By Hans Ebert
Depending on where you are in the world, today, October 9, would have been John Lennon’s 76th birthday. Actor Peter Sellers, also a Libran, was born on September 27. Both are men whose body of work, and who, through chance meetings and interviews, shaped my life- for better or worse.
The journey of John Winston Lennon from Beatle John to Dr Winston O’Boogie to political activist, and then househusband learning to bake bread, was swift and decisive. One has to wonder if the musician was actually always on that magic swirling spaceship, touching down on Strawberry Fields, wanting to stay there forever, but continuing to travel in that Yellow Submarine with Mean Mister Mustard, meeting Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds before giving it all up to be a Working Class Hero, then watching the wheels go by after asking us to Give Peace A Chance, to Imagine, and how Instant Karma will always get you.
Another complex, complicated and wildly creative individual was actor Peter Sellers.
Growing up trying to understand their individual wars with fame, their bouts with depression, and marriages and the confusions and complexities of their lives- and how these were often addressed through their art- has always made me wonder- oooh, and it makes me wonder- what might have happened if these two driven, volatile and outspoken artists with an incredibly humorous take on life might have collaborated on a project. They had much in common- the temper, being difficult, an absurd Goonish sense of humour and who even worked with the same record producer- George Martin- Sellers when one of the Goons, and, of course, Lennon when one of the Fabs.
Like Lennon, Sellers also shared a love-hate relationship with American politics, something that, for example, was seen in Stanley Kubrick’s “Dr Strangelove” where the actor based his character on Henry Kissinger, and his brilliant portrayal of Chauncey Gardener in “Being There”. Actor and musician were restless souls. They seemed to fear falling into the comfort zone of being Nowhere Men. Fear of complacency always drives the creative spirit. That and damn good sex with no holds barred and no barbells held. Whatever the hell that means.
Both were artists constantly questioning and constantly changing and evolving, Lennon moving from those early days when he was asking for “Help” in song, and how he once had a girl, or maybe how she once had him, the stupidity of having to hide his way, and then coming out and almost detonating the Beatles in the bible thumping States of American religious zealots by saying that his little pop group was more popular than Jesus. He was right.
Then tired of Sexy Sadie aka the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi Bear and meditating his life away in an ashram in India with various hangers on, quasi celebrities, the other Beatles and their wives and girlfriends, he left his very British wife, screwed in a lightbulb at an exhibition given by Yoko Ono, fell immediately in love with the artist, and shocked most of the Western world by taking up with the odd looking and outré Japanese artist who would get into a bag and wail as part of Bagism. And John was happy to join her. He was divorcing himself from the Beatles. He had stopped being Beatle John. He was once a Johnny Bagman and handed out acorns for Peace with journalist Ritchie Yorke. Better than handing out eggplants, I guess, though eggplants have their time and place.
In a surreal stroke of irony- and karma- most of the world tuned in today to watch the second debate between the two candidates in the running to be the next American President. Starring- yes, starring, because nothing about any of this is real or honest and there’s so much to get hung about- Crooked Hillary, who might feel right at home with Mean Mister Mustard, and Mr Sniffles, in many ways, Lennon’s “Hey, Bulldog”. Or Stephen Sondheim’s “Send In The Clowns”.
This is the America, John Lennon fought to live in despite Nixon having the FBI hound him, Elvis watch him, and where he was to be murdered- shot because of those gun laws that continue to hide under the Constitution, the institution, the revolution, where you can count me out- no, count me in.
This is the American political system and theatre of the absurd with the various cheerleading goon squads that Peter Sellers picked to pieces in “Being There”. This is the America where Lennon sang about Power To The People.
This is the America, John Lennon and Peter Sellers would have had one helluva good and Goon-like time sending up as only they could- and not Jimmy Fallon, Stephen Colbert and the Carpool Karaoke bloke, all of whom the world accepts so readily, because we live in witless times. These are times where the creative process has been stymied through faked out seriousness, showbiz snow jobs, chump politicians with their leaks, wikis, and pussy talk, who are pseudo analysed by a Pythonesque news media that’s absurd without even knowing it. Who mentioned Fox News? Happy belated, lads. Wish you were still here.