Life with the Lennons
The story of a hard day's night in the life of a Beatle (and his wife)
Exclusive by Ray Coleman
The Rolls Royce carrying John Lennon swung out of Twickenham film studios and faced a sea of fans blocking the road. The chauffer drove on. Girls banged the doors and wings of the Rolls and screamed, "John! John!". The Beatle carried on reading and locked himself in. It was nothing unusual - just another battery of fans attacking his symbol of fame.
The average Rolls owner might have shuddered at the thought of a few dents. "The way I see it," said John as the car glided out of Twickenham, "is that they bought the car, so they've got the right to smash it up."
It was 5:30 pm. Lennon had knocked off from work at the film set and was on his way home to dinner with Cynthia. The next 12 hours provided a powerful look at life with the Lennons. After dinner, it was a film. After the film, on to London's Ad Lib Club. Hundreds of thousands of words later, and at 5am on Friday, the Lennon's were on their way back home to Weybridge, Surrey.
"We're going to see The Ipcress File," said John, as the Rolls sped on. "We hire this cinema in town quite often."
Throughout the journey to his home, John talked - mainly about the hit parade, and of The Beatles prospects with 'Ticket To Ride'.
"First time I saw Donovan on TV I fell off my chair. I couldn't believe it. We'd got back from Australia and I thought, 'Good God, Dylan's in Britain.'
"Yeah, great to see Dylan doing so well. I never thought he'd do so much with this single. Hope we get the chance to get together again when he comes over - I'll have him out to the house if he'll come."
He said it wouldn't surprise him if 'Ticket To Ride' arrived in the chart at the top. "It's got to happen sometime, so it might as well be now."
Lennon does not sit in his Rolls. He lies in hit. His feet operate the electronically-controlled windows, and he plays with them all the time. he also smokes a lot and often passes a fag to the chauffer.
At traffic lights, people glance inside, see the mop head, and do a double take.
"It isn't... it is!"
John either stares at them with the world's most freezing stare, or ignores them.
"This is it," he said as the car pulled to the top of a long drive. "Let's go and play some records."
Lennon's country house cost £20,000 and it looks it. It is comfortable, but not ostentatiously furnished. His new Ferrari was resplendent outside the front door.
"Marvellous car. George and I ran it in the other night - in one burst of 120 miles an hour."
John said hello to Cynthia ("Cyn") and introduced his son, Julian. "He's two, I think."
After a lot of fiddling with his record player, Lennon started playing 'Subterranean Homesick Blues', the next Dylan single, and pronounced it, "Great, very Chuck Berry-ish." John and Cynthia spent about a quarter of an hour trying unsuccessfully to work out the words Dylan sings.
Cynthia said the cook was ready to serve dinner. Over a splendid meal of chicken, red wine and apple pie and ice cream, John talked.
Easily the most electrifying pop star in Britain, the 24-year-old Beatle was on searing form. He spoke of his hate of growing old; about the Bernard Levin affair; about his image and the British pop scene.
"There are some good things around, like The Yardbirds and The Who, but I keep thinking how much better made their records could have been.
"Then there's this folk thing. I mean, if Donovan thinks he's a folk singer, what about Count Basie? LP winner!"
Lennon is currently playing a game all his own. He makes outrageous, seemingly irrelevant statements like that one, and then adds the words: "LP winner!"
It's a send-up of MM's Mailbag writers, renowned for advancing deep theoretical arguments about what's folk and what isn't and what's R&B and what isn't. John finds it hilarious.
In between eating and drinking wine, John was getting up and down and walking to the lounge, changing records. Cynthia was finally driven to say: "For goodness' sake sit down. You're giving me indigestion." She had a point.
"I like the pop shows on TV," said John. "Even enjoy seeing the rubbish. I like plays as well. There have been some good ones lately. I like pop shows first, plays second."
On growing old: "It's very difficult to imagine. I sometimes try to look into the future but stop myself doing it because it's such a drag thought. Thinking about an old Beatle, or a grey-haired Beatle, or a spastic Beatle.
"If I grow old and miserbale, I'll paint myself green and red and have balloons popping out of my earlobes."
Cynthia gave him a look that could only have meant, "You're talking rubbish again."
Would everything now be an anti-climax for The beatles after so much success?
"I want no more from being a record star," said Lennon. "I'm not disinterested but there is more now than to make good records and sell them. I'd like to see us making better and better films. That's very difficult, and unlike pop music it allows you to grow up as a person.
"I'm not craving any more gold discs, even though they're a nice boost. That's all over. I just want to be an all-round spastic. LP winner."
There must be a deep psychological reason for John's obsession with spastics. he talks about them a lot. Why?
"I mean nothing nasty, honest," he answered, jumping up and down again. "I don't think I'd know a spastic from a Polaroid lens. I'm not hung up about them. When I use the word 'spastic' in conversation, I don't mean to say it literally. I feel terrible sympathy for these people - it seems be the end of the world when you see deformed spastics."
"In the States, they were bringing hundreds of 'em along backstage. I can't stand looking at 'em. I have to turn away. I have to laugh, or I'd just collapse. In the States, they lined 'em up and you got the impression The Beatles were being treated as bloody faith healers. It was sickening."
Cynthia gave him a look of rebuke. "Enjoying your dinner?" asked John.
John has the image of the vicious, outspoken Beatle. How does he like it?
"It's been very useful," he replied. A lot of slimy little reporter types seem to fear me. It's fantastic. I didn't work for the title of vicious Beatle, the biting Beatle, the one with the rapier wit. It's a load of crap.
"It's handy being tagged like this. When I meet intelligent and hip people I have to be on my toes not to disillusion them. The people who have fallen for my image and publicity go to Paul, which I think is funnier still."
"Paul can be very cynical and much more biting than me when he's driven to it. 'Course, he's got more patience. But he can carve people up in no time at all, when he's pushed. He hits the nail right on the head and doesn't beat about the bush, does Paul. LP winner."
Cynthia said if they were going to leave the house by 8pm, they'd better move. John said he wanted to show me round and play more records. We said hello to his huge dog, Nigel. - "He's so soft so I bought him to protect me." One of the rooms in John's house contains 11 guitars.
John and Cynthia took off for the West End basement cinema. The car radio blared out Radio London.
A record by Bobby Goldsboro' came on, and Lennon said, "Ere, that's the bloke that turned me on to contact lenses. he used to be Orbison's guitarist."
Next time it was 'I'll Follow The Sun', by The Beatles. "I suppose they think that's folk, so they might as well pug it," said John. "Paul wrote that when he was ten. So how can it be folk? LP winner."
The Rolls arrived at the cinema. Soon, John and Cynthia were joined by Ringo and Maureen, George and Patti Boyd, Paul and Jane Asher, film producer Walter Shenson, and road managers Neil Aspinall and Malcom Evans. They were served drinks.
John kept saying 'Goldfinger' to the theme of The Ipcress File. Afterwards, he declared the picture suffered from a slow start but was "not bad". Paul was completely knocked out by it; George and Ringo liked it.
On to the Ad-Lib club - John in his Rolls, George in his E-type and Paul in a mini. After about an hour, John and Cynthia were the only Beatles left. They drank whisky and cokes.
"Notice the place fill up after we arrived?" said John. he spent the next few hours talking - to Alan Price of The Animals, to Dionne Warwick. Lennon and Price shared some side-splitting recollections.
At 4:30 am, it was time to evacuate a closed Ad Lib Club. Cynthia slept in the car on the journey to Surrey. John said, "Lets's go wake the others." But he didn't. It suddenly occurred to him that he had to be on the film set at 8am.
As the car past Twickenham, John said, "I might as well sleep in a chair at the studio."
He was still very much awake, joking and pontificating about the pop scene, laughing at the time.
"I bet you won't be joking in a couple of hours," said Cynthia. "He's terrible first thing."
John gave her that cynical look and started singing 'A Hard Days Night'. It seemed the right thing to do.