The World of John and Yoko: A BBC Television Documentary from 1969

The World of John & Yoko, 1969

"The world of John and Yoko" was a fascinating British Television documentary for which a BBC camera crew followed John and Yoko for five days at the start of the final month of the 1960's. The programme was broadcast as part of the "24 Hours" series and screened in colour on Monday 15th December 1969 (10:30pm-11:05pm).

The first day's shooting (Tuesday 2nd December) co-incided with the Lennon's appointment with ATV who were filming John's section of their forthcoming "Man Of The Decade" programme, the BBC cameras filmed the ATV cameras filming John and Yoko. The following day (Wednesday 3rd December) the 24 Hours team had John and Yoko to themselves, they recorded them in bed, playing a Mellotron, watching Granada TV footage of the Beatles playing at the Cavern in 1962, in their Rolls-Royce travelling to London with assistant Anthony Fawcett, and various scenes at their Apple office including meetings, telephone conversations and the heated exchange with the New York Times journalist Gloria Emerson. On day 3 (Thursday) the cameras captured a remarkable and little known recording session at Abbey Road studio's; John, Yoko, Mal Evans, Anthony Fawcett, Geoff Emerick and several others participated in an exercise that was intended to form the basis of a fourth avant-garde album in the Lennon/Ono series, the first "item" committed to tape was a long section of group laughter overdubbed with percussion and chanting, item two involved participants queuing up to take turns in whispering something into the microphone. The recordings were never released. On day 4 (Friday), the BBC crew witnessed the re-make of the Lennon's experimental film Apotheosis in Lavenham, after which they recorded the couple at the Bull hotel in Long Melford. Filming was concluded at the hotel the following morning.
As agreed in the contract for the programme, all of the footage - used or unused - was then handed over to John and Yoko to use as they saw fit, a wealth of which eventually turned up on the 1988 documovie "Imagine:John Lennon".
 

The programme opens with John (wearing a plastic comedy nose) and Yoko sat by a window playing a Mellotron.

John (voiceover): The simplest way of saying what Yoko is to me, and what I am to her is, that before we met we were half a person, you know. There is no myth about people being half and the other half being in the sky or in heaven or something, or the other side of the universe, or the mirror image bit. But er, we are two halves and together we are a whole.
Yoko (voiceover): It's a very convenient whole too, because like, you know, it's almost - like - say if you had one hand separate from your body that's walking there, so we're just sort of separate body-wise just for convenience sake, you know.

John and Yoko are next seen discussing the War is Over Poster campaign with Anthony Fawcett in their white Rolls-Royce.
"The Ballad of John and Yoko" is played.
Arrive at Apple......

Reporter: How long do you think you can go on being a practising Beatle?
John: It depends how I feel and how they feel you know, when it happens, there comes a time when it's time for a Beatle product and we always make that decision whether to make it or not, because sometimes we go through hell recording, and sometimes we don't, you know, and sometimes it's not worth it.
The problem now is - in the old days, when we needed an album, Paul and I got together and produced an album, or produced enough songs for it, nowadays there's four of us - three of us writing prolifically, and trying to fit it on one album, and - it's not like we're wrestling in the studio trying to get a song on, we all do it the same way, we take it in turns to record a track, but usually George lost out because Paul and I are tougher. But we don't want to fight about it.
Now, half the tracks on Abbey Road - I'm not on Something - half the tracks on the Double album, and way back, it depends, we're not always on, sometimes there's only two Beatles on a track. But it got to the situation - if we had the name Beatles on it, it sells, and when we begin to think like that then there's something wrong, you know. Then you begin to think "What are we selling?".
 

John and Yoko in bed reading papers and "fan" mail.....

Yoko: ......Oh no, they have to say that it was all a hoax.
John: What was?
Yoko: "Lennon lie-in".
John: [Reading a letter to a newspaper out loud] "John Lennon doesn't affront the Queen by sending back his MBE, he doesn't make a hapenth of difference to attitudes on Biafra [Nigeria] and Vietnam or to the place of his Drug orientated record in the charts, he makes an ass of himself. [mimicking pathos] He does affront hundreds of ordinary people who are proud to hold this rather ordinary decoration."
 

Back at Apple.....

Reporter: I find alot of people have this thing that they still don't feel that you communicate on the peace thing as much as in some cases they'd like you to.
John: If they're having problems with us communicating on the peace thing, that's all we communicate in, the peace thing, that's all they need to know. It's like - if you see an advert for something on Tele, it can have all sorts of jazz going on, birds dancing, white horses, cars revving up, but the product could be a cigarette lighter, and the cigarette lighter is the thing that comes over subliminally, and the cigarette lighter is the thing they buy.
Reporter: But the end product is to make that desirable isn't it.
John: Yes, so that's what we're doing, is doing a campaign of advertising. The campaign hasn't been going as long as Coca Cola's or Shell and the identification symbols aren't as well known, it's going to take us a few years for them to know when we say peace what it means. It's just like that, we've been on this kick for two years, and only a year solid selling of the product, and it's going take a bit of time, you know, for it to sink in.
 

John: Somebody keeps checking in hotels, in our name. It's happened in Wales, [laughs] they booked an entire floor to Mr Lennon and party at the Bell-Vue Royal hotel Aberystwyth.....
 

Walking in the grounds of their home at Tittenhurst whilst being interviewed by Desmond Morris for ATV...

Desmond Morris: John, the Sixties has been a time in which the attitudes of younger people have changed pretty dramatically, when compared with earlier decades, and you have been responsible for this change. How would you describe the way in which young people's thinking has changed in this decade?
John: I wouldn't take the responsibility you know, it's like people used to say "Beatles changed the whole of Britain's image", or "Beatles were the leaders of the movement".............[Sharp edit at this point].... that's the bit they can't do, they can't handle it, or even black magic man - they can't touch it [love], just do that [makes sign of a cross] and dracula runs away. So that's all true, and they don't stand a chance and I'm supremely positive.
I don't know whether I answered it....
Morris: Fabulous, fabulous. [Now in John's Kitchen] I never understood why it is that you've got to have a long face and be very pompous and be very serious.
John: Yes, that's exactly what it's all about, nobody believes the pompous thing anymore because all the politicians do the pompous thing about 'Nixon the all American boy' with the family and a wife and sport and rowing or whatever he does and 'pat the dog', nobody falls for that anymore. But the people who say "Why don't you do it like a politician with a butch haircut and an Itie suit" are the one's the politicians are fooling all the time with a butch haircut and an Itie suit and patting the dog and the picture of the family, and the whores are kept in the back room downstairs.
 

Back in the white Rolls Royce discussing plans for the day ahead with Anthony Fawcett....Yoko is interviewed in Japanese, John gives the reporters from Japan a set of Lennon/Ono records including the brand new Live Peace in Toronto album and remarks on the "great smell of new records", they also record a peace message "To you from London".....

Japanese female reporter: I was dying to ask you what it's like to be married to an oriental, because I'm also married to an oriental.
John: You must realise - You don't notice, every now and then you suddenly think - 'oh yes', but I can't wait to go to Japan and be a negro, because we're [White people] negroes in Japan, so I'm looking forward to being a negro in Japan.
Japanese female reporter: Do you think she is sexy or....
John: Yes I think she is the sexiest bitch on Earth.
 

Clip of John watching a film of the Beatles performing "Some Other Guy" at the Cavern....... Back to Apple.....

Reporter: Think of the word "Children"
John: Er, missing. I think in one word you know, 'missing', that's it. See, our children are missing, as it were, from our lives - folks.
Yoko: Capital letter, M.
John: [To Yoko] How do you mean?
Yoko: I mean Missing, in capital M.
John: Oh yes, so we are Missing our children.
Reporter: "Insecurity"
John: It's just fear, you know, it's just, er, I can't think of anything else about it except it's fear.
Yoko: Well money doesn't solve insecurity, let's put it that way.
John: Money doesn't solve it, and er, work doesn't solve it, but work is the best cure for anything - really, you've no time to be insecure if you're doing something.
Yoko: Work is divine and whatever.
John: When we're not working we get pretty depressed, cus people think "What's work to you? all gimmicks and events", but gimmicks and events are work, it's either brain work or physical work , it's both. And then that hides the insecurity, or covers it. In fact it makes you secure because you're not insecure when you're working. You must know that.
Reporter: "Death"
John: I hope we both die together, one of our greatest fears is one dying before the other, even three minutes.
 

Back in John's Rolls-Royce, discussing tomorrow......
Recording experimental laughter and whispering tracks at EMI......
Reading another fan letter in bed, the author warning John that the spirit of Brian Epstein had told them that an assassination attempt would be made on John's life.......
The notorious meeting with Gloria Emerson at Apple......

John Lennon & Gloria Emerson, 1969John: [Angrily in response to Gloria Emerson's cynical view of John returning his MBE]
If I'm gonna get on the front page, I might as well get on the front page with the word "PEACE".
Emerson: But you've made yourself ridiculous!
John: To some people, I don't care....if it saves lives!
Emerson: You don't think you've - oh - my dear boy you're living in a nether nether land.
John: Well you talk to a...
Emerson: You don't think you've saved a single life...
John: Maybe we'll save some in the future...
Emerson: You've probably helped Cold Turkey move up the charts.
John: It didn't do a bit of use, it's still gone down, so it didn't do anything.
Emerson: But you don't equate of the civil war that's going on in Nigeria with that, and then talk about "This is my form of a protest because people in anti-war campaigns are too SERIOUS and they get battered", what do you know about a protest movement anyway? It's a lot more than sending your chauffeur and your car back to Buckingham palace.
John: You're just a snob about it.....
Emerson: You're a Fake! I know in England it's kind of smart not to be too serious about anything.
Yoko: Everything needs a smile you know.
Emerson: [Condescendingly] I see.... Take the massacre, ha ha ha. Can't you give up something else if it means a little bit more....
John: It's not the sacrifice, you can't get that into your head can you? You've stated half a dozen times that the MBE is irrelevant, I agree. It was no sacrifice to get rid of the MBE because it was an embarrassment...
Emerson: Then what kind of a protest did you make?
John: AN ADVERTISING CAMPAIGN FOR PEACE. Can you understand that? A very big advertising campaign for peace..
Emerson: No I can't...I think it shows you're vulgar and self-aggrandizement, are you advertising John Lennon or peace?
John: Oh, do you want nice middle class gestures for peace? And intellectual manifestos written by a lot of half-witted intellectuals and nobody reads 'em! That's the trouble with the peace movement.
Emerson: Well - it just seems a nether nether land, I can't think of anyone who seems more remote from the ugliness of what's happening than you. I do see you getting up on a Tuesday morning and thinking 'Let's see, what shall we do today? - what war is going on'.
Yoko: [Exasperated] That's your imagination you know, I mean really that's YOU.
John: [To Emerson] You carry on, why don't you make a film while you're at it.
Emerson: I'm somebody who admired you very much.....
John: [Interrupting] Well I'm sorry if you liked the old moptops dear and you thought I was very satirical and witty and you like Hard Days' Night love......
Emerson: I'm talking about cashing in on the Beatles.
John: .......But I've grown up, but you obviously haven't.
Emerson: Have you?
John: Yes folks.
Emerson: What have you grown up to?
John: Twenty-nine
Emerson: How was Greece?
Yoko: It's beautiful...
John: We did a nice war protest on the army TV while we were there....
Yoko: .....by the way.....
John: I suppose you didn't like us going to Greece eh? You think you shouldn't go to a fascist country like Greece, and it's alright to live in a fascist country like Britain or America is it?
Emerson: [Pausing to think] I think America is a good place to live right now, because I mean, if you were interested or committed and not too cowardly you might conceivably make a difference by what you did.....
John: Well we've been trying to go to America to do something for the last seven or eight months.
Emerson: Oh, but you'll turn it into a carnival...
John: Yes yes...
Emerson: ...taking it seriously, you don't understand how they approach us my dear they are so grey....
John: You tell me what they were singing at the Moratorium.
Emerson: [Confused] Which which ........?
John: ....the recent big one, they were singing "Give Peace A Chance".
Emerson: A song of yours probably.
John: Well yes, and it was written specifically for them.
Emerson: Where are we and what is this? What do you have to do with the Moratorium? So they sang one of your songs - great song sure, but is that all you can say about that - the Moratorium?
John: You were saying that in America, they're [mimicking Emerson] 'so serious about the protest movement, but they were so flippant they were singing a happy go lucky song' Which happens to be one I wrote, and I'm glad they sang it, and when I get there I'll sing it with them - When I get in. And that was a message from me to America or to anywhere, that I use my songwriting ability to write a song that we could all sing together, and I'm proud that they sang it at the Moratorium, I wouldn't have cared if they'd sang We Shall Overcome, but it just so happens that they sang that, and I'm proud of it, and I'll be glad to go there and sing with 'em.
Emerson: [Sarcastically] Make it jolly.
John: I will make it jolly.
Yoko: Yes yes, you know, we have to make it jolly.
Emerson: Why?
John: We can't all afford to be neurotic.
Yoko: If we all make it jolly then maybe we MIGHT STOP THE WAR, you know.
Emerson: By being jolly.
Yoko: Yes yes, because the thing is - when you're happy and when you're smiling, you don't want to kill somebody do you?, you know, it's when you're very serious you start to think about violence and death and killing. I mean, have you ever seen a person killing somebody with a smile on his face? and being happy? No, killers are unhappy people, and they are violent because they are so unhappy and so damn serious.
Emerson: Mrs Lennon, we are boring eachother so I'll go away. [Getting up to leave] Thankyou - Goodbye.
John: [To Yoko] Well, I think that's what you wanted.
Yoko: But the last point was a good point and she didn't want to respond....
John: She didn't hear anything.

31 years later Gloria Emerson was referred to the meeting in an interview for "Feed" magazine........
FEED: There's a rather famous, rather bitter exchange between you and John Lennon, captured in the documentary Imagine [released in 1988].
Emerson: If he really wanted to stop the war in Vietnam, all he had to do was tell the U.S. Army he wanted to go there to entertain the troops. Many entertainers did. And it would have thrown the army into the most extraordinary panic. I think he could have stopped the war if he had gone.
FEED: He had that much power?
Emerson: He had that much power. But I didn't hear a lot of the Beatles in Vietnam. I mostly heard the Supremes and Jimi Hendrix -- and Diana Ross, of course. But I'm sorry I spoke harshly to him. We had had a long exchange, and he was very unhappy to be there, as was I. It was at a studio in London.
FEED: You were interviewing him?
Emerson: No! What was I doing there? Someone conned me into coming. [I'd be] the last person in the world to interview John Lennon, who didn't want to speak. So why did he come? No conversation was possible. And he made a scathing remark about writers, and I said, "You are the only writer here." But can you imagine if the Beatles had come to Vietnam to sing to the American troops? I think it would have frozen everything!
Emerson committed suicide in 2004 at the age of 75 having been suffering with Parkinson's disease.
 

Back to "The World of John Yoko" - the Lennon's return to their car to cheering fans, a female BBC Radio reporter tries to grab an interview....

John: You're the BBC are you? You're on!
BBC Reporter: Yeah, I know this [film crew] is as well, can I come in the car with you?
John: Are you radio?
BBC Reporter: Yeah.
John: Well, we're going somewhere, to a friend, you know. Could you come tomorrow?
BBC Reporter: Well it's a bit late then.
John: What's it about?
BBC Reporter: It's about this thing about, you know, playing Jesus in this.....
John: Well I've heard nothing about it....
BBC Reporter: Well this is it. Everybody's talking about it, and it seems such a good idea to sort of, get it all cleared up.
John: Well that's it, I don't know anything about it and I don't wanna do it, and er - God bless ya.
BBC Reporter: [Disappointed] OK John, alright. Bye.
John: Bye bye.
 

John and Yoko check in as "Mr and Mrs Smith" to a hotel in Long Melford...... Then in bed......

Yoko: Well fortunately, erm, I suddenly came across the idea of doing that whispering piece again.
John: Unfortunately, we did it yesterday and we could do it again today.
Yoko: Well, in the end, probably we'll do whispering piece many many many many times. Fortunately, erm, I'm in love with you.
John: Unfortunately, I'm in love with you too.
Yoko: But in the end I think we agree.
John: Fortunately, we don't know.
Yoko: Unfortunately, we think we know.
John: But in the end we'll find out.
Yoko: Unfortunately...
John: No - Fortunately.
Yoko: Yes fortunately, erm, fortunately, er, I think I'm sleepy enough tonight to go to sleep.
John: Unfortunately, we'll never sleep with all this going on.
Yoko: In the end, we'll have a nice dream.
John: Fortunately that's possible.
 

Long shot of a calm open field...........

Yoko: John, I had a dream, it was about this man [who] came up, and he said we have to be very careful now, because everybody around us, near or so far away, they are all wishing us to separate - Not intentionally but just subconsciously - And then this woman came out and said "Yes, he's right" and that we are terribly accident prone now, because - Say if we were walking or something, they are trying to pull us so that our movement would be awkward, so that she said [to] never to cross the street without eachother. And then I saw this field, you see, and I just immediately understood, because there was mist, but it was just about to clear, and she said - well the mist is going to clear in a year's time. So it's another year.
 

Morning tea in bed.......
On to Lavenham to shoot the Apotheosis film.......
As a bright orange hot-air balloon is inflated, John and Yoko (in long black capes) sit staring motionless at a crowd of bemused onlookers.

Yoko: It's one thing to write about a strange couple who's in bed, you know, doing the bed-in event and all that, write a song about it for instance, you know. But it's another thing to really do it in actual life, and er, well many like Samuel Beckett or ?????? wrote about weird couples and it's performed in a theatre, but what Beckett is saying is This is theatre and Come to the theatre and look at these odd people and all that, under the spotlight etc.
But what we started to do was, instead of writing a play about it, we just started to do it in real life, so the whole world is a theatre actually, I mean the audience or whatever, the Hilton [hotel in Amsterdam where the first Bed-in event took place] was the stage and it's a more direct kind of communication.

The Balloon takes off with a film camera on board as "Remember Love" is played to close the programme.

See also:-
Television Appearances
 

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