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John Lennon sees a UFO in New York City, 1974
09:49 am


John Lennon
Bob Gruen

The November 1974 issue of what was then known as “Andy Warhol’s Interview” featured a curious interview with John Lennon, conducted by Dr. Winston O’Boogie, who, for those in the know, was one of Lennon’s better-known aliases. (Lennon’s middle name was Winston.) We’ve posted all of the pages of the interview below; the full, playful, and rather awkward title is “Interview/Interview With By/On John Lennon and/or Dr. Winston O’Boogie.” I found it at the Library and Archives of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum in Cleveland, Ohio, who has graciously allowed Dangerous Minds to reproduce it here.

The entire interview is vintage Lennon being playful and generally full of beans; at the time he was promoting Walls and Bridges—in the liner notes was a curious note that read as follows: “On the 23rd August 1974 at 9 o’clock I saw a U.F.O. - J.L.”

In the interview, Lennon took the opportunity to expand on that note:

A. If you look closely at the wonderful “Walls and Bridges”, out now, album package, you will notice a little notice saying, “I saw a U.F.O. . . ” why don’t you ask me about that?

Q. Oh. I hadn’t noticed, did you really . . . where you drunk? high? having a primal?

A. No. Actually I was very straight. I was lying naked on my bed, when I had this urge . . .

Q. Don’t we all . . . ?

A. So I went to the window, just dreaming around in my usual poetic frame of mind, to cut a long short story, there, as I turned my head, hovering over the next building, no more than a hundred feet away was this thing . . . with ordinary electric light bulbs flashing on and off round the bottom, one non blinking red light on top . . . what the Nixon is that! I says to myself (for no one else was there) . . . is it a helicopter? No! It makes no noise . . . ah then, it must be a ballon! (Frantically trying to rationalize it, in all my too human way) but no!! Balloons don’t look like that, nor do they fly so low, yes folks, it was flying (very slow, about 30 m.p.h.,) below . . . . I repeat, below most roof tops (i.e. higher than the ‘old building’ lower than the ‘new’.) all the time it was there, I never took my eyes off it, but I did scream to a friend who was in another room “Come and look at this” etc. etc. My friend came running and bore witness with me. Nobody else was around. We tried to take pictures (shit on my polaroid, it was bust) with a straight camera. We gave the film to Bob Gruen to develop, he brought back a blank film . . . . said it looked like it had been thru the radar at customs . . . .  well, it stayed around for a bit, then sailed off.

Q. Did you check to see . . . . . . .

A. Yeh, yeh, the next day Bob (is it in focus) Gruen rang the Daily News, Times, police to see if any one else reported any thing. Two other people and or groups of/ said they too saw something . . . . . anyway I know what I saw . . . . . . .

In his song “Nobody Told Me,” which was recorded during the Double Fantasy sessions but wasn’t released until several years after Lennon’s death, there appears the line “There’s a UFO over New York and I ain’t too surprised,” which is surely a reference to that 1974 incident.

Lennon’s companion that night was almost certainly May Pang, with whom he took up during an extended separation from Yoko Ono. Steven Tucker, in his book Paranormal Merseyside, expands on Lennon’s UFO sighting (note: I don’t vouch for any of the information in that book):

David Bowie … was an amateur ufologist before he became famous in the guise of his Ziggy Stardust persona; he once stood up on top of a rooftop in Beckenham pointing a coathanger into the sky and seeing if he could pick up any alien messages from outer space. Apparently, he only gave up in this task when a passer-by asked him if he could get BBC Two!

Given this climate of UFO belief among the top pop stars of the time, then, perhaps it should come as little surprise that John Lennon himself—the most UFO-obsessed member of the band—claimed to have had his own saucer sightings, at least according to his one-time girlfriend May Pang. Supposedly, the two lovers were in their apartment in New York one night when they saw a spaceship flying by. It was shaped like “a flattened cone” with a “large, brilliant red light” on top and “a row or circle of white lights” running around its rim. It was flying below roof level and giving off visible heat waves and yet, strangely enough, nobody else saw it, other than Lennon and Pang, standing there in wonder on the balcony. The aliens didn’t land and take them away, however, perhaps being frightened off by the fact that they were both stark naked at the time. Pang later made the claim that Lennon had seen other UFOs before this night, and that he felt he might have been abducted by extraterrestrials while still a child living in Woolton.

That UFO sighting, curiously, might be the second-most interesting thing about that Interview feature. The picture that accompanied the piece, by Bob Gruen, is one of the most iconic images in rock and roll history, John Lennon standing on the roof of his building wearing a sleeveless white “NEW YORK CITY” shirt. It’s been reproduced countless times and is certainly the most famous image Gruen, even with his illustrious history as an elite rock photographer, ever took. This appearance in Interview was probably the first time anyone in the world at large ever saw that picture.

Also, it was taken just a few days after that UFO sighting (Gruen of course also has a cameo appearance in that tale). According to Lennon’s liner note on Walls and Bridges, the sighting was on August 23, 1974, and that picture was taken, according to New York magazine, less than a week later: “It was August 29, 1974, midday, and John Lennon, nearly 34 at the time, was up on the roof of his rented East 52nd Street penthouse.”

Here is that Interview feature, in full:

(If you click on the next three images, you will be able to see a much larger version.)




Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
New documentary about Bob Gruen’s life and work
06:10 pm

Pop Culture

Bob Gruen

Photo credit: Mirgun Akyavas

Veteran photographer Bob Gruen is responsible for some of the most iconic images in all of rock and roll history. His instantly recognizable shots of the Sex Pistols, New York Dolls, and John Lennon (to name just three of his subjects) are permanent parts of the pop culture oversoul.

Over his five decade career, Bob Gruen has captured the likes of Madonna, Elvis, Eric Clapton, The Grateful Dead, Led Zeppelin, Ike and Tina Turner, The Clash, and The Who. His first concert as a “pro” came when he used his camera to talk himself into the Newport Folk Festival in 1965, the concert when Bob Dylan infamously “went electric.”

Gruen was a close friend of Yoko Ono and John Lennon, serving more or less as Lennon’s personal photographer throughout the Seventies. His shot of John Lennon wearing the New York City t-shirt is probably his single most famous image, and the “Mona Lisa” of Big Apple tourist trap tee-shirts, according to the New York Times. Then there’s the one of Sid Vicious with the mustard covered hot dog, Blondie crawling out from under a car wreck, John Lennon in front of the Statue of Liberty. We could go on and on…

A new documentary about Bob Gruen’s life and work, Rock ‘N’ Roll Exposed: The Photography Of Bob Gruen, directed by another of the rock era’s most energetic chroniclers, Grammy award-winning filmmaker/musician/DJ Don Letts, recently premiered at the SXSW Film Festival.

Rock ‘N’ Roll Exposed is an illuminating document full of fascinating historic moments revolving around the time, people and places memorialized in Bob Gruen’s photographs. With his unprecedented access to John Lennon and Yoko Ono he was able to capture their lives on film with a familial intimacy and Zen-like immediacy. Gruen’s photographs tell stories and in the case of John and Yoko those stories get closer to the subjects than most of the dozen or more wordy volumes written about the couple.

With witty and insightful commentary from Gruen, Iggy Pop, Debbie Harry, Legs McNeil, Tommy Ramone, Alice Cooper and more, Rock ‘N’ Roll Exposed is more than a nostalgic look at over several decades of pop music history. It is a testimony to the power of art to not only immortalize the past but to bring it immediately into the moment. Gruen’s photos are vital because they are so alive.

Below, our exclusive interview with Bob Gruen.


Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
70 minutes of punk rock history: Bob Gruen’s ‘New York Dolls - Lookin’ Fine On Television’
01:40 am

Pop Culture

Bob Gruen
The New York Dolls

Here’s some fabulous 1970s footage of the New York Dolls performing, talking and hanging out. Directed by one of rock and roll’s great photographers and chroniclers of the New York music scene Bob Gruen with his partner Nadya Beck.

70 minutes of indispensable, demented, glorious punk rock history.

The young, the bad, the beautiful.

Update 12/30 5:30 central time. MVD Entertainment Group went from offering this for free to suddenly charging a $2.99 rental free. This happened within the past few hours. They must have seen the traffic Dangerous Minds was sending them and decided to profit it from it. Which is fine. But it wasn’t my intent to send people to a site where it was going to cost you money to see this video. It’s certainly worth $2.99 to rent, but still…



Posted by Marc Campbell | Leave a comment
Kongressional Hearing: Amazing Unknown Punk Band From the 70s, Kongress

When some magicians die, they vanish—their work done, their infernal ceremonies finished, their fire extinguished—leaving no traces behind. This was almost the case with self-styled high priest of rock magick, Geoffrey Crozier. Almost, I say, because some extraordinary documents of his short, turbulent time on this planet still remain. Dangerous Minds pal Otto von Ruggins is allowing us to showcase some of this rare and previously unseen material. If you are into vintage garage and punk rock insanity—like the MC5, New York Dolls or Alice Cooper, you know, the transgressively transcendent stuff that Julian Cope or Thurston Moore like—in all its mutant glory, then this post is for you.

Geoffrey Crozier was an enigmatic magician/rock performer from Australia who was a legend amongst New York City’s underground rock cognoscenti circa 1975-78. Crozier was the lead singer—you could also say lead shaman—of a rock group called Kongress whose other members at that time included pith helmet-wearing synth player Otto von Ruggins and nutzoid space rock No Wave madman VON LMO who beat the drums savagely, often with chains.

In the pages of The Village Voice, James Wolcott described a Kongress gig like so:

“A rowdy bottle smashing night…earlier in the evening there had been an altercation with a satanic occult band named Kongress that played music that sounded like a Concorde drone with Aleister Crowley lyrics. They abandoned the stage only after threats of violence were unfurled like vampirish cape flourishes.”

More Kongress after the jump, including insane live footage from Max’s Kansas City, Halloween of 1976 and 1977!

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
Unseen photo of Joe Strummer to be turned into Christmas card
04:00 pm


Joe Strummer
Bob Gruen

“I never saw Joe pass a needy or homeless person without giving them something.” – Bob Gruen
Strummerville will be releasing a Christmas card this year to raise money for music in schools related charities, featuring an unpublished photo by Bob Gruen of Joe Strummer. You can order them starting November 11th.

(via Cherrybombed)

Posted by Tara McGinley | Leave a comment
‘Who Are the Mystery Girls?’: New York Dolls, live 70s video
01:11 pm


New York Dolls
Bob Gruen

A classic 70s Dolls performance caught by ace rock photographer Bob Gruen. Here the lipstick killers do “Who Are the Mystery Girls?’’ at The Matrix in San Francisco.

Thank the gods Gruen had his video camera trained on the New York Dolls in their prime. Because of him, moments like this exist for posterity. Video cameras were rare at that time and this video was no doubt shot on the ancient half-inch open reel format. Compared to today’s HD cameras, lugging something like that around would be like strapping a vacuum cleaner to your back. Very unwieldy beasties they were.

Thank you Douglas Hovey!

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
New York Dolls’ documentary ‘All Dolled Up’ now available for viewing here, there and everywhere

DM contributor Paul Gallagher wrote about All Dolled Up last month and provided a link to the film on Youtube that was unfortunately not viewable in the USA. Well, much to our delight, our pals at See Of Sound have made the film available for the Internet audience on this side of the pond and everywhere else.

Paul had this to say about All Dolled Up:

Here’s something lush. The New York Dolls hit the road in this documentary film made by rock photographer Bob Gruen and his wife Nadya Beck. Filmed over three years, All Dolled Up captures The Dolls at their height in the early seventies, following them backstage and on tour, visiting such legendary venues as the Whiskey-A-Go-Go, the E-Club, Kenny’s Castaways and Max’s Kansas City. And there are also rousing versions of “Personality Crisis”, “Who Are the Mystery Girls”, “Vietnamese Baby”, amongst others. So, kick back your high heels and enjoy.”

New York City rock and roll history, All Dolled Up:

Posted by Marc Campbell | Leave a comment
All dolled up with The New York Dolls

Here’s something lush. The New York Dolls hit the road in this documentary film made by rock photographer Bob Gruen and his wife Nadya Beck. Filmed over three years, All Dolled Up captures The Dolls at their height in the early seventies, following them backstage and on tour, visiting such legendary venues as the Whiskey-A-Go-Go, the E-Club, Kenny’s Castaways and Max’s Kansas City. And there are also rousing versions of “Personality Crisis”, “Who Are the Mystery Girls”, “Vietnamese Baby”, amongst others. So, kick back your high heels and enjoy.

Update: For our readers in the USA, you can find All Dolled Up in serial form here.

Previously on DM

New York Doll Parts: Trash, Human Being


Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment