Tag Archives: John Lennon

Gay History: John Lennon Once Almost Beat A Man To Death

Today I found out…

John Lennon Rehearsing “Give Peace a Chance”

John Lennon once almost beat a man to death.

Was John Lennon gay? “Why are you bringing up such a ridiculous question? Who cares if he was gay? I thought this article was about John Lennon almost beating a guy to death.” Well, it is, it is, keep reading and you will see all the pieces to this incredible, little-known chapter in the life of John Lennon and how perilously close his temper came to ending the Beatles entirely, almost before they really got started.  This savage beating also helped change Lennon’s life, as he said “It was the last fight I ever got into. That’s when I gave up violence, because all my life I’d been like that.”

In 1963, the Beatles’ were beginning to become famous in England and Europe. A little over a year earlier, they signed with a manager named Brian Epstein (who incidentally died of a drug overdose just four years after this).  Epstein was unequivocal in his sexual preferences- he was as gay as they come.  (As a point of note, being gay was actually against the law in Britain at the time, and was to remain so until 1966.)

According to Pete Best, the Beatles drummer before Ringo, Brian had tried making passes at all four Beatles (including himself) and was met, each time, with a polite but firm, rejection.  Many Beatles fans knew about Brian’s “secret life” and assumed that Paul, the “cute Beatle”, and the one most of the girls liked, was the object of his affections.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  It was the loud, overbearing, and aggressive John Lennon who Brian was crazy about.

In April of 1963, the Beatles were now one of the hottest acts in Europe.  Their records were selling like the proverbial hotcakes. The first album was sitting in the #1 spot on the charts; their concerts were selling out to capacity crowds; and within a few brief months, they would be playing the Royal Variety Performance in front of the Queen herself.

The Beatles arrived at London Airport on Sept. 22, 1964, after a tour of the United States and Canada. From left, George Harrison, Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, Brian Epstein — the group’s original manager — and John Lennon. Credit… Keystone/Getty Images

It was at this time, out of the blue, that John and Brian decided to take a break in the Beatles’ very busy schedule and go off together for a holiday in Spain. The first suspicious thing about this amongst fans was “Why did John go on holiday, as his wife had recently given birth to a new son?”  (Cynthia had gave birth to Julian, John’s first son, on March 8, 1963).  John admitted, years later, what a rotten and selfish thing this was for him to have done, but nonetheless, he went with Brian, sparking rumors that it was a romantic get-a-way.

Fellow Beatle, Paul McCartney, has his own take on John’s Spain trip with Brian.  According to Paul, the trip’s purpose was for John to assert who the real leader of the Beatles was with Brian. That John took Brian on the holiday “…to make sure Mr. Epstein knew who to listen to in this group”.  It is interesting that even in these very early Beatles’ days, John and Paul were already jockeying for an upper hand.

Whatever the case, John and Brian spent 12 days together in Spain. “We used to sit in cafes together”, recalled John, “looking at the boys. I’d say, ‘do you like that one? Do you like this one?’ …I was rather enjoying the experience, thinking like a writer all the time.”

The details of the trip were sketchy, at best, but soon John and Brian had returned and were ready to get back to the business of making Beatles records, performing concerts, and making appearances.  But in Liverpool, the “gay” rumors were now intensely swirling. Things came to a head with a disc jockey the Beatles knew named Bob Wooler (1926-2002).

Wooler was a very close friend of the Beatles and had introduced them on stage some 300 times.  This incident happened at Paul’s 21st birthday party, on June 18, 1963.  At the party, Wooler was joking around with John and said (with heavy gay intimations): “Come on John, what really happened with you and Brian? Everybody knows anyway, so tell us.”

John had been heavily drinking that night and Lennon was a notorious “bad drunk”.  In a blind rage, John proceeded to beat the stuffing out of a very surprised Bob Wooler, literally kicking him repeatedly in the ribs as he lay on the ground in a bloody heap.

According to John, the only reason he actually stopped the savage beating was because, “I realized I was actually going to kill him…  I just saw it like a screen. If I hit him once more, that’s really going to be it. I really got shocked and for the first time thought: ‘I can kill this guy.’”

Wooler was rushed to the hospital by Brian, who was also present at Paul’s party, and given treatment for a variety of things, including broken ribs.  Luckily for John Lennon- and the Beatles’ future amazing run- Wooler survived the ordeal.

Incredibly, John refused to apologize. “He called me a bloody queer, and I bashed in his ribs for it”, he said defiantly.  Because of this refusal to apologize, Brian had a writer for The Daily Mirror, Don Short, send a telegram on John’s behalf, apologizing.  The telegram read, “Really sorry Bob. Terribly sorry for what I have done. What more can I say? -Signed, John Lennon”  In addition to that, a payment of 200 pounds (around $2200 today) was also given as compensation.

Despite their very recent fame in Europe in musical circles, this incident actually got the Beatles their first national press coverage in England in an article in the Daily Mirror.  (One can easily imagine what kind of coverage an incident like this would have gotten nowadays, with our current tabloids, twitter, and the blogosphere.  And, of course, had Bob Wooler not been the forgiving type, he could easily have raked John over the coals, but chose not to. Or what if John had actually killed Wooler by perhaps kicking him a few more times with Wooler’s broken ribs perhaps puncturing his lungs?  It would have finished the Beatles as we remember them right there, not to mention the fact that John Lennon would have been sent to prison for murder!)

Despite the severity of the incident and the coverage in the Daily Mirror, the incident was soon forgotten and the Beatles went on to conquer the musical world.

The one murky question for Beatles fans is obviously “Did John and Brian really?…”  Beatles fans and aficionados have been debating the question all these years later.

In 1971, in his classic “Rolling Stone” interview, John stated that of all the Beatles he “was the closest to Brian”. (was this one of John’s inside jokes, did he really mean?…) John later briefly commented on the lingering question about Brian and himself shortly before his tragic death in 1980.  “It was almost a love affair, but not quite. It was not consummated. But it was a pretty intense relationship”, he said.

About the gay accusations setting him off, Lennon went on to add, “You know, when you’re 21, you want to be a man. If someone said it now, I wouldn’t give a shit”. (1980). But at the time, John was a very macho, young rock star and he had to prove it to everyone.

One marvels when looking at the incredible, unbelievable career of John Lennon- and the Beatles- at just how close it all came to going up in smoke, because of a needless, drunken beating, all those years ago at a birthday party.

Bonus Fact:

  • While he may or may not had a romantic encounter with Brian Epstein, Lennon definitely also loved the ladies. In 1968, he confessed to his first wife, Cynthia, that he had had over 300 extra-marital affairs with women during their six-year marriage. He may have been underestimating himself.

Reference

The Beatles Song Named For A Woman That Was About A Man

Sexy Sadie…

The Beatles were famous for their beautiful, inspired love songs dedicated to women- “Michelle”, “Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds”, “Eleanor Rigby”, “Julia”, “Lovely Rita”, “Lady Madonna”, “Dear Prudence”.  Even other Beatles’ classics, not graced with titles using proper nouns: “She Loves You”, “She’s a Woman”, “Girl”; and of course “I Want to Hold Your Hand”, “Love Me Do”, “P.S. I Love You” et al were all written about and centered around different women who had touched the Beatles in different ways (sometimes literally).

But which Beatles song sounds like it was written about a woman, but was in reality, written about a man?  In 1968, the Beatles were on a quest, searching, just like many of us- to find “The Truth”.  Yes, they were rich, famous, and materially successful beyond any of their wildest dreams.  But they all- especially George and John- felt something was missing.

The Beatles, in their search, came upon an interesting spiritual guide named Maharishi Mahesh Yogi.  They traveled to his meditation camp in Rishikesh, India to study, meditate, and hopefully “become enlightened”.

The fab four arrived and spent their days at the Maharishi’s retreat, with their respective wives, girlfriends, pals, and entourage.  After a pleasant start, the Beatles’ spiritual revival stay at Rishikesh started to unravel.  Ringo left first; after only ten days, he packed his bags and declared he’d had enough (Ringo’s excuse cited missing his children in London, plus the fact that his wife, Maureen, hated the prevalence of insects in their bungalow).  Paul lasted a few days longer and departed, leaving John and George- the most sincerely hopeful to find “the answer” at the Ashram.

George and John remained for several more weeks, each meditating several hours a day.  But a rumor, supposedly started and spread by John’s friend “Magic Alex” Mardas, filtered through to the Beatles’ camp.  (“Magic Alex” was a would-be-inventor and full-time hanger-on (i.e. parasite) of the Beatles and was accompanying the boys at the retreat).  According to Magic Alex’s salacious rumor, the holy Maharishi had made an overt pass at one or more of the pretty girls studying there.  (Different sources cite the anonymous girl as being either Mia Farrow, her sister Prudence Farrow, or another cute short-haired blonde bombshell at the camp).

John Lennon- impulsive, quick-tempered, and trusting of his pal, Magic Alex- immediately rounded up his wife and friends and decided to leave.  It was John who confronted the surprised guru, the Maharishi, and told him they were all hitting the road.  “But why are you leaving?” Maharishi asked.

“If you’re so cosmic, you’ll know!” Lennon spat.  According to John, the Maharishi shot him a look of daggers at that point and John immediately knew he was a fake and a fraud.  And, thus, John, George, their respective wives and their retinue peremptorily left India.

Upon arriving back in England, John unwrapped the final song he had written while in India- a disillusioned, angry song called “Maharishi”.  Lennon supposedly scratched out the original lyrics on a piece of wood at the London apple offices.  (Ringo’s wife, Maureen, actually owned the piece of wood John carved the song on. She later sold the carved, seminal “Maharishi” song to a Beatles collector years later.)

The original lyrics were incredibly cruel and vile, as Paul remembers John first playing the tune for him.  “Who the f**k do you think you are?” was about the mildest of the original lyrics.

John’s song referred to the Maharishi in the worst possible sexual epithets.  It was George who advised John to tone the song down and change the title from “Maharishi” to “Sexy Sadie”.  (For legal reasons, but also, George was not as upset or disillusioned as John. After initially leaving the camp with John, George returned to India for a few more weeks of meditation, peace, and quiet).

When “Sexy Sadie” was recorded over four sessions in July and August of ’68, John spent much of the time cursing and sputtering about the whole Maharishi experience, still deeply hurt and disillusioned.

“Sexy Sadie” was to appear in a few months on the Beatles’ legendary “White Album” later in 1968.  The finished song is a very nice one, like most of John Lennon’s brilliant body of work.  And to this day, I am sure many uneducated listeners assume “Sexy Sadie” was written about a sexy, unscrupulous woman who took the writer and other men for a ride and used them.  The truth is that it was written as an angry, hostile “homage” to a short, bearded, gray-haired Indian guru.

But why did John so wholeheartedly and immediately believe Magic Alex’s gossip and story about the Maharishi?  After all, Paul, George, and John’s wife, Cynthia, were all to later state that the story was a hoax and was concocted entirely by the nefarious Magic Alex.  And even if the alleged story was true, as Paul was to later say, the Maharishi made no claims to being some god with no carnal desires.  “Don’t treat me like a god. I’m a meditation teacher” was Paul’s quote from the guru.  “There was no deal that you mustn’t touch women. There wasn’t a vow of chastity involved”, Paul added.

Maybe John just simply bought the malicious accusation, but Beatle scholars offer up a few different views.  One is that John was just bored and tired of being the Maharishi’s disciple and wanted to return to England.  As a bit of a stretch, others offer the theory that John even got Magic Alex to cook up the story so he’d have an excuse to blow the Ashram.

But a more accurate and likely theory lies a bit deeper, under the radar screen at the time.  Every day he was at the Maharishi’s camp, John would happily hop to the local post office branch, where he was receiving strange, mysterious letters and postcards from an odd Japanese performance artist named Yoko Ono.

Lennon had met Yoko Ono previously, but these mailings fascinated and intrigued him.  The feminine-scrawled mailings contained enigmatic lines of poetry like, “Look up at the sky and see my face” or “Take your thoughts and dig a hole and bury them.”

These postcards and letters and their “messages” spellbound Lennon and captured his imagination.  He may have been dying to get back to London to give this Yoko Ono a call and get together with her. And this is exactly what happened, almost as soon as John arrived back home.

Cynthia Lennon, John’s wife of six years, was unceremoniously dumped and John cast his lot with Yoko. The Beatles were, after all, just four human beings.  And human beings look for answers- and find them in many different places.

Years later, Paul, George, and Ringo were all to publicly state their gratitude to the Maharishi for what he had given them, and all three were to indulge in the transcendental meditation he had taught them, throughout their lives.  The three Beatles (but not John) were to have only kind words about their old friend and teacher, the Maharishi.  And, ironically, it was in his beloved Yoko Ono that the earnestly searching John Lennon was to find his own particular “truth” in life.

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