Levin On Lennon (And Ono)

Most celebrated of all the experimenters in other-worldly ways of life were some of [the] Beatles, one of whom, towards the end of the decade, caused great offence to many by going to bed in public with his new bride, a Japanese lady who was variously described as a sculptress and a film-maker, though none could remember seeing any sculpture by her, and the only film she was known to have made consisted entirely of shots of naked buttocks moving, with more or less grace, away from the camera. Mr and Mrs John Lennon, then, having been married, elected to spend their honeymoon entirely in bed, a custom which was, after all, not entirely original. What made their honeymoon different from most is that it was spent in conditions of extreme public exposure, in a suite at the Hilton Hotel, Amsterdam, to which reporters, interviewers, newspaper and television photographers and other interested parties were free to come, and in suitable cases invited to join them in the bed, and there celebrate with the loving couple what was supposed to be the point of the entire proceedings, to wit a demonstration on behalf of personal and international peace. To this end, the walls of the bedroom were decorated with signs saying ‘Bed Peace’, ‘Hair Peace’, ‘Stay in Bed’ and ‘Grow Your Hair’, and the peaceful two argued, reasonably enough, that if everyone stayed in bed, occupying themselves in growing their hair, there would be no wars. To the question, what would happen if most stayed in bed and grew their hair but a few of the more ruthless declined to do so, they had clearly not addressed themselves, for the philosophy behind the performance was summed up by Mr Lennon, who said that all would be well if the Vietnamese, both North and South, would only take their trousers off, followed by the Arabs, the Israelis, the Russians and the Americans, while Mrs Lennon unwittingly touched upon the fallacy in the argument by proclaiming that their mood could be summed up in the words: ‘Remove your pants before resorting to violence’. It might, of course, be objected that this is the spirit which in practice presumably guides every rapist, but granting that Mrs Lennon meant to say that he who removes his pants will be unable to resort to violence, it still left unresolved the problem of what to do about those whose pants stayed resolutely on, and still more the problem of how to deal with those who had learnt to do violence while naked from the waist down, or up, or even both.

Bernard Levin, The Pendulum Years : Britain In The Sixties (1970)

Elsewhere, in one of his newspaper columns, Levin said memorably of Lennon “there is nothing wrong with [him] that could not be cured by standing him upside down and shaking him gently until whatever is inside his head falls out.”

I have just started reading The Pendulum Years, and thus far it seems an eerily clear-sighted vision of the decade given that it was written at its very tail-end. Bernard Levin – who as you will learn we should habitually refer to as Bernard ‘Massive, unflagging, moral, exquisitely shaped, enormously vital, enormously funny, strong, supple, human, ripe, generous and graceful’ Levin – is remembered in a recent comment thread over at The Dabbler, well worth reading. But of course everything in The Dabbler is well worth reading.

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