John Lennon Hilton Amsterdam 1969 interview in English – part 3

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 3 was featured in issue 264 published on 26th 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 3 (final) of the 10,000+ word interview… part 1 is here… part 2 here

First page of the 3rd part of the interview in issue 264 of Studio magazine.

(continued from last issue)


Interview by Izbor editor Konstantin MILES with the most famous Beatle JOHN LENNON (part 3)

He died in a bag!

J. LENNON: — Don’t think that we haven’t thought about it and discussed it. Just don’t think that any intellectual snobbery or the thought of doing something “square” would deter us from the intention of getting married, a real marriage. We’ve talked about it a lot, Yoko and me. You know, many things that the Establishment does are bad, awful and disgusting, but there are also many things that ordinary people do, and they are disgusting, ugly and wrong. On the other hand, the Establishment also has its positive sides, it has some foundations, so to speak, which are built on good intentions. I think that the wedding ritual is essentially a good ritual: symbolically and emotionally. Intellectually, spiritually, Yoko and I were “married” even before this. We lived like it for a year. Before we got our divorces, we were happy (sic). But one day, when that happened, a guy came and told us: “There, now you’re finally free!” Until that moment, we didn’t know that we weren’t free before that. And yet, when that man told us that, we felt as if we got rid of a burden, the burden of not belonging to ourselves but to others: me to my first wife, her to her husband, do you understand? Something opposite and similar to that happened when we got married the other day. The ceremony itself, the very ritual of our marriage, all of that — although it all came down to the fact that the man asked me: “Do you take this woman to be your wife?” to which I replied: “Yes, I do!” — the ceremony itself, that ritual, it was all very emotional. So emotional that Yoko cried and I only just held back the tears. Yeah, I almost burst into tears. I mean: love should not be approached intellectually. Love is an emotional process and the emotional part of getting married… I mean the ritual itself and putting on the ring… that was just wonderful. I think that marriage and putting on of rings… that these are things that existed before the Establishment and before “squares” existed. I think that it is a primal ritual deeply innate to man, and therefore something beautiful. And not only beautiful but also functional. It gives, it offers a man something intangible, something that cannot be described in words. When we got married, Yoko and I suddenly felt different. That evening when we flew and arrived in Paris, we felt different. And that’s just because some stranger said: “Now you are man and wife!” We lived together for a year before that. Both before and after our divorces, we felt good, very good. And yet, when we got married, something happened. Maybe some kind of superstition, maybe some kind of deep-rooted prejudice that was smouldering in us. Something changed and we suddenly became happier and somehow calmer.

K. MILES: — You didn’t, of course, get married in a church?

J. LENNON: — No, no! But, if we were attracted to the church ritual, maybe we would get into that too. In fact, I somewhat prefer the church to the state, to some extent. Although they are essentially one and the same.

K. MILES: I don’t think there is that well-known psychological love-hate relationship between you and your audience. Because you don’t allow the audience to press you with their tyranny. You refuse to conform to the image that the audience has of you, and so you are constantly freeing yourself from its influence and tyranny. Tell me: do you really care about your audience?

J. LENNON: — I care about myself first, and only then about the audience. I can’t do the reverse. I know what happens to stars who give in to the public. I had the opportunity to see such things. I saw Elvis Presley and many others spin in circles because they’re afraid of the audience because they’re afraid of how they’ll react if they change their style and I don’t know what. I’m always rushing forward, ahead of the audience. But don’t think that this is some sort of “policy” or “tactic” of mine, because then it would again be about yielding to the tyranny of the audience in a slightly different way. I believe that every artist must constantly go forward for his own sake, that he must not stop at any moment. A few years ago, we The Beatles experienced first-hand what it means to go round in circles. There is something you must not pay attention to, something you must not worry about: the fear that you might lose the audience. I lost a lot of my audience when I started living with Yoko, and now I’ll lose even more because I married her. I lost a lot of the audience before, before when I was just a Beatle. Just remember my statements about Christ! (Lennon said that The Beatles were more popular than Jesus Christ. K. M.) But I can’t care about the opinions of 12-year-old girls. That would be a waste of time.

K. MILES: — But 12-year-old girls are no longer your audience anyway…

J. LENNON: — Yeah, yeah, of course, they are not, but they used to be. When we left Liverpool, we lost the audience. The Liverpudlians thought that we were theirs, that they owned us, and they got very angry when we went to Manchester. And the people of Manchester were not happy when we went to London, just as later the English were not happy when we went to America. The Americans were angry when we, instead of America, preferred to go on tour in Japan. Everyone wants to own us, but of course, they can’t, because we don’t allow it. Amongst other things, and that’s why, because as soon as someone owns you, they start to despise or belittle you. And that’s why, because then you depend on their mercy. That’s why, to return to the question you asked me, I don’t pay much attention to the audience. I create songs, and so let the audience buy them if they like them or not buy them if they don’t agree with them… I already know that I will come up with something that will please both me and the audience.

Centre spread of Lennon interview in Studio magazine – with lyrics and photo of The Quarrymen.

K. MILES: — Yes, of course, you’ve always succeeded so far. But let’s go back to your success. When Napoleon was crowned, he showed the crown to Paulina, his slightly silly and cheerful sister, with whom he got along the best… he showed her the crown, winked and said: “We did it, little sis!” It’s just like he said: “It worked!” or “We’re on our way!” I think this is one of the most humane and sympathetic anecdotes about Napoleon.

J. LENNON: — Yeah, yeah.

K. MILES: — So now tell me nicely how you reacted when you realised that it “worked” for you on a global scale, huh?

Everyone can become their own Napoleon

J. LENNON: — Well, it was like this. Our fame escalated. When one of our records reached the top of the charts in England for the first time, we thought that we were at the peak of success, that we had “pulled it off.” Then we thought the same thing when we conquered America… we thought: “Now we really are at the top! We can’t go any further!” And when we thought that, we threw ourselves into buying anything and everything: we bought cars, we bought massive amounts of chewing gum, you know. We thought we’d succeeded. But then we realised that we hadn’t succeeded, you understand: that we hadn’t… how can I say… that we hadn’t reached the end. We realised that it is not enough to succeed, that you can’t stop, that you’re not allowed to stop… you understand. Well, just last night, just last night, Yoko and I talked about our act, I mean about our marriage and about this happening of ours for peace… we weighed up everything positive and everything negative about it, the good and bad. We talked about it for ages. And then this morning, around five o’clock, before dawn, Yoko and I winked at each other and said: “We succeeded!” But, we know that this is also something temporary, you understand. That in three months we will have to do something completely new. It’s good that you mentioned Napoleon. In his time, to “succeed” meant to gain control, the physical control over a situation. I’m going after something else. Actually, I’m not “going” but striving. I would like to gain influence over people’s opinions…

K. MILES: — Thought control…

J. LENNON: — No, that’s not what I want. I wouldn’t like to gain power or control over people’s thoughts, but something the other way around. I would like people to free themselves from the control to which they are subjected in the modern world. I’d like to free them from that. And I think that today everyone can become their own Napoleon. Just if they want.

K. MILES: — I have to ask you about something you yourself said. Please don’t think my question is rude. I read that one of your “projects” — and that is a very brutal and raw word — that one of your projects is to conceive a child right now, during these seven days that you are demonstrating for peace. You said that yourselves, and so that gives me the right to ask without too much risk of appearing indiscreet.

J. LENNON: — So (he laughs) it’s not really a “project.” I had journalists at a big press conference here in Amsterdam the other day (there were probably two hundred of them)… so the journalists asked me all kinds of questions and I thought it would be appropriate to tell them what Yoko and I will do here in Amsterdam, we’ll conceive a child. But, I must tell you immediately that we are not making any special efforts. (he laughs). I don’t really know what the special efforts to conceive a child would be. But, I think it would be poetic and romantic to conceive during our public event, which is dedicated to peace. And it would also be wonderful if Yoko fell pregnant in these circumstances, in these conditions, when we are physically and spiritually in such excellent shape. In seven days, we will return to everyday life, to our everyday routine and duties, to a completely different life. A person is not always in the same mood, in the same good mood. Everyone, even during the same day, goes through periods of good and bad moods. We are in an excellent mood constantly now. And that’s why we think it would be nice to conceive a child right now. Only, as I said before, we’re not making any special efforts to do it (he laughs).

YOKO LENNON: — I actually received a nice letter today. Some married couple asked us that, if we make a child now, we should definitely write to them about how we did it. (Yoko Ono, John Lennon and K. Miles all laugh).

K. MILES: — We laugh at that, but maybe that letter is also touching. It must have been written by some people who can’t have children. It exudes touching naivety and even goodness.

J. LENNON: — And I got a different letter: that two people, who get along as well as Yoko and me, that such people should not have children. One more myth. In any case, we’ll wait and see.

K. MILES: — I don’t know if you have “seen through me” yet. You know I love your music, I love it very much. I feel, I know that it means a lot, that it represents a lot. But I don’t know much about music. I understand just a little bit. Besides, I’m not an artist but a journalist.

J. LENNON: — But working in journalism too… let’s take creating questions for an interview like this… that’s an art too. I wouldn’t know how to do that.

K. MILES: — If you tried, you’d see that you can. But, tell me what does music actually mean to you?

J. LENNON: — I think that music for me… how can I say… is my secondary activity. Paul and I often say that music is our hobby. Of course, I’m exaggerating a bit. I would say, to be completely honest, this: music is simply a part of me, a part of my being, a natural part of me, like, let’s say, my hair. But it is nothing special to me. And that’s why, even though you don’t understand music, we can communicate nicely.

K. MILES: — You’ve said something like this several times: “People can’t live without illusions!” But what are your illusions? And can they even be illusions if you know that they are just that?

J. LENNON: — Admittedly, I don’t remember saying that, but I believe in it, so I guess I said it. And as for illusions… I don’t know what to think… well, I think that maybe everything is an illusion… that the Buddhists are right when they say that the whole world is an illusion… that man exists only if he believes in himself and, first of all, if someone else believes in him. There, that’s what I think. And I also think that everyone needs illusions so that we can communicate.

Why does he consider this interview more important than 20 others?

K. MILES: — Let me now ask you a question that I don’t really like to ask, but in this case, I will make an exception, because I am really interested in your answer. What do you know about my country? Do you have any impression about it?

J. LENNON: — I know that you have President Tito and that you are different from other communist countries, that you do not allow anyone to give you orders, that you are independent, that you are creating your own type of socialism. I think that Yugoslavia is the best of the socialist countries. You know, I believe in socialism, and not in capitalism.

K. MILES: — Derek Taylor told me that…

J. LENNON: — I believe in socialism and I believe in the politics of coexistence. I believe in your country and that’s why I consider this interview more important than twenty others. I believe absolutely in socialism, and I believe that I could have lived happily in Yugoslavia if the dice of fate had determined that I should be born there instead of in England.

K. MILES: — Perhaps this could be said about you: you are a socialist by conviction, and a citizen of the world by your actions and by how you feel about that, eh?

J. LENNON: — Yeah, yeah, absolutely. Just to be clear: I don’t consider Harold Wilson to be a socialist (laughs). I believe in true socialist principles.

K. MILES: — Do you have a vision of a world where you could be completely happy?

J. LENNON: I do not believe in the possibility of achieving absolute, complete happiness unless you unite with god or whatever we are used to calling god. I think god is electricity.

K. MILES: — Electricity?

J. LENNON: — Yes, I believe that god is a force, a natural force, no way and by no means a being. It is a state… if you like… the only state in which total happiness is possible.

K. MILES: — You seem to believe in some kind of pantheism, ha?

J. LENNON: — What is that?

K. MILES: — Pantheism?

J. LENNON: — Yeah, pantheism.

K. MILES: — Well, how can I explain it to you: it is, let’s say, when god is everything, when he is not a specific being, something like that…

J. LENNON: — I think that god is a force, like electricity or magnetism. It’s a force… you know like a natural physical force… and there are forces everywhere… in god or Tom Jones, you know. The closest thing we could do here, in this world, to get closer to “god”, would be to create lasting peace. Peace and social equality.

K. MILES: — But, tell me about the craziest thing you’ve read in the newspapers lately.

J. LENNON: — I don’t know, to be honest, I don’t know. Crazy? In which sense? Let me think about it, because I think I’m starting to get the point. So, the craziest thing that appeared in the newspapers lately was the reaction to the marriage of John Lennon and Yoko Ono. I mean to say: it was an absolutely crazy idea to write about it in the newspapers. And they even put photos. Imagine: printing photos of two people in bed on a honeymoon. Totally crazy! (he laughs)

K. MILES: — Today we have quite an interesting social phenomenon in the field of men’s fashion. Older “squares”, and that… please… who else but American businessmen… people from whom one would least expect it… try to dress like the Beatles, wear “the Beatles look” and so on. How does that affect your sense of humour?

J. LENNON: — So, at first, it made me laugh, but then I thought about it. I think that it’s good, I think it also breaks down the Establishment. Otherwise, everyone should dress how they want.

K. MILES: — Even American businessmen?

J. LENNON: — Yeah, even them too. This can only help them to get out of the straitjacket that they live in, to get rid of the shackles.

K. MILES: — OK, would you like to describe your typical day, if there is such a thing? The question is not meant to be particularly deep…

J. LENNON: — So, my typical day really doesn’t really. For example, when I’m in London, it looks something like this: I open my eyes around 10 o’clock, then I read the newspapers, then I go to the office, see what’s new in the office, then I make films, then I check how those films are going, then I check how our records are doing, then I check how my books are doing. I return home around 9 o’clock in the evening, stare at the television, go to sleep, open my eyes at 10 o’clock… and so on, and so on.

K. MILES: — In one interview you said this: “I don’t really know what talent is. The most important thing in success is willpower. Everyone can succeed.” Sorry, but that is pure Horatio Alger.

J. LENNON: — Horatio Alger? Who is that?

K. MILES: — You are too young to know. He was the author of a series of novels that propagated the American dream that any shoeshine can become a billionaire. Americans honestly used to believe that. Not today though.

J. LENNON: — Now I understand. I wanted to say that everyone can become what they want, if they just want it hard enough and if they are given the chance. Otherwise, I really believe that talent is a myth.

K. MILES: — Don’t, please! I wouldn’t be able to compose any kind of song even if you threatened to kill me!

J. LENNON: — You would, you would, if you just wanted hard enough and sincerely enough to compose it and if you wanted to communicate with someone in that way.

K. MILES: — Maybe I could write some kind of poem… if I really wanted to pass on something, and poetry is still the strongest medium of communication…

J. LENNON: — I think that film is.

K. MILES: — You just reminded me. What’s happening with your 8 film projects? You’ve been getting some nasty criticism recently.

J. LENNON: — So, Yoko and I made four films together that will be shown soon. We’re having difficulties with their distribution because they are not commercial. But, we believe that we’ll show them soon. Apart from that, The Beatles will probably finally make a film this year, where they will all perform. It just needs the most appropriate form, you know… Making films is the most important thing to me. The music just comes after that.

“Mr and Mrs Christ…”

K. MILES: – It is said that you will play Christ in one film.

J. LENNON: — No, I haven’t received any offer in that sense. I only know about that because I read it in the newspapers. I think it went like this. That man, who was supposed to make that film… it’s something for British television, did that man (as I think) really intend to offer me that role at first? Only, he didn’t say anything to me, but he let it leak to the press as a rumour… like a test balloon. When he saw how the Establishment reacted wildly to it, when he saw how the press reacted…

K. MILES: — … he shat himself…

J. LENNON: — That’s right. In any case, I’m just guessing, because I didn’t talk about it with him, that man, he didn’t contact me in any way. Shame, because I think I would have accepted the role.

K. MILES: — Why?

J. LENNON: — Because I think it is an interesting story, you know, and then (laughs) I look like him… and we are somehow the same age.

K. MILES: — He was, if I’m not wrong, 33.

J. LENNON: — I’m 28, but that’s not important. In any case, I think I would very, very happily do it.

K. MILES: — Well, when I look at you like this, I think you’d be very suitable for that role. Besides that, there was a theory published recently that he was also married.

J. LENNON: — Yeah, I read that. The film could have been called: Mr and Mrs Christ.

K. MILES: — But, there is talk about the breakup of your group, I mean, The Beatles?

J. LENNON: — That’s been talked about since we’ve existed, you know. A few years ago I made my own film, Paul wrote the music on his own for his film, George was in India, where he studied Indian music, and where Ringo’s been, I don’t know. In any case, we’ve been flying all over the place, and even then there were rumours that we were falling apart. It’s like that now. There’s no question about any Beatles break-up. We would never think of looking a gift horse in the mouth, as the English proverb says. We believe that The Beatles still have great potential as a band, that there are many reasons why we should stay together.

K. MILES: — We’ve come to the end of the interview. Would you like to give me a definition of John Lennon?

J. LENNON: — Well (laughs) I would say that Lennon is a shaggy, grumpy “peacenik” (nickname for a “hippy” who demonstrates for peace K. M.)

K. MILES: — And your epitaph?

J. LENNON (laughs): — He died how he lived: shaggy and grumpy. Or: “He died in a bag!”


(Co Studio And K. MILES. Recordings / photos: ANP, Amsterdam)

The front cover of issue 264 of Studio magazine featured the ballerina Maja Dijaković Srbljenović.

I am very grateful to Vanja Radovanović in Zagreb for providing me the scans of the interview from his copy of this issue of Studio magazine – more here. Without his help, I would not have realised that there were two preceding issues that contained the rest of the interview, and therefore I would not have been able to complete the whole translation.

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.

George Harrison 1970 interview first time in English

The 11th April 1970 issue of the Yugoslav TV, radio and entertainments magazine Studio featured a 4-page interview with The Beatles’ George Harrison by Veljko Despot conducted in London in January 1970. This is the first time it has been translated into English.

Year 1 / Issue 6, Saturday, 11th April 1970.

An exclusive interview from our correspondent VELJKO DESPOT with GEORGE HARRISON, one of The Beatles, who more than all the others avoids any publicity – especially now at the moment of crisis in which the most famous group in the world finds itself

All those who have been close to The Beatles for years say that George Harrison is the one who has changed more than the others. Even the fans, who have been following his development for a relatively short time, claim that he is no longer the old one. For many, he has represented the “finest” and “most decent” amongst The Beatles, and for most, he remains so to this day. The external changes were obvious, however, the internal ones have been more important. He had a slight inferiority complex, but the other Beatles and their friends never considered him stupid for a moment. George was just a “dear boy”, as well as a guitar fanatic the like of which John, Paul and Ringo had not seen before. He was much better than the others, yet he rarely laughed on stage, because he was so focused on playing. Apart from playing, he didn’t try anything else for a long time. He thought he wasn’t bright enough.

However, today after almost a decade of Beatlemania, George Harrison is another man, the man who out of all four was the first to rise above the world of The Beatles and found his own world – the truth, distinctive, but with his own goals, which at that moment the other three were lacking so much. They began to follow him.

It was precisely that George, the one of The Beatles who suddenly needed the rest of The Beatles the least, whom I tried to discover in London. At a bad time! To look for the man who is known for avoiding any kind of publicity with all his might and to find him at the moment when his press officer announces to journalists The Beatles’ latest decision to stop giving all interviews – at first is discouraging! However, the fact that I’d known George from before and another, perhaps more importantly, fact that he was in such a good mood helped me nevertheless to get this interview.

With very long shaggy hair, a full beard, smiling and extremely kind, he received me in one of the beautiful salons of Apple, The Beatles’ company, which is located not far from London’s famous Piccadilly. This George Harrison is incredibly thin, tall, with a sharp look and restrained movements. He speaks slowly and calmly, constantly twirling his beard!

In a casual conversation, he found out from me everything he was interested in about the earthquake in Banja Luka, pop music in our country, the work of the Yugoslav Beatles Fan Club in Zagreb and the sale of Beatles’ records, and also about nice summer holidays in Yugoslavia. “Oh, what can you do! Somehow I’ve got used to thinking of holidays as being connected to Greece and Spain.”

“The Beatles are also not trying to be Beatles every week of the year

“George, your wife Pattie once said something interesting about you four Beatles…”




“She said: ‘I know that they are all parts of one whole. They all belong to one another. George is so connected with the others that I will never fully understand it. No one, not even a wife can get into it. I slowly began to realise that I wouldn’t even be able to become a part of that world.’ Is that whole still so solid, George?”

He thought to himself and slowly replied:

“I think these things are the same and have always been the same for all the girls or wives, because…You see, it’s the same for you, because you didn’t become one of the Beatles, I became one. That’s exactly why not even you can be a part of that part of my life, which, because of The Beatles, nor did my wife, which doesn’t mean that she doesn’t understand it either… if you understand me!”

“Yes, but I think you didn’t understand me. Because, in fact, I was interested in whether that whole of four parts called The Beatles is still as solid today as it was then. How else to understand John’s last statements about possibly leaving The Beatles?”

“Well… I don’t know, really! It all depends on what each of us wants to do. I mean, I won’t try to break up with The Beatles, because I want them to be with me. Each of us really has complete freedom to do what they want, so if John said that, then that’s his business! He has his Plastic Ono Band and The Beatles are also not trying to be Beatles every week of the year. We can do something, for example, an album, and that will make us The Beatles for nine months, let’s say… Yes, I think there is enough time for each of us to be what we want to be and to all be The Beatles at the same time. Most likely, this is also the way we’ll go.”

“But, anyway, you have to admit that it was not fair for John to state that he was not concerned with the success of your song Something in the charts, but with Come Together, because it is his composition…”

Suddenly I felt that I had touched a sore spot for George Harrison. He was quiet for a long time.

“Well, you know… I don’t worry about what anyone says or thinks, even if it was him… I mean, sometimes people let you down with what… (sighs)… what they think or say, but… there’s no point in being disappointed.”

“Conflicts between us originate from too much vanity…”

“John’s disagreement with Paul seems really deep. How do you explain that?”

“I think that these are all personal conflicts that originate from vanity, from one’s over large “me”. I don’t know, but I have no problem with John, I have no problem with Paul, I have no problem with Ringo. Maybe I don’t have them only because I think there are no problems, and they only have them because they think problems exist. It really is so simple and so complex, but it’s all about that “me”, which is something that we all have and which is not entirely good, but not entirely bad either. However, sometimes two such “me’s” clash and what happened now with the two of them comes about.”

Being one of The Beatles is not the most important thing in life

“Two years ago you stated that you no longer find satisfaction in being one of The Beatles, or literally: ‘All that Beatles stuff is cheap and unimportant. I’m fed up with all that, myself, all of us, the stupidity and senseless things we do!’ What do you think of those words today?”

“Yes, I agree with them! Maybe I should explain what I meant by that ‘senseless Beatles stuff’. No, it’s not about being one of The Beatles, it’s about being anyone else. You see, I identify people with their surroundings, with their friends, however, the first thing I recognise them by is this body made of blood, bones and nerves. However, people think THAT is me. Do you understand?”

For the first time since our conversation began, George raised his tone, his voice taking on an almost distressed overtone.

“I cannot limit myself, be satisfied with being a bag of bones, a physical body! The real “me” is something else, something that has a soul. And then people come to you who want to take pictures of your body, touch it, stand in a photo next to it, and all this with a COMPLETE misunderstanding of who it is and what it really is. And so… I agree with my words, because the most important thing in life is not to be photographed with one of The Beatles or even to be one of The Beatles! It’s all SO secondary, because we’re all playing our part of one big game, and I can still play one of The Beatles if that’s what people want me to do.”

“Our music can be understood in a serious and a less serious way”

“You once said that you are amused by people who take The Beatles’ music too seriously. I understand you, but anyway, say something more about that.”

“But I’m also unhappy if people don’t take our music seriously! It is, in reality, serious. But it’s all like what John said when returning our medals to the Queen, mentioning how his record was failing in the charts. He said that the whole thing shouldn’t have been taken so seriously, and it’s the same with our music. We talk about serious things through it, but it’s all about whether you want to take those things seriously or not. Our music can be understood in a serious and in another, less serious way.”

“We will perform live again!”

“At the end of last year, for the first time after three years of not performing, you appeared at a concert. It was with Delaney & Bonnie. Did you miss the atmosphere of the tours and the pleasure of performing in front of the audience all those years?”

“It was good, even very nice. It was good after not doing it for so long, good for a completely different feeling. But it doesn’t mean I’d want to do it again all the time. It also has its downsides.”

“Can we still expect the final return of The Beatles to the concert stage? Is there any kind of chance?”

“Very big, a very big chance! I don’t know, I couldn’t tell you for sure where and when, but the chances are better now than they’ve ever been!”

“George, tell me, finally, what do you think the key was to The Beatles’ success?”

“I don’t know! Many things… really I don’t know. Too many things! You might know that better than I do… or maybe this man, this poor man knows better…”

This referred to Derek Taylor, The Beatles’ press officer, who appeared at that moment.

“Our friend asks you what things you think led to The Beatles’ success.”

“Well, everyone should know that… or no one” replied Taylor. – “Anyone could answer that, but they wouldn’t know how to explain it…”

George thought to himself, looked somewhere far away and quietly said: “I don’t know. It’s magic… maybe.”


Thank you Veljko Despot©
Translation by Martin Mayhew. Copyright to the original text is owned by Veljko Despot

More Beatles interviews here

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.