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Who was John Lennon? Interview with biographer Tim Riley

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[I also had a] key moment interviewing a key subject, [Beatles friend and associate] Barry Miles, I was trying to come up with the reason that Lennon was so quiet and passive in the “Let It Be” movie [made in 1969]. So as I’m doing my research I’m realizing that [he and Yoko Ono] had just had a miscarriage at that time. So I said to Barry Miles, “Is that the reason that he’s so passive?” And Barry Miles just waved me off. He said “Oh no no. We knew they were on heroin all through 1968. And we were glad. Because it got him off acid.” That was really like WOW! They were really dealing with a major drug problem. And we sort of know that. In mythic terms we know that he was a major drug user.

But that just put it in an entirely new light for me. And it also put that miscarriage in a totally new light. [John and Yoko] always tried to pass that miscarriage off as a product of the press hounding him and his being arrested. But the reason she had a miscarriage is that they were abusing drugs. All the way through to the end they were very purposefully giving these interviews about what a great marriage they had and it’s very interesting and there’s a lot that you can’t verify. But it was not a bowl of cherries. But it was very important to them that that be their story.

What Beatles book remains to be written?
I think the great unwritten Beatles book is the biography of [Beatles producer] George Martin. He had a really fascinating life and I hint at some of it in the book but a lot of the work that he did at EMI in the 50s before he even met the Beatles was revolutionary. I’ve seen some very good scholarship that indicates that his story, his professional story, is really, really profound for everything that comes after for rock and roll.

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