That Time In Mississauga

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Q: OK. But how did you come to hook up with John and Yoko in Dec. 1969?

A: I first made the contact from England by a writer from Rolling Stone named Ritchie Yorke. He said he was in England with John Lennon and Yoko. who were looking for a place to stay, because they didn’t want to do the hotel thing any more. Yorke brought up my name and they called me to ask if it would be OK if they stayed at the house, at that time in Mississauga, not to far from Toronto, where he could still do his business and stuff. So they styed with us and we went on that peace train, to see Prime minister Trudeau. We went to Montreal. We went to Ottawa, and whereever John and Yoko wanted to go. I didn’t know that much about the Beatles at that time because my world was playin’ in bars and that was it. And so it took me two or three years after John and Yoko had left that they were ahead of their time.

Q: What were your first impressions when you met John?

A: Well, I didn’t know too much. I did know that Yoko was super intelligent. She was supposedly be able to speak five or six or seven languages. I know she could call anyone. She put 16 lines in my house and she could pick up and phone the ambassador to Japan, Princess Elizabeth, Peter Sellers. All those people, she just picked up and talked to everyday.

Q: Literally 16 telephone lines?

A: Yeah. they negotiated on a Saturday night, and daylight Sunday morning 16 lines came across the fields into my house. Usually, you have to wait six months for one phone, but this is what happens when you have authority.

Q: At first you saw John as being weak and subserviant to Yoko?

A: Well it was different for me. John was a quiet, good cat. She did all the talkin’. It looked kind of different to me, but I came to understand it as I came to understand John’s background.

Q: Did you have a moment alone with John?

A: Oh yeah. We went out several times, alone but then she got a little hot and started leaving notes. We went outside snowmobiling, and I also had those six-wheel jiggers out there (ATV’s) and John had never played in the snow or anything. Right after that, John ordered a few for his farm in New York. Remember at that time they were doing that together thing and he asked a few times if it was OK to go out and play in the snow and she didn’t say anything and she was kind of hot at him for a day or two.

Q: What about the famous bathtub story?

A: What happened, I guess, is that they went upstairs to draw a bath and laid down, and the bathtub went over. They fell asleep and our new ceilings came in on us. That’s one of many things. There was a fire in my barn. All those little old papers that were between the lithographs that he was signing — thousands of them — and they stacked out there and something set them on fire because it was rice paper or something. there was a wind and it started settin’ everything on fire. John came runnin’ out with a pail for kids to put that fire out.The papers were blowin’ out in the fields. And to top it off, the phone bill was never paid.

Q: In Albert Goldman’s book, “The Lives Of John Lennon,” he said that you had “suffered every sort of insult, from seeing (your) children pouring over the muff-diving imagery of Lennon’s erotic lithographs…” Any truth to this charge?

A: No, no. They didn’t see any of that stuff until later, when they were old enough to see it. John had scratched out nude pictures and stuff of Yoko, and everything, and we still have a bunch of that stuff.

Q: Goldman also said that the limo carrying John and Yoko “crashed” through your gate when they first arrive, and that John Brower, who had brought John to Canada for the “Live Peace in Toronto” gig, three months earlier, became enranged and punched out a photographer. True?

A: No. And that was Heddy Andrews (in the scuffle). John Brower had hired security to keep people from comin’ over the wall. One of the photographers climbed over the wall and was sneakin’ in and it ended up in a scuffle.

Q: Talk about the “peace train.”

A: It was planned all along. You’ve got to remember that it was going to be the peace festival. At that time, it was still goin’ strong. I was told Trudeau was going to supply the security for the concert with the military and have a big one. At first it was going to be the greatest thing that ever happened and then some people started sayin’ weird things to the press and something happened.

Q: What are some of your best memories of your time with John?

A: When he got out of the limo from the airport and I met them at the house, the first thing he said was “I’m going to give you forty days to get back home.” He knew all of my records. He knew most of them better than I did.

Q: Did you jam?

A: Oh yeah, we did a lot of that piddlin’ around.

Q: Anybody record it?

A: Yeah. One of them English cats did. I don’t know if it ever got out or not. That was kind of a wild time. Everybody was runnin’ around playin’ ski-doos and, writers and cooks . That was microbiotic times. You know it was exciting.

Q: What were your personal feelings of John and Yoko.

A: Well John, he was just nice. Yoko was who I didn’t understand because she was super intelligent. She was above a bar-act, which I was. At that particular time, I thought I was doin’ them a favour. I didn’t know that anybody was that powerful. I thought the Beatles were an English group that got lucky. I didn’t know a lot about their music. I thought Yoko’s was (silly). To this day, I have never heard a Beatle album. For 10 billion dollars, I couldn’t name one song on “Abbey Road.” I have never in my life picked up a Beatle album, and listened to it. Never. But John was so powerful. I liked him. He wasn’t one of those hotshots, you know, all those other heavy metallers, you know how they act. John was a gentleman. Quiet, humble and polite. He wasn’t out of control.

Q: Your best rememberance of Yoko?

A: Well, she knew so many people. She called so many people and was in charge of so many things and told the number one man in the world of the Beatles what to do. I couldn’t understand that.

Q: Did you ever ask John about that?

A: No. I figured that was his business. If he wanted her to talk to him like that…but what I couldn’t understand that he didn’t have about four or five of the most beautiful women in the world with him, because he could have.

Terry Ott’s National Post Interview with Ronnie Hawkins about John and Yoko’s visit to his home in Mississauga, Ontario (a mere few hours from my home!) in December, 1969.

Memories Of Mary

Since Mum’s death I’ve somehow stored most of her memories in a private, sealed box in my heart, but every now and then the lid flies open and beautiful pictures come pouring out…

Pictures… of helping in the kitchen by slowly stirring cake mixture in a giant bowl with a wooden spoon – fawn coloured outside, white inside – before licking spoon and bowl clean of the sweet dough… of guiding wet clothes through the mangle while Mum turned the two finger-crushing rolling pin mangles.. of her sneaking us first cuts of a hot Sunday joint before serving the main meal onto the plate… of pushing meat down into the mincer and withdrawing little pink fingers, before they, too, became mincemeat…. of waiting, mouth watering, for hot scones from the oven, the waft of hot air in the face when the door finally opened, and the feel of thick melting butter and hot scones in hungry mouths… of playing ships with Paul in the bath, being flanelled, scrubbed, and pumice-stoned when the dirt was deeply ingrained, then lifted out and towel-dried as only Mums (and Dads) can do… of her buttoning our shirts, tying shoe laces, trying tying ties, going to the ‘dreaded’ dentists and Mum buying me a brown lead toy cart horse to take away the pain… of having Vick rubbed on our chests when a cold was attached… of Mum flicking the thermometer professionally (just like a nurse) putting it under my tongue and then taking my wrist-held pulse…. of feeling her concern and love for our illnesses through walls, round corners and upstairs… of swaying to and fro on the Singer sewing machine’s carved steel foot pedal whilst Mum sewed above…. of the smell of small hand-sewn bags filled with Dad’s lavender that nestled amongst shirts and wardrobe clothes hangers… of resting my head in her lap whilst listening to the radio at the end of the day… and finally, pictures of being tucked into freshly aired beds and cuddling down with cold feet touching rubber hot water bottles. (‘I want the orange one.’ ‘No, I want the orange one, you had it last night.’)… of being kissed goodnight on the lips and then, ‘Go(d) bless’ from the door as all but the landing light went out (just in case of bogey men).

The Macs: Mike McCartney’s Family Album.

Fatherhood

In those days, if your girlfriend got pregnant, it was quite simple — you got married. [John] wasn’t happy about the baby, although I knew he began months later to really love Julian. But the fact that he had to marry was disturbing to him. His decision to go to Spain, although very selfish, was a ‘f— you’ to all the things that were happening to him. It’s kind of ironic because months later at a West End pub called the Speakeasy, we were chatting after a recording session. Both of us sensitively talked about our infant children, and how good it felt to be fathers. John loved Julian, but he didn’t love the circumstances surrounding his birth.”

Tony Barrow talking about John and parenthood, via Larry Kane.

Couldn’t Get Away

The John-Paul bond is such a bizarre story — these nowhere boys, in this nowhere town, a place where nobody expects or wants them to become artists, but they meet up to write songs from the heart together. Kathleen Hanna had a great line in one of the early Bikini Kill fanzines: “Find the biggest bitch in your town and start a band with her.” That’s basically what John and Paul did. They didn’t always write together — but they kept inspiring and challenging each other, like when John brought in “Strawberry Fields Forever” and Paul tried to top him with “Penny Lane.” Even when they weren’t in the same room, they were writing Lennon-McCartney songs.

Even after they broke up, they kept bouncing songwriting ideas off each other, aiming answer records at each other. They gave each other no peace. That friendship followed them around their whole lives. I love the story John’s limo driver tells — it’s 1980, John is in the back of the car, listening to the radio, really enjoying this new hit song called “Coming Up,” wondering who the singer is. Then suddenly he says, “Fuck a pig, it’s Paul.” They couldn’t get away from each other.

Rob Sheffield, author of Dreaming The Beatles

John and Paul

Forget what happened later, at that time, they were closer than any two men I’ve ever known. John and Paul were like brothers. In fact, they were a lot closer than most brothers. John and Paul, as well as being the driving force of the group in those exciting early days, were the firmest of friends. People who talk about the early conflicts are mainly talking crap. It’s Lennon who had become the most misunderstood. I’m not saying he was a saint, but to me he was a hell of a nice guy. He has been signed off as being the hard man, and cruel to women, brutal to Brian. But he could be so gentle. He was the biggest piss-taker the world has ever known. But there was a gentle side to John. [He] was a special guy and I suppose I always felt the most protective of him. Somehow he was more vulnerable than the others because he did wear his heart on his sleeve sometimes. He needed looking after.

Alistair Taylor, With The Beatles, 2003

 

Suddenly On (My) Our Own

Q: Before I get to the heavy stuff here about the deportation, let me ask you a question…it’s the one thing that people always want to know. Are you ever going to play together again as a group?

A: It’s quite possible, [but] in what form we play together again I don’t know. It’s been a physical impossibility for the four of us to be at one place at one time. I wouldn’t leave here because I wouldn’t get back in. George and Paul also have problems coming…they have to ask a few months in advance for permission to come in. The most that’s ever been in the country at the same time is three. [The immigration problem] has kept us from even sitting in a room together to decide, or even say hello, although we’ve done it different combinations of the four.

Q: What about the celebrated feud between you and McCartney, and so on. Was that all blown out of proportion?

A: Well it was half and half, you know. If I get knocked down by a taxi cab, it’s a celebrated person being knocked down by a taxi cab. Or if I get married, divorced, it’s celebrated. So The Beatles had a divorce, and Paul and I were always sort of the out front ones, and so our celebrated feud, Lennon/McCartney [puts forefingers together] we wrote the songs, etc, and it was bigger, and I think we were…I put it down to probably we all were actually all pretty nervous of suddenly being on our own, although we all really wanted to get away from each other after living in a room together for ten years. And suddenly you’re on your own, you know? So there’s a little bit of that. But that’s all gone.

John Lennon on Johnny Carson, talking about his immigration charge and the possibility of a Beatles’ reunion.

*John’s account of the feud is remarkable, as is his use of the editorial “we.”

Funny Boys

Excerpts from Beatle interviews found here:

Q: “What do you think of the rumors that get spread about you in gossip magazines?”

JOHN: “I don’t give it much thought… other than the one about my wife having more children than I can account for.”

[laughter]

____________________

Q: “Did you have a chance to get away from anybody at any time on the trip [to the US]?”

GEORGE: “Yeah.”

RINGO: “He got away from me– twice!”

[laughter]

____________________

Q: “How about these escape plans you keep beating about? You got out of one place disguised as policemen.”

GEORGE: “We didn’t, actually. We put the policemen’s helmets on…””

PAUL: “The policemen said, ‘Aww, let’s have a laugh, and put these helmets…'”

RINGO: “Have you ever seen a policeman in a corduroy coat?”

JOHN: “I have. I saw one back in 1832, I think.”

Q: “Did you put the helmets on over the haircuts?”

JOHN: “Well, we couldn’t put them underneath.”

(Beatles laugh)

____________________

Q :”It’s said, John Lennon, that you have the most ‘Goon-type’ humor of the four Beatles.”

JOHN: “Who said that?”

Q: “I think I read it in one of the newspapers.”

JOHN: “You know what the newspapers are like.”

Q: “I don’t know. What are they like?”

JOHN: “Wrong.”

Q: (laughs) “This is going wrong… I want to get a nice ‘Personality’ bit.”

JOHN: “I haven’t got a nice personality.”

____________________

Q: I’d like to know what happened to the color of John Lennon’s hair?”

RINGO: “So would we.”

JOHN: “Well, it’s covered in sweat, you see, so it looks darker than it is. It’s wet. (comic voice) That’s why it looks different.”

(laughter)

PAUL: “He hasn’t got his ‘toup’ on.”

____________________

Q: “How do you like not having any privacy?”

PAUL: “We do have some, you know.”

JOHN: “We just had some before. Didn’t we, Paul?”

PAUL: “We don’t have alot.”

Q: (to John) “Your hair looks like it’s red. Is it red or is it wind-blown?”

JOHN: “Red? Oh no. Well, I’ve had a shower, you see. It sometimes goes a bit funny. You know, one can never tell… One gets underwater.”

[Note: I’ve found so many comments from interviewers and fans about the colour of John’s hair.]
____________________

Q: “Do you write alot of the songs in the hotel room?”

JOHN: “Well, yeah.”

Q: “Ringo?”

RINGO: “Yes?”

Q: “It’s rumored that you have written some things for symphony orchestras.”

BEATLES: (laugh)

RINGO: “I don’t even write letters.”

[laughter]

___________________

Q: “Do you think you will ever be invited behind the Iron Curtain?”

JOHN: “If they’ve got enough Rubles, or whatever they’ve got.”

[laughter]

Q: “I understand they do not have an income tax.”

JOHN: “Well, they’ve got no money, either.”

[laughter]

____________________

Q: “Paul, is John the boss of the Beatles? Do you agree with that?”

PAUL: “I don’t know really. On some things he is. I’m trying to think if he is.”

JOHN: “No, I’m not.”

PAUL: “There’s no real leader, anyway. It depends who shouts the loudest.”