What can I tell you about myself which you have not already found out from those who do not lie?
I wear glasses. Being born on 9th October 1940, I wasn't the first Beatle to happen. Ringo, being born on 7th July 1940, was. Although he didn't happen as a Beatle until much later than the rest of us, having played with his beard at Butlins and things before realizing where his awful destiny lay.
Ninety per cent of the people on this planet, especially in the West, were born out of a bottle of whisky on a Saturday night, and there was no intent to have children. Ninety per cent of us were accidents - I don't know anybody who has planned a child. All of us were Saturday-night specials.80
My mother was a housewife, I suppose. She was a comedienne and a singer. Not professional, but she used to get up in pubs and things like that. She had a good voice. She could do Kay Starr. She used to do this little tune when I was just a one - or two-year-old. The tune was from the Disney movie - 'Want to know a secret? Promise not to tell. You are standing by a wishing well.'80
My mother and father split when I was four and I lived with an auntie, Mimi.71
Mimi told me my parents had fallen out of love. She never said anything directly against my father and mother. I soon forgot my father. It was like he was dead. But I did see my mother now and again and my feeling never died off for her. I often thought about her, though I'd never realized for a long time that she was living no more than five or ten miles away.67
There were five women that were my family. Five strong, intelligent, beautiful women; five sisters. One happened to be my mother. My mother just couldn't deal with life. She was the youngest and she couldn't cope with me and I ended up living with her elder sister.
Those women were fantastic. One day I might do a kind of Forsyte Saga about them, because they dominated the situation in the family.80
The men were invisible. I was always with the women. I always heard them talk about men and talk about life, and they always knew what was going on. The men never ever knew. That was my first feminist education.80
The worst pain is that of not being wanted, of realizing your parents do not need you in the way you need them. When I was a child I experienced moments of not wanting to see the ugliness, not wanting to see not being wanted. This lack of love went into my eyes and into my mind.
I was never really wanted. The only reason I am a star is because of my repression. Nothing would have driven me through all that if I was 'normal'.71
Sometimes I was relieved to have no parents. Most of my friends' relations bore little resemblance to humanity. Their heads were filled with petty-cash bourgeois fears. Mine was full of my own ideas! Life was spent entertaining myself, whilst secretly waiting to find someone to communicate with. Most people were dead. A few were half-dead. It didn't take much to amuse them.78
Most people never get out of it. Some people cannot see that their parents are still torturing them, even when they are in their forties and fifties. They still have that stranglehold over them, their thoughts and their minds. I never had that fear of, and adulation for, parents.80
Penny Lane is a suburban district where I lived with my mother and father (although my father was a sailor, always at sea), and my grandfather. I lived on a street called Newcastle Road.80
That's the first place I remember. It's a good way to start - red brick; front room never used, always curtains drawn, picture of a horse and carriage on the wall. There were only three bedrooms upstairs, one on the front of the street, one in the back, and one teeny little room in the middle.79
After I left Penny Lane, I moved in with my auntie, who lived in the suburbs in a nice semi-detached place (251 Menlove Avenue, Woolton) with a small garden and doctors and lawyers and that ilk living around, nor the poor, slummy image that was projected. I was a nice clean-cut suburban boy, and in the class system that was about a half a niche higher-class than Paul, George and Ringo who lived in council houses. We owned our own house, had our own garden, they didn't have anything like that. So I was a bit of a fruit compared to them, in a way. Ringo was the only real city kid.80 I think he came out of the lousiest area. He doesn't care, he probably had more fun there.64
The first thing I remember is a nightmare.79
I dream in colour, and it's always very surreal. My dream world is complete Hieronymus Bosch and Dali. I love it, I look forward to it every night.74
One recurrent dream, all through my life, was the flying bit. I'd always fly in time of danger. I remember it as a child, flying around, like swimming in the air. I'd be swimming round where I lived or somewhere I knew very well usually. The other times in dreams I remember are nightmarish, where there'd be a giant horse or something and whenever it would get near to a danger point I would fly away. I used to translate it to myself, when I used to dream it in Liverpool, that it was that I wanted to get away from the place.71
Some of my most vivid dreams were about me being in a plane, flying over a certain part of Liverpool. It was when I was at school. The plane used to fly over time and time again, going higher and higher.
One really big one was about thousands of half-crowns all around me. And finding lots of money in old houses - as much of the stuff as I could carry. I used to put it in my pockets and in my hands and in sacks, and I could still never carry as much as I wanted. I must have had ambition without realizing it - a subconscious urge to get above people or out of a rut.66
You dream your way out until you actually, physically get out of it. I got out.68
I have exactly the same feeling anybody does about their home town. I have met people who don't like their home town. Probably because they've had a lousy time. I had a happy, healthy childhood in Liverpool and I like it. It doesn't stop you living somewhere else or going somewhere else, it's still my home town.64
Liverpool is where the Irish came when they ran out of potatoes, and it's where black people were left or worked as slaves or whatever. We were a great amount of Irish descent and blacks and Chinamen, all sorts.
It was going poor, a very poor city, and tough. But people have a sense of humour because they are in so much pain, so they are always cracking jokes. They are very witty.70 And we talk through our noses. I suppose it's adenoids.64
We were a port, the second biggest in England. The North is where the money was made in the 1800s. That was where all the brass and heavy people were, and that's where the despised people were. We were the ones that were looked down upon as animals by the Southerners, the Londoners.70
There were two famous houses [in Woolton]. One was owned by Gladstone - a reformatory for boys, which I could see out my window. And Strawberry Field, just around the corner from that, an old Victorian house converted for Salvation Army orphans. (Apparently, it used to be a farm that made strawberries.) As a kid I used to go to their garden parties with my friends Ivan, Nigel and Pete. We'd all go up there and hang out and sell lemonade bottles. We always had fun at Strawberry Field.80
I was hip in kindergarten. I was different from others. I was different all my life. It's not a case of 'then he took acid and woke up', or 'then he had a marijuana joint and woke up'. Everything is as important as everything else. My influences are tremendous, from Lewis Carroll to Oscar Wilde to tough little kids that used to live near me who ended up in prison. It's that same problem I had when I was five: 'There is something wrong with me because I seem to see things other people don't see.'80
I was always a homebody, I think that a lot of musicians are - you write and you play in the house. When I was wanting to be a painter when I was younger, or write poetry, it was always in the house.80
I spent a lot of time reading. Hanging around the home never bothered me. I enjoy it. I love it.80 I thought it was because I was an only child. Although I had half-sisters, I lived alone. I always tripped out on my own or in books.71
I always had this dream of being the artist in a little cottage in a little road. My real thing is just to write a little poetry and do a few oils. It seemed like such a dream, living in a cottage and wandering in the trees.69
I was passionate about Alice in Wonderland and drew all the characters. I did poems in the style of 'Jabberwocky'. I used to love Alice, and Just William. I wrote my own William stories, with me doing all the things. Wind in the Willows, I loved. After I'd read a book, I'd re-live it all. That was one reason why I wanted to be the gang leader at school. I'd want them all to play games that I wanted to play, the ones I'd just been reading.67
I did fight all the way through Dovedale [primary school], winning by psychological means if ever anyone looked bigger than me. I threatened them in a strong enough way that I would beat them, so they thought I could.67
With the fact that I wasn't tied to parents I would infiltrate the other boys' minds. That was the gift I got, of not having parents. I cried a lot about not having them, but also had the gift of awareness of not being something.80
I was shot at once for stealing apples. I used to go thieving with this kid. We used to ride on the bumpers of tram cars in Penny Lane and ride miles without paying. I'd be shitting myself all the time. I was so scared. I nearly fell off while riding on the bumpers.67
I was the kingpin of my age group. I learnt lots of dirty jokes very young; there was a girl who lived near who told me them.67
I wasn't taught anything about sex. I learnt it all from the bog walls. I knew everything when I was about eight. Everything had been shown, everybody had seen dirty pictures, everybody knew all the perversities and the naughty things that there were - you just found out. When we are free of our guilt and hypocrisy about it, sex will take its rightful place in society - just part of living.
Edinburgh is one of my favourite dreams. The Edinburgh Festival and the Tattoo in the castle. All the bands of the world's armies would come and march and play. The favourites were the Americans, because they swung like shit - apart from the Scots, who were really the favourites. I always remember feeling very emotional about it, especially at the end where they put all the lights out and there's just one guy playing the bagpipes, lit by a lone spotlight. Och aye.79
I was obviously musical from very early, and I wonder why nobody ever did anything about it - maybe because they couldn't afford it.65
[When I was young] I was traveling to Edinburgh on my own to see my auntie, and I played the mouth organ all the way up on the bus. The driver liked it and told me to meet him at a place in Edinburgh the next morning and he'd give me a fantastic one. It really got me going. I also had a little accordion which I used to play - only the right hand - and I played the same things on this that I played on mouth organ, things like 'Swedish Rhapsody', 'Moulin Rouge' and 'Greensleeves'.71
I can't remember why I took it [harmonica] up in the first place - I must have picked one up very cheap. I know we used to take in students and one of them had a mouth organ and said he'd buy me one if I could learn a tune by the next morning. So I learnt two. I was somewhere between eight and twelve at the time; in short pants, anyway.
There's an exam in England that they hang over your head from age five, called the Eleven Plus: 'If you don't pass the Eleven Plus, you're finished in life.' So that was the only exam that I ever passed, because I was terrified.
(After that exam's over, the teacher says you can do whatever you want. So I just painted.)74
I looked at all the hundreds of new kids [at Quarry Bank grammar school] and thought, 'Christ, I'll have to fight all my way through this lot,' having just made it at Dovedale. There was some real heavies there. The first fight I got in, I lost. I lost my nerve when I got really hurt. Not that there was much real fighting; I did a lot of swearing and shouting, then got a quick punch. If there was a bit of blood, then you packed in. After that, if I thought someone could punch harder than me, I said, 'OK, we'll have wrestling instead.'
I was aggressive because I wanted to be popular. I wanted to be the leader. It seemed more attractive than just being one of the toffees. I wanted everybody to do what I told them to do, to laugh at my jokes and let me be the boss. I suppose I did try to do a bit of school work at first, as I often did at Dovedale. I'd been honest at Dovedale, if nothing else, always owning up. But I began to realise that was foolish; they just got you. So I started lying about everything.
I only got one beating from Mimi - for taking money from her handbag. I was always taking a little, for soft things like Dinky's, but this day I must have taken too much.67
When I was about twelve, I used to think I must be a genius but nobody'd noticed. I thought, 'I'm a genius or I'm mad. Which is it? I can't be mad because nobody's put me away - therefore I'm a genius.' I mean, a genius is a form of mad person. We're all that way, but I used to be a bit coy about it - like my guitar-playing. If there's such a thing as genius, I am one. And if there isn't, I don't care. I used to think it when I was a kid writing my poetry and doing my paintings. I didn't become something when The Beatles made it; I've been like this all my life. Genius is pain, too. It's just pain.70
I always wondered, 'Why has no one discovered me?' In school, didn't they see that I'm cleverer than anybody in this school?70
If I look through my report card, it's the same thing. 'Too content to get a cheap laugh hiding behind this,' or, 'Daydreaming his life away.'80
I daydreamed my way through the whole school. I absolutely was in a trance for twenty years because it was absolutely boring. If I wasn't in a trance, I wasn't there - I was at the movies, or running around.80
I used to embarrass authority by chanting out a weird version of 'The Happy Wanderer' at inappropriate moments. I was suspended for a spell. I think it was for eating chocolate in prayers or ducking a swimming instructor; something daft like that.63
One maths master wrote, 'He's on the road to failure if he carries on this way.' Most of them disliked me, so I'm always glad to remind them of the incredible awareness they had.
But there was always one teacher in each school, usually an art teacher or English language or literature. If it was anything to do with art or writing, I was OK, but if it was anything to do with science or maths, I couldn't get it in.71
When I was fifteen I was thinking, 'If only I can get out of Liverpool and be famous and rich, wouldn't it be great?'75
I wanted to write Alice in Wonderland, but when you think, 'Whatever I do I'm never going to topple Leonardo,' you get to thinking, 'What's the use?' A lot of people had more pain than me and tthey've done better things.71
I wouldn't say I was a born writer; I'm a born thinker. I'd always been able at school - when they want you to imagine something instead of giving you a subject; I could do that.64
At school we used to draw a lot and pass it round. We had blind dogs leading ordinary people around.65
I suppose I did have a cruel humour. It was at school that it first started. We were once coming home from a school speech day and we'd had a few bevvies. Liverpool is full of deformed people, three-foot-high men selling newspapers. I'd never really noticed them before, but all the way home that day they seemed to be everywhere. It got funnier and we couldn't stop laughing. I suppose it's a way of hiding your emotions, or covering it up. I would never hurt a cripple. It was just part of our jokes, our way of life.67
All kids draw and write poetry and everything, and some of us last until we're about eighteen, but most drop off at about twelve when some guy comes up and says, 'You're no good.' That's all we get told all our lives: 'You haven't got the ability. You're a cobbler.' It happened to all of us, but if somebody had told me all my life, 'Yeah, you're a great artist,' I would have been a more secure person.69
They should give you time to develop, encourage what you're interested in. I was always interested in art and came top for many years, yet no one took any interest.67
It's like when they ask you, 'What do you want to be?' I would say, 'Well, a journalist.' I never would dare to say, 'An artist,' because in the social background that I came from - as I used to say to my auntie - you read about artists and you worship them in museums, but you don't want them living around the house. So the teachers said, 'No, something real.' And I'd say, 'Well, present me with some alternative.' They'd suggest veterinarian, doctor, dentist, lawyer. And I knew there was no hope in hell of me ever becoming that. So there was never anywhere for me to go.80
They only wanted scientists in the Fifties. Any artsy-fartsy people were spies. They still are, in society.80
Even at art school they tried to turn me into a teacher - they try to discourage you from painting - and said, 'Why not be a teacher? Then you can paint on Sunday?' I decided against it.71
At school I saw a lot wrong with society. I revolted the same way as all my colleagues. Anyone who had anything didn't fit in with the school curriculum, and all my reports from Quarry Bank were on the line: 'He is clever, but doesn't try.' I was a particularly offensive schoolboy. I am one of your typical working-class heroes. Mine was the same sort of revolution as D. H. Lawrence's - I didn't believe in class and the whole fight was against class structure.69
I always was a rebel because of whatever sociological thing gave me a chip on the shoulder. But on the other hand, I want to be loved and accepted. That's why I'm on stage, like a performing flea. Because I would like to belong. Part of me would like to be accepted by all facets of society and not be this loudmouth, lunatic, poet/musician. But I cannot be what I'm not. What the hell do you do? You want to belong, but you don't because you cannot belong.80
I was fairly tough at school, but I could organise it so is seemed like I was tough. It used to get me into trouble. I used to dress tough like a Teddy boy, but if I went into the tough districts and came across other Teddy boys, I was in danger. At school it was easier because I could control it with my head so they thought I was tougher than I was. It was a game. I mean, we used to shoplift and all those things, but nothing really heavy. Liverpool's quite a tough city. A lot of the real Teddy boys were actually in their early twenties. They were dockers. We were only fifteen, we were only kids - they had hatchets, belts, bicycle chains and real weapons. We never really got into that, and if somebody came in front of us we ran, me and my gang.75
The sort of gang I led went in for things like shoplifting and pulling girls' knickers down. When the bomb fell and everyone got caught, I was always the one they missed. I was scared at the time, but Mimi was the only parent who never found out. Most of the masters hated me like shit. As I got older, we'd go on from just stuffing rubbish like sweets in our pockets from shops, and progressed to getting enough to sell to others, like ciggies.67
I'm not a tough guy. I've always had to have a façade of being tough to protect myself from other people's neuroses. But really, I'm a very sensitive weak guy.71
I'd say I had a happy childhood. I came out aggressive, but I was never miserable. I was always having a laugh.67
We [Mimi's husband and I] got on fine. He was nice and kind. [When] he died, I didn't know how to be sad publicly - what you did or said - so I went upstairs. Then my cousin arrived and she came upstairs as well. We both had hysterics. We just laughed and laughed. I felt very guilty afterwards.67
Mimi was looking after me on her own and she wanted to keep up this semi-detatched house in at one time.
She always wanted me to be a rugby type or a chemist. I was writing poetry and singing since she had me. All the time I used to fight and say, 'Look, I'm an artist, don't bug me with all this maths. Don't try and make me into a chemist or a vet, I can't do it.'
I used to say, 'Don't you destroy my papers.' I'd come home when I was fourteen and she'd rooted all my things and thrown all my poetry out. I was saying, 'One day I'll be famous and you're going to regret it.'72
I'd seen these poems around, the sort you read to give you a hard-on. I'd wondered who wrote them and thought I'd try one myself. Mimi found it under my pillow. I said I'd been made to write it out for another lad who couldn't write very well. I'd written it myself, of course.67
When I did any serious poems, like emotional stuff later on, I did it in secret handwriting, all scribbles, so that Mimi couldn't read it.67
My mother [Julia] came to see us one day in a black coat with her face bleeding. She'd had some sort of accident. I couldn't face it. I thought, 'That's my mother in there, bleeding.' I went out into the garden. I loved her, but I didn't want to get involved. I suppose I was a moral coward. I wanted to hide all feelings.67
Julia gave me my first coloured shirt. I started going to visit her at her house. I met her new bloke and didn't think much of him. I called him Twitchy. Julia became a sort of young aunt to me, or a big sister. As I got bigger and had more rows with Mimi, I used to go and live with Julia for a weekend.67
[Twitchy was] otherwise known as Robert Dykins or Bobbie Dykins. Her second husband - I don't know if she married him or not; little waiter with a nervous cough and the thinning, margarine-coated hair. He always used to push his hand in the margarine or the butter, usually the margarine, and grease his hair with it before he left. He used to keep his tips in a big tin on top of a cupboard in the kitchen, and I used to always steal them. I believe Mother got the blame. That's the least they could do for me.79
I'd always had a fantasy about a woman who would be a beautiful, intelligent, dark-haired, high-cheekboned, free-spirited artist (
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