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May Pang: Loving John
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25 April 2014
11.22pm
meanmistermustard
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I bought Loving John second hand for about £3 second hand but its one of the many books i bought with the intention of reading but never got around to. A lot of the books i have are second hand as there are quite a few second hand bookshops in Glasgow and would also go around them when away on holiday, altho i believe i bought Loving John in Stiriling one day trip there.

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26 April 2014
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AppleScruffJunior
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Ron Nasty said
I was lucky enough/am old enough to have been lucky enough to have bought it when it came out. I understand May's view that it didn't end up being the book she wrote, and after all these years - and the knowledge that Beatles-related sells - it's strange that some sort of revised reprint closer to her original version hasn't been made available yet (in this day and age she could easily self-publish as an e-book).

As a memoir of knowing John, I always found it a touching portrayal - especially since discovering (thanks @Joe) that the publisher made it darker than she wrote it.

Oh, and @AppleScruffJunior, there was no famine...

Silly me I forgot that the church in Ireland secretly had lots of potatoes during the famine, and they hid the potatoes in pillows and sold them abroad in potato fairs. Also the Pope closed down a lot of the factories that were making the potatoes and turned them into prisons for children.*

Yeah I forgot that bit of trivial information a-hard-days-night-george-10 

*According to Niamh Connolly anyways

INTROVERTS UNITE! Separately....in your own homes!

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26 April 2014
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Ron Nasty
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AppleScruffJunior said

Ron Nasty said
I was lucky enough/am old enough to have been lucky enough to have bought it when it came out. I understand May's view that it didn't end up being the book she wrote, and after all these years - and the knowledge that Beatles-related sells - it's strange that some sort of revised reprint closer to her original version hasn't been made available yet (in this day and age she could easily self-publish as an e-book).

As a memoir of knowing John, I always found it a touching portrayal - especially since discovering (thanks @Joe) that the publisher made it darker than she wrote it.

Oh, and @AppleScruffJunior, there was no famine...

Silly me I forgot that the church in Ireland secretly had lots of potatoes during the famine, and they hid the potatoes in pillows and sold them abroad in potato fairs. Also the Pope closed down a lot of the factories that were making the potatoes and turned them into prisons for children.*

Yeah I forgot that bit of trivial information a-hard-days-night-george-10 

*According to Niamh Connolly anyways

Tut-tut, @AppleScruffJunior! Sinead's (and many others) argument is not that there wasn't a potato blight, but that at the time of the blight, potatoes were not only crop grown in the country, and that other crops that could have fed a starving population were exported rather than used to support a population who had had their staple crop fail. An Gorta Mór occurred at a time when shiploads of crops (at least 30 a day), that could have fed people, were being exported by dictate.

You and I both know there are disputes over aspects of the Irish and British relationship, and there are arguments over what happened at various times, but shipping records show how much food was being exported while my ancestors fled and yours, luckily for us as we have you, made it through.

Anyway, being a bad boy here, I should stay-on-topicblue-meanieblue-meanieblue-meanie

"I only said we were bigger than Rod... and now there's all this!" Ron Nasty

 

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8 May 2014
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Von Bontee
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Finally borrowed that copy from library last night, started reading it today! Loving the tale of the making of "Fly" and "Up Your Legs" so far.

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Ahhh Girl, HeyTrud
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11 June 2014
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I'm about 3/4 finished with the book now. My, John was a violent fellow. He should have stopped drinking.

I have this to say...There is one episode that makes me doubt the truthfulness and/or judgment of May Pang...She says that the recording session with John, Paul and Stevie Wonder sounded great. I've heard it. It's awful.

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Silly Girl
"This Beatles talk bores me to death." --John Lennon
11 June 2014
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vonbontee
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I wouldn't necessarily use May's opinion about that jam session (which I've never heard) as an indicator of truth - if it were you or I witnessing such giants making music together, we'd probably be thrilled and overwhelmed as well! Plus, who's to say how much more music they played than was captured on the tape?

On the whole, she struck me as pretty truthful throughout, partly because of her apparent memory for trivial details, like that whole pointless digression about Bianca Jagger injuring her leg. I can't imagine somebody wanting to make up something so boring.

I appreciated her portrayal of Yoko; I expected her to be depicted as some kind of Machiavellian monster. She comes off as more vague and indecisive, and occasionally impulsive.

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Silly Girl

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18 June 2014
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SPOILERS AHEAD

I'm a few pages from the end. I'll be finishing the book on my train ride home...I don't think there will be too many more revelations in the last few pages, so I'll give my assessment now.

I came away from this book liking Yoko a little less, but that is understandable because it is told from May's point of view, and she is the one who lost John. Obviously the two of them would be at odds with each other.

The somewhat lazy, depressed picture of John post-1975 seems to jive with the account given in The Last Days of John Lennon by Fred Seaman.

Yes, the "lost weekend" as it became known was a creative time for John, and one in which he reunited with old friends, but it was also a time during which his drinking got way out of hand, he destroyed other peoples' property on a massive scale, and he was physically violent to May.

It seems obvious according to May's version of the story (and we will never know whether Yoko or May is telling the truth) that Yoko resorted to santeria to work some mojo on John. And she probably did some shady "hypnosis" thing under the guise of quitting smoking (and it probably had nothing to do with his quitting smoking and everything to do with mind control to get him back to the Dakota) that made him violently retch and temporarily turn into a zombie.

But, as they say, you can't do anything you don't want to do under hypnosis. The truth is that he loved both May and Yoko. And he was probably better of with Yoko than with May, because he wasn't harming anyone, and he had time to heal from all of his pain and focus on loving his baby son.

Was Yoko an opportunistic, materialistic, narcissistic, manipulative person? Probably. But she and John needed each other, and he obviously didn't occupy any moral high ground. He was just as bad as Yoko.

If it's true that Yoko had him under some kind of spell, then I think the episode of being lost at sea during the storm (as told in the Seaman book) probably saved him and made him regain his confidence. I think he had had time to mend himself, and then finally he regained his will and his confidence and was on the road to taking control of his life again when he died.

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HeyTrud
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14 July 2014
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parlance
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Examiner interview with May Pang in which she mentions planning to update Loving John.

parlance

Beware of sadness. It can hit you. It can hurt you. Make you sore and what is more, that is not what you are here for. - George

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2 April 2015
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PeterWeatherby
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Just finishing up this book as well. I have maybe 20 pages or so to go, so I'm past the part where John finally leaves May and goes back to Yoko.

I have a slightly different take than @Expert Textpert -- after reading what John was like when he was away from Yoko, I think she was absolute poison for him. I'm sure this story is slightly biased, being written from May's point of view, but that doesn't change the facts: once he got away from Yoko, John started reconnecting with old friends, listening to rock 'n' roll again, and writing good music. It's no coincidence that Walls and Bridges was his most commercially successful album.

One of the most heartbreaking things in the book is the scene where May gets a call from Mick Jagger days after John had returned to Yoko. Mick had been coming around and spending a lot more time with John during this "lost weekend" (such an inaccurate term), but when May told him that John had gone back to Yoko, Mick said, "I guess I've lost a friend, then."

To me, that says it all. I've been in a few bad relationships In My Life, and I've seen friends of mine get in and out of bad relationships as well, and one theme remains constant: when you're with the wrong "significant other," you're a lot less yourself; when you're with a true partner who's good for you, you're not only yourself again, you're even more yourself. With Yoko, John stopped being himself. He stopped socializing with his friends. He stopped listening to rock music because Yoko didn't like it. As Robert Rodriguez put it in a recent review of Walls and Bridges, "the lovely '#9 Dream,' with its tasteful arrangement ... reminded listeners that politics and Yoko paeans aside, he was still capable of crafting timeless, memorable melodies with the best of them."

(An aside: "Pang, occupying the muse slot in John’s life once held exclusively by Yoko, made an appearance here, calling out 'John' like some kind of ghostly apparition. In the revisionist music video produced years later by Yoko, May was, of course, supplanted visually." Good god, I can't stand that woman.)

It made me very sad to learn that John -- just days before going to the Dakota to meet with Yoko's "hypnotist" to supposedly cure his nicotine addiction -- was all set to go with May to New Orleans and hang out with Paul for the recording of Venus and Mars. He even told May that they'd leave as soon as he got back from the Dakota that night. Is there any doubt that John would have ended up recording with Paul if Yoko hadn't intervened?

So John went from planning a new album and being ready to head to New Orleans with Paul, to going back to the Dakota where he shut himself away as a "househusband" and didn't make another record for five years.

Other things gleaned from the book: it was mostly due to Yoko's influence that John got involved in all the political stuff and writing protest songs; and according to May, it was Yoko who pushed John to quit the Beatles, and encouraged him to start making "real music" (her kind of music, naturally). Take that with a grain of salt, of course, but it does line up with what May witnessed at the Dakota, where Yoko got irritated with John for putting a Chuck Berry album on the player -- I really do think Yoko disliked rock 'n' roll and saw it as an inferior art form. John, of course, was always a rocker at heart, and it's no shock that as soon as he got away from Yoko, the first thing he wanted to record was an album of rock standards.

Yes, I know a hypnotist can't make anyone do what they don't want to do, but at the same time, I think May is correct: Yoko sat with John through his several primal therapy sessions, and she knew -- as she apparently bragged to May on one occasion -- exactly where John's deepest insecurities were. I don't know what happened during that hypnotherapy weekend (a truly "lost weekend" if there ever was one), but John described it as being like primal therapy, and he was violently ill during it. I have no trouble believing that Yoko used a combination of hypnotism and knowledge of John's darkest fears to return him to a crippled state of anxiety and dependence on "Mother."

I agree that Yoko doesn't necessarily come across as a monster in this book, but to me, she certainly comes across as a very devious, manipulative, coldly calculating, and obsessively determined person. As John himself admitted, Yoko could make him do things he didn't even want to do, through constant persuasion and relentless badgering. I have a hard time -- especially after reading May's book -- using the word "love" to describe John's relationship with Yoko.

And to think, he could have ended up as a guest star on Venus and Mars ... instead, he ended up making loaves of bread.

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According to Yoko, John never laid a hand on her. In the short time he was with May Pang he tried to strangle her to death, ripped a friend's apartment to shreds, made a fool of himself in public, shouted obscenities at a comedy show, attacked a reporter, and consistently drank so much he could hardly do anything.

And yet this was better for him? I don't think so.

"This Beatles talk bores me to death." --John Lennon
2 April 2015
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PeterWeatherby
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Expert Textpert said
According to Yoko, John never laid a hand on her. In the short time he was with May Pang he tried to strangle her to death, ripped a friend's apartment to shreds, made a fool of himself in public, shouted obscenities at a comedy show, attacked a reporter, and consistently drank so much he could hardly do anything.

And yet this was better for him? I don't think so.

Not when you put it like that, no. :)

On the other hand ... all of those things you mentioned were incidents when John drank too much, and if you'll recall from the book, May said he had quit drinking after the incident where he tried to strangle her, and remained off the alcohol for many months leading up to his return to Yoko.

And I guess I would disagree with the characterization that he "consistently" drank too much. May reports something like four incidents where he got out of control, during the early days of their time in Los Angeles when he was hanging out with Phil Spector and Harry Nilsson. But once he realized how bad it was getting, he quit drinking. Again, quoting Rodriguez:

Once John got the hard-partying “I’m a bachelor again!” behavior out of his system, he demonstrated seriousness toward his craft and got down to business, belying the 1980 stories of how despondent and incapable of functioning he was without Yoko.

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parlance
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2 April 2015
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Everyone interviewed on the subject states that whenever John drank, it was always too much.

And if you'll remember from the book, whenever he got REALLY drunk, the only thought on his mind was how Yoko had abandoned him.

He may have been more productive with May, but with Yoko he was able to reflect on himself and become a better person.

Had he stayed with May he may have worked with Paul, but who knows what other god-awful thing he would have done? Yoko knew how to make him behave.

And yes, I do feel that she probably used primal therapy to control him--but I think the decisive, game-changing factor in his relationship with Yoko was when John cheated on her. I think from that day forward she was deeply hurt and questioned his loyalty.

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Silly Girl
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2 April 2015
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PeterWeatherby
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I'm not at all surprised that he went on a drinking binge for the first few months after he put 3,000 miles of distance between himself and Yoko. It looks exactly like the behavior of of someone who's finally got out from under "Mother's" thumb, and doesn't know how to handle the newfound freedom at first. But again, he sobered up pretty quickly in early 1974 once he realized how destructive and unpredictable he was when he was "on the bottle."

I don't think it's fair to say "he drank too much when he was with May, but with Yoko he behaved himself." It would be just as easy to say that when he first started seeing Yoko, he got hooked on heroin with her. The substance abuse (whether drugs or alcohol) reflects more on John than it does on his romantic partners.

The drinking (or drugs) thing aside, though, I still go back to the question of what it looks like when a person is with a partner who is a good match. It's not purely a question of John's productivity, although that's part of it, because Walls and Bridges looks like the work of a man who has rediscovered his creative center. 

But more importantly than his musical output, I think it's incredibly telling that John felt more free to connect with his peer group once he was away from Yoko, and it's especially interesting that, with May Pang's encouragement, he also reconnected with Julian. I think that's a strong sign of being in a healthy relationship, when that relationship means expanding outward and cultivating other relationships.

Of course, I don't mean to say that Yoko alone is at fault. John had two stellar women in his life at different times in Cynthia and May Pang, both of whom were interested in seeing him free to be John. But they were both fairly passive women, and in his own emotionally unsettled state, John craved a Mother Figure who would "make him behave." Yoko certainly gave him that, but I would argue that's hardly healthy, and not at all a sign of a good relationship.

I guess we'll never know, because it's alternate history in a parallel universe or whatever, but it seemed like John was on a good trajectory towards personal responsibility, growth, creativity, and reconciling past relationships ... right before he went back to Yoko. In going back to "Mother," I think he stunted his growth and locked himself into an emotionally dependent state -- a state that Yoko was more than happy to keep him in.

It seems awfully convenient that Yoko start maneuvering to get him back just as he was about to really reconcile with Paul. Of all the people in the world, I think Paul represented the biggest threat to Yoko's place in John's life, which is probably why she was always trying to keep them apart. A quote from May: "When Paul first started to visit, John would say, 'Err, Paul and Linda want to stop by, is it O.K.?' I said it was great, why do you even have to ask. Then I figured out that previously it probably wasn't always O.K." 

I seem to remember Pete Shotton relaying a similar story in his book, about how he called John at the Dakota once and was going to go over for a visit, and John was all excited to see him, but then Pete heard muffled sounds of John and Yoko arguing just off-phone, and John came back on and said, "um, maybe it's best if you don't come over."

EDIT: Oh no, @Expert Textpert, I've just realized your profile signature, "Yoko Ono is my favorite Beatle." I'm probably wasting my breath with this discussion, aren't I? :D

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parlance
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2 April 2015
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No, not at all. What I say on this forum is only "in my opinion." I'm always the first to admit that I'm wrong.

"This Beatles talk bores me to death." --John Lennon
2 April 2015
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You do bring up some interesting points re: the heroin. Yoko may have had a case of not seeing her own faults, there.

However, when John was on heroin he didn't bother anyone. If you will notice in Let It Be, John and Yoko just sit there and allow Paul to make himself look like a jerk.

Whereas, when John drank he was all over everyone, cursing, destroying things, etc.

I think a large part of it may be that John BELIEVED Yoko was good for him, therefore she was.

May had a hard time controlling John's negative behavior and was on the phone with Yoko asking for help more than once. For whatever reason, Yoko was good at that. And if a person can help another person not be destructive toward others, that's a good thing in my book, even if it means we don't get more Beatles albums.

"This Beatles talk bores me to death." --John Lennon
2 April 2015
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PeterWeatherby
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May Pang says that just before John left her to return to Yoko, he was writing a bunch of new songs for an album he planned to record -- she even mentions the titles of two of those songs, "Tennessee" and "Popcorn" (which she says had a very catchy and memorable melody). I wonder what ever became of those songs? Did he just trash them after returning to the Dakota? Did they get recorded under different titles?

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2 April 2015
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PeterWeatherby said

May Pang says that just before John left her to return to Yoko, he was writing a bunch of new songs for an album he planned to record -- she even mentions the titles of two of those songs, "Tennessee" and "Popcorn" (which she says had a very catchy and memorable melody). I wonder what ever became of those songs? Did he just trash them after returning to the Dakota? Did they get recorded under different titles?

It was my impression from "Loving John" that some of them eventually ended up on Double Fantasy with different lyrics. However, according to all other versions of the story (Fred Seaman, Yoko, John) the Double Fantasy songs were all written in Bermuda. So it's a matter of who you want to believe.

"This Beatles talk bores me to death." --John Lennon
2 April 2015
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John frequently took bits and pieces of songs he recorded demos of and turned them into something else. Of the two mentioned Tennessee' seems to have been forgotten along the way but a few of the demos have appeared on bootlegs. 'Popcorn' i dont believe has appeared on any bootleg so i dont know what it consisted of or what happened to it; more than likely it got discarded over the years.

'Watching The Wheels' was written well before Bermuda and went thru many changes (see Joe's entry).

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