John & Yoko Avant-Garde Timeline, According to "Strawberry Fields Forever" by Vic Garbarini, Brian Cullman, and Barbara Graustark
Given my negative review of this book, the obvious question is why bother with a timeline based on the book? Especially when I know there are factual errors (like the day John and Paul met). The answer is simply to be thorough. I've done previous such reviews and timelines for other Lennon biographies, and eventually I want to compile all the separate timeline into a single, exhaustive chronology. When I do that, I will compare and contrast various authors' accounts. Any factual errors will be weeded out then. But for right now, my goal is just to be thorough in my research and document all of my sources. Moreover, mistakes are often the best way to learn. If I find errors in this timeline, I will be more likely to remember the right date by correcting these errors.
1966.11.? John and Yoko meet (p. 155)
1968.06.15 John and Yoko plant acorns for peace (p. 67, 159)
1968.06.18 In His Own Write premiered (p. 159)
1968.07.01 Opening of John's art exhibit (p. 159)
1968.10.18 Drug bust (p. 69, 161)
1968.11.08 John and Yoko run an ad about the "Peace Ship" (p. 161)
1968.11.09 Two Virgins album released (p. 161)
1968.11.21 Yoko's first miscarriage (p. 161)
1968.12.18 John and Yoko perform "Bagism" at Royal Albert Hall (p. 161)
1968.12 Rock 'n' Roll Circus filmed (p. 162)
1968.12.end production of film Rape (p.161)
1969.03.07 John and Yoko perform "Cambridge 1969" (p. 162)
1969.03.20 John and Yoko marry in Gibraltar (p. 73, 78, 162)
1969.03.26 John and Yoko's "Bed-In for Peace" (p. 73, 163)
1969.04.01 John and Yoko perform "Bagism" following the premiere of their film Rape in Austria. John also announced sending two acorns to the leaders of each country for peace (p. 163)
1969.04.26 John changes his middle name from Winston to Ono (p. 163)
1969.05.01 Album Life with the Lions released [in UK?] (p. 163-64)
1969.05.20 "The Ballad of John and Yoko" released [in UK?] (p. 164)
1969.05.26 Album Life with the Lions released in US (p. 164)
1969.06.16 "The Ballad of John and Yoko" released in US (p. 78, 164)
1969.07.end Car crash (p. 164)
1969.07.28 Single "Give Peave a Chance"/"Remember Love" released in UK and US (p.79, 164)
1969.09.? Wedding Album released in UK (p. 164), "An Evening With John and Yoko" held at the New Cinema Club in London with a showing of 4 Lennon/Ono films (p. 165)
1969.09.13 Rock and Roll Revival in Toronto (p. 165)
1969.10.20 Wedding Album released in US (p. 165)
1969.12.? Album Live Peace in Toronto released in UK (p. 166)
1969.12.15 Album Live Peace in Toronto released in US (p. 80, 166)
1970.09.22 John and Yoko appear as guests on the Dick Cavett Show (p. 167)
1970.12.09 Album John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band released in UK (p. 81, 167)
1971.05.15 The Filmaker's Fortnight Festival in Cannes, Fance, showed two John and Yoko films: Apotheosis (Balloon) and Fly (p. 168)
1971.06.06 John and Yoko perform with Frank Zappa (p. 168)
1972.01.13 John and Yoko appear as guests on the David Frost Show (p. 168)
1972.02.21-25 John and Yoko co-host the Mike Douglas Show (p. 168)
1972.04.04 John and Yoko appear as guests on the Dick Cavett Show; television special John and Yoko in Syracuse, N.Y. broadcast (p. 169)
Garbarini, Vic and Brian Cullman with Barbara Graustark. Strawberry Fields Forever: John Lennon Remembered. Bantam, New York, NY, 1980.
1966.11.09 John and Yoko meet for the first time (p. 466, 477-79)
? Yoko sends John Grapefruit (p. 485)
1967.04.29 14 Hour Technicolor Dream (p. 493)
1967.07.14 Times ad against illegality of marijuana (p. 502)
1967.10.11 "Half Wind Show" (p. 522)
[while still living at Kenwood] 2 films: "Smile" and "Two Virgins" (p. 541)
[three weeks before Acorn Event] "Build Around" at the Arts Lab in Drury Lane (p. 542)
1968.06.15 Acorn Event (p. 542-43)
1968.06.18 In His Own Write premiere (p. 543-44)
1968.07.01 "You Are Here" (p. 562)
1968.08.24 appearance on David Frost's television show (p. 566)
1968.10.18 Drug bust (p.573)
1968.11.21 Yoko miscarries (p. 577)
1968.11.29 Two Virgins album released (p. 577-78)
1968.12.11 Rock 'n' Roll Circus (p. 579)
1968.12.18 Alchemical Wedding (p. 593)
1969.03.02 Cambridge 1969 (p. 593)
1969.03.20 John and Yoko marry in Gibraltar (p. 594)
? Honeymoon (p. 595)
? Rape filming (p. 597)
1969.03.31 Rape premiere, Bagism in Vienna (p. 597)
1969.04.22 Nam Change (p. 598)
1969.05.30 "The Ballad of John and Yoko" released (p. 599)
? Bag Productions formed (p. 601)
? Mail acorns (p. 602)
1969.05.09 Life with the Lions released (p. 602)
1969.05.26-06.02 2nd Bed-In in Montreal (p. 604)
1969.06.02 Recording of "Give Peace a Chance" (p. 606)
1969.07.01 Car Crah (p. 610)
1969.09.10-11 ICA London John & Yoko film showings (p. 620)
1969.09.13 Toronto Rock 'n' Roll Revival (p. 621)
1969.10.20 single "Cold Turkey"/"Don't Worry Kyoko" released (p. 626)
1969.10.? Wedding Album released (p. 626)
1969.12.14 bagism in support of John Hanratty (p. 628)
1969.12.12 Album Live Peace in Toronto released (p. 629)
1970 "Year One for Peace" (p. 633)
1970.01.15 Lennon's 14 erotic lithographs displayed (p. 633)
1970.01.16 Lithographs deemed obscene by authorities (p. 633)
1970.03.29 John and Yoko announce second pregnancy (p. 638)
1970.04.01 Lithographs legally excused (p. 642)
1970.08? Yoko's second miscarriage (p. 652)
"during their short stay" in NYC, 1970.12.early? Two more films: Up Your Legs Forever and Fly (p. 659-60)
Norman, Philip. John Lennon: The Life. ECCO, an imprint of Harper Collins Publishers, New York, NY, 2008.
Lennon & Ono Timeline, 1966-1969, According to Tim Riley's "Lennon: The Man, the Myth, the Music - The Definitive Life"
1966.11 John and Yoko meet, she send him Grapefruit (p. 323-24, 394)
1967.04.end John attends Cut Piece as part of "Technicolor Dream Event" at Alexandra Palace (p. 348-49)
? Yoko gets a ride home from John (p. 379)
1968.02.11 John brings Ono to recording studio for first time (p. 377)
? Yoko begins sending John postcards (p. 379)
1968.05.19 John invites Yoko over, they record Two Virgins (p. 385-86)
? John and Cynthia begin divorce (p. 395)
1968.05.before moving from Kenwood Film #5 (Smile) (p. 399)
1968.05 John moves out of Kenwood, lives with Yoko first with Paul in St. John's Wood, then with Peter Asher, then Neil Aspinall, then at Ringo's Montague Square flat (p. 399)
1968.fall Film Two Virgins debuts (p. 399)
1968.10.18 Pilcher's drug bust (p. 418)
1968.10.19 Out on bail. Photo taken used later in Life with the Lions (p. 419)
1968.10 or 11 Announce Yoko is pregnant with John's child, Yoko admitted to hospital (p. 420, 422)
1968.11 Divorce granted, Cynthia takes custody of Julian (p. 420)
1968.11.end album Two Virgins released (p.420)
1968.11.21 Yoko miscarries (p. 422)
1968.12.11 "Rock 'n' Roll Circus" (p. 425)
1968.Christmas "Alchemical Wedding" at Royal Albert Hall (p. 425)
1969.01.10 Harrison walks out after a fight with Lennon over Yoko (p. 431)
1969.03.16 John and Yoko in Paris, wedding attempt #1 (p. 444)
1969.03.20 Wedding attempt #2 on ferry (p. 444)
? Wedding attempt #3 in Gibraltar (p. 444)
? Lunch with Salvador Dali (p. 444)
? Honeymoon: Amsterdam Bed-In (p. 446-47)
1969.03.31 John and Yoko attend showing of film Rape in Vienna, perform bagism (p. 448)
1969.04.14 John and Paul record "The Ballad of John and Yoko" (p. 449)
1969.04.22 John changes middle name to Ono, John and Yoko record "John and Yoko" (p. 451)
1969.05.early John and Yoko buy Titenhurst (p. 453)
? Montreal Bed-In, recording of "Give Peace a Chance" (p. 454)
1969.06.15 "Acorns for peace" as part of the National Sculpture Exhibition (p. 403)
1969.06.18 John brings Yoko to opening of "In His Own Write", press pounces (p. 404)
1969.07.01 "You Are Here" opens at Robert Fraser Gallery (p. 405); car crash (p. 457)
1969.07 John and Yoko announce another pregnancy; Yoko brings bed to Abbey Road studios (p. 458)
1969.09 Toronto Rock 'n' Roll Revival (p. 461)
1969.fall Three more films: Rape II, Honeymoon, Self Portrait (p. 462)
1969.10.12 Yoko's second miscarriage (p. 465)
1969.11 John returns MBE (p. 462)
1969.Christmas "War is over if you want it" billboards (p. 466); "Peace for Christmas" (p. 467)
1969.11.02 Wedding Album released (p. 451)
Riley, Tim. John Lennon: The Man, the Myth, the Music - The Definitive Life. Hyperion, New York, NY, 2011.
Black & White
In the early Sixties, black was the most significant color for the Beatles. They wore black leather stage outfits, wrote the song  "Baby's in Black", and Paul even admitted "Our favorite colour was black" (Anthology, page 160)
But by the mid-Sixties, however, that changed. The spread of color television helped, and no doubt psychedelic drugs (which inhibit the brain's ability to process colors) played a role, as well.
In the late Sixties, though, that changed yet again - at least for John Lennon. Yoko Ono, whose color preference was white, gradually and progressively began to occupy Lennon's thoughts from their first meeting in November 1966 through the realization of their romantic relationship in 1968. She once created an exhibition of all white objects – including an all white chess set, accompanied by the instructions, “Play it for as long as you can remember who is your opponent and who is your own self.” Chess is a game of war – strategic war rather than violent war, but war nonetheless. Furthermore, white is a symbol of innocence (which is why brides wear white dresses) and in the context of war, white is the color of surrender – meaning the end of violent conflict. Yoko was a pacifist long before she ever met John Lennon, and in creating an all-white chess set, what she is doing is pointing out the fact that despite humanity's differences we are all human and we all share the same planet (just as all pawns, rooks, knights, bishops, kings, and queens all share the same chess board), and we all need to find a way to get along peacefully, i.e. without war or violence. She found a fresh way to illustrate the cliche "more alike than different" while simultaneously advancing her pacifist principles. How different, after all, would an all-black chess set be?
Yoko's influence on John Lennon - and particularly her affinity for the color white - is discernible as early as 1968. The album The Beatles is more commonly known as The White Album because of its stark plain white color with white embossed letters. How different would the album The Beatles be if its cover was plain black?
Moreover, there are a great many pictures of the couple wearing all-white clothing:
Additionally, Lennon owned an all-white piano - not coincidentally on which he composed the song "Imagine".
Beatles. The Beatles Anthology. Chronicle Books, San Francisco, CA, 2000.
It seems to be regarded as common knowledge that John Lennon was the avant-gardist of the Beatles, but in fact Lennon was not always avant-garde friendly. He often spoke disparagingly towards avant-garde art during the Beatles’ early years, saying, “avant-garde is French for bullshit” (Blaney p. 7) and frequently dismissing avant-garde artists as “fucking intellectuals.” He even said of Yoko’s own art, “I’d get very upset about it being intellectual or all fucking avant-garde" (Wenner p. 175). And when Cynthia Lennon confronted her husband over his association with Ono, John dismissed her accusations, saying, “She’s crackers, she’s just a weirdo artist. ... She’s another nutter wanting money for all that avant-garde bullshit" (Coleman p. 336).
Clearly Lennon held belligerent feelings towards the avant-garde. This was in part due to Paul McCartney’s status as the Beatles' avant-gardist - that was Paul’s territory, and John knew that, and could not impede upon it. And yet, despite his harsh words, he found the freedom of expression opened through avant-garde aesthetics and experimentation appealing. Quoting McCartney: “I was into a lot of those things, which was very strange because I was at the same time known as the cute Beatle, the ballad Beatle ... John was the cynical one, the wise Beatle, the intellectual. In fact at that time it was wildly in reverse. John would be coming in from Weybridge; he’d sit and he used to tell me he was jealous: ‘God, man, I’m so fucking jealous!’ He had to break free - which is what he did, later” (Miles p. 220). So Lennon did have some degree of avant-garde interest, but his embrace of the movement had to wait until Yoko provided the change he needed.
Blaney, John. John Lennon: Listen to this Book. Paper Jukebox, Biddles Ltd, Guildford, UK, 2005.
Coleman, Ray. Lennon. McGraw-Hill Book Company, New York, NY, 1984.
Miles, Barry. Paul McCartney: Many Years from Now. Henry Holt and Company, New York, NY, 1997.
Wenner, Jann. Lennon Remembers: The Rolling Stone Interviews. Straight Arrow Books, San Francisco, CA, 1971.
There are five main characters in the story of the Beatles and the avant-garde. The first two, of course, are John Lennon and Paul McCartney. At the heart of my research are two parallel dynamics that occurred between Lennon and McCartney over the course of the band’s existence: the first a shift in the leader of the group (what started as John’s band ended as Paul’s); the second a simultaneous shift in avant-garde aesthetics (what started as Paul’s experimentation ended as John’s). While the former has been written about and analyzed extensively, the latter has been largely ignored, or at best treated trivially and glossed over.
The third primary character is the catalyst for both of these dynamics: Yoko Ono. While never part of the band, Ono is inextricable from its history for her profound impact on John Lennon. The ultimate focus of my project, then, is on the artistic production and experimentation of Paul McCartney and John Lennon between 1965 (with McCartney’s early tape experiments) through 1969 (with Lennon and Ono’s Wedding Album), paying particular attention to how the avant-garde scene of the time influenced and inspired these experiments.
The two remaining primary characters are both Georges: Harrison and Martin. Both men were integral to the artistic development of the Beatles, and display significant avant-garde influence: Harrison through his connection with Indian music, experiences with Eastern philosophy and religion, and in his solo albums Wonderwall Music and Electronic Sound; Martin through his classical background and education, and experimental recording techniques.
Natalia and I received out wedding photos about a week ago and have been sorting through them since. In doing so, I found a couple of amusing shots...
... that I didn't realize until just recently display a similarity to a series of shots of John Lennon watering Cynthia Lennon's hat.
An intriguing and totally inadvertent parallel! Especially given that we also did a more conscious Beatles reference photograph.
Barry Miles is the author of "The Beatles Diary, volumes 1 and 2", "Zappa: A Briography", "London Calling: A Countercultural History of London since 1945", "Hippie", "Jack Kerouac: King of Beats", "William Burroughs: El Hombre Invisible", and many other books. He co-founded the Indica Bookshop and Gallery, where John Lennon and Yoko Ono would meet for the first time; and was instrumental in the founding of International Times, a fortnightly periodical dedicated to the underground and avant-garde London art scene. He has maintained a lifelong friendship with Paul McCartney, and in 1994 published a biography of Paul titled "Paul McCartney: Many Years From Now". Once in an email to me, John Blaney, author of "John Lennon: Listen to This Book" and several other Beatles-related books, referred to Miles as "Mr. Avant-Garde", and indeed much of my Beatles and the avant-garde research is based on Miles' writing.
I am currently reading through his book "In the Sixties", which details his dealings with not only the Beatles, but also other bands/artists/musicians of the decade, in addition to providing details about his business endeavors like the International Times and Indica Bookshop & Gallery, and his troubles with the authorities regarding drug posession and obscentiy laws. This post, then, is a summary of this book, particularly as it relates to the Beatles, and particularly particularly how it relates to the Beatles and the avant-garde. All references and quotes refer to "In the Sixties" unless otherwise indicated. Full citations may be found at the end of this blog.
Miles teamed up with John Dunbar in August 1965 with the intent of opening a bookshop/art gallery "to introduce people to new ideas and the latest developments in art" (p. 70, 116). Dunbar asked his best mate, Peter Asher (who achieved a substantial deal of fame and wealth through his music duo Peter & Gordon in 1964 with their number one hit ‘World Without Love’). to help fund the project. "Peter agreed to put up the £2,100 we thought we needed to start the bookshop and gallery by loaning John and me £700 each, and putting in the same amount himself. After many thoughtful pot-filled evenings, we decided to call the bookshop-gallery venture Indica, after Cannabis indica" (p. 68).
Peter Asher lived in a house with his father Richard ("the first neurophysician to identify Munchausen’s syndrome, a condition in which people invent medical problems in order to draw attention to themselves"), mother Margaret (who "taught oboe at the Guildhall School of Music, and often had her students over for lessons in the basement music room. George Martin, the Beatles’ producer, had been one of her students, as was Paul McCartney"), and two sisters Clare and Jane, the latter of whom just so happened to be dating Paul McCartney (p. 72-73)
Paul and Jane met on 18 April 1963, at a social gathering following a performance at London's Royal Albert Hall. All of the Beatles knew Jane Asher - she was at the time just as famous as they were for her performances as an actress - but this was the first time they had met in person. Lennon took an immediate interest in her, and (presumably under the influence of alcohol) made crude sexual references towards her. Paul, no doubt sensing his own opportunity, rose to Jane's defense, and the two left the party arm in arm. They started dating shortly thereafter. (Carlin p. 87-88).
When McCartney wasn't busy, he offered to help prepare the Indica for its opening, "hammering and sawing, filling in the holes in the plaster and helping to erect bookshelves. ... [R]umors spread and soon everyone in the nearby shops and galleries knew all about the Beatles’ new art gallery" (p. 81). The Indica opened its doors in September 1965 - it's first customer being Paul McCartney, who purchased "And It’s a Song, poems by Anselm Hollo; Drugs and the Mind by DeRopp; Peace Eye Poems by Ed Sanders; and Gandhi on Non Violence. This showed both his range of interest and the type of stock I was buying" (p. 74).
The following March, McCartney brought John Lennon to the Indica. "He scanned the shelves and soon came upon The Psychedelic Experience, Timothy Leary’s psychedelic version of the Tibetan Book of the Dead. ... On page fourteen of Leary’s introduction he came upon the line ‘Whenever in doubt, turn off your mind, relax, float downstream’. With only slight modification, this became the first line of ‘Tomorrow Never Knows’, the Beatles’ first truly psychedelic song" (p. 113).
In September 1966, London hosted a "Destruction in Art Symposium", inviting Yoko Ono (among many others) to participate. Impressed with her work, John Dunbar offered her an exhibition at the Indica Gallery, and scheduled it to open on 9 November 1966. John Dunbar, now friends with John Lennon from his visits to the Indica, invited the Beatle to visit the exhibition the night before it opened to the public, and it was there that John Lennon and Yoko Ono met for the first time.
The avant-garde scene of the time was notoriously negative and pessimistic - and John despised it intensely. Indeed, the very engagement that brought Ono to London in the first place was the "Destruction in Art Symposium", in which "Otto Muhl skinned a lamb and covered everyone with blood, and Ralph Ortiz, a tall Puerto Rican artist, chopped Jay Landesman’s piano to pieces" (p. 144). Anticipating similarly negative art, Lennon admitted how close he was to walking out of the gallery when one of the first artworks he observed was a step ladder leading to an unintelligibly tiny word written on the ceiling. Hanging down from the ceiling was a magnifying glass to be used to read the infinitesimal text. Lennon held up the magnifier and read the word, “yes”. Quoting Lennon: “If it had said ‘No’, or something nasty like ‘rip off’ or whatever, I would have left the gallery then. Because it said ‘Yes’, I thought, Okay, this is the first show I’ve been to that said something warm to me" (Solt p. 120). Though it would take two years before John and Yoko established their romantic relationship, the moment when he decided to stay at her exhibition would prove to be the most pivotal point in Beatles history. Once John found Yoko, she completely eclipsed Paul as John’s primary artistic collaborator. With John now more interested in Yoko than the Beatles, Paul was able to replace him as leader of the group; and with the introduction of a full-fledged avant-garde artist, Paul’s involvement and enthusiasm for the movement abated, freeing John to adopt the role.
Carlin, Peter Ames. Paul McCartney: A Life. Touchstone Book, Simon & Schuster, New York, NY, 2009.
Miles, Barry. In the Sixties. Jonathan Cape, London, UK, 2002.
Solt, Andrew and Sam Egan. Imagine John Lennon. Penguin Studio, Sarah Lazin Books, New York, NY, 1988.
This blog is a workshop for developing my analyses of The Beatles' music.