Lennon Audio Diaries

(The following is part of a piece I wrote a few years ago for Hey Dullblog. I thought our readers here would like to have a kick at the can during the post-Christmas lull. Looking forward to your comments. ~Karen) 

In the fall of 1979, John sat down with a tape recorder and began to tell his life story.  But these Lennon audio diaries were a non-starter: in true Lennon fashion, he got bored after 1.25 minutes and let his thoughts drift to his usual preoccupations—Paul McCartney, his mother Julia, and his fear of professional redundancy.

According to Rolling Stone magazine, the 13 minutes or so of audio tapes were found in a fan’s garage (?!) and were sent to a voice analysis expert by News of the World for authentication.  (They needn’t have bothered; the voice on the tapes is so clearly Lennon in every way.)

The tapes became notorious for the revelation that a young adolescent John copped a feel while laying with his mother on a bed.  Lennon’s account of the incident was neither ruminative or contrite: indeed, it was the casualness of it, the irresistible lure of it (“and by the way Mother was wearing a black Angora short-sleeved round neck sweater…”) that seemed more provocative than the disclosure itself.

Here’s a portion of the transcripted diaries:

Fifth of September 1979. Take one in the ongoing life story of John Winston Ono Lennon. Talk about 9 Newcastle road because that’s the first place I remember. And it’s a good place to start.

Red brick. Front room. Never used. Always curtains drawn. Picture of a horse and carriage on the wall, which ended up at Nanny’s place. Aunt Ann, who’s still living in Rockferry, Cheshire. Then she sold it. The first thing I remember is a nightmare. There was only three bedrooms upstairs, one in the front on the street, one in the back and one teeny little room in the middle. This is boring, I can’t be bothered doing it. Let’s think of something else.

Well, I was listening to the radio and Dylan’s new single or album, whatever the hell it is, came on…about “everybody’s got to get served”? [chuckles] I mean, what was it? Every…”You’ve Got to Serve Someone”…”You’ve Got to Serve Somebody.” So, he wants to be a waiter now. He wants to be a waiter for Christ. The backing was mediocre by Jerry Wexler and the singing was really pathetic and the words were just embarrassing.

So, here we sit, watching the mighty Dylan and the mighty McCartney and the mighty Jagger slide down the mountain, blood and mud in their nails. Well, that’s the way the world is, ha ha ha, that’s the way the world is, oh yes. The difference between now and a couple of years back is that whenever there was a new thing out by any of the aforesaid, I used to feel a sense of panic and competition. And now, I just feel like even the last few months it’s changed. I would send out for their albums or something just to hear it. There doesn’t seem any point now.

Let’s take a break. How do we break? Just put it off.

Still, even now, talking about them or thinking about them is still really being involved in it, because the ultimate dissociation would be not even to know they had an album out! [laughs] But now at least I get pleasure in it instead of panic. The main pleasure being of course that it’s all a load of shit. So I suppose I’ll always feel competitive with them, because they were from that same generation, but when I hear something like “Pop Muzik” by Robin Scott or the Blondie single, I really enjoy it, you know. I don’t feel competitive about it. Well, he who laughs, laughs, laughs, laughs, laughs, laughs…

I read Truman Capote’s interview with himself in this week’s or month’s, whatever, Interview magazine. And it wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t any better than the one I did two years ago. Although at the time I thought I had originated it…but somebody told me Bernard Shaw had done it. I liked that remark some woman made about Bernard Shaw, that his brains had gone to his head. [chuckles]

[noise in background]

What’s that? Sounds like birds.

[bagpipes playing]

Well, of course the bagpipes got me right back to Edinburgh, which is one of my favorite dreams. And Edinburgh Festival and the Tattoo in the Castle and all these bands of the world and armies would come and march and play. And the favorites…I think they were usually the Americans because they swung like shit, apart from actually the Scots, who were really the favorites. And I always remember feeling very emotional about it. Especially where they did the bit at the end where they put all the lights out and there’s just one guy playing the bagpipes. [Speaking with a Scottish accent] ‘Lit by a lone spotlight. Och aye.’ Well, in 1981 I’ll take Sean there, because that’s a good year to go. I always felt free in Scotland. It’s probably the same feeling I get in Japan actually, it’s the feeling of being in a foreign country and therefore you’re not…you don’t belong to the…you don’t have to deal with the social mores so much. Free from everything. It’s easier to be yourself in a foreign country. I think that’s why so many people go crackers[chuckles] when they go on holidays in those places. The freedom’s too much for them.

Well, it’s easier to think than talk.

I was just remembering the time I had my hand on my mother’s tit in Number 1 Blomfield Road, in…off Mather Avenue, near Garston. It’s when I was about 14. I took the day off school, I was always doing that and hanging out in her house.  Oh we were lying on the bed and I was thinking, I wonder if I should doing anything else, you know. And it was a strange moment, because I actually had the hots, as they say, for some rather lower-class female that lived on the opposite side of the road. But I always think whether I should have done it, presuming she would have allowed it.

The thing I wanted to add about McCartney, Dylan, and Jagger, et. al., is that they’re all company men. In various disguises. But basically company men. And not forgetting the singing dwarf, Mr. Simon. And by the way Mother was wearing a black Angora short-sleeved round neck sweater, not too fluffy, maybe it was the other stuff–cashmere–that’s it, black cashmere, soft wool anyway, and I believe that tight, dark green-yellow mottled skirt. [Sighs] Hey-ho.  I always remember seeing her going down on Twitchy, or otherwise known as Robert Dykins, D-Y-K-I-N-S, Bobby Dykins, second husband although I don’t know if she ever married him.  She was under the bed sheets and I wandered into the room, `cause I was staying there, same period, 14 on, 13 on, whatever. And I can’t remember exactly what I felt…shock, I know that. `Cause I was already in to it myself..I probably wasn’t that shocked. It was the idea of going down on him, I think, sleazy little waiter, with a nervous cough and the thinning, margarine-coated hair. He used to always push his hand in the margarine or butter, usually margarine, and grease his hair with it before he left.  He used to keep his tips in a big tin on top of a cupboard in the kitchen and I used to always steal them.  [wistful] And I believe Mother got the blame.

That’s the least they can do for me. I’m sitting here waiting to be taken out to view yet another group of houses for our country retreat…this endless search for Scotland outside of New York [chuckles] within an hour of New York. Well now I’ve given up Scotland and the ocean and I’m settling for some grass and a tree.  I read somewhere..some guy saying about the sexual fantasies and urges that he had all his life when he was twenty and then when he was thirty he thought they’d cool down and then when he got into his forties he thought they’d cool down [but] they didn’t and went on to his 60’s and 70’s and he was still driveling on in his mind, when he couldn’t possibly do anything about it. So that rather…well  not depressed but I thought shit, because I was always waiting for them to lessen, but I suppose it’s going to go  on forever. Forever is a bit too strong a word, but say it’ll go on until you leave this body anyway…let’s hope, the game is to conquer it as they say, before you leave otherwise you come back for more, and who wants to come back just to come? Or maybe I read it in the Capote thing…I’ll check it.

Well, well, here we are. Aged thirty-nine, looking out of my hotel window, wondering whether to jump out or get back in bed. So, I got back in bed.

Questions to ponder:

  1.  John’s words, made as they were privately on a tape recorder rather than to an interviewer (which lends credence to them as an authentic representation of his feelings) suggests he had a clearly sexualized orientation toward his mother. Given what we know about John’s childhood, what do we make of it? Was it the conflation of a young boy’s burgeoning sexuality with a son’s longing for maternal love? Did his casual flippancy about it mask a greater psychological conflict?2.  I think it’s safe to say that John’s preoccupation with/conflicted feelings about Paul McCartney, 10+ years after the breakup, is diagnostic–but of what? Based upon what we know about The Beatles in general and the Lennon/McCartney relationship in particular, what could we hypothesize to be the nature of his internal conflict?

Looking forward to your thoughts and comments.


39 thoughts on “Lennon Audio Diaries

  1. Hologram Sam says:

    “I actually had the hots, as they say, for some rather lower-class female that lived on the opposite side of the road.”

    “the idea of going down on him, I think, sleazy little waiter…”

    John’s contempt for the upper classes was matched by his contempt for the lower classes, it seems.

    His remarks about other artists (including Paul) reveal the depth of John’s competitive nature. He got into music as a fan, wanting to imitate his idols. Then he got caught up in being a hit-making machine, with all that anxiety. Terrified of being topped on the charts by other acts. Then, as a solo Beatle, worrying that George or Paul would sell more solo records.

    It sounds like he’s still stuck in the treadmill, but trying to reassure himself he’s finally free of competitive jealousy. Reconnecting with his youth, a time when he could hear new music without immediately fretting about his own output.


    • Erin says:

      I wonder about John’s relationship with and views on class. The prevailing view for much of the post-Beatles period was that it didn’t impact how he viewed others: the opposite interpretation, of course, would have at least partially undermined his “working class hero” persona. And many writers cite as evidence John’s very clear spot at the top of the Beatles hierarchy in terms of class: he was what Norman describes as “a shelf above” Paul, who was a rank above George, and all of them above Ringo. But the interpretation has always been that John didn’t care that he was associating with people of lesser stature, because they could play.

      I’m always slightly reluctant to comment and delve too much into the issues of class and the Beatles, because I haven’t’ lived in/experienced the British class system first hand, let alone what it was like sixty/seventy years ago, when it was presumably even more entrenched. And while you can make the argument that perhaps John genuinely didn’t care, if someone was gifted enough, what their social status was, quotes like these indicate it was certainly something he accounted for and was aware of. (Which is not a criticism — the other Beatles, esp. Paul, have commented on that status awareness). Its impossible to know, but the Mimi factor is one that looms large, here, too, I’d presume. Mimi certainly had a history of slapping swift judgements on people based, in part at times, on their own status/class. How much of John’s openness to integrating the lower-ranking Paul/George/Ringo was simply motivated by John’s adolescent desire to tweak Mimi?


  2. Karen Hooper says:

    Funny you mention Mimi, Erin; I wrote this before I read your comments:

    I don’t think John knew where he fit in: he lived with the class-conscious Mary, but his mother was living with a waiter and had two children with him while his father was a ne’er-do-well whose whereabouts were unknown. I imagine this dichotomy of class and privilege affected John in the only way things seemed to affect John: it created a kind of indistinguishable loathing for both.

    John’s competitive jealousy/insecurity is remarkable, considering how successful he was.


  3. Hologram Sam says:

    “Well, that’s the way the world is, ha ha ha, that’s the way the world is, oh yes.”

    That really reminded me of Aunt Mimi. I think she lived in his head and emerged sometimes when he spoke and saw like this.

    Liked by 3 people

  4. Laura says:

    Karen, it’s funny you should post something from heydullblog, and then for the discussion to meander into class distinction among the Beatles, because…

    I was recently poking around old HD posts and saw your comment about being a bit irritated when Paul says John got a lot of money for his 21st birthday when the money really came from his mother’s will.

    Not long after that, I coincidentally happened across a bit of audio where John is telling Eliot Mintz that when he turned 21 he got 100 pounds as a birthday gift from a relative. I know John’s sister says it was an inheritance (maybe from a life insurance policy?), but I can see why Paul says it was a birthday gift.

    Sorry for a bit more off-topic meandering: Am I the only one who wonders, if each of the Beatles was getting more cash each week on their first trip to Hamburg than either George’s or Paul’s dad made and their (ugh) digs were free, where Paul’s money went? While reading Tune In, I noticed John and George getting new guitars at every turn while Paul was sticking the lead of his second guitar in his pocket because it was broken.

    As for the diary, it makes me want to read more while feeling guilty about invading his privacy… The househusband years are such a mystery – I want them to have been what johnndyoko said they were but there’s an awful lot of evidence to the contrary. Hopefully those years were at least a mixed bag. Life often is.


  5. Karen Hooper says:

    Hi Laura–

    …but I can see why Paul says it was a birthday gift.

    Receiving money on your birthday from your deceased mother’s estate is, of course, vastly different than receiving a chunk of change from a rich relative. My beef with Paul is that he continues to tell the story from the latter perspective which, by sister Julia’s account at least, is incorrect. And in telling it, he presents John as this lucky kid when in reality the money is symbolic of tragedy.

    I noticed John and George getting new guitars at every turn while Paul was sticking the lead of his second guitar in his pocket because it was broken.

    As Paul describes, he traded in his trumpet for a Zenith guitar, and then traded that for a Rosetti for his Hamburg trip. The Rosetti was nothing more than a “good-looking piece of wood,” and broke. After that, Paul was stuck on piano until Stu’s bass became available. I don’t have any info about the progression of instruments by George or John but would be curious to find out.

    As for the diary, it makes me want to read more while feeling guilty about invading his privacy…

    I would have thought that Yoko would have the diaries under lock and key (as with John’s written diaries) and/or would sue the pants off anyone who published them without her consent. The fact that she hasn’t done either may (?) speak to their relative confidentiality. Having said that, it’s all the more reason discussion of the diaries be treated with as much compassion and objectivity as we can muster.

    Edited to add: this got chopped of my initial comment, but the impression of the audio diaries is that John was dictating his memoirs, presumably for public consumption (although he tired of it quickly.)


    • Laura says:

      I agree about the 100 pounds if Paul has told the story since Julia told him it wasn’t a b’day gift (as John represented it), but rather an inheritance. I know he told the story on Anthology, but that was ages ago.

      Tune In extended version has a blow-by-blow on their guitar and amp purchases. (Small point, but in the Bass Man excerpt Paul says he bought the Rosetti on time payments and still has the Zenith. Heh, maybe he’s a hoarder – has he ever sold a piece of real estate?)

      My guilt is assuaged by hearing the diary excerpt was meant as fodder for public consumption. If only he’d kept going.


      • Brit says:

        In 1970 John carefully constructed a public image around his “working class” authenticity (and then unapologetically moved into a literal mansion) while simultaneously branding Paul a “middle class” tool of the system. This was politically expedient at the time, but it was nevertheless bullshit and it hurt Paul’s reputation (which I’m pretty sure was the precise intended purpose). I’m sorry but I don’t begrudge Paul for pushing back on this one bit!

        “And in telling it, he presents John as this lucky kid when in reality the money is symbolic of tragedy.”

        Do we have any proof that Paul knew the true source of the money? If John said it was a birthday gift from a relative… why would Paul suspect otherwise?

        As we all know, Paul also faced tragedy in his family and childhood. And yet John continually portrayed Paul as a spoiled baby, apple of his daddy’s eye, and himself as the true victim. Paul has demonstrated massive empathy for John’s struggles over the years whereas I don’t recall ever really seen any similar empathy from John towards Paul. Instead, John publicly painted Paul’s close relationship with his father as a weakness or character flaw.

        From Paul’s perspective, John probably WAS a lucky kid in some ways. Yes, John had some tough breaks (we can all agree on that) but he also may have seemed rather indulged. From a great distance, this is how John often looks to me: extremely entitled and self-centered.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Karen Hooper says:

          You seemed to have misinterpreted what I said, Brit, sorry. Let me be clearer:

          Paul apparently doesn’t KNOW the source of the money; he continues to believe it came from a rich relative. My wish is that he did, because I’m sure he would discuss the Paris story differently.


  6. John Firehammer says:

    Yes, it’s my understanding that John intended these tapes as fodder for a memoir. Would’ve loved to see it.

    Playing psychologist is dangerous, I think, and leaves one open to coming to conclusions one want to come to. It’d be interesting to see what a real psychologist would make of this recording.

    When I listen, I’m impressed by John’s fearlessness in delving into feelings and actions that most of us would likely not want to dwell on. He’s seeking to know why he felt this way, why he took this action.

    I’m NOT a psychologist, but to me this points to all sorts of understandably jumbled up feelings related to emerging teen sexuality concurrent to really getting to know his mother for the first time in his life and not really knowing how to feel about her.

    Same goes for John’s feelings about class. Mimi was focused on attaining a higher status, and reflecting it via her behavior. So he was growing up with that. His mother was clearly at a lower income level. But Mimi and George were by no stretch wealthy. Their home was semi-detached. It shared a wall with the neighboring tenant. And later, of course, Mimi took on boarders to make ends meet.

    I think too much is made about John being middle rather than working class. It’s relevant, I think, but not to a huge degree.


    • Karen Hooper says:

      It’d be interesting to see what a real psychologist would make of this recording.

      That would be me, so to speak. 😉

      My ponderings are based on my education and clinical practice. I was interested in whether our readership–who are thoughtful and keen beatleologists–could offer additional perspectives.

      I think too much is made about John being middle rather than working class. It’s relevant, I think, but not to a huge degree.

      I used to think so too, but then after reading about the rigid class structure of 1950’s Britain, the band’s personal perspectives about class, and watching videos of interviews (the one where the BBC asks them whether they will change their accents for the Royal Command Performance is particularly telling) I began to wonder.


  7. John Firehammer says:

    In the context of the entire band, I get your point about class and British society.

    Being from the North was probably even more significant in that the Beatles’ broke London’s hold on the British entertainment and music industries and essentially overturned the power system.

    But I do think some folks make too much out of John’s being more well-off than his fellow Beatles as a youth. None of them grew up rich.


    • Karen Hooper says:

      But I do think some folks make too much out of John’s being more well-off than his fellow Beatles as a youth. None of them grew up rich.

      Good point. And being middle-class certainly didn’t make up for John’s childhood circumstances. Better to have a loving, stable childhood with less money than a chaotic, disruptive one with more.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Brit says:

        OK, but it is JOHN who made it such an issue! He weaponized his “working class” status against his ex-partner in conjunction with his wife (who grew up with plenty or money and servants) in order to gain social cache in popular culture! It is 1000% legitimate to question the validity of this marketing campaign, especially since it was used to assassinate the characters of McCartney and the Eastmans! Having a messed-up family is irrelevant to this issue.

        (And again, I’m always frustrated that Paul’s family issues are not given the same sympathy)


        • Karen Hooper says:

          My point was that it’s often easy for people to assume that children raised in more affluent homes have it easier, but in actual fact the most important thing is the stability and consistency of home life. Paul himself has gone on record as saying that if he had to choose between his life and John’s he would choose his own, any day of the week.

          Having said that, it’s clear that Paul’s family life–in particular, Paul’s hardships and how it affected him psychologically–has gone unscrutinized, and that is a shortcoming of all Beatle historiography, imo.


          • Brit says:

            My point is that people in affluent homes literally do have it easier. The fact that Paul is capable of saying “well, I’d rather have less stuff and less financial stability in exchange for a loving family” simply shows that Paul prioritizes love, family and (relative) stability over wealth signifiers like home ownership. It doesn’t mean that he suffers any less than John or was traumatized any less. Mostly what it illustrates to me is that Paul had a VERY different set of expectations from his family and that he doesn’t view his personal challenges as any more special than anyone else’s. The jails are full of people with absent parents who no one cares about or has any sympathy for. But when “hardship” happens to people of higher status (as a function of class, race, etc) it’s viewed as worse. This very well may be a factor in what you described here:

            “Having said that, it’s clear that Paul’s family life–in particular, Paul’s hardships and how it affected him psychologically–has gone unscrutinized, and that is a shortcoming of all Beatle historiography, imo.”

            John always has the attitude that he didn’t deserve what happened to him, whereas Paul’s method is to suck it up and count his blessings. I’m not arguing that Paul’s way is healthier or that John DID deserve to be abandoned (of course he didn’t, no child does!) or that being lower class is “worse” than being rejected by your parents (that sounds awful, I’d choose Paul’s role too!). But Paul’s life philosophy seems much different from John’s in a way that I’d guess is definitely impacted by class.


            • Karen Hooper says:

              Again, you misread what I said. I was referring to children from affluent homes, and how wealth is not a determinant in child health.

              I think you’re getting lost in the weeds here, Brit. I’d like to end the discussion here because it’s becoming a needless debate of John vs Paul, which was not the intent of the post or of any of the comments.


              • Brit says:

                I didn’t misread and I’m not lost. I’m just building on your point and keeping the discussion going. I’m not even disagreeing with you! But if you wish to shut it down, OK.


                • Karen Hooper says:

                  Brit, you’ve been very impassioned in your comments about the perceived injustices John inflicted upon Paul on a number of fronts.

                  In that respect, I think you’re correct; John’s behaviour with respect to Paul was entirely inappropriate and Paul has shown admirable restraint over the years in how he chose to deal with it.

                  But neither the post or the previous commentary lead in that direction, except in your own thinking. I’m not shutting anything down, other than commentary I believe is tangential to the post and, frankly, leading down a fruitless path of angrily re-litigating chapter and verse John’s wrongdoing against his former partner. If we have that kind of discussion, it should be more dispassionate, objective, with a view to understand it rather than rail against it.

                  I continue to welcome your input. I’m just asking that you turn your burners down a notch on the John and Paul front. Deal?


                  • Brit says:

                    Sure, I’ll be less impassioned and am happy to rephrase to sound less so. Here’s the comment that kicked off this thread:

                    “But I do think some folks make too much out of John’s being more well-off than his fellow Beatles as a youth.”

                    My counterpoint is that I think class issues absolutely underscore some of the biggest tensions within the Beatles, particularly Lennon/McCartney (and Epstein/McCartney). Exhibit A: They were a major weapon in the PR battles following the Break-up, which is not insignificant. John’s comments and positioning about his own “working class” status/authenticity (particularly in contrast to his ex-partner) are a huge part of his image post-Beatles, so it seems like something most definitely worth diving into. In comparing John’s and Paul’s respective attitudes toward their own suffering, I was drawing a contrast to show how this might reflect their respective class statuses.

                    Further, I think class/status may be a factor in how the authorship has chosen to tell the story of the Beatles and how they unconsciously value each Beatle and more specifically each Beatles’ suffering (i.e. why aren’t we talking about Ringo’s childhood?).


                    • Karen Hooper says:

                      I dunno Brit, I’m having trouble identifying a major conflict between John and Paul, or Paul and Brian, that is emblematic of a significant class conflict.

                      Let’s take the band break up, since you’ve identified that as a class issue. We know that John left the band because he wanted to forge his newly minted “artiste” identity with Yoko. To be an artiste in 1969/70, however, meant that you also had to be anti-establishment–a social justice warrior if you will–and John, being John, jumped on that with both feet. His departure from the band wasn’t a class issue for John; rather, it was a means to establish an alternate ego. The selection of Klein over Eastman was a similar thing: Klein was perceived as a street fighter, which appealed to John for the same reason–it comported with how he wished to see himself (plus it meant that he didn’t have to choose Paul’s inlaws).

                      I think John’s later derision of Paul was part of the same process–that is, his need to disassociate from Beatledom in order to establish his new persona. It also reflected John’s zero-sum game relationship orientation, where one had to “slag off” a former partner to “clear the decks” with a new one.

                      While John derided Paul for being a “straight” (ie,, not a militant artiste like him), it wasn’t, in my view, class-based: it was a strategy designed to convince Yoko that Paul was not a threat, and also an attempt to get back at Paul for perceived wrongdoings (which we know was a figment of John’s imagination, but that’s a whole other post.)

                      I think class differences between John and Paul may have created some tension between them when they were young, but unless I’ve missed a big piece of Beatle historiography, I don’t recall it rising to the level of a major conflict which fractured their relationship. Ditto Paul and Brian. It seems as though Paul and Brian were in conflict more often that the other Beatles, but I attribute that to Paul’s need for control and inclination to want his own way, artistically speaking.

                      I see the difference between how John and Paul deal with suffering as a function of upbringing and inherent personality. Paul’s a stable, positive guy, courtesy of a stable, positive upbringing; John–not so much. While not negating Paul’s childhood struggles, they were not in the same league as John’s. My clinical practice was full of children like Paul and like John, and I can tell you that the children who experienced frequent disruptions in their primary caregiver, who felt shame regarding their unconventional parentage, who witnessed violence (which had been reported regarding young John’s tenure with Julia), whose sense of self was never fully developed because they didn’t really belong to anyone–these children suffer tremendous ego damage. It is simply erroneous to equate Paul and John in this regard.

                      Having said that, I think that Paul’s childhood hasn’t received the attention it’s due–or George and Ringo’s for that matter. But the fact remains that because Paul and John were the driving force of the Beatles, and their relationship the catalyst which fueled and ultimately ended the band, they receive the lion’s share of attention.


  8. Hologram Sam says:

    “And not forgetting the singing dwarf, Mr. Simon.”

    As I mentioned over at HeyDullBlog, for years I wondered why Lennon talked about Paul Simon in his “recorded Lennon diaries” (calling him a dwarf, etc.) Turns out Simon got on his nerves in a recording studio:

    Before I heard this story, I thought Lennon was just being a crank criticizing Simon in the ’79 audio diary. It sounded he was lashing out for no reason. At least now I know he had a reason!

    (Google “Los Lobos” and “Paul Simon” to get a better idea of why it’s easy to hold a grudge against Simon.)

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Karen Hooper says:

    Good find, Sam. The singing dwarf comment struck me, too. I recall reading (from May Pang’s book, maybe?) that when John was considering whether or not to work with Paul McCartney again, he asked Art Garfunkel about whether he would work with “his Paul” again. At the time I thought John was just asking as a sort of would-you-work-with-your-former-partner-again perspective, but now I wonder if he was also asking because of his earlier (annoying) experience.


  10. Karen Rothman says:

    When I read comments yesterday about John receiving a rather large sum of money, I recalled learning the incident as John receiving 100 pounds (money) for his upcoming 21st birthday from his wealthy aunt and uncle in Scotland. John used the money for a trip to Paris with Paul, where they met up with Jurgen Vollmer and had their hair styled into what we know as a Beatles haircut. Today, I checked what I think of as 2 of the most authoritative sources on this narrative: Hunter Davies’ The Beatles and Mark Lewisohn’s Tune In. According to page 107 of the 1978 edition of Davies’ The Beatles:”When John was coming up for twenty-one, in September 1961, he got some money as a present from his aunt in Edinburgh and decided on the spur of the moment to go off with Paul to Paris.” According to page 481 of Lewisohn’s Tune In: “John’s 21st birthday was a month away, and he knew he was getting more — 100 pounds, cash [italicized in the text], more than he or Paul had ever seen in their lives. It was a coming-of-age gift from his Aunt Elizabeth in Edinburgh, and his idea was to go away with Paul and enjoy it.”


    • Karen Hooper says:

      Thanks for sleuthing that, Karen. The mystery deepens. 🙂

      I looked around for a quote from Julia about the money, but all I could find thus far was an audio recording of Julia Baird and Paul McCartney discussing John and Beatlemania in a series of audio recordings made in 2010 called Paul Talks. The following is an excerpt:

      Paul: To see this middle class thing was fascinating. I’ll never forget when John got a 100 quid for his birthday, off the Edinburgh–

      Julia: Yes. We all got that. For 21. We all got that for–

      Paul: A hundred [quid]. I still say I’d like it now.[Julia laughs] You know what I mean. If someone just put in your hand 100 quid. Still feels good to me. I thought ‘God this is amazing, I’ve never seen people like this’. And then [John] used to say [unintelligible] and uncles and aunties in Scotland…it was very exotic really to me and all that.

      So…did wealthy relatives distribute an inheritance to each of Julia’s children when they turned 21, or did the weathly relatives provide the money out of their own pocket, as a sort of endowment to three orphaned children (and also, perhaps, as a way to provide a little financial support to their guardians?)

      The latter seems more plausible.


      • Laura says:

        I’m the culprit who brought that 100 pounds into the conversation, saying I heard a mid-70s interview where John said it was a b’day gift from a relative. At least from the Paul/Julia excerpt above, it seems like Julia couldn’t get a word in edge-wise if she wanted Paul to know it was an inheritance, so maybe he’s off the hook (aside from interrupting her!).

        But I did see an interview with Julia where she talks about them each getting a small inheritance from their mother. I think she was referring to that same 100 pounds, and it might have come from a life insurance policy. (The impression I had, alas from long ago and I have no idea where, was that all the nieces and nephews of the Scottish relatives got 100 pounds at 21, not just Julia’s children.) I wish my memory was better…


        • Karen Hooper says:

          I remember the same interview, Laura. lol.

          Apparently John’s Aunt Mater was widowed, and eventually remarried a dentist from Edinburgh. I assume this is the “rich dentist” Paul was impressed with, who gave John and his sisters the money. According to Mater’s son Stanley, there were six cousins altogether, and I’ve not read any accounts where the remaining cousins were gifted money on their 21st birthday. Ergo, I’m guessing that the gift was particular to John, Julia, and Jaqui, for reasons already mentioned.

          I love a good mystery. 🙂

          Edited to Add: I missed the part of your comment, Laura, when you said you read/heard/remembered that all the cousins received money–which nixes my theory that it was a kind of orphan endowment.

          Maybe the take-away in all this is that getting a nice chunk of change from a relative, whatever the source, rocked Paul’s world. We know Paul has the reputation of being a “skinflint”–or tightwad–with money, even now. Don’t know how accurate that is; maybe he’s just sensible with money and people expect him to be more extravagant, given his vast wealth. Which is a long way of saying that perhaps Paul’s continued fascination with the money is due to his a) childhood experiences of financial austerity, and b) his subsequent rep as a penny-pincher.


          • Patti says:

            Here’s a quote from Julia Baird’s memoir regarding the hundred pounds she received from her aunt. I’m not really sure it clears the matter (or Mater) up, though.😉

            “Instead, however, Mater arrived on our doorstep, with a bag of food and one hundred pound notes. Mater explained the money as my mother’s legacy. The same as the hundred pounds John had been given nine years earlier, and had used to take Paul to Paris. Mater said mine was to be used for a house deposit, on behalf of my mother.”


            • Karen Hooper says:

              Thank you Patti! That must have been where I read it. I thought I read it somewhere but for the life of me couldn’t remember where.


  11. aolnewsdaily says:

    Paul seems happy, and I don’t think he was as sensitive as John.

    As for the 100 pounds, it should be mentioned that John was very generous to Paul, paying for both of their vacations.


  12. william says:

    The John Lennon audio recording from 1979 most likely was stolen from his property by those he entrusted in his home. The most well known, Fred Seaman, former employee (1979-1980), who was found guilty of removing Lennon’s personal property including his diaries, photos, videos, notes, etc.. Some high quality color videos of the Lennon’s in Long Island have appeared on Youtube in the past 15 years as well as the Lennon audio journal (1979) are not condoned by Yoko and Sean Lennon.

    Difference in this material and the bootleg music demo’s, studio rehearsals is these recordings are in a different real of invasion of privacy.

    John Lennon carried a great deal of undiagnosed childhood trauma that was directed in both constructive and very destructive ways. His constant lifelong contradictions are signs of an unstable disorder. His ambivalence, insecurity and narcissism often dictated his actions which makes for a medical case.

    Unfortunately, most people don’t realize these factors and just praise his contradictions and misogony.


  13. Karen Hooper says:

    Hello William;

    It’s my general impression that the better informed Beatle fan doesn’t praise Lennon’s contractions as much as accept them as being part of his complicated and troubled psyche.

    I’ve never considered John a misogynist per se–he was far too interested in and attracted to strong women for that label–just fearful, in general, of his vulnerability being exposed.

    The man was complex, that’s for sure.


    • william says:

      “I used to be cruel to my woman … I was a hitter … I fought men, and I hit women. That is why I always go on about peace, you see. It is the most violent people who go for love and peace … I am a violent man who has learned not to be violent and regrets his violence. I will have to be a lot older before I can face how I treated women as a youngster.” -John Lennon (Playboy interview, 1980)

      Hello Karen, Am not a “fan” or fanatic but I also don’t dislike the Beatles or their music. One needs to be objective to be critical otherwise they is no change, development or evolution.


  14. Karen Hooper says:

    I’m aware of the quote and, the insight he shows in making it, tells me John made tremendous strides in his personal growth as a person and as a man.

    I wasn’t suggesting your comments were fannish, William, and I apologize if that’s how my response sounded to you. Rather, I was speaking to your comment that “most people don’t realize these factors and just praise his contradictions and misogyny.” My intent was to offer a different perspective: that informed fans aren’t ‘praising’, but simply accept John’s contradictions because they DO think critically and objectively, and are able to offer nuanced views about his personal psychology.

    You may have noticed that the blog has been on hiatus, but Erin and I hope/anticipate this will end sometime in March. Thanks for your comments and I look forward to your continued interest.


    • william says:

      Hello Karen, I agree, there are complexities to be had here. My concern is, still, the many bloggers, “fans” who have dogmatic approach and deny any flaws in cultural practitioners, like John Lennon, George Harrison, Ringo Starr and Paul McCartney. True, some do accept the flaws but then there are those who condemn and shut down any critical perspective of anyone sharing any but their views.

      That is when we start to see how isolated and disconnected some individuals might from society.


      • Karen Hooper says:

        I totally agree with you. Marginalizing people for having a different point of view and refusing to engage with them seems to be the bane of our existence these days, particularly on social media platforms.

        On our blog, Erin and I encourage thoughtful, civil (and often lively!) discussion, and I hope that when we jumpstart things again in March you’ll pay us a visit.

        In any event,


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