When the Beatles split, it was no surprise that John Lennon launched a successful solo career; some of his earlier songs spoke dramatically about peace. The truth was though that John Lennon wasn’t quite the pacifist that his music may have alluded to.
Two of John Lennon’s most famous solo songs were ‘Give Peace A Chance’ and ‘Imagine’; both songs were quite clear in their sentiments, both were nothing short of a call for peace. Both John Lennon and Yoko Ono gave a number of interviews about peace and both participated in anti-war demonstrations. One only has to think back to their honeymoon in the Amsterdam Hilton when they had their ‘bed-in for peace’ and their second bed-in in Montreal (where they recorded ‘Give Peace A Chance) to see the way they wanted the public to see them. Although the sentiments may have been accurate, they almost hid the real truth.
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Although the evidence has never truly been clear, it is believed that Lennon helped fund the IRA in the late 1960’s . Even in the middle of the 70’s, Lennon was up to no good, running amok in LA, getting into many brawls. He even once wore a woman’s sanitary towel on his head. One night, while drinking with Harry Nilsson, Lennon disrupted a club performance by The Smother Brothers. For a man of peace, he sure had his moments of proving it wrong.
During the 1960’s, while still living in Liverpool, Lennon never participated in demonstrations. This was rather surprising considering that a good number of art school students liked to take part – perhaps Lennon just couldn’t be bothered, perhaps he had no interest. Lennon did not like fighting but he did like to bully people that he saw as weaker than him. One incident of note occurred on a floating beat night upon the Royal Iris: Lennon, high on alcohol, saw a girls hand on the door jamb, Lennon kicked the door, it closed on her hand. He was laughing loudly as the girl’s hand dripped blood. Another incident happened in June 1963 at Paul McCartney’s 21st birthday. Bob Wooler made a comment about Lennon’s recent trip to Spain with manager Brian Epstein; Lennon lost the plot and attacked Wooler. A few punches were landed before they were separated, enough though that Wooler had to go to hospital. Lennon never truly apologised for that incident.
Lennon may have wanted peace outwardly but the truth seemed to be that he was incapable of having peace with himself. Consider the song Revolution: “When you talk about destruction, don’t you know that you can count me…”. On the version that was released as a single, Lennon wanted you to count him ‘out’. On the White Album version, he wasn’t so sure, he says you can count him out/in. Lennon admitted at the time that he wasn’t quite sure of his stance; something inside of him maybe realised that the only way to peace would involve some sort of destruction. It would not be the first or last time that some of his thoughts were at odds with each other.