She was put in the stocks of public opinion and pelted with insults, brickbats and jokes, many explicitly racist – finally driving John and Yoko out of Britain to make a new life in New York.
And it wasn’t just the public. According to an interview that Lennon gave Rolling Stone magazine in 1971, “[The other Beatles] all sat there with their wives, like a f—ing jury, and judged us. Ringo was alright, so was Maureen, but the other two really gave it to us […] I can’t forgive ’em for that really; although I can’t help still loving them either.”
The accusation that Yoko was the woman who had broken up the Beatles was true, to a point. As Lennon told Rolling Stone, “it seemed that I had to be married to them or Yoko, and I chose Yoko, and I was right.” (Momentarily forgetting, perhaps, that at the time of their meeting he was actually married to Cynthia, the girl he’d met at Liverpool Art College, from whom he constantly borrowed the pens and pencils he’d forgotten to bring with him, and with whom he had a son Julian).
The popular idea was that Ono had bewitched and corrupted Lennon. In his view, she had saved him. Lennon was sick; sick of the Beatles, sick of fame and of being public property, sick of being John Lennon.
Together they went through heroin addiction, primal screaming to exorcise their pain, separation and reconciliation. Then, as Lennon and Ono were returning home to the Dakota building on December 8 1980, a deranged fan, Mark Chapman, stepped forward, pistol in hand.
Five months after Lennon’s death, Ono invited the journalist Philip Norman to meet her at her home. It was not true, she told him, that she had a hold over Lennon. After they started living together, it was John who wanted her there all the time.
There was a story that she was so proprietorial of Lennon that during recording sessions at Abbey Road she would follow him into the lavatory. The truth, she said, was, “he made me go into the men’s room with him. He was afraid that if I stayed out in the studio with a lot of other men, I might run off with one of them. He wrote a song called Jealous Guy; that should have told you the way he was.”
He didn’t even like her reading or speaking Japanese, because it was a part of her that wasn’t him.