Imagine John Lennon as an Octogenarian

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In 1972, an outrageous rumor was circulating that John Lennon was going to perform a free concert in Miami opposite the Republican National Convention. Those troublemaking activists Hoffman and Rubin were spreading this fabrication and this falsification came to the attention of Strom Thurmond who contacted J. Edgar Hoover about initiating deportation proceedings against John Lennon.

The GOP nominating convention commenced in Miami on August 21, 1972. John Lennon and Yoko Ono hosted two concerts backed on stage by the Elephant Memory Band at Madison Square Garden in New York City on August 30, 1972. Lennon never consented to appearing in Miami, but this did not stop the Nixon Administration from launching an investigation into Lennon as a subversive.

The unsubstantiated claim that Lennon was going to disrupt Nixon’s reelection campaign effort at the RNC in Miami created an unwelcome headache for Lennon. Govt agents dogged Lennon’s movements, tapped his phonelines, and generated complications preempting John from being able to record new material in the recording studio. Had this transgression occurred in a recent era, Lennon would have simply been arrested and deported without hesitation. Lennon eventually won his protracted legal battle and secured a Green Card on July 28, 1976.

Free As A Bird

John Lennon filed a lawsuit to recover the tapes of an album comprising of cover material from the 1950s and 1960s that Capitol Records issued hastily in February 1975. Lennon and Capitol would prevail in court during February 1976. Rock ‘n’ Roll would prove to be his final album issued while under contract. Lennon’s last B-side single from March 1975 featured an original composition Move Over Ms. L that rocked harder than anything he had recorded at that time.

Lennon went into seclusion at his NYC condo immediately before the birth of his second son Sean and was enjoying being out of the spotlight. He flew with Yoko to Japan a few times to visit with Yoko’s family. Lennon’s last foray in a recording studio was to participate in a recording session with Ringo Starr performing piano on a song he wrote Cookin’ (In The Kitchen Of Love for Ringo’s Rotogravure released in September 1976.

During a sailing cruise to Bermuda in June 1980, stormy seas had taken out the crew aboard the Megan Jayne that had set sail from Newport. Lennon found himself at the help of the craft fighting to navigate the threatening waves crashing across the sailboat. It was a thrilling experience for Lennon whose father Freddie Lennon had abandoned him as a child to set off upon the vast blue ocean.

It was in Bermuda that Lennon had first heard The B-52’s. Instantly, Lennon recognized that the music industry had finally caught up to the sounds that Yoko Ono had been recording a decade ago. This music inspired Lennon to compose new material and share it with his wife. Yoko in turn began composting new material and the two started a musical conversation with each other that became the basis of their new studio album Double Fantasy (A Heart Play).

A Day In The Life

Lennon and Ono entered the Record Plant at NYC without a recording contract in August 1980 to begin recording tracks for their first joint album together since June 1972. They carefully orchestrated the press release while maintaining a low public profile. John had raised Sean during his first five years and was reinvigorated to reestablish himself as a recording artist. Together, John was going to 40 and Sean was going to turn 5 on October 9, 1980.

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Lennon’s first single from the forthcoming album was (Just Like) Starting Over on October 24, 1980. The melody was harkened back to the music of Lennon’s youth like a 1950’s blast from the past. MTV had not premiered as yet so there was no promotional video to accompany the song. The single was climbing up the American Top 40 pop charts so Lennon had nowhere to go but up.

Lennon brought in a familiar producer and top-notch studio musicians to record his new compositions. The backing band also played on Yoko Ono’s album selections. Lennon’s musical contributions were more traditional rock and roll-based material. It was Ono’s more experimental and unconventional thrust that enhanced Double Fantasy with a rather punk-modern sounding edge.

Lennon had begun to create a series of four demos in anticipation of recording with Ringo Starr in the new year as contributions to his impending new studio album Can’t Fight Lightning. However, fate would intervene and those raw recordings would serve as the basis for Lennon’s 1984 posthumous album Milk and Honey released in January 1984. Ringo did not record any of the material John had been cooking up in the studio and Yoko used the demos to issue his last collection of songs alongside her revised songs.

The extended plan was to release a new studio album in the Spring of 1981 and launch a world tour behind it to begin in Ono’s native Japan. The first John Lennon World Tour would then head westward end the tour was projected to end in New York City, John’s new adopted hometown, but this was not to be sadly.

Finally after five years of self-imposed musical silence, Double Fantasy was commercially released on Monday, November 17, 1980. John Lennon’s new studio album was available for purchase to the general public. I clearly remember buying my copy that Monday afternoon. The Walrus was my favorite Beatle, and I had waited patiently for two years as a Beatles fan to receive new music recorded by John Lennon.

Life is what Happens to You while you’re Busy making other Plans

Monday, December 8, 1980 was an exceedingly busy day for John Lennon. Lennon participated in a photo session that morning. Next, Lennon conducted a radio interview for RKO Radio. Then. Lennon was able to secure a lift with that crew to the Record Pant to record his avant-garde lead guitar work for Walking On Thin Ice, a song intended for a Yoko-only studio album John emphatically endorsed.

John had the cassette tapes of the hot new single with him as he left the studio but before he exited, he stopped to scribble a Christmas doodle that was finally auctioned off as the last creative endeavor by the deceased Beatle. The couple had discussed going out to eat dinner together, but then John expressed his desire to wish Sean a god night and tuck him into bed. With that decision, the Lennon’s limousine then head directly to the Dakota Apartment building.

Lennon’s murderer had flown to NYC in October and hesitated in killing Lennon. He confessed this to his wife who took No action even after he admitted he had a handgun. Then, the killer returned to NYC in December to carry out his act to attract attention and notoriety for himself. Truth is stranger than fiction: James Taylor experienced an encounter with Lennon’s assassin in the NYC subway. He was in a train station and cornered by the unknown killer and was alarmed by their bizarre conversation the day before Lennon was shot and killed.

A puddy misfit was loitering outside the Dakota building and encountered Paul Goresh who was also waiting to chat with his friend Lennon. Goresh took the infamous image of Lennon signing the record jacket for his killer hours before he pulled the trigger killing Lennon. Why didn’t the ratfink’s wife report her husband to the police? She never divorced her husband and continues to visit him in incarceration. The two seem funky as a fractured fiddle together.

The limousine pulled up outside the Dakota archway curbside and Lennon stepped out into the disquiet evening. His wife was ahead of him and a voice called out, Mr. Lennon? As John innocently turned, five gun shots erupted from a combat stance. Seven wounds pierced his torso concentrated on the left side of his upper body and John began bleeding out profusely. Lennon stumbled into the Dakota foyer and then collapsed. Police rushed to the scene to find Lennon in a pool of blood almost unresponsive.

Lennon was picked up by two NYC police officers and laid across the backseat of a squad car racing to the emergency room of Roosevelt Hospital. Lennon was dead on arrival, but the doctor directed the hospital crew to work furiously to possibly resuscitate the lifeless figure. Lennon had lost two much of his blood volume and ultimately there was nothing the medical team working on his body could do to save his life. ER Dr. Lynn pronounced Lennon dead at 11:15 pm.

Cleanup Time

As a postscript to Lennon’s assassination, it is a peculiar footnote to mention that John Lennon had met CA Gov. Ronald Reagan at a Monday Night Football broadcast in Los Angeles on December 9, 1974. When a reporter thrust a microphone at President-Elect Reagan seeking a response on the fact that Beatle John Lennon had been shot and killed, Reagan’s reaction was distant and cool. Not recognizable as a comment from a person who had actually met the deceased victim.

Fast-forward almost six years to the day, Howard Cosell who had interviewed Lennon live on the air at that 1974 football game, was instructed by ABC to interrupt the Monday Night Football game in progress that had gone into overtime on December 8, 1980, to announce that Beatle John Lennon had been shot and killed. John actually died on December 9 as that was the date in his hometown of Liverpool.

A collection of figures who were intertwined during the day of Lennon’s tragic passing were photog Paul Goresh who shot John’s last photograph, Dakota doorman Jay Hasting who was on duty that evening when John was shot, Alan Weiss of WABC injured on his motorcycle was in the ER at Roosevelt Hospital who got the news to Howard Cosell, Dr. Stephan Lynn who was the attending physician that massaged Lennon’s heart in his hand, and David Geffen of Geffen Records who had attempted to shield Yoko from the intrusive media upon learning her husband had been killed.

When They Was UnFab

John Lennon’s final encounter with each estranged Beatle occurred over a four-year period. McCartney did not want Allen Klein to manage The Beatles, while Lennon had convinced Harrison and Starr to agree. McCartney would officially break from the Fab Four via a cheap publicity stunt announcing his first solo album McCartney on April 10, 1970. Lawsuits rotted their Apple Corps and The Beatles were finally disbanded by a British court on January 10, 1975.

Paul McCartney was visiting John Lennon in his Dakota condo watching Saturday Night Live together when producer Lorne Michaels appeared in a skit announcing a $3000 offer for The Beatles to reunite on NBC. The two post-Fab chief composers of the Beatles catalogue were less than two miles away from NBC Studios. The two of them joked about hoping in a taxi cab and showing up on the doorstep of 30 Rockefeller Plaza and splitting the greenbacks between themselves.

If Only Lennon & McCartney had made that journey to NBC – wow! Lennon later claimed he was simply too tired to put in an appearance on camera having been looking after his infant six-month-old son Sean. What a lost opportunity of incredible proportions! The next day Paul returned, but John said just please give me a heads up before you show up. This request upset Paul as it ended up being the last time they saw each other before Lennon’s assassination.

An interesting tidbit in their post Fab relationship is that Lennon and McCartney reunited in the recording studio only once on March 28, 1974. In attendance were musicians Bobby Keys, Harry Nilsson, Stevie Wonder and Linda McCartney. The bootleg of this recording session features Lennon on vocals and guitar with McCartney on vocals and drums. The selections meander and are essentially novelty tracks at best.

George Harrison, the Quiet Beatle, was adrift in his relationship with John Lennon. Harrison last visited Lennon at his New York City condo sometime during 1978. He said it was a cordial social call and the two of them got on well together. Harrison commented that he was surprised to learn Lennon had lots of cassette tapes of Indian music years after his own sitar flirtations in The Beatles a decade ago.

Ringo Starr, the funny Beatle, had not seen John Lennon in the longest stretch of his fellow Fabs. Starr was preparing a new studio album and he wanted each of his Fab cohorts to contribute new compositions to complete the record. John had four titles waiting: Life Begins At Forty, I’m Stepping Out, Nobody Told Me and Grow Old With Me. In the aftermath of John’s murder, Ringo was uncomfortable recording John’s songs without him.

John and Yoko visited Ringo and Barbara for five hours at their suite on November 15, 1980. It was a wonderful visit and two Liverpudlians were looking forward to recording together again. Ringo was on vacation when his daughter called to break the news that John had been killed. Ringo and Barbara immediately flew to NYC to comfort Yoko at this incredibly vulnerable moment for her having lost her husband violently and senselessly.

Timothy Tilghman
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