How did you get in touch with Allen Klein?
I got various messages through various people that Allen Klein would like to talk to you. Really, it was Mick who got us together. I mean I knew who he was. I didn't want to talk. I had heard about him over the years; the first time I heard about him was that he said one day he would have the Beatles, and this was when Brian was with us. He had offered Brian this good deal, which in retrospect was something Brian should have done. This was years ago. I had heard about all these dreadful rumors about him but I could never coordinate it with the fact that the Stones seemed to be going on and on with him and nobody ever said a word. Mick's not the type to just clam up, so I started thinking he must be all right.
But still, when I heard he wanted to see me, I got nervous, because "some business man wants to see me, it's going to be business and business makes me nervous." Finally I got a message from Mick – Allen had really set up the whole deal you know, Mick and us nearly went into Apple together a few years back and we had big meetings and discussions about the studios and all of that, but it never happened – and Allen would have come in that way. That was after Brian died, but it didn't happen. All these approaches were coming from all over the place, and then I met him at the "Rock and Roll Circus" [the TV film] which has never been seen, with John and Yoko performing together for the first time with a crazy violinist and Keith on bass and all that–I always regret that – and I met him there. I didn't know what to make of him; we just shook hands and then . . . Yoko, what happened next?
Yoko: Then one day we finally decided to meet him, you remember. . . .
John: I don't know, we just decided to meet him. Did we call him or did we accept his call? He called me once, but I never accepted it; I never accepted the call at the house; I think in Kenwood once he called, and I didn't take it, I was too nervous.
I don't like talking to strangers as it is, strangers want to talk about reality, or something else, so I didn't accept the call. Then finally did we accept the call or did I put a call through? He'll tell you.
Do you know he knows the lyrics to every fuckin' song you could ever imagine from the Twenties on? I was with him last night eating, and I was just singing a few things – Yoko thinks I know every song, I know millions of songs – I'm like a juke box, thousands upon millions. G chords and so on – but Allen not only knows it, but he knows every fuckin' word, even the chorus. He's got a memory like that, so ask him. But then we met and it was very traumatic.
In what way?
We are both very nervous. He was nervous as shit, and I was nervous as shit, and Yoko was nervous. We met at the Dorchester, we went up to his room, and we just went in you know.
He was sitting there all nervous. He was all alone, he didn't have any of his helpers around, because he didn't want to do anything like that. But he was very nervous, you could see it in his face. When I saw that I felt better. We talked to him a few hours, and we decided that night, he was it!
What made you decide that?
He not only knew my work, and the lyrics that I had written but he also understood them, and from way back. That was it. If he knew what I was saying and followed my work, then that was pretty damn good, because it's hard to see me, John Lennon, amongst that. He talked sense about what had happened. He just said what was going on, and I just knew.
He is a very intelligent guy; he told me what was happening with the Beatles, and my relationship with Paul and George and Ringo. He knew every damn thing about us, the same as he knows everything about the Stones. He's a fuckin' sharp man.
There are things he doesn't know, but when it comes to that kind of business, he knows. And anybody that knew me that well – without having met me – had to be a guy I could let look after me.
So I wrote to Sir Joe Lockwood that night. We were so pleased, I didn't care what the others might say. I told Allen, "You can handle me."
Yoko had become my advisor so that I wouldn't go into Maharishi's anymore. It was Derek and Yoko and I interviewing people coming in to take over Apple when we were running it at Wigmore Street, and Yoko would sit behind me and I'd play me games and she would tell me what they were doing when I blinked, and how they were in her opinion, because she wasn't as stupid or emotional as me. And I've never had that except when the Beatles were against the world I did have the cooperation of a good mind like Paul's. It was us against them.
So you wrote Lockwood?
So I wrote Lockwood saying: "Dear Sir Joe: From now on Allen Klein handles all my stuff," Allen has it framed somewhere. I posted it that night and Allen couldn't believe it. He was so excited – "At last, at last!" He was trying not to push, and I was just saying "You can handle me, and I'll tell the others you seem all right and you can come and meet George and everything, and Paul and all of them."
I had to present a case to them, and Allen had to talk to them himself. And of course, I promoted him in the fashion in which you will see me promoting or talking about something. I was enthusiastic about him and I was relieved because I had met a lot of people including Lord Beeching who was one of the top people in Britain and all that. Paul had told me, "Go and see Lord Beeching" so I went. I mean I'm a good boy, man, and I saw Lord Beeching and he was no help at all. I mean, he was all right. Paul was in America getting Eastman and I was interviewing all these so-called top people, and they were animals. Allen was a human being, the same as Brian was a human being. It was the same thing with Brian in the early days, it was an assessment; I make a lot of mistakes characterwise, but now and then I make a good one and Allen is one, Yoko is one and Brian was one. I am closer to him than to anybody else, outside of Yoko.
How did the rest of them react?
I don't remember. They were nervous like me, because this terrible man who had got the Rolling Stones, and said that he was going to get the Beatles years ago – you don't know what's going on. I can't remember. I don't know what we did next. . . .
Yoko: So somebody said, please, let's see Allen and Eastman together, and see how it is.
John: Right. But what did I say to George then, did I ring them or something? I suppose I rung them.
Yoko: We were going to Apple all the time so we met George there.
John: What did I say? "This is Allen Klein, we met him last night." I just sort of said he was OK, and you should meet and all that.
[Paul meantime had met and married American photographer Linda Eastman whose father Lee and brother John were music business lawyers, who also wanted to "manage" the Beatle affairs.]
Then we got Paul. John Eastman had already been in, in fact, we almost signed ourselves over to the Eastmans at one time, because when Paul presented me with John Eastman, I thought well . . . when you're not presented with a real alternative, you take whatever is going. I would say "yes", like I said "Yes, let's do Let It Be. I have nothing to produce so I will go along," and we almost went away with Eastman. But then Eastman made the mistake of sending his son over and not coming over himself, to look after the Beatles, playing it a bit cool.
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