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Spending a Couple of Days with John and Yoko

Cavern Club - The Inside Story
Cavern Club - The Inside Story
Cavern Club – The Inside Story

Debbie’s publisher, Peter Stansill, has his own incredible story about spending time with John Lennon.

“I met John in person for the first time in 1970 when he was still 29. He and Yoko had just returned from a six-week retreat in Northern Jutland, Denmark, where I had helped set up accommodation for them through friends. My family had lived next door to Yoko’s flat by Regent’s Park in London, where her first husband, Tony Cox, and daughter Kyoko were now staying. Six-year-old Kyoko quickly became our new daughter’s first babysitter.

Yoko had moved to the Lennon estate near Ascot, while Tony travelled to Spain with their daughter. We joined them in Ibiza for a few weeks before I had to return to London. Tony asked me to call Yoko and reassure her that all was well with her daughter. I phoned Tittenhurst Park, and Yoko’s personal assistant said Yoko wanted to see me urgently, so I should plan to stay with the Lennons for a few days. Their driver picked me up in the Rolls that afternoon.

There was something surreal about the scene at Tittenhurst Park, the vast 72-acre estate near Ascot. For my first two days as their guest I saw no sign of John and Yoko. The manor was well-staffed – cook, gardener, driver, groundskeeper, and so on. Between them the staff had around 10 children who ran wild in this magic kingdom. It was easy to see how John and Yoko felt the daily pain of their childlessness.

I began to wonder what I was doing there, waiting for an audience to discuss a high-profile child custody dispute over which I had no influence. Finally one afternoon I was admitted to the inner sanctum, the Lennons’ bedroom, where they were lounging in their nightclothes on a huge circular bed.

As uncomfortable as I could possibly be, I answered Yoko’s questions about Kyoko. She was eager to know all the details about her living situation, her daily activities and schooling. What did she do all day? Who did she play with? Was she happy? I told Yoko everything I could about the months we had spent with Kyoko, including what a wonderful companion she had been to my baby daughter. It all made her pleased, sad and agitated. Meanwhile, John glared silently, smoking his Gitanes, peeved and impatient.

However, I was invited to accompany the whole entourage to Abbey Road studios the next day to record a new song. On Monday, March 8, I found myself alone with John and Yoko in the Rolls, at the head of a convoy heading for London. I hadn’t exchanged a single word with John and he still eyed me with his doleful, untrusting scowl. Not sure how to break the ice, I put on my best Yorkshire accent and kidded him about looking so serious: ‘What’s up wi’ thee, maungy bugger?’ He cracked up and relaxed, passed a huge pre-rolled joint around, and we giggled all the way to St. John’s Wood.

The track they were working on was ‘Power to the People,’ which struck me as unusually insipid and tedious. Even John later described it as ‘another piece of rubbish.’ The high point for me was chatting with Maureen Starkey in the control booth, while her husband Ringo stood by looking sullen and hung-over and Phil Spector cavorted around the sound stage below.”

Peter Stansill

Cavern Club - The Inside Story
Cavern Club – The Inside Story
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