I amIn September 1969, bassist and artist Klaus Fürmann, who recently left Manfred MannI got a phone call from John Lennon. There was nothing unusual about it. Foreman has known the Beatles for nine years and has been part of the band’s tight inner circle. It was Foreman’s special squad, Buddy, Klaus, and Gibson, That Lennon and George Harrison tried to go and watch the live broadcast the night they became famous Dosed with LSD at a dinner party. Ringo Starr was already at the party and was blustered by his band mates who were insensitively altered claiming that the venue elevator was on fire. A year later, he designed Grammy Award winning pistol casing.
The issue was what Lennon wanted most to do. Lennon had oddly agreed to a live performance at a rock and roll revival festival in Toronto in two days and was trying to support the musicians together to play Plastic Ono band. Eric Clapton agreed to play the guitar, but Foreman made a more convincing decision, on illogical grounds that occupying a festival with a new band that hasn’t been rehearsed doesn’t seem like one of Lennon’s most inspiring ideas.
John said, “Oh, we’re gonna train on the plane. “So we were there, sitting in the last row, next to the airplanes, playing electric bass without a amplifier,” he says, knocking on the phone line from his home in Bavaria. “I couldn’t hear anything I was doing. I was more nervous about John than I was. I mean, John – the Beatle – suddenly got up on stage with a squad that didn’t train. It was incredible.”
Moreover, Lennon had chosen not to play the concise set of rock and roll covers befitting a festival that also includes Jane Vincent, Little Richard and Bo Diddley, but to concede the microphone to Yoko Ono, Who did two improvisations to split the ear, one of which lasted more than 12 minutes. “People were just open minded. They are at a rock and roll festival with Chuck Berry, and suddenly this avant-garde thing is being introduced,” he says. “I was on stage, standing behind Yoko, she was screaming and screaming and barking like a dying bird, and I felt, ‘This is about the Vietnam War’ – I really saw tanks next to me and bombs falling and killing me, the thing she was expressing. John is crazy for doing this. “I mean, we were lucky people didn’t throw tomatoes at him.”
However, he says, there were advantages to the Yoko brand for live performance. “When you really know this is crazy, don’t think, ‘Oh, what am I going to do on stage? “You’re not afraid, you just do it, it’s easy. I mean,” he laughs, “You can make all the mistakes you want – it doesn’t matter. It’s punk.”
Foreman should probably have been used in unexpected situations involving the Beatles. He was an art student who loved jazz and Nouvelle Vague and a penchant for dressing like a young French intellectual when he first met them in 1960. After breaking out with his girlfriend Astrid KircherHe finds himself in his home during a row outside a particularly unnatural club in the St. Pauli district of Hamburg, stunned by the blows emanating from the inside. He had heard rock and roll before, although his tastes leaned more towards Miles Davis, but he had never heard of it live, and certainly not with the shattering energy of the fledgling Beatles. However, he says, he was riven about entering the club, which was clearly “dangerous”.
It’s easy to romanticize the Beatles’ years in Hamburg – the birth of a legend, as described by one of the live albums recorded there – but Foreman says the reality was really scary. “It was the dirty part of Hamburg, the prostitutes and the pimps are running. There were knife fights in the clubs. I thought, ‘Christ, I’m not going there.’ But in the end, I pulled myself together and I went in.”
He later returned with Kirscher and their friend Jürgen Vollmer: they looked so out of place that the waiters took pity on them and “took care of us if there was a quarrel going on.” After Lennon initially turned them down, they formed a friendship with the band, aided by the fact that Kircher invited them to her parents’ house so they could take a shower: The band’s living conditions were so miserable that they were forced to shower and shave using water from the club’s urinals.
Kircher started a relationship with Band bassist Stuart Sutcliffe Most famously, the band adopted the same look as their new boyfriends, ditching their skins and strings in favor of combing their hair forward: the mop. Lennon called the Germans “exis,” short for the existentialists, apparently incorrectly.
“We might have looked like these French artists,” says Fuhrmann, “but we weren’t existential.” We were not politicians at all. We took them to pictures so that they could see these films that we loved – Jean Cocteau, Louis Mali – and we went to exhibitions and turned them into French art. “
One night in Kaiserkeller, Sutcliffe handed Forman his bass guitar and told him to go up on stage instead. He was a guitarist, but had no instrument experience. It was the first time he played bass on stage with the Beatles, which sounds weakly stunning, even if Foreman said reality was less exciting. “Well, that sounds really cool,” he says. “But it was a rock and roll band, they were playing in the middle of the night, and Stewart wanted to have a break so he could cuddle Astrid on the sofa. So I kind of played on a Fats Domino number.”
He says he always knew the Beatles would be big – “I couldn’t wait for them to become famous” – but he clearly had no idea how big what was about to happen. He came to England in 1963, and by that time he died Sutcliffe – leaving the band to stay with Kirscher in Hamburg before he suffered a brain hemorrhage at the age of 21 – and the Betlemania squad was in full swing. Foreman shared an apartment with Harrison and Starr, and they were astonished by the sense of happiness they seemed to see an old face amid the madness that followed.
Later, he watched the band slowly disintegrate:Those 10 years was more than enough. Ringo would have stayed with the group, he loved everyone, but the rest, there was a lot of rage and fights: They couldn’t do that anymore because they were all in completely different directions. Abbey Road, it is a beautiful LPBut … from a sentiment point of view, it just wasn’t right. They had to do this because they had obligations to the record company. But they did it really beautifully and professionally, which makes a good band, you know? “
In fact, at some point during the band’s split up, a persistent rumor – and apparently unfounded – indicated that Foreman would join the Beatles, or rather, that Lennon, Harrison and Starr would form a new band called The Ladders, with Foreman replacing Paul McCartney. Instead, he played on all three solo albums throughout the 1970s. He has a special affection for John Lennon in the 1970s / group Plastic Ono: “Everything is done in two stages, no worries, so fresh and straightforward … Nobody ever told me what to play. I always played what I felt matched the spirit of the song or the lyrics .
“He always did, in all the sessions I’ve done: Imagine, Walls and Bridges, Rock ‘n’ Roll. But suppose if I play the wrong note or play shit, he’ll tell me. Same thing with the Revolver cover: If I don’t come up with a good idea. I’m not going to get the job – “Sorry, Klaus …”
Foreman later became a musician on demand – he plays The famous bass intro on Carly Simone You’re Too Foolish And playing in Perfect Day Lou Reed, the latter being a largely remembered session for how much camp went by between Reed and co-producer David Bowie. He spent the 1970s in Los Angeles, and returned to Germany at the end of the decade.
Before leaving the United States, he visited Lennon at his home in New York, and found him in the husband-of-the-house setting, boiling rice to make sushi and explaining the joy of not having a record deal or the stress that came with it. But he was shocked by a strange sense of foreshadowing.
“I went with my son Otto, who was the same age as Sean. We went for a walk in Central Park and John had Sean in a backpack. We got out of the basement, where the garage was, and I thought, ‘Hey Jesus, that’s scary. All these really crazy people in New York. And there John Lennon Just walk around without bodyguards or anything! I was scared for him: “Oh my God, if that’s what he does every day … I don’t know.”
Back in Germany, Foreman worked with Trio, the popular post-punk band in 1982 Yes Yes YesBut eventually they abandoned music to focus on writing and art. He has designed covers for the Beatles anthology collections, and in recent years, he has published books and an illustrated novel about his time with the Beatles and worked with Liam Gallagher on the packaging of his first solo appearance, “As You Were.” At age 82, he contributed a series of sketches for a new book on Lennon’s early solo career, and made the John Lennon / Plastic Ono Band album – one of which depicted the chaotic in-flight rehearsal for the Toronto Rock Festival, musicians huddled together at the rear of the plane.
These days, he says, he doesn’t even own a bass guitar anymore. “Playing the bass on your own is a bit ridiculous,” he says, as he says: Who can you play with? “I was spoiled,” he laughs.
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