Without our usual routines of work, school, travel or social life, you may be finding that one day tends to start blending into the next somewhat. However hard you try to add structure and purpose to your waking hours, there’s the feeling that we’re really all just waiting; waiting for normal life to resume, waiting for this worldwide isolation to end. The temptation can be to simply stop trying to fill each day, and stay in bed. So the Deadly Sin Of Lockdown No.3 is:
3. Sloth – Today’s offering is this beautiful Beatles song from 1966, I’m Only Sleeping, which has a feeling of apathy and languor in every line. John Lennon, who wrote the song and sang lead vocal on the original, was living two very different lives at the time: either he was touring the world with the band, or he was spending huge amounts of time in bed, sleeping, reading, writing, taking drugs and watching television. Paul McCartney would come round and wake him up when it was time for one of their songwriting sessions. Lennon’s friend Maureen Cleave wrote a profile of The Beatles in the Evening Standard that year, and John’s lifestyle got special attention:
“He can sleep almost indefinitely, he’s probably the laziest person in England…(his) existence is secluded and curiously timeless. “What day is it?” John Lennon asks with interest when you ring up with news from outside”
Incidentally, the Evening Standard article from 1966 mentioned above went on to become the most notorious interview of the band’s entire career, but the scandal had nothing to do with Lennon lying in bed all day. He got on to the subject of Indian music and religion, and said, in passing, that he thought both Rock & Roll and Christianity would “vanish and shrink” eventually, adding that The Beatles were “more popular than Jesus now”.
When the story came out in the Standard, hardly anyone reacted. However, when it was picked up by a teen fan magazine in the United States and re-published, the backlash was huge, leading to protests, the burning of records and posters of the band, death threats and the end of their touring career, just when they were at their peak. They did tour the US in 1966 to promote their new album, Revolver, but it was under a cloud of bad publicity and was to be their last. Lennon was murdered in 1980 by Mark Chapman, who later cited Lennon’s comments about Jesus as a major part of his motivation.
Maureen Cleave knew John well, and wrote a few more lines about him in the article that stick in my mind:
“…unpredictable, indolent, disorganised, childish, vague, charming and quick-witted”, but “still easy-going, still tough as hell”
Feeling in need of a little adventure? Ben Buckton’s new travel book, CROSSING CANADA: Incidents Of Travel On A Bike, is available here, in paperback and kindle: