“What it showed me was that my Sgt. Pepper experience wasn’t unique after all,” he maintains, “and there also were people talking about how they made friends through The Beatles and through Sgt. Pepper, and things of that nature.”
His days were spent mostly horizontal at Kenwood, the 27-room luxury estate he shared with his wife Cynthia and three-year-old son Julian in the staid upper-class London suburb of Weybridge. He’d never been happy in the area, consenting to move there in 1964 at his accountant’s suggestion (Kenwood was the third house they viewed). “Weybridge won’t do at all,” he told journalist Maureen Cleave two years later. “I’m just stopping at it, like a bus stop. Bankers and stockbrokers live there; they can add figures and Weybridge is what they live in and they think it’s the end, they really do. I think of it every day – me in my Hansel and Gretel house. I’ll take my time; I’ll get my real house when I know what I want. … You see, there’s something else I’m going to do, something I must do – only I don’t know what it is.”
Depressed, he dealt with the letdown by escaping into his mind at every opportunity. “If I’m on my own for three days, doing nothing, I almost leave myself completely. I’m just not here,” he told Davies. “I’m up there watching myself, or I’m at the back of my head. I can see my hands and realize they’re moving, but it’s a robot who’s doing it.” This sensation was no doubt aided by the mortar and pestle he kept nearby to mash together a dizzying array of pharmaceuticals onto one unpredictable mega-pill.
Cynthia grew distressed at how distant, apathetic and inert her rock-star husband had become. “When he was at home, he’d spend a lot of time lying in bed with a notepad,” she later said. “When he got up, he’d sit at the piano or he’d go from one room to the other listening to music, gawping at television and reading newspapers. He was basically dropping out from everything that was happening. He was thinking about things.” His estrangement from reality was so total, he often asked incoming phone callers, with genuine interest, what day of the week it was.
The songs Lennon wrote in this period are all meditations on the mundane; a child’s painting (“Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds”), a poster in his living room (“Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!”), a newspaper (“A Day in the Life”), all drawn from within the four walls of Kenwood. Another is “Good Morning Good Morning,” which owes its existence to his love of television.
“I often sit at the piano, working at songs, with the telly on low in the background,” he explained to Davies. “If I’m a bit low and not getting much done, then the words on the telly come through. That’s when I heard ‘Good morning, good morning.’ It was a Corn Flakes advertisement.” Kicking off with a pastoral rooster crow, the irrepressibly peppy jingle chirped out from the set: “Good morning, good morning!/The best to you each morning/Sunshine breakfast, Kellogg’s Corn Flakes/Crisp and full of fun!” The tune was at the same time annoyingly chipper and chillingly lobotomized. In other words, it was the perfect soundtrack to his world at Kenwood.
On December 12th, 1966, Meet the Wife aired an episode entitled “This Christmas, Shop Early,” chronicling holiday shoppers frantically making their last-minute gift purchases. The plot may very well have inspired the line that immediately preceded the reference to the show: “People running round, it’s five o’clock, everywhere in town is getting dark.”
It’s a rare active moment in a song packed with boredom that borders on nihilism. The word “nothing” appears eight times in the two-minute, 41-second track, and each verse ends with the assertion that the narrator has nothing to say, “but it’s OK.” For someone who strenuously avoided writing “fiction” songs in the vein of McCartney’s “Eleanor Rigby,” “Lovely Rita” or “When I’m Sixty-Four” (“He makes ’em up like a novelist!” Lennon once marveled), “Good Morning Good Morning” can be read as a revealing confession of complete and utter apathy. “Nothing to do to save his life,” the opening words, ring out like the final gasp of a man surrendering to daily claustrophobia.
But one brief line may offer a glimmer of hope. Author Steve Turner observes that the lyric “You go to a show, you hope she goes,” may be a reference to a woman Lennon had recently met that November at an art exhibition: Yoko Ono. Though it’s pure speculation (and likely that she hadn’t captured his imagination just yet), Lennon’s involvement with Ono meant that his days adrift in a sea of domesticity at Kenwood were numbered.
“Very politely, [Smith] asked George Martin if his boys could possibly pop in to see the Beatles at work,” Davies wrote in the Beatles’ biography. “George smiled, unhelpfully. Norman said perhaps he should ask John personally, as a favor. George Martin said no, that wouldn’t work. But if by chance he and his boys popped in about eleven o’clock, he might just be able to see what he could do.”
That’s exactly what Smith did. Though Pink Floyd had become the official house band of the London Underground scene with appearances at the ultra-hip UFO Club, they were still overawed being in the presence of the Beatles. “They were God-like figures to us,” drummer Nick Mason recalled in a 2011 interview with The Wall Street Journal. “They all seemed extremely nice, but they were in a strata so far beyond us that they were out of our league.” He elaborated on the meeting in his 2004 memoir, Inside Out: A Personal History of Pink Floyd. “We were ushered into Studio 2 where the Fab Four were busy recording ‘Lovely Rita.’ The music sounded wonderful, and incredibly professional. … There was little if any banter with the Beatles. We sat humbly and humbled, at the back of the control room while they worked on the mix, and after a suitable (and embarrassing) period of time had elapsed, we were ushered out again.”
Roger Waters’ memory of the momentary rock summit is somewhat less warm. “I only met John Lennon once, to my huge regret, and that was in the control room at Number 2,” he said in an interview with Marc Maron. “He was a bit acerbic. He was quite snotty – so was I!”