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An emotional David Bowie sings ‘Imagine’ on the third anniversary of John Lennon’s death, 1983
02.03.2016
11:38 am

Topics:
Music

Tags:
David Bowie
John Lennon


 
Although I can easily think of better circumstances for its recent unveiling, at long last a much bootlegged (audio only) and highly emotional performance by David Bowie of John Lennon’s “Imagine” on December 8th, 1983—the third anniversary of the Beatle’s murder—at the Hong Kong Coliseum has surfaced on YouTube.

Incredibly the number was caught by the cameras of Gerry Troyna, director of Ricochet, the (frankly unremarkable) cinéma vérité documentary of 1983’s “Serious Moonlight” tour as it was winding down in the Far East. Bowie is seem walking about Singapore, Bangkok, and Hong Kong, shopping and getting his fortune read, but there are few actual musical numbers in the film, usually a result of producers being unable to pay for the sync rights of the songs. This would, I should think, explain who such an amazing piece of footage was cut from the film. It would have simply been too expensive to include.

In an interesting interview that was posted at The Voyeur, backup singer George Simms was asked about the performance:

During the last show of the tour in Hong Kong, Lennon’s song ‘Imagine’ was played. How did that develop?

George Simms: If I remember well, we didn’t rehearse that song. The night David did the ‘Imagine’ song, none of us in the band had any idea how that song was going to come off. David told us before, at a certain point, he would cue the band to start the song instrumentally. We didn’t know what he was going to do in the beginning but he had it very carefully worked out with the lighting people. We were on stage and it was dark. David was sitting on the stage at one particular place and, all of a sudden, a single spotlight went on David and hit him exactly where he was sitting. David started to tell something about John Lennon. During this, it went dark a few times again, but then when the spots went on again David was sitting somewhere else on the stage. David cued the band and we started the song. It was the third anniversary of Lennon’s death; it was December 8. We all grew up listening to The Beatles and John Lennon. After we did “Imagine,” we all went off the stage and back into the holding area. Normally we’d be slap-happy, talking and laughing, but that night there was absolute silence because of all the emotion of doing a tribute to John Lennon—especially knowing that David was a friend of his and that David was speaking from his heart. We didn’t know how dramatic the lights’ impact was going to be. Nobody wanted to break the silence; it was like a sledgehammer into your chest. I’ll never forget that.

I don’t want to spoil this in any way, except to say that it begins with Bowie speaking of his friendship with Lennon—with whom he and Carlos Alomar co-wrote and recorded “Fame” together, of course in 1975—and of the final time he saw him, which was in a Hong Kong marketplace where Bowie asked Lennon to don a replica Beatle jacket, and took a photo.

Fun fact: Lennon and Bowie were first introduced by Elizabeth Taylor when both attended a party at her home in Los Angeles in 1974.
 

 
Thank you very kindly Spencer Kansa!

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
‘Beatlebone’: The witty cult novel of the year imagines John Lennon living in Ireland, 1978
12.17.2015
03:27 pm

Topics:
Literature
Music

Tags:
John Lennon
Kevin Barry


 
If you ask me, the most audacious and amusing novel of the year is Beatlebone, by Irish novelist Kevin Barry. Beatlebone posits a charged confrontation between a world-weary John Lennon and the mostly quaint but also hippie-activated Irish countryside of 1978, two years before Lennon’s actual slaying at the hands of Mark David Chapman. In the novel, the fictionalized Lennon, having grown tired of baking bread on the Upper West Side at the age of 37, is eager to find some solitude on a remote property he owns called Dorinish Island, which is located off the western shores of Ireland. (The reader is informed several times that the locals would call it “Durn-ish” Island.)

Lennon plops himself on the shores of Clew Bay with the stated intention of making it to his island, where he intends to spend a dose of time in utter solitude. Lending the proceedings some drama, a phalanx of journalists is said to be in hot pursuit. Lennon is placed in the care of an older local fellow named Cornelius O’Grady, a marvelous creation who seems to embody all of the despondent, hard-drinking wisdom of rural Irish life. After the matron at Lennon’s first hotel sells him out to the local scribes, O’Grady takes him back to his place, which shortly leads to a raucous visit to the local pub, known as the Highwood, where he drunkenly abandons his disguise of “Kenneth” and takes to the stage, and a local hotel said to be populated with “your own style of people precisely” (this turns out to be a trio of intervention-addicted hippies). 
 

Novelist Kevin Barry
 
Tropes from Lennon’s previous life crowd his mind until the events in Ireland unloosen him a bit. He is annoyed that The Muppet Show keeps pestering him to make an appearance (Elton John was on just the other week, and he was “superb, John,” notes Cornelius) and obsessed with the inscrutable opening lines of Kate Bush’s then-new “Wuthering Heights.” He cheekily names a local pooch “Brian Wilson.” Eventually the pop culture references drop away, and eventually Lennon hits upon a new musical concept that bears the same title as the book—we even get a glimpse of the session, as preserved on “the Great Lost Beatlebone Tape.”

Barry interrupts the novel in order to explain some of the real-life basis for the novel and his site-specific researches. John and Yoko actually did own Dorinish Island, they paid £1,550 for it in 1967 and even spent time there before turning it over to hippie squatter par excellence Sid Rawle and his followers for a couple of years, an intriguing interlude that ended abruptly when the island’s supply tent burned down. Furthermore, a major scene of the novel takes place at the Amethyst Hotel, which is also a real place. And so forth.

Barry’s writing is unabashedly poetic, frequently taking on a purple, word-drunk quality. At times the prose is arranged linearly down the page, like poetry, and at other junctures the text is rendered in pure dialogue, like a play. Beatlebone honorably merits the signifier “Joycean.” Here is a brief snippet, chosen almost at random:
 

A street gang of sheep appear—like teddy boys bedraggled in rain, dequiffed in mist—and Cornelius bamps the hooter—like teddy boys on a forlorn Saturday in the north of England, 1957—and the sheep explode in all directions and John can see the fat pinks of their tongues.

Mutton army, he says.

 
The sense of liberties gleefully taken provides Beatlebone with its engine. A world-famous and beloved rock star (soon to be assassinated) evading notice and disappearing into the stalwart Irish countryside—none of it works nearly as well if the main character was, say, Bucky Wunderlick, the fictional rock star of Don DeLillo’s 1973 novel Great Jones Street—because it’s John fucking Lennon, we are able to fill in the blanks so much more readily. Barry does a very good job of recapitulating Lennon’s distinctively reedy vocal patterns, although in all honesty he probably makes him a bit too garrulous (and Ir-ish), but then again, what novelist would be capable of nailing this? The high-wire act is part of the nervy fun of reading Beatlebone.
 
Continues after the jump…

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
Where were you when you heard that John Lennon had been murdered?
12.08.2015
02:12 pm

Topics:
History
R.I.P.

Tags:
John Lennon


 
John Lennon was just 40 years old when he shot 35 years ago by Mark David Chapman in the archway of The Dakota building on the Upper West Side of New York City on December 8th, 1980. Lennon and Yoko Ono had just returned home that evening from working at the Record Plant when Chapman approached him. The former Beatle sustained four fatal gunshot wounds and was declared dead on arrival at Roosevelt Hospital.

They say people who were around then can always remember exactly where they were and what they were doing when they first heard that JFK or Martin Luther King had been assassinated. I was 14 when John Lennon was murdered and I first heard about it via the headline in the local paper, the Wheeling News Register and Intelligencer the next morning. I always read my neighbor’s paper every morning while waiting for the school bus. There had been an intense snowfall in my hometown of Wheeling, WV early that morning and I was standing about calf-deep in fresh snow which was falling all around me. Just the night before I had begun “going steady” with my first serious girlfriend and we’d spoken for hours on the phone. I woke up high on life due to this exciting new development in my fledgling teenage love life. I was in an especially great mood.

Then I opened the paper and was smacked in the face with the shocking news that John Lennon was dead.

The world—well American football fans at least—first heard of Lennon’s death when it was announced by Howard Cosell on ABC’s Monday Night Football, a show on which Lennon himself had appeared in the past. He and the famous sportscaster were actually friendly and Lennon had been a guest on Cosell’s radio talk show as well.

“Remember, this is just a football game, no matter who wins or loses. An unspeakable tragedy, confirmed to us by ABC News in New York City: John Lennon, outside of his apartment building on the West Side of New York City, the most famous, perhaps, of all the Beatles, shot twice in the back, rushed to Roosevelt Hospital, dead … on … arrival. Hard to go back to the game after that news flash, which in duty bound, we have to take.”

 

 
Stevie Wonder broke the terrible news to an audience at the Oakland Coliseum (flanked by, among others, poet Gil Scott Heron):
 

 
Here’s a YouTube comment from a woman named Laura Agigian, who was there that night. Sure enough her memory of the event was as strong as if it had just happened:

I was there.  I was at that concert.  It was at the Oakland Stadium on December 8, 1980.  During the concert, I remember feeling disappointed because Stevie seemed to be “off,” disconnected from the songs he was singing, and just going through the motions.  He played many of his songs back to back in a medley, as if to get it over with.  At the end of the concert, I knew why.

Even now, in 2014, I remember almost every word of that speech, which left me speechless.  I remember getting more and more worried as he started to talk.  I remember the collective “gasp” upon hearing the name of the artist who had been shot, and the incredible silence for a few moments afterward.  The stadium, filled with thousands of people, was so quiet, you could hear a pin drop.

I was so overwhelmingly shocked, I could not speak.  I couldn’t believe that most of the audience were singing along with Stevie after that.  I don’t remember if he sang, “Give Peace a Chance” or “Imagine.”  I was just crying my eyes out.  When I got home, I turned on the radio and they were holding an all night call-in vigil.  I called in and told my story of the Stevie Wonder Concert.  I stayed up all night with all the other callers, trying to make sense out of it, or even to believe it. 

Wow.  I never, ever, ever thought I would hear this speech again.  I feel like I was there all over again.  Wow.  And it is almost exactly how I remembered it.

Continues after the jump…

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
John Lennon becomes the first Beatle to admit to taking drugs, in 1965: A DM exclusive

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It was fifty years ago today…well, almost…

While it has been long believed that Paul McCartney was the first Beatle to ever admit taking drugs during an interview with Independent Television News (ITN) in June 1967, it can now be revealed that John Lennon was in fact the first Beatle who owned up to the band being “stoned” two years before this in an interview with an American journalist.

Writer Simon Wells discovered Lennon’s comment in a rarely heard interview while researching his book Eight Arms To Hold You—a definitive history on the making of The Beatles’ second movie Help!. Wells is the best-selling author of Coming Down Fast (a biography of Charles Manson), Butterfly on a Wheel: The Rolling Stones Great Drugs Bust, Quadrophenia: A Way of Life and the drugs, sex and paganism novel The Tripping Horse.
 
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February 1965, The Beatles had just arrived on location at New Providence Island in the Bahamas to film Help!.  On being asked what The Beatles had been up to on their flight over, Lennon replied “We got stoned.” There is a stunned silence before the interviewer says: “Alright. I know you’re only kidding.”

Of course, Lennon wasn’t kidding, as The Beatles had been popping pills since at least 1960 and smoking weed since being “turned-on” by Bob Dylan in 1964. Simon Wells exclusively explains for Dangerous Minds:

The Beatles took a chartered jet to the Bahamas for the start of filming of Help! on Monday 22nd February 1965. Perversely as it may seem, the Beatles’ manager Brian Epstein had become intoxicated with the idea of tax shelters and havens—and after his dismal performance of selling off the Beatles rights to A Hard Day’s Night for little more than the average house price in Britain, he sensed an idea to set up an offshore interest in the Bahamas, hoping that the money from the film would escape the extortionate financial red tape and punitive taxes that would attract to the film’s future successes.

To defer suspicions, Epstein cooked up the idea of filming part of Help! in the Bahamas and so eager was he to establish a presence there, filming for what would be the finale of the movie was shot first. Temperatures at a constant high for the area, the group would have to shield themselves from the likelihood of considerable tanning – an issue that would have colored (excuse pun) the earlier shots in the film, all set in London. Nonetheless, The Beatles knew little about this, and happily trundled onto the caravan of filming—the shores of Nassau were far more attractive than a gloomy British February. Equally, it meant a break from the rigours of touring, something they had grown to hate.

The group’s plane continued the majority of the film’s attendant circus, plus a few liggers and reporters to help things along. The nine-hour flight requiring more than just alcoholic sustenance, the band happily tugged on a succession of marijuana joints to elevate the time between touching down in the Bahamas. Since August the previous year when Bob Dylan famously turned the band onto the magical herb, the group had indulged heavily in the newly found pursuit. The effects were immediate on their dress and music, heavy shades and dissonant chords were now pitting their senses; introspection tossing “boy meets girl” out of the window.

While the media were well aware that The Beatles (and most of the other groups of the period) took drugs, there was no need for them to spill the beans and spoil the party. By 1965 standards, The Beatles were still good cheeky copy—guaranteed to bring a smile to the nation’s breakfast tables, and still with the consent of Britain’s parents, the girls and boys could shower them with unbridled adoration. Behind closed doors in Buckingham Palace and at (the Prime Minister’s home) Number 10 Downing Street, plans were already afoot to adorn the band with the M.B.E. If an admission of naughty chemical use had surfaced prior to the award announcement, it would have clearly stymied the whole pantomime. The press knew this too—so all was on course to preserve the Fab’s innocence—for the time being.

For those who chart such things, this is the first admission from a Beatle that drugs were now a part of their lives. The evident shock from the reporter is testament to the disbelief that these sweet boys could ever do such a thing. Predictably, the comment was not used in print, and it remained buried on the reporter’s tape – until now!

Simon Wells new book on The Beatles Eight Arms To Hold You is available from Pledge Music, details here.
 
After the jump, hear the recording…

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
John Lennon sees a UFO in New York City, 1974
04.13.2015
09:49 am

Topics:
Music

Tags:
John Lennon
Bob Gruen
UFOs


 
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
Fan photos of John Lennon in London and New York

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Being one of The Beatles meant being mobbed, followed and even stalked everywhere you went. They quit Liverpool for London for its mix of anonymity and excitement—and because everything happened there. Eventually, John, George and Ringo moved on to the stockbroker belt to find peace, quiet and happy isolation. But even there, Lennon had unwelcome visitors who wanted a photo or to say that they understood what his songs were about, and touch the hem of his clothes.

Eventually, Lennon moved again, this time to New York where he said he could walk the streets without anyone bothering him. Going by these fan photographs of Lennon in London and New York, it’s obvious he was just as mobbed by devoted fans in the Big Apple as he had been back in the Big Smoke.

These fan snaps capture Lennon from the late 1960s, through his relationship with Yoko Ono, to just before his untimely death in 1980.
 
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John Lennon signing an autograph outside the Abbey Road Studios, 1968.

More fan snaps of John Lennon, after the jump…
 

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
John and Yoko shine on in these rarely seen photographs from 1980
03.13.2015
03:38 pm

Topics:
Art
Books
Music

Tags:
Yoko Ono
John Lennon
Kishin Shinoyama


 
These rarely seen photographs by acclaimed photographer Kishin Shinoyama were taken over the course of several days in September of 1980 for John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s album Double Fantasy. It was the last studio recording by Lennon before his tragic murder in December of 1980 and these photographs are particularly bittersweet in light of what was to come.

Kishin Shinoyama and Yoko Ono are releasing a book of photo essays called Double Fantasy published by Taschen this month in a limited edition of 1,980 copies (1980). Money can’t buy you love but it can buy you this book for $700. If you’re a fan it may be some kind of love.

Here are photographs from the book and a video on Shinoyama and Ono’s collaboration on its making.
 

 

 
More after the jump…

Posted by Marc Campbell | Leave a comment
Captain Beefheart’s eerie premonition of John Lennon’s death
02.06.2015
10:38 am

Topics:
Music
R.I.P.

Tags:
John Lennon
Captain Beefheart


 
People who knew Don Van Vliet said he had strange gifts, and I’m not talking about his musical talents. Lester Bangs told this story:

Once in Detroit I walked into a theatre through the back door while he was onstage performing. At the precise moment I stepped to the edge of the curtains on stage right, where I could see him haranguing the audience, he said, very clearly, “Lester!” His back was to me at the time. Later he asked me if I had noticed it. I was a little shaken.

And the music historian and critic Robert Palmer reported:

Sitting in the Manhattan living room of the guitarist Gary Lucas, who is the Magic Band’s newest member, Don Van Vliet shut his eyes, squinted, and said, “It’s going to ring.” The telephone rang as if on cue. Mr. Lucas laughed nervously and said that sort of thing happens all the time.


Palmer was one of a number of journalists who met with Van Vliet at Lucas’ apartment in the autumn and winter of 1980. Van Vliet was giving interviews there on the night of December 8 when John Lennon was shot outside the Dakota. Lucas recalls:

In the middle of an interview, at eight or nine o’clock as I remember, Don said, “Wait a minute, man, did you hear that?’ He put his hand over his ear, but we didn’t hear anything. He said, “Something really heavy just went down. I can’t tell you what it is exactly, but you will read about it on the front page of the newspapers tomorrow.” We said, “Well, what?” and he said, “I dunno.” Then the guy left and another journalist came. We were in the middle of another interview and about eleven, the first guy called me and said, “Did you hear the news? Something just happened, John Lennon was shot.” And I couldn’t believe it. It really seemed like Don predicted this. So I told him and he just looked at me and went, “See? Didn’t I tell you?” That was really eerie.

 

 
Richard “Midnight Hatsize” Snyder, the Magic Band member who played bass, marimba and viola on Ice Cream for Crow, gave a similar account of that evening’s events in a 1996 interview:

While we were in New York, Don was being interviewed by some magazine on the night that John Lennon was killed. At one point during the interview, Don stopped speaking, closed his eyes and then opened them again, saying to the interviewer: “Something big is happening tonight—something horrible. You’ll read about it in your papers tomorrow.” Knowing full well that the doubting Thomases among you will say: “Ah, yes—but he wasn’t specific about the event. The way the world is, you could say something like that any day and still be right more times than not.” Nevertheless, it was the strangest coincidence—if indeed, that was all it was.

A Beefheart fan who was in the audience at the Captain’s Irving Plaza show the following night writes that Van Vliet opened the set with a soprano sax solo, which he dedicated to Sean Lennon: “That was from John, through Don, for Sean.”
 

 
For his part, Lennon was a fan of Captain Beefheart and the Magic Band’s debut album, Safe As Milk. Note the “Safe As Milk” stickers prominently displayed on the cabinet doors in the sunroom of Kenwood, the house where Lennon lived from 1964 to 1968.

Below, video of Captain Beefheart and the Magic Band’s set at the Mudd Club on December 10, 1980:
 

Posted by Oliver Hall | Leave a comment
‘John Lennon, Etcetera’: John Lennon’s bizarre final public performance, 1975
02.05.2015
01:15 pm

Topics:
Music
Television

Tags:
John Lennon

John Lennon and BOMF
 
Before John Lennon began his self-imposed exile in 1975, he had a few professional obligations to fulfill, ending with an appearance at a tribute show for the man he had been battling in court for years. Why did Lennon even perform at such an event? What’s with the masks his mysterious backing band is wearing on the backs of their heads? And why in the world did the former Beatle wear a red jumpsuit?! Even now, nearly forty years on, the reasons are cloudy, but it clearly resulted in Lennon’s weirdest performance as a solo artist—it was also his last.

Sir Lew Grade was a powerful media mogul with roots in cabaret and variety shows (he was initially known for his super-fast Charleston). To many, this British tycoon was a larger-than-life figure, known for his cigar smoking (he was once told by his doctor to cut down to seven a day) and for climbing on top of tables—even past age seventy—to show off his dance moves.
 
Lew Grade
Lew Grade and his ever-present cigar

Grade was knighted in 1969, and that same year his entertainment company, Associated TeleVision (ATV), purchased a majority stake in the rights to Northern Songs and Maclen Music—the songs of John Lennon and Paul McCartney. In the ensuing years, Grade filed separate lawsuits against both Lennon and McCartney (with Lennon countersuing). In the McCartney case, the court sided with Paul, but John ended up settling, with ATV becoming the co-publisher of all new Lennon songs in 1974.
 
John Lennon
Lennon in 1974 (photographed by Bob Gruen)

The Salute to Sir Lew took place in the Grand Ballroom of the Hilton Hotel in New York City on April 18th, 1975. This shindig was very much a star-studded affair, a variety show (Sir Lew wouldn’t have had it any other way) featuring performances by such notables as Julie Andrews, Tom Jones, Peter Sellers, and John Lennon. A who’s who of the old Hollywood elite were in the house to pay their respects, with Lauren Bacall, Kirk Douglas, Gene Kelly, and Orson Welles amongst those in attendance.

Playing acoustic guitar and singing live to backing tracks, Lennon performed three songs at the Sir Lew tribute: Little Richard’s “Slippin’ and Slidin,’” and Ben E. King’s “Stand By Me,” both from his recent covers LP, Rock ‘n’ Roll, closing with his signature solo tune, “Imagine.” His band that night was a little-known group called BOMF (a/k/a Brothers of Mother Fuckers). Perhaps the censors weren’t comfortable with this moniker, so the ensemble is credited as “John Lennon, Etcetera” during the broadcast (though “BOMF” can still be seen on the bass drum head).
 
John Lennon in his red jumpsuit
 
When Lennon comes out from behind the curtain for “Slippin’ and Slidin,’” his attire is head scratching to say the least. Since the late ‘60s, he was generally in casual dress both on and off the stage, so to see him waving to the crowd in a fashionable red jumpsuit (did he raid David Bowie’s closet?) is pretty startling. Perhaps this was his attempt to come across as more showbiz, but he and BOMF—with their shaved heads and “two-faced” masks (believed to have been designed by Lennon to reflect his view of Grade)—look more like aliens compared to the conservative acts on the rest of the bill. I can’t help but think the mischievous Lennon just wanted to ruffle the feathers of the stuffed shirts—and that includes the guest of honor.
 
John Lennon and BOMF backstage
 
So why did Lennon play a tribute to a man he had been embroiled in lawsuits with? In his journal, John wrote of looking forward to the event, and on an audience recording can be heard dedicating “Imagine” to both Yoko and Sir Lew (surprisingly removed for the broadcast version), so he must have had at least some affection for the man, but I didn’t unearth any definite reason. Perhaps it was nothing more than a diplomatic gesture towards his new business partner.

Salute to Sir Lew – The Master Showman aired on June 13th, 1975 (“Stand By Me” was also left for the cutting room floor). Though he re-emerged in 1980 with Double Fantasy, the Grade tribute would mark the final time the public saw John Lennon on a stage—red jumpsuit and all.

Here’s a nice composite of the show’s intro, the two Lennon clips, a dancing Sir Lew, as well as John’s curtain call:
 

 
More of John Lennon’s final public performance after the jump…

Posted by Bart Bealmear | Leave a comment
John Lennon’s nearly-forgotten 1974 Broadway flop
09.30.2014
08:13 pm

Topics:
History
Music
Pop Culture

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Broadway


 
Although it is usually referred to as an “Off-Broadway” production—when it is referred to at all—the 1974 musical Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band on the Road, in fact, ran for 66 performances at the Beacon Theatre, which as any Westsider can tell you, is smack-dab on Broadway itself, even if it’s a cab ride away from “the Great White Way” theater district.

Likewise, I suppose it’s a bit disingenuous to say that this show was “John Lennon’s flop,” but Lennon was involved and aside from co-writing the music (duh) he attended several rehearsals and performances and helped promote the play. Paul McCartney on the other hand, may have never even seen it.
 

 
Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band on the Road was conceived by Tom O’Horgan, the “Busby Berkeley of the acid set” as the New York Times described him in his 2009 obituary. O’Horgan was a proponent of experimental “total theater” and had directed Jean Genet’s The Maids at La MaMa in the East Village before moving uptown to the Broadway successes of Hair, Jesus Christ Superstar and Lenny.
 

 
From the surviving evidence of the show, it looked like it was totally insane. TIME magazine hated it, their review was titled “Contagious Vulgarity” and it went out of its way to excoriate O’Horgan’s style of musical theater. Other reviewers were much kinder and even enthusiastic, but the show which opened on November 17, 1974 was still closed by late January.

Ted Neeley, the actor long synonymous with the title role in Jesus Christ Superstar here played the Candide-like “Billy Shears.” The sexy siren “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” was played by Alaina Reed (“Olivia” from Sesame Street), while the role of “Sgt. Pepper” went to David Patrick Kelly an actor best known for uttering the immortal line “Warriors…come out to play-ee-ay!!”
 

 
And then there were the dancers whose hair don’ts and dresses are a direct rip-off of Divine’s look in Female Trouble!

Apparently there’s very little documentation of the production. Opening night attendees included Andy Warhol, Bianca Jagger, Lennon who went with May Pang, “Papa” John Phillips (whose own flop Broadway musical, Man on the Moon, produced by Andy Warhol would open two months later) and Yoko Ono who gamely supported her estranged husband.

While researching this post, I discovered that John Lennon at one point was offered the, er… Ted Neeley role in Jesus Christ Superstar but when he insisted that Yoko play Mary Magdalene, the offer was withdrawn. The jokes about her breaking up the twelve disciples would have written themselves…

One of the associate producers, Howard Dando, put together a slideshow plus some footage of opening night taken from John Lennon’s “Whatever Gets You Thru The Night” promo film. Although the producer was Bee Gees manager Robert Stigwood, who also produced the Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band film, there was apparently not much of the O’Horgan’s musical play that made its way into the derided movie.
 

 
Thank you kindly Chris Campion of Palm Springs, CA! Mr. Campion is presently engaged writing the authorized biography of “Papa” John Phillips.

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
‘The General Erection’: John Lennon reads from ‘A Spaniard in the Works’
08.18.2014
04:42 pm

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A Spaniard in the Works

lennonspaniardworks.jpg
 
John Lennon reads “The General Erection” from his second book of collected (nonsense) writing A Spaniard in the Works:

Azure orl gnome, Harrassed Wilsod won the General Erection with a very small marjorie over the Totchies. Thus pudding the Labouring Partly into powell after a large abcess. This he could not have done withoutspan the barking of thee Trade Onions, heady by Frenk Cunnings (who noun has a SAFE SEAT in Nuneating thank you and Fronk (only 62) Bowells hasn’t.)

This is Lennon’s version of the 1964 UK General Election, when Harold Wilson became Prime Minister with a very small…. you get the picture.

With his first book In My Own Write, Lennon had been feted as a modern Edward Lear with his nonsense tales and inventive Joycean puns. The book’s success saw Lennon invited to a Foyle’s Literary Lunch at the Dorchester Hotel, where he famously failed to deliver a speech only saying:

Er, thank you all very much, and God bless you.

Many (snobs) consider Lennon’s failure to entertain for his dinner as a dreadful snub, though of course it wasn’t—he had turned up expecting to eat, not speak.

As his then-wife Cynthia Lennon later explained in her memoir A Twist of Lennon, the happy couple had been out the night before and were very hungover when they arrived at the Dorchester:

We did our best to make ourselves presentable, but the bloodshot eyes and shaky hands were a bit of a giveaway. We told ourselves that the event would soon be over and we could go home to collapse.

What neither of us had realized was that the media would be there in force and that John was expected to make a speech. Doyens of the literary establishment rubbed shoulders with upmarket Lennon fans and everyone was waiting with bated breath to hear the words of the ‘intelligent’ Beatle.

As we were ushered through the lobby of the Dorchester, hordes of press and TV crews following us, I knew John wanted to turn and run, but we had to keep smiling. We couldn’t even see what was going on properly because neither of us was wearing our glasses.

When we walked into the enormous dining room hundreds of people stood up and applauded. We fumbled our way to our places and found we were at opposite ends of the top table, denied even the reassurance of squeezing hands. I was sitting between the Earl of Arran and pop singer Marty Wilde, who was almost as nervous as I was. I was terrified, until the earl put me at ease with a string of witty stories and friendly chat. I even began to enjoy myself - until we reached the last course and dozens of TV and press cameras were pointed in our direction. “What’s going on?” I whispered to the earl.

“I believe your husband is about to give a speech,” he whispered back, and politely averted his eyes from the horror written on my face. I looked at John and my heart went out to him. He was ashen and totally unprepared. Never lost for words in private, a public speech was beyond him - let alone to a crowd of literary top dogs, and especially with a hangover.

As John was introduced silence fell. The weight of expectation was enormous. John, more terrified than I’d ever seen him, got to his feet. He managed eight words, “Thank you very much, it’s been a pleasure,” then promptly sat down again. There was a stunned silence, followed by a few muted boos and a smattering of applause. The audience was disappointed, annoyed and indignant. Both John and I wished we were on another planet. John tried to make up for it by signing endless copies of the book afterward.

John’s Foyle’s “speech” went down in history as a typical Lennon gesture, a snub to the establishment from a pop star rebel, when it was anything but. He had panicked.

Undeterred, Lennon followed up In His Own Write with a second volume of comic nonsensical tales A Spaniard in the Works in 1965.

As Lennon explains in this seldom seen clip from the BBC’s Tonight program, he had always been a writer, long before he picked up a guitar or joined a band. His second reading is “The Wumberlog (or The Magic Dog)” which begins:

Whilst all the tow was sleepy
Crept a little boy from his bed
To fained the wondrous peoble
Wot lived when they were dead

The interviewer is Kenneth Allsop, and the interview was broadcast on June 18th, 1965.
 

 
A selection of Lennon’s drawings and poems after the jump…
 

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
Miles Davis and John Lennon were shit at basketball
08.14.2014
12:32 pm

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Miles Davis


Miles smiles. The Lennons look on.

John Lennon and Miles Davis shooting a game of H-O-R-S-E and both failing miserably. Lennon is particularly bad, missing the backboard, even, but any commenters blaming his lack of game on Yoko will be banned from DM for life!

A crappy looking version of this has made the Internet rounds for a while, but it was so blurry that it was too hard to watch and ultimately uninteresting considering what’s actually there under the layers of VHS video murk. Here’s a superior version where you can actually see what’s happening.

This was apparently shot by Jonas Mekas at a party at Allen Klein’s house in the Bronx in June 1971. Ringo Starr, Allen Ginsberg, Phil Spector, Phil Ochs and Andy Warhol were also said to have been in attendance. The gorgeous woman with Davis is actress Sherry “Peaches” Brewer, who was in Shaft! and later married Seagram’s heir Edgar Bronfman, Jr.
 

 

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
The murderer whose reputation John Lennon worked to restore
04.09.2014
11:16 am

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Yoko Ono
John Lennon
James Hanratty

John Lennon and Yoko Ono
 
In 1969 John Lennon and Yoko Ono became very interested in a convicted murderer who had been hanged for a heinous crime seven years earlier. In Britain it was one of the most famous crimes and trials of the era.

What is not in doubt is that in 1961 an individual raped Valerie Storie and murdered Michael John Gregsten, who just a little while earlier had been occupying a car together on the A6 highway in the vicinity of Bedfordshire. Storie was paralyzed from the waist down, while Gregsten, having suffered two point-blank bullets to the head, had died instantly. It does not appear to have been a robbery gone wrong or anything like that, just brutality for brutality’s sake.

There was an initial suspect named Peter Alphon, whom the police held briefly before letting him go. Many people feel that he is the likely murderer. The eventual defendant, the man who would hang for the crime, was James Hanratty. A lot of the ins and outs of the evidence-gathering phase hinged on police lineups. The trial was said to have been the longest in British history for a single murder defendant. The evidence against Hanratty was somewhat circumstantial but also not all that weak either, as far as I can tell. The jury deliberated for an unusually long time and sought clarifications from the judge in the process. Eventually the jury yielded a verdict of guilty. Six weeks later, Hanratty was executed.

A lot of social norms were changing fast in Britain—in 1965 the death penalty was outlawed in Britain for the crime of murder. The excitement over the “A6” crimes never really died down during that era, it had captured the public’s imagination. There were several books exploring the idea of Hanratty’s innocence. Hanratty’s parents and brother appear to have campaigned tirelessly on behalf of his innocence, and they were exceptionally sympathetic.

In late 1969 Hanratty’s parents visited a wealthy friend in Ascot named John Cunningham, who promptly introduced them to his pal John Lennon who lived nearby. John and Yoko quickly seized the case as another opportunity for peculiar protest; they were very much in their “Bed-In” phase.
 
Lennon
John Lennon and Yoko Ono with the parents of James Hanratty
 
Together with Hanratty’s parents, John and Yoko announced their intention to make a film to back the campaign for an enquiry at an Apple press conference on December 10, 1969. Apple Films released a documentary with the title Did Britain murder Hanratty? This movie is universally referred to as “John Lennon’s movie” and yet it’s unclear how involved he was. His name isn’t on the movie, and it’s not listed in his credits on IMDb. Well, whatever sells, right? 

The single public screening of the 40-minute movie eventually took place in the crypt of St. Martin-in-the-Fields Church, London, on February 17, 1972.

The fight to outlaw capital punishment in Britain was a large topic of the day, even after it had happened; it was on the minds of a lot of people. Hanratty had a pretty serious criminal record before the A6 crimes, he had spent the bulk of the previous seven years in prison for burglary and auto theft. In 2002 DNA tests apparently confirmed Hanratty’s guilt, although Hanratty’s defenders question that result based on the use of a spoiled sample.

On John & Yoko’s “Live Jam” album (recorded December 15, 1969), which was released with Some Time in New York City, Yoko can be heard shouting “Britain, you killed Hanratty, you murderer!” and then chanting Hanratty’s name throughout the opening bars of “Don’t Worry Kyoko.”

“Don’t Worry Kyoko,” off of Live Jam/Some Time in New York City

 

 
via Beatles Video Of The Day
 

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
The true story of why John Lennon nicknamed Eric Burdon ‘The Eggman’
03.06.2014
09:34 am

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johnmmt
 

Among the surreal imagery, Lewis Carroll references, and fanciful wordplay in The Beatles’ “I Am the Walrus” is the mention of the Eggman. This has long been known to refer to The Animals’ singer Eric Burdon, who was given the nickname by John Lennon. According to Bob Spitz in The Beatles: The Biography Lennon bestowed the nickname in “a reference to a 1966 orgy he attended with Eric Burdon, who earned the nickname for breaking raw eggs on girls during sex.”

However, it turns out that the commonly told tale is actually 180 degrees off. The fabled egger Burdon was actually the eggee. (There is a technical term for the raw egg paraphilia, but I can’t find it and can’t face another list of fetishes.) 

ericb
 

Burdon set the record straight in his 2002 autobiography, Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood, co-written with Jeff Marshall Craig:

It may have been one of my more dubious distinctions, but I was the Eggman - or, as some of my pals called me, ‘Eggs’.

The nickname stuck after a wild experience I’d had at the time with a Jamaican girlfriend called Sylvia. I was up early one morning cooking breakfast, naked except for my socks, and she slid up beside me and slipped an amyl nitrate capsule under my nose. As the fumes set my brain alight and I slid to the kitchen floor, she reached to the counter and grabbed an egg, which she cracked into the pit of my belly. The white and yellow of the egg ran down my naked front and Sylvia slipped my egg-bathed cock into her mouth and began to show me one Jamaican trick after another. I shared the story with John at a party at a Mayfair flat one night with a handful of blondes and a little Asian girl.

“Go on, go get it, Eggman,” Lennon laughed over the little round glasses perched on the end of his hook-like nose as we tried the all-too-willing girls on for size.

John Lennon standing in for Burdon as the Eggman:

 

Posted by Kimberly J. Bright | Leave a comment
The last known recording of Lennon & McCartney: ‘A Toot and a Snore in ‘74’

 

“You wanna snort, Steve? A toot? It’s goin’ round.”

With the recent reunion of Ringo Starr and Paul McCartney on the Grammy Awards, I was reminded of A Toot and a Snore in ‘74 a bootleg album of the sole recording session that John Lennon and Paul McCartney participated in after the break-up of The Beatles.

Lennon, who was in his “lost weekend” phase of drinking and drugging—and living with May Pang in Los Angeles—was producing Harry Nilsson’s Pussy Cats album at Burbank Studios. On the first night of the sessions, March 28, 1974, Paul and Linda McCartney showed up. Also present were Stevie Wonder, Harry Nilsson, Jesse Ed Davis, May Pang, saxophonist Bobby Keys and record producer Ed Freeman (who had been working with Don McLean in the next door studio).

There was a bit of a “convivial” scene going on, as one might gather from the bootleg’s title. McCartney later remarked that the “session was hazy… for a number of reasons.”

In his 2006 biography, McCartney, Christopher Sandford described the situation:

“The room froze when McCartney walked in, and remained perfectly silent until Lennon said, ‘Valiant Paul McCartney, I presume?’ McCartney responded: ‘Sir Jasper Lennon, I presume?’ (Valiant Paul and Sir Jasper were characters played by the two, in a televised Christmas play early in the Beatles’s career). McCartney extended a hand, Lennon shook it, and the mood was pleasant but subdued, cordial but not especially warm, at least initially.”

May Pang’s 1983 book, Loving John offered more detail:

Our first session was scheduled for the day after we moved in and it went beautifully- so beautifully that it only took four hours to lay down the basic rhythm track and vocal to “Subterranean Homesick Blues”.  When the tracks were finished, the musicians did not want to go home, so they hung out, jamming with each other or practicing their own licks. At midnight, however Keith [Moon] and Ringo left. It was time for them to hit the town.

The jam continued for another half hour, then visitors arrived. The visitors were Paul and Linda McCartney.

Paul headed straight for John. “Hello John,” he said eagerly.

John however was a study in casualness.

“How are you Paul?” he replied softly.

“Fine, how about you?”

“Okay.”

“Hi duckie,” Linda said to John, kissing him on the cheek.

“Hello Linda.”

John and Paul made small talk as if they had been speaking on the phone two or three times a day and had spoken a few hours earlier. It was one of the most casual conversations I had ever heard. They couldn’t be the two men who not only had been trading vicious attacks with each other in public but also had squadrons of lawyers poised in battle against each other while they carved up their multimillion-dollar empire. They looked like any old pair of friends having a pleasant low-key reunion.

The small talk continued; then Paul, like a man possessed, suddenly bounced up and headed straight for Ringo’s drum kit and began to bash the drums.

“Let’s play!” he exclaimed. Linda immediately headed for the organ. “Let’s play.” She echoed. They couldn’t be stopped.

John strapped on his guitar and began to play “Midnight Special,” one of the numbers the Beatles used to jam on when they first began to record together. So did Jesse Ed Davis and Danny “Kootch” Kortchmar, while Harry sang along.

Then we had another visitor, Stevie Wonder, who was also recording at the Record Plant.

“Stevie, Paul is here, and we’re going to jam,” John called out.

“Okay,” said Stevie. He went to the electric piano.

“Let’s record it,” said John.

“Yeah,” Paul agreed. John suddenly became very enthusiastic.

“We need a bass player,” he told the startled producer in the control booth of the studio next to ours. “Paul and I are jammin’ together.”

“I play bass!” the producer exclaimed. He dashed from his session to join ours.

“Fung Yee, I want you to play,” John told me. “Grab a tambourine.” I got up and joined the musicians

“Let it rip,” said John

That was the first time John and Paul had played together since Abbey Road in 1969, and it sounded wonderful. The team of Lennon and McCartney had been reunited with amazing ease. After they’d run down the song, John turned to Paul and said “Could you please tell your organist [Linda] to turn down the volume? I can’t hear Mr. Wonder”

John and Paul played it again, and it sounded even better. They made joyous music together that night. That was the only time John and Paul backed by Stevie Wonder and Harry Nilsson played together after the break- up.

I’m supposing that May Pang wrote the above from memory, because what’s on the actual tapes is not quite the stellar music a line-up such as this one might be expected to produce: It’s basically just a drunk, coked-up jam session, yet still a drunk, coked-up jam session of great historical significance.

You can read a transcript at Bootleg Zone. To be perfectly honest, it’s easier than listening to it!
 

 

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
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