As for his friends, they found it impossible to get past the internal switchboard. ‘Yoko has him all locked up,’ Mick Jagger said.
Ray Connolly first met John Lennon in 1967, when he was reporting on the making of The Beatles film, Magical Mystery Tour. Accepted into the band’s coterie, he later watched John work at London’s Abbey Road recording studios, interviewed him several times at his home and accompanied him on trips to Canada and New York . . .
One night in New York, John Lennon got very drunk at a party, took a girl into a room and had sex with her.
Unfortunately, all the guests’ coats had been heaped on the bed. So when people wanted to go home, they couldn’t retrieve them — and everyone, including his wife, Yoko Ono, realised what was going on.
That, in a nutshell, was what Yoko told me some time later. ‘It was,’ she said, ‘very embarrassing.’
Of course, ‘embarrassing’ isn’t the word most wives would have chosen to describe the situation. But most wives aren’t Yoko.
She’d long known that when John got drunk, he’d behave irrationally and could sometimes be violent, and for this reason she always limited the amount of alcohol in their apartment.
But, on that particular night in 1973, there’d be no limit on drinks and drugs.
Other party guests said that they’d tried to calm John down, that he was blabbering and shouting and pushing them away before he disappeared into the bedroom with his conquest.
Was Yoko angry? Impossible to say. Happily indiscreet about the events in her life, she rarely explained her emotions.
When I sympathised with her about John’s adultery, all she said was: ‘John can be very hard to live with sometimes.’
The day after the party, he was full of remorse. But a line had been crossed.
After nearly five years of being together, night and day, the myth of perfect love the couple had woven around themselves — ‘like Cathy and Heathcliff’ as Yoko liked to say in reference to Wuthering Heights — had been shattered.
Sex was the last thing on his mind when John Lennon, then aged 25, was first introduced to Yoko Ono.
The year was 1966. He’d wandered into the basement of an art gallery, where a very small Japanese lady in black, peering out from between two curtains of hair, was busily preparing an exhibition. It was called Unfinished Paintings And Objects By Yoko Ono, and was due to open the following day.
Yoko — then aged 33 — didn’t recognise John. Then a little-known conceptual artist, she was on a visit to London with her husband and daughter and had seized a rare opportunity to publicise her work.
To John, however, it all seemed very silly at first. But he liked silliness, so he decided to go along with it.
‘Anyway, I’m looking for the action, and I see this thing called Hammer A Nail,’ he recalled. ‘It’s a board with a chain and a hammer hanging on it, and a bunch of nails at the bottom, and I said: “Can I hammer a nail into it?” She said: “No”, and walked away.’
But when the gallery owner told Yoko she’d just said ‘No’ to John Lennon, she walked straight back and asked him for five shillings.
John said he didn’t have five shillings because he never carried money. ‘What if I give you an imaginary five shillings and hammer in an imaginary nail. Would that be all right?’ he asked.
Yoko agreed that it would indeed be all right.
At that point, he knew nothing about her, other than the fact that she was making a short movie, Bottoms (Film No. 4), having put an advertisement in a newspaper for ‘intelligent-looking bottoms’. She’d then filmed 365 of them.
Was he attracted to Yoko? Unlikely. If he had been, she’d have known about it, because he certainly wasn’t shy about making his intentions clear. Yet there was something intriguing about her. She might seem half-crazy but she was an enigma, and he’d never met anyone like her before.
One day, this odd little Japanese woman would change his life. But back then, John didn’t give her much thought; he didn’t even go to her exhibition launch.
Yoko, however, decided to pursue John by letter. Viewing him as a multi-millionaire with money to burn, she was determined to win his financial backing for her art.
The idea that she ran after John, she’d say later, wasn’t true. Others might say she never left him alone.
Finally, in October 1967, John caved in, agreeing to sponsor an exhibition that consisted of half of everything — a bed, a chair and a room — all painted white. He didn’t actually turn up to see it, but Yoko was starting to get under his skin.
Then, to his wife Cynthia’s surprise, the Japanese lady turned up at a private meeting. The Lennons and the other Beatles had gone to see the assistant to the Maharishi, an Indian yogi whom they all planned to visit at his Himalayan ashram.