Over the gate...

Designed in 1913 by Victorian/Edwardian/other architect Theophilus A Allen; John Lennon's house between 1964 and 1968; sunroom, attic and prisco stripe hibernice; Mellotron and caravan; Babidji and Mimi; mortar and pestle; Wubbleyoo Dubbleyoo; curios and curiosity; remnants and residue; testimonials and traces; (Cavendish Avenue, Sunny Heights and Kinfauns); Montagu Square; mock Tudor: Brown House: *KENWOOD*.

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Tuesday, 25 August 2009

Marijke Koger-Dunham: interview.

Marijke Koger, as she was then, was one quarter of the Fool; a good friend and associate of all the Beatles throughout 1967 and 1968, she spent time at Kenwood both socially, and in order to paint the piano that ended up in the sunroom (posts passim - and the above pic, of course). Marijke Koger-Dunham, as she is now, has very kindly agreed to answer some questions from me about that period, her time at Kenwood, and her association with John...so here we go.

KenwoodLennon: How did you meet John?

Marijke: Mal Evans, the Beatles' roadie, brought John and Paul over to our house in St. Stephens Gardens one evening. They blew their minds over the paintings, designs and particularly the painted wardrobe which was later used in the film "The Wonderwall", and that night sowed the seed for the Apple store and the beginning of a friendship. John and Paul later brought George and Ringo over.

KL: How many times (roughly) were you at Kenwood? What were your impressions of the place - did John give you the grand tour? Could you describe a typical get-together at Kenwood at that time? (Feel free to be circumspect, if necessary!)

Marijke: Several times, don't remember specifically. It was a big, rather somber house, accentuated by a figure in full armor on the staircase. The garden was large and nice though. John had an original gypsy wagon stationed there and one day, while we were playing ball with Julian in the garden, I suggested to John he paint his Phantom rolls that way. He thought it was a splendid idea and had it done by the same gypsies. That job has often been relegated as done by The Fool but this is not the case. We were free to roam the house, John not being the kind to give a guided tour. A typical get together consisted of having tea, a joint and conversation about music, art, recent events etc. Sometimes a side trip to visit Ringo or George.

KL: How long did it take to paint the piano? What was your daily routine at Kenwood during this time?

Marijke: Simon and I stayed at Kenwood for about a week to paint the piano and slept in a room that contained John's old school memorabilia. We'd get up around 8 AM and have breakfast with John in the den, prepared by the housekeeper, a very handsome middle aged lady, and went to work for the rest of the day. For meals special consideration was given to my vegetarianism. John was a gracious host.

KL: What was your design for the piano based upon? How did you approach doing it (ie was there a detailed plan)? Do you know how it ended up in George's possession? Did you do any other painting/work for John?

Marijke: Having a free hand to do whatever struck our fancy, I drew the design directly on to the white primered surface before applying color. The design was based on my interest in the Tarot symbolism and depicted the four seasons, John (Justice=Libra) and Cynthia's (the Hermit=Virgo) birthcards and the keys were painted in the specific colors assigned to the notes according to the Tarot: C=Red, C#-Db=Vermillion, D=Orange, D#-Eb=Chrome yellow, E=Yellow, F=Chartreuse, F#-Gb=Green, G=Turquoise, G#-Ab=Blue, A=Purple, B=Violet, B#-Ab=Magenta, B=Carmine.
I have no idea how it ended up with George.
I designed/made several costumes for John, (with my friend and co-Fool Josha) including the coat and shirt he wore during the "All you need is Love" broadcast and the multi-colored coat he wore in the film "Magical Mystery Tour". Of course he was also very instrumental in supporting all the painting and designing work done for Apple by way of the exterior and interior murals, clothes lines for men, women and children and posters of our paintings.
The slogan "A is for Apple" on the Apple poster was John's idea.

KL: You mentioned the All You Need Is Love broadcast; were you present at any other recording sessions with the Beatles? If so, can you remember for which songs?

Marijke: The "All you need is Love" broadcast was a wonderful event attended by many friends. I was also present at the "A Day in the Life" party at Abbey Road. There is some footage wherein I am dancing with sparkles. We were invited to many other regular sessions during the Sgt. Pepper recordings. During the making of the film "The Wonderwall" George took us in to record the Fool's original music (improvisations) for some tracks of that movie.

KL: Were the pictures taken in the sunroom of you, Simon and John taken at the same time as the ones of George and Ringo? What are your memories of that day? Do you remember when exactly (or even roughly) these photos were taken?

Marijke: Those pictures were taken during the period we painted the piano, there was an American lady who took the pictures and interviewed John for a magazine. Ringo and George were not there that day.

KL: Another theory of mine down the toilet! That means those photos must have been taken either late June or early July 1967. OK, moving on...can you remember any specific conversations with John?

Marijke: We were at Kenwood when the news came of Brian Epstein's death. John was stunned of course. We had some conversation about life and death and life after death at that time.

KL: Were you at the famous Sgt Pepper party at Brian Epstein's country house Kingsley Hill? What are your memories of that day if so?

Marijke: Yes, all four of the Fool were at that party. There were a lot of people and many banners proclaiming "Safe as Milk". This was to offset any bad thoughts people might get on their magic trip. By request of George I had to come to the rescue of Derek Taylor who was having a bad trip in spite of these precautions. There was a lot of dancing with flowers and hugging. Not much eating or drinking. It was a spiritual event.

KL: When was the last time you saw John?

Marijke: The last time I saw John was in Los Angeles (where I have lived since late 1968). It was at a party at the house (or should I say palace) of the owner of the Record Plant recording studio, Gary Kellgren around 1972/73. He was glad to see Simon and me but as the night wore on became very drunk. It was not a happy period in John's life.

KL: Could you bring us up to date with what you are doing these days?

Marijke: Much of the work I have done over the last 3 decades by way of murals, fashions, paintings/graphics etc. can be viewed on my website:
and many of my paintings are available, also as prints from:
I still paint canvases, graphics and an occasional instrument but physically can not do murals any longer as they involve a lot of ladder and scaffold climbing.
I live on a small ranch in Los Angeles with my husband (a musician: www.myspace.com/blackcatrockandroll as well as an attorney) and horses, who are my passion.

Fascinating stuff! Many thanks indeed to Marijke for these memories, and to Joe Baiardi for the latest caravan pic. I wonder what magazine that interview with the American lady would have been in...hmmm. (The road goes ever onwards...)


  1. Congratulations on your interview. Very nice read. My understanding is all the Beatles were in Bangor, Wales at the Maharishi's meditation course when Brian Epstein died, so I wonder if Marijke is thinking of someone else's passing?

    The last time she saw John must be what is referred as "John's Lost Weekend" in 73/74.

    Any chance of a follow up interview? Be nice to get a little bit more info on the layout of Kenwood.

    Glenn M.

  2. quite enjoyed reading the interview, but as glenn m. said, the beatles were in bangor when they heard of brian's passing, so she must have confused things. could it have been brian jones? i don't remember exactly when he died. i have to write my american friend judy who took those photos of john with the velvet pants holding the cushion and see if she can tell me all about that visit.

  3. They (The Fool) might have been in Kenwood nevertheless. Wasn`t it only a day betweed Brian`s death and John`s return to Kenwood? Maybe they didn`t even hear it from the news but from John himself, when he came back.

  4. John returned to Kenwood on the evening of Sunday August 27 1967 - the same day he got the news, after answering some questions from the press with George and Ringo ("...very stunned")(Paul had already gone back earlier in the day, which is why he isn't present on that newsreel footage). Marijke probably went up that same evening, or shortly thereafter to see him. Both Pete Shotton and journalist Ray Coleman recall going to Kenwood on August 28 (the Bank Holiday Monday) to provide a bit of moral support. It's likely others did too - including the Fool, as Marijke says.

  5. Lizzie - please do! It would be very interesting indeed to hear your friend's recollections.

  6. Fantastic reseaches! Congratulations for your patience....
    Question for you all:
    John still would live if Epstein's death did not happen? And his divorce with Cynthia?
    I think that this question is large...
    Regards from Brazil.