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 2

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

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

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

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

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

Hilton Amsterdam Hotel

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

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

“Starting over with Yoko!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Centre spread of issue 263 of Studio magazine, 1969.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

J. LENNON: — I don’t think that.

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

J. LENNON: — Yes, almost like that.

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

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

Telepathy, or vibrations or waves of emotions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The only true happiness – meeting Yoko

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

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

(To be continued)

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

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

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

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

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

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

DK: When did you have the next interview?

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

DK: Has everything been published?

KM: Only one part.

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

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

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

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

Chess Olympiad commemorative catalogue

The 9th Chess Olympiad – Nations Tournament of 1950 was held in Dubrovnik, Croatia in 1950 and the team of the hosting country – FPR Yugoslavia – won. This catalogue of the exhibition published by Dubrovnik Museums commemorates this special occasion in the history of chess.

The exhibition catalogue is a superb commemorative edition.

The book features the whole story of the competition, the competitors, the ceremonies and the results. The highlight of this edition is the catalogue section of the postage stamps, first day covers, postcards, posters, chess sets – the Dubrovnik set later became a standard – and much more that were issued during and after the tournament.

As the English translator for the catalogue it was especially interesting to learn about the event and particularly about the philately part because I was an avid stamp collector as a schoolboy 🙂

The authors of the text are Tonko Marunčić and Zdenko Krištafor.
You can follow Dubrovnik Museums on Facebook here
…. there is more info about the tournament here.

The Beatles – report from Abbey Road 1967

Page 14 of Plavi Vjesnik published 20th April 1967

On page 14 of issue 656 of Plavi Vjesnik (Blue Herald) published on 20th April 1967 in Zagreb there is a short report by Veljko Despot about The Beatles from Abbey Road Studios where they were recording the now legendary album Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. He was lucky enough to chat with them and discuss the as yet unreleased recordings outside and inside the studios.

The studio where the Beatles are recording (photo VD)

I have translated this article direct from a printed copy of the weekly magazine – including the titles of some songs as they were published.
I believe this is the first time the text has appeared in English anywhere.



One young Englishman sent a letter to the music paper Melody Maker saying:

“Classical music has achieved complete independence with the works of Stravinsky, Bartók and Schoenberg. Electronic music was formed by Stockhausen and John Cage, and jazz by Bob James. It seemed that there was nothing else left to say in music. But suddenly, so to speak, out of nowhere, Strawberry Fields Forever appeared. This is a new and revolutionary form of songwriting.”

The little record by The Beatles with the songs Penny Lane and Strawberry Fields Forever, released in the second half of February, has so far sold several million copies. Even before it appeared in American shops, The Beatles won a gold record with it because over a million copies were sold in advance!

The long-awaited record has pleased all of The Beatles’ fans, and most certainly those from Liverpool. The Beatles did not forget their hometown or their fellow citizens and dedicated both songs to Liverpool. John wrote Strawberry Fields Forever and Paul wrote Penny Lane. About which John says:

“We’ve been intending to write a few songs about certain places in Liverpool for a long time. I started working on Strawberry Fields in October, during the shooting of the film in Spain, and Paul finished Penny Lane before the New Year.”

Penny Lane is a little street in Liverpool that Paul used to walk down as a child, whilst Strawberry Fields is located right near John’s former house where he lived as a boy.

Whether that young man was exaggerating in his letter or not, we leave it up to you, but the fact is that Strawberry Fields really is something new, something that has not been heard in pop music before. With both of these songs The Beatles have gone further than all other bands, and so far for many that they won’t be able to reach them if that’s even possible for any of them.

Strawberry Fields Forever has attracted attention because of its melodiousness and the special sound that the whole song creates. With the special recording technique of John’s voice, the electronic recording of Ringo’s drumming and the use of various instruments, as though a dream was trying to be described in the language of music. This was greatly contributed to by the Mellotron, an instrument that can produce sounds similar to many instruments – in this case the flute.

Penny Lane, one of the nicest songs that The Beatles have recorded so far, has John playing on the piano as a basic accompaniment, however, in addition to the usual guitars and drums, you will also hear a trumpet, double bass, piccolo and horn. The solo is sung by Paul, and for a good part, John does too. The text is simple and therefore appealing. It is, in essence, the description of a small street in a big city and the life on it.

The very release of the record and the success that followed dispelled the doubts of even the greatest sceptics about the continued existence of The Beatles as a group. The frequent rumours about the breakup of the group ended when manager Brian Epstein signed a contract with the company E.M.I. in January about recording records. About which George Harrison said:

“This contract should put an end to all the rumours about the breakup of The Beatles. Brian signed a nine-year contract with E.M.I. for us. This means we will make records – as a group – right up until 1976!”

The Beatles went to work and the first result was Penny Lane and Strawberry Fields. However, they have not stopped there. For several months already, John, Paul, George and Ringo have been working on recordings for their new LP. They have settled in E.M.I.’s studio no. 3 (sic) in St. John’s Wood in London, where they arrive every day around 7 in the evening to stay until 4 or 5 in the morning.

For any interview with the Fab Four, you must contact their press officer Tony Barrow, who will explain to you that every minute of The Beatles’ time has already been arranged and if you want you can come back sometime at the end of August “to see what can be done for you.” There was nothing else for me to do but set off to St. John’s Wood.

Paul was usually the first to arrive and the last to leave. As his house is located near the studio, Paul sometimes arrived on foot. This little walk passes without consequences because few people on the street recognise Paul due to his thick black moustache that gives him a stern and dignified appearance. Once when he was entering the studio like that, I asked him to tell me how many compositions they had recorded so far.

“Six compositions have been recorded completely, and now we are finishing four more.”

These six compositions are: A Day in the Life – John sings solo accompanied by a 41-member orchestra, directed mainly by Paul McCartney! There is another string ensemble in the composition She’s Leaving Home. Paul sings When I’m 64 solo, and Good Morning, Good Morning, Good Morning (sic) is sung by John and Paul as a duet. The composition, which has taken exactly one month to record, and which is sung by John, is called Meter Rita (sic). And one more composition – Sergeant Pepper’s Blues (sic).

Until his departure for his concert in Zagreb, Ravi Shankar, the greatest living sitar player, attended these recordings along with The Beatles producer George Martin and their permanent technical staff. Shankar is George Harrison’s teacher and used to stay in the studio until the wee hours of the morning, watching him play the sitar.

Our correspondent Veljko Despot talking to George Harrison, 28th February 1967. (photo VD)

“How many of your compositions will be on this album?” – I asked George as he locked his dark green Ferrari.

“We are working on my composition right now and it will probably be my only thing. I say “probably” because we still don’t know if the record will have 12 or 14 songs.”

Ringo will also sing one song on this record, but it’ll be recorded last because it hasn’t been written fully yet. Cute Ringo is very petite and short, and almost always timid. He also grew a moustache, and critics say his nose looks smaller now.

As always this time too, The Beatles are not without their fans. Every evening, around thirty girls, who want to see their idols, gather in front of the studio. They most faithfully bring blankets, thermoses with hot coffee and sandwiches with them, waiting for them to leave the studio, even if it is at 5 in the morning!

When John Lennon arrives there’s always an immediate crowd. Outside Abbey Road Monday, 22nd February 1967. (photo VD)

When a big black Rolls Royce with black windows appears at the end of the street, it means that John is coming. The girls gather around the car, and when John gets out, they calmly separate and make way for him. Always in a good mood, John cracks a little joke or signs a picture or leg cast for some of them. During a break between two recordings, I entered the studio building and met John in the hallway. I told him that I was from Yugoslavia, which surprised him.

“All the way from Yugoslavia? That’s quite a long way away, isn’t it?”

I asked him when we could expect the release of the record that they were preparing.

“At first we thought that we would finish it by the end of March, but as things stand now, the record will not come out until the end of May. As for us, we will finish our recordings by the middle of April.”

Those who have heard some finished recordings say that it is something completely different from what people expect from The Beatles. They think that the record, which is called SERGEANT PEPPER’S LONELY HEARTS CLUB BAND, will be excellent and that the vast majority of people will be surprised.

The Beatles have not disappointed their audience yet and they in return still believe in them.

©Veljko Despot (19)

John Lennon – lost 1971 interview

Issue 1005 of the Yugoslav informative weekly VUS – Vjesnik u srijedu (Herald on Wednesday) published in Zagreb on 4th August 1971 contained an interview with John Lennon and Yoko Ono by the Croatian journalist Konstantin Milles (Miles). This interview has seemingly never been published in English. So, I decided to translate the text as it was printed in VUS. Obviously my translation will not be an exact transcript of the original conversation but I think it provides an interesting insight into Lennon’s thoughts on communism, Yugoslavia, art, politics and of course The Beatles.

Cover inset picture “The Beatles dream was a lie” – pic © Barrie Wentzell

Konstantin Milles interviews John Lennon and his no less famous wife Yoko Ono. Lennon now claims that the “communist press” did not make much of a mistake when it previously wrote that the “Beatles were a weapon of capitalism and imperialism” and that he attacked his former colleague Paul McCartney for being a right-winger (read “conservative”) , that George Harrison immersed himself in religious mysticism, and he says that Ringo Starr never knew or understood anything. “I woke up”, Lennon says about himself.

John Lennon photographed in the park of his county mansion with Yoko Ono. When asked how much this estate cost him, he said: “So much it makes my head spin.” Pic © Barrie Wentzell

“It be must here!” the driver said to me, turning around in his seat. “This wall looks doubtful!” Shortly before that we had rushed out of the centre of Ascot, about an hour’s drive from London, and now we were driving down a narrow road that meandered through an unusually dense and beautiful forest, with only glimpses of old mansions built like former castles and small country houses. Only the richest residents of London live in this blessed corner of England.

The wall was three metres high, made of stone, at least two kilometres long. When we got to the end of it, I spotted a group of American hippies, standing at the gate and staring “lost” inside. At that moment, I realised two things: that we had indeed reached Lennon (which in the given circumstances had only a practical significance) and that the persistent rumours about the decline of the Beatles’ popularity were not in the least bit true – even though they no longer existed as the Beatles but as John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr. Later, during the conversation, Lennon gave me a very convincing verification of the financial-statistical type, which surprised me a little… because pop music was always something I had never been “in to” to such an extent that it could satisfy any of its ardent admirers.

About three months ago I had sent Lennon a telegram asking to meet up again. I had been to London a few times in the meantime, but we still hadn’t met. I knew why: he had been travelling unusually a lot again lately, and that, unlike in the past, it was due mostly to “private business.” He had been in New York twice to track down Yoko’s son (sic – daughter) with the help of the local private and official police and fabulously expensive lawyers, and to take the boy (sic – girl) back from his (sic – her) father, Yoko’s first husband through the courts, (Yoko later told me that her “dad” was also involved, and when I asked her if it was true that her “dad” was a rather rich Japanese banker, she burst out laughing and said: “Well you see, John can’t complain that he’s poor, but his money is peanuts compared to what my family has in Tokyo. I know it’s not tasteful to talk about it, but, you see, when I was little, I was told at home that there were only three families in all of Japan, apart from the imperial family: the Mitsui, Mitsubishi and my family.” I said: “Then that means that together with the Mitsuis and Mitsubishis, it was, in fact, your family that prepared Japan to enter the Second World War!” Yoko Ono calmly replied: “Yes, that’s right! These have always been the three most powerful families in Japan… something like the Japanese Krupps or Rockefellers… the owners of real empires of banks, companies, industries. It is natural that my family is connected to them anyway, besides business. Let’s say my brother doesn’t work with his father, he works for Mitsubishi.” I couldn’t resist asking her how she got along with “dad” and “mum,” considering what she had “done” and what she was “doing.” She said: “In the beginning, they simply fainted, figuratively speaking. Then they, at least I think so, found a solution that suited them best: they concluded that we were nevertheless a family who could accept everything!”)

The very same glasses

I had a great, almost three-hour-long interview with Lennon in the spring of 1969 in Amsterdam. However, there then came the famous Beatles’ breakup (something he had hinted to me indirectly back in that first interview) and a series of Lennon interviews, mostly with the American hippy press and the most biting trends of the “new left.” I suddenly found Lennon interesting again. All the more so since in several interviews, he had mentioned his great desire to see what was happening in Yugoslavia. We drove through the gate past that group of American hippies. Suddenly a huge white, snow-white or lime-white house appeared in front of us — painted just like the walls of Apple’s building in London’s Saville Row. (I remembered that Lennon had always been fascinated by white.) I walked up to the door and rang the bell. Two minutes passed, but no one appeared. I peeked through the little window by the door. In the room I looked into all that could be seen was a forest of film cameras, spotlights, power cables, ladders – all in a terrible mess. I pressed the bell again, but I didn’t hear its ring. I began to bang on the door, louder and louder. Still no reply. We walked around the house. Through one window on the ground floor, I spotted Lennon and Yoko Ono. They were sitting at a wooden table in a huge kitchen with some unknown people. Music was playing. I knocked on the window, feeling like Santa Claus. Lennon noticed me, put his hands together jokingly as if praying me to do something, and gestured to me to go to the last, fourth side of the house and enter through the door that came out to the garden. There I was greeted by Diana (Vero?), Lennon’s secretary and runner, an attractive and still quite young girl with the look of a typical London “schizo.” A little later we were sitting at that big wooden table in the kitchen (Lennon explained to me that the house was “a real madhouse” because the whole lower part was being converted into a film studio, whereby three rooms would be arranged as the Yoko Ono Personal Museum. At that moment, I remembered that I had completely forgotten the fact that Yoko was a sculptor, but not only that. But, more about that later).

“One woman couldn’t make four grown men fight,” Lennon says about the rumours that the Beatles broke up because of his relationship with Yoko Ono. Pic © Barrie Wentzell

John Lennon is now 30 years old. Nothing much had changed since our last meeting. This claim categorically warrants an explanation. In Amsterdam he had long hair and a beard. Today’s Lennon only has relatively long hair, he is completely shaved, because his beard has disappeared, and quite thoroughly: today not only does he, let’s say, shave with an electric appliance but shaves to such an extent, probably with two or three shaves, that his face is as smooth as a newborn’s bottom. He maintains his sideburns, “typically English” and ginger. The glasses have stayed the same: the “anarchist’s design” from the last century with a thin, totally round metal frame. Through their lenses, the penetrating gaze of two blue eyes greets the interlocutor. The look is most usually suspicious: suspiciousness has probably, and he has had a reason for it, become Lennon’s “second nature.” Jeans and a plain shirt with an unbuttoned collar, close-fitting to a rather well-built, but nevertheless weak body, which, together with the physiognomy, still acts like a dynamo. Just like that, seemingly weak, but full of some inner dynamics, Lennon is actually the image and figure of a young man who is liked by today’s girls (if you can judge by what kind of young men the most beautiful girls go out with in London, Paris, Stockholm, Copenhagen… in fact, any Western European city – “Tarzans” seem to be simply out of fashion, and the glasses are more of a plus than a minus. Regardless of the fact that in England one of the great “sexual symbols” is Tom Jones, who still, let’s say, looks different, doesn’t he?) Lennon has his own opinion about this, which, admittedly, he expressed indirectly and inadvertently, almost inadvertently in one completely unrelated conversation. When we finished the interview and returned to the mansion from the park that surrounds it (it has the dimensions of Maksimir Park and like Maksimir it has its own large natural lake with reeds), we chatted for a while in the kitchen. Yoko told me how she met the famous Japanese writer who shook the world a few months ago with a failed coup attempt and then his successful hara-kiri. “One evening he was sitting right next to me, but he didn’t say a single word to me, which was just plain rude! He was otherwise a physically very handsome man!” At that moment, Lennon’s voice was heard: “Yeah, he was handsome. He was one of those crazy body-builders. He was in short – a homosexual! A notorious homosexual! I read somewhere that all the forces in the SS troops were like that! The most disgusting reactionaries and fascists were often like that!” Lennon said this calmly, as though the most banal of facts were being stated, but still, I could not escape the impression that not even hara-kiri could have saved the Japanese writer from Lennon’s aversion. An aversion that was not caused by the writer being homosexual, but simply because with his rude behaviour he had neglected the woman Lennon who loved to such an extent that the term “head over heels” is still valid today. It would be difficult for anyone who has not seen Yoko Ono in person to understand that she is actually a very handsome, physically attractive, beautiful young woman, full of that charming kindness that adorns all Japanese women, whether beautiful or ugly. The only misfortune is that – and I told her, and Lennon confirmed it with unusual zeal – that she is simply not photogenic. In every photo, she looks at least ten years older, the glow of her eyes is lost, the colour of her skin is distorted, the refined anatomy of her face is distorted… and millions of readers around the world wonder “what Lennon saw in her.”

Lennon wants to go to Yugoslavia

Whilst Barrie Wentzell arranged his cameras and I slowly set up the tape recorder, we sat and chatted.

“What’s new in Yugoslavia?” Lennon asked me.

“You have no idea how interested we are!” said Yoko.

At first I felt the temptation to simply reply: “Well come, and you’ll see!” Hic Rodhus, hic salta! But at first the main thought that run through my head was that their question was an expression of conventional decency, of attention towards a guest, who is from a small country, to which I am always allergic. Or that their various statements lately about wanting to visit Yugoslavia were in fact just mere affectation. However, I realised that they were both looking at me with serious, calm looks, with the look of someone who has asked an honest and serious question and who wants a serious answer has.

“What’s new, you ask?” Last time, in Amsterdam, I told you about the introduction of self-government in Yugoslavia. This is always new because it’s something in which something new is constantly happening. What is “old”, in a way, is that we want to show that something that no one has achieved so far can be achieved: communism plus personal freedom plus a high standard of living. But, we are not doing it in order to show the world that it is possible. We are doing for ourselves first of all. We’re not asking anyone to learn from us.”

“I have listened and read a lot about what is going on in your country. Yoko and I would be overjoyed if we could visit your country and see everything! So that we can talk to your people, to your students, workers and intellectuals, to tell them about our ideas, to show them our films…”

However later, in a completely different context, I realised that to Lennon some things about Yugoslavia were still not clear, although he sincerely loved Yugoslavia and its efforts (he told me that “strong vibrations” were coming to him from Yugoslavia, which has nothing to do with telepathy, as one might think, but is simply a term used by hippies when talking about someone or something who or what is doing some, most often mental activity that provokes their sympathy. In the broadest sense, “catching someone’s vibrations” means the same thing as “working on the same wavelength” in our jargon) however, some things connected to Yugoslavia are not clear. If everything about Yugoslavia was clear to him, he would certainly not have asked me the absurd question of whether the sale of his record Power to the People was permitted at home!

KM: So, the tape recorder is plugged in, checked and tested. We can start the interview. Please answer me one simple stupid question: “How are you?”

JL: I’m fine. And you?

KM: I’m fine too. However, please explain to me in a little more detail why you are fine.

JL: I understood the essence of your question exactly and I was just kidding. How am I you ask? In the full bliss of creative work! Me and Yoko are working like crazy. I get the impression we don’t have a minute to spare. Well, I just finished a new album (Imagine), which will be released in the autumn, we are finishing a TV film about that album… actually a film about ourselves, about us, Yoko has published a book that we will give you as a gift (Grapefruit) because we care about it a great deal, and two days ago she completed a theatrical piece (Film No. 12 – Up Your Legs Forever?) that will be premièred on Broadway in September. If you come, we’ll get you a ticket, I’m composing, we’re sorting out the house, Yoko’s making statues, which I’m sure you can see…

KM: If we can make an arrangement and you come to Zagreb, perhaps Yoko could organise an exhibition of her works there?

(Afterwards, I toured Yoko’s studio and “museum” in several rooms of the mansion. It is quite certain that an exhibition in Zagreb would be a sensation. And that even visitors who have little to do with art would come too. Due to certain circumstances.)

JL: Absolutely.

YO: Absolutely. Only some of your people might not like some of the exhibits! There might be some misunderstandings…

KM: I don’t believe that would discourage you. After all, you’ve already got used to it, here in London. But, you see, my consciously formulated question had one other subtext, so to speak. How emotional you are after everything that happened after our last meeting, particularly in recent times.

JL: We are in full creative bliss. And that, I think, means we’re emotionally excellent, too. Apart from that, I’m as fit as a fiddle.

KM: In many reports about you, in several interviews that you have given, the thought, like a leitmotif permeates, often highlighted in the title, that “the dream is over”, that “the dream has come to an end”, that you have “woken up”… all along those lines. Does that bother you? It’s almost as if the journalists agreed to point it out!

JL: But, that’s right! What happened before – was a dream! It was a youthful, pubescent dream. But, I’m not young any more: I’m thirty, man!

KM: You seem to be happy to talk about that dream!

JL: People think it that was a magical Hollywood dream. A story of four young men who succeeded fantastically. Yes: we had millions of dollars, millions of girls, at every step, after every performance, fame… but it was still a nightmare. Only we didn’t see it then…

KM: As you talk about it, you speak with bitterness. Everywhere, in every place. And you talk about it with some almost masochistic pleasure…

JL: I want to tell people the truth: that the Beatles’ dream was a mere illusion.

KM: Why do you think that?

JL: I realised that the ruling class was exploiting us, abusing us for its own purposes. You see, back then, at that time, we found it funny when the communist press wrote that we were “the tools of capitalism and imperialism.” I see they weren’t so wrong. We didn’t think we were creating revolution…

“We met conceited people”

KM: … and in fact, those who rule, those who hold the money and power, used you for their own purposes…

JL: It’s not so simple. The Establishment (the ruling class…. ) gave us a high medal, took almost all our money, gave us a medal instead of, let’s say, lowering our taxes… the people who we met on our tours were all just bureaucratic and plutocratic “money men”, police chiefs, diplomats, conceited… not real people. It was all so unreal! In the first ten rows at our concerts, there always sat the “money men”, “the fat cats”, their wives and daughters and they rattled with jewellery. In America, we were invited to a reception at the British Embassy and there we were treated like we were trained circus animals, penguins, even the ladies in gowns and their bastards cut off the hair of poor Ringo so that they could boast about it. Do you think that could happen to us in some working-class family in Liverpool, huh? But, nevertheless, it amused us, it was great for us. Now I’ve finally grown up. Now I will no longer allow anyone to exploit me for their own purposes, to fool me…

KM: You realised something more important. You, with your “Beatlemania”, as it was called then, in a way played the role of an “Establishment” tool because you channelled the amassed energy of the young people, the energy of dissatisfaction and protest, into safe and calm waters: long hair, guitar pounding, revolutionary clothing in place of revolutionary activity… And now you see, as you yourself said, that everything has stayed the same, that the same guys have the money and power, whilst others do not…

JL: In essence you’re right, but it’s not so simple. Maybe the “Establishment” thought so, however, we still played the role of a Trojan horse in some sense of the word. We did – and not only us but others too, nevertheless play a role that must be acknowledged – we helped young people to start thinking differently, to “liberate” themselves from the burden and compulsion of tradition, to start thinking more elastically, to start to see some things… Of course, we did wander ourselves… and that’s where I’m talking about myself first of all. Surely you remember: I was taking drugs, I tried to embrace some oriental religion… don’t you see how unhappy, confused, crushed I was by what had happened to me… and how desperately I tried to free myself, and that means to return to reality. At times it seemed to me that I was riding on an express train that was rushing towards a collision, and I couldn’t jump out of it. So, I repeat: we taught young people to start thinking differently.

Conflict at the end of the road

KM: You said that as a young man you were “class conscious”, and then you simply forgot about it…

JL: And who wouldn’t forget that, man?! Well, I was young, practically still snotty, when all of that fell on us. I completely lost my compass, all touch with reality.

KM: And do you think you have it again today?

JL: I think I do have it. I don’t dream any more. I’m no longer in a dream state. I’ve woken up and I think that’s enough… for a start.

KM: Did Yoko open your eyes, can we say that? I’ll try to remember. You The Beatles were actually Establishment pets, “decent kids”, darlings… whereas the Rolling Stones were persecuted!

JL: If you think that Mick Jagger is interested in politics and if they ever interested him – you’re wrong. He was just “performing”… and it was so brutal and vulgar that the Establishment was appalled. You see, let’s take the question of our medals. Okay, they gave them to us, but that’s why they were ignorant. A few months before that, the book Love Me Do was published, a brilliant book, which went unnoticed at first and only became known later. In that book the author published his conversations with me, in which I said clearly how much I hated the Establishment, the Queen, the palace, aristocrats, the “big money men.” If they had read the book, they would never have given me the medal. This way they just gave me a chance to give it back to them at the most convenient time for me.

KM: Derek Taylor (the Beatles’ former press chief) once told me that you were a communist by conviction. Don’t be offended, but I couldn’t believe my ears. And even after that, I couldn’t believe it.

JL: I don’t belong to any party, not even the communist one, but all my sympathies are on the side of communism. I believe in communism as a system to which the future of humanity belongs. Of course, I believe in that real communism… in the one that I believe that you Yugoslavs are trying to create right now.

KM: But, let’s talk a little about the breakup of the Beatles.

JL: We are talking.

KM: You see, when I heard that you’d broken up, I felt sympathy for you. Suddenly it was as if I realised you were an honest, fair guy. Don’t get me wrong, but to kill a goose that lays golden eggs… you know what I mean… So my question would be: Regardless of what was said and written, regardless of the rumours, there must have been something fundamental in that breakup, something more important than a simple personality conflict between you and Paul, a conflict over whether his brother-in-law would become Apple’s director or your man… that there was something fundamental and serious… something connected to art and something maybe connected to politics.

JL: Yeah, you guessed correctly. That’s right. Yeah, it was about politics and art. You see, Paul is simply right-wing (read “conservative”) and that’s it. I couldn’t take it any more, I couldn’t work with him any more. And as for the music, so art, let’s say…

KM: You came to a dead-end as a group, you came, put more precisely, to the end of the road.

JL: Yes. And that’s right. I wouldn’t hesitate to say that. We came to the end of the road. We couldn’t go any further if we wanted to go forward. But when we talk about politics, then it was a conflict between Paul and me, because he is right-wing (read “conservative”). The other two had nothing to do with that. George was completely immersed in religious mysticism, and as for Ringo… he never knew or understood anything anyway.

KM: Let’s return to the prosaic stuff. How are you doing today – financially? This is about the golden goose, of course!

JL: Believe it or not, I can tell you this: today we, by making records as individuals, when it all adds up… are actually making more than we ever earnt as the Beatles. Think of it: even Ringo’s records sell in their millions!

KM: I will say something about what others are talking about, but also what I also sensed in some unrelated conversations at Apple. The Beatles fell apart when Yoko appeared on the scene. Before that, you were talked about as one body with four heads, that is, four bodies and one head… Lennon’s.

JL: Yes, that is what was meant and in some way it was true.

KM: This other?

JL: Yes. You see, I don’t suffer from false modesty, but maybe from too much honesty… that’s what Yoko has just encouraged in me… which isn’t always healthy… but that’s how it was. Of course, it must have bothered Paul, it must have eaten away, God, it must bite. Whilst we were together, in order it went: me, then Paul, then George a little. Ringo never meant anything, but he’s such a great guy that he never got mad about it. He was always, so to speak, conscious of the limits of his abilities. However, if you think Yoko made us fight, you’re wrong: a woman cannot come between four adult men if they have some strong common interest. Besides, they also, as a matter of fact, had their wives, so that means nothing. We came to an artistic end as a band when we recorded our last double album. Later I broke up with Paul because he is right-wing (read “conservative”). There, so it was that simple!

Perhaps the most valuable thing was that we helped the young people to become mentally free so that they stop thinking in the patterns that tradition has wound them up in. – John Lennon

Lennon insisted that we photograph him in front of this American poster, where it is statistically proven that America’s genocide is greater than any previous one. Pic © Barrie Wentzell – “John specifically requested me to take this picture. At first glance it just appeared to be a mural of the American flag but when I realized what it was really about I became a bit apprehensive. John had mentioned earlier that they were thinking of moving to New York and were planning an anti “Tricky Dicky” (i.e., Nixon) tour. I protested but he insisted. John was inspirational, showing great courage and conviction in his and our pursuit of “Giving Peace a Chance.”
Barrie Wentzell“I visited John and Yoko one afternoon accompanying a foreign news reporter (Konstantin Milles). Yoko had just published a book called Grapefruit and John was standing shoulder to shoulder with her fielding press and publicity duties. We spent a long time in their kitchen during the interview while the laundry was running, the food was cooking, and the kettle was whistling. John and Yoko were exploring ideas and plans for making a better world.” Tittenhurst Park, Espon.

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. His 1969 Amsterdam interview with John and Yoko was published in Studio magazine and I have translated it HERE)

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.

NB: In May 2022 I found another interview from the same magazine this time from 1970 with Ringo Starr here

The Beatles memorabilia

I’ve been a Beatles fan since I was a boy. I’m always delighted to find Beatles memorabilia here in Croatia. Here are a couple of things I’ve found in Rijeka.

The 2nd Beatles Souvenir Song Book, published in England in 1964. It features the sheet music of 8 songs and many photos. How did it get to Rijeka?
‘Oko’ broadsheet paper dated 8-22 January 1981 (1st of 2 pages) with John Lennon’s obituary by Borivoj Radaković.
‘Oko’ broadsheet paper dated 8-22 January 1981 (2nd of 2 pages) with John Lennon’s lyrics translated by Borivoj Radaković.
3rd May 1967 issue of džuboks magazine

Thank you Tomo @ Antikvarijat Mali Neboder, Rijeka

Hits of Beatles – Yugoton 1966

Interesting that this issue has a different name to the rest of world although the labels are A Collection of Beatles Oldies. Catalogue number: LPPMC-V-264.

Sleeve of flexi-disc that was free with issue 23 of džuboks magazine

England to India by automobile, via Fiume in 1924

An 8,527-mile Trip Through Ten Countries, from London to Quetta, Requires Five and a Half Months


Our next stop was at Fiume (Rijeka), the scene of the coup of Gabriele d’Annunzio, Italy’s poet patriot. It is also a fine port, but a mean city in comparison with Trieste. A narrow river separates it from Susak, the Yugoslavian frontier town.

An impressive sight in the city was the great number of apparently idle young men with shock heads of hair fluffed out like a lion’s mane. We thought this must be the latest thing in Fiume masculine styles until an English-speaking friend explained that this is the hall mark of d’Annunzio’s “lions,” who, with him, captured the city.

We were warned not to upset any of them, as they have the reputation of being excessively irascible and a law unto themselves.

After a night in Fiume, we crossed the frontier bridge to Yugoslavia. The incredible change made by those few yards is impossible to imagine – a jump from stagnation and slackness to hurry and bustle.

The only place into which the general energy had not penetrated was the customhouse. We had a letter of introduction to the chief revenue officer, who told us that, as a great favour, they would rush us through the formalities. The “rush” required six hours to deal with our small outfit!

The officials seemed to like our company. As soon as the papers were passed to a fresh clerk, he would come and have a friendly chat with us on European politics, our trip, and, in fact, anything but the business concerned. They were so cheery and genial that we could not take offense; so we smoked endless cigarettes and waited.

Overland from England to India in late 1924 by Major Forbes-Leith. Here seen in Baghdad on 20th August 1924.


We were now in a new kingdom, a charming country of delightful, music-loving people. Every little village café has its orchestra of young men playing the guitar and mandolin, and accompanied by a trio or quartette of girl singers. The former stand and play; the latter sit in a row in front and sing national songs from dusk to midnight.

The Croats and Serbs are fine fellows of good physique, very hard workers, great patriots, and among the finest soldiers in the world. Serbia, before the World War, was spoken of as a little Balkan state; now she must be reckoned as a power in Europe.

English police uniforms used in Zagreb in the 1920s.

At Agram (Zagreb), the capital of Croatia, formerly part of the old Austrian Empire, we had a shock that made us rub our eyes. In front of us at the first crossroad, was the embodiment of an English policeman, with helmet, uniform, and baton complete. We heard afterward that the whole police force of the city was modeled and trained on British lines, even uniforms being supplied by outfitters in England.

In atmosphere, architecture, and general plan, Agram is a miniature Vienna. It has a fine opera house, and the architecture is for the most part typically Austrian.

Living is very cheap here for the man who carries either the pound sterling or the dollar.


The trip was made in 1924 and published by The National Geographic Magazine August 1925.

There was even a cameraman on the trip and there exists footage – called ‘Lure of the East’ of some of the trip available here on the British Pathe archives website. And on Vimeo – watch at 1:00 and you’ll see a Zagreb copper:

Thanks to Saša Dmitrović for the source material.

Feral Tribune – book summary

Boris Pavelić Smijeh SlobodeThe book ‘Smijeh slobode – uvod u Feral Tribune’ (‘The Laughter of Freedom – an introduction to the Feral Tribune’) by Boris Pavelić describes and explains the 25 year old cult political-satirical newspaper the ‘Feral Tribune’, based in Split. It was published from 1983-2008 in various forms and billed itself as a “weekly magazine for Croatian anarchists, protesters and heretics.”

feral tribune

A typical front page of the Feral Tribune

The publication won international awards in the 1990s but slowly went out of circulation – this book studies the history and value that it had and still has in modern-day journalism.

The book is only available in Croatian and I translated the summary into English. It is hardback, has 688 pages and its ISBN: 978-953-219-492-0.

It is published by Adamić d.o.o. and is available in shops and via the publisher’s website here:

Antun Barac – ‘Fiume’ in English



(passing impressions, July 1919)
by Antun Barac – translated for the first time by Martin Mayhew

Three beautiful, sunny, autumnal days. I don’t know what happened. In a single morning all the ties snapped, that were holding the voice in the throat, that loosened the links, that were chaining the feet, the heavy and rigid mask fell, that was hiding the face. A quiet whisper, which spoke curses and revealed a howl, scattered itself like a wild, holy cry of joy, whilst a hand, a pathetic hand, taught to give a servile and official greeting, extended for the first time in a bold gesture of belief and confidence in itself.

We went onto the streets, in processions, assemblies, groups and we sang and cheered. And everything was so sunny, bright and light. And everything was clear and cheerful and happy in the beautiful, clear autumnal day.

In the barracks there were soldiers, and they were cheering. In the hospitals there were wounded, and they were singing. The soldiers came out onto the streets and were firing their guns. After four blurry years it was the first time that the firing meant joy, after four sombre summers it was the first time that a bullet didn’t mean death, but life. And it was as though that shot, which was now rising into the air, was a symbol, as it rises and as it falls.

On the chests flowers and tricolours. In the windows flowers and tricolours. On the streetlamps, on the telephone poles, on the makeshift stands flowers and tricolours.

In a red, white, blue, green colour, in the grey colours of joy, ecstasy, hope and belief, on each flag, that flutters, of elation, love, sympathy and adoration, which the flag as a symbol means. In the red glow of love and brotherhood towards everything and everyone, in the whiteness of the cleanliness and sublimeness of ecstasy, hope in the new world, that was being created.

We went out onto the streets and sang. We welcomed the foreign troops and sang. We threw flowers and sang. We welcomed ships from foreign countries and sang. “Call out, just call out… Viva la France! Allons enfants de la Patrie!…” And the children of the homeland arrived, and laughed, and danced, and cheered.

Here people just walk around and cheer and sing” – they say, wrote home one French sailor. “Viva la Yugoslavie!” His compatriots cheered – and in their scepticism and in their laughter for the sake of laughing and joy for the sake of joy we felt the first stab of disappointment and misunderstanding.

In an isolated corner an old hunched over woman was sobbing. “Woman, why are you crying?” – asked a voice – I don’t know whose, and I don’t know where from. “In every joy there is a note of pain, in every laugh a seed of sorrow”, as though replying to somebody’s voice – who knows whose, who knows where from?

Three beautiful, clear, sunny, autumnal days. Three days of song and clamour and ecstasy. And then – armoured cars, machine guns and horses on the cobblestones and pikes, stretching up high, rigidly, arrogantly. In the port heavy ships with cannons aimed at the city, on the street assault troops with helmets, rifles, knapsacks and ammunition belts.

Three beautiful, clear, sunny, days passed. And nothing to show for them. Only a difficult, long winter with clouds. Just a cold summer with raindrops, that with the ‘bura’ and rain even the tears froze. Just a gloomy spring without light or sun.

Maybe a time will come, when all the ecstasy and elation will seem ridiculous to us. Maybe a period will come, when every sense will be reduced to a mathematical or chemical formula. I only know, that even then, when I was in the height of national fervour, I felt no desire for revenge or hatred or malice – the days of the greatest joy were days of forgiveness for everything, to all who had oppressed us, days of national liberty, a time when love for everyone was the most lively, the most conscious. And in those days of intoxicated delight and love, that had boiled over, the clenched fists, clashes and attacks were the end of everything.

I don’t know what happened. In just one day with a wild roar they began to tear down the tricolours of red and white and blue, and in the windows, on the streetlamps, the houses, the buildings, the churches suddenly others appeared – red and white and green, with a star and a coat of arms. Everywhere the coat of arms and everywhere the star, and everywhere fanatic hatred in the faces and fury and poison in the looks. “Italia o morte! Fuori il straniero!” Whilst the straniero thoughtfully stops and thinks: “Who in fact is the stranger?

In these sombre days of waiting and incertitude, desperation and zeal, it is so difficult to be alive and carry all the heavy burden of the present; however it is hardest to be human. So many times I have felt the pain and burden of life, but the worst thing was when I felt the aching shame, I didn’t feel fear for myself, but for those who persecuted us, the shame of man, that chaotic, disproportionate mixture of beast and god. The beast, wild, brutal, vicious, kicking and rearing up, and the god, sublime, the ashen sceptic levelling with it, taming or incensing it. And in the battle of animal with god like the battle of a bull with a toreador – the white, red, blue, green colours, that they have signifying a symbol, they stimulate it, intoxicate it, they extol it, bring it to an ecstasy of madness and rage. Fiume, the yellowish-grey, deceitful animal, from the eyes of which peer the envy and intoxication of excessive enthusiasm, throws itself, snapping, howling and moaning into exhaustion, until it falls bewildered, unconscious to the ground.

Therein the roar is so quiet! Therein the crowd is so uneasy and lonely. In this racket our steps reverberate so eerily. Oh, the whole of this city, whose number of inhabitants doubled in a few months, as it turned into a huge, grey, isolated monastery, where the shadows succumb to the wolf, hollow songs reverberate and the voices of muffled prayers drone. And thus it is miraculously quiet and in the murmur, so terribly calm in the constant throng.

Why call this city Rieka, when it is – Fiume. Reka, Rika, Rieka – that sounds so sweet, placid and childlike like the nostalgic “ca” and “ča” of the people of Drenova, Plase, Trsat, reminiscent of the sunny gleam of the stone walls and enclosures scattered with rocks and brambles, amongst which, in spring, blossom such beautiful and fragrant violas, a modest and shy flower. It is a city with a filthy physiognomy and with an inner self bland and murky, like the murky Fiumare canal, the dead water that cries for it. The Fiuman is a separate race, not belonging to any one nation. It is a mixture of everything that has come to this merchant city to trade – of everything, of many things. The Fiuman is both an Italian and a Yugoslav – an Italian, born of Yugoslavs and brought up as a Yugoslav, who cheers at the top of his voice: “O Italia o morte!, the Yugoslav is a quiet and timid beast, hiding because of his interests of his national origin with a neutral, inexpressible, merchant’s sneer. Whilst the Riečanin, Recan, Ričanin – they are the masses – they are the nameless mass, who don’t ask, quantité négligeable, they are the inhabitants of the workers’ houses, basements and attics, the servants and labourers, small artisans and assistants, the masses, who have only one head, and who would, maybe, with just a single blow fall. And that is the characteristic, external image of the city – Fiume, Fiuman. And in this fatal exchange is the source of all the illusions, all the efforts and all the miserable disappointments.

Years and years of timid and quivering yearnings for the city of Kvarner and in that name I will stop with everything, that was the dearest and utmost in life – but then the bloody realisation, that it was all just a yearning for childhood, for the sea, for the days that had gone forever. Yet there is no city, there is no childhood and there is no sea. There is only Fiume and Gomila and Fiumara – a murky, stagnant mire, like a feeble residue of exacerbated human passions, without the strength that it vanishes, without the strength that it stirs up, rises, moves.

Corso. An evening stroll. In the looks a glow and depth, in the gestures a yearning and yielding to love. Yet the whole city seems to shiver from one single deep gaze, which rises from the bottom of the soul and seeps into the bottom of the soul, and the whole city seems to twinkle from love, that is only the soul, only the soul. Whilst down, in the depths, inside – ah, there is no soul and there is nothing, the base and desolation and emptiness. And the whole of this city and all these people who rousingly speak and shout and wave – the whole of this city has no soul, and everything, that moves it, is the basic animal life. And its voice is not the sublimeness of ecstasy nor the size of reproach – everything is just a roar, clamour and mania. And the moment will come and everything will boil over and everything will disappear, what froths up and what rises up – on the empty bottom will remain just Fiume, a city without a soul and without physiognomy and a notion without features.

Over five bloody years ten times in the memory of the sparseness and irritation of the nerves the city howled and ten times they changed the inscriptions and ten times in a fanatical irritation the masses passed over their old idols. Today on the ruins of everything, a fiery rage triumphs in the proud satisfaction, that with the greatest lie it refuted thousands of its little lies and that in the deafening cry it suppressed everything, that protests, that rebels. Because that cry is not a lie, because this fire of enthusiasm isn’t hypocrisy. It is Fiume and everything is Fiume. And to whomsoever this Città di San Vito belongs; whosoever flag will flutter next to the double-headed eagle with the yellow-blue symbol – will win, I’m afraid of Fiume, and with a shout of honest enthusiasm the malicious cry of a lazy and cunning animal will intervene. And that is my fear and it will be a drop of bitterness in that moment, which we will surely never live to see.

What can enthral a man in this city, in which culture and supremacy are denoted by the black marks on the walls and the holes in broken inscribed tiles? In our weakness for it there is a weakness towards one’s own past, which is contained in these pavements, street corners and quays, a weakness towards the whistle of departing steamships and the whiteness of unfurled sails, that awoke our childlike imagination and tied it to this place, that doesn’t love us. In our trepidation towards its destiny there is only the fear for those miserable, unknown, oppressed thousands, who just silently accept the blows and ridicule and the stamp of inferiority. We understand that the sinful must repent the sins and perform penance those, who have deserved it. However what did the little pale children commit that they must suppress their voices in their throats, the only one with which they are able to express the feeling of happiness in the joy and drive of wickedness in the game?

Our feeling of attachment with this city isn’t a feeling of love, but a feeling of pain, and fear, and hopelessness in the sense of a wounded animal and disgust and revulsion. Because it is just Fiume – and Fiume is not an organism, not a concept, not a soul, but something colourless and tepid and tensile, that with its odour tears at the nostrils and throat, and intoxicates and commits evil. And here nothing enthrals and here nothing is attractive. The love of this city – ah, it is an illusion, it isn’t love, but an escape from it, an escape to the blueness of the sea, the sigh of Trsat, the greenery of Opatija and Volosko and the serene vistas towards Kostrena, Omišalj, Cres and Ika. Everything that nature has warm and soothing and soft, is gathered around this city, to shield it, to protect it, to conceal it. And the reason why its poison didn’t act. In the moment when the heavy shackles fall from the chests and from the legs and from the hands and from the tongues, from all sides pale children will rush and shower it with flowers of love, forgiveness and it will forget all the insults, all the blows and all the threats.

From Školjić to Kantrida – one and the same street and one and the same image: houses without expression, without style, stores, shop windows, markets. In the place where there is only trade, all the houses are built on clear commercial principles: with the least expenses – the highest rents. Houses without physiognomy, without souls. In the city, where everything is measured purely in monetary measures, the friars had also taken advantage of the few metres of free space around the church and built umpteen little rooms for shops. Trade is not permitted in the temple, however it is better in front of and around the temple. The city of fifty thousand inhabitants did not give up one single man, whose name would be recorded in the history of culture and art, and wishing to somehow christen their streets, the fathers of the city were having to reach back for names from the mother countries: of Hungary and Italy. In a city of fifty thousand souls there is not one monument, and the only highpoints on the streets are advertising posts and lavatories – as unintentional symbols of it, as if it is the only purpose in this place. I love and appreciate trade as a means, but as soon as it becomes the meaning of life, it becomes both the negation and profanation of all higher values. And that which people would have to make them happy, to lead them ever upwards, throws them ever lower. And Fiume is deep, so deep.

Amongst its great evidence for being Italian the supremacy of Italian culture is prominent in Rijeka, the culture of the Italian is greater than that of the Yugoslav. Whilst the first glance at this city shows that it has, in general, no culture, not only of its own, but no culture of any kind, and that, which in the moment could deceive the eyes, is just glued on, that is easily washed-off by the rain or over night, when the city’s new generation is over-patriotically disposed.

The fun fairs, public houses, buffet bars, cafés, cinemas. All dirty, all abandoned, all in disarray. The dirt of the port as though it passes into the city itself, into every corner, every alleyway. This relatively large city is not capable of supporting a permanent theatre, whilst the companies, which are hosted here for a month, twice a year, can only be supported by the subscriptions of Yugoslav misers. In the place, where all the sights are just negative assets, such are the values and the two most important characteristics: Rijeka’s Gomila and Rijeka’s street gangs. The heart, the centre of the city, consisting of ancient ruins, disgusting mansions with narrow and winding streets, where the sun never reaches and where streams of undignified liquids flow freely; dangerous, dark corners, smelly inns, and women, and beggars, and drunks. While Rijeka’s street gangs they are a mighty gutter army, an abandoned mob that attacks the schiavi, that fights selflessly and fervidly for the lofty goals of the city’s fathers and less selflessly, for the needs of life. And that is – Fiume.

In the days of liberty, in the days of the universal love of forgiveness, a grey monster howled, that calls itself Fiume, with a howl of hatred and revenge. In the days, when kisses and expressions of brotherhood should have rained down, it prepared itself for secretive bites, punches and stabs. And why wasn’t the punch stronger, that is just the deceitful cunningness and feeling of weakness alongside all the abundance of gesticulation.

Fiume November 1918Is this city ours? Ours are those thousands and thousands of silent beings, who resignedly just wait, eternally waiting, thousands unarmed and unlawful, who upon the punch and the bite correspond with a speechless look, who upon an energetic nod from their masters sign up dutifully and without opposition, not asking: “Where to?” – It doesn’t matter, what they’re called. In the ascertainment of their anguish there was the justification of a love for them, from their speechless mouths comes a call for resistance, for rebellion, for liberation. And that is why, as their national consciousness is not strong, as the term of Yugoslavism has not developed in them yet, their pain is even stronger: it is the consciousness, that despises them, that brands them without reason, without cause, that they oppress the concept of man in them. Yet theirs is the main feeling, the feeling of shame, that they belong to a common creed unlawful, powerless, weak – and with the sense of the joy of life is mixed some dreary feeling of their own inferiority, a state of neglect before the mighty.

Whatever happened, whatever the fate of this city, I will not complain and I will not pity those, to whom the street corners, the banks, the ships and the warehouses belong. Alongside all of their Yugoslav tricolours, were also the Fiumani, and in their pre-war silence and chivalrousness were hidden the subterfuge and calculating attitude of the merchant, who goes just for the money. I won’t grieve for them nor for the legion of those, who over three lovely autumnal days cheered, sang and carried banners. I will only grieve for the pale little people, as their half-spoken “ča” chokes in the instinctive fear before the sharp glance of contempt and superiority…

Long, difficult months of waiting. Events, attacks, parades. Soldiers, soldiers, soldiers. Italians, French, Americans, English, Indo-Chinese. Ships, automobiles, aeroplanes. Carabinieri, bersaglieri, granatieri. Infantry, sailors, lancers, gunners. Crowded and mixed and multi-coloured. Smugglers, detainees, fugitives. And the inns and basements reverberate and glass shatters and girls scream, and blood, wine and champagne flow. Fiume goes crazy and howls and rages.

Yet that’s what it wanted and so sullenly and so sombrely. Like the shadows we loiter only around the corners and we disappear in the corners. Whilst the sun stings and the truth stings. However, the shame against man stings the most of all, for man, as he oppresses his own brother. Of all these people of various colours and uniforms the most likeable are the Annamese (Vietnamese from the French peacekeeping forces), yellow, silent, mysterious, calm creatures with a sick nostalgia for the East and a blunt lack of understanding for all of this colourful, noisiness and craziness. Why are they here and for what use is the secret, eternal pain for the motherland? The same feeling in them, that they protect us, and in us, that they protect. A feeling of pain, shame, submissiveness, disgrace.

Mornings and afternoons and evenings pass. And nights fall, long nights without sleep, when below the windows the hooves of horses clatter as they pass by, heavy cannons boom, the steps of soldiers reverberate. And the city stays silent and the river stays silent, and the sea, in a troubled uncertainty. Just above the houses glimmer the large, light letters: Viva Fiume italiana! And the shining sign and the shining star, so that the brothers can see on the other bank. And they in despair and hopeless expectancy hide their heads amongst the pillows, so they see nothing, so they hear nothing, so they feel nothing. And everything is dead, rigid, uneasy. And everything is sleepless yet in a dream, without a break, without rest, without peace, without joy.

It just sleeps like a fatigued beast, dreaming maliciously and in that sleep of new bites and stabs, the grey formless masses, Fiume sleeps, a city without soul and without physiognomy.


Sva prava pridržana / All rights reserved.

antun baracAntun Barac (1894 Kamenjak near Crikvenica – Zagreb 1955) was an important literary historian and writer, who was an advocate for the publication of Janko Polić Kamov’s works. In 1917 he established the influential publishing institute ‘Jug’ in Zagreb with other writers. Amongst the books they planned to published was Kamov’s only novel Isušena Kaljuža written from 1906-1909, but this never happened.

Barac spent the unsettled period after the First World War from 1918-1924 in Sušak (the eastern part of today’s Rijeka) working as a professor at the secondary school. During this period he wrote this short, stark, even poetic essay Fiume, in which he describes the unpleasant events and experiences in the city of Rijeka at the time of the arrival of foreign peace-keeping troops whilst the city’s fate was being decided in post-war negotiations, and just upon the eve of the arrival of D’Annunzio and his soldiers. It is interesting to note that Barac was most likely reading the still as yet unpublished manuscript of Kamov’s Isušena Kaljuža during this period and that it may have influenced his writing of Fiume. This text was first published in the journal Njiva in 1919.

Barac was also the originator of the idea to publish a collection of the complete works of Janko Polić Kamov, which finally saw the light of day from 1956-1958, amongst which the novel Isušena Kaljuža was printed for the first time almost 50 years after Kamov wrote it.

Thanks to Igor Žic