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That time Francis Ford Coppola wrote John Lennon about ‘Apocalypse Now’

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The writer and director Cameron Crowe recently tweeted an impressive piece of pop culture history. It was a photograph of the correspondence between Francis Coppola and John Lennon, in regard of the former-Beatle hanging out with the famed director in the Philippines and maybe writing/contributing some music for Coppola’s movie Apocalypse Now.

The pair had obviously met at some point and an idea had been suggested. What exactly this idea was, and how far or how seriously it was taken, well, we just don’t know. What seems apparent is that Coppola was feeling a tad lonely working and living 24/7 on location and the “rarified air” of the Philippines was having its own effect.

The letter starts off like a typical fan letter but Coppola probably lost Lennon at the line where he says he is living inside a volcano.

March 24, 1977

Mr. John Lennon
Lennon Music
1307 Avenue of the Americas
New York, New York 10019

Dear John:

We’ve never met but, of course, I’ve always enjoyed your work.

I am presently in the Philippines making “APOCALYPSE NOW”. I’ve been here eight months, expect to be here another several months. I live inside a volcano, which is a jungle paradise, where there are beautiful mineral springs; and thought of ever you were in the Far East or if ever you would enjoy spending a little time talking about things in general and some distant future projects that I have in mind, please, I would love to cook dinner for you and just talk, listen to music and talk about movies.

If coming to the Far East is difficult, then someday in the future, either in Los Angeles, San Francisco or New York, I would like to meet you.

Sincerely,

Francis Coppola

 
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Coppola feeling the pressure during ‘Apocalypse Now.’ After the jump Lennon’s letter of reply ...

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Posted by Paul Gallagher
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10.02.2017
11:43 am
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War is Over: When John Lennon and Yoko Ono met Marshall McLuhan
09.07.2017
05:11 pm
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Although John Lennon and Yoko Ono were undoubtedly two of the very most famous and talked about people of 1969, Canadian media theorist Marshall McLuhan was no slouch in the worldwide fame department himself. And so it was an inspired pairing indeed, organized by the Canadian Broadcast Company, when the peace-promoting Beatle and his avant-garde artist wife met up with the celebrated intellectual and author of The Medium is the Massage and Understanding Media on December 19th.

Lennon and Ono were in snowy Toronto doing press to bring attention to their “War is Over” billboard and poster campaign. Huge posters and billboards had been posted in twelve countries proclaiming “War is over! If you want it. Happy Christmas from John & Yoko.” The campaign was launched in the major cities of New York, Los Angeles, Toronto, Rome, Athens, Amsterdam, Berlin, Paris, London, Tokyo, Hong Kong and Helsinki. There were over 30 roadside billboards put up in Toronto alone and a large billboard hung next to the US Armed Forces recruitment office located on New York’s Times Square.
 

 
McLUHAN: “Can you tell me? I just sort of wonder how the ‘War Is Over,’ the wording… the whole thinking. What happened?”

JOHN: “I think the basic idea of the poster event was Yoko’s. She used to do things like that in the avant garde circle, you know. Poster was a sort of medium, media, whatever.”

YOKO: “Medium.”

JOHN: “And then we had one idea for Christmas, which was a bit too vast, you know.”

YOKO: “We wanted to do it.”

JOHN: “We wanted to do it, but we couldn’t get it together in time.”

YOKO: “Maybe next year.”

JOHN: “And to do something specifically at Christmas. And then it got down to, well, if we can’t do that event…”

YOKO: “We did this.”

JOHN: “...what we’ll do is a poster event. And then how do you get posters stuck all around the world, you know. It’s easier said than done. So we just started ringing up and find it out. And at first we’re gonna have… we had some other wording, didn’t we, like, ‘Peace Declared.’ And it started up, there’s a place in New York, where you can have your own newspaper headline, you know. There’s a little shop somewhere in Times Square. And we were wondering how to, sort of like, get it in the newspapers as if it had happened, you know. And it developed from that. Well, we couldn’t get the front page of each newspaper to say war was over, peace declared or whatever.”
 
Much more after the jump…

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Posted by Richard Metzger
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09.07.2017
05:11 pm
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The erotic lithographs of John Lennon (NSFW)
06.07.2017
11:04 am
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In 1968 Anthony Fawcett, a friend of John Lennon’s who later became one of the employees of Apple Records, proposed lithography to Lennon as an area that might spark his artistic interest. Lennon was initially reluctant, as the relatively time-consuming methods that were involved ran counter to the “impulsive” approach that Fawcett perceived as Lennon’s preference. Fawcett came up with a couple of hacks that would enable the lithography process to be more like Lennon’s usual facility at doodling and sketching.

Several months passed, and Fawcett assumed that Lennon had forgotten all about the subject. But when Lennon and his new bride Yoko Ono returned from Europe after the week-long Bed-In for Peace in the spring 1969 it turned out that Lennon had gotten more interested in the process. As Fawcett wrote in his 1976 memoir John Lennon: One Day at Time, Lennon “had made a series of drawings of the marriage and honeymoon, and was now anxious to see how they would look as lithographs. ... Yoko was the main subject, there were many portraits and nudes of her.”
 

When he saw them John was ecstatic, oohing and ahhing with childlike enthusiasm, laughing, wildly gesticulating and obviously impressed at the results. He seemed thrilled by the new dimension his drawings had taken on, master-printed on the thick luxurious Arches paper. Yoko, too, was excited for John and watched his exuberance with a kind of motherly pride.

 
A plan was concocted to sell some of the lithographs in a limited-edition set. The set would be titled Bag One, a reference to John and Yoko’s theory of “Bagism” which prevailed at the time. Peter Doggett in The Art and Music of John Lennon has this to say about the project:
 

The drawings were converted from Lennon’s small originals to poster size, organised into limited edition packages, and given to John so he could sign each lithograph. They were then placed inside special Bag One folders, and sold to art-minded (and rich) individuals around the world. It might have been more in keeping with Lennon’s principles if they’d been issued as postcards instead.

 
In the event, Lennon was obliged to sign three thousand posters, which he did at the Toronto-area farmhouse of Ronnie Hawkins.

In January 1970 the lithographs were displayed at an exhibition in London. The authorities, however, were not amused. As Fawcett writes,
 

Inevitably, on the second day of the exhibition, the police raided the gallery with a warrant, supposedly after Scotland Yard had received complaints, and eight of the lithographs were confiscated. The summons alleged that the gallery had “exhibited to public view eight indecent prints to the annoyance of passengers, contrary to Section 54(12) of the Metropolitan Police Act, 1839, and the third schedule of the Criminal Justice Act 1967.


 
In January 1970 the magazine Avant Garde published what they termed “John Lennon’s Erotic Lithographs,” being a subset of the Bag One set. This post features the full magazine spread of that issue. You can see the full issue of Avant Garde here; vintage issues can be purchased at Amazon as well.

Avant Garde’s cheeky intro compares John and Yoko to other “famous couples in history” such as Dick and Pat Nixon, noting that we must exercise our imaginations to envision them in the act of lovemaking. Not so with John and Yoko!
 

 

 
Many more after the jump…

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Posted by Martin Schneider
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06.07.2017
11:04 am
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‘Do the Oz,’ John and Yoko’s benefit single (and hopeful dance craze) for OZ magazine


John and Yoko march for OZ, August 1971 (via Meet the Beatles for Real)
 
“I think that everyone should own everything equally and that the people should own part of the factories and they should have some say in who is boss and who does what,” John Lennon announced to Hit Parader during his militant period. When he and Yoko Ono joined a march in London in August ‘71, holding up the latest issue of the Marxist newspaper Red Mole, they were demonstrating in support of both the IRA and the underground magazine OZ, whose editors had just been sent up the river on an obscenity beef.

John and Yoko took up the cause of the “OZ Three.” For their now-famous “school kids issue,” number 28, OZ had solicited and printed contributions from teenage readers, and was alleged thereby to have struck a mighty blow against the morality of English youth. During the ensuing obscenity trial, the defense actually called an expert witness to testify that just seeing the cover illustration was not enough to turn a healthy young person into a lesbian.
 

Note the “OZ Obscenity Trial” souvenir T-shirt, featuring R. Crumb’s character Honeybunch Kaminski
 
In the end, the editors got fifteen months in prison, and the hip community rallied to their defense, Jon Wiener reports in Come Together: John Lennon in His Time:

The OZ defense committee announced it would appeal, and John and Yoko joined the fundraising effort. They wrote the songs “God Save Us” and “Do the Oz,” released as a single by Apple in July 1971. John played on both and sang lead on “Do the Oz,” calling the group “the Elastic Oz Band.” Full-age ads appeared in all the British underground and radical newspapers: “Every major country has a screw in its side, in England it’s OZ. OZ is on trial for its life. John and Yoko have written and helped produce this record—the proceeds of which are going to OZ to help pay their legal fees. The entire British underground is in trouble, it needs our help. Please listen—‘God Save Oz.’”

Bill Elliot (later of the Dark Horse band Splinter) sings the A-side of the Elastic Oz Band single, which Lennon originally called “God Save Oz” but retitled “God Save Us.” Both sound the same in a Liverpool accent, I think Lennon is telling Sounds here:

First of all we wrote it as God Save Oz, you know, ‘God save Oz from it all,’ but then we decided they wouldn’t really know what we were talking about in America so we changed it back to ‘us’.

But the B-side, “Do the Oz,” is the keeper. Mutilating the lick from “Smokestack Lightning” on guitar, John hollers the steps of his modified hokey pokey while Yoko sings the terrifying, beguiling hum of modernity. Backing them are the Plastic Ono Band and, on acoustic guitars, two contributors to the “school kids issue,” future NME contributor Charles Shaar Murray and “Michelle.”

More after the jump…

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Posted by Oliver Hall
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05.18.2017
07:50 am
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Grapefruit: Forgotten Beatles protegés produced by Lennon & McCartney (and their AC/DC connection)
08.29.2016
11:59 am
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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…

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Posted by Richard Metzger
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08.29.2016
11:59 am
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Paul McCartney on the bust-up with Lennon

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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.
 
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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
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07.06.2016
11:49 am
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Instant Karma 1955: John Lennon’s high school detention logs
05.10.2016
10:17 am
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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
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05.10.2016
10:17 am
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Meet The Liverbirds: The all-girl Beatles who once toured with the Kinks and Rolling Stones

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“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.
 
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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.
 
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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!
 
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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….

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Posted by Paul Gallagher
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04.25.2016
12:21 pm
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Holiday photos of John Lennon as a child in 1951 on a school trip to the seaside
04.21.2016
10:59 am
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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.
 
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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…

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Posted by Paul Gallagher
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04.21.2016
10:59 am
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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
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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
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02.03.2016
11:38 am
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‘Beatlebone’: The witty cult novel of the year imagines John Lennon living in Ireland, 1978
12.17.2015
03:27 pm
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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…

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Posted by Martin Schneider
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12.17.2015
03:27 pm
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Where were you when you heard that John Lennon had been murdered?
12.08.2015
02:12 pm
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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…

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Posted by Richard Metzger
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12.08.2015
02:12 pm
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John Lennon becomes the first Beatle to admit to taking drugs, in 1965: A DM exclusive
04.24.2015
10:20 am
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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…

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Posted by Paul Gallagher
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04.24.2015
10:20 am
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John Lennon sees a UFO in New York City, 1974
04.13.2015
09:49 am
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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
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04.13.2015
09:49 am
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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…
 

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Posted by Paul Gallagher
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03.31.2015
09:30 am
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