The Last Day in the Life

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turmoil too. He was experimenting with drugs and working up some of the material that would eventually find its way into Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, when he walked into a London gallery in 1966 and there, among ladders, spyglasses, nail boards, banners and other props of her art, met Yoko Ono.

The daughter of a well-to-do Japanese banker, Ono, now 47 was born in Tokyo. She had lived in San Francisco before World War II, foraged for food back home during it, and afterward returned to the States, where she attended Sarah Lawrence College and became interested in the far-flung reaches of the avantgarde. Her first husband was a Japanese musician. The marriage so offended Ono's mother that she never reconciled with her daughter. She worked on concerts for John Cage, became associated with other artists such as La Monte Young and Charlotte Moorman, the topless cellist whose staging of and participation in art "events" came a little later to be called happenings. Ono married again, a conceptual artist named Tony Cox, and they had a daughter, Kyoko. Ono once brought the baby onstage during a concert as "an uncontrollable instrument." Eventually, Cox and Kyoko went to Japan, and Ono to England. Her artworks, or happenings, began to show a sense of humor that was both self-mocking and affirmative, and when John Lennon climbed a ladder to look through a telescope at that London gallery, what he saw was no distant landscape but a simple YES.

The other Beatles were not delighted to have Ono around. Besides whatever personal antagonisms or random jealousies might have existed, one suspects now, Paul, George and Ringo may have considered her dedicated avant-gardism somewhat inimical to the best popular instincts of their music. For her part, she felt she was under heavy surveillance. "I sort of went to bed with this guy that I liked and suddenly the next morning I see these three in-laws standing there," she recalled recently. John, separated from Cynthia, fell in love with Yoko and her ideas. Some of her conceptual art had the same intellectual playfulness as his lyrics, and Lennon became a collaborator in many of her projects. They made films—of flies crawling, of dozens of bare bums. They made records, including the notorious Two Virgins, for which they posed naked, front and back. Shock! Scandal! Grim predictions for the future!

In fact, there was already a fair amount of dissension among the members of the band: McCartney wanted to get out more and play for the folks, Lennon wanted to work in the recording studio, like an artist with a canvas. The ideological pressures and upheavals of the decade made the four Beatles stand out in even sharper contrast to each other. John became much more political, George more spiritual, Paul seemingly more larky, and Ringo more social. In the more than two years between Sergeant Pepper and Abbey Road, Lennon and McCartney wrote, separately and still (but more tenuously) together, some of their greatest songs (Penny Lane, All You Need Is Love, and Strawberry Fields Forever). But if the turmoil had an immediate, productive side, it also took an inevitable toll. In 1969, after the completion of Abbey Road, John told the boys he was leaving.

Next year, McCartney went his own way and that, one would have thought, was that. End of Beatles, end of era. But the Beatles would never

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