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JOHN LENNON: Barefoot in Nutopia

An insider’s story of his last years

by Mike Tree

                                                                                           

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As the months passed, I became aware that John and Yoko, especially Yoko, were deeply committed to the occult. It seemed like every time I opened the front door, a tarot card reader, numerologist, or astrologer had come to meet with her. On some occasions, she instructed me to ask her guests for the date and time of their birth. When I asked her why, she replied, “Relationships are not about love or respect, but about power.”


John said something similar, when I spoke about our friendship. “I have no friends,” he said. “Friendship is a romantic illusion.” He told me he became pessimistic about friendship after the breakup of the Beatles. He had considered Paul a friend. Yet after they disbanded, Paul sued him and Yoko. John talked bitterly about how Paul tried to turn George and Ringo against him.


I can’t account for the difficulties he experienced, but the man I knew didn’t believe, by virtue of his actions, what he said about friendship. Over the years I had worked for him, he gave me praise, considerations and gifts—expressions of his friendship.


Yoko, however, was more calculating. If astrology or tarot didn’t indicate a relationship, she wouldn’t act. One of her main advisors was a tarot card reader named Charlie Swan, whom I later discovered was the mysterious stranger who had sent me to the Dakota for the job as the Lennons “tree man.”


The card reader came into Yoko’s life in 1973, when John departed for Los Angles, leaving her alone in the sprawling apartment. She had initially hired Swan to purge the apartment of a ghost she believed to be the spirit of actor Robert Ryan’s wife, Jessie, who had died there.


Though in fairness to Yoko, the apartment could definitely be a spooky place. I had learned this on the occasions I had spent weekends there, alone. At night, I felt so uneasy moving about the apartment, I would leave the lights on in all the rooms.


When Swan successfully “cleansed” the apartment of the ghost, Yoko quickly found other psychic tasks for him. But his greatest asset was interpreting the tarot cards. Later, she relied heavily on his counsel as she worked through the maize of lawsuits created by the dissolution of the Beatles, and John’s pending immigration status. I’m sure the successes Swan achieved through his tarot cards and counsel, tempered John’s skepticism about the occult.


Swan began reading tarot cards for John upon his returned to New York, ending his “Lost Weekend.” But his feelings about the man seemed to vacillate, calling him a huckster one moment and next taking his advice. John referred to him as the “Oracle.” [see the lyrics of “Cleanup Time.”]


During his Beatle years, John had developed a particular interest in numerology. Though at the time he didn’t know anything about it or that it was considered occult. The number 9 appears repeatedly in his song titles: “Revolution 9,” “Dream No. 9,” “One After 909.”


His curiosity about numbers intensified, when Yoko showed him Cherio’s Book of Numbers. I first heard about the book, when I went into the master bedroom one day to look after the Ming tree. John sat cross-legged on the bed, looking through the small, thin paperback.


“Do you know anything about numerology?” he asked.


“No, nothing.”


“You should take a look at this book,” he said, holding it up so I see the cover title.


“Before I met Yoko, I used to think the number 9 was just a coincidence in my life. My birthday is a 9; Mother’s [Yoko] is the 18th, 1+8=9. Paul’s birthday is June 18th, also a nine. I met Mother on November 9th and Sean was born on October 9th. So I figured nine was my lucky number. But according to this book my lucky number is a three; so is Yoko’s.”


The next day, when I again went to the bedroom, John wasn’t there. I noticed the numerology book on the bookcase next to the bed and examined it. The insides of the front and back covers were filled with computations for people in his life: John Lennon, Yoko Ono, Sean Taro Ono Lennon, Julian Lennon, Beatles, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, Richard Starkey, Brian Epstein, Mimi Smith, Julia Stanley, Alfred Lennon, and many more. A few days later I found a copy of the book laying on the topsoil of the Ming tree. This had become John’s way of saying to me, “Take this.”


I went through the book in about two days, calculating my own numbers. Like him, I became addicted to the book. Though I still considered myself a skeptic about the occult, I justified my new interest in numerology, telling myself it was like physics or mathematics. A number seemed to be a more accurate way to describe something.


Tarot cards, however, were all about pictures. The idea that a person could look at tarot cards for guidance seemed weird to me because it had no precision. The card reader could say anything.


But tarot cards were very important to Yoko. A framed set of cards hung in the apartment’s main hallway. I would pass them everyday; several times a day. Now I began to study them more closely. Each card had a picture I didn’t understand; each also had a number in roman numerals and a title. The picture frame contained twenty-two cards arranged in three columns across and seven rows down, a total of twenty-one. At the top of this arrangement, placed like a crown, the twenty-second card with the number zero, was titled “The Fool.”


The number zero, however, didn’t align with Cherio’s numerology. So I did some research at the library, and learned “The Fool” represents the beginning, zero, and also the end, twenty-two. This discovery had me upset because Michael, according to Cherio, is the number twenty-two, which also represents the zodiac sign of Libra. His book said, “a good person who lives in a fool’s paradise.” That’s me—exactly!


But I also had a new beginning, working for John and Yoko. In another book I read, “The Fool is a card of potential, new beginnings, innocence. The person it represents feels young and energized, as excited as a child who has discovered a new toyshop. Who knows what they will find on the shelves?”


At this point in my tenure at Lennono Music, I searched everywhere for clues to guide my life. If only because occult guidance seemed to have provided everything John and Yoko wanted. But these many years later as I write this memoir, there are times when I wish I had never heard about numerology, astrology or anything to do with the occult.















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