Gary James' Interview With
Cynthia Lennon

As Beatles "Insiders" go, Cynthia Lennon is one of the top few. Cynthia of course was married to John Lennon. She knew him from Art School and saw the rise of The Beatles from the very, very beginning.

Cynthia Lennon has told her story in two books she's authored: A Twist Of Lennon and John.

Q - Cynthia, why are you living in Spain? Why not England?

A - Well, I think I was born a bit of a gypsy. I have moved out many, many times in my life. Before I came to Spain I was living in Normandy, France. And before that I spent many, many years traveling around France and staying in a motor home. So, it's not unusual for me to move on. I think the reason that I'm here is that Julian was here. He moved out. His girlfriend and family lived here. So, he suggested we come to live here. It was perfect. I'm used to traveling. I enjoy new cultures and new surroundings.

Q - You have an office in Spain in which you work on what?

A - I paint. I draw. I write. I do interviews. (laughs) I travel a lot. I lead quite a busy life actually. But at the moment it's lovely because I'm at home and nothing is happening and I can relax.

Q - When you were in art school, what did you study? Oil painting? Sculpture?

A - Well, you go to art school and you try everything out first. You do the foundation year and then you choose what is your potential. I went into more or less commercial art illustration, whereas John went into painting eventually.

Q - Did you ever have a job where you utilized what you learned in art school?

A - No. (laughs) Considering there were so many books about my life, etc, etc. I became pregnant before I could finish my teaching. I did teaching for a while. Then I became pregnant and following that The Beatles and everything else that happened. But, no, I haven't had a job. The work I had as a student was working in Woolworths. (laughs)

Q - As a clerk?

A - On the perfume counter. The cosmetic counter. But, that was when I was a student during holidays. But full-time work, I haven't really done. I have worked in recent years.

Q - Did you hear about John and Yoko's art exhibit at the Everson Museum in Syracuse, New York in October, 1971?

A - No, I didn't.

Q - Here, in this beautiful, modern museum, John put his old pair of shoes on a pedestal for display. It seemed like it was a send-up or a put-on. Whatever that was, I'm not sure you could call it art.

A - Well, the sad thing about John, well not sad really, there were a lot of sad things about John's life, I think what happened when he met Yoko, his real creative juices were through music and writing. When we were at art college, I think he was more interested in the music than he was in the art. He was a great cartoonist when he was a little boy and of course he was a great cartoonist when he produced his crazy cartoons with himself and Yoko. But I think what took over was Yoko's conceptual art, which is conceptual, which means that it's in the head. So, you can think anything. Pair of shoes. You can make anything out of them or imagine..."Imagine there's no heaven." So, I think John was highly influenced during that period.

Q - Is that why John would have looked upon Yoko as more of an artist than you?

A - We're completely different characters and natures and cultures. I don't actually think he judged our kind of art, he just got involved emotionally and every other way with Yoko. So, I don't think he judged me against Yoko. I mean, I'm an illustrator really and a cartoonist. Then I write. So, it was a completely different kind of scenario. But, he got carried away completely with Yoko and her Imagine Art or Conceptual Art and that's what he followed. I think it was probably nearer to his conceptual writing, if you understand what I'm saying.

Q - I did read John's books and the stories were rather bizarre.

A - Yes, I know. I think he met his match with Yoko, I mean artistically.

Q - My point is, can you call what Yoko presented in the This Is Not Here exhibit at Everson Museum in Syracuse, N.Y. in October 1971, art? It's something alright, but is it art?

A - Well, if you think about it, in this day and age, anything can go as art. If you think about Tracy Emmon and other artists who are sort of un-made bed, dirty clothes, etc, etc. They now call it art. As far as I'm concerned, I'm very old-fashioned. Art is hard work. Art is after years and years of training and years and years of appreciating art. For me, if I look at something, I say "My God that's a lot of work gone into that with a lot of quality and there's a lot of experience." Anyone I think and I believe can produce a piece of art that is an un-made bed or a pair of shoes. That's a matter of opinion, you know.

Q - If art is something special, then only a few people can do it. If everybody is an artists, then it loses it's specialty, don't you think?

A - It's always down to those who appreciate whatever they appreciate. We all appreciate different things on different levels. And that's not my cup of tea as they say in England. It doesn't mean that it isn't somebody else's cup of tea. Life has changed so much since the 60s and World War II that anything goes at this point. Anybody can try anything. If they succeed, they succeed. I would never deny anybody making money out of something that somebody else wants. But, it's not something that I would want.

Q - What did you see in John in those early days that the rest of the world did not see? After all, his teachers did not think he was going to amount to much in life.

A - Well, it's hard to say really. It was just an instant attraction. It was probably from the inside, not the outside, because he wasn't very attractive on the outside when I met him. But there was something about him that was for me. I was fascinated to the point where I wanted to know who he was, what he was, where he'd come from and what had made him into who he was at that time, which we all found out later on. That was it really. It was an attraction that I couldn't help.

Q - Why do you say he wasn't attractive on the outside?

A - Well, for me he wasn't because I was brought up very conservatively. And John was the exact opposite. John was a Teddy Boy. He was a rebel. He was outrageous. That was something I hadn't experienced before the age that I was, which was about 16 or 17. I'd had quite a normal, straight-forward life. There was something about John that fascinated me. I just wanted to know him more. I didn't know about anything. I was just instantly attracted to him.

Q - How was John outrageous?

A - His whole persona was really rebellious. He didn't give a damn about anybody. He would not work when he should be working. He'd have everybody in fits of laughter, because his jokes were very crude and very cruel. He was a one-off. I don't know why he fell for me because I was the exact opposite of him. But that's how I was attracted to him. And of course, we were in quite close quarters in college, so we got to know each other very slowly, but that was it.

Q - After you fell in love with him, where did you think he was going to go in life?

A - You know something, when you're very young, love is very blind. I had no thoughts of the future. I had no idea what was going to happen. We were just living for the moment. And that was the way it should've been and it was. So, I didn't know. I probably thought at some stage that he would never, ever make any serious commitment to anything or anybody and that he would end up as a drunken bum on the streets. But, I mean he was lucky. He was in the right place at the right time and he had a lot of support from his friends. And of course meeting Brian (Epstein), which changed his whole life.

Q - If you thought John would've ended up as a drunken bum, where would that have left you?

A - Well, I wasn't even thinking about the future. I lived for the moment. I was never really dreaming about the future or marriage or babies. It never entered my mind. I was just very, very happy just to be with him. I'm quite a survivor, so probably inside me I thought well, I can probably survive whatever happens. Youth is very brave and as I said, love is blind. I didn't think about the future. 30 was very old when I was 16.

Q - In this art class was also Stuart Sutcliffe, correct?

A - Yes. He didn't work with us. We were in different departments. But he was a star student in Liverpool College Of Art. And everywhere you went, if you went into Life Class, there would be drawings or sketches by Stuart. He was a real star pupil. So, we were always influenced and always bumping into each other. Sort of not a lot and not very close friends in the beginning and then John and Stuart suddenly struck up this very bizarre friendship, because Stuart was so un-like John. I think John was desperate for some normality, or I don't know, something straight in his life at this point because he'd just lost his mother and his history is well-known with his father and mother, his mother dying and his father leaving him. I think there was some stability in Stuart and myself at the time.

Q - Did you like Stuart Sutcliffe?

A - I loved Stuart. He was really lovely. He was a good friend, a really good friend.

Q - What was it like to see The Beatles at The Cavern Club?

A - Well, it was something that you didn't sort of go to see the first appearance of The Beatles together. We all drifted into it from (before). Before The Cavern they played at the Jacaranda. So, we had a sort of built-up to The Cavern. It wasn't the first time I'd seen them. I'd seen them in all sorts of situations, ridiculous places. They were trying to earn a crust, earn some money. That was when they were students. And then of course when they started to expand and improve, then watching them in The Cavern was no different for me than seeing them starting out. For other people it was amazing. They were rough. They were rugged. They didn't give a damn about anybody. They just blew everybody away, compared to all the rest of the music that was going on at the time.

Q - Was there a problem with gangs in the audience who wanted to beat them up?

A - Oh, frequently. They would wait outside for them. They had a lot of scuffles. and I had problems as well. I'm being ganged up on by the girls who fancied the guys. So, it was quite rough. But it was a lot of fun. It was strangely dangerous, but very exciting.

Q - Did you know how to take care of yourself?

A - I learned very quickly.

Q - So, you're pretty good with your fists?

A - I learned that as well, yes. (laughs) There's an expression in Liverpool, you give someone a "Liverpool Kiss". Do you know what that is?

Q - No. I've never heard that.

A - Haven't you? Alright. I would never do it, but in Liverpool if you give a "Liverpool Kiss" it's called a head butt. But that didn't happen with me, thank God. I had a very good way of talking my way out of things.

Q - What did you say, "You must be mistaken"?

A - Yes, or (I'd) get in and out very quickly and smile. Kill with kindness, not with violence.

Q - What was it like to see The Beatles in Hamburg?

A - Oh, that was brilliant, but again it was very violent and very dangerous. But then again, I had Astrid Kirchherr as my sort of escort. Astrid and Klaus (Voorman), who they met when they first went to Hamburg and became friends with, who were German and knew the ropes and knew everything. They were students. So when I went, I was well protected. I had no problems. But the performances there were completely different to the performances in England. Obviously it was in the Reeperbahn, where it was very rough and rugged...drugs, lots of murders. Sounds good doesn't it? But they were also protected 'cause they had people around them who were Germans who lived around Hamburg. They had to perform every night of the week, eight hours every night.

Q - Bill Harry was critical of your book John. He said "There is a lack of detail in relation to names, dates and background information to numerous events throughout the book." What would you like to say to Bill Harry?

A - Well, he's an old friend of mine. He went to junior art school with me and also to the college. He is a detail, data man. I'm an emotional woman. I'm writing about my life and my emotions and what happened. For me that was far more important than dates and lists of this and lists of that. There's so many books like that anyway that I wasn't writing a book about dates. For a real Beatle aficionado and fans, they know all that anyway. I've never been good at numbers, so I've no qualms about Bill. He's doing very well doing the way he does it, which is a little bit un-emotional if it's all about dates and places and things and I was trying to get to the core of my relationship with John and my life with John and my son's experiences. If that had been scattered with dates then you wouldn't have gotten a story at all.

Q - Do you keep a diary these days?

A - I only made a diary when I became pregnant until I gave birth, which I still have.

Q - Would anything in that diary give us a better understanding of John?

A - No. During my pregnancy The Beatles were rising stars. I was watching them on television becoming famous, while I was pregnant. You know this from all the books that I was not supposed to be known or heard about. In the wisdom, or lack of wisdom, anything to do with somebody becoming famous, male, was not supposed to be married or have girlfriend. So, I spent most of my pregnancy disguising it.

Q - How did Brian Epstein know that The Beatles would be bigger than Elvis?

A - Well, I don't know whether he said that specifically. That could be a jokey thing probably. He never said in front of me, but possibly in his mind and his dreams of the future that's what he would've loved to have happened. But that was never discussed in our company.

Q - Did he ever tell you how far he thought The Beatles would go?

A - No, because it happened so quickly. They were all whisked off anyway. So we didn't have time to discuss what was happening. It was happening as we were getting off with life. They were getting on with becoming bigger and bigger and bigger in the world. When people write books, they have to put things like that in. Do you understand what I'm saying?

Q - No, only because Brian Epstein told the gentleman who turned The Beatles down at Decca Records, that he had made a big mistake. The Beatles were going to be bigger than Elvis.

A - Well, he probably did, but he didn't say it to me. That's what I'm saying. He didn't have discussions in my company that The Beatles were going to be bigger than Elvis. That's all I can say.

Q - Would you happen to know why Pete Best was kicked out of The Beatles? He doesn't know. Would it have something to do with something other than his drumming?

A - No. Rubbish. I've said this many times, if you can imagine The Rolling Stones with Barry Manilow...a completely different scenario. It was the same way with the three boys and Pete. They didn't have the same charisma. They didn't have the same sense of humor. Pete was lovely and is lovely. He's a dear friend of mine, but he didn't fit in with their humor and irreverence of everything else. When Ringo came along, he fitted in perfectly. And that was the reason. Pete Best is a real gentleman, only too much of a gentleman to be part of that group at that time.

Q - If John wasn't shown much love in his early years by his mother and father, where did this talent come from to write some of the most beautiful love songs of the 20th century?

A - (laughs) Probably the love he got outside that situation. I mean he was a very creative boy and young man. I'm a great believer in the essence of a person and have that instinct or creativity to produce something really beautiful. That is an unanswerable question. I can't answer that question. But I can only say there are many people in this world who've had desperate and desolate lives who can still do what John did, that can create wonderful paintings or create wonderful music. It's the extent of the feelings, the emotions.

Q - What The Beatles did in terms of their song writing has to be considered a God-given talent.

A - Absolutely. I always believed that they were channeled from wherever because what they wrote was way beyond their years..."Elenor Rigby". Some of the music is just unbelievable for their age.

Q - Are you still in contact with Paul and Ringo?

A - No. The last time I saw them was when John and I divorced. All of our lives went in completely different directions. But, the last time I saw them, which is after quite a long time, was in Las Vegas when they did the show Love. That was a reunion that happened for the first time since before we were divorced, which was really lovely.

Q - Do you have any regrets about meeting, falling in love with and marrying John Lennon?

A - He changed my life...well, he didn't, but the whole situation changed my life completely. God knows where I would've been ended up. I probably would've been a school teacher with about three or four children in a boring situation. I've had the most amazing life, a wonderful life. I'm still alive and kicking. I've got the best son anyone could possibly wish for in the world and a marriage to a wonderful man also. Sounds very gushing, but I'm really happy. And all the experience has not spoiled anything for me, I promise you. I still open my eyes in the morning and feel a beautiful, sunny day in Spain and think how lucky I am.

© Gary James. All rights reserved.

The Beatles
The Beatles