Curt Claudio was a 23 year old American fan who travelled all the way to Tittenhurst to meet his hero, John Lennon, in the summer of 1971.
In the documentaries ‘Gimme Some Truth‘ and ‘Above Us Only Sky’ (Channel 4 UK / Amazon), there is a moving scene where, on 26 May 1971, at home at Tittenhurst, Ascot, John Lennon met a sensitive young fan who had travelled all the way from California to meet him in the hope that by meeting John, some kind of answer he would receive from John would somehow fit everything into place for him.
After John & Yoko talked to him for a while, John invited him in for breakfast in their kitchen, where they continued to talk with him and compassionately help him to straighten out his thoughts.
The name of that young man was Curt Claudio.
Curt’s story is also featured in the book ‘Imagine John Yoko‘:
John: I had this guy called Claudio who had been sending telegrams for nine months to England saying ‘I’m coming, I’m coming and then I’ll only have to look in your eyes and I’ll know.’
Dan Richter: We began to take Claudio seriously and we were able to trace the telegram back to a Veterans Administration hospital in the San Francisco area. Apparently Claudio was a shell-shocked Vietnam veteran who was due to be released from the hospital.
John: So last week he turned up at my house and he looked in my eyes and he didn’t get any answer. He thought the whole thing was about him and I said, ‘No, it’s about me.’ It might strike a corresponding chord in your experience because we all have similar experiences but it’s basically about me and if it’s not about me, it’s about Yoko. I said. ‘You better get on and live your own life, you’re wasting your time trying to live mine.’
Yoko: At Tittenhurst, there was no particular security and one of our assistants told us that there was this strange guy that was staying in our garden almost every night. John always felt responsible for these people because they were the result of his songs. That’s how he felt.
Peter Bendrey: Dan and I would go around the grounds every morning to see if anybody was camping out and very often there were people there. And as we were escorting this guy out of the park through the main gate, John comes out of the front door and says, ‘Hey, bring him in, I want to know what’s going on in his head.’
Diana Robertson: Claudio would just appear out of a hedge sometimes. He looked rough but also incredibly beautiful, there was something about him that was amazing. I think he was harmless really, but to begin with, people didn’t want to have anything to do with him and didn’t want him around. It was so lovely when John let him in and gave him a cup of tea. It was just so nice, this guy never really expected this was going to happen.
Yoko: He was no dummy. He was a spiritual person. Claudio was communicating to John on a high level. It’s no bad thing; it was a good thing, actually. We knew he was a spirit and that’s why John invited him in to have lunch with us. The food did it, though. It calmed him down. I don’t think we heard from him again after that.
Dan Richter: John had a really special way with people. He also had a very honest, vulnerable quality, which always made me worry for him. It was part of the key to and price of his success.
Since the book was published, we have discovered that Curt was not, as previously believed, a Vietnam veteran. Future editions of the book will be amended to correct that fact. Curt’s brother Ernie takes up the story:
Ernie Claudio: Hi Fans, my name is Ernie Claudio. I am Curt’s older brother.
Curt was never in the military. He was a straight ‘A’ student in high school and earned a scholarship to University of California in Davis, California. Then he started using drugs and dropped out of school.
He spent most of his life working on farms. We worked at Ford Motors in Milpitas, California until they closed the factory. Ford gave their employees $12,000 so could re-train for another job. I asked Curt, “What are you going to do with your $12,000?” Curt said, “I’m either going to buy a Harley or an ultra-light airplane.”
He bought the ultra-light and that’s what killed him. He was flying too low and too slow and the plane stalled. It happened in Fremont, California. The plane came down, bounced off a carport roof, and landed in a tree, six feet off the ground. The high impact caused his aorta to separate from the heart. Death was instantaneous.
My brother Dayton Claudio is an artist and he painted this picture of Curt (above).
John: It’s just a record. It might mean more to me or you than somebody else. It’s still just songs. It’s poetry.
Claudio: You didn’t put it all together? You just….
John: I just write it like anybody writes anything. Either from my own experience or out of my own head.
Yoko: Many people get the same impression. They think, ‘Oh, that’s me.’
John: Think about when you were fourteen. Just imagine it. And imagine if one of your friends had come and said the Beatles, or Elvis, or anybody was writing songs only about them. What would you have thought of it?
Claudio: To be honest. I wasn’t thinking that it was me, egotistically….
John: Well that’s alright, but don’t confuse the songs with your own life. They might have relevance to your own life, but a lot of things do. So we met, you know, I am just a guy, man, who writes songs. You can only say ‘Hello’, and what else is there?
Claudio: Yeah. I figured that if we met I would know just by reading you….
John: But know what?
Claudio: If what I was thinking was true.
John: Well, what…is it true?
Claudio: Well, I guess not.
John: Right! I am just a guy, man.
Claudio: But it all fits, you know?
John: Anything fits. If you’re tripping off on some trip, anything fits. You can get tripped off by the stars [astrology] in the newspaper. when they say you’re going to have a good day or a bad day. It could be your auntie’s boyfriend writing the stuff. But if you get into it, anything fits.
Claudio: Yeah, I just had to meet you.
John: Well, here we are. We met. And I’m just a fellow and I am working. And you met me and we say, ‘Hello’ and that’s it. There’s no secrets, really. You just have to try and remember what it was like when you were younger. Before you got tripped off.
Claudio: You know, like when you were saying, ‘Boy you’re gonna carry that weight for a long time’, was that just…
John: Paul sang that, yeah.
Claudio: Paul sang that?
John: Well that belongs to all of us. He is singing about all of us. We’ve all got to carry it until we die, haven’t we?
Claudio: I guess that’s true. Yeah, I guess I was building it all.
John: Right. Yeah, but you have got to believe that or you’re going to spend your whole life looking for dreams. The only way to do it is to try and remember when you were younger. What would you have thought of it then – all this mystic jazz? You would have told him where to stick it.
Claudio: Remember that one, um… ‘You can radiate everything you are, you can penetrate anywhere that you go, syndicate everything….’
John: Yeah. That was just having fun with words.
Yoko: I thought of the ‘radiate’, ‘syndicate’ – all that.
John: Radiate. Yeah, she wrote that. Radiate. Syndicate. I was just having fun with words. It was literally a nonsense song.
Yoko: I wouldn’t tell you, unless….
John: I mean, Dylan does that. Anybody does it. You just take words and you stick them together and it’s like throwing the I Ching or something. You just see what happens. You take a bunch of words, you throw them out and see if they have any meaning. Some of them do, some of them don’t. But it’s not universally significant or anything.
Claudio: Yeah. And your ‘Hare Krishna has nothing on you’?
John: Yeah, well he don’t. I mean. You’re it. You see, that last album of mine was me coming out of my dream.
Claudio: You really weren’t thinking of anyone in particular when you were singing all that?
John: How could I be? How could I be thinking of you, man?
Claudio: Well I don’t know. Maybe I don’t care, me, but it’s all, it’s all somebody.
John: I have been thinking about me; or at best Yoko, if it’s a love song. And I maybe think about an audience in general if I am singing ‘Old Hare Krishna got nothing on you’, I am talking to any old friends who have been listening to what we were saying, and saying, ‘Look, well I think it’s a lot of bullshit now, let’s forget it.’ I am basically singing about me and I am saying, well, I had a good shit today and this is what I thought this morning and, ‘I love you, Yoko’, or whatever. I am singing about me and my life and if it’s relevant for other people’s lives, that’s alright.
John: Are you hungry?
John: Let’s give him something to eat, come on.
Contrary to rumours on the internet, Curt Claudio was not a member of the audience when John & Yoko appeared on the Dick Cavett TV show.
If you have any further stories about Curt or tributes to his memory, please email john at imagine peace dot com.
In memory of Curt Claudio: 28 August 1948 – 22 December 1981.