John Lennon Hilton Amsterdam 1969 interview in English – part 2

On 28th March 1969, just days after their wedding in Gibraltar, Konstantin Miles spent three hours interviewing John Lennon and Yoko Ono in the Hilton Amsterdam Hotel during their first bed-in for peace. This interview was published in the Yugoslav weekly TV, radio and entertainments magazine Studio (similar to the BBC’s Radio Times) over three issues starting on 12th April 1969. Part 2 was featured in issue 263 published on 19th April 1969 – see below.

This interview has never been available in English, so I salvaged all the relevant magazines and translated it.

Official photographs of the meeting are online here – although there is no mention of Konstantin, and the photos are dated to 25th March – yet in the interview Miles says he met Lennon on a Friday – which would have been the 28th.

This is part 2 of the 10,000+ word interview… part 1 is here…. part 3

First page of part 2 of the Lennon interview in Studio magazine.

Hilton Amsterdam Hotel

Interview by the editor of Izbor Konstantin MILES with the most famous Beatle John LENNON (part 2)

THE WORLD IS A BIG “PARTY” (continued from the last issue)

“Starting over with Yoko!”

K. MILES: — And now a tired, cheesy, overused question: What has in fact been the key to your success? What do you think: could you do it again?

J. LENNON: — But I’m in the process of repeating it with Yoko right now. I still don’t know if it will work for me. Time with tell.

K. MILES: — Does this mean you’re starting all over again? You know the system: sponge in hand, erase everything that was and start from the very beginning.

J. LENNON: — What I’m doing with Yoko is like starting from the very beginning, as if nothing existed before. And it’s not easy. Well, we only just got our joint record Two Virgins out on Apple itself, where people reacted very violently against it. At least at the start. Now they don’t think so. And then the things that Yoko and I create together… these things are so ahead of their time… so to speak… so “crazy” in the positive sense of the word… that even the power I supposedly have in our organisation is not enough for me to do everything the way I want. And that’s why I feel like I’m starting all over again because I have to fight my way through. Of course, it’s all very exciting and fun. Yoko and I have started a new career together. Us two.

K. MILES: — Good. And the other Beatles?

J. LENNON: — Each of them is doing something individually… for example, Ringo is making a film… However, we will continue to create as a group, as The Beatles, because The Beatles are a power, and that means influence. I have joined up with Yoko. I have started a completely new career. And it’s just like what you mentioned in your question: I’m starting all over again. Admittedly (he laughs), I’m starting from scratch, but as a child of rich parents.

K. MILES (addressing Lennon’s wife): — I have to give you a slightly double-edged and somewhat old-fashioned compliment. From the context, you will see that I am sincere and well-intentioned. So, you’re simply not photogenic. You are actually an attractive and beautiful woman, even very pretty, and in the photographs, you look… better that I don’t say what you look like. There, I couldn’t resist telling you that.

YOKO ONO: — That’s very nice of you to say that. Thank you.

J. LENNON: — You know, some photographs of Yoko are good, but there are very few.

K. MILES: — I have to admit, as harsh as it may seem, that I haven’t seen a single one of those good photos. At least not in the papers and publications that pass through my hands, and there are a lot. (Turning again to Yoko Lennon). We have to come to terms with the fact that you are simply not photogenic.

J. LENNON (relentless): — I have seen a few of her beautiful photos, but only a few.

K. MILES: — So, Mr Lennon, I really have no words to praise your artistic achievements. I admire you, honestly, I really do. You, yourself, said that words are too clumsy a communication tool, and even more so because I have to communicate in English. However, I must repeat that I admire you. What you’ve done in music is fantastic, magnificent. Don’t think that I like to throw around empty compliments, but I can’t resist comparing you to Picasso in one thing: like him, you also have a fantastic ability not to repeat yourself, to constantly introduce something new into your creativity, to constantly surprise people. You let the pack follow you, chase you, but when your competitors seem to have caught up with you, you come out with something completely new and unexpected. Let’s throw overboard (as the English say) false modesty and similar philistine stunts. Let’s talk openly, with cards on the table. So try to explain to me (after all we talked about communication difficulties)… try to explain to me how you actually create. There is a nice joke about it. “Lennon whistles to McCartney, and McCartney whistles back to Lennon. That’s the whole secret.” That quip reminds me of something Johann Sebastian Bach said about the secret of his masterful organ playing: “It’s very easy for you. You just have to press the right key at the right time!” Come on, tell me how you create: for you, for example, is the act of creation a process of the intellect (that is, something deliberate) or an emotional, perhaps even instinctive, impulsive process?

Centre spread of issue 263 of Studio magazine, 1969.

J. LENNON: — You know, there are certainly intellectual moments. We all suffer from intellectualism. However, my main opus is primitive. Picasso needed forty years to become a primitive painter. I was born a natural primordial primitive, and so was Yoko. And so was Paul. We were born primitives, but at one stage we almost didn’t become intellectuals. The greatest part of our music is emotional. It is written music… how can I say… “from the air,” you know. I listen, I hear, I think, and then I create…

K. MILES: — Please, say that again. That is very important.

J. LENNON: — I lie down and I listen. I hear some melody and then I work it out. The best music is created when it comes to you by itself, when it comes naturally. However, of course, if I have… as you journalists say… a “deadline”… let’s say when I just have to write three songs by Monday… then I’ll come up with them. Or, more often, I have certain vague, hazy ideas in my head, ideas that I have collected, songs that I’ve “heard” but have not set to music. So if, let’s say, a “deadline” is coming, I look at what I have in the archives of my head, so I can easily “cobble together” two or three songs at a time if I really have to. Sometimes such songs are good. But the best are the ones that come to me “out of thin air.”

K. MILES: — You never say to yourself, for example, something like this: “Let me create something completely new! Let me shock the audience!”?

J. LENNON: — No, absolutely not, not at all! For me, what is new comes naturally, by itself… I mean, I never set out to create something new. I open something, and then it comes out as new or it doesn’t come out. There, that’s it.

K. MILES: — You are an excellent poet. Your poetry would hold up even without music. Do you think the audience understands you? What happens to your sense of humour when, for example, you read the pompous dissertations of professors, mostly from American universities, who swarm over your poetry like moles and discover some hidden messages in it?

J. LENNON: — It’s certainly fun to read how these “professors” talk about some kind of hidden messages that they deciphered in my songs, it’s a shame that they don’t study adverts or texts on toilet paper rolls as carefully, because I’m sure they would have discovered all kinds of hidden messages there too. About my songs and their messages, and also about my music, I think this: every song I write, every song I compose can mean to each person what he himself finds in it, so it can mean something different to each person. Of course, if you really look for it and if you’ve got it in your head, you can find hidden intellectual messages in each of them. Just like, if you put in the effort, you can find symbols in every, most banal, room. If you get it into your head, you will find them. However, if you don’t look for them, you won’t find them. You either see them or you don’t: it doesn’t depend on me but on you. Why do these professors see them, these American professors, why them exactly? Because they imagined that they liberated themselves from their snobbery, their intellectual snobbery, they think they are no longer snobs. But they’re wrong. They are still snobs. What’s going on with them? Some simply pretend just to make themselves important. The others are looking to justify themselves for liking The Beatles’ music or for being attracted to our poetry. Only, as intellectual snobs, they cannot stomach that music and poetry as pop music or as folk music or as primitive music. No, they have to find another, more worthy justification. And they find it. They say: “This music is essentially intellectualistic: this music, in fact, means so-and-so, it has a so-and-so (certainly intellectualist) message!” They don’t have the strength to say: “I simply like this music, just like any fourteen-year-old child likes it!” They are looking for an excuse to be able to enjoy an art that is new to them.

K. MILES: — They join in like 100% “squares” (something like philistines). And that’s why in your poetry and music there are elements that are “square.”

J. LENNON: — Yes, that’s it, that’s it.

K. MILES: — One more tired question: What is the bank balance of your success? If you add up all the positives that success has brought you and subtract all the negatives — what’s left?

Happy are those with money and those without it the rest live in hell

J. LENNON: — So, it is positive that I have an influence and that I can use that influence for things that I like, that attract me… to try to influence the youth, for example. Various small things act negatively, for example, I can’t walk down the street like an ordinary person, and so on, things like that. Of course, the positive sides of success far outweigh the others. But there was a time, there was a phase… when it seemed like The Beatles were going round and round… there was a time when it seemed like all that success, everything we’d achieved, was a waste of time. We discovered then that money was not the answer to what we were looking for, for what we cared about. We discovered that not even fame was the answer. It seemed that neither fame nor money had any meaning to us except that they represented something that we had longed for before and then it disappointed us. We got what we wanted to get, and then it suddenly lost its meaning, you understand.

K. MILES: — This is a very old truth, at least when it comes to money, and to fame.

J. LENNON: — Money was not very important to me even when I didn’t have it. I wasn’t unhappy not to have it. And when I got to it, I suddenly realised that it doesn’t make sense by itself, you understand. Now I see that money and fame can make sense, because they allow you to do things like this, to exploit them for propaganda. They allow you to be free. My philosophy is this… that is, my point of view, my experience, if you will: people who have a lot of money are free, and those who have no money at all are also free. Whilst those in between… they live in hell.

K. MILES: — Judging by your own story, and the story of the other Beatles… there is something almost… how should I say… something almost eerie about The Beatles. You almost seem to exist as one body with four heads or perhaps as four bodies with one head. Please don’t think that I’m trying to be sarcastic…

J. LENNON: — I don’t think that.

K. MILES: — Allegedly, you don’t even talk, but communicate without words, using a coded speech of small, invisible to other people, signs…

J. LENNON: — Yes, almost like that.

K. MILES: — I guess I’m too stupid to get it, isn’t that another joke, more Beatles’ tomfoolery?

J. LENNON: — No, not at all. We communicate without many words as musicians and as friends. Of course, we also talk a lot. But you have to take into consideration that we’ve been playing and singing together for more than ten years. Right on the musical level, it is enough for me to just look, in a certain way, let’s take to Paul, so that he understands clearly as back of his hand, that this and that will happen, that he needs to do this and that. And vice versa. Otherwise, when it’s not about music, we really have nothing to talk about, again because we’ve known each other for so long, you know. Everything else is just talking, gossiping, not communicating. I don’t really think there are many things worth communicating about. We repeat ourselves countless times in front of each other, which is also a second-rate type of communication. Otherwise, I can safely say that between us, The Beatles, precisely because we spent so many years together, a kind of telepathy was created. Certainly, the fact that we stayed together for so long means that there is something between us, not just a common success that would bind us. There must be something more. Because otherwise, if you put five (sic) people in a room and keep them there for five years, they’re going to go crazy or kill themselves, and that didn’t happen with us. That’s why the connection, which you described as a deep connection between us, exists, it certainly exists. Maybe it’s about empathy. I discovered the existence of such a deep, primal bond between me and Yoko too. The connection between us is also telepathic and almost magical: we literally do not have to use words to understand each other, to communicate. When one of us two says something, to the other or the other also thinks the same. And my relationship with The Beatles is also like that. We all think alike, and not only in the field of music. I think that is very good.

Telepathy, or vibrations or waves of emotions

K. MILES: — You were recently interviewed by David Frost on independent London TV. I was not in London at the time, but I did read an abridged transcript of the interview. You tried to explain your views on vibrations, “waves of emotion” as you said. You said that everyone emits such invisible waves and radiations. Is this some kind of telepathy? In any case, you are very excited about it.

J. LENNON: — I, you know, could not give it any specific name. I think telepathy is a nice word, but only because most people can understand it, because they can use it to get some sort of idea of what it’s about. When it comes to “vibrations,” I cannot find a term to describe this phenomenon. It’s just like someone asking you to describe electricity. You know that it exists, so if you put a light bulb in a lamp and turn on the switch, it will glow, so electricity is there, it exists. That can still be explained somehow. But if I try to describe my electricity that is radiating towards you as I speak or your electricity that is radiating towards me… or if I try to describe the electricity that occurs between me and Yoko… or those invisible radiations that everyone’s spirit emits… if I try to explain, I become powerless. And that’s the only reason I use words like telepathy, or vibrations, or waves of emotions… because it’s so elusive that it can’t be described in words. I know it exists because I’ve experienced it, but I can’t describe it. Just like I can’t describe the taste of chocolate.

K. MILES: — Yes, yes, I understand you completely. But, do you feel my vibrations? Answer that question as sarcastically as you want.

J. LENNON: — Yes, of course, I feel them, of course. And I believe that you feel my vibrations too. You know, for me it is a very fascinating, exciting subject. Here’s what I think about it: the world is a big community, a big “party,” gathered in one single room, do you understand? The world is, therefore, one big community that has gathered in one room, and it’s just a very sad community, unhappy. And what am I trying to do? What am I striving for? I trying to be that happy guy, that good-humoured, cheerful guy, who shows up at that sad “party,” where everyone is grumpy, the guy who shows up anywhere with a funny, fake nose or starts cracking jokes. What happens when a guy like that turns up? The atmosphere immediately changes, it gets more cheerful. But it could also be a different situation. Someone comes to a good mood company — moody or aggressive, you understand. Someone comes in that kind of mood and I immediately feel their vibes. Not just by his face, his scowling face, because there are cunning guys who know how to hide their true emotions so that they don’t show them on their faces. But you feel the coldness that emanates from them. There, that’s what vibrations are for me.

K. MILES: — In that same interview with David Frost, you presented some interesting thoughts about art. You and Yoko. Would you now explain them to the Yugoslav readers who, of course, did not have the opportunity to see the television show?

J. LENNON: — I can’t remember exactly what I was talking about then. I remember the important thing, which was what Yoko said, something that I deeply believe in and keep repeating. Art is communication, and communication is art. Everything is art, and art is everything. Usually, “art” is, so to speak, a word from journalistic jargon, a label, but it seems that human beings feel some kind of deep, primordial need for labels, they like to be told: “This is art!” “This is poetry!” I think such labels make no sense. I think that everything is art, that every communication is art. That’s why a copy of a newspaper is also a work of art, as is your interview… and that’s because it’s communication.

K. MILES: — Would you describe yourself as a happy man? I’m not asking that inanely. For example, there is the question of the picture on the cover of Sergeant Pepper’s (The Beatles are standing over a grave, and below it is written “The Beatles are dead!”). But, of course, it’s not just about that. Maybe it was just a “stunt” or that’s how you wanted to say that one phase in your history has passed and a new one is coming, that you have become new, different Beatles. It’s about something else. For example, about the change that can be seen on your face. Whilst I was preparing for this interview, I made an effort to look at your old photographs. At that time you all looked kind of cheerful, almost mischievous. Now your face is sad, somehow melancholic. Maybe I’m wrong…

The only true happiness – meeting Yoko

J. LENNON: — I think I am much happier now today than I was in the Sergeant Pepper phase. And the photographs taken before that, before Sergeant Pepper, those photographs should not fool you. They were taken and chosen like that because we had to look happy and cheerful in them. These were simply photographs intended for publicity, and at that time, our publicity machine wanted us to look cheerful. Even then, we didn’t like to “fool,” to pretend, but we had to. And that’s why we even tried to look happy and cheerful whenever we saw a photographer nearby. In the first photographs, I even had a somewhat boyish face, and the photographers seemed to like it, so they highlighted it everywhere. And now about happiness. I’m happier today than I’ve ever been, because I’m in love for the first time in my life and because I’m having a wonderful time with my wife, you know. And I am happy because of the work I do and because of the actions I’m doing, such as, for example, this action for world peace. Today, in fact, I am happier than I have ever been, I can honestly say that. However, I still believe in the saying that “those who do not know are happy, that ignorance is the greatest happiness.” Because the more I think about what the world is like today, how difficult it is to even survive as a human being in it, let alone be happy when I think about it, I become sad. Maybe it’s the sadness that comes with age, ageing, so again something you have to think about. That is why my claim that I am happier today than ever should be taken with caution because it does not mean that I am completely happy, you understand: I am just happier than I have ever been or I am less unhappy. People once said: “Oh, how happy The Beatles are! How lovely it is for them!” And I tell you that the only real happiness I’ve had in my life was meeting Yoko. Everything else was what I had to do, everything else was hard work.

K. MILES: – I see that you are a very honest and open man. That’s why I have to ask you one question related to this marriage of yours. Tell me: don’t you have the impression that the fact that you got married, that it was a “square” act, huh?

(To be continued)

Issue 263 of Studio magazine featured Croatian singer-songwriter Ibrica Jušić on the cover.

Konstantin Miles interviewed John and Yoko once more in 1971 here., and Ringo Starr in early 1970 here.

(Of course my translation will not be a perfect representation of Konstantin’s original transcript/audio recording since this has seemingly been lost.) Apparently Konstantin did send a final draft of the interview to John for approval – see below:

In July 1985 the interviewer Konstantin Miles was interviewed by Denis Kuljiš in Studio magazine:-

DK: Surely your most famous interview was with John Lennon and Yoko Ono.

KM: I had two interviews with them. The first was when I found out through some fellow journalists in London that Lennon was travelling to Amsterdam with his wife. I was just about to buy a Burberry coat, but instead, I spent that money on a plane ticket and went to the Netherlands. I was asked for a visa at the airport there, but I didn’t have one. They took me to a supervisor who was a civilized native of Papua, very kind, who allowed me to stay. I found Lennon in a hotel, through his press manager, who allowed me to stay for ten minutes and talk about the act of lying in bed by which John Lennon and Yoko Ono were protesting for world peace… However, I stayed for three hours. I somehow managed to get a very good vibe from him, he was a very bright, and actually very handsome man. When I told him he was a pantheist, he didn’t hesitate at all to ask what that was. Yoko Ono was lying in her nightgown, and he was in his pyjamas, we were talking, whilst the head of the press kept winking at me to go out… Then Lennon threw him out of the room.

DK: When did you have the next interview?

KM: The Beatles had just split up, and Lennon had bought a house in Epson. In the beautiful ambiance, there was a white piano – Lennon played on it with one finger and sang to me. I intended to go and meet him in New York, for a third interview, but he was murdered in the meantime. He was pleased with our first conversation, he had said that it was one of the best he had given for a newspaper. I did send him a translation of the interview, it was about 40-50 pages long…

DK: Has everything been published?

KM: Only one part.

DK: Did you ever think of publishing a book of your interviews?

KM: Nobody made me an offer, and I didn’t want to. I’m quite lazy.

(Konstantin Miles died in 1989, he had no heirs because his son and daughter died before he did, both committing suicide. Konstantin’s widow died in 2017)

On a lighter note, in 1969 John and Yoko posted 2 acorns to Yugoslavia’s President Tito (1 of 50 world leaders at the time) to be planted as part of their quest for world peace.

John Lennon Hilton Amsterdam 1969 interview in English – part 1

On 28th March 1969, just days after their wedding in Gibraltar, Konstantin Miles spent three hours interviewing John Lennon and Yoko Ono in the Hilton Amsterdam Hotel during their first bed-in for peace. This interview was published in the Yugoslav weekly TV, radio and entertainments magazine Studio (similar to the BBC’s Radio Times) over three issues starting on 12th April 1969.

This interview has never been available in English, so I salvaged all the relevant magazines and translated it.

Official photographs of the meeting are online here – although there is no mention of Konstantin, and the photos are dated to 25th March – yet in the interview Miles says he met Lennon on a Friday – which would have been the 28th.

This is part one of the 10,000+ word interview… part 2part 3.

The first page of the interview in Studio magazine with John Lennon and Yoko Ono by Konstantin Miles in the Amsterdam Hilton Hotel on 28th March 1969.


Editor of Izbora Konstantin Miles recently had an interview with John Lennon in Amsterdam, the most prominent of The Beatles. K. Miles is the first journalist from any socialist country to interview The Beatles.


I had prepared for this interview for a full four months. It was promised to me right away during my first attempt to do it back in November of last year when I first visited the headquarters of The Beatles, Apple Corps. However, at that time, The Beatles were not giving any interviews to anyone, absolutely no one, for some reasons that were convincingly explained to me and which I accepted as being personal.

At the end of January, I again visited Derek Taylor, the all-powerful Beatles’ press officer. I had only come to make arrangements for a later meeting. At that time Taylor told me: “Do you want to meet John today? You know, he’s thrilled with the idea of being interviewed by a communist journalist.” I said no. “I don’t want to do just anything.” I phoned Taylor in mid-March, a few days after returning from Paris. I said that I would be in London again in the last week of March.

However, when I arrived at Apple I was in for a shock. Lennon had suddenly decided to get married and travelled from England to Gibraltar, whilst Taylor’s wife gave birth to their seventh (sic) child the night before I arrived. At Apple, only the regular secretaries remained on the scene, and they could not tell me when Lennon would return to London. The next day I got Lennon’s message from Taylor saying that I should wait for him in London or that I should fly to Amsterdam. I decided to travel to Birmingham the following day, for a day, for an interview with Richard Chamberlain, the former Doctor Kildare, and the day after that I took an English plane to Amsterdam. That was on Thursday. On Friday, around four o’clock in the afternoon, I found Lennon in an apartment in the Hilton Hotel, the only large building that uglifies beautiful Amsterdam.

Lennon surprised me. He has a very sharp and intelligent look, a voice as if made for some kind of political tribune, a voice that amazes with its energy and penetration, but that did not surprise me, but something else: his unusually mild appearance. At times, Lennon turns into an almost curious boy. This man with no complexes does not hesitate to ask such questions that might give the impression that he is ignorant. Only, he can afford it. Both as a brilliant composer and as an excellent poet. And (if it even matters) as one of the most famous people on our planet.

KONSTANTIN MILES: — A few months ago, London’s Daily Telegraph published the results of a poll about the most influential British people today. It wasn’t just some run-of-the-mill survey with hundreds of thousands of readers, but with the most prominent journalists, sociologists and publicists who were questioned. That poll showed that The Beatles are the most influential, by far the most influential British people today… influential where it is felt, where it counts: influencing the way of life and thinking. Far behind you, the famous television interviewer David Frost took second place. Harold Wilson was, I think, ninth or tenth, I don’t remember exactly. This is, let’s say, detail number 1. Detail number 2: the American weekly Time (and you or I can think what we want about it) wrote: “Only Hitler has affected people this way. When The Beatles speak, hundreds of millions listen.” Detail number 3: a few months ago, you published a photograph of yourself and your current wife on the album cover of Two Virgins. You were both naked, from the front and the back. Of course, these three details are not connected, but still… I’d like to ask you my first burst of questions. The first question would be something like this. The result of the Daily Telegraph poll actually represents what the English call an “understatement”… let’s say a half-truth… because you are amongst the most influential people on our planet.

JOHN LENNON: — Thank you.

K. MILES: — I know or I assume that you are not consciously trying to be influential. So when that’s the case, tell me how your sense of humour reacted to the results of that British poll and the article in Time (if you read any of it)?

J. LENNON: — So it’s really funny to be compared to Hitler. On the other hand, it’s not at all wrong for me to have that influence that you’re talking about… right now. Because I definitely want and try to use it… right now, specifically now, for the cause of peace. But otherwise, no offence, don’t pay too much attention to what your colleagues write…

K. MILES: — I certainly can’t accuse myself of harbouring any illusions about…

J. LENNON: — You know, one week they write one thing, the next week another. Maybe in a few days, they will start writing that we are the most unpopular and least influential people in the world.

K. MILES: — But, what about you, John Lennon, what about you as a person — or as an artist or as a global figure… what pleases you the most… what do you like the most about the influence you have? Of course, you cannot deny that influence.

J. LENNON: — I don’t deny it. I also don’t deny that I use it, you know. I like that I have it, and I like it because it, that influence, gives me the possibility to use it to achieve some things that I consider good.

K. MILES: — One is the fight to preserve world peace, I know that. But I guess there are also other things that you are fighting for with your influence?

J. LENNON: — I think peace is the most important thing of all. And after peace, there are some things, some other goals.

K. MILES: — For example?

J. LENNON: — Some social things. That, first of all, that.

K. MILES: — More precisely, please. What for example?

J. LENNON: — Well, for example, I would like to change the way people eat and to change the education system. In the old days, in the past, people in power kept the people in submission in such a way that they did not educate them. Today they oppress them in other ways. For example, they oppress them by feeding them bad food and so prevent the development of human abilities, human intellect, and spirit. Maybe the bigwigs don’t know that the capacity of the human spirit can be increased with a better diet, maybe they know it, but they won’t increase it, because they want to keep people in submission. However, if one day they realise that if they feed people properly instead of feeding them with chemicals, production will increase… maybe they will do something to improve the diet of the masses.

K. MILES: — However, you didn’t tell me how that poll in The Daily Telegraph affected your sense of humour… the English humour, whose first rule is that no one should take themselves too seriously. I was thinking about that.

J. LENNON: — That struck a nerve with my sense of humour, especially when I heard that comparison to Hitler.

K. MILES: — And now we come to the famous photograph. I saw it… I even saw a huge enlargement of it on the wall of an office at Apple, at Derek Taylor’s. So, it seems to me that there is something almost… let’s say… something almost philosophical about that photograph (which I don’t consider lascivious at all, because you both look so ordinary, so everyday, so average, that the photograph seems almost modest). So, I think that this photograph has a message, a very primal message, connected to a deep-rooted human instinct… one real universal instinct: a primal man shows his contempt for ‘X’ or ‘Y’ by showing them his bare backside, to “photograph” him as our children say. But, in today’s photo-sexual escalation, the buttocks are no longer interesting at all. That’s why you took the photograph of the two of you from the front… to show contempt, defiance… isn’t it?

J. LENNON: It is obvious that a living person can be photographed in many ways. It is also obvious that everything that you do can be interpreted in a hundred ways. Let’s say, you can be photographed like this or like that… let’s take it like we did… and then let it be known: “Shame on you who think this is an obscene photograph!” Do you understand? I don’t think that photograph was obscene. It only became that in the eyes and heads of those who are themselves obscene. On the other hand, in it, in that photograph, there is indeed contempt, you noticed it exactly, absolutely right. It in there is contempt for the philistine attitudes towards nudity. In it there is contempt for human stupidity and prejudices. And that means… therefore… that in it there is contempt for the “Establishment” (the ruling class) because the Establishment also thinks dirty.

K. MILES: — But also, when we’re already talking about your enormous influence, I have to quote you something that you won’t really like. It’s about something that I read about you in Ramparts, one of the few American magazines that I respect. Only, I’m afraid you won’t like this quote.

J. LENNON: — Just read it nicely.

K. MILES: — So Ramparts writes: “The Beatles come out in front of the world with their whining sayings of their harmless values — All You Need is Love — whilst the kids are building barricades in the streets, and cops are smashing their heads in with truncheons and rifle butts!”

J. LENNON: — We’re telling the protesting youth that we do not believe in violence, physical violence, that we do not believe in a revolution that is created by violence. There have been various revolutions so far in history. They achieved certain successes, they helped people to improve their standard of living in a certain way, to a certain extent. But, at the same time that was not all. From a spiritual view, they did not achieve what they might have wanted to achieve. In fact, I don’t think that any revolution has achieved exactly what it set out to achieve, what it was carried out for. That’s why I say to the youth of the world: If you are already protesting, and you have to protest, do it in a peaceful way, without violence. My role models are Gandhi, Dr Martin Luther King and Christ… and some others. I believe in the law of action and reaction, one of the fundamental laws of nature and the world. I believe that the motivations of the children who are erecting barricades in the streets, I believe that their motivations are good and noble, absolutely correct, and I am completely on their side. I’m on their side, and I’m not sure that I wouldn’t have done the same if I were in their situation. But, I believe that violence begets violence… and if the violence is not started by cops, someone in the crowd will start it. I think like this: the ruling system needs to be changed, but by infiltrating it and draining it from the inside. Don’t break it… er… don’t tear it down, smash it, break it, because this generation can’t afford to spend half of its life or more building what’s broken. It is necessary to act from the inside, inside the system. After all, most of the people who make up the Establishment today will be dead in 15 to 20 years, and then we, us, will be the Establishment, and we will rule. And because of that, what sense does it make to build barricades, and break pavements to get projectiles, what sense does it make to riot against the cops when the main goal, the main target of the fight, is the system itself? The system and common way of thinking of most people. That needs to change. By that, I don’t mean to say that the way people dress or live or spend their leisure time should be changed. These are all just superficial things. The way people think needs to change, the spirit of the people needs to change, you have to get into the Establishment, infiltrate it, and then from there start building a new world. (Editor’s note: Perhaps with this Lennon explained why the Establishment accepted and even supported The Beatles).

K. MILES: — I think I understood you. I just have to warn you about something. There is no real revolution without violence, without the use of violence. Everything else is just an illusion. What you said about revolutions, it can pass… only revolutions do not bear fruit to the first generation, but to the second, the third. But, we were talking about the cops, the police. In connection with them, I must ask you to explain to me a somewhat strange phenomenon. In the last few months, the cops have been frequent, almost regular visitors to your London flat…

J. LENNON (laughing): — Oh yeah, yeah, that’s right…

K. MILES: — …so the cops come regularly to your flat, but also the flats of the other three Beatles. They come with their dogs that then sniff through your home looking for cannabis…

J. LENNON: — Yeah, they sniff, damned sniffing (laughing).

K. MILES: — So, they sniff around looking for cannabis and most of the time they find nothing…

J. LENNON: — Well, it can’t really be said, they sometimes find something too… albeit a little, very little (laughing).

K. MILES: — Yes, I read: a gram, or so. OK. But how do you explain these frequent visits to yourself, ha? Did it occur to you that these police officers might actually be your secret but passionate admirers, cops who are simply taking advantage of their position and their rights to get close to their heroes, ha?

J. LENNON (laughing): — Of course, you’re joking. No, I don’t think that this new phenomenon has such a nice and funny explanation, although your theory is by no means “irrelevant.” I think it’s about something deeper. You know, to tell you the truth, the cops and whoever from the Establishment commands them… er… they have known for a long time that we take drugs. It was never any kind of secret. We’ve said it publicly, clearly and loudly. And yet, nothing happened to us. Someone in the command chain, someone was protecting us… of course for some reason of their own and some motives of their own. And then that protection that we enjoyed, that protection from the top that allowed us to publicly admit that we were taking drugs without anyone calling on us… then that protection was suddenly suspended, quashed, lifted. Why did it happen? Because we showed them our real flag! And now about the cops who come to us as regular visitors. It’s really about the same cops, but maybe that’s because they only have ten cops who know something about cannabis and only two dogs that can smell it. In the whole of the police force: ten cops and two dogs. We already know these cops and the dogs well. But let’s get back to your theory. I think that the main cop who is chasing and hunting us, I think that the main cop is one of those cops who collect scalps, that he is a scalp hunter. He’s got the Rolling Stones’ scalp. He wants people to say about him: “He catches them all, they can’t escape him.” He only chases scalps. He doesn’t care what happens to us after he’s caught us. The main thing for him is that he caught you, that he has just caught you. He gets fame as the bounty hunter of famous people.

K. MILES: — You know, when I asked you this question, I actually wanted to paraphrase something that the late Brian Epstein had said to the press when you didn’t want to perform in the Philippines at an event organised by the president of the republic there. Epstein had then said: “Uh, these statesmen! Those guys only care about making themselves important in front of their kids by knowing The Beatles and how they talked to them!” I wanted to paraphrase what Epstein had said and relate it to the cops who so regularly… let’s say… visit you.

J. LENNON: — Yeah, it’s a similar thing. Because those cops are really hunting for scalps, the scalps of famous people. There are plenty of people who smoke cannabis in London, and the cops know it well. However, for the policemen, it’s better to arrest John Lennon or George Harrison, you know. He becomes more famous that way.

“OK! We opened the windows and created a draught…”

K. MILES (laughing): — But let’s get back to your great, huge influence. No one, not even your worst enemies… but you actually have no enemies, because even the Establishment loves and adores you…

J. LENNON: — Hey, easy, you’re not right there!

K. MILES: — How am I not right?

J. LENNON: — There are many people who hate us and who would prefer to liquidate us, who can’t wait to get rid of us.

K. MILES: — OK, there are plenty of people who hate you. But still, even your greatest enemy cannot deny that the changes that you have brought about through your influence are substantial, indeed great. At the very least (and I’m leaving your music aside) you freed the youth from the shackles of social traditions, you brought refreshing suspicion and doubt towards the God-given authorities, you taught the youth to despise conventions, to fight against hypocrisy. Let’s be clear: a moment ago I actually quoted an American, to put it mildly, conservative magazine. In fact, and these are my words, I think it could almost be said that: The Beatles opened the windows and brought in the fresh air of social change, but they didn’t even touch the building itself. It would almost be said that you were afraid of your own influence and that’s why you fled to Indian philosophy, to guruism, to transcendental meditation, to some… I must say… crazy projects about buying some Greek island… and that… please… after a colonel’s coup d’état. In your semi-official biography, someone said about you: “The biggest change in John is the drop in his aggressiveness.” Maybe this question isn’t fair, maybe it will seem mean to you, but I don’t think I can pass it by.

J. LENNON: — So, that’s a hell of a big question, by God! Let me think. What was that at the beginning…

K. MILES: — I was saying that with your influence you’ve helped the youth to free themselves…

J. LENNON: — OK. So, we opened the windows…

K. MILES: —… but you didn’t even touch the building…

J. LENNON: — Yes. I think you noticed that correctly. Only, it is consistent with our policy of infiltrating enemy structures rather than demolishing them. OK, let’s go back. So, we opened the windows, created a draught, so that the fresh air of change enters the house. OK! We also opened the door and let all the people, the young people, enter the house after us. OK. However, after some time, after a period, after we made a good draught, the wind caught us and carried us in a circle. That lasted several years. And then we stood still for two years, we were static, you understand? That happened to us… yeah… that happened to us. And that’s when it was the most dangerous for us. That we almost got lost in the Establishment… that we almost let them suffocate us… suffocate us as people, as individuals, do you understand? You need to know this to understand the incident with the Maharishi and the search for islands to buy and live on: we were doing all of this just to find ourselves again. Because we were lost in everything that happened with us when we became a concept, a global concept, as The Beatles, do you understand? And so that’s how we were searching for ourselves. We didn’t run away from anyone or anything. We could have found ourselves simply by looking in the mirror, but we didn’t want to. We looked for ourselves elsewhere, searched alone for ourselves, followed our sense of smell, our nose. And that took us to India. You know… no matter what was said and written… India benefited us a lot. Granted, George and I were the only two Beatles who actually stayed there. The other two didn’t. They just visited us and then went home, you know. George and I stayed there for three full months during which we meditated for hours and hours every day. And that turned out to be useful. No, it cannot be denied that it was a great spiritual exercise for both of us. Besides that, it taught me many things, which I did not know before. First of all, I learned that everyone is their own “guru”… you know: “guru” means “teacher”… so, everyone is their own teacher. After all, didn’t Christ and Muhammad… if I’m not mistaken… didn’t they say, teach something similar: that everyone can be a prophet? Yes, we are all prophets, we the people. OK. So, I had an excellent spiritual time in India, staying in my room for hours every day and meditating. It was great after two years of furiously rushing around. I came home spiritually refreshed, and then I met Yoko and, as you know, I began a new career.

The difference between The Beatles and The Stones

K. MILES: — When I asked my question, I was actually interested in some other things. However, it doesn’t matter. This is how I found out some interesting information about you, and we will come back to that later, when we talk about The Rolling Stones. However, you’ve started having a falling out with the authorities, that is, with the Establishment, only recently. Just a few years ago, Paul McCartney was the announcer at a concert attended by the Queen. In his announcement, he said something very nice: “Will the people in the cheaper seats clap your hands, and the rest of you if you’d just rattle your jewellery!”

J. LENNON: — Paul didn’t say that. I said that.

K. MILES: — In any case, it was a great “stunt.” That’s how those who were asked to rattle their jewellery understood it. They just enjoyed it! You were their darlings, their pets, and if you had bored them, they would take it as something extremely witty and great. On the other hand, The Rolling Stones were brutally persecuted from the very beginning. They are, I know, your friends. Come on, honestly: why the difference? Why were The Rolling Stones pariahs, “outcasts” from the very beginning, and you weren’t?

J. LENNON: — In fact, in the beginning, no one persecuted The Rolling Stones. They appeared a short time behind us and were met with more or less the same reaction. At that time, we were also called “long-haired,” “shaggy,” and “grubby,” do you understand? However, we infiltrated the Establishment stronger and deeper than they did, or if you will, we made greater compromises… in order to gain more power, do you understand? You know: we’re not The Stones. We are different, you know. The Stones are perhaps street fighters. I am not, you know. That was the basic difference between us. And so the Stones performed their moves in front of the public, you know. Only, they don’t do it like they used to. Trust me… although it may not look so… but they always used to play their cards, they knew how to play them, just like us. This is exactly why they should be thankful that they are still on the scene, that the Establishment did not manage to liquidate them. In any case, they expertly used all the publicity that it brought them. If today you compare The Stones with, let’s say, Jim Morrison, if you compare American and English bands today, The Stones come out as — reactionaries. Why? Because those bands came after them. So it happened that we looked slightly more reactionary than The Stones because they came a little after us. And everyone who appeared after The Stones made The Stones look like reactionaries compared to them, you understand?

(To be continued)

Copyright by Studio. Photographs: United Press (today ANP)

The cover of issue 262 of Studio magazine published on 12th April 1969 featured actress Olinka Berova (Olga Schoberová).

In this issue both George Harrison (with Pattie Boyd) and Ringo Starr appeared:

George Harrison’s run in with the law…. a piece about Barry Ryan and the New Musical Express top 20!
Ringo Starr dancing with Mia Farrow at the Dorchester in 1968.

Konstantin Miles interviewed John and Yoko once more in 1971 here., and Ringo Starr in early 1970 here.

(Of course my translation will not be a perfect representation of Konstantin’s original transcript/audio recording since this has seemingly been lost.) Apparently Konstantin did send a final draft of the interview to John for approval – see below:

In July 1985 the interviewer Konstantin Miles was interviewed by Denis Kuljiš in Studio magazine:-

DK: Surely your most famous interview was with John Lennon and Yoko Ono.

KM: I had two interviews with them. The first was when I found out through some fellow journalists in London that Lennon was travelling to Amsterdam with his wife. I was just about to buy a Burberry coat, but instead, I spent that money on a plane ticket and went to the Netherlands. I was asked for a visa at the airport there, but I didn’t have one. They took me to a supervisor who was a civilized native of Papua, very kind, who allowed me to stay. I found Lennon in a hotel, through his press manager, who allowed me to stay for ten minutes and talk about the act of lying in bed by which John Lennon and Yoko Ono were protesting for world peace… However, I stayed for three hours. I somehow managed to get a very good vibe from him, he was a very bright, and actually very handsome man. When I told him he was a pantheist, he didn’t hesitate at all to ask what that was. Yoko Ono was lying in her nightgown, and he was in his pyjamas, we were talking, whilst the head of the press kept winking at me to go out… Then Lennon threw him out of the room.

DK: When did you have the next interview?

KM: The Beatles had just split up, and Lennon had bought a house in Epson. In the beautiful ambiance, there was a white piano – Lennon played on it with one finger and sang to me. I intended to go and meet him in New York, for a third interview, but he was murdered in the meantime. He was pleased with our first conversation, he had said that it was one of the best he had given for a newspaper. I did send him a translation of the interview, it was about 40-50 pages long…

DK: Has everything been published?

KM: Only one part.

DK: Did you ever think of publishing a book of your interviews?

KM: Nobody made me an offer, and I didn’t want to. I’m quite lazy.

(Konstantin Miles died in 1989, he had no heirs because his son and daughter died before he did, both committing suicide. Konstantin’s widow died in 2017)

On a lighter note, in 1969 John and Yoko posted 2 acorns to Yugoslavia’s President Tito (1 of 50 world leaders at the time) to be planted as part of their quest for world peace.

Ringo Starr – lost 1970 interview

Issue 935 of the Yugoslav informative weekly VUS – Vjesnik u srijedu (Herald on Wednesday) published in Zagreb on 1st April 1970 contained an interview with Ringo Starr by the Croatian journalist Konstantin Milles (Miles) at Apple’s offices in London. This interview has seemingly never been published in English. So, I decided to translate the text as it was printed in VUS. It would seem that this interview was conducted just weeks before The Beatles announced their separation because the LA première of The Magic Christian and the police raid of Lennon’s Bag One exhibition are mentioned – i.e. January 1970. Barrie Wentzell’s photographs are seemingly dated to 1969.

Obviously my translation will not be an exact transcript of the original conversation but I think it contains insight into Ringo’s life and The Beatles at this critical point in time. If anyone can provide extra details I would be grateful 🙂


Konstantin Miles’ conversation with Ringo Starr, the simplest and most modest Beatle, who finds the meaning of life in his family and “kids.”
(Photographs by Barrie Wentzell)

When I entered the room into which I was led by secretary Derek Taylor, the Beatles’ “press chief,” something almost unbelievable happened to me. I was well aware that Ringo Starr had changed his look. I had seen at least thirty photographs of him in recent months with a “new edition” – that is, with a beard. Just a short time before that, I’d looked at his photos taken in Los Angeles at the United Press headquarters, at the gala premiere of the film (The Magic Christian – 29th January 1970) in which he stars with Peter Sellers – and in those photos, of course, he had a beard. But anyway, when he suddenly approached me now, in this big office in Apple, I still looked around, looking for him, even though he was standing right in front of me, offering me his hand.

The Ringo Starr, which was standing in front of me, was a bit confused because he (maybe) realised that something was going on, this Ringo Starr was completely different from the shaggy drummer I’d seen in hundreds of photos. The difference is not only that he now has a beard, and it should be emphasised that it is very neat, his beard – is a beard that could have been worn by some respectable and serious French statesman from the end of the last century. (This beard is something completely different from the famous beard that Lennon had when I interviewed him in Amsterdam: it is the beard of a man who, obviously, looks after himself and to the tidiness of his appearance.) There are also other reasons. Today, Ringo has a carefully groomed hairstyle, and he dresses with a discreet, measured elegance (of course by modern terms and standards, which means that no university professor or reputable banker would dress like that yet, but from today’s youth’s point of view, these clothes are quite conservative). A month before Derek Taylor spoke to me about Lennon: “Did you see his haircut? And what he’s wearing!” He said this almost with surprise, and then he added: “Well, he’s dressed kind of like you!” I burst into laughter: “So like some old philistine, a square, right? Is that what you want to say?” “No, I didn’t mean to say that…”Taylor began but then burst out laughing too. “The main thing is that we understand each other!” I said. Derek Taylor hadn’t told me that by accident. His statement “fell” into the context of the conversation we had had with him. And that again was all in the context of the events that have been going on with the Beatles lately (actually the last few months), about all kinds of rumours about them and so on. I don’t mean that stupid rumour about the death of Paul McCartney that had resonated so sensationally. I was not interested in that rumour, simply because I suspiciously thought that it was “mounted” by the Beatles’ propaganda service, and therefore ultimately my interlocutor Derek Taylor. (Truth be told, I have to admit that I don’t think so now, but since McCartney is “alive and well,” it doesn’t matter anyway.) I was with Taylor for the last time shortly before Lennon’s interview. After leaving that interview, I cursed myself because of inexplicably circumstances I had simply forgotten to ask him why he always used the past tense whenever he spoke of himself as a Beatle. The events that were taking place in the “Beatles Empire,” the various rumours that were circulating, made this very issue more and more important.

Especially the rumours that the Beatles were “in crisis”, that the disintegration of that band is “imminent” (a rumour that is completely absurd), that the Beatles have “came to a dead end,” that they are facing “financial ruin”…

But then things began to happen that were, to say the least, interesting: first there was a “court coup” in Apple, allegedly to save the entire concern from financial ruin that it almost ran into due to the long-standing “bohemian” leadership. The financial management, precisely with dictatorial powers, was taken over by a completely new man, brought in from America – and he then in a short time laid off half of the staff and liquidated half of the companies that belonged to Apple. Now the financial situations are reportedly settled (which is not difficult to achieve in the situation where money, after the release of each new long-play record, flows into the kitty like a torrent). As a Yugoslav, it was not difficult for me to notice the differences between the former “working atmosphere” at Apple’s headquarters (it was almost a “club” atmosphere, about which domestic readers do not need much explanation) and that of today’s. Many familiar faces have disappeared, such as the Greek inventor, with whom the Beatles had created a fantastic laboratory, spending several hundred thousand pounds on it. Since I had a big interview with him, I was interested in his subsequent fate, and more so because talking to him, I noticed that he was under a lot of nervous pressure, in a real situation of “non-stop stress,” “Where is Alex?” – I asked. “I don’t know,” answered Taylor. “I heard he was somewhere in London.” I didn’t ask any further. However, when Taylor told me that George Harrison was just in the process of buying a “new house” (a 120-room country mansion) that would cost him £150,000 – it became absolutely clear to me that, despite the rumours, the financial circumstances of Apple (and the Beatles) were absolutely fine. However, the disappearance of that bohemian “go and come” atmosphere, due to which Apple had always been my favourite place for business visits in London, it’s not just the atmosphere that rules in Apple. Although, not everything has changed. And not all the colourful creatures that gathered here have disappeared. For example, I was glad to find the young Londoner with the hair of a Papuan cannibal (which makes his head half a metre in diameter), who still serves drinks there, and in the meantime types up letters with one finger on each hand. Beat compositions were still constantly echoing in the rooms, and since my last visit, someone had mounted a small moving film projector that throws psychedelic optical effects on the walls. However, the beat music today is mixed with the constant brisk typing of typewriters, urgent business conversations being made over the phone – everything is somehow different, “business-like.”

The fact that Lennon cut his hair and dresses “like a philistine”, Ringo’s great tidiness in the way he dresses, the strange and perhaps slightly sad seriousness that reigns today in Apple (where for weeks they say the staff have been using the black humour question instead of a greeting: “Haven’t you been fired yet?”) – all of this suggests that great things are happening in Apple. I told Taylor this openly, and then suggested that he arrange interviews with at least two Beatles and Apple executives, because I wanted to write a report on the subject of WHAT ARE THE BEATLES ACTUALLY PLANNING? Taylor answered: “Yes, that would be a great subject, but you’ll have to be patient.” “How long?” I asked. He replied that he didn’t know, that he could not say for sure, but then, in a later conversation, in a different context, he informed me that this month the Beatles were meeting “for important decisions… very important decisions”… and that because of this, as cardinals when electing a new pope, they will be unavailable to outsiders, primarily to journalists, for a time. “Does this mean that a big turnaround is indeed being prepared? That the Beatles have found themselves at the end of the road… at least this current time? Of this stage?” I asked. “Something new and significant is sure to happen, but what…” “The Beatles themselves don’t know that yet, do they?” I said. Taylor looked at me and shrugged.

In this atmosphere of great changes, of which only the external symptoms I could see, and there “on the spot,” there where it has a completely different and greater meaning, more weight than in newspaper columns, in this atmosphere it was inevitable that I didn’t recognise Ringo at first glance, that I almost asked him where Ringo was, and when he would arrive. We sat down, or more precisely sank into huge armchairs at a large teak table that stood in front of the fireplace where real logs were burning. The Beatles had bought the only large three-story house, built in the Georgian style, in Saville Row several years ago, then they remarkably tastefully remodelled and modernised it, however, they left many things reminiscent of the past, most notably the fireplaces in the luxurious “boss” offices. Today this white building is one of the most beautiful in the City. Just as guardsmen are on duty in front of the royal palace or the Horse Guards barracks, there are always a few girls in front of the entrance to this building, waiting to see the Beatles “come to work.” On the very ground floor, at eye level, are the two windows of Lennon’s office with a typical “Beatles stunt”: the windows have been replaced with mirrors, and when a girl climbs the iron fence in front of the house, wanting to peek inside instead of Lennon or Yoko Ono’s they see their own face: something that always happens to little provincials. Ring’s office is located on the mezzanine floor but facing the courtyard of the building. Harrison holds court in a room next to Taylor’s, whilst Paul McCartney reportedly doesn’t have his own office at all, and when he comes to Apple, he borrows someone else’s. But this has been very rare lately anyway. In fact, only Lennon and Ringo Starr “sit” in the office every day, whilst the other two work from home.

We began to chat, waiting for the Papuan to bring us drinks.

MILES: There is a lot of talk about you and the other Beatles, and much is being written too. For example, like you feel that you’re losing touch with your audience, as though you consider you’ve moved away from the “source,” that you’ve retreated into some ivory towers. It is said, for example, that you lament for the good old days when you performed in public, went on tour…

STARR: If you were in our shoes then, you wouldn’t think so now. That was something scary. Something we certainly couldn’t stand anymore. We were young then. We are, admittedly, still today… aren’t we?… but still not so young…

MILES: Still, I have the impression that you feel some nostalgia for those times. And yes, you recently performed at some concerts and drummed in front of the audience…

STARR: Yes, but not with The Beatles. I did indeed go on one little tour with another group. I did it out of curiosity… maybe out of nostalgia too… but going on new tours with the Beatles… it’s simply out of the question. Touring is something terribly hard, something that is for people younger than us.

MILES: I wasn’t thinking that you’d really go on tour. I was thinking of the rumours that you were organising public concerts in front of an audience again… Now and then.

STARR: We won’t do that.

MILES: Is it because your music has become so complicated and so dependent on electronic gadgets that it would be impractical?

STARR: That is one of the things that we’d take into account if such a thing came to mind. But, that’s not the only thing. There is something much more important. We could be able play more simply, and so we could therefore perform in front of an audience, and yet our “sound” would be good, interesting, attractive. After all, you also know that some of our new compositions are very simple.

MILES: So what it is about then?

STARR: About something infinitely simpler. We know what such concerts would look like. These would not be concerts at all, just as our former performances in front of the audience were not concerts at the time when we were still Beatles… Man, we didn’t even hear ourselves in that hellish noise! They were not concerts. It was a circus. We are serious enough today that we wouldn’t want to put up with that.

MILES: You said: “Whilst we were Beatles…”Why do you and Lennon use the past tense when talking about yourself and the Beatles? After all, you’re still Beatles, aren’t you?

STARR (laughing): Of course we are, and yet we’re not… we’re not in the old sense. When we say that we were Beatles, then we mean those Beatles who raced around the world and performed in front of audiences, the Beatle-moptops, howlers… in that sense. We mean the young Beatles, the green Beatles, the red-faced Beatles…

MILES: But, isn’t that connected to something else? With something that only in a certain sense relates to the past, but is actually about what happened after that past, that affects the present, and even more, actually concerns the future. It is said that nothing could be said about you today that someone once… then… said wittily about you: that one does not really know whether you are one head with four bodies or one body with four heads; you used to be inseparable. Today you no longer are. You were inseparable in what you did. Today you all do your own thing.

STARR: It’s obvious that we have distanced ourselves from each other in a certain sense and to a certain extent. But the conditions were different then. We were constantly on the road, so that must have been one of the reasons that we were constantly together. We were mostly unmarried. We didn’t have families, we didn’t have wives, we didn’t have children. In that respect, we were freer, yet on the other hand, we were more restrained, more attached to each other… because of that we were constantly physically together… in the same hotel, on the same planes, under siege. There’s none of that today.

MILES: But even when you stopped touring and returned to London, you were still inseparable. At least for some time. You lived close to each, like neighbours, were constantly together, had dinner and lunch together, listened to records together… Today there’s no more of that…

STARR: Yeah, today there’s none of that really. I repeat: we got married, started families, widened our interests that are not always exactly the same. It’s one thing to keep four guys together, even if each has a steady girlfriend; it’s another to bring together four men who are already approaching middle age and even more their wives. And their children. But we are still connected… and not just because of business, so to speak.

MILES: So the rumours about the breakup of the band are unfounded?

STARR: Not only unfounded, but absurd too. We can do all kinds of outside activities. I, for example, am performing a bit in films, as an actor. John is leading the fight for world peace and organising exhibitions…

MILES: Which the police have raided… (Bag One – raided by police 16th January 1970)

STARR: … However, we know very well that we can only survive or fail as The Beatles, that it all starts and ends there. If we stop being Beatles… if we suddenly stop being Beatles… we would be left without a foundation.

MILES: And according to that…

STARR: … according to that we’re remaining The Beatles, and we will be for as long as the audience wants us. And they show us that they do want us by the successes achieved by each of our new records.

MILES: You mentioned your tours with other groups, and you didn’t, let’s say, mention anything else, which in your case is quite new: that you suddenly discovered you were a composer. How is that only now? And then immediately with such success. Haven’t you had inspiration before, so to speak? Has your muse only now started working?

STARR: I’ll tell you something you won’t believe: I’ve had ideas for compositions before, but I just didn’t know how to make them real…

MILES: What do you mean? That sounds quite unbelievable…

STARR: Melodies and tunes came to my mind… but I didn’t know how to… how can I explain… how to put them on paper, write them down, set them to music, that’s it…

MILES: I still don’t understand…

STARR: I only know how to play the drums. Did you ever hear of some composer composing with a drum?

MILES: Come on, please: you’re not going to claim that you don’t know any instrument other than the drum? And if you really need an instrument: if a melody comes to your mind, you could whistle it nicely to Lennon or McCartney… and they’ll make sure that it’s set to music.

STARR: That’s right, but I haven’t done it. That’s how my melodies came and went… but I just remained Ringo the drummer…

MILES: Whilst the others composed… That didn’t bother you? It didn’t bother you that, for example, it was said that the Beatles have three composers and one performer?

STARR: That I’m a little dull, right?

MILES: Not quite that, but…

STARR: I’ve never had any kind of complex about that. I am a simple and unambitious man… unambitious in the sense that I have no kind of pretensions, no intellectual pretensions, no creative pretensions… and I take life as it comes. That’s how I approach life and I deal only with what makes me happy…

MILES: And that is?

STARR: First of all, my family. I am crazy about my family! I just can’t wait to get back home, you know?

MILES: And what do you do there?

STARR: I deal with the children. I chat with the wife.

MILES: And do you, for example, listen to music… other people’s music?

STARR: I have all the possible electronics and stereo systems, high-fidelity and so on at home… and a huge number of records… but I don’t listen to much music. In fact, I never listen to it in the sense of sitting down, putting the turntable on and then listening. Nobody actually does that any more today. I eventually “listen” to music as a soundtrack to something else…

MILES: And what kind of music do you like to listen to the most in that sense?

STARR: I like rock ‘n’ roll… I like blues… I like country music… I like ballads…

MILES: Are there some performers or composers or groups that you especially like?

STARR: I’m afraid they don’t exist. At least they don’t come to mind now.

MILES: Tell me something that really interests me. Do you, the Beatles, still meet up… I mean in a social sense… with wives, friends… I mean not only for business.

STARR: We still meet, although less and less.

MILES: OK. So, can I ask you a question that just came to my mind… that is, whilst you were saying that you don’t listen to music. Do you, at these kinds of meetings, get-togethers, then play music… I mean for your own enjoyment, for your own pleasure?


MILES: I wanted to say: do you have jam sessions?

STARR: Yes, of course we do. Believe it or not, we love to play.

MILES: And what do you play then?

STARR: Just rock ‘n’ roll.

MILES: I expected that answer. But doesn’t that mean that rock ‘n’ roll, the music that you started out with, is the only music that really makes you happy, that really excites you… and that all that other stuff is intended for the audience?

STARR: I don’t think that could be said. We are also excited by that other music, but differently…

MILES: It’s actually about nostalgia for… let’s say… first love… and the fact that you can’t resist the raw power of rock ‘n’ roll, its originality. But, Lennon told me, his life was decided the moment he heard Elvis Presley’s first record… when he first heard rock ‘n’ roll. At that moment, he decided to buy a guitar and become a musician. Was it so sudden for you too?

STARR: I played in all sorts of groups even before Presley appeared. At the time, I didn’t think I would make a living from playing for the rest of my life. I should have become an engineer. But then the Beatles took me in… as you know, I was the last member of the group to join… they even ditched the guy who played before me…

MILES: You told me you were a simple guy, with no pretensions. But still, you can’t ignore the fact that as a Beatle you are one of the most influential Britons. All the polls prove this… even today. How does that affect you?

STARR: I don’t think about that. That is, I’ve never really thought about it much… I take care of that today…

MILES: In what sense?

STARR: I’m trying, when I already have influence, to make that influence positive. You see, for example, I’m full of family virtues. Besides that, I’m hardworking. Besides, I don’t “perform”… I mean: crazy, I don’t go crazy.

MILES: And yet you did get involved with drugs. And as such as an influential man!

STARR: Yes, but I did free myself, I completely freed myself. Because I realised where it was leading. Because I realised that a man who gets used to drugs… that that man loses his freedom, that he eventually stops being a man, that he turns into a “vegetable” – and ruins everything around him.

MILES: So you didn’t drop the drugs just because of the trouble with the police?

STARR: No. I stopped them because I realised where it was leading. Now I smoke cigarettes.

MILES: When they compare you to the other Beatles they say: “Ringo always follows the others! He’s excellent… a supporting actor!”

STARR: That doesn’t bother me. I don’t have any kind of pretensions. If people think I’m dull and if it pleases them, then let it. Of course, I have my own opinion about that.

MILES: I didn’t mean to allude to something so vulgar. That didn’t even cross my mind. Rather, it is said that you, The Beatles are preparing some great new things… I don’t mean new compositions but something completely new… that you are about to make a great turnaround.

STARR: But we were always creating something completely new. We never stood still. And we won’t in the future either.

MILES: And what will it be new in this case?

STARR: We still don’t know. At least I don’t know. Take that as an answer. If that something already exists, if it is “in progress,” I wouldn’t tell you about it anyway. That’s clear, isn’t it?

Page 3 of the 3-page interview.
The cover of VUS no. 935 published 1st April 1970, in Zagreb, Croatia.

This is the second interview I have uncovered related to The Beatles in old Yugoslav magazines. The first one was with John Lennon – you can read it here.