All John Needed Was Love: Meeting Yoko Ono

John Lennon on stage, JFK Stadium, Philadelphia, PA, August 16, 1966 #1

A dream you dream alone is only a dream. A dream you dream together is reality.

Yoko Ono, Grapefruit

The British invaded and conquered, and The Beatles continued to shine their light on a world shaded with war and civil unrest.

But little did John Lennon know at that time, in 1966 (or was it 1965?), his meeting of Yoko Ono would bloom into a loving relationship, let alone a symbol of world peace.

There are actually two differing accounts of how Lennon and Ono met. The story as told by the Lennons places the two meeting on November 9, 1966, at the Indica Gallery in London where Ono was preparing for her conceptual art exhibit.

According to this version of the story, Lennon was initially unimpressed with Ono’s exhibits as he felt most concept art he encountered was anti everything. A particular piece of Ono’s work, though, convinced him to stay — a ladder with a spyglass at the top, which upon looking through, revealed the word “YES.”

The other account of the pair’s first meeting, as told by Sir Paul McCartney, puts the two in London in 1965 while Ono was collecting original music for the score of a book. McCartney didn’t want to give her his own manuscripts, but suggested she ask Lennon. He agreed and gave Ono the original handwritten lyrics to “The Word,” according to the biography titled, “Paul McCartney: Many Years From Now.”

Although their relationship was often embroiled in controversy, nobody could deny the love they had for each other as it shifted into both Lennon’s and Ono’s work, and inevitably, out into the world. During their first years together, Lennon’s work began to spark with new life, but it bore a humble request – give peace a chance.

The pair quickly became an icon of the era, bringing into the limelight a juxtaposition of violent global affairs and the power of love. The Vietnam War continued to rage on unabated, and Lennon, with Ono by his side, showed the world what life could be like if we were to imagine world peace, together.

Despite the differing accounts on how Lennon and Ono met, the mark that they, as partners, left on the planet and the message of peace they brought to the people has been etched into modern history, and continues to resonate as the future unfolds.

And, despite decades of various debates about Yoko’s influence on, and suppositions that she was responsible for the break-up of The Beatles, and that she was the reason behind Lennon’s divorce from the well-loved Cynthia, the fact remains that John found love (albeit with a lot of road bumps and hardships) and, after all, as John eloquently put it, “All You Need Is Love.”

John Lennon was clearly one of the most prolific and influential musicians the world has ever known. And while there are many photographs of John by numerous photographers, we are fortunate that Bob Bonis, who served as U.S. Tour Manager for The Beatles (as well as for the Rolling Stones) from 1964 – 1966, through his unique access to Lennon, was able to capture some of the most poignant, playful, powerful, intimate and iconic photographs of John in the earliest days of The Beatles’ conquest of America.

These photographs are now available for the first time for fans and collections through The Bob Bonis Archive at BobBonis.com. All photographs are issued in strictly limited editions, and every print is hand numbered, estate embossed, and accompanied by a Certificate of Authenticity from The GRAMMY Museum® at L.A. Live.

Thank you, John Lennon, for making the world a better place. We miss you. The world misses you. Looking at your photos reminds us that one person can indeed make a difference.

I Love You, Michelle, But I Can’t Speak French Very Well

In a beautifully intimate moment in the middle of 25,000 fans, Paul McCartney turns away from the audience and beams when he finds Bob Bonis. The Bloomington, Minnesota, show on August 21, 1965, was The Beatles' only stop in the Land of 10,000 Lakes on all three US tours. (Image title: Paul McCartney and George Harrison, Metropolitan Stadium, Bloomington, MN, August 21, 1965 #3)

Oh, Michelle… ma belle, the words that go together so well. It’s been almost 50 years since Sir Paul McCartney was searching for ways to win the heart of his fictional flame. But really, he only needed one phrase, and a translator, to make her understand: “I love you.”

Recorded on November 3, 1965, the song “Michelle” was featured on The Beatles’ Rubber Soul album, which was released on December 3, 1965. Composed primarily by McCartney, “Michelle” stands apart from other Beatles recordings because some of its lyrics are sung in French. In 1967, the song won the Grammy Award for Song of the Year.

The instrumental music of “Michelle” came about separately from the lyrics and was a breakthrough for the band because it featured a finger-picking style that had not yet been used in rock-n-roll. “Michelle” was a tune that I’d written in Chet Atkins’ finger-style picking … This was an innovation for us; even though classical guitarists had played it, no rock-n-roll guitarists had played it,” McCartney said in the 1998 book Paul McCartney: Many Years From Now.

The lyrical content, as well as the style, resulted from the popularity of French Left Bank culture while McCartney was living in Liverpool. While at a party attended mostly by art students, McCartney encountered one particular student, in true française fashion, with a goatee and striped shirt singing a French song. Not long after, McCartney wrote an imitation of what he had heard, which was more parody than actual song, and used it to entertain his friends. That version didn’t have any real words but instead it included French-sounding groaning.

In an interview with The Guardian, McCartney said, “…we’d tag along to these parties, and it was at the time of … the French bohemian thing … So I used to pretend to be French, and I had this song that turned out later to be “Michelle”. It was just an instrumental, but years later John said: You remember that thing you wrote about the French? I said: Yeah. He said: That wasn’t a bad song, that. You should do that, y’know.”

While developing the lyrics, McCartney asked a friend’s wife, a French language teacher, to find a French name and a phrase that rhymed with it. And so, ‘Michelle, ma belle’ became the lyrical base for the song. A few days later McCartney asked that the line “these are words that go together well” be translated into French, which reads, “sont les mots qui vont tres bien ensemble.” In A Hard Day’s Write: The Stories Behind Every Beatles Song McCartney is quoted as saying, “It was because I’d always thought that the song sounded French that I stuck with it. I can’t speak French properly so that’s why I needed help in sorting out the actual words.”

After McCartney had played the song for John Lennon, Lennon suggested that he add the “I love you” bridge. In Revolution in the Head: The Beatles’ Records and the Sixties, author and British music critic Ian MacDonald wrote that “Michelle” was made in nine hours, the majority of which seems to have been played by McCartney himself using overdubs. He also speculated that McCartney may have even sung backing vocals, and played the drums.

To purchase a limited edition print of photographs of The Beatles or of Sir Paul McCartney, visit the Bob Bonis Archive at BobBonis.com. Bob Bonis served as U.S. Tour Manager for The Beatles (and also for the Rolling Stones!) from 1964 to 1966, during which time he captured over 3,500 photographs of the two bands in some of their most candid moments. All photographs are archival fine art prints, hand numbered, estate embossed, and accompanied by a Certificate of Authenticity from The GRAMMY Museum® at L.A. Live.

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