Saturday, June 10, 2006

John as Jesus

by Pete Shotton

Perhaps the most memorable evening I ever spent with John Lennon began routinely enough in the recording studio at the far end of his attic. We shared a piece of LSD, smoked a few joints, and idly amused ourselves with John's network of Brunell tape recorders.

Since John had recently become infatuated with the work of Karlheinz Stockhausen, one of our favorite pastimes at that particular juncture - May 1968 - was to improvise "music concrete" by fiddling about with feedback, running our recordings backwards, and constructing tape loops. This time we opened the windows to the spring air, and were shouting out whatever came into our heads at the uncomprehending trees while the tapes rolled in the room behind us. I, for one, had no inkling that this particular evening's lark was destined to be captured for posterity on the Beatles' "White Album," as part of "Revolution 9."

In due course we tired of "messing about with the tapes," and ended up sitting cross-legged on the floor. (Cyn, by the way, was off on holiday in Greece with Magic Alex.) Our conversation grew increasingly hushed and serious as John spoke of his disillusionment with the Maharishi, and with everyone else to whom he had ever looked for guidance. Then he lapsed into a long silence, leaving me to stare absent-mindedly at the wall, at a picture of Brigitte Bardot, thinking about the things I wouldn't have minded doing to her, flashing back to the way John and I used to talk about Brigitte when we were just kids.

Suddenly John began waving his arms in the air, making slow, swirling motions with his outstretched hands. And out of the blue he announced, in an awed whisper: "Pete, I think I'm Jesus Christ."

"What was that again, John?"

"Yeah," he said, and I could see he was dead serious. "I think I'm Jesus Christ. I'm . . . back again."

Accustomed as I was to the utter unpredictability of John Lennon, this was the one revelation I could never have anticipated. But, I said to myself, who am I to judge: even Jesus Christ had to decide he was Jesus Christ at some point. "Well, then," I finally ventured, "what are you gonna do about it?"

"I've got to tell everyone," he said, "I've got to let the world know . . . who I am."

"They'll fucking kill you," I said. "They won't accept that, John."

"That can't be hlped," he said firmly. "How old was Jesus when they killed him?"

"I'm not sure," I said. "I reckon he was about thirty-two."

Conquering his lifelong aversion to math, John paused a moment to make a simple calculation with his fingers. "Hell," he said, "at least I've got about four years."

"Well," I said. "What's brought all this on, then?"

"I just think this is it. This is my reason for being here on this earth." It was almost dawn, and John was growing increasingly agitated. I still felt at a total loss about what to make of John's latest vagary.

"Don't you think being John Lennon is enough?"


"You could do as much being John Lennon as being Jesus Christ. And look at all the trouble religion's caused. As John Lennon, you've been able to bring together people from all over the world, regardless of their religion, race, or creed."

But John was adamant, absolutely convinced he was Jesus. "First thing tomorrow," he concluded, "we'll go into Apple and tell the others."

The next thing we were aware of was the footsteps of Dot the housekeeper, who had just come in for the day. Somehow John and I had both managed to fall asleep in a heap on the floor, and opened our eyes as one to catch Dot gazing back at us.

Startled into wakefulness, John bounded to his feet. "Oh Christ," he said. "She'll think that we're fucking each other."

"Why on earth," I said groggily, "would she think something like that? We've got our clothes on, for a start."

Far from forgetting the previous night's metamorphosis, John quickly got down to business. The so-called inner circle - comprising the Beatles, Derek Taylor, Neil Aspinall, and myself - was summoned to a secret board meeting at Apple. All took their places in a state of keen suspence over the reason for this urgent conclave.

"Right," John began from behind his desk, "I've something very important to tell you all. I am . . . Jesus Christ come back again. This is my thing."

Paul, George, Ringo, and their closest aides stared back, stunned. I found the scene utterly surreal, and was half-laughing inwardly, thinking to myself with real affection, "What the fucking hell is he going to get up to next?" That was really the magic of the man - you never knew.

Even after regaining their powers of speech, nobody presumed to cross-examine John Lennon, or to make light of his announcement. On the other hand, no specific plans were made for the new Messiah, as all agreed that they would need some time to ponder John's announcement, and to decide upon appropriate further steps. The meeting was quickly adjourned, as it was also unanimously agreed that we should all have a drink and a bite to eat.

At the restaurant, while we were waiting for a table, an affable older fellow recognized John and said: "Really nice to meet you. How are you?"

"Actually," John replied, as sincere as I'd ever seen him, "I'm Jesus Christ."

"Oh, really," said the man blandly. "Well, I loved your last record. Thought it was great."

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