My pick for the song I’d like to feature for today’s Throwback Thursday is The Ballad of John and Yoko. Now it may surprise you to learn that it’s one of my favorite songs from the Beatles’ catalogue.
I know. I know. Many people, even today, blame Yoko Ono for breaking up the Beatles – even though Paul said in 2013 that she wasn’t at fault.
I never bought into blaming Yoko. Face it. People sometimes grow apart. John felt limited, confined and trapped by the band he founded. Paul lived for the Beatles and wanted them to make and perform music forever.
But consciously or subconsciously, Paul wanted the Beatles to continue in the image and likeness he’d fashioned for the group in Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Heat’s Club Band. But that could not be. Not for John, who founded the band. Not even for George, who had found his own creative voice by then and did not share Paul’s passion for touring and live performances.
Like many avid fans, the end was a painful, depressing, even bitter experience for me. Even though the end was inevitable, I selfishly wanted the Beatles to go on and on. I cannot imagine what the experience was like for John, Paul, George and Ringo. And yet, in spite of all the hard feelings, all the acrimony and accusations, John and Paul were able to collaborate and create masterful music even while the band was going through its death throes. This is the story of The Ballad of John and Yoko.
“Songs should be like newspapers,” John once said, and The Ballad of John and Yoko was just that.
John portrays himself and Yoko as victims who were about to be “crucified” by fans, the press and perhaps even John’s other three bandmates. They were turned back at the Southampton docks. They could not get married in France, where they’d intended to honeymoon. (They had to marry in Gibraltar.) And they were lampooned by the press and the public during their “bed-in for peace.” In contradistinction to Paul’s marriage to Linda, which was a largely private affair, John and Yoko wed amid the tumult and controversy that typified their entire relationship.
Now here’s what I find truly remarkable. Paul and John had not collaborated on a song in two years. Musically, they were going in vastly different directions. Personally, they were no longer united by the loss of their mothers. Socially, they lived in different worlds. And even though Yoko may not have been the cause of the Beatles’ break-up, she certainly exacerbated their disharmony and discord. In spite of all this and more, Paul was able to set aside his musical, personal and professional differences and dislike of Yoko and her unwanted presence at their recording sessions. John was able to communicate what he had just gone through and Paul not only got it, he got it so well that he and John recorded and mixed the entire song in just nine hours!
And this is what I’m expressing in my painting of The Ballad of John and Yoko. The two sit atop a fiery red lava flow of ill will and hard feelings, fueled by their own torrid passion on both a physical, mental and spiritual plane. And yet, the band stands nearby, playing their song even as their song is inextricably tied to the very forces that are causing the band to disintegrate. Just like John and Paul wrote and mixed this song in one very fast-paced session, I also rendered this painting in one fast, fluid sitting.
Please call the gallery if you’re interested in acquiring one of my original Beatles paintings …. Or a print of your favorite work. The telephone number of Lovegrove Gallery & Gardens is 239-938-5655. We’re waiting by the phone.