John Lennon: In My Life...2010
Marc A. Catone
“There are places I remember all my life”
The Beatles (In My Life)
In the 1960s, my aunt and uncle lived on West 72nd St in Manhattan. It was fun to leave my home in Danbury CT to visit them, stroll in nearby Central Park, and walk to the Museum of Natural History. However, it was a scary route as well. On the corner of W. 72nd St and Central Park West, there was a foreboding building surrounded by wrought-iron railings with gargoyles. I walked by quickly, not wanting to look at the images. The building was The Dakota.
I learned from Aunt Ruth that many well-known writers, actors, and other celebrities called the building home. I noticed a gate where cars drove through to a man sitting in a gold colored booth. He was happy at his task of allowing access to the famous tenants of the apartment house. Back then, I could not have known how significant that small location would be in the tragic death of John Lennon.
As a teenager of the Sixties, I can recall no other person having more impact on me than Lennon. I became a Beatles fan upon seeing them sing “She Loves You” in a film clip appearance on the Friday night “Jack Paar Show” of January 3, 1964. Five weeks later, when the band came to New York City for their debut on the “The Ed Sullivan Show”, they saved a generation from the stifling conformity of American life. I was 13 years old, and more than ready for them in mind and spirit.
When Lennon spoke at The Beatles’ first press conference in the United States, I sensed that he was different than his three mates. All of them were fresh-faced and spontaneous, but Beatle John seemed more aware. The crying, screaming and fainting from girls fully immersed in Beatlemania was an amazing sight to behold. Usually, if a young male pop star were married, female admirers would lose their ardor for him, but Lennon’s marriage didn’t matter to the girls who swooned over him. That also made me notice that John Lennon was not your average teen heartthrob. As the music and lyrics of The Beatles’ songs progressed during the Sixties, I liked John’s songs the best. His words...his voice...his attitude...matched my inquiring, often disillusioned young mind. “Nowhere Man”, “Rain”, “Tomorrow Never Knows”, and "Strawberry Fields Forever” spoke of apathy and alienation, questioning authority, seeking inner peace, and searching for identity.
My allegiance to The Beatles remained strong. I saw them in concert at Shea Stadium in 1965 and 1966, bought “Sgt. Pepper” the day it was released, and heard “Revolution” for the first time in 1968 while watching TV coverage of the Chicago Police Riot. By 1969, I was active in my college’s antiwar organization, drawing inspiration from the various “bed-in” events Lennon, and his new wife, Yoko Ono, were doing in Amsterdam and Montreal to promote peace. My admiration for John, the peacenik, reached a high when my future wife, Donna, and I saw the Lennons in concert at Madison Square Garden in 1972. There was John Lennon on stage, his red hair glowing like a beacon, as he led the audience through “Come Together”, “Instant Karma”, “Cold Turkey”, and “Give Peace A Chance”. In 1973, Donna and I were married as a band performed “Imagine” in the background.
A recurring theme began in John’s life and music during the early 1970s. He thought that peace could only be achieved through non-violence, and spread by one person to another. This concept showed up in his minimalist approach to his songs. Far from being utopian or naïve, as some would claim, the lyrics to “Imagine” gave simple instructions for contemplating the future, similar to the famous Gandhi quote, “be the change you want to see in the world”. It shaped my views on many levels.
John Lennon and Yoko Ono split up in 1973, partially due to the enormous pressure exerted upon them by the Nixon Administration in its politically motivated attempts to deport John. Lennon went through his notorious 18 months “lost weekend” of drink and excess, mostly in California. John and Yoko reconciled in late 1974, and moved into the Dakota apartments where they retreated from public view to raise their son, Sean, and maintain their privacy for the next few years.
After a three-year stay in Arizona, Donna and I moved back East in 1977, and settled in upstate New York. The following year, an opportunity to meet John Lennon came my way. An acquaintance of mine began publishing a new magazine. During the summer of 1978, he was negotiating for an interview with the Lennons, and asked me if I would like to come along as the photographer. I was ecstatic at the prospect, but very disappointed a month or so later when John and Yoko decided they were not ready to be interviewed.
In the late summer of 1980, I was nearing completion of “As I Write This Letter”, a book containing letters and essays from Beatles fans on how the band influenced their lives. Suddenly, word of Lennon’s return to the recording studio splashed all over the headlines. I was hired to write a magazine article about the re-emergence of John and Yoko. For a man who had been absent from the public eye for several years, John Lennon was being talked about everywhere. The album, “Double Fantasy”, was released around Thanksgiving. It had been years since John issued an album of original material. He sounded older and wiser, but still hip and relevant with “Woman” and “Watching The Wheels”. There was talk of John and Yoko releasing a follow-up album, and going on tour in early 1981. Excitement was in the air...a dream come true for fans...a dream that turned into a nightmare.
“The dream is over”
John Lennon (God)
There was nothing unusual about December 8, 1980. It was a typical Monday workday. I ate dinner, watched M*A*S*H, and went to bed around 10:30. Around midnight, a nerve-jangling phone ring startled me from sleep. Donna answered it. I could hear her speaking quickly in a surprised voice. She handed the phone to me, and said it was our friend, Steve Meltzer.
Then, she uttered four words that I will never forget:
“John Lennon was killed.”
Sometimes, the brain works faster than we expect. Several thoughts can race through the mind in a twinkling of a few seconds. Images of a car or airplane crash popped into my head. That must be what happened, I thought. Then, Steve said to me:
“Some guy just walked up to John and shot him.”
My mindset was that John died in an accident...nothing prepared me for the horrible raw reality of someone shooting him. I was in shock. I stumbled around my house in desperation...searching for what...I don’t know. I turned on the TV, but at that late hour in 1980 there were no stations broadcasting live news on my cable service. What if Steve was wrong...yeah that must be it...maybe just a rumor. I turned on my FM radio. As I moved the dial from one station to another, each was playing a Beatles or Lennon song...that’s when I knew that John Lennon was dead. Pacing in the hallway, I cried out, “I’m never gonna be the same”, realizing instantly the truth of that prediction.
I expected that other people would feel the same level of grief as I did. In the immediate aftermath of John Lennon’s death, and during the next few years that followed, I was often the recipient of unsympathetic responses from some friends and acquaintances. They could not understand why I was so upset over the murder of a man who I didn’t know personally, and hadn’t known me. “After all Marc,” they said, “It’s not like he was a relative.”
But, they were wrong.
Lennon, ten years my senior, was the big brother I never had. As a teenager, I wished for an older brother. I wanted a big brother who had experienced the ups and downs of growing up, and could offer me advice as I went through my high school years. I didn’t want an older brother to live my life for me, but one who would listen to my problems, and either provide words of encouragement, or give me a “reality check” if necessary. Lennon provided that guidance for me in song, word, and action during the Sixties. After the phone call informing me of his death, I felt like a boy hearing that his big brother was killed in the war, and would never be coming back again.
It was an extremely difficult week for me after December 8th. I tried to return to normal, but was numb most of the time. At one point, in a fit of anger and grief, I took down all the Beatles and Lennon posters from the walls in my study. What was the point of looking at them anymore, I wondered? Within the next couple of hours, I regretted my impulsiveness, and placed all of the photos and posters back where they belonged. I couldn’t stand hearing any Beatles or Lennon music, especially the “Double Fantasy” album I listened to daily for the past couple of weeks. “Beautiful Boy”, the song that John wrote about his son, was unbearable now. My nerves were close to the surface. Up until December 8th, the words “death” and “Beatles” were antonyms.
Yoko Ono asked the world to remember John by observing ten minutes of silence at 2:00 PM EST on Sunday, December 14th...six days after his death. People all over the globe, most notably in New York and Liverpool, gathered in the thousands to honor her request. Many others participated privately or in small groups. Hundreds of radio stations, particularly those that played Beatles and Lennon songs, went off the air for ten minutes, a tribute never done before or since.
Donna realized that her husband needed to be alone that day. I observed the ten minutes of silence while sitting in my study. I had my favorite FM Rock station on. It was eerie to hear the music stop, so I checked other stations for a few seconds...they also were off the air. I prayed, sobbed, and said good-bye. Then, the silence was over.
A few days later, I read the following article in my local newspaper:
LOSES JOB BECAUSE OF VIGIL
LAKE RONKONKOMA NY (AP)
A 17-year-old high school senior has been fired from her part-time job
at a variety store for observing the 10-minute silent memorial to the
slain John Lennon requested by the former Beatle's widow.
At the appointed time, 2 PM Sunday, Suzanne Stephens was at her post as
cashier at the checkout counter of Shane's Circus of Values variety
store in this Long Island hamlet.
Some customers waiting in line stalked out angrily while Stephens
stopped working and bowed her head for 10 minutes.
"This was the Christmas rush," the store manager said afterward, "She was at the register, and there was a big line. She refused to ring anybody up."
Stephens said: "John Lennon stood for peace and love, and that's what's
“There’s nowhere you can be that isn’t where you’re meant to be”
The Beatles (All You Need Is Love)
There were few things that gave me comfort in the week that followed the murder of John Lennon. Despair hovered over me. However, when I read about Suzanne Stephens’ steadfast vigil for John, her action became a ray of light shining into the darkness of my heart. I clipped out the article, and saved it. Over the years the newsprint yellowed, but each December 8th I read it, always amazed that a young girl, who grew up after the Sixties were over, thought that Lennon’s message of peace and love superseded what was going on in her life.
By the late 1990s, I wondered whatever happened to Suzanne. Did her on-the-job silent vigil shape her life for good or bad? Did she have any regrets? For several years, I tried to locate Suzanne, always winding up with unproductive leads. Earlier this year, a hint of her present occupation led me to find Suzanne still living on Long Island. I discovered much of the information in the old tattered article was inaccurate, save for the outcome and her beliefs.
She was a teenaged part-time clerk, who had to work on Sunday, December 14, 1980 because none of her supervisors were on duty. Suzanne did not work at the cash register that day. Instead, she was asked to oversee two other employees, also part-time young workers. She and her coworkers decided that they would observe the memorial in silent prayer in the store for a few minutes. The stock boy said that he was going to lock the doors even if customers were inside. Suzanne thought that was a crazy idea, and told him not to do it. However, she was unable to stop him. On her own, at 2:00 PM, Suzanne sat quietly for a few minutes and prayed for John Lennon.
By the time Suzanne reported to work the next day, her coworkers concocted a lie that she ordered them to lock the doors of the store during the time of the vigil. The store manager asked her if she sat in silence the previous day. Suzanne replied that she had, and was fired on the spot. Her supervisor said that she could be hired back if she apologized for sitting in silence. Suzanne refused to apologize.
After her dismissal, Suzanne visited a friend, and told her what happened. The girl friend was outraged that Suzanne had been fired for expressing herself, and decided that the local media should be informed. Suzanne tried to downplay the incident, not wanting publicity for what she considered to be a personal issue. However, her friend spoke to a reporter at Newsday. He became interested in the story. After Newsday published an account of Suzanne’s vigil, the other New York City newspapers followed suit. NBC-TV’s New York City station, Channel 4, showed up at her high school to interview her.
Suzanne’s interest in The Beatles and Lennon came from her parents, who were young adults when the Fab Four came to America in 1964. As she grew into her teens, she became interested in John Lennon’s peace and love philosophy, and his ability to pick himself up from low points in his life, and rebound as both an artist and non-violence advocate. She was drawn to John’s current “Double Fantasy” album in the weeks before his death.
Amid the media circus generated by Suzanne’s vigil at work, her parents sat down with their young daughter to discuss its meaning. Suzanne’s father, now deceased, had been a New York City fireman. In December 1980 he was working as a Navy recruiter. A patriotic man, who firmly believed in the Bill of Rights, he told Suzanne that she hadn’t done anything wrong...that this was America, and people have the right to express their beliefs. There was nothing to apologize for.
Unfortunately, not everyone concurred. During the next couple of weeks, Suzanne received about 100 letters. About half of the letters supported what she did, but the other half denounced her homage to John Lennon. Not only did these writers, often anonymous, criticize Suzanne for interfering with the transactions of a convenience market, but they attacked John Lennon himself, and questioned why anyone should care about his death. Although those remarks were hurtful, Suzanne remained convinced that she had done the right thing.
Today, her name is Suzanne Sturek. She is married and the mother of four sons. For the past ten years, she has owned and operated a hair salon called Sound Hair Design in the Town of Wading River. She also works part-time as an intake worker for Family and Children’s Services. Suzanne states that she has acted with an independent mind since her teen-age years, seeking causes and actions that matched her values. She recognizes that her decision to remain silent to honor John Lennon was the first time she remained true to herself...unafraid of what others might think. Suzanne has no regrets about what she did at work on December 14, 1980 ...she felt a responsibility to stand up for John Lennon, just as he stood up for her and many others during his lifetime.
“We all shine on like the moon, and the stars, and the sun”
John Lennon (Instant Karma)
Thirty years have passed since that horrific night of December 8, 1980. At age 60, I am now twice the age I was then. During the first ten years after John Lennon’s death, I was often sad...a part of me had died that night as well...but around 1990, I started to celebrate his life instead of mourn for it. I still missed John’s keen insight on different issues, but the joy and wonder of his songs and lyrics outweighed the negativity of his death. Once I let go of the impossible quest to answer why he was killed, I was able to concentrate on his legacy and its positive effects. Lennon was a musical and lyrical genius...a guide for an entire generation...but in death he has become more of an “Everyman” than an icon, representing all the attributes and flaws any of us has.
I realize that “Everyman” commonality of John Lennon each time I visit the Strawberry Fields section of Central Park, and witness a cross-section of society gazing upon the memorial to him. Embedded in the sidewalk next to the 72nd Street entrance is a circular mosaic of black and white tiles in an interlocking design. The word, IMAGINE, sits inside a circle in the middle. People gather around, usually speaking quietly to one another, as they look, remember, and pay their respects, often leaving flowers on the tiles.
The black and white contrast in the mosaic captures the duality of John Lennon, a complex man and a minimalist, whose words and music represent “hope”. By his life’s end, Lennon changed his focus for attaining peace and love...he was no longer a leader, but reminded us that we had the ability to achieve those goals. Whenever the 21st century causes me to be skeptical about Lennon’s ideals, I revisit his songs, and their messages make sense to me again. To be an admirer of John Lennon, one must face the realities of violence and war, but be willing to counter that harshness with the affirmations he expressed in “Imagine”.
Thanks to John, I still believe that we can make peace happen.
“You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one.”
John Lennon (Imagine)
Copyright: Marc Catone 2010
In the Fall of 1980, I was asked to write an article
about the re-emergence of John Lennon for a fledgling
New York City periodical called "Bedroom Magazine".
The editor, Michael Turback, started the magazine with
couples as the audience. He wanted me to write about
John & Yoko as a couple. I heartily agreed.
At the time, I was working on a manuscript which
eventually became my book, "As I Write This Letter".
John Lennon and Yoko Ono were all over the news since
announcing that they were coming out of their
self-imposed five year hiatus with a new album.
I was ecstatic at the prospect of new music from
Lennon, and a possible tour in 1981. So, I poured all
of my personal knowledge about the couple since 1968,
with info obtained from the books "The Beatles
Fourever" by Nicholas Schaffner and "One Day At A
Time" by Anthony Fawcett,and wrote about John and
However, as we all know, darkness fell about the
Lennons in December 1980. The day after John was
assassinated, I received a call from Turback. Both of
us fought back tears during the conversation. He had
a dilemma. The issue of "Bedroom Magazine" with my
article in it was about to go to the printers in two
days. He told me that he would pull it from
publication if I wanted...I thought about it for a few
seconds, and then said "No, have it come out as is".
He agreed, but said that he would have to rewrite a
bit of it to take into account the terrible events
that had just occurred. Of course, I understood.
Since the article appeared in the age before the
Internet, I transcribed the 3400-word piece as it
appeared in the magazine, with the opening paragraph
and last couple of paragraphs by Michael Turback.
I post it as a reminder of how John and Yoko were
regarded in 1980...before all the hacks,
rumor-mongers, and former "go-fers" assassinated their
characters in books.
And yes, there is unabashed fanboy-ism contained
within...of which I have no regrets.
THE END OF A LOVE STORY
Marc A. Catone
John and Yoko--it was not only the music that they
gave us, but they showed us what a man and woman
should be doing in the world. On their relationship
John has said: "We met, we're in love, we want to
share it." As painful as it is to write about the
end, it is necessary to start at the beginning.
John Lennon was born during a Nazi blitzkrieg. His
father, a man of the sea, was seldom home. John was
reared by his mother and aunt (more by the latter than
the former). He grew up wondering who he belonged to,
or whether he belonged at all. John always had a
sense of being someone special, a genius perhaps,
destined for something other than his simple
Liverpudlian trimmings could provide. He became a
loner at an early age, drawing cowboys and indians,
and making small illustrated stories for his own
His mother, Julia, popped in and out of his life,
giving him some bright moments to relish, but never
supervising, or living his life. When she was killed
by a passing car outside his home, he was silent, not
able to admit to the impact of that moment until years
later. Then something happened...Elvis Presley! Rock
and Roll got to John's soul, and as with other English
lads, he dreamt of being a success in the music
business. And why not? Elvis had proven that an
ordinary poor boy could climb to the top, and be a
major influence on his peers. John knew that he could
do it too.
John met a guy named Paul McCartney, who was looking
to join a Rock and Roll band. Eventually, they got
together with a younger friend of Paul's, George
Harrison, and a drummer called Ringo Starr...the rest
is history. John was 22 years old when Beatlemania
swept England. The next year, America caught the
fever, and all of The Beatles experienced an existence
so unique, that no other person's life was comparable.
While this writer, and millions of other young people
hung on every word they uttered, and each note they
sang, The Beatles became a world unto themselves.
They were protected by many well-meaning, but stifling
people who took care of their finances, tours,
contracts and personal lives. The Beatles had an
extension of adolescence, lasting into their twenties.
They continued growing musically, fighting those who
protected them every inch of the way, and relying on
each other in a special bond of unity which only they
understood. After several years, that unity bred
contempt, and the split-up occurred. While The
Beatles were still a reality, each was affected by the
isolation imposed on them by their own fame.
John Lennon felt restricted in his guise as a Beatle.
He was an exceptionally talented artist, who
transformed Rock and roll lyrics from the usual stuff
about "Moon and June" to topics of War and Peace. He
experimented with different sounds, always trying to
think of ways to incorporate them into his
compositions. Often, there was success, but he was
paying the price of being a pop idol. The Beatles
were almost on a constant tour of the world from
1963-1966, rushed from airport to hotel to outdoor
stadium, back to hotel, onto airplanes, back to native
England, and into their next album. It is a miracle
that they were able to produce such masterpiece albums
as "Rubber Soul" and "Revolver" under those hectic
John felt inhibited playing the pop star. He wanted
to break loose to pursue other things as well as
experiment with his music. Fortunately, his fellow
Beatles also felt the heat, and all agreed to stop
touring in the summer of 1966. John and his mates
were able to take their time in the studio, mix with
other musicians, and try to live as normal a life as a
Beatle could...but still there was something missing
in his life. He was married to Cynthia, and they had
a son, however his marriage was going nowhere. His
wife genuinely didn't understand him. Despite his
marriage, John had never really been in love. He had
written lyrics extolling the virtues of being in love,
but his words did not crystallize with his personal
life...until he met Yoko Ono.
Yoko is several years older than John. She was
affected by World War II also, but born on the
opposite side to John's in that war. She was the
child of a wealthy Japanese banker, who had one been a
concert pianist. Yoko felt that both her parents
expected perfection from her, and spent the better
part of her life trying to live up to an image which
was impossible to attain.
During the war, young Yoko was sent to live in the
Japanese countryside with her family's servants. The
danger of major metropolitan areas coming under heavy
fire prompted the government to evacuate the cities.
Yoko was safe, but soon after her flight to the
country, the servants abandoned Yoko and her younger
sibling. Necessity prompted Yoko to assume a
matriarchal posture. She had to keep the other
children in line, find food, and maintain a shelter
for them all. She was only a child herself, but was
saddled with the burden and responsibility of
providing for others without any support from the
outside. This experience shaped the rest of her life.
She would always be protective for those she had
responsibility for, and she would always feel somewhat
insecure in each new endeavor, always craving someone
to give support for her various projects.
The Ono family moved to the United States during the
1950s. Yoko attended Sarah Lawrence College, and
began to explore different types of music; the type of
music considered avant-gard, and off-the-wall by 1950s
standards. By the mid-1960s, she achieved a reputation
for staging strange events within the framework of
art. Then, she ventured to the fertile London scene,
and began to contribute to the budding underground art
galleries. England extended more of a welcoming arm
than the United States. The public and press seemed
more receptive to Yoko's ideas of what art is and
should be. Yoko's art consisted of conceptualizations
about simple emotive responses. Many people couldn't
see the point to it, and felt that anyone was capable
of doing art in such a simplistic approach, but for
Yoko the simplicity was the message...anyone could be,
and everyone was an artist.
Yoko's domestic life was unhappy. She had a marriage
ending in divorce, and the child from that union lived
with her father most of the time. Yoko didn't see her
daughter, Kyoko, often, but she still required the
reassurance that a family could bring. She had not
found love. There was a void in her life. Then she
met John Lennon.
John and Yoko met at an art gallery in London during
the month of November 1966. This much we know. There
are several versions of that meeting. Suffice it to
say that they were attracted to one another. As time
went on, they discovered that each fulfilled the needs
of the other. John had always been searching for a
woman who could stimulate him intellectually, one who
would not place more importance on him being a Beatle
than John Lennon. He received this from Yoko. She
was not in awe of him, and was not a fan of The
Beatles. She recognized in John, a person receptive
to her ideas. She unlocked his mind to feel his
emotions and not be afraid to express those feelings
to the people controlling and surrounding his life.
He gave her support, and a new vehicle, Rock and Roll,
to project her ideas.
John had suppressed most of his ideas about the
direction The Beatles were taking in the latter days
of their existence. He had little to say on their
artistic development due to a general I-don't-care
attitude germinated from the many LSD trips he used as
an escape from a prison of his own making. He was
frustrated, and couldn't even walk down a street
without a multitude of people chasing after him. John
claimed that he took 1,000 acid trips...whatever the
amount, he became complacent about The Beatles,
allowing others in his entourage to direct his life,
and letting Paul McCartney chart the musical course of
the group. Meaning no intentional harm, McCartney
developed an aggressive nature when it involved
getting his compositions a good showing on albums and
single releases. John let Paul talk him out of
placing his songs as the "A" side on many singles.
"Penny Lane" became the "A" side, whereas
"Strawberry Fields Forever" became the "B" side, likewise "Hey
Jude" and "Revolution" respectively.
Meanwhile John's feelings for Yoko were growing. In
early 1968, The Beatles went to India to learn at the
feet of Mahareshi Mahesh Yogi. What they discovered
was that the Mahareshi was one of the greatest
proponents for material wealth and assembly-line
mentality since Henry Ford. Yoko wrote many letters
to John while the latter was in India. It was only a
couple of months later that John, to the shock of
Cynthia, his fellow Beatles, and his fans, proudly
proclaimed his love for Yoko. John began to assert
himself again. He tried to steer The Beatles towards
lyrics that were more than silly love songs.
Yoko Ono profited from her alliance with John by
getting to show her work to a new crowd of people, and
having in John, a willing and able collaborator.
However, all was not rosy for John and Yoko as the
British press reacted with great hostility towards the
John was cast into a mold...people expected him to act
a certain way. He was the witty Beatle, allowed to
mouth-off occasionally, but the press, and some of his
fans, expected him to exercise restraint. John no
longer wished to conform to that image, but the press
wouldn't allow it. The most vicious assault against
Yoko wasn't that she broke up John's marriage, but rather that she was Japanese. The overt nature of this racism was not blurted out in the
headlines, but written in between the lines. John had
betrayed his country, according to the British press,
by running off with an "oriental" who could not be trusted.
By the Fall of 1968, the news media was in full swing
with their John/Yoko hate relationship. Then, a
series of misfortunes befell the couple. First, they
were busted for possession of cannabis resin. John
pleaded guilty to the charges to protect Yoko.
Secondly, John and Yoko's experimental music album,
"Two Virgins" was released depicting a cover photo of
the couple naked. Thirdly, Yoko suffered a
miscarriage. All of those events were unfavorably
publicized in the press all over the world, but in
particular by the native British newspapers. They
described John and Yoko as drug addicts and
pornographers, and placed the blame for the
unsuccessful pregnancy on the fact that the couple was
not married. It was a low ebb in both their lives.
The new year of 1969 ushered in the era which John and
Yoko are best known. Their crusade for world peace
became a major media event, surpassing coverage to
royalty and politicians. John's best musical
compositions reflected a concern for the violence and
misunderstandings among the peoples of the Earth. His
role in The Beatles stifled his desire to address the
problem directly. It wasn't until the dismal "Let It
Be" rehearsal sessions that John and Yoko came up with
the idea that they could be influential in the cause
of peace. They decided to share their personal joy of
marriage by kicking off the peace campaign while
honeymooning in Amsterdam. John realized that he held
a lofty position in the minds of young people. He did
not necessarily agree that was a good thing, but
understood the potential outlet for communicating his
ideas to the one group of people he felt would be most
receptive to the goal of showing peace as an
It was Yoko's idea to hold a Bed-In for peace at the
Amsterdam Hilton. She wanted to show that John and
Yoko were committed and dedicated to the cause of
peace, so rather than going on an outlandish
honeymoon, they spent that week lying in bed and
speaking to the press. Many members of the media
expected to find John and Yoko making love for the
whirring newsreel cameras, instead they found both
dressed in white robes, lying in bed, discussing the
concept of peace. John was in command of his
language. People hung on every word. John and Yoko
were united toward a single goal. They reasoned that
the madness of war could not continue. The seed of
peace had to be planted in peoples' minds until all
realized that they held the key to the change. World
leaders couldn't do it alone. Everyone had the
capacity for changing their own heads, and thus the
direction away from continual slaughter to worldwide
The ploy of being in bed irked many, but it was an
attention-getter, and served John and Yoko well. They
both knew that some people would perceive the Bed-In
as silly. For John, it was a brave stand to take for
someone who was held in such high esteem. He realized
that many of his fans might think he was crazy, but he
also knew that this was his one chance to do something
for the betterment of mankind. If the events he and
Yoko staged could get someone thinking seriously about
peace in a society marketing violence, the would be
further down the road to accomplishing his goal.
The rest of 1969 and early 1970 were spent in hot
pursuit of this goal. Finally, the constant events
and interview took their toll on the round-the-clock
schedule kept by John and Yoko. They needed to
unwind, take the time to discover each other, and find
their own peace of mind. In April 1970, The Beatles
officially died. Although John wanted The Beatles to
end, when it was over he became depressed. Being a
Beatle had been a way of life for the past decade, and
now he found himself almost 30 years old with many
unanswered questions about himself and his past.
Then, both Lennons experienced primal scream therapy.
The premise of the therapy is not unique. All of us
submerge painful childhood events to the extent of
blocking out these unpleasant thoughts entirely, or to
a point where we react inappropriately towards them.
The effect manifests itself as neuroses as we grow
older and continue to avoid confronting the memory.
John and Yoko took a course with Dr. Arthur Janov, who
developed the primal scream therapy system of ridding
oneself of basic feelings of being unloved or in want.
The therapy calls for one to feel the pain, and
confront it by talking or screaming in the hope of
removing it from both the subconscious and conscious
minds. The Lennons emerged from this experience with
a better understanding of what made him tick. For
John, he was able to use what he learned by producing
and recording perhaps the best Rock and Roll concept
album of all time, "Plastic Ono Band", in which he
bares the essence of the darker side of his soul in a
disturbing, yet fascinating manner.
The early 1970s brought John and Yoko to the United
States for a variety reasons, among them were Yoko's
search for her daughter, and John's desire to live in
New York City. Soon after their arrival, the Lennons
became involved with many prominent Left-leaning
radicals, such as Jerry Rubin and Abbie Hoffman. We
know now, due to once classified information made
available by the Freedom of Information Act, that the
Nixon Administration reacted with horror at the
thought of an ex-Beatle, so popular with young people,
having such radical contacts. The Justice Department
was urged by a memo prepared by the Senate Internal
Security Subcommittee of the Judiciary Committee to
beware of John's possible role in a disruption of the
upcoming 1972 Republican National convention. Senator
Strom Thurmond urged Attorney General John Mitchell to
enlist the Immigration and Naturalization Service to
harass John Lennon, by using the pretext of John's
1968 marijuana bust as a reason to deny him visa
continuances. And harassed he was. John's phone was
tapped, and people were ordered to follow him, and
report back to their superiors who John met and where.
John's paranoia increased. He had no proof, but knew
he was being followed. The emotional strain of
fighting to remain in the USA, being hunted, and the
accumulated effect of their personal lives splashed
across the headlines of the world for the past five
years, led to the unthinkable among their fans...John
and Yoko split up. John seemed to suffer the most
from the separation which lasted from early 1973 until
the end of 1974. He gained notoriety by his bouts of
drinking, and night club carousing with friends like
Harry Nilsson. John and Yoko proved to be human after
all. As a couple, John and Yoko, found living
together impossible, but the thought of staying apart
unbearable. Soon after their reconciliation, Yoko
became pregnant, and on John's 35th birthday in
October 1975, gave birth to their son, Sean Ono
Lennon. This began the years of staying out of the
public eye as much as possible in order to provide a
normal life for their newborn as well as for
And now this brings us to 1980. John and Yoko decided
to end the stage of their lives where their energies
were spent on various causes. For the first time in
their marriage, they were able to lead a normal
domestic life. John became a house-husband during the
past five years, and played a vital role in the
rearing of their son. Yoko made sure that her husband
got the much deserved rest from the public eye, and
played a key role in getting their finances in order.
But why resurface now? As a man and wife, they showed
how a couple could work together on an equal basis for
the things they believed. After years of being under
public scrutiny, they never enjoyed the simple
pleasures of living with family and friends minus the
fanfare. They had to take a break.
This writer always believed that someday they would
come back to touch our lives again. Sometimes, my
belief appeared to be a long way off, but now was a
good time for John and Yoko to release a new album,
and possibly go on tour performing their new music.
John had just attained the age of 40, I'm sure he
still had a lot to say.
The new album, "Double Fantasy", has proved to be a
very personal statement on the growth of their
relationship, a renewal of dialogue with the people
who grew up with them. It held the promise to bring
them back into the mainstream of music and popular
consciousness...a promise that was shattered by a
38-calibre gun. In an interview for RKO Radio Network
on the afternoon before his tragic murder, John
brought up the subject of death, and said that he
hoped he died before Yoko. Without her, he said, he
"could not cope with life."
At 11 PM on December 8, 1980, John and Yoko returned
from a New York recording studio to their apartment at
the Dakota. In a senseless and motiveless act, a man
pumped five bullets into John's chest as Yoko watched
in horror. She cradled the head of her fallen husband
in her arms before he was rushed to a hospital in
vain. Yoko issued a statement few hours later:
"John loved and prayed for the human race. Please do
the same for him."
I read the news today, oh boy--it was the end of a
Editor's Note: This article on John and Yoko was
originally planned as celebration of the couple's
return to public life. As we went to press, the
brutal murder forced us to change our treatment of the
story. We send our prayers to Yoko. Mr. Catone had
written in the original piece that "John and Yoko need
not give us any more than they have up until now.
They have given so much of themselves that all of us,
collectively, could never return the same."
Copyright: Marc Catone 2010