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Grapefruit: Forgotten Beatles protegés produced by Lennon & McCartney (and their AC/DC connection)
11:59 am


John Lennon

Unless you’re a truly “deep cut” Beatles freak—or a big AC/DC fan (I’ll get to that in a minute)—it’s unlikely that you’ll have heard of the 60s pop-psych group Grapefruit. Recalled by history as the first performers to be thought of to be protegés of the Fab Four, Grapefruit—named by John Lennon—were signed to Apple Publishing, although their music came out on Decca Records. They were only an active band for about two years, from late 1967 to the end of 1969. They recorded two albums and some singles before splitting, although their sound changed dramatically for their more “rock”-oriented second album with a different singer. Less Beatlesesque and more like Traffic perhaps.

Lennon and McCartney were co-producers of a song called “Lullaby” (a number with the working title “Circus Sgt. Pepper”) and Terry Doran, a friend of Lennon’s who’d worked with Brian Epstein, became their manager. When their record came out, Lennon introduced the band at a press conference attended by Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, Brian Jones, Jimi Hendrix, Donovan and Cilla Black. Paul McCartney directed a promotional film for their single “Elevator” and band member John Perry was invited to attend the “Hey Jude” recording session.

Now here’s the AC/DC connection: The group’s songwriter/bassist was a chap named George Alexander, who was born Alexander Young in Scotland, one of eight children who included younger brothers Malcolm and Angus Young who would later go on to form AC/DC. When the Young family emigrated to Australia, he’d remained behind in Great Britain. Another musically talented Young brother is George Young of Aussie chart-toppers The Easybeats.

Their first album Around Grapefruit was reissued in May of 2016 as Yesterday’s Sunshine: The Complete 1967-1968 London Sessions with rare tracks from the original master tapes.

Performing “Dear Delilah” in France on ‘Dim Dam Dom’ in 1968:

More of the sweet sounds of Grapefruit after the jump…

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
Paul McCartney on the bust-up with Lennon

When The Beatles split-up in 1970 the music press divided the pop world into two camps: those for John Lennon and those against Paul McCartney (who, coincidentally met each other for the first time 59 years ago today). That both camps were basically the same thing meant McCartney had rough ride from “hip” musos over the next decades.

McCartney was painted as straight, safe, vanilla and very very bland—the sort of music yer mom and dad listened to when riding an elevator. It was fueled in large part by his former songwriting pal John Lennon’s vicious public spat with him. Lennon excoriated McCartney in his song “How Do You Sleep?” claiming the only thing he’d done was “Yesterday.”

Lennon was perceived as cool. McCartney was seen as square, fake and lacking any real artistic credibility—whatever that may be. He was the lesser half of the writing partnership Lennon & McCartney. This was how the music press in general and the British music press in particular painted the former Beatles. Of course it was wrong—very wrong. McCartney was the cool one, the smart one, the one who was hanging out with all those avant garde artists on the edge. He didn’t have to try on different party hats to find out who he was—he knew instinctively. The way the music press wrote about him you would never have known. But then again music journalists only write for themselves and their tiny band of fellow journalists—they do not write for the public or really understand that popular music is meant for all—the clue’s in its name—it’s not an exclusive club.

How McCartney weathered it all while starting out on his solo career, raising a family with his wife Linda, then forming the band Wings reveals just how strong and determined a character/a talent is James Paul McCartney.

Understandably, post-Beatles McCartney was always cagey about giving interviews. He knew (and knows) how interviewers turn words to fit their own preconceived opinions and how interviewers like to make themselves the star of the interview.

One of McCartney’s best ever interviews came in 1978, when he was featured in a short film for Melvyn Bragg’s The South Bank Show.
McCartney and Melvyn Bragg, 1978.
The South Bank Show was devised by Bragg as an arts magazine show that would cover high and low art—from TV and films to theater and pop music. This seems utterly run-of-the-mill now but back in the seventies this hi/lo concept was considered shocking. Pop music was in no way comparable to classical music. Television was never in the same class as theater, etcetera etcetera. Bragg was challenging the perceived orthodoxy when he kicked the whole thing off with The South Bank Show in January 1978, creating the kind of mix of high and low culture we take so very much for granted today.

The South Bank Show was originally a magazine program that featured one or two short films, plus a studio interview and usually some kind of performance. During the first series this morphed into one hour profiles of artists, writers, film directors and performers which remained the format.

Paul McCartney appeared in the very first episode in a short insert documentary filmed during the recording of the song “Mull of Kintyre.” McCartney is open to Bragg’s questions and even goes so far as to explain how he writes, giving examples of some of his best known songs. He also discusses the hurt he felt over the bust-up with Lennon and ends by explaining how he gets a thrill from hearing people whistling his tunes—or as he goes on to say, how he once heard a bird whistling a riff from one of his hits.

The following is the whole interview repackaged for Bragg’s The South Bank Show: Originals series recently broadcast on Sky Arts. It opens with Bragg talking about his memory of interviewing McCartney and contains comment from journalist Clive James who rightly describes Paul McCartney as a genius.

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
Instant Karma 1955: John Lennon’s high school detention logs
10:17 am

Pop Culture

John Lennon

That John Lennon, inarguably one of the rock era’s greatest creative figures and pop culture icons, had a troubled childhood is hardly a secret—he came from the broken home of Julia Lennon (née Stanley) and the husband she’d married on a lark, an itinerant sailor called Fred Lennon who may have been in jail in North Africa at the time of his son’s birth. The young Lennon was raised by his aunt Mimi, not knowing that Julia was his real mother until he was almost 10, and behavior problems showed up early. Lennon once related to Beatle biographer Hunter Davies (The Beatles, The John Lennon Letters) the following:

The sort of gang I led went in for things like shoplifting and pulling girls’ knickers down. When the bomb fell and everyone got caught, I was always the one they missed. I was scared at the time but Mimi was always the only parent who never found out.

It merits mentioning that Lennon above is describing primary school, before he even attended high school. Upon his arrival at Liverpool’s Quarry Bank High School, his grades began to plummet, except in art. Celeb biographer Jeff Burlingame, in his John Lennon: Imagine, notes that

Even the corporal punishment administered by the teachers at the all-boys school did not stop John from misbehaving. He began his first year at Quarry Bank (which is equivalent to the seventh grade in the United States) as a top student, placed in what was called the “A” class, along with his best friend, Pete Shotton. As the years wore on, Shotton recalled the pair had clowned around and neglected their studies so frequently that they were moved down to the lowest-possible class, the “C” level “among the hardcore troublemakers, deadbeats, and halfwits.”


Troublemaker. Deadbeat. Halfwit.

Burlingame quotes Lennon:

I looked at all the hundreds of new kids and thought, Christ, I’ll have to fight my way through this lot…There was some real heavies there. The first fight I got in I lost. I lost me nerve when I got really hurt. Not that there was much real fighting. I did a lot of swearing and shouting, then got a quick punch…I was aggressive because I wanted to be popular. I wanted to be the leader. I wanted everybody to do what I told them to do, to laugh at my jokes and let me be the boss.

Because of the Beatles’ seismic popularity and outsized influence, pretty much anything even remotely connected to them is basically a fucking cash forge, so a page from Lennon’s Quarry Bank High School detention log from the 1954/55 school year is up for auction, and expected to fetch up to $4,000 USD. Per the auctioneer, Julien’s (the same auction house that recently sold for charity an intimidatingly huge trove of memorabilia from Ringo Starr’s personal hoard, including White Album #1), Lennon’s infractions included “silliness,” “fooling,” “nuisance,” “noise,” and “paper dart,” and notes that Lennon seems to have been referred for discipline every day, and sometimes twice a day. To be fair, Lennon’s were hardly criminal behaviors, and Quarry Bank must have been a mighty strict school—the last item shown in one image provided by the auction house is “decorating his exercise book.” What clearer pathway to prison could there be than THAT shocking transgression?

Whether you’re a Lennon obsessive or just a really specific discipline fetishist, the auction goes live on Saturday, May 21, 2016 at 10:00 AM EDT. The auction theme is “Music Icons,” so there are other lots of interest to classic rock ‘n’ roll and Beatles fans generally, and Lennon fans specifically, including autographed photos, some of Lennon’s artwork, and White Album #2. Good luck.

Previously on Dangerous Minds:
When Crass met the Beatles: John Lennon and Penny Rimbaud on ‘Ready Steady Go!’ 1964
What do you get the collector who has everything? How about Ringo Starr’s ‘White Album’ No.0000001?

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Leave a comment
Meet The Liverbirds: The all-girl Beatles who once toured with the Kinks and Rolling Stones

“Girls with guitars? That won’t work,” quipped John Lennon as he watched four girls take the stage of the Cavern Club, Liverpool in 1963. The band was The Liverbirds and Lennon’s attitude was the kind of dumb prejudice these four faced every time they picked up their guitars and blasted an audience with their hard rockin’  R’n'B.

The Liverbirds were formed in Liverpool 1963. The original line-up was Valerie Gell (guitar), Mary McGlory (bass), Sylvia Saunders (drums), together with Mary’s sister, Sheila McGlory (guitar) and Irene Green (vocals). The band’s name was lifted from the liver bird—the mythical bird (most probably a cormorant) that symbolises the city of Liverpool and they were all girls (“birds” in the youthful parlance of the time). The group practiced every day until they were better than most of the local boy bands who were merely copycatting local heroes The Beatles.

The Liverbirds were apparently so good (if a bit rough around the edges) they were snapped up to tour with The Rolling Stones, The Kinks and The Rockin’ Berries. However, it was soon apparent that the girls—unlike the boys—were were being cheated out of a big part of their fees by booking agents—a crushing disappointment that led to the loss of their lead singer and guitarist to other bands.
It was beginning to look as if Lennon was right, but the girls refused to give up and continued touring with The Kinks. Unlike their northern counterparts, London’s all male bands The Kinks and The Stones were supportive of The Liverbirds—as Mary McGlory recalled in a letter to the Liverpool Beat in 2014:

The Kinks took us down to London to meet their manager, even booked us into a hotel, and told us to come to the studio tomorrow and bring our guitars with us (maybe there might be time to play a song for their manager). When we arrived there, the roadie came in and told The Kinks that their guitars had been stolen out of the van – so this was how The Kinks played our guitars on their hit recording of “You really got me“.

This isn’t exactly how it happened as the legendary Dave Davies of The Kinks points out regarding Mary’s claim over the stolen instruments:

Absolute nonsense- they were a cool band but this DID not happen.

On YRGM I use my Harmony meteor thru the elpico green amp and ray used his tele and pete used his blue fender bass…what a load of bollocks.

However, The Kinks did help save The Liverbirds from splitting-up by suggesting they bring Pamela Birch in as vocalist. Birch was a big blonde bee-hived singer/guitarist. She had a deep bluesy voice which harmonized beautifully with Valeri Gell’s vocals. Birch was a perfect fit for the band.

They were a hit at the Cavern Club. They were a hit across the country. They were a hit on tour. But the band hailed as the all-girl Beatles at the height of Beatlemania couldn’t even get a record deal in England. However, things soon started to shift.
First Kinks’ manager Larry Page and then Beatles manager Brian Epstein wanted to sign The Liverbirds. But the girls were off to Hamburg to play the Star Club. The band was an instant hit in Germany as Mary McGlory recalls:

We arrived in Hamburg on the 28th May, 1964 and played the same night. The crowd was great and loved us right away. The Star-Club owner Manfred Weissleder became our one and only MANAGER.

A few days later he sent us to Berlin to play at a big concert with Chuck Berry, shortly before we went on stage we were told that it was forbidden to play any Chuck Berry songs. Well that was impossible for us, so when Val went to the mike and announced “Roll over Beethoven”, Berry’s manager ran on stage and tried to stop us playing, Val pushed him away and told him to “F. Off”.(She had probably had a shandy). Back in Hamburg, Manfred called us to his office, we thought he was going to tell us off, but no such thing, Chuck Berry’s manager wanted to take us to America. Manfred said he would leave the decision up to us, but then he added – he will probably take you to Las Vegas, and there you will have to play topless! Well of course that was his way of putting us off. After all, the club was still crowded every night.

The band had hits with the songs “Peanut Butter,” “Too Much Monkey Business,” “Loop-de-Loop,” and “Diddley Daddy.” Although in performance they played the very same Willie Dixon and Chuck Berry covers favored by the Stones and other boys, Birch also started writing original numbers, producing such favorites as “Why Do You Hang Around Me?” and “It’s Got To be You.” Though pioneering and incredibly popular, the girls (now in their late teens-early twenties) still faced the everyday sexism from record industry supremos who thought young girls should be on the scene, but not heard. Not unless they were in the audience screaming. These men wanted girls who dressed to please—not girls who played instruments better than the boys. Girls with guitars? That won’t work. Except for that, of course, it did. Splendidly!
In 1968, on the cusp of a Japanese tour the band split:

Until 1967, we played nearly all over Europe, recorded two albums and four singles for the Star-Club label and appeared on many television shows. Our drummer Sylvia married her boyfriend John Wiggins from The Bobby Patrick Big Six and left the band. Shortly after Val married her German boyfriend Stephan, who had a car accident on his way to visit her and was since paralyzed. So when we got an offer from Yamaha to do a tour of Japan at the beginning of 1968, Pam and I had to find two German girls to replace them. Japan was great, and the Japanese people really liked us, but Pam and I did not enjoy it anymore, we missed the other two, the fun had gone out of it. We thought this is the right time to finish, even though we were still only 22 and 23.

Today McGlory, Gell and Saunders continue with their post-Liverbirds lives. Sadly, Pamela Birch died in 2009. However, this all-girl guitar band should be given credit for pioneering rock and roll, R ‘n’ B and being right up there for a time with The Beatles, The Kinks and The Rolling Stones.

The Liverbirds perform on ‘Beat Club’ 1965.

More from the female Fab Four after the jump….

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
Holiday photos of John Lennon as a child in 1951 on a school trip to the seaside

A ten-year-old John Lennon is instantly recognizable in these photographs taken during a school trip to the Isle of Man—a popular holiday destination off the west coast of England. Our eyes are drawn to his figure, standing left of frame, leaning slightly forward, arms out, knee-deep in waves. Lennon is surrounded by his classmates from Dovedale Junior School. To one side is the future BBC news journalist Peter Sissons. To the other fists clenched ready to rumble is comedian Jimmy Tarbuck.

Tarbuck has since recalled in an interview how Lennon “had a strong personality” even though he was “like any other kid in those days, having a few scraps in the playground.” That strength of personality is apparent from these photos where Lennon is either at the center of things or in the front row.

Six years later, in the summer of 1957, Lennon was playing with his band The Quarrymen at a garden fete of St Peter’s Church, Woolton, Liverpool. That was the day he met another young musician called Paul McCartney.
The young John Lennon left of center next to Jimmy Tarbuck with fists up to right. Peter Sissons is on left edge of frame behind Lennon.
More after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
An emotional David Bowie sings ‘Imagine’ on the third anniversary of John Lennon’s death, 1983
11:38 am


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
03:27 pm


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?
02:12 pm


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

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.
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
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
Fan photos of John Lennon in London and New York

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.
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
03:38 pm


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
10:38 am


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
01:15 pm


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
08:13 pm

Pop Culture

John Lennon

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
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