April 23, 2013
Searching For Tara Browne:
The Testimony Of Laurie O’ Leary
O’ Leary, Laurie: Ronnie Kray: A Man Among Men, 2001, Headline Book Publishing
A key event in British rock and roll history was the death of Tara Browne on 12/18/66 in a car crash. The death was memorialized by the Beatles in their song A Day In The Life on the Sgt. Pepper’s album. This coincided with the Paul Is Dead rumor. It has been suggested, not very plausibly, that Paul McCartney died in the Browne crash and that after a little face lifting surgery Browne took his place in the band and subsequent career.
It has been said that on the night of the crash Paul challenged Tara to a race through the London streets that resulted in the crash. Rather thin story. Paul is supposed to have fled the scene of the accident. There is no doubt that there was an accident, and a spectacular one, and that presumably Browne died. I don’t think there can be much doubt that Tara Browne was the one who died but the accident does raise questions.
Browne along with the Beatles’ George Harrison was involved with the night club Sibylla’s that opened its doors on 6/26/66, six months previous to Tara’s demise. The club that attracted the cream of the rock world was extremely successful. The club was managed by Laurie O’ Leary. O’ Leary was already connected to the notorious Kray Twins having formerly managed aspects of the Krays’ West End gambling joint Esmeralda’s Barn. After Sibylla’s was closed O’Leary would move on to the very important Speakeasy Club.
In his 2001 biography of Ronnie Kray, Laurie gives the most extended account of
Sibylla’s that I have come across. While it may not solve any problems concerning Browne’s death, in its account the book does put Sibylla’s into perspective.
Laurie O’ Leary grew up in the East End not too far from the Krays. He was friends with them from early childhood maintaining a close relationship with them all through the years until Ronnie Kray’s death in the Broadmoor Mental Hospital (insane asylum, loony bin) in 1995.
While a ‘business’ associate he claims never to have been a member of the Krays’ criminal outfit, The Firm. O’ Leary was careful never to have become involved in overt criminal activities, although there was criminal involvement, instead becoming involved in the music business from the promotion and management side. It is not impossible that he participated in the negotiations of the Krays with Brian Epstein to take over the Beatles. As one writing of sensitive matters it isn’t so much what O’ Leary says as what he doesn’t tell us; so while we learn a great deal O’ Leary carefully conceals leads to the whole story.
The Krays, for whose who are unfamiliar with them, were twin brothers, Ronnie and Reggie, who were acknowledged as the kingpins of the British underworld during the 1960s. Their older brother, Charlie Kray, while not part of their Firm, participated in schemes and benefited from the relationship. Charlie Kray too, not surprisingly, got into show business management.
Originally from the East End the Krays made an entrance into the West End of London when by dubious means they acquired a Kensington gambling joint called Esmeralda’s Barn. This was a building of three floors of which the top floor was occupied by the gambling joint while the first floor was made into a private club and the basement was what in the US would be called a bar. O’ Leary managed the lower two floors. The Kray’s were reluctant to pay their taxes thus an un-understanding Inland Revenue closed their doors. Enter Sibylla’s.
O’ Leary says of this stage of his career: p.168
By this time I was managing the society club Sibylla’s for an elite group of directors that included Beatle George Harrison, Sir William Piggot-Brown, the top amateur jockey, and the evergreen disc jockey Alan (Fluff) Freeman.
The club attracted a high profile clientele, which was cleverly orchestrated by one of its directors Terry Howard who worked in advertising.
O’ Leary does not mention two other participants in the directorship Tara Browne and Kevin McDonald. These two are the only ones who figure in the commentary from the rock and roll side. Through O’ Leary, connected to both the Firm and the Charlie Kray Agency he contracted the talent for the club. We are beginning to see a closer connection between the rock scene and the Kray led underworld.
Now, you couldn’t run a club without ‘protection’ and the protection would have to have been provided by the Krays’ Firm as well as the talent by the Charlie Kray Agency and Kray associate O’ Leary.
Ronnie and Reggie Kray
Further, the location was on a Firm controlled street, flanked by gang controlled clubs. A question then would be, who selected the site and why? O’ Leary describes the location: pp 108-109
Sibylla’s was a small restaurant discotheque situated in Mayfair’s Vine Street, a narrow, winding cobbled road suitable only for the width of one vehicle….
Entering from Regent Street, Vine Street already had three established night clubs. Al Burnet’s Stork Rooms was the most famous. Directly next door was the less famous but well-run Hirondelle. Both were used by the Twins. At the same time, a few doors along, was Bill Bentley’s Oyster Bar, which was frequented by many a celebrity….
On the other side from Bentley’s was a rather infamous clip joint called Pipistrello’s…
Just why the directors of Sibylla’s had chosen this site for their exclusive club was actually beyond belief. The other clubs were frequently used by London’s gangsters. This kind of passing trade would have been difficult to eliminate.
So, the high flying music trade was placed cheek by jowl with the London underworld. The whole directorship must have been high on drugs while feeling immune to any threat from the Kray gang. As I stated the club would have had to have been paying protection. Tara Browne already worked for and or was associated with a car dealership and the dealerships were all ‘protected’ by the Kray gang.
A month or so previous to Browne’s accident his friend and business associate Kevin McDonald fell to his death from a high building. Kevin was either carelessly walking the ledge, high enough to think he could fly, purposely jumped or was thrown to his death by unknown parties.
Concerning McDonald’s death O’ Leary says: p. 171
Sadly after about three weeks, news drifted through that Kevin McDonald had died. I was told to keep quiet about the tragedy, and that the news would finish off Sibylla’s. Nobody ever explained to me just what had happened to Kevin, of whom I had grown very fond. It appeared that he had leapt off a roof in, I think, Chelsea or Fulham while under the influence of something or other.
O’ Leary doesn’t indicate who told him to keep quiet or who failed to tell him what happened but I think the influence is clear that it was the Krays. Laurie doesn’t even mention Tara Browne’s death.
Perhaps, or probably, McDonald objected to some demands from the Krays while feeling beyond any threats because of the popularity of the Beatles through Harrison so that he ignored his danger. I suspect the situation was the same with Tara Browne who probably had a cognitive disconnect because of his social status.
Another jump would have been highly suspicious so an auto accident was determined. Possibly it was meant to only scare Tara but resulted in his death. If McCartney was used to lure Browne into a race through the streets then it is possible to create a scenario resulting in the Paul Is Dead rumor but, at this point it would be pure speculation.
At any rate O’ Leary’s account makes clear the Krays’, both twins and Charlie, underworld connection to Sibylla’s, McDonald and Browne. It opens an avenue to further speculation.
Sibylla’s Entrance from Sara’s blog, Sara in picture.
March 1, 2010
Mourning Becomes Yoko: Part I
The Passing Of John Lennon:
Goldman, Albert: The Lives Of John Lennon, Chicago Review Press, 1988
Green, John: Dakota Days, St. Martin’s, 1983
Norman, Philip: John Lennon, Ecco, 2008
Pang, May: Loving John
Seaman, Frederic: The Last Days Of John Lennon, 1991
Warhol, Andy: POPism: Harcourt, Brace, 1980
Numerous internet sites of the many thousands, most of which I haven’t investigated, concerning principal and minor characters of which Warholstars is most prominent.
There were many changes that ushered in the sixties, changes that made the sixties possible. Not least of these was the introduction of the commercial jet fleet. Gone were the much smaller, less comfortable propeller planes, slow and relatively uncomfortable with limited range. The Boeing 707s, DC 8s, mammoth in their time quickly evolved into the flying cities of the 747s and DC10s. With the big jets came the envy of the sixties, The Jet Set. Golden people off to the capitols of Europe so stunningly portrayed in Hollywood movies and travel posters. One can’t imagine the effect of travel posters today but then they created unfulfillable desires.
With ease not only were the capitols of Europe within spitting distance but also the exotic cities of the East- Tokyo.
The entertainment industry was about to spike as technology revolutionized the recording studio as well as the stage. Guitar amps as the sixties began were small, portable units. Amplifiers rapidly grew in size. Massive arrays of Marshalls rose behind the first of the heavy metal bands, Blue Cheer, like a low mountain towering above the group. Greatful Dead took the stage in front of tens of thousands of dollars of electronic equipment. Four guys could sound like Krakatoa on that fateful day.
In those far off sunny days when our world began the old world crumbled before the onsllught of bold intrepid pioneers, and behind them came the leeches and parasites.
The sixties started slowly almost imperceptibly changing until the Beatles stepped off one of those big jetliners in 1964. Seemingly innocuous, their arrival was to change the whole paradigm. Through the fifties and early sixties, before the Jet Set, was the Avant Garde, those bold experimenters moving in advance, well to the fore, of the dull plodding Middletown Babbitry and those mental habits the hip, the aware, the Avant Garde despised. There were still such things as modern art, experimental novels, cutting edge jazz. They were all swept away in ’64 when the Beatles led the British Invasion. All of a sudden the Avant Garde was turned inside out as Pop took possession of the field.
The first intimations of change took place in Art. As the 50s ended the dominant art form was Abstract Expressionism. From those ranks rose what would be known as POPart. Roy Lichtenstein with his comic book panels, Jasper Johns with his flags, Robert Rauschenberg with his messy effort and, of course, Andy Warhol and his soup cans. Interestingly they were all homosexuals. With the exception of Warhol they were all discreet, in the closet, Warhol was a man with an agenda, he wanted to legitimize himself and
whatever he liked or did. He was an advocate.
One of the big changes of the sixties was the rise of the cult of the homosexual. Let Leroi Jones as a Negro spokesman rail against the cult as he might he was powerless to resist its course. Homosexuality was then illegal all over America until the great homosexual revolt at Manhattan’s Stonewall Bar in 1969 as the decade drew to a close. Homosexuals were aggressively out of the closet roaring for revenge. One item on Warhol’s agenda in fact.
Warhol began his fine art career about 1960. By 1964 when the Beatles deplaned he had completed another item on his agenda, the destruction of fine art. Thus, although few of us realized it at that time POPism was overtaking Euroamerica like a tidal wave lifting the level of the sea.
The Beatles would of course be the core, the heart of the sixties. They defined the sixties and gave the decade its form. While they were busy conquering the world a little Japanese woman who desperately wished to incarnate and represent the Avant Garde was beginning her career on the Lower East Side as a ‘performance’ artist. Zany beyond description was Yoko Ono. By 1967 she will have entrapped the leader of the free musical world and the Beatles, John Lennon. Together they will dominate what became of the Avant Garde until Lennon’s passing in 1980.
A description of Yoko to begin. A Spider Woman, a self professed witch, a psychotic obsessive-compulsive who was driven and completely organized to realize her goals. She however lacked the talent to realize those goals. As she searched for a way the seemingly unrelated success of the Beatles fortuitously occurred.
The success of the Beatles was uprecedented. Once their success had been achieved then the parasites and exploiters moved in to get whatever they could steal. While the Beatles were revered for their success one member, John Lennon, was selected to fill the almost messianic needs of the sixties.
Needless to say succes on the order of the Beatles who were after all of lower middle class origins with no preparation for dealing with success of the magnitude they achieved were completely overwhelmed while nevertheless comporting themselves creditably. Still, as Paul McCartney’s song Fool On The Hill demonstrates their heads were swimming. John Lennon even issued a musical plea in his song Help! which was a forthright request for guidance for whoever might recognize it while being able to fill his need.
As it was, this young Japanese avant garde artist, Yoko Ono, understood the plea and acted on it. John Lennon was tailor made to fulfill her own needs and ambitions.
Yoko Ono was born in Japan in 1933 as the Japanese were initiating their plan to impose the Greater East Asian Co-Prosperity Sphere on the whole of the East from India through China to Japan. In 1942 when she was ten the Japanese made their move to annex the oil reserves of Indonesia, bombing Pearl Harbor at the same time in the attempt to secure their ocean perimeter. The invasion did not come off as planned so a short three years later in 1945 the B-29s unloaded their incendiary devices over the capitol city of Tokyo where Yoko Ono’s family lived.
Now thirteen she was aware of what was happening. Moved to the country outside Tokyo Yoko Ono witnessed the massive clouds of smoke obscurring the blue sky, one presumes, for hundreds of square miles. Within a few days Hiroshima and Nagasaki had been wholly obliterated by atomic bombs. Yoko imagined the blue sky over those two cities obscured as was the sky of Tokyo. This made an indelible impression on her mind causing a psychological disturbance. She would be haunted by the memory. Thus having appropriated John Lennon in the late sixties she and he created the Plastic Ono Band whose LP was a picture of a blue sky with fluffy white clouds. After 1973 she had her office in the Dakota painted in replica of the cover. Thus she would always have a blue sky above her.
Even though the Japanese had attacked the United States first in this instance, not without provocation to my mind, thereby acquiring guilt for beginning the war there can be little doubt that Yoko blamed the West for Japan’s shame.
While Yoko experienced some discomfort after the bombing of Tokyo, as her father was a banking executive with experience in dealing with Westerners, she shortly after the war moved to the US where she lived in luxurious circumstances eventually attending Sarah Lawrence College from 1957 to 1960 but leaving without a degree.
As of 1960 Yoko Ono had experienced little of the hardships caused by the Wars in Europe and Asia. Indeed, as Philip Norman points out John Lennon’s England suffered greater hardship from 1945 to the sixties. Japan, once defeated, was given extremely benevolent treatment by the US. The paternalistic approach of the US can be seen in the picture of the tiny five foot Emperor, Hirohito, beside the relatively giant protective figure of Douglas MacArthur. Efforts began immediatly to rebuild the Japanese economy. The millions of Japanese soldiers throughout the Pacific and China were repatriated to Japan without consequences, forgiven as it were. In contrast to Europe where the carnage had been enormous there was relatively little damge to the Japanese homeland. If you watch Japanese movies of the late forties and early fifties there is only a slight indication that there has been a war. A few references are made to soldiers who never returned but the landscape is intact and undisturbed.
In Europe Germany had been flattened, German civilians slaughtered in the millions. Armies of German soldiers disappeared into the Gulag never to be seen live again. The allies exposed millions of Germans in the depth of winter while depriving them of food. The entire continent was desolated, England itself had suffered terrific bombing damage that was still being repaired into the sixties. POP star Marianne Faithfull in her biography tells of sitting aove a bomb crater in the mid-sixties. Thus any complaits of racism against the Japanese are ridiculous.
In 1957 when Yoko Ono was beginning her cushy life at Sarah Lawrence I was sailing into Tokyo Bay aboard a US Navy Destroyer Escort. We docked in Yokosuka across the strait from Yokohama. There was absolutely no evidence of there ever having been war damage to Yokosuka. Looking across the strait to the shipyards of Yokohama one was astonished at the glittering brand new derricks of the most modern design. The stuff made ours look positively medieval. Twelve years after the war Japanese shipbuilders were becoming the dominant force in that industry displacing the West under the guidance of the US which complacently ceded the industry to them.
In 1960 as Yoko Ono was beginning her career as an avant garde artist in NYC the first Japanese autos were being landed on the West Coast.
Now, Philip Norman tut tuts the English for supposedly outrageous racist comments against Yoko Ono in the late sixties as though the English had no grievances against their own racial treatment by the Japanese in WWII. In point of fact the Japanese Greater East Asian Co-Prosperity Sphere was a racist organization directed at the West. The Pacific war was a racist war if you wish to put things in those terms. There are other definitions. This isn’t the place to discuss the racial antecedents to the Co-Prosperity Sphere so I won’t but one should look into the historical background which is very complex.
The question is, did Japanese racism end with their defeat and if it didn’t how was the war carried on by other means? In 1964 Yoko Ono published a small book of haiku style statements called Grapefruit ‘which aimed to make words like the commands of musical notation’: “Steal a moon on the water with a bucket. Keep stealing until no moon is seen on the water.” Norman, John Lennon p. 475.
I have a feeling the image is not original to Yoko but is part of Japanese culture much as Bob Dylan used commonplace mid-western phrases like It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue appropriating them to himself. Of interest here is that Yoko used the verb ‘to steal.’ Her mental state then was one of taking what doesn’t belong to oneself much as in the Jewish prophecy that they will live in houses they didn’t build. While the command seems nonsensical the results will not be. The reflection of the moon on the water is beautiful but is only the image of the moon. Removing buckets of water will not destroy the reflection unless and until all the water or substance on which the image is reflected is removed. Thus the substance has been stolen while the image is disappears. At the same time, one imagines, the moon is flattered by the attempt not realizing what is being done.
Yoko Ono will apply the method to John Lennon while the Japanese applied the method to the US and the West. All those unpunished repatriated Japanese warriors lost none of the hatred of the West now reinforced by the ignominy of defeat. They could even believe that they were better warriors than the Americans being defeated by greater American resources for which there was some justification. So, in 1957 under American tutelage the Japanese had lost noe of their aggressive hatred when I and my shipmates came ashore.
Now, as Americans we were never allowed to celebrate our victory thus relieving the hardships we endured. After three years of being taught ourtrageous racial caricatures of demonic enemies we were now the day after victory forbidden to call them Japs, for instance, upon pain of disciplining. We were commanded to believe that our victury had been evil and unjustified. Shortly after the war the Hiroshima ‘maidens’ were brought over to receive free medical treatment. You won’t find anything in history books but there was a strong murmur of protest. Less than a decade after ‘The Day Of Infamy’ we were commanded to shut up or we would be shut up and we wouldn’t like it. I don’t know what the exact effect of what this was on the American psyche but their was a serious reaction.
Now going into Japan in 1957, ostensibly as conquerors, remember the Korean War had only ended in 1954, we were told that if we had any confrontations with the Japanese we would automatically be considered the aggressors, judged guilty and punished regardless of the facts. This was Tom Brokaw’s Greatest Generation speaking to its sons. So, our fathers castrated their sons for whatever idiotic reason they had. Is it any wonder we revolted against the bastards in the sixties?
The Japanese knew of the conditions imposed on us and used them to aggrandize themselves at our expense. Of course, as epigoni we were callow teenage boys rather than the fierce warriors who had driven them through the islands. As an example of what we were compelled to endure being unable to resist on pain of punishment was something like this. As might be expected the souvenir joints exploiting us were set up next to the docks. I entered a booth where I was treated insultingly by the middle aged female clerk. As I turned to leave the booth she slugged me with a shore patrol baton, which they sold, between the shoulders on the upper vertebrae. the sound was terrific but I was unhurt. Expecting me to retaliate a couple of repatriated soldiers of the Bataan Death March started moving toward me to pound me to dust while mah fellow Americans moved away from me as though poison. Heeding the advice of my Captain I walked unconcernedly away to the jeers of the former Death Marchers trying to further provoke me. This is what the Greatest Generation did to their sons. I would imagine that the lesson to the Japanese was that they had nothing to fear from Americans, young or old, while my own feeling of betrayal left me with an abiding distaste even hatred for the fathers that would turn me, a victor, over to the mercies of the defeated.
So, by flattering the Americans (the reflection of the moon on the unresisting water) the Japanese began to ladle out the American substance itself. With the simple minded Americans there to instruct them the Japanese studied American technological achievements and began to reproduce them much more cheaply because of their lower wage differential. At first the reproductions were clumsy, the first cars were laughable but they quickly honed their skills even, eventually, making improvements.
Because of their relatively quick and easy victory over Japan the American veterans in Detroit refused to take the Japanese seriously even though they were warned by quicker witted countrymen. The Japanese kept ladling the image out until today the
American auto industry is all but defunct today while Toyota has replaced GM as the dominant auto maker worldwide. I won’t say the bastards of the ‘Greatest Generation’ didn’t have it coming but I still regret it for my country’s sake.
In 1960 then Yoko Ono left Sarah Lawrence as I left the Navy to attempt a career as an artist in NYC. In 1960 John Lennon was at the very beginning of his career as, actually, an avant garde musician although he may not have realized it. It would be six years before their paths crossed in London.
In the meantime Yoko attempted to storm avant garde New York demanding instant success and considering herself so talented that she couldn’t contemplate failure. She took up with the unlistenable avant garde composers, John Cage, the premier electronic composer Robert Maxwell and people of that ilk. At one time I wanted to be avant garde so I actually listened to people like Cage, Maxwell, Pauline Oliveros, Steve Reich and people like that. If you want to you can make yourself listen to anything but I don’t want to make myself do it again. Once was more education than I needed.
So, Yoko was breaking into a very minority taste, even at the height of my enthusiasm I couldn’t make anyone sit through the stuff. At the same time Yoko was trying to appeal to the uptown crowd who cut her cold creating deep resentment in her.
Having stormed the gates and failed Yoko fled back to Japan awhere she had a psychotic reaction, nervous breakdown or depression. At any rate she was committed to a mental hospital where she was heavily sedated, massive drugging. Interestingly Norman say that before she went to London she had never used drugs. I don’t know what you would call the stuff given to her at the hospital but I’d call them drugs. Just because a dentist gave me Nembutal doesn’t mean I never had drugs although I never used them otherwise. As incredible as it may seem a fellow named Tony Cox heard stories about Yoko in New York that he found so intriguing he hopped a big jetliner and flew to Tokyo to find her. Real fairy tale stuff. Maybe he heard she came from a fabulously wealthy family.
And Tony did find Yoko stumbling through the halls of the asylum under the influence. He discovered a means to get her released then only had to deal with her Japanese husband Yoko had picked up along the way. Apparently a smooth talker Tony convinced hubby to form a menage a trois. This, of course, disintegrated the marriage 1964 finding Yoko and Tony back in New York.
Now, back in 1960-61 Yoko had been sleeping around, she had a menage a trois in Japan while subsequently not taking the marriage vows to Tony overly seriously. Yet in Norman’s biography she repeatedly tries to pass herself off as some virginal girl unable to deal with the rabid sexuality of her third husband. Clearly Yoko suffers from cognitive dissonance, meaning her version of things is always questionable if not immediately dismissable.
Yoko as a feminist wrote the song Woman Is The Nigger Of The World. In rebellion of what she saw as the status of women she became what we boys call a man eater. She emasculated the men of her life assigning them traditional female roles while she assumed the male role. Thus all three of her husbands assumed the role of house husbands, housewife being a demeaning term in her lexicon while she tried to play the role of provider through her art although unsuccessfully. Needless to say that she was a failure as a provider in all three marriages although in her last she proved an efficient money manager of the millions provided by her last house husband, John Lennon.
Cox and Yoko left NYC for London in 1966. By 1966 the decade was well along in its formation actually tipping into its demise. By 1966 the British invasion of musical groups was entering its second phase. A dozen or so groups had succeeded very well chief among them the Beatles and Rolling Stones. They had pre-empted the avant garde becoming themselves an avant garde. The chief American representative who had survived the British onslaught was Bob Dylan.
The art scene Yoko was trying to influence had been taken over lock, stock and barrelo by POPart whose leading representative was
Andy Warhol who had a zoo of addicts and perverts known as the Factory. Warhol, himself a homosexual, had always been a connoisseur of pop music playing 45s constantly. He would have been aware, perhaps uniquely, of the significance of the British Invasion for POPart and the old Abstract Expressionist avant garde. By 1965 he had aligned himself with the musical scene by adopting the Velvet Underground as the Factory house band. He attempted to form connections with all the top musicians from Lennon, Mick Jagger, Dylan and on to Jim Morrison of the Doors not always successfully. Most of the musicians waere as psychotic as he was, recotgnized him for what he was and were too canny to become involved with him.
Yoko on her return from Japan, then, was dealing with a very different art scene than in her first foray. She had to at some time between ’64-’66 make contact with Warhol. As she left NYC in ’66 for London Dylan’s evaluation of her relayed through George Harrison as quoted in Norman p. 671 must refer to this period:
George by contrast, despite long marinading in soft-tongued Buddha-speak, was his most bluntly charmless. “[He] insulted [Yoko] right to her face in the Apple office,” John would remember. “Just being straightforward, that game of ‘Well, I’m going to be upfront because this is what I’ve heard, and Dylan and a few people said you’ve got a lousy name in New York and you give off bad vibes.’ That’s what George said to her and we both sat through it.”
Dylan would have been speaking of Yoko in NYC from ’64 to ’66. During the latter part of that period Dylan was in conrflict with Warhol and his Factory crowd because of Edie Sedgwick. That Yoko Ono could have come within his ken is interesting. Yoko wouldn’t have know of Warhol during her first assault on NYC but as she kowtowed to Warhol on her return after 1968 that might indicate that she might have visited the Factory, which was open to all, met and conversed with Warhol. I haven’t found a mention of her on the main Warhol site, Warholstars, as yet but there must be a connection no matter how slight. It is impossible to know what was said between them but as Yoko got into making Warhol style avant garde movies she must have at least made some notes.
Whether music in relation to the avant garde came up with Warhol’s preference for Rock n’ Roll and possibly he Beatles isn’t known although she did drag Lennon down to do obeisance to Warhol when they eturned. Then, too, she used Sam Green, Samuel Adams Green had presented the Warhol exhibition at UPennsylvania a couple years previously, as her agent for acquistion of art.
In 1980 she was thick with Sam Green leading Lennon to express discomfort because of Green’s association with the Warhol crowd. There seems to have been a rather strong conection of Yoko to Warhol. Certainly her husband of the time, Tony Cox, was well known around the Factory having stolen one of their cars and taken it to California. Cox, who had criminal tendencies, is worth a little study too. It would seem impossible that he knew nothing of the Beatles- I think Yoko Ono’s claim to have never heard of them can be dismissed too- as Cox seemed to have been always scheming he may have heard Lennon songs like Help and I’m A Loser and drawn the obvious conclusions. Lennon in the right hands could be used.
In 1966 then, Cox and Ono left for London presumably to take that art world by storm. I think it quite probable that Yoko believed she could get inside Lennon’s head to use his wealth to further her art career. Her bagism notion was well conceived by 1965 in NYC. Her displays at London’s Indica gallery seem designed to get Lennon’s attention. An apple on a stand priced at 200 pounds…how obvious can you get? The tinyYES on the ceiling. Yoko was very good at hypnotic suggestion.
How did she find her way to the Indica anyway? The gallery had just opened in 1965 and would only survive for two years, which isn’t to say Yoko’s exhibit killed it.
Her claim that she had never heard of Lennon before the show is contradicted by both John Dunbar, the owner, and Barry Miles, who wrote under the name of Miles. He says that instead of coolly walking away not overly impressed with Lennon she actually tried to force her way into his car. Certainly flooding his mailbox with cards and letters doesn’t indicate indifference. No. Yoko wanted access to Lennon’s money and she got it.
There’s no need here to recount how she forced Cynthia Lennon out. Suffice it to say that she quickly captured Lennon; by 1968 they were back in ‘her town’, NYC. For a person who was there for maybe two years in 1960-61 and two more years in ’64-’66 I think it takes a certain amount of chutzpah to call New York ‘your town.’
Once in New York she had Lennon dependent on her while with the acquisition of the Dakota Apartment in 1973 the real action began. First let us do a character review of Lennon before beginning the denouement.
I am assuming that any readers will be familiar with the main lines of Ono’s and Lennon’s biographies. If I’ve glided too quickly over certain points don’t hesitate to ask for clarification. There are literally thousands of websites dedicated to all principals and minor characters, some of them very extensive so my exploration of all these sites is ongoing.
January 14, 2010
One Giant Step For Somebody
Review by R.E. Prindle
Lennon, Cythia: John, Three Rivers Press, 2005
Remember what the door knob said…
We built this city on Rock and Roll.
If you want to be a girl of mine
You’d better bring it with you when you come,
Cynthia Lennon’s autobiography of her life with John Lennon opens the door to a number of possibilities of which I’ll explore one, at least, here.
Let’s begin with Lonnie Donegan’s 1955 hit The Rock Island Line. Lonnie was the originator of his own genre- Skiffle Music. Skiffle was all the rage in the British world from England to Australia to New Zealand while passing very lightly over the States except for the fortunate few of which I was one. Rock Island Line was a major hit in the US though.
Lonnie, may he rest in peace, was also the originator of the Big Beat. Of course Lennon and most of the young English rockers studied at Lonnie’s feet. The first band Lennon formed, the Quarrymen, was a Skiffle band. That was back in the fifties before the second stage of the big change kicked off. The first stage began about 1950 with Johnny Ray and his song Cry.
Eisenhower had the world pretty well organized in 1960 before John Kennedy stole the baton from the intended successor, Richard Nixon. With the accession of Kennedy the American personality or identity, such as it was, began to disintegrate- I mean in the psychological sense.
The Celts tried to establish Kennedy as the second coming of King Arthur and his Camelot. Not the smartest thing they could have done; a couple bullets fired in Dallas on November 22, 1963 put a period to that dream. By the then the sixties were fairly launched about to begin in earnest in January of 1964 when Lennon’s next group, the Beatles, hit.
The Beatles began as a Big Beat band rooted in the fifties. Seized by the avant garde they were made the avatar of the sixties. In their own way they launched the sixties although the makins’ were already out of the can. Kennedy was shot almost in December and in January the Fab Four washed his memory out on the Ed Sullivan Show. The Kennedy assassination was so then, then. The Beatles were NOW. IS in capital letters.
While the Beatles were revamping fifties music they edged into the future with modified Prince Valiant haircuts and collarless suit jackets. They were then NEW emerging into a brave new world.
Almost at the beginning of 1960 the art world was shaken by the emergence of Pop Art. Jasper Johns, Claes Oldenburg, Robert Indiana, Roy Lichtenstein, Robert Rauschenberg and especially Andy Warhol with his Campbell’s Soup Can set the sixties on its ear. On
the film scene the James Bond series with its new sensibility began. Bond also was a revelation portending changes with unintended consequences.
Pop Art would figure signficantly in Cynthia Lennon’s life in a few years when one of its more laughable practitioners, Yoko Ono, would step into her life and filch her husband from her. In fact Pop Art would be inextricably linked with the record industry. All the pop motifs would find their way onto record covers with increasing frequency. Tiny Alice would have a cover that opened like a match book. Talking Head’s colored disc would even become a happening designed by Rauschenberg himself. The burgeoning poster business would find its way into record sleeves. Astonishing packages never seen before in the record business although perhaps anticipated by the experimental ESP label of NYC. Some interesting stuff. Perhaps Milton Glaser’s poster of Bob Dylan could run for the distinction of the most popular poster design of the whole era. It was innovation itself at the time although not quite so fresh today.
Now, all this was happening so fast and from so many directions that it was impossible to get it all or even keep up on what you did get; after all people had lives to live.
In the San Francisco Bay Area where I was during the sixties the Scene was especially heavy. I wasn’t in the thick of things but a little off to the side. Thus while the UC Berkeley Free Speech Brouhaha took center stage in the East Bay, Ken Kesey, the Merry Pranksters and the Acid Tests were simmering on the Peninsula, but actually invading the middle class especially at Stanford and UC Berkeley. The San Fransciso Mime Troupe was very important in the early stages while Bill Graham was commercializing the Trips Festival with his Fillmore shows and Chet Helms was organizing the Avalon Ballroom out at the beach. The posters for the ballrooms which epitomized the psychedelic was the first inkling I had that something ‘new’ was happening. I don’t know how quick on the uptake I was but the first inkling of New York Pop I had was 1966-67 when I opened a poster store soon to be a record store.
LA, always commercial, would nevertheless provide the great Ron Cobb political cartoons for the LA Free Press one of the best of the Hippie papers soon to degenerate into porn as did the Berkeley Barb and all the rest. R. Crumb in San Francisco became the king of Hippie porn which characterized the movement from then on. The scene was then set for George and Pattie Harrison’s famous descent on the Haight-Ashbury that disappointed them so.
This brief sketch only contains a few of the highlights of the period. It was into this world that John and Cynthia Lennon stepped unprepared. Both Cynthia and John came from a background of very low expectations. Cynthia’s dreams were very modest while per her John’s dreaming was no bigger than reaching the tops of the pops in England.
Indeed the much touted German clubs showed no promise of a future whatever. Essentially playing in brothels in Hamburg one wonders what the ‘lads’ were thinking of the whole process. The wonder is that they paid enough attention to hone their skills. One of those making lemonade from lemons situations.
Only the greatest good luck showed them to success and fortune. They would have labored in the vineyard for a while and then drifted off into jobs but for the fact that an entrepreneurial romantic by the name of Brian Epstein saw them as the vehicle to realize his own dreams. He had the direction and energy to galvanize their careers. Still they were rejected by all the labels until a producer, George Martin, apparently heard what the rest of the world would hear and agreed to record them. It was then that the unbelievable happened elevating the Beatles into the most successful pop group ever. It was success far beyond their imaginations. With that success came challenges that neither John nor Cynthia could meet. The fact that they failed is no reflection on either one; they came from very low expectations and having fallen down the rabbit hole they were slightly unprepared. ‘One side makes you larger, the other side makes you smaller.’
To this time in their lives neither had even eaten at anything other than the English equivalent of McDonald’s, fish and chips or whatever. Now in one great step they were introduced into the haut ton by their manager Brian Epstein. Cynthia leads us to believe that Epstein gave special attention to John over the other ‘lads.’ As Epstein was a homosexual and as other sources, Peter Brown, Goldman actually state that Epstein seduced Lennon he obviously had a crush on John seeking to mold him in his own image. Indeed, John may have been his incentive for taking the Beatles on. Lust at first sight.
John had an attractive flip attitude that left the impression that he was much better educated than he was. Actually he left Art School, already a step down from the top, flunked out or whatever preferring to devote himself to his guitar chords. Most of the rockers were in the same situation. It’s amazing that their fans looked to them for salvation. This was tragic, because the generation invested all their hopes and dreams in these muscians attributing universal knowledge and genius to them, each and everyone. While they all did changes on certain political and social themes there was an appearance of ‘deep’ knowledge. Being anti-pollution was a badge of authority. Grace Slick of the Jefferson Airplane made the mistake if, one hopes, jesting that one should never trust anyone over thirty; this while she, John and others were about twenty-nine.
The phrase stuck. Those under thirty trusted these youthful, perhaps well-meaning rock stars. Being somewhat older at the time I could only see some very ordinary boys and girls who were just youthful wiseacres as we all were in that phase of our journey through life. Give me a break.
The most revered of all were the three Beatles John, Paul and George with Ringo thought of more as the court jester. John seemed to take his role most seriously as the guru of the generation, especially after he abandoned Cynthia for, spare me, the psychotic Yoko Ono.
Her abandonment by John for Yoko Ono is of course the most traumatic incident in her story. One can only commiserate with Cynthia. Then one has to search for reasons why; there was certainly no physical attraction there. Lennon did release a solo album called Mind Games so perhaps the best place to look is the mental. Lennon’s success must have placed great stresses of various kinds on him. The transition from a fair degree of poverty to one of a very large income to great wealth under the management of Yoko Ono would be psychologically unsettling in itself. Cynthia was unable to transit from poverty to wealth always remaining a lower middle class haus frau while John appears to have lacked the social climbing instincts of, say, Mick Jagger.
Musicians in general are held in very low esteem by the social elite so without unbounded desire and chutzpah, an ability to endure slights of the most painful kind it is highly unlikely that a musician would ever find acceptance in society. The aristocrats, Marrianne Faithfull describes as associating with Jagger appear to me to be more of the Black Sheep variety. So, Lennon may have been experiencing some frustration at that level.
At the same time there are numerous flatterers who are adept at putting ideas of omnipotence into your head not only intimating but saying that you are godlike. Even though one rejects the notion on the conscious level still a feeling of super powers creeps into your subliminal mind. One feels invulnerable, that one can do what’s never been done, that one can do drugs with impunity. There was never a time when the availability of drugs was ever greater or more socially acceptable.
At the time rumors abounded which have since turned into facts. During the Kennedy administration there was one Dr. Feelgood operating in New York to whom the social elite went for their drugs. His name was Dr. Max Jacobson and he was your friendly amphetamine pusher. His speed cocktails were extraordinary and they lasted for days. It’s comforting to know that President John F. Kennedy was amphetamine fueled while he was making those difficult international decisions- like Cuba. Nothing like having an A-man on the job. He wasn’t alone, VP Lyndon Johnson, followed in his footsteps into the office of Dr. Feelgood. He would have found his place at the end of the line of the NYC elite.
One person who took the good doctor’s prescription said that he went blind for three days staying high for several. Max was the economic type, dirty needles too.
At the same time Dr. Timothy Leary was sending everyone from prison inmates to Beat poet Allen Ginsberg tripping into inner space with his free handed distribution of LSD. Kennedy was involved in that too.
Prior to their arrival for the Sullivan show we are led to believe that the Mop Tops had only used pep pills in Hamburg to fuel their twelve hour sets. We are told that Bob Dylan was the one who turned them on to La Cucuracha, the most mild of the intoxicants. From there the boys graduated to LSD through spiked drinks or food.
Just as Harrison’s wife, Patti, records a spiked introduction to LSD so does Cynthia Lennon. Cynthia quite properly was revolted by drugs having no use for them. John was quite the opposite. He embraced LSD apparently ingesting regularly for long periods of time. As he would describe it, thousands of trips. At that point in my estimation the marriage was over. There is nothing for which Cynthia has to reproach herself except for her small divorce settlement. Nothing disintegrates the personality like drugs.
The drug influence was followed by a change in their music patterned after Dylan. When I first heard the Rubber Soul album I found it extremely noisy and unpleasant. This album was probably influenced by the Band’s playing behind Dylan on the ’65-’66 tour or perhaps the Bringing It All Back Home and Highway ’61 albums. It seems p;robable to me that the song Norwegian Wood commemorated Dylan’s turning them on to marijuana. The girl obviously represents Dylan.
Succeeding albums would aim for a ‘heavier’ feel with more social significance. As Lennon said in his ’80 Playboy interview, I Am The Walrus was written in imitation of Dylan.
The cover of Rubber Soul was traditional uninfluenced by pop art trends. The succeeding cover in the US, the famous ‘Butcher’ cover would be widely interpreted in the US as a comment on the Viet Nam War. It may have been meant as a pun- prime cuts of both meat and record tracks, but I don’t know. Whether there was a Pop Art influence isn’t clear.
The cover for the following Revolver by Klaus Voorman seems to indicate an awareness of Pop. For a band that was thought to be on the cutting edge of everything there are only two covers very avant garde with neither being very satisfying to me.
Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band that follows Revolver is a complete Pop Art package. A bizarre and macabre conception it does succeed. The grave in the foreground with the floral Beatles is chilling, perhaps a presage of the break up of the band. As Dylan said: If you’re not busy being born you’re busy dying.’ The Beatles are pictured in dead black and white looking down mournfully on their grave while the newly born Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band stand front and center in vibrant living color. Obviously the one has risen from the other.
Behind the band are row on row of ‘ancestors’ or, as was commonly assumed, influences. In fact members of the band contributed only a few of the names while the rest were contributed by others. Dylan is certainly among the pictures. The album comes complete with a childhood toy, a sheet of cut outs, making a complete Pop Art package. They could have had a designed inner sleeve but they overlooked that. Peter Blake, the main designer, is known as a Pop Artist.
The musical content follows the downer social significance motif with aural pyrotechnics such as had not been heard on record before. The release, as everyone is aware, was a complete smash, but it went beyond smash into realms not achieved until Michael Jackson’s Thriller. Thriller failed to excite as did Sgt. Peppers. That summer of ’67 was literally a surround of Sgt. Peppers. It was almost the only record anyone played. The Beatles easily trumped Dylan’s Blonde On Blonde of the summer of ’66.
The rest of the Beatles’ covers are pedestrian. The White LP probably influenced by One was trite at the time.
Cynthia seems to lack all understanding of what tremendous pressures the very unstable Lennon was subjected to , how his mind was being affected by adulation from the fans and respect from the world at large. Kid me, being named one of the three most influential men in the world wouldn’t have inflated the head of a Liverpool loser? My god, the Beatles even sung ‘I’m a loser.’ I couldn’t believe anyhone would sing such a song much less the Beatles who were clearly winners. How does one endure thinking of oneself as a loser on one hand and one of the most influential men in the world on the other?
At the same time that Lennon was enlarged Cynthia shrunk into the Liverpool realities of her youth. The couple had a mansion but unfamiliar with so much space Cynthia preferred to live in one small room! Clearly she was not equal to the demands of her situation.
The situation became critical when Lennon began mass consumption of drugs, including heroin, which Cynthia correctly declined to do while at the same time the poisonous Yoko Ono injected herself into Lennon’s life. There was no hope for Cynthia. Yoko Ono was a walking disaster looking for a place to happen- and then there was John.
Quite frankly Yoko Ono’s ‘career’ was going nowhere. Born in 1933 she was 33 in 1966 when she began her assault on John who was 25.
The sexual dynamic is that Lennon seemed to prefer older women than himself having a masochistic submission impulse. Cynthia herself was a year older. She too apparently sought security in younger men. Her second husband was two years younger and her third six. She seemed to lack the dominating impulse to make such marriages work. Ono had it in spades.
While John was by this time psychotic, Ono had been so from childhood, in addition she seems to suffer from extreme cognitive dissonance. Ono got the rock critic Robert Palmer to shill for her in her 1992 release, Onobox. In the essay Palmer states:
It is quite likely that having John Lennon fall in love with her was the worst thing that could have happened to Yoko Ono’s career as an artist.
Notice the lack of mention of falling in love with Lennon. This was written, I almost said, dictated to Palmer, in 1992 twelve years after Lennon’s death. No serious critic could have written that line so one must assume that it was dictated by Ono herself. The line shows how far she has distanced herself from reality.
Ono was in fact, a poor little rich girl. As a woman she felt inferior to the male writing such pieces as ‘Woman Is The Nigger Of The World.’ Once again cognitive dissonance. Yoko Ono was never in the position of being ‘a nigger in the world.’ It is true that her father advised her against attempting composing believing that women didn’t make good composers. How wrong was he, hey? Ono milked every man she was ever with before actually going into the dairy business herself. Secondly, having chosen to enter the Western world as an Asian she places her artistic neglect on the twin facts that he is a woman and an Asian. It never occurs to her that her art is unpleasing.
As an artist, whether woman or not, Asian or not, she had nothing to offer the art loving peoples of the world. In this increasingly globalized world of the sixties being Asian meant nothing while being a woman held no one with talent back. Indeed, male artists were increasingly being suppressed in favor of women in all the arts. If all girl rock bands isn’t an oxymoron I don’t know what is.
By her own admission she thought she was an influential person in the New York City art world of the early sixties after an apprenticeship of one year even gaining ‘an international reputation.’ As she told May Pang: I was famous before I met John. So, one asks how does one reconcile her imagined great success with the feeling of being held back as an Asian and woman?
She rented a loft for fifty dollars a month which she coyly implies that as a starving artist the money was not easy to find. Well, Daddy was only a phone call away, she should have reached out and touched him. You can be sure he wasn’t going to let his little girl starve. By comparison I was paying 125.00 a month for an apartment in the Bay Area. I think we can dismiss the impoverished struggling artist scenario as so much more cognitive dissonance.
Ono spread herself pretty thin apparently attempting to cover all aspects of the avant garde. She’s keen on belonging to the avant garde. In music she patterned herself after John Cage and that weird contemporary ‘classical music’ approach with perhaps more than a nod to the early electronic composers such as Robert Maxwell who she mentions. She began her career in 1969 between the end of the Absract Expression mode and the beginningof the Pop movement so she was too late for the one and too early for the other. She and Lennon would try to rectify this in 1971 by doing obeisance to the Pop guru, Andy Warhol.
In 1961 she threw a party and was devastated that a snow storm discouraged the uptown crowd she had invited from coming. At least she said there was a snow storm. This may be another instance of cognitive dissonance. As she was an actual nobody she had no reason to expect society people to attend, snow storm or no snow storm. Nevertheless she was devastated, leaving town for Japan shortly thereafter. One may question where she obtained the fare for that flight when she had difficulty of meeting a fifty dollar rent bill.
In Japan she acquired her first husband simultaneously being committed to an insane asylum. As difficult as it may be to believe, her soon to be second husband, Tony Cox, heard these marvelous things about Ono in NYC deciding to fly to Japan to look her up. He found her thoroughly doped staggering around the halls of the asylum. He succeeded in getting her released then he, Ono and her first husband formed a menage a trois. The first husband wisely was the first to leave so Cox claimed the prize and the couple returned to NYC in 1964 so she is having an eventful four years. Shortly after their arrival they pulled up stakes and headed further East to London. Of the move Ono says:
I thought (the) avant garde world in New York was still very exciting but that it was starting to become an institution in itself, and there were rules and regulations in an invisible way, and I just wanted to get out of it. I never considered myself a member of any group. I was just doing my own thing.
That is just another way of saying that the art scene was a cliquish group in its terminal stages that was difficult or impossible to break into so unable to do so Ono was ‘just doing her own thing.’ It might be noted however that the NYC art scene was or was in becoming a nearly totally homosexual affair. At any rate we have evidence of sour grapes- I never considered myself a member of any group. And the result of rejection- I was just doing my own thing.
After her rejection she ‘composed’ a musical piece called Wall Piece For Orchestra in which she knelt on a stage and repeatedly banged her heard on the floor. Today that would be called ‘acting out.’
Off to new worlds to conquer in London and at the Indica Gallery of John Dunbar, the resident ‘head’ art gallery. Now, at this point she ‘ruined her career’ by pursuing John Lennon until he caught her. I imagine that she had been shrewdly observing his career and undoubtedly came to the psychological conclusion that he was a dependent personality who could be easily manipulated by the older maternal type with the right touch. That John Lennon could be made dependent on this woman eight years his senior is proof positive. Indeed, John even referred to her as Mother.
Cynthia for whom the role was impossible correctly assessed the situation noting the influence of Lennon’s Aunt Mimi who brought him up. Ono courted Lennon, interfering directly in his marriage. Ono was quite willing to drug herself along with Lennon so that both were heroin addicts. Ono thus established a sado-masochistic control over Lennon that Cynthia had no chance of breaking.
Rather than ruining Ono’s career the ‘third most influential man’ in the world gave her a stage on which to perform that she could never have found on her own. She now considered herself a collaborator with the Beatles. The injection of the Cage and Maxwell garbage combined with Lennon’s erratic behavior produced the nonsense of Revolution #9 on the White Album.
Lennon on drugs and under the influenceof Ono, who had her motives, according to Dire Corrector’s blog quoting the biographer of Paul McCartney, Many Years From Now, says:
The meditation had essentially precipitated a nervous breakdnown which was not helped by John’s tremendous drug intake. On May 18, 1966 he summoned a meeting of the Beatles at Apple and announced to them that he was Jesus Christ…the night after he told the other Beatles that he was the Savior, he finally called Yoko Ono and told her to come over.
Quite obviously Lennon was either teetering on the brink or had fallen over the edge. If he hadn’t broken with Cynthia by this time it is quite clear that apart from a certain inappropriateness of being wed to the Savior she was quite innocent of causing the break in any manner and should have a clear conscience.
Lennon’s state of mind would explain the insensitive manner in which he broke with Cynthia and its aftermath. The man must not have been in his right mind. While easing Cynthia out was relatively easy, from Ono’s end Tony Cox to whom she was still married was not such a simple matter. One wonders why he would fight so hard to keep a women who was so psychotic. Perhaps it was their daughter who he later took into hiding to keep her away from Ono. Justly so, it seems.
At any rate by ’69 Ono and Lennon were free to marry. Definitely by this point Lennon had all but surrendered his identity to Ono. She was now in possession of the reputation of one of the three most influential men in the world. Blending her identity with his she was about to become hermaphroditic. Perhaps Lennon was overawed by her avant garde credentials, such as they were, as well as whatever passed for her musical sensibilities.
She became Yoko Ono Lennon while he legally changed his name to John Ono Lennon so they both became Ono Lennons. After a number of happenings which one must believe were entirely Ono’s conceptions, such as the ‘bed in’ in Holland and the organization of the Plastic Ono Band, the pair settled in New York in an apartment building known as the Dakota. The Dakota was a connection to Ono’s past fulfilling an old desire to surpass those uptown types who she felt had slighted her.
In that connection also the cover of the Plastic Ono Band is a fulfillment of an old desire of Ono’s. While a child she witnessed the fire bombing of Tokyo in the US attempt to bring an end to the war. The blue sky was obliterated by the billowing clouds of smoke. While she didn’t witness Hiroshima yet she imagined the same sky as that over Tokyo. She then developed a blue sky obsession. If you notice the cover of the Plastic Ono Band is just a blue sky. One assumes then that Ono’s plans were coming together.
The NYC art world of 1960-’61 had shifted totally, the Abstract Expressionists she had tried to piggyback on were gone having been replaced by Pop Art of which Andy Warhol was the reigning doyen. If the Abstract Expressionists had been exclusive Warhol was nothing if not inclusive. He worshipped celebrities and Lennon was the number one celebrity. Himself a groupie and maximum social climber he welcomed an association with the Onos. For Yoko Ono the association with the leaderof the NYC art scene was her dream come true. Nothing but blue skies from now on.
In the accompanying picture you will notice that Warhol is seated in between a standing Yoko Ono with one hand on her right tit while his hand is on a drugged out looking John Ono with his hand on Warhol’s crotch. The symbolism is quite clear. The standing Yoko
is the master of two emasculated males who happen to be two of the most influential men in the world. She ain’t no nigger no more, Maggie’s Farm is a thing of the past, yes, men are now niggers in relation to herself. Warhol as an artist takes precedence over the disposable oafish John Ono. Yoko is tallest and standing, Warhol is second tallest and sitting while the now disposable John is lowest, lying on his back. The future is clear. Study John’s face; study all three faces.
The sexually besotted John Ono has surrendered his entire identity even as a musician allowing Yoko Ono to usurp his place by putting out those horrid hideous LP musical montrosities. Robert Palmer aside, with song titles reminiscent of her head bashing days: What A Bastard The World Is, I Felt Like Smashing My Face In A Glass Window, Woman Of Salem (Witches), Coffin Car, Hell In Paradise and Walking On Thin Ice. Clearly this woman had an unsettled, disturbed mind.
Having usuped Lennon’s role and identity he became expendable. Her problem now was to transfer his past and his wealth to herself thereby becoming Yoko-John Ono, Double Fantasy. Two fantasies melding into her one personality.
John Ono’s finances were, of course, in complete disorder. As Yoko was soon to show billions of dollars were disappearing down a sink hole. She rapidly organized his finances turning his money green. Within short order the Onos were worth a hundred million or so which she would swell to a billion or more after John’s death.
I imagine it was fairly easy to have John Ono give her a power of attorney, indeed he forked over his identity allowing her to function in his stead as himself. An awesome abdication. A POA would negate the need for a will, and indeed having made herself not only co-owner of John’s assets as well as his identity Yoko Ono would merely acquire full ownership leaving no assets to be willed. Indeed, she could have turned him out penniless at any time. When Cynthia was clamoring for a reading of the will she was wasting her breath; if a will existed, unlikely in itself, there would have been no assets to bequeath.
Yoko Ono having now incorporated John Ono’s reputation and identity into her own had also incorporated the assets and with the assets the legacy of all copyrights held by John Lennon as the double fantasy melded into one fantasy. The only obstacle to Yoko’s apotheosis into man-woman was John himself as he was alive. However John was only thirty-five. To wait thirty-five years or more with a man she didn’t love or even like would be unbearable. Some hard thinking was in order.
She manipulated the poor dolt into thinking he was a boorish oaf who needed to go off to get himself together. Rather than just sending him off she chose an employee, May Pang, an Asian like herself, to be John’s consort while away.
In reading May Pang’s book, Loving John, it becomes clear that Yoko Ono was a master hypnotist. She knew how to make suggestions and have people act on them. Acccording to Pang she fixed an hypnotic glare on one, assuming an authoritative posture while intoning her suggestion. She had the reputation of always getting her way.
Of course her version of what happened is different than Pang’s. Yoko having suggested she go off with John, the act was soon consummated. Pang insists she and John were in love, yet a year and a half later when Yoko called John back he came running.
Thus, from 1975 to Double Fantasy in 1980 Yoko and John Ono were out of public life living as a double fantasy of Howard Hughes. Then in 1980 Mark Chapman became the man who shot John Lennon. There have been speculations that Chapman was hypnotized when he committed his deed. Conspiracy theories therefore have sprung up.
One must ask who the death of John Lennon benefited. Two possible people. Yoko One on one hand and possibly Chapman on the other. On the one hand Yoko Ono achieved the psychotic desire to escape being the ‘nigger of the world’ by becoming John Ono Lennon while physically remaining the sweet little girl she had been before the fire bombing of Tokyo. She was unable to manage the memory of that transformative experience. In her mind, then, she became the prominent artist-musician of the world.
I don’t believe the government had anything to do with the assassination.
As we know Yoko Ono was a master hypnotist; the question is how did she find Mark Chapman and how did she hypnotize him?
Earlier in the day Chapman had approached Lennon for an autograph. He can be seen worshipfully smiling beside his hero in the picture. There appears to be no indication he meant to harm Lennon. He might easily have shot him point blank at the time, yet when he came back in the afternoon with a voice in his head insistently saying: Do it. Do it. Do it. he gunned his hero down.
At the time Yoko Ono had dropped a few steps behind John. In similar murder attempts, people step away from the intended victim so as not to be caught in the line of fire. This may have been the case with Yoko.
Certainly Yoko is opposed to Chapman’s release from prison even though he has fulfilled the twenty year requirement of twenty to life. I doubt if he is a threat to society however he may be a threat to Yoko Ono if he were to remember or reveal the details leading up to his shooting of John Ono Lennon.
Of course, I don’t know why Chapman shot but I do know that Yoko Ono Lennon was the sole beneficiary. She left Cynthia holding the bag while she realized her double fantasy.
December 17, 2009
George Harrison, Eric Clapton. And Me
Review by R.E. Prindle
Boyd, Pattie: Wonderful Tonight: George Harrison, Eric Clapton, And Me. Three Rivers Press, 2007
The darkest hour is just before dawn.
There’s one thing I want you to do
Especially for me.
And it’s something everybody needs…
Whisper a little prayer for me.
–Bass, Ralph. Pauling, Lawson
One needs a little encouragement in the black night of the soul. One needs a little encouragement amidst the trials and tribulations of life. The way is dark, the night is long and who knows what is waiting at the end of the road. All the mythological heroes went through a period of madness. Most likely at the mid-life crisis. The greater the stresses the more difficult to avoid errors. Why judge others so harshly when neither you nor I could have done better in the same circumstances. If a person is of good will and not ill why not be a little forgiving? Especially if no crimes are committed.
As Pattie points out, when manager Brian Epstein died the Beatles were suddenly on their own. To that time Brian had managed all the details, business as well as personal leaving the Beatles to do what they did best, write, record and perform songs. The relationship had been perfect of its kind. Given that the Beatles were now major successes rather than fledglings it would have been nearly impossible for them to put together a management team.
Of course, the Beatles were no businessmen. In the attempt their musical skills were compromised while the business end could not prosper. Cares such as they had not known descended on them. Nor, did they understand that the smallest action or word of theirs would reverberate around the world. They were no longer able to say or do what they pleased. Millions of vulnerable young people and unstable adults hung on every word giving them whatever interpretation suited them best. McCartney’s song Maxwell’s Silver Hammer did uncalculable damage.
When the Beatles closed their boutique waves of reaction crossed the world. It was said they opened the doors and invited anyone to take what they wanted. Away off in Keseyland on the West Coast of the US where I owned a record store a wave of kids descended on my store asking if everything was free. These were zany times where everything was possible so, mystified, I asked why they would think that. I was told the Beatles had just given away everything in their store and why wouldn’t I? I became a bastard for not following the Beatles lead.
So, when Pattie noticed a change in George when they came back from India it was probably caused by business cares, a new reality that neither he nor the others knew exactly how to deal with, nor was there time to learn. Those stresses, in the way of the human mind, are converted to sexual expressions. In George’s case he began to mumble about having a lot of concubines. A pretty normal reaction that he may never have acted upon. I’m sure that when he showed up with Chris O’ Dell in tow it may have seemed like the first step. (See Chris O’ Dell’s auto for a fuller description.) Chris became Pattie’s friend denying any relations with George, at least during her extended stay with the Harrisons, although after Pattie’s divorce the two came to terms. But, for now she and Pattie became bosom buddies shopping and cavorting together.
What a wonderful time to have unlimited money and a huge mansion to furnish.
While the sixties are primarily thought of for the groups and records that was only one component of that truly wonderful and amazing time, at least looking at the bright side of the penny.
P.F. Sloan, who penned Eve Of Destruction, titled one of his own LPs Raised On Records. The title explained the generation. Starting with perhaps Johnnie Ray leading on to Elvis the history of our generation was written by recording artists rather than novelists or even movies. You might question starting with Johnnie Ray but he was the first mind blowing departure from the norm. Mind blowing explains the whole period. Rock’s John the Baptist preceding the Jesus of Elvis. A trail of great records led up to the British Invasion when the world tipped on its axis. It was one mind blowing act after another.
First the Beatles upset the elders, long hair but clean cut. Then came the not so clean cut Rolling Stones with the weirdest thing you ever saw on stage, Brian Jones. You couldn’t take your eyes off him. Fantastic hair and the strangest clothes. Mick probably had to get rid of the competition. If the Stones weren’t bad enough they were followed by the appropriately named Animals. The name said it all sending the old folks wild with gnashing teeth. But backed up by Dylan and Peter, Paul And Mary the group mind was conditioned to move in the same direction in unison.
As Pattie says, she found the most wonderful art nouveau artefacts. Indeed, Aubrey Beardsley, Alphone Mucha, Toulouse Lautrec, god, even the names, whoever heard of anyone named Aubrey? The art focus shifted from that NY art junk. Travel posters had been a staple for several years but now other posters began to augment them, Peter Max, East Totem West, the Fillmore and Avalon posters and the most spectacular of all- the giant personality posters. Originally the posters were blown up real grainy so that if you stood close the picture wasn’t visible but stepping back and then back further the portrait emerged. Drove the old folks wild, mytified the less hip; minds weren’t prepared. Although by that time Telstar was old hat, and men had walked on the moon. The impossible was no longer impossible, anything was possible and it kept happening. Andy Warhol and his Campbell Soup can. Good god. Remember the Robert Indiana LOVE poster with the lopsided O?
In the US the tax laws were such that you could make money on records and books without turning a profit. Publishing exploded. Nifty expensive art books of the strangest and most outre artists were available. Virtual toys like the works of Victor Vaserelly. It was incredible, it was magnificent, it was mind candy as never seen before.
I hope Pattie with all that coin took advantage of it. There was a canchre in wonderland though. Pattie didn’t keep her hand on the throttle but let her attention be diverted by sex. Some reviewer said that Pattie wasn’t the brightest bulb. Hmm. I do wonder what she was thinking.
Now comes the part difficult of analysis. Pattie, like all women portrays herself as an innocent, the helpless beauty in the clutches of two beasts who refuse to turn into princes when kissed. I defend n o one but like a clear picture. It was clear that Pattie is haunted by her parents relationships as she always mentions them at critical points. She perceives her mother as a victim so it is possible that she was seeking revenge for her.
The time sequence Pattie presents is inadequate to follow the actual course of the relationship’s deterioration. It is possible that Pattie decided to turn the tables and become polyandrous first. She did conduct herself in that manner or, at least, try to. The information is insufficient to determine the actual sequence of events. She appears to always have been flirtatious with other men. In reference to Clapton she says she allowed him to seduce her. This implies volition and that she encouraged his attentions. One might say she almost solicited the famous letter from Clapton she showed George. It wouldn’t have taken a genius to figure out the small e it was signed with referred to Clapton. George was no dummy. Pattie blithely passed it off as from an unknown fan. Then she innocently expresses surprise when Clapton called that evening and asked if she had gotten his letter. Oh please, Pattie.
George unable to take it anymore invites Clapton over, gives him one guitar, takes another engaging in a guitar duel with the prize being the fair lady. Well, George found her, raised her up to where she was and then let Clapton take her.
Now, this is fairly reprehensible I think, Pattie left, but rather than seeking a divorce she lived with Clapton for two years while married to Harrison. Affairs of the heart are beyond me so all I can say is that Harrison was too kind hearted, Pattie callous and cruel and Clapton a simple cad. George always did the honorable by Pattie and she should have done the same by him.
One questions Clapton’s motivations. Clapton had a housefull of women when he professed his great love for Pattie; a nice girl I’m sure, but not to die for. Pattie cagily put Clapton off so his threat was to become a heroin addict unless she came with him. He was only snorting the heroin not shooting it. Pattie let him, she says, for three years.
The only reason I can see for Clapton’s wanting her is emasculation games. George was a Beatle with a guitar reputation therefore above him. When the two had their guitar duel, by consensus, George lost thereby losing status. Clapton then took the woman thereby emasculationg the man he had made his rival. But now he was stuck with this woman he didn’t really want.
In an interesting twist in the contest for supremacy both Clapton and Pattie were put down by the redoubtable Mick Jagger. Pattie and Clapton had been married and threw a huge bash with mega fireworks, everything.
Mick Jagger came with Jerry Hall, who had been engaged to Brian Ferry but had left him for Mick.
So Jagger is leaving no stone unturned in his quest for supremacy even putting down a weak rival like Brian Ferry.
The party started in the afternoon and ended in the dawn.
By the time Eric and I went upstairs to bed it was daylight. We were ready to drop- but Mick and Jerry were tucked up and fast asleep in our bed, with little Jade, his daughter with Bianca Jagger sleeping sweetly beside them. Trust Mick to have found the best bed in the house.
So Jagger put down both Clapton and Pattie. Childless herself she saw Mick’s child. They could have turned Jagger out of the bed appearing boorish but if they had, dog tired, they would have had to change the sheets then crawling into a bed warmed by Jagger. Mick aced them both demonstrating his supremacy. Ah, those emasculation games.
Now, Pattie left George, supposedly because, or after, Clapton wrote Layla, but she didn’t divorce him for two years. Thus as another man’s wife she was living as Clapton’s concubine. Call me old fashioned but I can’t endorse such behavior. Amazingly George didn’t press for a divorce letting Pattie divorce him on the grounds of lack of cohabitation for two years.
Perhaps she was avenging her mother’s treatment when her father carried on with the wife of an intimate friend for some time, perhaps two years, before divorcing the mother. Obviously some psychological end is being served.
Clapton was no where near as generous monetarily as Harrison. Pattie describes it as keeping her on a tight leash. Nor did this man who professed to love his Layla so deeply then marry her. No, they shambled along in his loose situation.
When they did marry it was under the most humiliating situation for Pattie. We have only her side here but she says that Clapton and his manager had a bet that the manager couldn’t get a story about Clapton in the papers. The manager without Clapton’s knowledge invented a story which was printed that Clapton would marry Pattie the next Tuesday.
Pattie had just walked out on Clapton and was in LA. On the Friday before Clapton called her and said he needed an immediate answer. Marry him by Tuesday or forget it. Pattie folded. After the I do-s Clapton left on an extended tour leaving Pattie to find her way home.
Amazingly she stayed with him for some time. Even so she had not severed emotional ties with Harrison who remained unmarried.
Clapton was still playing money games with her. One Christmas she went shopping running up a 5,000 pound tab at Harrod’s expecting to charge it to her Harrison account. Surprise! The account had been closed. Not having enough money in her checking account which Clapton apprently wouldn’t let her have she had the effrontery to ask Harrison who gave her a five thousand pound check. Apparently Pattie misunderstood the meaning of the word divorce.
For whatever reason she showed the check to Clapton who, realizing he had been aced in the emasculation game, refused to let her cash it.
Now tiring of the games with Clapton Pattie sought a divorce. More money games.
With Harrison, as a divorce settlement after abandoning him and cohabiting with another man, Pattie received 120,000 pounds. In the circumstances I would see that as very generous. She doesn’t say exactly what she received from Clapton but it was enough to provide her with a very sufficient investment income.
Not content with that while apparently assuming divorce or no that Clapton owed her more she demanded he buy her a million pound house as he had spent that much on one for himself. She was denied but it was agreed to buy her a 300,000 pound house although title would remain with Clapton. She found one for approx. 350,000 pounds and was allowed to live in that.
Subseqently Clapton remarried. The canny Pattie realizing that if Clapton died his wife would turn her out attempted some successful maneuvers. She asked for 40,000 pounds for some remodeling. Clapton refused but replying that he wasn’t aware that he was her landlord he deeded the house to her so she came out very well indeed.
During this time she was living with her third man named Rod. He was nine years her junior. Tiring of him she cruelly told him that his life as a ‘toy boy’ was up and to move on.
The inevitable conclusion is that Pattie viewed her mother’s relationships with men as she was growing up and came to some conclusions. Although neither Harrison or Clapton were perfect men I am convinced that whatever their shortcomings Pattie was not an innocent victim. She actively encouraged Clapton while married to Harrison, abandoning George for Clapton. She knew Clapton’s attitude toward women and stimulants, both drugs and alcohol before she ‘allowed herself to be seduced’ so his addictions came as no surprise. She has no complaint on that score.
Pattie made the remark in closing that if the right man came along she would snap him up in a minute. Having lived every groupie’s dream of snaring a Beatle and Clapton the only eligible rock star to complete her trifecta would be the Man himself- Mick Jagger.
I would be interested to see that combination. The odysseys of this simple Kenyan girl from Harrison to Clapton to Jagger would certainly equal the odyssey of her fellow Kenyan, Barack Obama.
December 9, 2009
George Harrison, Eric Clapton, And Me
I of II
Review by R.E. Prindle
Boyd, Pattie: Wonderful Tonight: George Harrison, Eric Clapton, And Me, Three Rivers Press, 2007
I don’t believe in boogie bars,
Macro biotics or souped up cars.
I don’t believe the price of gold;
The certainty of growing old,
But, I believe in you.
Perhaps it’s because I lived through the era experiencing what I did and vicariously the rest that I was thoroughly charmed by Pattie’s autobiography. I hope I will be excused for calling Pattie by her first name throughout but Boyd sounds so brutally unisexual eliminating amything but female sexual aspects that it doesn’t seem fitting and I don’t wish to sound formal otherwise.
This part of the review will cover pretty much Chapter 3: Modeling, 4: George and 5: Mrs Harrison. The chapters brought back the glittering memories of the sixties, memories created more by magazines and television shows than reality for most people but perhaps more or less real for some. If it wasn’t real for Pattie than it probably wasn’t real for anyone. But then it’s hard to tell where you are at any given moment in time.
She was there in what was called ‘Swinging London’ at the time. From a distance it was just dazzling. We were entranced by the possibility. As the late great Roger Miller put it: London swings like a pendulum do. By the time I got there in the seventies the pendulum was stationary. Pattie herself began life as a hair stylist but in a top notch salon. While there she was given an intro to a modeling firm and was lucky enough to catch on. From the looks of the photos whe was in the Twiggy line. She could have become a high fashion queen.
And London was a place where staying on top of fashion was a full time job. The scene was perhaps best captured by Ray Davies and the Kinks in their song: Dedicated Follower Of Fashion. If memory serves it was written about Marc Bolan.
…his clothes are loud but never square
It will make him or break him
So he’s got to buy the best
‘Cos He’s a dedicated follower of fashion.
He does his little rounds
Amongst the boutiques of London Town
Eagerly pursuing all the lates fads and fashions.
Pattie was in the thick of it mentioning the people she associated with, mere names to us, like Ossie Clarke, Twiggy, Mary Quant, David Hockley, photographers, artists, fashion designers who were realities to her although the glitter is brighter than the shabby fabric beneath. But then, how else could it be?
One feels envy at her luck. I was on the West Coast viewing it all from a distance with wonder, but owning a record store. By the time I got to London in the early seventies the swing had swung. Carnaby St. was deserted when I strolled down it all alone past the shops empty of customers. What sounded so good in song looked effete in reality. Of course I was straight Beverly Hills, dressed completely Eric Ross, quite a standout, but strange and exotic to Londoners.
Oh well, there were always the great book stores.
Pattie had begun her career as a fashion mdoel when she received a call to appear on the set of the Beatles movie in progress, A Hard Day’s Night. I suspect that George Harrison had seen her about town and requested her by name, only a guess, but he certainly glommed on to her when she arrived. Honorable intentions too. The couple got together and it was on. Thus she entered the charmed circle of the Beatles. You couldn’t get no higher.
The Beatles? Who cared really? other than the millions. Whatever was happening there passed me flatter than the Grateful Dead, and that’s flat. I was cool to both the Beatles and the Stones. I wasn’t really a dedicated fan of anybody; I liked certain records- Superlungs by Terry Reid. The first Jeff Beck with Rod Stewart when he still had intact pipes, the second with Bob Tench wasn’t bad either, lousy cover. Beck apparently hated vocalists because he played so loud, on purpose, I was backstage once and watched him do it, that he blew out their pipes. Donovan’s Sunshine Superman was tops, Procol Harum’s first, Alan Price’s This Price Is Right, stuff like that. Dillard and Clark, Flying Burrito Brothers’ White Line Fever, some Johnny Rivers. Nice stuff. Two or three Byrds.
But, the Beatles were gods and here were George Harrison and Pattie Boyd trying to fashion a normal lower middle class life in a hundred room mansion. The Beverly Hillbillies in London. Good luck boy and girl. And that was not taking into account drugs. Pattie’s story of the maniac dentist sends a chill through the marrow; a real demon dentist, the Sweeny Todd of the profession. Lord, deliver us from evil. It was he who introduced Pattie and Harrison to LSD, surreptitiously of course. Spiked their coffee just as they were about to leave his house.
Then the stuff came on, a little like the Airplane’s song, White Rabbitt- one side makes you larger, one side makes you smaller. Pardon me for writing myself into the story but the pen is in my hand:
Happened to me once. I was down in Berkeley at what was supposed to be a party. Pot parties in that time and place meant everyone sat around self-absorbed looking out vaguely at what could possibly have been you, or possibly just empty space. This particular set played draggy jazz so possibly they weren’t even looking out, their eyes were just open. As I was to learn it wasn’t pot. I had never smoked before anyway. Nobody could have ever been busted for whatever it was I smoked. Nothing was happening except the draggy jazz, maybe John Coltrane going around in fifths, and I was getting bored so I said I was leaving. As with the dentist of Pattie’s experience I was abjured not to leave. I never knew really what it was until I read Pattie’s story. It hit me a couple blocks down the street. The ‘tobacco’ must have been laced with acid.
Getting out of the maze of streets of Berkeley always required a little concentration on my part anyway and now I didn’t have any. I didn’t even know where I was or where I was going. Fortunately for me the car drove itself. I did have to keep my hands on the wheel though it wasn’t always uppermost in my mind. The car did strange things when I took my hands off the wheel, wandering here and there. A voice spoke saying: Keep your hands on the wheel.
The car found its way to the MacArthur Freeway which, although it was a road I knew by heart I couldn’t recognize. Plus everything had turned a shiny patent leather black, the highway just glittered and shown so. Colors had disappeared; the lights of the cars shot through my eyes to the back of my brain. They were all driving very slowly it seemed but passed me going very fast. Of course I was driving about twenty-five per which was as much as I could handle. I got in the slow lane. A good thing because it seemed like I was going around this curve for twenty-five minutes. Everytime I looked it seemed like I was in the same place. I decided to put my foot back on the gas.
The next problem was that the sky and highway were bonded together. Fortunately the car was able to separate them and they moved apart before us- the car and me.
My next big problem, after a seeming eternity, was that in order to make a left exit to Castro Valley I had to cross three lanes dotted with cars moving at varying speeds in different lanes. I had to time it just right to get in between cars in two different lanes. Sort of a Rubiks Cube kind of problem. While I was dithering my car changed lanes for me and I was on the off ramp with a smile.
An underpass lay before me where the most miraculous event in my life took place. As I began to enter the underpass this set of ram’s horns, you know, like a male sheep, began to grow from my forehead. Great white curling things they were, magnificent. It was at that moment I realized I was Master Of The World. Just as I was about to assume the mantle I came out the other side losing my spectacular rack and my crown. While I was pondering the imponderable my car finding its way back gliding noiselessly up the street into the driveway where it pertly came to a halt. Heaving a sigh of relief I got out and entered the house.
I don’t know what I looked like, perhaps fierce because of the loss of my horns, but my wife and mother-in-law seemed to run from me. Entering the kitchen I saw my brother-in-law about to have some tacos he’d cooked up. The guy was a wizard with hamburger; he could do things with hamburger than no chef had ever done. I had issues with him which I won’t go into. When I saw the tacos I became ravenous and wanted them. He was experienced. He took one look at me and realized the situation his hand stopping before his open mouth.
I didn’t hesitate, I remembered being Master Of The World. I snatched his tacos from his hands saying: I want those. He was knowing. He made no resistance, just said, sure. Smart move because I wouldn’t have taken no for an answer while still feeling superhuman. I wolfed those suckers down; best tacos I ever ate. But now there were fireworks going off in my head. I got in bed and watched the light show going off behind my closed eyes for a couple hours. I woke up grouchy and ragged. I took care in the future to make sure that never happened again. Wherever I had been I didn’t want to go back. I sure missed those horns though.
Apparently Harrison and his band mates liked it going back repeatedly. But then Pattie discovered that old fraud the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi and his Transcendental Meditation. What a fraud. She turned Harrison on and the band followed. First it was Bangor, Wales and then on to the big temple in the Himalayas of India.
There are many wondrous stories of their Indian sojourn at the ashram. The upshot was that the holy man liked girls as much, perhaps more, than the rest of the fellows. This tore a rent in his spirituality and disillusioned the group who left in a huff.
Pattie does tell a good story about Ringo who was wary of spicy Indian food having had digestive problems as a youth. He took along a suitcase full of Heinz Baked Beans. Imagine going through customs with that. Imagine watching the guy in front of you opening a suitcase full of cans of Heinz Baked Beans. US Customs would have made him open each can on the spot. I’d be laughing yet.
After their marriage George wanted her to give up the job of modeling. she had regrets but as far as modeling went she was getting old. Younger women were pushing up. The Twiggy look was dated from the start anyway. She might have been near the end of her career whether she liked it or not.
Couple intesting points before this idylic phase of her life and life with George Harrison ended. Mick Jagger and Marianne Faithfull came to their house one night. Jagger wrote on the Harrison’s wall: Mick and Marianne were here. Strange action for guests. The only thing I can figure is that Mick was marking out the limits of his territory like one of the big cats who go around peeing on bushes to set up their territory. As a Beatle and tops of the pop world it was incumbent on each Beatle to establish their priority, their dominance over the lesser princes. When Mick wrote that on Harrison’s wall without demurrer he was establishing dominance over his superior. Eric Clapton would later do the same when he took Harrison’s wife while defeating him, as some say, in a guitar duel.
If you watched the 2009 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame show you saw Jagger and Bono dueling it out for the crown. A very haughty Jagger beat Bono into absolute submission having him groveling before himself worse than Obama before the Emperor of Japan. Jagger was so taut that after he flipped off Bono he almost dismissed the audience but then caught himself and gave a dismissive back hand wave in acknowledgment. That was somethin’ else man.
Jagger as leader of the Rolling Stones also foisted Allen Klein on the Beatles also demonstrating the priority of the Stones over the Beatles. And lastly Jagger, how shall I say, induced Bob Dylan to open a show for the Stones placing Dylan therefore beneath the Stones. I would have to say that the Stones have finished as the undisputed Kings of Rock of Roll. There’s always more going on than you think.
And then Pattie and Harrison were in attendance at the famous first drug bust of Jagger, Richards and Marianne Faithfull. As Pattie tells it she and her husband left the party at 3:00 AM. Immediately after they left the police raided. She believes the fuzz waited until they left as they were Beatles. The Beatles were thought of as clean at that time while the Stones and Marianne were monsters. She may be right. If the type of glamour achieved by the Beatles and Stones was new to them and difficult to manage perhaps the same was true of society. The Phenomenon of the British Invasion was so spectacular that you just had to stand back and ask: What’s this? So maybe the cops did honor The Top Of The Pops.
Whether she was slapping back at Mick for writing on her wall by the observation I can’t tell although both stories found a prominent place in her narrative. High school never ends.
The contest for her favors by Harrison and Clapton is very complex, a lot of psychology involved. I’ll have to work on it some but that will be covered in my review of the second half of the book to follow.
October 17, 2009
Chris O’ Dell
Miss O’ Dell:
My Hard Days And Long Nights With The Beatles, The Stones, Bob Dylan, Eric Clapton
And The Women They Loved
As Chris says, she wasn’t famous but she was in the thick of things. Worth a lot. She disapproves of being called a groupie but I would say that she was the most successful of all. All the groupies would have snapped up Chris’ life without a dare.
Chris did have somewhat of an advantage in being twenty when she went to work for the Apple. She had some skills and maturity rather than being underaged jail bait. Boy, the Federales could have had these guys anytime: drugs and teenage girls.
Chris soon fell into the booze and drug trap. The most tedious part of the book is that of booze and drugs. Of course her co-author, heavy on the co-, Kathleen Ketchum’s previous writings have been about drug rehabilitation so she flogs the drug issue into oblivion. Hard to believe any one took drugs back in those happy uncomplicated days. Alright! Surprise, surprise, the middle name of Rock n’ Roll is Drugs- Sex, Drugs, Rock n’ Roll. Yes, it is also true that Chris engaged in some hanky panky too. Gosh, she bedded down with a couple Beatles, Mick Jagger and Bob Dylan. I suspect those revelations are more for the groupies than the general public. Eat your hearts out, kids. Clapton wouldn’t have anything to do with her by the way.
For me the real story that unfolded slowly and inconspicuously was the changing relationships between the Beatles and their women with Chris in the middle. Chris was friends with Harrison and Ringo Starr having little to do with John and Paul.
The first 100 pages are the most interesting of the book. They detail her actual working activies at Apple from the bright days of total indulgence to the takeover of Apple by Allan Klein. After Klein the fun stopped as Klein set about plundering Apple. Not before Chris had established a sterling relationship with George Harrison himself. As time and drugs wore on the youthful relationships came apart. These people were so into booze and drugs that their subconsciouses overwhelmed the conscious- I’m sure that at some point they wandered into a drug and alcohol induced haze. The good thing was that they didn’t have to worry about money although they sure went through it.
Chris’ description of the evolutions and transitions of the relationships of these key people of the musical era then forms the most interesting part of what is, frankly, a fairly boring story. The background story of Harrison, Boyd, Clapton didn’t exactly happen as it looked to us on the outside. We thought at the time that Clapton recorded Layla and Boyd came running but such was not the case. As Chris tells it Harrison, if he didn’t drive Boyd away neglected her and allowed her to drift away.
Clapton, says Chris, was a total junkie although he’s still hanging in there today. His records had no appeal to me so I could care less.
Uncertain of her precarious standing as either an employee or freeloader Chris drifted back and forth from LA to London while still apprently being part of the gang. The breaking point was when she was visiting Ringo’s ex-wife Maureen and took a tongue lashing from Ringo. Moving away she took up with a German promoter she knew through a large part of the eighties.
Part of her concern was hitting bottom, the rebound point when you know you have to change your life. From my observation point that happened in two stages. the first was when her German boy friend’s promotion company could no longer stand the ravages of drug and alcohol induced incompetence and Chris violated all the rules of friendship with Harrison. Something she thought she’d never do.
Her boy friend’s company bankrupt she asked for money from Harrison. George was a brick and handed over six thousand pounds without a murmur. The money of course went down the drug drain.
Now, Chris had developed sterling credentials as a tour organizer for various groups. She was with Dylan and the Rolling Thunder tour for instance. That is what she was doing with this German fellow. After the Beatles, Stones and Dylan the crowning indignity was when she was assigned to tour Echo And The Bunnymen. These guys are still going so what can you say. But, you know, time had rolled along under the bridge and Rock was becoming a shadow of its former glory. Who really cared anymore? I mean, you know, I’ve never listened to Echo And The Bunnymen and you can be sure I’m not going to buy their latest effort which is out now.
She then married an English aristocrat, had a baby and a divorce and went back home to Tucson.
End of story. Oh yeah, she’s now a rehab counselor.
The main interest is the level of rock society she moved in. The hand of Ketchum is too obvious. One had the feeling one was reading a novel of O’ Dell’s life rather than a living memoir. Wrong voice. Probably a must for the cast of characters and inside information but the drug and alcohol stuff is too, too boring. For Christ’s sake, who didn’t do drugs? Everybody’s got a million drug stories. Let it be.