They Shall Be One Flesh

21 And the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, and he slept: and he took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh instead thereof.

22 And the rib, which the LORD God had taken from a man, made he a woman, and brought her unto the man.

23 And Adam said, This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.

24 Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.

25 And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed.

Genesis, Chapter 2

The Bible

 
 

“Saying whatever you want it to say. It is just us expressing ourselves like a child does, you know, however he feels like then. What we’re saying is make your own music. This is Unfinished Music.”
John Lennon

 
 

The bottom of the front cover has a quote from Paul McCartney – When two great Saints meet it is a humbling experience. The long battles to prove he was a Saint. On the bottom of the back cover it reads “May 1968. Made in Merrie England.”

 
 

Unfinished Music No. 1: Two Virgins is an album released by John Lennon and Yoko Ono in November 1968, on Apple. Following Lennon’s wife, Cynthia Lennon, going on holiday, it was the result of an all-night session of musical experimentation in Lennon’s home studio at Kenwood. Lennon and Ono’s debut album is known not only for its avant garde content, but also for its cover. The album cover features Lennon and Ono naked, which made the album become controversial – to both the public and the record company, EMI, who refused to distribute it. To calm down the controversy, the album was sold in a brown paper bag, and distributed by Track and Tetragrammaton, in the UK and US, respectively. The album, while failing to the chart in the UK, reached number 124 in the US. The album was followed by Unfinished Music No.2: Life with the Lions.

 
 

Original photo

 
 

Lennon and Ono used a time-delay camera, which was set up by Tony Bramwell, to take nude photographs of themselves for the album’s cover, which were taken at 34 Montagu Square, in Marylebone (London), the location of a flat leased out by Ringo Starr. in early October 1968. Lennon explained that they “were both a bit embarrassed when we peeled off for the picture, so I took it myself with a delayed action shutter.” The front cover showed them frontally nude including Lennon’s penis and Ono’s breasts and pudendal cleft, and both Lennon’s and Ono’s natural pubic hair, while the rear cover showed them nude from behind including their buttocks. Lennon’s idea was to have the nude shot for the front album cover. Neil Aspinall said that Lennon gave the roll of film to an Apple employee, known as Jeremy, with instructions that the pictures were to be developed. Jeremy said that the pictures were “mind-blowing”, Aspinall, however, said that “Everything was always “mind-blowing” to Jeremy” then going on to say: “but – just that one time – he was actually right. He couldn’t believe it.”

 
 

 
 

The cover provoked an outrage, prompting distributors to sell the album in a plain brown wrapper, covering the nude front cover. Quotes from Genesis Chapter 2 were placed on the back of the brown bag, which were chosen by Derek Taylor. The album’s title came from the couple’s feeling that they were “two innocents, lost in a world gone mad”, and because after making the recording, the two consummated their relationship. Lennon had said that the album cover “just seemed natural for us. We’re all naked really.” Ono saw the cover as a significant declaration: “I was in the artistic community, where a painter did a thing about rolling a naked woman with blue paint on her body on a canvas; […] that was going on at the time. The only difference was that we were going to stand together, which I thought was very interesting […] it was just standing straight. I liked that concept.” Copies of the album were impounded as obscene in several jurisdictions (including 30,000 copies in New Jersey in January 1969). Lennon commented that the uproar seemed to have less to do with the explicit nudity, and more to do with the fact that the pair were rather unattractive (and the photo unflattering; Lennon described it later as a picture of “two slightly overweight ex-junkies”).

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Close Connection

 
 

Wayne Mullins gives a pretty good account of Ginsberg-Lennon- Beatles connection in the article – Long John Silver and the Beats. He quotes in part (recalling their very first meeting) Marianne Faithfull‘s account – It’s London, 1965 – «Then Allen Ginsberg came in… He went over to the chair (Bob) Dylan was sitting in and plonked himself down on the armrest…John Lennon broke the silence snarling: “Why don’t you sit a bit closer then, dearie?”, The insinuation – that Allen had a crush on Dylan was intended to demolish (him), but since it wasn’t far from the truth anyway, Allen took it very lightly. The joke was on them, really. He burst out laughing, fell off the arm and onto Lennon’s lap. Allen looked up to him and said, “Have you ever read William Blake, young man?”… And Lennon in his Liverpudlian deadpan said, “Never heard of the man”. Cynthia (Lennon), who wasn’t going to let him get away with this even in jest, chided him; “Oh, John, stop lying.” That broke the ice.»

 
 

as filenameAllen Ginsberg celebrating his 39th birthday in film-maker David Larcher’s Chelsea basement apartment with Miles and Sue Miles.

 
 

Ginsberg with Barbara Rubin, Allen’s 39th birthday party

 
 

There’s also, that same year (on the occasion of that same UK visit, in fact), Allen’s notorious 39th birthday party, attended (a surprise visit, late in the night) by John and Cynthia, George Harrison and Pattie Boyd, (and, fortunately for them, no cameras!). Confronted by an essentially naked Allen (naked, except for a “No Waiting” sign hung around his penis!), Lennon was, apparently, mortified, horrified – “You don’t do that in front of the birds” (the women – sic)”, he allegedly, declared.

Legendary meetings with his heros. In subsequent years, and specifically when John moved to New York City and was politically active in a number of causes, their friendship blossomed. Here’s Allen, from his 1972 PEN Club recommendation (on the occasion of Lennon’s visa-immigration problems), citing him as being, “in the line of descent of (Thomas) Campion, (Edmund) Waller and (John) Dowland fellow language-ayre minstrels celebrated in the great tree of British poesy”. And, again, in a note, written January the following year – “So Lennon’s particularly interesting in English minstrel’s tradition – remember (William) Shakespeare wrote songs, “With a Hey and a Ho and a Hey nonny-o.. with Hey! with Hey! The thrush and the jay”.” “Dull minds observing Lennon transform himself into an angry bodhisattva of song for the masses, have mistaken his verse to be over-simplistic. On the contrary, it’s an ancient perfectly subtle, humble, artful simplicity, the condensation of common social language into hard strong human personal verse”.. “To sum up, Lennon/Ono (Lennon) is a conscious poet coherently adapting traditional poetic song devices to new consciousness, new technology electronic mass ear education; one brilliant development of modern poetry completely realized”.

Finally, this, from a letter (to Barry Miles, circa 1976) – “I was passing by (the) Dakota Apartments last month, phoned upstairs and visited John Lennon and Yoko Ono for an hour. Lennon said he was retired temporarily from the L.A. music scene, staying home with baby and extreme clean diet… Said he was lying sleepless one night listening to WBAI (radio on) earphones and heard someone reciting a long poem, he thought it was (Bob) Dylan till he heard the announcer say it was (Allen) Ginsberg reading Howl…said he’d never read it or understood it before, (he’d eye’d the page but, “I can’t read anything, I can’t get anything from print”), but once hearing it aloud, he suddenly understood, he said, why Dylan had often mentioned me to him, and suddenly realized what (it was) I was doing, and dug it…said he didn’t understand (hadn’t understood) at the time. He’d seen me as some strange interesting American supposed-to-be-a poet hanging around but didn’t understand exactly what my role was. Now he said he understood how close my style was to Dylan’s, and how it influenced Dylan and also dug my voice reciting, the energy…It sure was nice hearing Lennon close the gap, complete that circle and treat me as a fellow artist as he walked me to the door goodbye”.