John Lennon Man of the decade

John Lennon, Man of the Decade, 1969

"Man Of The Decade" was a documentary screened on commercial UK television, in colour, on the penultimate day of the 1960's. Mark Lewisohnís quintessential Beatles reference book The Complete Beatles Chronicle includes the following information on the programme...

"It was a measure of the the imprint he left on the 1960's that when asked to choose the person whom he felt to have been the man of the decade, the sociologist and anthropologist Dr Desmond Morris chose John Lennon.
Morris was one of three eminent people asked to make such a choice, the broadcaster Alistair Cooke selecting John F Kennedy, and the writer Mary McCarthy opting for Ho Chi Minh. Having made their selections, each was commissioned by ATV to compile a 20 minute documentary to support his/her choice, the resulting one hour of material forming ĎMan Of The Decadeí networked by ATV on Tuesday 30th December 1969 10:30-11:30pm. Johnís section was the last.
John was naturally delighted to have been accorded such an honour, especially by the esteemed Morris. The cornerstone of the 20 minute section was an interview given by John with Yoko, to Morris on the 2nd December 1969 at Tittenhurst Park, out walking in the expansive, arboricultural grounds. The 20 minutes also included short extracts of Beatles/Lennon film, which John was anxious to choose personally, getting together with Morris to do so in a Soho viewing theatre a few days earlier."

What follows is a transcript of the third and final part of the programme which was introduced by Desmond Morris from the TV studio.

Part Three caption appears on screen with a film clip of a crowd of people singing Give Peace A Chance.

Desmond Morris : "John Lennon, ĎMan of the decadeí. Now you may be shocked at the idea of setting up a Beatle alongside such men as Kennedy and Ho Chi Minh. I too find the comparison shocking, but for a special reason - The inheritors of the inspiration of Ho Chi Minh, who we are told, have buried their prisoners alive with their hands tied behind their backs. And itís the inheritors of the inspiration of Kennedy, who we are told, have shot down and massacred tiny children and old ladies. Yes I am shocked by the comparison, the Beatles certainly arenít in that league.
They exploded into the sixties as nothing more than a source of immense pleasure and excitement for millions of young, and some not so young, people. But then they went on to become symbols of something more, symbols of a youthful irreverence and a light hearted rejection of the growing staleness and hypocrisy of an increasingly materialistic culture.
The rebellion of youth in the 1960's is all too often measured in terms of brick throwing extremists, the pathetic paradox of violent anti-violence, but this is too easy, itís a convenient but gross distortion of whatís really been happening in the minds of the younger generation, and it has precious little to do with the great wave of exhilaration that started to spread as the Beatle phenomenon began to work its magic."

Film clip of If I Fell from the A Hard Days Night movie

John (walking alongside Yoko in the grounds of his Tittenhurst home): "It was like the thing I was saying that starts with us two. When it started with me, George, Paul and Ringo, and we said Ďlisten man, hereís another field of professionalism that doesnít need any qualifications except that youíve gotta get down to it and wanna do it and you can make it in terms of the world, you can make it without that pressure of the 11+, GCSE etc.' and all that. And everybody was finding this out at the same time, I mean - I had my guitar, Mick Jagger had his in London, Eric Burdon was up in Newcastle and we were all going through the same changes at once and we all discovered that the values didnít mean a thing and you could make it without college and education and all those things. Itís nice to be able to read and write but apart from that, I never learnt anything worth a damn."

Desmond Morris (back in studio) : The message was simple enough, if you had talent and energy you could beat the system - you could have a ball, and to hell with the traditional values and the traditional symbols. The '60s for instance was the decade in which having a local accent ceased to be a social hindrance and could even be an asset, the decade in which social foreground became more important than social background.
Now, whether you admire or despise this message is irrelevant, we are looking at history of what actually happened in the '60s, and a mounting irreverence for the older generation is certainly what happened, like it or not, with the Beatles very much in the forefront of the movement.

Movie clips from A Hard Day's Night -  first the sequence with the old business gentleman: "I travel on this train regularly........I fought the war for your sort"  Ringo: "I bet youĎre sorry you wonĒ and the mock press interview sequence. Also from Help! ďSo this is the famous Beatles.", Lennon "So this is the famous Scotland yard eh?Ē.

Morris : Despite early resistance to the Beatles on the part of the establishment, and itís amusing today to think back to the outrage those neat little hairstyles caused in the early days, their success was unstoppable and rapidly reached a proportion hither to unknown in the entire world of entertainment. Beatlemania was on its way.

Film clips of hysterical girls at airports, clip from Shea stadium 1965  - I'm Down

John : You start off with say,  Rock 'n' roll in the late '50s and '60s when all the kids, including me, were sort of all James Dean and Elvis and fairly paranoid and violent, [An obvious edit at this point, possibly done at the last minute due to the subject matter] and then that part of the trip.......thatís what happens on acid folks!, then from there you start maturing or thinking about the trip, the first effects of the drug wear off and you start coasting along a bit and you have time to look at the trees. And that developed into the actual acid scene, the psychedelic bit and everybody was grooving around with flowers and that, then of course - like any drug, it wears off and youíre back to so called reality.

All You Need Is Love is played but illustrated with mute footage from the recording of Hey Jude and the Something promo (they probably had to use alternate footage because rival station BBC television owned exclusive rights to the Our World broadcast).

John : Some people discovered a new reality and some people are still sort of - confident about the future - like we two are, everybodyís talking about all the Ďway itís goingí and Ďthe decadenceí and the rest of it, but not many people are noticing all the good thatís come out over the last 10 years, which is the moratorium and the vast gathering of people in Woodstock - which is the biggest mass of people ever gathered together for anything other than war - nobody had that big an army that didnít kill somebody or have some kind of violent scene like the Romans or whatever, even a Beatle concert was more violent than that and that was just 50,000. And so the good things that came out were all this vast peaceful movement.

Brief clip of Give Peace A Chance.

John : The bully, thatís the establishment, they know how to beat people up, they know how to gas them and they have the arms and the equipment. The mistake was made that the kids ended up playing their game of violence, you know, and they know how to be violent because theyíve been running it on violence for 2,000 years or a million or whatever it is. And nobody can tell me that violence is the way after all that time, there must be another way, but a lot of people fell for it and itís understandable in a way because when the bullyís actually right there itís pretty hard to say Ďturn the other cheek babyí.
When we were in touch with the Berkeley kids during that, whatever was going on, we were peacefully doing our peace demonstration in Montreal [bed-in] and then we were suddenly connected by phone directly to them, and they were saying Ďhelp usí or Ďwhat are we gonna do, itís gonna go wrongí and this was some of the people organising it, but they were saying  ĎItís out of control and what can we say?í  and of course - I havenít got any solutions....

Film clip from the Bed In movie of John & Yoko talking to Berkeley students via telephone...
John : OK listen, thereís no park worth losing your life for, I donít believe in anything else and I donít believe thereís any park or anything worth getting shot for and you can do better by moving on to another city or go to Canada or go anywhere and then theyíve got nothing to attack and nobody to point a finger at.....

Morris : Clearly John Lennon has undergone a major change since the early days of Beatlemania, even more precisely I suppose, thereís been a whole series of changes, a kind of search, what to do really with the new won freedom. Heís tried writing books, acting in films, going off to meditate in Asia, experimenting with drugs or more recently - surrealist events and happenings.
Now if youíre anti Lennon, you can write all this off as a frantic attempt to escape from reality to avoid the responsibility of the enormous worldwide influence over the young which the Beatles, willy nilly, had acquired. If youíre pro Lennon, you can see it rather as a voyage of exploration, a quest for something which, on one hand owes no allegiance to the in-trenched right wing traditionalists, nor - as we have just seen - that, that comes entangled in violent extremes in left wing intellectualism. Now this was far from easy and the journey wasnít always a happy one.

Newsreel footage of the Lennonís outside court following the 1968 drug bust

John : Anybody whoís been in the drug scene, er, itís not something you can go on and on doing, itís like drink or anything, youíve got to come to terms with it, like too much food or too much anything. Youíve got to get out of it, youíre left with yourself all the time whatever you do, meditation, drugs, anything. Youíve got to get down to your own god in your own temple in your head and itís all down to yourself.
So itís like for peace or anything, itís all down to this relationship, to work on this relationship with Yoko is very hard, weíve got the gift of love, but love is like a precious plant, you canít just accept it and leave it in the cupboard or just think itís going to get on with itself like a pet, youíve got to keep watering it and really look after it, and love you have to water and be careful of it and keep the flies off and - er - see that itís alright and nurture it. And to get a relationship between two people is the start, and if we two can make it maybe we can make it with you, and maybe us 4 - you and yours - we can make it with the next 4, and itís only that, thereís no sort of answer.

Morris : For many people, John Lennonís serious statements are completely at odds with the zany eccentric way he chooses so often to present them to the public, heís frequently, and quite unfairly I think, been written off as a publicity hungry clown. But you see, this eccentricity of his is more than a mere anti-establishment device, it also represents a plea for fantasy - if you like - in an unromantic age, a plea for the unofficial and the inconsequential in an age of officialment over organisation, a plea for unsophisticated fun in an age of sophisticated weapons. Above all - itís a plea for optimism.

John : Iím full of optimism because of the contacts Iíve made personally throughout the world including yourself, whether seeing you on TV or whatever, knowing that thereís other people around who I can agree with. And Iím not insane and Iím not alone. Thatís just on a personal level. And of course the Woodstock, Isle of Wight [Music festivals] all the mass meetings of the youth is completely positive for me and the fact that now weíre all getting to know a way of showing our flags. And when you show your flag youíre not alone.

Itís like there's no need for us to be a few Christian martyrs because thereís lots of us and donít be afraid because they do look after you, whoeverís up there, if you get on with it. And Iím completely positive, and when Iím negative - Iíve got Yoko who is just as strong as me, and it helps, and this is only the beginning - this '60s bit was just a sniff, the '60s were just waking up in the morning and we havenít even got to dinner time yet and I canít wait, I just canít wait Iím so glad to be around and itís just going to be great and thereís going to be more and more of us, and whatever youíre thinking there Mrs Grundy of South Birmingham on toast, you donít stand a chance, (A) Youíre not going to be there when weíre running it and (B) youíre gonna like it when you get less frightened of it.
And itís gonna be wonderful and I believe it, and of course we all get depressed and down about it, but when Iím down or John and Yokoís down, Desmond will be up or somebody else will be up, thereís always somebody carrying the flag and beating the drum, so ítheyí, whoever they are, donít stand a chance because they canít beat love, because all those old bits from religion about love being all powerful is true, and thatís the bit they canít do, they canít handle it.

Morris : If John Lennonís anti-hatred, anti-intolerance, optimism is typical of the younger generation then I too am optimistic on this last day of the '60s. And like him - I look forward eagerly to the '70s. But make no mistake Iím not suggesting that the rebellion of youth in the '60s that I have symbolised in the shape of the Beatles has arrived at any great solutions, it hasnít. But at least itís insisted on asking some vital questions both pertinent and sometimes impertinent and has rejected a great deal of yesterdays out worn dogma. And this is an important step that had to be taken. Letís hope that in the '70s we shall start to find out some of the answers to the questions that youth has been so noisily, and so rightly, been asking in the '60s.

Now, at the beginning of the programme Alistair Cook mentioned a Gallup poll that was taken to find out how a thousand people would vote when asked to name their man, or woman, of the decade. So that you can see if your own personal choice was amongst the top favourites - here they are.

President Kennedy
Sir Winston Churchill
Dr Barnard
Mr Harold Wilson
Prince Charles
Prince Phillip
H.M The Queen
President Ho Chi Minh
John Lennon

(C)1969 ATV

See also:-
Television Appearances

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