John Lennon, Man of the Year
Since 1965, the Beatles have been the single dominant force in the new social thought and style for which the Sixties will forever be remembered, just as Charlie Chaplin was the public figure of the Twenties.
The Beatles have said that they are four parts of the same person, and ironically, that part among them — –Paul– — who most looked like Chaplin, has, like Chaplin, gone into seclusion. Ringo has– — as another part of that reflection — –elevated his career from singer to actor. George, the third quarter, is that part of them which is the eternal musician. always jamming and always doing a gig.
But the most magnificent change, the most profound evolution, the maker of motion since the beginning, the leader, has been John. He signs it himself:
Here come old flattop he come groovin’ up slowly
He got jew-jew eyeballs, he want holly roller
He’s got hair down to his knees
Got to be a joker, he just do what he please….
John, the old flat-topped duck-tailed rocker of Liverpool who ten years later has got hair down to his knees, is again singing of himself. And he says: Come together, right now, over me.
John began 1969 at what must have been the lowest point of his public career; the awkward and embarrassing unfolding of his private life with Yoko Ono, the tiny Japanese artist who was born in “bird year,” and as a child “collected skys, collected sea-weed and gave birth to a grapefruit.”
Their Two Virgins album cover portrait was thought to be one of the most dumb episodes any reasonably intelligent public person had ever involved himself in. His closest friends, his most loving audience, thought him to be a fool, and thought Yoko to be worse.
But, as it turns out, the naked couple totally symbolized– — in the most elegant, classical and graceful way– — the liberation of the human body and mind that we saw so frequently (and usually so luridly) begin in the Sixties. One looks at the portrait today with much less surprise and finds it tender and moving.
It has become impossible to speak of John without at once speaking of Yoko — –truly the fifth Beatle, in an era when it sometimes appears that there are no longer even four Beatles. Thus, when we speak of John as the “Man of the Year,” we also mean Yoko. but feel a little foolish saying “Couple of the Year,” although they surely were.
In the spring, March, the time of beginning, they were married. On the Rock of Gibraltar, one of the world’s more significant monuments. “It’s quiet, British and friendly,” John said when asked why an hour later in Paris. They were married in a white stone house, both wearing white tennis shoes and John carrying a coat of human hair.
They spent their honeymoon in an Amsterdam bed, saying “We’re happy to be called a couple of freaks as long as we are happy and can make other people happy.” They took the Bed-In Hair-Peace to other capitols and to Canada, as close as they were allowed to come to the center of the world vibration. America.
It was an activity many found to be totally frivolous.
Phil Spector, that eminently young granddaddy of what we do today, in his Rolling Stone interview last year, said something which echoed what many people, including myself, felt about John and Yoko at that time:
“I don’t know where he’s at now. But I have the feeling that Yoko may not be the greatest influence on him. You know, a multimillionaire in his position just doesn’t get caught in an English apartment house by the cops on a dope charge unless you’re just blowing your mind or someone is giving you a real fucking…. It’s almost like a weird thing to see just how bizarre he can get before he really blows it or just teaches everybody something.”
Now we know how bizarre it gets, and John has taught us much. Spector spoke of Lenny Bruce in the same breath. In so many ways, John is like a modern day Lenny Bruce. Only this time it is for the Seventies, and John brings a different karma.
Yes, I still think it, John said on the summer solstice day last year, Kids are more influenced by us than Jesus.
They carried the Bed-In/Hair Peace to North America where they phoned radio sations over the continent, where they held court and conferences from their Toronto hotel room, where they were interviewed and confronted by one of the most bizarre collection of publicity-maniacs, arrogant avatars, and loving hangers-on in human history. Each person to whom they spoke and each person whom they touched, whether in eyesight or through a sometimes unresponsive media, was moved and began to move with them.
“We both think alike,” John is saying. “And we’ve both been alone. We both had these dreams, the same kind of dreams. I had this dream of this woman comin.’ “
“John’s art is social,” Yoko explains, as she always explains after John, “and my art has always been social. I do not believe in examining the navel. Now that we love each other, we show that love to the world. It is an art too.”