Phil Norman: ‘Yoko was waiting for me with two lawyers’


Beatles biographer Philip Norman has charmed Elton John, angered Paul McCartney – and horrified Yoko Ono.

The great rock writer reveals the pain – and pleasure – of chasing stars. Researching the Beatles provided an irresistible flying start to a biography of the Rolling Stones, whose story was so closely bound up with theirs. Excerpt from -to read the full article cllick here

Frank Zappa memorably defined pop music journalists as “people who can’t write preparing Immagine correlataarticles about people who can’t think for people who can’t read”

In  December 1980 when John Lennon was murdered. Five months later while I was in New York publicising the book, Yoko Ono saw me on television and phoned me there at ABC’s studios. “What you just said about John was very nice,” she said.

“Maybe you’d like to come over and see where we were living.” That afternoon, I was at the Dakota Building, being shown round their vast, white, seventh-floor apartment that was still just as Lennon had left it, his guitar hanging above his bed and all his clothes back to the 1960s on revolving racks like some petrified boutique.

he strangest case was that of Paul McCartney, whom I admit to having misjudged in Shout! – and who thereafter referred to the book as “Shite!” Yet he let me interview him by email for John Lennon: The Life and when I proposed a companion volume about him, came back with his “tacit approval” in a personal message less than two weeks later.

On the Lennon project, I found myself first authorised, then deauthorised. For three years, I had Yoko’s total cooperation: not only hours of revelatory interview with her but also with their son Sean and her daughter by a previous husband, Kyoko. The only condition was that she would read my manuscript and, if she liked it, would contribute a foreword (which, truth to tell, the publishers were rather dreading).

I sent the unedited text to her and initially the signals that came back were positive. The final bit of access I hoped for was to read John’s diary, kept deep in the vaults of the Dakota Building. Some weeks later, I received a friendly invitation to drop by for this very purpose. As I walked across Central Park to the Dakota, a thought suddenly popped into my head: “Suppose she’s waiting for me with a lawyer?”

She was waiting with two lawyers. She’d decided the book was “mean to John”, and so was withdrawing her quotes and those of Sean and Kyoko. For two highly unpleasant hours, seated around the same kitchen table where John used to drink tea and smoke Gitanes, she and the lawyers tried to pressure me into turning over the interview tapes. Also present was an unidentified woman whose role was unclear until Yoko shouted, “How could you say that John masturbated?” – which she’d mentioned with amusement during our interviews.



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