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John Lennon and Yoko Ono met in 1966 and started an affair. The relationship drew a great deal of negative attention, and many fans of The Beatles unfairly blamed Ono for the band breaking up. According to Lennon, he already had one foot out the door with the band when he met Ono. He explained that after meeting her, though, he had very little in The Beatles. 

A black and white photo of Yoko Ono and John Lennon glancing sideways at each other.
Yoko Ono and John Lennon | Susan Wood/Getty Images

In 1966, Lennon visited an art gallery and saw Ono’s work. He hadn’t known much about her ahead of this.

“I was looking around the gallery and I saw this ladder and climbed up and got a look in this spyglass on the top of the ladder — you feel like a fool — and it just said, yes,” he told Playboy in 1980. “Now, at the time, all the avant-garde was smash the piano with a hammer and break the sculpture and anti-, anti-, anti-, anti-, anti. It was all boring negative crap, you know. And just that yes made me stay in a gallery full of apples and nails.”

He asked if he could hammer a nail into an apple. While Ono initially said no, she eventually told him that he could do it for five shillings. 

“So smarta** says, ‘Well, I’ll give you an imaginary five shillings and hammer an imaginary nail in.’ And that’s when we really met,” Lennon explained. “That’s when we locked eyes and she got it and I got it and, as they say in all the interviews we do, the rest is history.”

He said that their relationship was life-altering

According to Lennon, he had grown tired of The Beatles by the mid-1960s. He spent six weeks away from the group while filming the movie How I Won the War and felt a flush of relief.

“From then on, I was looking for somewhere to go, but I didn’t have the nerve to really step out on the boat by myself and push it off,” he said. “But when I fell in love with Yoko, I knew, My God, this is different from anything I’ve ever known. This is something other. This is more than a hit record, more than gold, more than everything. It is indescribable.”

Lennon said he fully lost interest in the band when they began their relationship

“I had already begun to want to leave, but when I met Yoko is like when you meet your first woman,” he said, adding, “You leave the guys at the bar. You don’t go play football anymore. You don’t go play snooker or billiards. Maybe some guys do it on Friday night or something, but once I found the woman, the boys became of no interest whatsoever other than being old school friends.”

He said that the difference between himself and other people in his position is that the people he was leaving behind were his famous bandmates.

“We got married three years later, in 1969. That was the end of the boys. And it just so happened that the boys were well known and weren’t just local guys at the bar,” he said. “Everybody got so upset over it. There was a lot of s*** thrown at us. A lot of hateful stuff.”

Yoko Ono said it was difficult to deal with the backlash to her relationship with John Lennon

Much of the backlash fell on Ono. She said it was difficult to handle.

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“I had put up with it for many years. Even early on, when John was a Beatle, we stayed in a room and John and I were in bed and the door was closed and all that, but we didn’t lock the door and one of the Beatle assistants just walked in and talked to him as if I weren’t there,” she said. “It was mind-blowing. I was invisible. The people around John saw me as a terrible threat. I mean, I heard there were plans to kill me. Not the Beatles but the people around them.”