this isn’t related to a specific episode but I’m confused about the beginning of John & Yoko’s relationship. I’ve heard so many different things about when/how it started- from she was stalking him to meeting at a gallery to Paul’s manuscripts (or pictures of Paul’s butt?!) to they were sleeping together two weeks after meeting- also varying dates on the 2 Virgins night (before or after NYC?) And was he really pining after her in India? Did he try to bring her? I trust you guys- what’s the deal?Our Tumblr Asks
Hello listener, thanks for the ask!
Regarding John & Yoko’s origins: some stories are inconsistent, and some things are unknowable (i.e. internal emotions), but we’ll do our best to lay out what we do know.
Yoko approached Paul first, through a contact (probably Dunbar) related to Indica Bookshop and Gallery. Since Paul was a patron, supporter and friend of Indica and was somewhat known within the art community as a rich celebrity with a growing interest in the avant-garde (music, films and art) he was an obvious choice for an artist seeking funding/exposure. Yoko was an avant-garde artist (performance, gallery and film) whose biggest claim to fame at that point was working with John Cage. This was the credential/name drop with which she approached Paul at his house in Cavendish sometime in late 1965. Paul (being Paul) invited her inside to make her pitch: she was collecting manuscripts from various composers as a birthday gift to Cage. Paul declined. (For the record, Paul has never suggested or intimated that Yoko came onto him at that first meeting, so let’s assume she didn’t and this was strictly business) The following year, in November of 1966, Indica hosted an exhibition of Yoko’s work. This is where John Lennon first met Yoko, when he was introduced to her by Indica co-owner John Dunbar.
This was Yoko’s initiation into the Beatles’ world and it should ALWAYS be told like this, FULL STOP, END OF STORY. Anyone in 2020 who tells the story any other way is a bald-faced liar and a coward.
Does this sound like an overreaction? Is Paul’s part in this story really SUCH a big deal? Let’s reverse things and imagine….
In 1965, John Lennon develops a keen interest in photography. He immerses himself in the photography world, creates a dark room in his house and brings his photo influences into the Beatles’ artwork. John also finances and helps launch a photography gallery in Weybridge.
One day, photographer Linda Eastman shows up at Kenwood to show John her portfolio and ask for one of John’s original photographs. John declines. Paul later meets Linda at her exhibition at Weybridge Gallery. 18 months later, Paul starts dating her, calls her his new partner, declares her the greatest influence in his life, and brings her to every Beatles session. Paul and Linda have a joint photography exhibit at the Weybridge Gallery in 1968, hosted by one of John’s closest friends and mentors.
Paul then loudly and repeatedly proclaims that he was the only Beatle ever interested in photography, he’s responsible for all the visual art in the Beatles oeuvre and implies that John couldn’t stimulate him anymore because he was too square and conservative to understand or appreciate photography.
Be honest and try to imagine that. No one would EVER let Paul and Linda get away with that level of bullshit, but for some reason, Jean Jackets are slavishly obedient to whatever John and Yoko say, regardless of facts.
So anyway, back to those facts…
After the meeting in November 1966, Yoko began to pursue John Lennon at his home, the studio and even Brian’s office. She constantly asked for funding and money, but was probably seeking publicity as well. There are rumors that she was also pursuing John sexually, but to our best knowledge they are unsubstantiated. In 1967, Yoko was REALLY trying hard to get her career off the ground and/or get famous; there are numerous accounts from multiple people in the Beatles circle (Hunter Davies, Michael Lindsay Hogg, Robert Fraser, Barry Miles) that Yoko was hustling nonstop at that time. So while Lennon was her main target, our impression is that she was probably just trying to make inroads with anyone who could help her become famous. Accounts consistently suggest that John intermittently found her intriguing (when he didn’t find her scary or annoying), so I imagine she kept soliciting him because that’s where she made the most progress. Anyway, her stalking is a matter of fact, corroborated by EVERYONE. Also corroborated by everyone is the fact that John began to sometimes talk to her and occasionally let her inside (the same way the Beatles treated other Apple Scruffs), starting in/around late 1967.
Tony Bramwell tells a very bizarre story about John being panicked one day in late ‘67, regretful and paranoid after giving Yoko a hand-written letter and a lock of his hair (?). A frightened John asked Tony to retrieve the items from Yoko. Considering the fact that John believed (until his death) that Yoko had magical powers, it sounds as if John asked her to make some sort of voodoo/love potion. Perhaps their early friendship began as sorceress/client (but who knows? That’s just a guess).
We know that John continued to receive tons of mail from Yoko while he was on retreat in India. According to John, he eventually began to really look forward to receiving these items. Yoko would send bizarre, artsy stuff like a maxipad with a drop of red paint in the middle. Who wouldn’t enjoy weird mail like that? 🙂 According to John (in both 1970 AND 1980), he still only thought of Yoko as a weird artist by that point. He insists he was NOT interested in her sexually or romantically, only intellectually, and there is nothing to suggest that he was lying about that. More importantly, John was having some kind of emotional breakdown in India; he wrote and talked about feeling suicidal in Maharishi’s camp. John never specified the exact cause of his breakdown, although he did later pinpoint ongoing feelings of self-hatred and worthlessness.
After returning from India, John was highly emotional, erratic, depressed, and abusing drugs and alcohol at an alarming rate. Derek Taylor recounts John taking some acid trips at his house over two weekends. During one of these weekends, John’s now-friend Yoko (who he still insists he wasn’t sexually interested in) showed up and helped “rebuild John’s ego.” In other words, Yoko threw John a life raft and helped pull him out of the darkest, bleakest depression of his life.
Then in May, after months of erratic behavior, John declared he was Jesus in an Apple board meeting (!). The following night, with Cynthia away for the weekend, John invited Yoko over (or had Mal invite her) and the two of them dropped acid, made some tapes and had sex for the first time. As far as we can tell, this information is accurate as it is corroborated by Pete Shotten (who was making the tapes with John before Yoko came over and replaced him!). Pete said in the morning John came downstairs and shocked Pete by saying Yoko was the answer to all his problems and he was so certain he’d go off and live in a tent with her. That sounds shocking until you realize John was on acid at the time (in that light, not quite as shocking). 🙂 In any event, after that point John and Yoko became basically inseparable for the next 5 years.
There are rumors/theories that John and Yoko were already having sex for months, but so as far as we can tell these are based on nothing but speculation. We believe John’s initial interest in Yoko was intellectual and personal rather than sexual, as he contends. We think John slowly warmed to Yoko over that 18 month period; while initially he might’ve found her annoying, frightening and disturbing, eventually he began to find her quirky, intriguing and charming. We believe their relationship was founded in friendship and that Yoko’s emotional support (and her professed admiration for him as an artist) during that acid trip at Derek’s was vitally important to their bond.
Now, here’s where things get murky.
John was also later quoted as saying that in retrospect he realized he was unconsciously falling in love with her from afar whilst in India – which may or may not have been the case. It is certainly common to look back with fondness on one’s own courtship and also possible to fall in love before you realize you are in love (John described experiencing something similar in 1964) so debating this is kinda pointless and we choose not to nitpick this particular point. However, people have since used this to extrapolate that John was, as you put it, “pining for Yoko in India” which is simply not what John described. John described gradually looking forward to her wacky mail and developing a strictly platonic curiosity about her. If you are highly invested in the John & Yoko love story, it’s easy to spin this into secret “pining,” but when you consider that John was, as he put it, suicidal and going insane, it doesn’t quite make sense. What makes even less sense is why John wouldn’t immediately ask Yoko out upon returning to London in early April, especially since she was aggressively pursuing him at that point. Yoko was present for at least one of the Derek Taylor acid trips in May. Why did John wait an entire month to initiate a private moment with her?
John also said (in Lennon Remembers, I believe) that he privately considered “bringing” Yoko to India (though not as a love interest, but rather in her contemporaneous role as amusing curiosity, i.e. Magic Alex 2.0). Once again, this may or may not be true, but we have no reason to doubt him. Nevertheless, this has also been spun fannishly into “John was pining for Yoko as a girlfriend” which (again) isn’t what he said. 🙂
To be perfectly candid, John & Yoko’s public persona is almost entirely artificially crafted. THIS is corroborated (and detailed) by nearly everyone close to them- May Pang, Ray Connolly, the Dakota staff, etc. That doesn’t mean their love was fake, just that their relationship was much different from how they portrayed/sold it (or how fanboys like Lewisohn portray it). At the end of the day, they are just celebrities who we don’t actually know. We want things to make sense, which is why I think the “John was secretly pining for Yoko for years and his mind was obliterated by love” appeals to some people. It’s a cleaner, more familiar boy-meets-girl story.
Rumors and conspiracy theories are plentiful and can lead you down all kinds of rabbit holes (fun or infuriating, depending on your POV). The “John & Yoko were secret lovers” one makes things a bit sleazier and sexier (I believe Albert Goldman really leaned into this one!). But if you really want to consider everything, you should also consider this: Yoko’s Tarot card reader John Green insists that Yoko claims Paul was the one she wanted all along.
She told him: Paul was her first choice (as boyfriend), which is why she approached him first. She moved on to John only to make Paul jealous (!), which ultimately backfired when Paul then refused to make advances on John’s new girlfriend. According to Yoko, Paul’s sense of propriety (?!) ironically prevented him from being with Yoko (even though Yoko KNEW Paul was always in love with her)! So Yoko inadvertently got stuck with John, who she didn’t really want. Also she was convinced, in the late 70s that Paul was still in love with her and only married Linda because he was devastated he couldn’t have Yoko!
Green swears this is what Yoko told him (for the record, she also thought Mick Jagger was in love with her). Do we believe Yoko said it, that she believed it? Who knows, maybe?!? Green’s credibility is certainly questionable. But it’s no crazier than much of the nonsense in Goldman’s book (or Francie Schwartz’s), and Green is alleging to quote Yoko directly. Parts of this account do ring oddly true; Yoko does seems interested in Paul in the contemporaneous audio/footage from the late 60s. John did ask Paul not to sleep with Yoko (which Paul seemed a bit nonplussed by). John and Yoko are bizarrely convinced in the early 70s that Paul and Linda’s marriage is doomed (is it because Yoko convinced John that Paul is actually in love with her???). Many believe Yoko was jealous of John’s affection for Paul; could Yoko also be jealous of Paul’s affection and respect for John? Maybe. But this story blatantly contradicts the entire John & Yoko Myth and is so over the top weird… there’s just no room in our understanding for this alternate reality where Paul and Yoko are the true star-crossed lovers 🙂
The point is that you can’t believe ALL the theories and rumors because they often directly contradict each other. Sometimes you just have to use your own best judgment.
We hope this was helpful and that we didn’t just confuse you further.
Thanks again for writing in!
-Phoebe and the crew