Walking alongside other citizens of New York , I looked for the junction separating Central Park West and West 72nd St. There I was sure to walk around the corner and find The Dakota, the home of the most popular Beatle, John Winston Ono Lennon living with his Japanese American wife, Yoko Ono.
I crossed the busy street and approach the main entrance of the building and walked through the arched door where I cross paths with other residents. The memo I held in hand mentioned that Lennon’s home was up 3 flights of stairs and the 2nd door on the left. The doorbell echoed through the room and I could hear Ono calling out to Lennon to get the door for me.
As Lennon opened the door, he was exactly how I imagined he would be, wearing his signature gold rimmed glasses that shaped like a quarter. His shoulder length brown pre locks were messy, just the way he always presents himself every time. Taking my hand as I reached it out and introduced myself, he led me into the main room of his home which seemed to me more like the Beatles shrine rather than his living room.
The entire room was filled with incense in the air and posted on the wall is a few framed magazine covers of the Beatles, photographs of Lennon and Ono’s sons and a huge poster collage of newspaper articles.
As every other fan would know, The Beatles was made out of John himself who is the singer, songwriter and guitarist, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr. John, as well as The Beatles itself originates from Liverpool. John lived most of his childhood with his aunt, Mimi after she pressured John’s mother, Julia to report her to the social services to complain about her. Lennon attended Dovedale Primary School and later on the Quarry Bank high school in Liverpool.
Julia visited Lennon almost everyday and in 1957, she bought him his first guitar which was a Gallotone Champion. Despite buying him the instrument, she mentioned to him that he will never make a living out of it. John lost his mother when she died after being struck by a car close to Mimi’s home.
Lennon was later on accepted into the Liverpool College of Art but only after the help from Mimi and his school’s headmaster. There was where he met his future wife, Cynthia Powell. The marriage did not last as Lennon had met an artist named Yoko Ono and Powell suggested that Ono was probably the woman for him. Lennon later on started developing a relationship with Ono. Despite the confusion period he had with May Pang, which he also claimed as his ‘Lost weekend’ he returned back to the arms of Yoko Ono.
Together, John and Yoko made a peace activist team recording “Give peace a chance” in their hotel room at the Queen Elizabeth. Besides that, John, Yoko and the rest of the Beatles members are making amazing music for our realistic world and their imaginary world.
Here I sat and interviewed the man himself on his controversial and hidden meanings of his music.
Q : There are a few songs of yours that really portrays you. In terms of what you are and means something extra to you. “You’ve got to hide your love away”, “Lucy in the Sky”, “I am the Walrus”, “Strawberry Fields Forever”, “She said she said”, “Rain”, “Girl”
A : “Hide your love away” – that was so long ago. The ones that really mean something to me would probably be “Strawberry fields forever”, “She said”, “Walrus”, “Rain”, “Girl” to name a few. Other two would be “Day tripper” and “Paperback writer”, even “Ticket to ride” is one more that I remember. It was a definite sort of change. “Norwegian Wood”- that was the sitar bit. Definitely, I consider them moods or moments.
Q : I would personally think that these songs have a greater feel rather than songs like “Michelle” and “Eight Days a week”.
A : The thing is, I would’nt know how it would sound if i recorded them with other people. It would turn out different but my music with the band is still me singing it and when we write them together, they’re together. But i’m proud of every single song i’ve put out there.
Q : What actually is Strawberry Fields?
A : Strawberry Fields is a salvation army children’s home in Liverpool. They always had this annual festival where i used to attend with my aunt. I have visions of Strawberry Fields because Strawberry Fields is anywhere you want to go.
Q : What made you decide on writing a song about Strawberry Fields?
A : Well, it’s a nice name. We wanted to write a song about Liverpool and I just listed all the nice sounding names. Strawberry Fields was just good sounding.
Q : So, some say that Strawberry Fields was written in a Spanish home but some say you were writting it alone on a beach.
A : I was in Spain filming ‘How I won the war’. I was writing bits and bits of it and it took me a really long time. Part of it was written in this big Spanish house and the finishing bit was done on the beach, i didn’t even know who was there at that moment. I wanted the lyrics to be conversational but it didn’t work. Singing it seemed romantic though.
Q : “Rain” was not much a big of a deal compared to “Strawberry Fields Forever” but then you discovered the backwards thing.
A : There was definitely something special about “Strawberry Fields”. It was a big scene, “Rain” was not so much but I discovered the backwards for the first time then. At the end of “Rain” you can hear me singing it backwards. The main recording was done at EMI and out of habit, we usually take home the tape recorder to add a little gimmick or guitar piece. That day getting home at five in the morning, stoned out of me head, I staggered up me tape recorder and put it on, but it came out backwards. There was trance in the earphones and it sounded like old Indian. It’s too much and I wanted the whole song to be backwards so we decided to end the song backwards. I just happened to play the tape the wrong way around and it just blew me mind.
Q : There are a lot of sayings about how your music has a strange rhythm scene and how your lyrics are more imaginary rather than reality.
A : Well, I write lyrics that you don’t even know what they mean till after. I hit it on all levels, you know. Some of the songs like “I am the Walrus” are more flowing since the whole first verse was written without me realizing. I didn’t even know what I was saying in “Tomorrow never knows”. There are some lyrics I dig and I know that somewhere around the world, people are enjoying them and I really dig those people that notice I have a strange rhythm scene because I’ve never been able to keep a straight rhythm when I’m on stage.
Q : Songs like “I am the Walrus” kind of confuses the fans. Who is actually the walrus you are talking about here?
A : Well, we found out there was a class who tried to analyze all the Beatles tunes and I just gave him something to analyze about. I intentionally wrote it as gibberish nonsense. The whole ‘Paul was the Walrus’ thing was just to mess with their mind.
A : Lucy is a classmate of my son, Julian. He came home one day and showed me his drawing of a girl whom he had affection for. Julian drew her with diamond shaped eyes and named his drawing “Lucy – in the sky with diamonds”.
Q : There’s controversy surrounding the song saying it is inspired by LSD.
A : The fact that the initials of Lucy, Sky and Diamonds do not help but spark more fire towards the controversy, I can’t help but feel inspired by son’s drawing, can I?
Q : What made you decide on writing the song about you and Yoko?
A : Actually it was more of a narrative poem rather than a song since it is called “The Ballad of John and Yoko”. The lyrics relate to our marriage and the activities we do together. Everything from plane rides to London, driving from Paris to Amsterdam Hilton, and even eating Chocolate cake in a bag.
Q : How would you interpret Imagination?
A : When I write my songs, I imagine. Imagination is a wonderful thing, something I put all my songs through. There are so many things that cannot happen in real life, so…imagine.. Imagine a place where things like religion and possessions did not exist. That we didn’t have to hate and kill but live in peace and harmony with each other. My song “Imagine” is all about peace.