Friday, June 02, 2006

Revolution and Chaos: Alone In A Crowded Room

“I like it when you can love someone, because I never did, I guess.”
-Yoko Ono, June 4, 1968

Sessions were set to begin for the new Beatles album in 1968. With Yoko now the central figure in John’s life, true to Lennon form, she was to become a large part of everyone’s lives and break the guarded sanctity of the recording sessions. After a quick introduction to the various personnel on hand at Abbey Road Studios, she literally remained by John’s side for the remainder of the Beatles’ recording career. At one early instance in particular, June 4, 1968, Yoko preserved the session for posterity with the taping of an audio diary onto a portable cassette deck. In it, she voiced her innermost thoughts, opinions on those around her, and the state of her paranoid and increasingly obsessed relationship with John Lennon.

Beginning at 2:30 PM on June 4, the Beatles began recording overdubs for “Revolution,” the slow-moving, 10-minute epic that would eventually be pared down to 4 minutes and be given the title “Revolution 1” on side four of The Beatles. Not to be outdone by John’s recent antics, Paul invited his then-current girlfriend, Francie Schwartz, to attend the session. When Francie arrived at around 8:00 PM, she found the Beatles standing around a piano in Studio Three, with Yoko sitting twenty feet away in a corner, whispering into her microphone. The first words uttered into Yoko’s cassette recorder were to become the prevailing motif of her stream-of-consciousness, rambling soliloquy.

“John, I miss you already again. I miss you very much,” Yoko sighed breathlessly, though the two had not been apart the whole day, first having gone to Apple, then having watched a “lousy animation film.” In her summary of the day’s events, Yoko notably mentioned that the as-yet-untitled Two Virgins LP did not initially have Lennon’s full support. John had told Yoko that day that the album would have to be issued under Yoko’s name only, or under pseudonyms, suggesting the moniker “Doris and Peter.” “Either ideas, they’re just terrible,” Yoko believed. She preferred the idea of a limited edition release given out privately to friends, but also was still strongly convinced the LP and its cover had to be publicly released in the long run “because the message is going to be so beautiful,” she enthused. “It’s going to sort of light up the world, especially the two of us naked, taken with a fisheye camera and all that. Just that message is beautiful.” Yoko was against using fake names on the record not only because she disliked the sound of “Doris and Peter,” but also because to her, “John and Yoko” had a “name value too, I mean . . . there’s a dream to the name and that has to come across too.” She could not understand why John would want his name removed from the project when its release would potentially be more harmful to her. “All the girls that are going to be . . . I don’t know, I just can’t imagine what it’s going to be like, but it’s going to be hell for sure, for some reason or another . . . like they would all hate me or something.”

“If I can get over this scary feeling, then everything’s going to be all right,” Yoko said, unconsciously echoing John’s similar sentiments in the lyrics of “Revolution.” Yoko pinpointed her paranoia and fearfulness to be stemming from her relationship with John. “It seems almost unbelievable . . . I just can’t believe and yet, I can’t go back, there’s no way of turning back. Every day I think, oh, it can’t be, I couldn’t be like that. I mean, today’s going to be different, I’m not going to miss him at all. . .” She then went on to characterize their relationship as one that could only exist “maybe once every two centuries . . . it’s amazing that it does exist. And it’s amazing that the only time that I remember about my promiscuity is when I feel so insecure that I feel intentionally that I have to bring that out in me, to sort of protect myself.”

In relating the story of Andy Warhol and art critic Mario Amaya getting shot the previous day in New York, Yoko remarked: “I’m so glad that I wasn’t there.” Amaya was wounded by the gunshots and Warhol barely survived, being pronounced “clinically dead” before doctors could revive him. “I think he’s a real fag,” Yoko said, referring to Mario, “terribly interested in me and all that . . . he would just sort of touch me on the neck or like on my back or something when I was talking to somebody. And then he said, ‘This girl is amazing, she doesn’t even notice!’ You know, and made me feel like I’m a real frigid woman, which was true, because I really never noticed.”

Reminiscing of her New York avant-garde days aside, Yoko’s biggest concern at this point lay with John’s wife, Cynthia. “I don’t know what’s going to happen tonight. Cindy’s coming back maybe. Are we going back to Weybridge or are we going to stay here? All that, you see. I’m starting to miss you again.” Yoko’s mind clearly never strayed far from John, at this point in the middle of a guitar overdub.

“I’m very worried about Kyoko.” Yoko had just received word that day that her estranged husband Tony Cox had left for Paris with their daughter. “I hope she doesn’t resent me when she gets older, about this incident.”

After a brief pause, Yoko’s thoughts migrated back to Lennon: “I wish John was in me right now, inside of me . . . sex, in other words, like just physical sex senses, that sensual thing, this bit is like all life reaching, reaching each other and giving something, and the fact that you gave me your sperm. I don’t know, probably at some time of your life you had a situation where you became scared of a straight relationship, of giving to each other and instead of giving to women, you’d rather spit on a sky or shoot it to the sky kind of thing. I mean you said it, that’s like a strange kind of nihilism of kind of a ‘fuck you all’ kind of thing. It’s avoiding, avoiding something. Avoiding communication. It’s like you don’t want to. It’s almost like my piece in Grapefruit, where I say that if someone wants to kiss you, give them a mask instead of yourself. A mask to be kissed. If someone wants to drink, then don’t give them the drink, but pour the drink into the mouth of the mask instead.”

Yoko then analyses her own situation: “In my case, for a long time, when I used to like somebody very much, and then I was too shy to tell him or something, and then it’s easier for me to make with someone that I don’t love, and just imagine that I’m making it with a guy that I like, and that kind of thing. And that’s just sickness, it’s just a kind of cowardly thing, but I still have that I guess. And each time that I make it with you, each time that I, I want you and I express my want for you, to you, I’m making a fantastic effort because playing straight is so difficult, so embarrassing. But I know that this is my last chance and I couldn’t just endlessly go in that game of avoiding reality and just making it in a more casual, simple way . . . I wish I could get rid of my paranoia and like relax, relax to feel that I have at least a year’s time to build our relationship on, to think that we have the next day, that we are certain that we have the next day, rather than to think that every day is like the last day.”

Noticing that John had stopped playing guitar, she remarked on his appearance, and then made the peculiar connection between his handwriting, his state of mind, and his marriage. “It’s always been like, all your letters were going backwards, leaning backwards, which means tremendous insecurity. But today I’ve seen, that all your letters were leaning forward, not all, but most of them were sort of leaning forward . . . leaning backwards handwriting is typical of sort of an insecure, terribly insecure high school girl or something like that. It’s very rare to see it in a man.” She summed the cause of his insecurity and paranoia to be coming from one source: “I really think that that had a lot to with her, your marriage . . . seems like a long relationship like that would really screw somebody up, like I was screwed up.”

John became curious as to what Yoko was talking about at such length, and so wandered over and asked her. “I’m just saying how I miss you,” Yoko replied. John, taking on the voice of an announcer, answered back into the mic: “Well, ladies and gentlemen, I also miss her, and it’s a terrible feeling. Alone in a crowded room.”

After having repeated “John, I really miss you” again, Yoko and John then launched into a bizarre singing dialogue.

YOKO: I don’t know you.
JOHN: Smashing Rooney the steak.
YOKO: ‘Cause I don’t know you.
JOHN: Oh, no it is too late for me.
YOKO: ‘Cause I don’t know you.
JOHN: I have been stabbed in the brass vertebrae.
YOKO: Who did that?
JOHN: I did it myself.
YOKO: Don’t you ever do that.
JOHN: I must do it now and then to keep myself in tune.
YOKO: No, you mustn’t do anything without me.
JOHN: I wasn’t exactly doing it without you. I was just doing it in the corner. Oh, Mother McRae. Excuse me. I must just let myself reek a minute, because I’m sweating to my boots. I’m going to have a look at the photographs of the family.

Yoko and John then spent time looking at pictures of the “family,” those at the party for the opening of Apple. Once John got back to work with Paul on the “Revolution” overdubs, Yoko offered her opinion of John’s songwriting partner. Paul was now being nice to her, having overcome “the initial embarrassment,” and was readily able to give her news regarding Apple. “I can see that he’s just now suddenly changing his attitude, he’s treating me with respect,” Yoko mused. “Not because it’s me, but because I belong to John. I hope that’s what it is because that would be nice. And I feel like he’s my younger brother . . . I’m sure that if he had been a woman or something, he would have been a great threat, because there’s something definitely very strong with me, John, and Paul.” The remaining members of the Beatles, she saw them neither as a threat nor important. “[With] Ringo and George, I just can’t communicate. I mean, I’m sure that George and Ringo, they’re very nice people. That’s not the point.”

The various “threats” to their new relationship, as Yoko saw them, were too much for her to bear. “At least if I knew that I have another week with John or something. I mean, this situation almost reminds me of the time that, in the war when I used to carry that poison pill, thinking in any minute that I have to die.” The depressing thoughts were fleeting, once again, as her eyes shifted towards Lennon. “It’s amazing, I think, what John did in the ‘Revolution’ [recording], with his voice, it’s really beautiful. It’s so sexy too, and now he has his blouse off, he only has an undershirt on. I think he looks too sexy really.” With the second half of the current “Revolution” recording being no doubt Yoko-inspired, her thoughts naturally progress to John’s talent. “John is such a genius. This is the first time that just once in a while, I almost get jealous of his talent, which is really amazing because I was never jealous of any artist. Whenever I get sad about his work, I almost feel like kneeling down and kissing his feet.”

With John having left Studio Three for a long period of time, Yoko worried that he was now calling home to check up on Cynthia. “He’s been with her for over a decade and their other child [Julian], I don’t know what to make of it. I don’t want to think about it. It’s either that he had a terribly weak character or he was in love with her . . . I just get so jealous about it I almost think I’m going to go insane.”

John, absorbed in his work, was evidently on the other end of the happiness spectrum.

ENGINEER: “Revolution,” RM1 of take. . .
JOHN: Take your knickers off and let’s go! I’m happy to be here, it’s wonderful.

Yoko, on the other hand, finished her audio diary with a fragmented and ominous message: “Probably I should be asking . . . I just don’t have the courage. I know tomorrow that probably we’ll . . . stop pretending.”

No comments: