter for even thinking about being with her and nuttier still for going back. The whole thread kind of started with his image taking a big hit.
    Can you imagine John’s reaction if any woman were brought into the studio, then not only stayed there but told them what to do? Then camped out on a bed in the studio and made everyone even more *gulp* uncomfortable?
    I get sad when I think of Mal. He loved those guys but they never gave him a raise through all their success and he was too proud to ask. But the man was really hurting financially. He was supposedly writing a book (with their blessing) when he died. There is definitely some tragedy amidst all that fame. The price of success?

  13. all interesting comments

    1. I guess any story that lasts for over 50 yrs is going to have happiness and tragedies. I still can't figure out why anyone would try to kill The Beatles.
      Beatles are one of the greatest stories ever and the music will live on forever but its sad that two of them died at such an early age. George dying of cancer was one thing but to shoot John ? and lets not forget George was stabbed in his own house. Sick world.
      In regards to their music living forever I remember an interview with Brian Epstein from about 1964 where he stated people will be listening to The Beatles in 50 yrs time. Honestly from when I was a kid back in 64 ( I saw them on Ed Sullivan that very first time ) I knew I would be listening them forever .