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.
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?
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)
(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.