It is still strange to hear when specific names in showbiz mingle away from the flashing cameras. While artists work so hard to forge their own path, when those journey’s crossover with other leading characters of culture it is the obscure stories that are generated in the process that really prick our ears. John Lennon and Joan Baez is undoubtedly an excellent example of this.
One night in Denver, Colorado in 1964, Joan Baez, and The Beatles happened to be playing at the same venue on two consecutive nights at the Red Rocks Amphitheater. Baez had just finished her tour, so Lennon asked the singer to join them and their entourage as The Beatles ventured on. In an interview with The Rolling Stone, Baez noted, “I saw all the inner workings: how you climb into Volkswagen buses and then send the limousine out to be beaten to death by loving fans.”
After the tour, they all ended up in LA together at a mansion. The ensuing behaviour would not be associated with The Beatles’ kind of way of living, but the sort of debauchery that may more keenly be associated with The Rolling Stones. They were all holed up together at the mansion with limited sleeping arrangements. Baez continues with her story, “They’ve sent their people out to bring in groupies so they can pick who they’re gonna, you know, hang out with. And these poor girls, just sitting downstairs waiting to see whether they’re gonna be picked by somebody–they don’t talk, they don’t even knit.”
After it was made clear that there wouldn’t be enough sleeping arrangements to accommodate the “important” people of the entourage, such as Baez, Lennon offered to share his bed. A gentlemanly gesture? One imagines not. According to Gavin Edwards’ book Is Tiny Dancer Really Elton’s Little John?: Music’s Most Enduring Mysteries, Myths, and Rumors Revealed, from 2006, the story ran as such, “So I went to sleep and he came in, in the middle of the night,” Baez said. “And I think he felt compelled — ‘Well, I’ve asked her and she is a star and oh, dear’–and he started coming on to me, very unenthusiastically. I said, ‘John, you know, I’m probably as tired as you are, and I don’t want you to feel you have to perform on my behalf.'”
John, in all his glory of sarcasm, responded as such, “‘Oh, luvly! I mean, what a relief! Because you see, well, you might say I’ve already been fooked downstairs.’ So we had a good laugh and went to sleep.”
So, despite the strange clashing of distinct worlds — English rockers and American folkies — Joan Baez and John Lennon once nearly “got it on”.
John Lennon was a complicated figure and did, on occasion, had a tendency not to follow the guidelines of gentlemanly conduct. In a 1971 interview with The Rolling Stone, Lennon remarked on the kind of folk music he disliked.
“I never liked the fruity Judy Collins and [Joan] Baez and all of that stuff,” he said. “So the only folk music I know is about miners up in Newcastle or Dylan. In that way, I would be influenced, but it doesn’t sound like Dylan to me. Does it sound like Dylan to you?”