I was on holiday with Brian Epstein in Spain, where the rumours went around that he and I were having a love affair. Well, it was almost a love affair, but not quite. It was never consummated. But it was a pretty intense relationship.
It was my first experience with a homosexual that I was conscious was homosexual. He had admitted it to me. We had this holiday together because Cyn was pregnant, and I went to Spain and there were lots of funny stories. We used to sit in a cafe in Torremolinos looking at all the boys and I'd say, 'Do you like that one, do you like this one?' I was rather enjoying the experience, thinking like a writer all the time: I am experiencing this, you know. And while he was out on the tiles one night, or lying asleep with a hangover one afternoon, I remember playing him the song Bad To Me. That was a commissioned song, done for Billy J Kramer, who was another of Brian's singers.
All We Are Saying, David Sheff
The question of whether any sexual contact happened between Lennon and Epstein has been the subject of considerable speculation in the years since.
Cyn was having a baby and the holiday was planned, but I wasn't going to break the holiday for a baby and that's what a bastard I was. And I just went on holiday. I watched Brian picking up the boys. I like playing a bit faggy, all that. It was enjoyable, but there were big rumours in Liverpool, it was terrible. Very embarrassing.
Lennon Remembers, Jann S Wenner
Paul McCartney later suggested that Lennon agreed to the holiday in order to assert his authority within The Beatles.
Brian Epstein was going on holiday to Spain at the same time and he invited John along. John was a smart cookie. Brian was gay, and John saw his opportunity to impress upon Mr Epstein who was the boss of the group. I think that's why he went on holiday with Brian. And good luck to him, too - he was that kind of guy; he wanted Brian to know whom he should listen to. That was the relationship. John was very much the leader in that way, although it was never actually said.
Although neither he nor Epstein spoke on record about the event, Lennon did apparently reveal to his former schoolfriend Pete Shotton what happened. Shotton quoted the exchange at length, and with characteristic frankness, in his 1983 memoir. This is perhaps the fullest published account which claims to shed light on the true nature of Lennon's Spanish encounter with Epstein.
I visited John at Aunt Mimi's a few days after his return to England. And when he started in about how much he had enjoyed Spain, I could hardly resist taking the piss out of him. "So you had a good time with Brian, then?" I smirked. Nudge nudge, wink wink.
I was somewhat taken aback when John didn't so much as crack a smile. "Oh, fuckin' hell," he groaned. "Not you as well, Pete!"
"What do you mean, not me as well?"
"They're all fucking going on about it."
It's OK, John. Don't take it so serious. I'm just joking, for Christ's sake."
"Actually Pete," he said softly, "Something did happen with him one night."
Now that wiped the grin right off my face. Had I even dreamed there might be any truth whatsoever to the rumors, I would never have made light of the subject in the first place. Still - as John surely knew - I would have stood by him, and let the rest of the world handle the business of passing moral judgement, even if he had just told me he'd committed murder. And John would surely have done the same for me.
Which, after all, is what true friendship is all about.
"What happened," John explained, "is that Eppy just kept on and on at me. Until one night I finally just pulled me trousers down and said to him: 'Oh, for Christ's sake, Brian, just stick it up me fucking arse then.'
"And he said to me, 'Actually, John, I don't do that kind of thing. That's not what I like to do.'
"'Well,' I said, 'what is it you like to do, then?'
"And he said, 'I'd really just like to touch you, John.'
"And so I let him toss me off."
And that was that. End of story.
"That's all, John" I said. "Well, so what? What's the big fucking deal, then?"
"Yeah, so fucking what! The poor bastard. He's having a fucking hard enough time anyway." This was in reference to the "butch" dockers who, on several recent occasions, had rewarded Brian's advances by beating him to a bloody pulp.
"So what harm did it do, then, Pete, for fuck's sake?" John asked rhetorically. "No harm at all. The poor fucking bastard, he can't help the way he is."
John Lennon: In My Life
The Spanish holiday was later dramatised in the 1991 film The Hours And Times, starring David Angus and Ian Hart as Epstein and Lennon.
Also on this day...
- 2015: Paul McCartney live at Nippon Budokan, Tokyo, Japan
- 2014: Paul McCartney live at Estadio de Liga, Quito, Ecuador
- 2010: George Martin speaks in aid of Deafness Research UK
- 1966: Recording: Eleanor Rigby
- 1965: Filming: Help!
- 1964: Television: Around The Beatles
- 1962: Live: Star-Club, Hamburg
- 1961: Live: Top Ten Club, Hamburg
Want more? Visit the Beatles history section.