John and Yoko – When Two Clouds Meet

 John and Yoko – When Two Clouds Meet

By Madeline Bocaro ©

I finally met Yoko and the dream became a reality.”

– John Lennon, The Ballad of John and Yoko

On the evening that changed his life forever (November 7, 1966), John Lennon visited Yoko Ono’s Unfinished Paintings and Objects exhibition the night before its opening at London’s Indica Gallery. John’s bite of Yoko’s apple – a modern tale of Adam and Eve / East meets West – began the ballad of John and Yoko. It started off many turbulent, yet exciting years for the infamous couple who would dedicate their eternal union to promoting peace.

The gallery owner mentioned to John that ‘an avant-garde Japanese artist from New York’ would be staging a ‘happening’ in a black bag.

“It was John Dunbar, my partner there. “He was the art part of the trio of myself, him, and Barry Miles. It was us going to her. John had read about her and I think he got in touch with (Yoko) and her then-husband Tony Cox and found her very interesting. Maybe John had read a review of a previous exhibition. I don’t know. But it definitely led to a change in musical history.”  – Peter Asher

John Lennon later told Playboy magazine’s David Sheff that he immediately thought, “Artsy-fartsy orgies. Great!” However, John saw something that he was not expecting at all. The petite artist shrouded in long black hair was quietly arranging the objects in her exhibit for the opening the next day; an apple on a Plexiglas stand, priced at £200 ($480) and a bag of nails for £100 ($240)!

Dunbar privately invited John to see the exhibit on the night before the opening.

 “I was a little bit furious because, I didn’t understand why. I told John Dunbar never to bring anybody until it’s all ready. I said, “Okay. Maybe he’s a very close friend or something, so I shouldn’t say anything.” So I thought: “Well, maybe I should follow them and see what they’re doing.”

– Yoko

John recalled to the BBC’s Andy Peebles, “I thought this is a con… I’m expecting an orgy, you know … and it’s all quiet.” After being introduced to the millionaire Beatle who asked her “What is the event?” Yoko handed him a small card that said, “Breathe.” John responded with a quick pant.

Then Lennon noticed what would be his stairway to heaven –

a ladder leading up to a canvas hung on the ceiling, with a magnifying glass hanging down on the end of a chain.

When John reached the top of the ladder, he looked through the spyglass

and read a word written in tiny letters.

This simple word, ‘Yes’ became his koan, his mantra and his path to freedom.

“You’re on this ladder – you feel like a fool, you could fall any minute – and you look through it and it just says ‘YES,'” John told David Sheff in 1980. “Well, all the so-called avant-garde art at the time, and everything that was supposedly interesting was all negative; this smash-the-piano-with-a-hammer, break-the-sculpture, boring, negative crap. It was all anti-, anti-, anti-. Anti-art, anti-establishment. And just that ‘YES’ made me stay in a gallery full of apples and nails, instead of just walking out saying, ‘I’m not gonna buy any of this crap.'” – John

“(When I made the Yes painting in 1966) I was in a totally difficult situation in my life and I thought, what I need is a Yes, and so I put the word on the ceiling. I never thought it was about to change my whole life by 180 degrees.

It was that Yes painting that brought John into the gallery. He saw it and said great. Because the thing is that, unbeknown to everyone, John was going through some hard times too and feeling alone. I was feeling totally alone too.”

– Yoko Ono, Twitter


The humor in Yoko’s work appealed to John’s sense of the absurd. Nearby was an object called Hammer a Nail – a board with a chain and hammer hanging from it, with a container of nails beneath. Although the piece invited people to hammer a nail, there was a small monetary charge. The Beatle was not carrying any cash. John asked if he could he hammer a nail “No,” was Yoko’s initial reply. Dunbar whispered to her that this was no way to treat a Beatle – a potential buyer of her art.

John told Sheff in 1980, “So there was this little conference and she finally said, ‘Okay, you can hammer a nail in for five shillings [60 cents].’ So smart-ass here says, ‘Well, I’ll give you an imaginary five shillings and hammer an imaginary nail in.’ And that’s when we really met.”

That’s when we locked eyes, and she got it and I got it, and that was it.”

– John


Do you still have the imaginary five shillings that John gave you to hammer the nail in?

Yoko: Yes it’s still sitting in my mind, without having ever been used. 

 – Y.O. – Twitter Q&A, February 2014

 (Hammer a Nail is a distant cousin of Yoko’s now popular piece, Wish Tree. As a child, Yoko visited Japanese shrines where it is an old custom for people to purchase and tie pre-printed tags with simple messages onto trees. The multitude of white papers tied to the trees resembled blooming white flowers. Yoko decided that this time people should write their own wishes. Yoko’s 1961 instructional version of Hammer A Nail in her book Grapefruit, asked us to tie a piece of our hair on the nails.)

Yoko was seven years older than John. She was in her second marriage (to collaborator Tony Cox) and had a daughter with him. After years as a struggling artist in Tokyo, she now attracted the interest of the New York avant-garde. In London, Yoko had wrapped one of the lion statues in Trafalgar Square with drop-cloths (Wrapping Event) documenting it on film. She also made the notorious Film No. 4 (a.k.a. Bottoms) consisting of naked behinds in motion.


By Madeline Bocaro ©


By Madeline Bocaro ©

John did not leave Indica gallery before taking a bite out of Yoko’s apple! He thought that the bright green Granny Smith apple on a Plexiglas pedestal with its asking price of £200 was “pretty funny” and proceeded to take a bite prior to the show’s opening the next day.

I was thinking the sculpture would organically change and gradually deteriorate. Then somebody came and took a bite and I was very upset. John could see it on my face and he put the apple back on the stand.

– Yoko 2006

Also see: APPLE – YOKO ONO

By Madeline Bocaro ©

“I’m starting to think that maybe I can live. Before it seemed impossible. I was just about at the vanishing point, and all my things were too conceptual. But John came in and said, ‘All right, I understand you.’ And just by saying that all those things which were supposed to vanish stayed.”

– Yoko – To Jonathan Cott, Yoko Ono and Her Sixteen-Track Voice,
Rolling Stone March 18, 1971

(Strangely enough, the following quote is from Paul McCartney):

“I introduced Yoko to John through my own interest in the avant-garde. John wasn’t avant-garde till later. Then John became wildly avant-garde because he was so fucking constricted living out in Weybridge. He’d come into London and say, ‘What’ve you been doing, man?’ and I’d say, ‘What’ve you been doing?’ ‘Well, watching telly, smoking pot.’ ‘I went out last night and saw Luciano Berio at the Italian Embassy, that was quite cool. I’ve got this new Stockhausen record, check this out. We went down Robert [Fraser]’s, got this sculpture, it was great, dig this. Wow, Paolozzi, great …’ I think John actually said, ‘I’m fucking jealous of you, man’ – he just needed to get out of Weybridge. It wasn’t his wife’s fault, she just didn’t understand how free he needed to be.
Yoko showed up at my house and said, ‘Have you got any original manuscripts?’ She was doing a thing for John Cage in New York. So I was interested. I knew of him through [Barry] Miles and various other people like [John] Dunbar. I didn’t want to give her one, because I keep them, and in the end I wasn’t really too forthcoming – I just didn’t want to give her one, quite simple. So I said, ‘I’ve got this friend, who might be able to interest you.’ Maybe if I hadn’t done that there might not have been this sort of huge period for them… who knows? So then she went round to John. I think that was before the meeting in Indica which is the great story. I’m not sure, it might have been there she said, ‘You’re the guy Paul told me to come and see …’ I’m not sure. I certainly do know that I met her before John as part of my interests.”

— Paul McCartney to Jonathon Green, Days in the Life (1988)

(Peter Asher quote from):

Indica Gallery was re- created in November 2006 in London and in 2007 (NY) as an art project by Riflemaker. Yoko was involved in the project. Read more here:
London 2006
(I love that Marianne Faithfull sat in the back embarrassed and bored!)
New York 2007


John had recently returned from filming How I Won the War in Almeria, a city in Andalusia in Southeast Spain by the Mediterranean sea. The Beatle’s mop-top hair was cut short for the filming. He started to wear round ‘granny’ eyeglasses, which became his signature look.

During his time in Almeria (September 1966) a villa that John rented had wrought-iron gates resembling those of his childhood neighborhood’s Strawberry Field.  This inspired him to write the song ‘Strawberry Fields Forever’.  His original handwritten lyrics bear these lines (later replaced with ‘No one I think is in my tree’).

“There’s no one on my wavelength

I mean, it’s either too high or too low

That is you can’t you know tune in…”

In a mere few weeks ( one month after his 26th birthday), John would find someone completely in tune with his wavelength – Yoko! John returned to London from Spain after filming on November 3, 1966 and met Yoko four days later.

(See Neil Aspinall’s recollections for 16 Magazine 1966, on

January 25, 2017)

John and Yoko didn’t actually consummate their relationship until eighteen months after their meeting at Indica gallery. It was at dawn after their first night together recording Two Virgins at John’s home, Kenwood in May 1968.

Also see: Unfinished Music No. 1: Two Virgins

By Madeline Bocaro ©

Paul’s Song for a Friend: ‘Hey Jude’  

By Madeline Bocaro ©

Released 50 years ago Today!

August 26, 1968 (USA) August 30 (UK)

A few months prior to the release of John and Yoko’s first sound collaboration together (Unfinished Music No. 1: Two Virgins in November 1968), the Beatles released their epic single ‘Hey Jude’ on August 26.  It clocked in at 7 minutes 11 seconds. The band were still in the process of making their classic double album The Beatles(White Album) – which will also celebrate its 50thanniversary this year, in November 2018.

Paul McCartney was like an uncle to John Lennon’s son Julian, growing even closer to the boy when his parents split. Although Paul’s original intention for the lengthy ballad ‘Hey Jude’ might have been to write a song for John’s neglected young son (the song began as ‘Hey Jules’) he soon switched gears.

“I started with the idea “Hey Jules,” which was Julian, don’t make it bad, take a sad song and make it better. Hey, try and deal with this terrible thing. I knew it was not going to be easy for him. I always feel sorry for kids in divorces.”

– Paul McCartney 1997

“I always heard it as a song to me, if you think about it. Yoko’s just come into the picture. He’s saying, ‘Hey, Jude, hey, John.’ I mean, so I’m sounding like one of those fans that’s writing things into it… so subconsciously I take it that he was saying, ‘Go ahead.’ On a conscious level, he didn’t want me to go ahead. Subconsciously he—he, the angel in him was saying, ‘bless you.’ The devil in him didn’t like it at all because he didn’t want to lose his partner.”

– John Lennon, 1980

Despite all odds and thoughts about Paul’s negativity regarding John’s new love Yoko Ono,

in the lyrics of ‘Hey Jude’ he selflessly reassures his best friend to pursue a relationship with her.  John knew that Paul’s lyrics were speaking to him.

This is unmistakable in the lines:

“You have found her, now go and get her…

You’re waiting for someone to perform with…

Remember to let her into your heart / under your skin

Then you can start / begin to make it better

It is especially obvious in the line, “So let it out and let it in” which quite possibly refers to Yoko’s first instruction to John – she handed him a handwritten card upon their first meeting which read, ‘Breathe’.

“This was a trait I had when I was a little girl, too, when my mother asked me what I was doing all by myself, and I would say: I’m breathing, and I was really counting my breathings, and thinking: ‘My God, if I don’t count them, would I not breathe?’ That later became my Breathing Piece.

– Yoko to Jonathan Cott, Rolling Stone March 18, 1971

“Well, when Paul first sang ‘Hey Jude’ to me… or played me the little tape he’d made of it… I took it very personally. ‘Ah, it’s me,’ I said, ‘It’s me.’ He says, ‘No, it’s me.’ I said, ‘Check. We’re going through the same bit.’ So we all are. Whoever is going through a bit with us is going through it, that’s the groove.”
– John, 1968

During the live performance of ‘Hey Jude’ on the David Frost show, Paul looks directly at John while singing, ‘remember to let her into your heart / then you can start to make it better’. When he catches Paul’s eye, John (in his usual way) covers up the sensitivity of the moment by goofing around. ‘Hey Jude’ is Paul’s most generous and selfless song – sending his best friend off into the arms of the woman he loves. John and Yoko were married six months later.

After their initial meeting in November 1966, it took almost two years before John and Yoko could be together. (They were both previously married, Yoko’s art/performance work required travel. The Beatles visited India). Their relationship thrived intellectually, gradually building into a love affair. John and Yoko finally dissolved their respective marriages and wed on March 20, 1969, just eight days after Paul McCartney married Linda Eastman.

“When Lennon mentioned that he thought the song was about him and Ono, McCartney denied it and told Lennon he had written the song about himself.”(Hertsgaard, Mark (1995). A Day in the Life: The Music and Artistry of The Beatles).

But that’s the nature of Paul!

There was a debate with producer George Martin about the long length of ‘Hey Jude’, as it might not have gotten radio play. John defended Paul, saying, “It will if it’s us!”

The 7:11 length of the single adds up to 9, John and Yoko’s lucky number. ‘Hey Jude’ spent nine weeks in the Billboard chart’s No. 1 position. Despite the song’s epic length, it was always played on the radio in its entirety.

Also see: White Wedding – John And Yoko – March 20, 1969

By Madeline Bocaro ©


Oh, East is East, and West is West,
And never the twain shall meet,
Till Earth and Sky stand presently
At God’s great Judgement Seat;

But there is neither East nor West
Border, nor Breed, nor Birth,
When two strong men stand face to face,
Tho’ they come from the ends of the earth!

-Rudyard Kipling



From Liverpool to Tokyo
It’s a way to go
From distant lands
One woman one man
Let the four winds blow

Three thousand miles over the ocean
Three thousand light years
From the land of the rising sun

Love has opened up my eyes
Love has blown right through
Wherever you are, you are here
Wherever you are, you are here

Three thousand miles over the ocean
Three thousand light years
From the land of surprising sun

Well now, East is East
And West is West
The twain shall meet
East is West
And West is East
Let it be complete

Three thousand miles over the ocean
Three thousand light years
From the land of the morning star

– John Lennon, Mind Games 1973



Imagine lettting a goldfish swim across
the sky.
Let it swim from the West to the East.
Drink a liter of water.
Imagine letting a goldfish swim across
the sky.
Let it swim from the East to the West.

1963 Spring

– Yoko Ono, Grapefruit


Yoko & Tony Cox @ Indica with Play It By Trust and Apple

Ceiling painting





Screen Shot 2018-03-26 at 9.16.56 PM



Screen Shot 2018-08-09 at 11.29.25 AM

A great mash-up: Ceiling Painting vs. Give Peace a Chance!


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