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.)
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.
“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?”
“Hi duckie,” Linda said to John, kissing him on the cheek.
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!
Martin Perlich interviewed Frank Zappa eight times on his “Electric Tongue” program on the Los Angeles progressive rock radio station KMET. Although Zappa was well-known to be a difficult interviewee, Perlich knew what he was talking about and always got the best out of him. In this excellent and wide-ranging 1972 talk, Perlich and Zappa discuss classical music, the philosophical role of music in society and “modernism” in a general sense. There is a great section where they discuss how to explain to kids what they’re seeing on television isn’t necessarily true and Zappa predicts that there will be another monumental media innovation within the next several decades that will will cause or require the human brain to have to rewire itself again in the same way that television had. Heady stuff and exactly what you want from a vintage Frank Zappa interview…
Interesting to note that Zappa sticks up for (the then chart-topping) Grand Funk Railroad more than once during the interview, a group he would later (improbably) go on to produce. Zappa also talks about the 20 piece orchestra that he would be performing with soon at the Hollywood Bowl (and recording The Grand Wazoo with) and tells the story of having a deranged “fan” push him into the orchestra pit at the Rainbow Theatre in London.
At a certain point, John Lennon and Yoko Ono come in for some withering comments regarding their “jam session” at the Fillmore East. For whatever reason, Lennon re-titled the Zappa composition “King Kong, ” the centerpiece of the Mothers’ live act for years and a song that took up an entire side of the Uncle Meat album, as “Jamrag” and credited it to Lennon/Ono on their 1972 Sometime In New York City live album. Zappa’s own mix of this material, radically different from the Phil Spector-produced tracks on John and Yoko’s record came out on his Playground Psychotics live set in 1992. Zappa tells the full story in the interview.
Below, John Lennon and Yoko Ono onstage with The Mothers of Invention at the Fillmore East, June 4, 1971. The Mothers at this time were comprised of Howard Kaylan and Mark Volman on vocals; Bob Harris, keyboards; Don Preston, Minimoog; Ian Underwood, keyboards, alto sax; Jim Pons, bass, vocals; and Aynsley Dunbar on drums.
This probably qualifies as one of the least original ideas for a post I’ve ever had—a full-length nationally broadcast interview with one of the most magnetic rock stars of the twentieth century—but what the hell: this is darn good footage and it deserves to be part of the Dangerous Minds archive one way or another. It’s John Lennon’s appearance on The Tomorrow Show hosted by Tom Snyder, which, according to The John Lennon Encyclopedia by Bill Harry, was taped on April 8, 1975, and was aired on April 28, 1975. Tom Snyder is as idiosyncratic and dorky as ever, but this is an awfully good conversation, such as it is, full of the charm of Lennon engaging with an interviewer who at least isn’t dumb and is fully focused on the topic at hand—you could do a lot worse.
Snyder himself, in 1980, avers somewhat tentatively that this seems to be the last television interview Lennon ever gave. That claim, while surprising, has not been strenuously challenged, at least not in my nugatory attempts to research the issue. Lennon more or less dropped out of sight in 1975, and if he felt like not giving TV interviews to support his album Double Fantasy, which had come out in October, then so be it. It’s useful to remember that he didn’t do any live shows either—for his last concert, you have to go back even farther, to 1974. The man was semi-retired.
In 1975 one of the topics that was consuming John Lennon was his lengthy legal problems with the U.S. Immigration Service, which had gone to some lengths to block John and Yoko’s attempts to establish residency in the United States. Lennon’s attorney, Leon Wildes, appears late in the telecast and explains that the U.S government’s issues with Lennon obscurely stemmed from the days of Watergate,when Strom Thurmond passed a memo to Nixon’s Attorney General John Mitchell or some such.
(True story: My dad briefly worked as a journalist in DC in the early 1970s, and he was present at a press conference John and Yoko held about their immigration case around 1972 at the National Press Club—actually, if anyone has any documentation of that event, I’d be awfully interested to hear more about that. My dad was a jazz nut and, while glancingly impressed by the idea of seeing a Beatle give a press conference close up, he didn’t give it all that much thought.)
It’s apparent that the immigration case was a pretty big topic in the media at the time, and in fact it was settled in Lennon’s favor a few months later, in October. Of course the irony, that Lennon fought so hard to live in the city in which he would be killed at the early age of 40, is awful to contemplate.
This video is actually a rebroadcast of the interview that was aired on December 9, 1980, and I’m sure many of you out there don’t need me to tell you the significance of that date. Of course, John Lennon was shot and killed the day before, and Snyder introduces the 1975 interview and then interviews music journalist Lisa Robinson and producer Jack Douglas, who worked on Imagine and Double Fantasy (which was then quite a new album, and also the first John Lennon album in five years). The 1975 footage is of course presented in the light of this horrifying tragedy, and it’s interesting to hear Robinson’s and Douglas’s thoughts—Douglas in particular is understandably very emotional about having lost his dear friend. It strikes me that, in our current era, you would never see interviews quite like this after an event like the sudden death of a major star, today you’d have a lot of talking heads weighing in and everyone would somehow be angling for top dog on the subject, and there’d just be a lot of spin. This isn’t to say that Robinson and Douglas didn’t know they were on TV or weren’t choosing their words carefully, but it just seems a lot less mediated, they were invited to give their thoughts, and they did so in a relatively unfussy way.
As for Lennon himself, it’s wonderful to be reminded of the intelligent charm of the man—shit, I’d love to hang out with that guy for an hour or two. As much as Lennon “signified” and no matter how grandiose his political or artistic of philosophical concepts could be, at bottom he was a witty, cheerful, sassy, sarcastic Liverpudlian with a lot of sensible and sharp ideas in his head. Snyder several times mentions Lennon’s humility—that doesn’t quite seem like the right word but I understand entirely what Snyder meant by it. Lennon spent his entire adult life as the object of unremitting adulation, praise, and (if you will) love, and something in him inevitably saw the preposterousness in it—as I’m sure all the Beatles did after a few months of Beatlemania. Listen to Lennon address the idea of a John Lennon anti-drug PSA; if anyone understood the limits of celebrity advocacy, it would surely be John Lennon. He figured kids would say, “Well who the hell are you to say I shouldn’t smoke pot?” and he was surely dead right about that.
As for the rest of the interview, be sure to tune in. Snyder might get on your nerves but even Lennon says himself that he’s a fan! Lennon’s thoughts on the breakup of the Beatles, the absurdity of Beatlemania, his affection for New York, his admiration for reggae, none of it is groundbreaking or new, but it’s still well worth a look.
He wasn’t the messiah, he was just a very naughty boy.
John Lennon’s school detention sheets, detailing the Beatle’s bad behavior in class, will go up for auction, where they are expected to sell for between $3000 and $4000.
The reports list a series of incidents from Lennon’s time at Liverpool’s Quarry Bank School between 1955 and 1956, when he was in Class 3B and Class 4C. Lennon’s crimes include “fighting in class,” “talking,” “silliness,” “shouting,” “shoving,” having “just no interest whatsoever,” and (most interestingly) “sabotage.” On one occasion Lennon received three punishments in a single day.
The detention sheets were rescued by a teacher, who had been requested to burn the reports in the 1970s, but when he spotted the name “Lennon,” he kept them thinking they might have some pop cultural importance.
Canadian dentist and tooth collector Michael Zuk spent more than $31,000 to purchase one of John Lennon’s rotten molars at an auction in 2011, but he’s no mere collector—he wants to use the DNA to regenerate a whole new John Lennon.
In the last week it has been reported that Zuk has come to an agreement with “U.S. researchers” to see what can be done with DNA extracted from the tooth. “I am nervous and excited at the possibility that we will be able to fully sequence John Lennon’s DNA, very soon I hope. With researchers working on ways to clone mammoths, the same technology certainly could make human cloning a reality.”
Zuk continued: “To potentially say I had a small part in bringing back one of rock’s greatest stars would be mind-blowing.”
Lennon gave the molar to Dorothy “Dot” Jarlett, who worked as his housekeeper at his home in Weybridge, Surrey, according to her son, Barry. Jarlett, who worked for Lennon between 1964 and 1968, developed a warm relationship with the famous songwriter, her son said.
If you would like to follow this story in the future, be sure to check regularly at the John Lennon DNA website, which greets visitors with a very silly rendition of, er, “Love Me Tooth.”
If TMZ (and the Internet) had been around in the 1960s, you can bet that D.A. Pennebaker’s infamous film of John Lennon and Bob Dylan “both on fucking junk” (Lennon’s words) in the back of Dylan’s limo would have made it to their blog, Gawker and Huffington Post within a New York minute. But it wasn’t until the mid-1980s, when the VHS tape trading underground really took off, that copies of this insane, historically important for all the wrong reasons meeting started making their way into collectors eager hands (I had a copy). Now it’s easy to see, of course, on YouTube.
I’d always just assumed that Dylan and Lennon were both just extremely hungover, but maybe they were on something stronger. Lennon himself would know, right? It would certainly explain Dylan’s odd behavior and all that vomit talk, wouldn’t it?
“I just remember we were both in shades and both on fucking junk. ... I was nervous as shit. I was on his territory, that’s why I was so nervous.”
Whatever surreal flights of rock god verbal fantasy they had planned for this filming, the results were something rather less than coherent after Dylan shared his stash! Lennon told Jann Wenner that he was “frightened as hell” and “paranoid” that Dylan had just invited him to be in the film to put him down.
Without stating the obvious, (or perhaps he didn’t know) D.A. Pennebaker told Gadfly magazine:
It was not exactly a conversation by any means. Dylan was so beside himself and in such a terrible state that after a while I don’t think he knew what he was saying. He hauled him up the stairs of the hotel, and when he got to his room he was really sick.
Dylan is clearly out of his flipping mind on something and makes little, if any sense. From the way that he starts off fairly jovial in the first part to the slurred-voiced, nodding-off, face-scratching torpor and talk of vomiting that begins part three, Dylan’s behavior is consistent with a junk user and the viewer practically gets to witness the drug’s effect on him IN REAL TIME! The transformation is something to see. Lennon seems a little embarrassed, and yes, fucked up, but is still willing to play along until their failed attempts at witty wordplay dissolve into nonsense and Dylan seeming to wonder if they’ll make it all the way back to the hotel in time before he pukes his guts out. If John Lennon’s own word is to be trusted, they were both on junk in this footage. This is two of the world’s most famous people, ever, in the entire history of the world, and this is (most probably) them fucked up on heroin together!
How crazy, right?
This is history, baby. Not like great history or anything, but history nonetheless. It’s assumed by most people that they only spent a few minutes in the limo together because that’s what you see in the film and that’s normally what gets posted on YouTube, but they spent more than 20 minutes being shot in that limo. Although it’s fairly excruciating to watch, it is worth it to sit through all of it, once.
Yoko Ono’s films tend to deal with themes of sexuality, intimacy, and the navigation of public life. 1969’s Rape is arguably her most famous work, a disturbing first-person perspective from the eyes of the film crew, who chase, harass, and assault a German woman as she flees through the streets of London. No doubt the film is a commentary on the sudden media onslaught she experienced in the initial stages of her relationship with John Lennon. It’s an incredibly compelling piece.
It’s also 77 damn minutes long, and since I know you’re all reading this at work, I’ll hook you up with one of Ono’s briefer film experiments.
In Freedom, we see a shot of Ono’s chest in a silky purple bra. Faceless, she attempts to unhook the front claps in slow motion to the sound of modulating, electronic drone, (provided by John Lennon, of course). While it’s not unheard of to see a close-up of breasts on celluloid, the speed and sounds of the shot transform a mundane ritual of taking off a bra into a sort of post-modern dirge. The bra is never removed on camera, and the audience is left in a state of anticipation, as the clinical, hypnotic feel of the film belies all the general comfort we associate with breasts, whether maternal or sexual.
Actually this isn’t a parody so much as it’s satire. National Lampoon editor Tony Hendra used actual quotes from John Lennon’s infamous 1970 Rolling Stone interview with Jann Wenner (later published as Lennon Remembers) for this hysterical bit.
At the time of Lennon’s Rolling Stone sitting he was undergoing Primal Scream therapy with Dr. Arthur Janov and he really let it rip, shitting on his own fans, Mick Jagger, Paul and Linda McCartney and several others. All Hendra did was handpick the best parts and arrange them into lyrics. Still as funny today as when it was released on the classic Radio Dinner LP in 1972.
Hendra (who played Spinal Tap’s manager) does the boffo Lennon impersonation here, razzing the former Beatle’s very public bitching and moaning. The music’s by Chris Cerf and that’s Melissa Manchester making a cameo appearance as Yoko at the very end.
Extended 1968 interview with John Lennon and Paul McCartney. The pair discuss touring (and why The Beatles stopped), their time in India, McCartney’s LSD media flap, and the then-new Apple Corps and what the group were trying to achieve with the company.
There’s a question referring to Enoch Powell’s then recent anti-immigrant “Rivers of Blood” speech (not mentioned by name here, but this is what he’s talking about) that sees the interviewer go on to ask them about racial politics in England and the assassinations of JFK and Martin Luther King in America.
Although no longer an epidemic, Beatlemania, like TB, still exists; I should know, I’ve been struggling with a dose for a couple of weeks now. I’m not doing much screaming, but I am unable to listen to, read about, or even think on anything that isn’t somehow Beatle-related. (My missus has had it up to here with the goddamn Fab Four.)
The following seemingly homemade mini-documentary, on the development of “Strawberry Fields Forever,” is one of my favorite finds so far, nicely edited to give a real and rare sense of the genesis of a great work of art, from a tantalizing burst of John backstage fooling about on a melodium in 1964, through countless delicious demos and jams, to the orchestral version which, slowed down and cleverly sewn into the final mix, would help give the finished song its thrillingly queasy texture. It finishes with the famous Knole Park video. If you love the song, this is well worth twenty-six minutes of your life.
(And for the record, John, down here we’ve long since decided your tree was rather high.)
Pablo Fanque, today best known for being mentioned in The Beatles song “Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!” on the Sgt. Pepper’s album was the first black circus proprietor in Britain. For over three decades, his circus, in which he himself was a featured performer, was the most popular n Victorian-era Britain. Circus historian George Speight wrote that Fanque’s big stunt was leaping on horseback over a coach “placed lengthways with a pair of horses in the shafts, and through a military drum at the same time.”
While true Beatlemaniacs will know that Mr. Kite and his companions were real performers in a real troupe, however, few will realize that they were associates of what was probably the most successful, and almost certainly the most beloved, “fair” to tour Britain in the mid-Victorian period. And almost none will know that Pablo Fanque–the man who owned the circus—was more than simply an exceptional showman and perhaps the finest horsemen of his day. He was also a black man making his way in an almost uniformly white society, and doing it so successfully that he played to mostly capacity houses for the best part of 30 years.
The song that lent Fanque his posthumous fame had its origins in a promotional film shot for “Strawberry Fields Forever”—another Lennon track—at Sevenoaks in Kent in January 1967. During a break in the filming, the Beatle wandered into a nearby antique shop, where his attention was caught by a gaudy Victorian playbill advertising a performance of Pablo Fanque’s Circus Royal in the northern factory town of Rochdale in February 1843. One by one, in the gorgeously prolix style of the time, the poster ran through the wonders that would be on display, among them “Mr. Henderson, the celebrated somerset thrower, wire dancer, vaulter, rider &c.” and Zanthus, “well known to be one of the best Broke Horses in the world!!!”—not to mention Mr. Kite himself, pictured balancing on his head atop a pole while playing the trumpet.
Something about the poster caught Lennon’s fancy; knowing his dry sense of humor, it was probably the bill’s breathless assertion that this show of shows would be “positively the last night but three!” of the circus’s engagement in the town. Anyway, he bought it, took it home and (the musicologist Ian MacDonald notes) hung it in his music room, where “playing his piano, [he] sang phrases from it until he had a song.” The upshot was a track unlike any other in the Beatles’ canon—though it’s fair to say that the finished article owes just as much to the group’s producer, George Martin, who responded heroically to Lennon’s demand for “a ‘fairground’ production wherein one could smell the sawdust.” (Adds MacDonald, wryly: “While not in the narrowest sense a musical specification, [this] was, by Lennon’s standards, a clear and reasonable request. He once asked Martin to make one of his songs sound like an orange.”) The Abbey Road production team used a harmonium and wobbly tapes of vintage Victorian calliopes to create the song’s famously kaleidoscopic wash of sound.
As a lifelong Beatles fan I found myself simply wanting to hang a copy of this poster on my wall. As a designer, however, I couldn’t accept the many poor imitations I found – all of which use jarringly incorrect fonts (like Futura and Helvetica) and low-quality copies-of-copies of the illustrations.
So I set about doing it properly. What I thought might be a few weeks of work became several months, where sometimes the prospect of one day owning this poster seemed far away. But we got there in the end and I’m truly delighted with the end result.
I can see why he’s so happy, this looks amazing.
It’s worth pointing out that “Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!” was one of three songs on the Sgt. Pepper’s album to be banned by BBC radio. The lyrics referring to “Henry the horse” were thought to be slang for heroin. Clearly this was not the case. Imagine writing and creating such an amazing piece of childlike music only to find some small minds ready to ban it.
Filmmakers Nick Esdaile and Joe Fellows made a great short film about how it all came together. You can win a copy of the limited edition “Mr. Kite” print yourself by signing up for the Kite newsletter.