Posts Tagged ‘John Lennon’

John Lennon, right, from a scene in the fantastically funny film, "A Hard Day's Night." Lennon is "sniffing a coke" while sitting next to Wilfrid Brambell who plays Paul McCartney's grandfather, constantly referred to as "a clean old man" and the source of great trouble to the Beatles in the show.

John Lennon, right, from a scene in the fantastically funny film, "A Hard Day's Night" (1965). Traveling on a train, Lennon sits next to Wilfrid Brambell, who plays Paul McCartney's grandfather. John is "sniffing coke." Paul's grandfather is constantly referred to as "a clean old man." In fact, he is not, and is the source of great trouble to the Beatles, in particular, Ringo, in this pseudo rock documentary.

Beatle John Lennon (1940-1980) had a witty sense of humor. During live performances of “I Want to Hold Your Hand,” Lennon often changed the words to “I want to hold your gland,” because of the difficulty hearing the vocals above the noise of screaming audiences in the grip of Beatlemania.

At the Royal Variety Show in 1963—in the presence of members of the British royalty, including Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother, Princess Margaret, and Lord Snowdon —Lennon quipped to the largely upper-crust audience:

“For our next song, I’d like to ask for your help. For the people in the cheaper seats, clap your hands … and the rest of you, if you’ll just rattle your jewelry.”

A clip from this London performance is shown below, with the Beatles singing, “With Love From Me to You,” “Until There Was You,” and “Twist and Shout.” Paul makes a joke before “Until There Was You,” referring to American singer Sophie Tucker as a group (she was large). John makes his jewelry comment before playing my all-time favorite “Twist and Shout.” Enjoy.

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In this March 2007 photo, Britain's Queen Elizabeth II greets American photographer Annie Leibowitz at a reception prior to their photo shoot. Notice that the Queen has her black Launer purse on her arm.

In this March 2007 photo, Britain's Queen Elizabeth II greets American photographer Annie Leibovitz at a reception prior to their photo shoot. Notice that the Queen has her black Launer purse on her arm.

Prior to her May 2007 visit to the United States, Queen Elizabeth II sat for a series of official photographs by famous celebrity photographer Annie Leibovitz. Ms. Leibovitz is well known for her sometimes controversial celebrity photographs including one of a naked John Lennon hugging a fully clothed Yoko Ono.

December 8, 1980 photograph of John Lennon with wife Yoko Ono taken by Annie Leibowitz. Five hours after this photo shoot, Lennon was shot dead.

December 8, 1980 photograph of John Lennon with wife Yoko Ono taken by Annie Leibowitz.

Leibovitz has said the original concept for the now legendary John Lennon and Yoko Ono Rolling Stone cover was for both to appear nude, designed to mark the release of their album “Double Fantasy.” As legend has it, Lennon was game, shedding his clothes quickly, but Ono felt uncomfortable even taking off her top. Leibovitz recalled for Rolling Stone:

“I was kinda disappointed, and I said, ‘Just leave everything on.’ We took one Polaroid, and the three of us knew it was profound right away.”

It was December 8, 1980. Five hours later, Lennon was dead – shot and killed by Mark David Chapman in front of his Manhattan apartment.

Now back to what I was saying about the Queen:

Leibowitz took the official portraits of Queen Elizabeth II in March 2007. One of the photos, shown below, shows a very serene Queen sitting in the White Drawing Room at Buckingham Palace dressed in a pale gold evening dress, fur stole, and diamond tiara. The wide shot captures the Queen gazing towards a large open window and reveals some of the room’s furnishings and a reflection of a chandelier in a mirror. The room is dark except for the soft light flooding through the open window. All is calm.

Queen Elizabeth II photographed by Annie Leibowitz, March 2007

Queen Elizabeth II, photographed by Annie Leibowitz, March 2007

The session was going smoothly until Leibovitz asked the Queen to take off her tiara (crown) to look “less dressy” for the next photo. The Queen flew into a huff and replied:

“Less dressy? What do you think this is?”

Queen Elizabeth II, photographed by Annie Leibowitz, March 2007. The Queen is not amused after having been asked by Leibowitz to take off her crown, which is actually a tiara.

The Queen was definitely not amused and the tiara stayed on the royal head.

The incident was caught on tape and included in a  BBC documentary “A Year with the Queen.” The BBC kept the footage and included it in a  promotional trailer for the film. The trailer shows the Queen telling an aide, “I’m not changing anything. I’ve had enough dressing like this, thank you very much” and storming out of the room.  The BBC later apologized and admitted that the sequence of events shown on the trailer had been misrepresented, as the Queen was in fact walking to the sitting in the second scene, not exiting. This led to a BBC scandal and a shake-up of ethics training. The event is known as “Tiaragate” and “Crowngate.” According to sources, the Queen was still furious about the incident months later.

Here’s the NBC-TV report:

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Yoko Ono (b. 1933) photo 2002

Yoko Ono (b. 1933) wearing her trademark wraparound sunglasses and sporting a tattoo. This photo by Mark C. O'Flaherty was taken in London in 2002, the year before Yoko Ono turned 70 and reprised her once-controversial stage show, "Cut Piece," in Paris.

In 2003, when Yoko Ono turned 70, she celebrated her birthday in much the same way the rest of us do. She put on her best outfit (a little black dress, of course), ordered a cake (chocolate), and invited a few friends to come to her party. And, to make it more fun, she hauled out some family photos to remember the old days and tacked them on the wall.

Sounds normal enough, right ? Hardly. The words “Yoko” and “normal” have never appeared in the same sentence before, until now. Yoko, after all, rose to fame first as an avant garde performance artist before she met and wed Beatle John Lennon. True to her fashion, Yoko staged her February 2003 birthday party to be an attention-getting bash. She invited 200 guests to one of New York’s poshest restaurants, Mr. Chow. The partygoers were an eclectic lot,  including creative types like  rockers (Lou Reed, Fred Schneider of the B-52s) and writers (Susan Sontag) as well as recording executives and media moguls. As for the decor:

The room was dominated by a blown-up picture of Ono and John Lennon with their words, “War Is Over If You Want It.” Another wall showed Ono’s “Film No. 4, Autumn,” which features 300 bare butts walking. A portion of the floor was covered with white canvas to create a “painting to be stepped on” of footprints. In another part of the party, Ono’s Bagism, a fabric bag big enough to enclose two people, was available for cavorting guests. Guests received goodie bags that contained Ono’s book “Grapefruit” and her “Box of Smile,” a mirror encased in a box. 

Yoko has been in the jaw-dropping business since 1964 when she first performed “Cut Piece” at the Sogetsu Art Center in Tokyo. At the time she was struggling for recognition as a concept artist. “Cut Piece” was her most provocative piece of that period.

In these first performances [of ‘Cut Piece’] by Ono, the artist sat kneeling on the concert hall stage, wearing her best suit of clothing, with a pair of scissors placed on the floor in front of her. Members of the audience were invited to approach the stage, one at a time, and cut a bit of her clothes off—which they were allowed to keep.” Yoko left the stage completely nude.

Click to see a film of Yoko’s 1965 Tokyo performance of “Cut Piece.” [The music by Yoko Ono was added later.]

“The Japanese audiences’ volative reaction convinced Yoko that she could not stay in Japan if she expected to attract serious attention.” So she took the show on the road – to New York then London for the fateful meeting with Lennon at the Indica Gallery. (1)

Seven months after Yoko held her birthday bash, she decided to reprise “Cut Piece” for a Paris audience, saying that she was doing it for world peace. “Come and cut a piece of my clothing wherever you like the size of less than a postcard,” she offered, “and send it to the one you love.”

Sean Lennon, the son of John Lennon and Yoko Ono, cuts away a piece of his artist mother Yoko Ono's dress as she repeats her 1960s performance "Cut Piece," in Paris.  (AP)

Sean Lennon, the son of John Lennon and Yoko Ono, cuts away a piece of his artist mother Yoko Ono's dress as she repeats her 1960s performance "Cut Piece," in Paris. (AP)

Wearing a layered black silk chiffon skirt (Chanel?) and a black blouse (Gucci?), Yoko sat in a chair onstage as audience members, including son Sean Lennon, came forward and snipped off pieces of her clothing. One woman cut a piece of her own jacket and gave it to Yoko.

“There were a few tense moments. One woman hacked rather brutally with the shears….Early on, one woman cut Yoko’s shoe…but Yoko was obviously not pleased and asked her not to do the shoe, but the damage was already done.”

Stripped down to her matching black bra, panties, and shoes, the show ended and Yoko was escorted off stage in a red kimono.

(1) Spitz, Bob. The Beatles: A Biography. New York: Little, Brown and Company, 2005.

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Before they took off on their World Tour in June of 1966, the Beatles had put the finishing touches on their new album, “Revolver.” Click below to hear the song that would prove prescient of the “Fab Four’s” horrible experience in Manila – “Taxman.”


Monday, July 4, 1966
Manila, the Philippines, the second stop for the Beatles on their 1966 World Tour
The Manila Hotel

The Beatles: (l. to r.) George Harrison, Ringo Starr, Paul McCartney, John Lennon. ca. 1966

The Beatles: (l. to r.) George Harrison, Ringo Starr, Paul McCartney, John Lennon. ca. 1966

Manila, The Philippines:

Early in the morning, Tony Barrow, the Beatles’ publicist, and Vic Lewis, their booking agent, were awakened by sharp raps on the door of their suite. Two grim-looking men in military uniforms saluted and introduced themselves as the official reception committee from Malacañang Palace, the residence of President Ferdinand and First Lady Imelda Marcos.* They’d come to make final arrangements for the Beatles’ visit to the Palace for a luncheon hosted by the First Lady. (1)

Dictator Ferdinand Marcos with wife Imelda at his 1965 inauguration in the Philippines.

Neither Barrow nor Lewis knew what they were talking about. No one had told them that the Beatles were expected to make a presidential visit. The Beatles – John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr – were sleeping, they explained, and couldn’t be disturbed. The band had just flown in from an exhausting concert in Tokyo. The “Fab Four” needed their rest, as they were schedule to give both afternoon and evening concerts in Manila that very day. Barrow and Lewis promised to pass along the request to Brian Epstein, the Beatles’ manager.

“This is not a request,” insisted the two men, one, a general, and the other, a commander, in the Philippine Army.

First Lady of the Philippines Imelda Marcos was a former beauty queen. Here she models a traditional gown. She regarded herself as a goddess and was used to having her way. 1963

Fashion icon Imelda Marcos descends from a flight with her son Bong Bong. Undated photo

That afternoon, the Beatles performed their hits songs to an audience of 35,000. Afterwards, Tony Barrow and others in the Beatle’s entourage filed into Brian Epstein‘s suite to watch coverage of the concert on the evening news. They were pleased to discover that every channel featured scenes of screaming, swooning fans caught up in Beatlemania. However, Channel 5, one of the country’s major networks, ran additional footage not seen on the other channels. The scene showed the First Lady at the Palace with her disappointed luncheon guests, 200 children. The voice-over said, “The children began to arrive at ten. They waited until two….The place cards for the Beatles at the lunch table were removed.” Imelda Marcos was very mad as she and her guests filed into the grand dining room without their guests of honor. The spin was that the Beatles had deliberately snubbed the President and Mrs. Marcos by not showing up.

Brian Epstein went into full damage control mode. He issued a hastily written apology to the First Couple and called an interview with Channel 5 in his hotel suite, in which he professed complete ignorance of the invitation and praised the Marcoses. An hour later, the interview was broadcast but Brian’s appearance was blacked-out by static interference. That’s when everyone started to get nervous.

ticket stubs to the Beatles July 4, 1966 concerts in Manila

ticket stubs to the Beatles July 4, 1966 concerts in Manila

Worry soon turned to panic. After their evening show, the Beatles noticed that their police escort had disappeared. When their car pulled up to the Manila Hotel, the gates were locked against them. While they sat their in the idling car, wondering how they were going to get up to their suite, several dozen “organized troublemakers” attacked their car, banging on the windows, rocking it back and forth, and shouting threats in several languages. Vic Lewis shouted at the driver: “Drive on! Go through the people and smash the gates down!” The driver obeyed. At the entrance, everyone in the Beatles’ entourage ran into the hotel with the angry mob snapping at their heels.

Shortly, an official appeared at Vic Lewis’ suite demanding payment of local taxes. Lewis produced a contract stating that someone else – the promoter – had that responsibility, not the Beatles. This was brushed aside. Until all taxes were paid, said the taxman, no one in the Beatles party was being allowed to leave the country. When the man left, Lewis found Barrow. “We’ve got to get out of here – now.” He called the bell hop for help with the luggage.

The manager told Lewis that no one would be coming to help. “The whole hotel is going on strike. They think you’ve insulted President Marcos.” Bomb and death threats were telephoned to the deluged British Embassy and to the four Beatles’ hotel suite.

The next morning, Paul had seen the newspaper headlines blaring BEATLES SNUB PRESIDENT. The Beatles had known nothing of the invitation. “Oh, dear,” he thought. “We’ll just say we’re sorry.” About then “things started to get really weird,” recalled Ringo. He and John were hanging out in their bathrobes when a roadie popped his head in their room and shouted, “Come on! Get out of bed! Get packed – we’re getting out of here.”

Everyone in the entourage grabbed amplifiers and suitcases and made for the main elevators, but they were turned off. They had to take the service lift down. The halls were dark and lined with staff who shouted at them in Spanish and English. It was very frightening. When they got downstairs to check out, the front desk was deserted. Even their cars were gone. Someone managed to get a Town Car and everyone squeezed in and made for the airport.

But the airport route was sabotaged. Soldiers were stationed at intersections and roads were closed. Finally, they found a back road that led to the airport. The airport was deserted. “The atmosphere was scary,” remembered Tony Barrow, “as if a bomb was due to go off.” Once the Beatles got on the escalator, the power was shut off. As the Beatles moved through the terminal, little bands of demonstrators appeared, grabbing at them and trying to hit them.

Mobs rough up the Beatles at the Manila airport. John Lennon is at upper corner, right. July 6, 1966

They checked in for their flight as quickly as possible then were herded into a lounge “where an abusive crowd and police with guns had also gathered.” The cops began to shove the Beatles back and forth. It was impossible to tell the thugs from the military police. According to Ringo, “they started spitting at us, spitting on us.” The Beatles hid among a group of nuns and monks huddled by an alcove. Other members of their entourage, though, were kicked and beaten.

Finally, everyone was allowed to run across the tarmac to the plane. Vic Lewis felt sure he’d get a bullet in the back. The Beatles were terrified they’d be killed before they entered the safety of the airplane. Paul said, “When we got on the plane, we were all kissing the seats. It was feeling as if we’d found sanctuary. We had definitely been in a foreign country where all the rules had changed and they carried guns. So we weren’t too gung-ho about it at all.” Ringo remembered being afraid of going to jail. Ferdinand Marcos was a dictator (who, in a few years, would declare martial law in the Philippines.)

Everyone was poised for the plane to take off when the authorities came back on board and detained Tony Barrow for thiry minutes. For the plane to be allowed to take off with the Beatles on it, Tony was forced to pay a “leaving Manila tax” that amounted to the full amount of money the Beatles had made in their concerts before 80,000 fans.

Once the plane lifted off and everyone was safely in the air, all the anger of the past 24 hours boiled over. The Beatles blamed Brian for the debacle. He’d obviously received the invitation in Japan, ignoring it or misleading the Philippine authorities.

Beatlemania. October 1965, London, England, UK.  Policemen struggle to restrain young Beatles fans outside Buckingham Palace as The Beatles receive their MBEs (Member of the British Empire) in 1965.

Beatlemania. October 1965, London, England, UK. Policemen struggle to restrain young Beatles fans outside Buckingham Palace as The Beatles receive their MBEs (Member of the British Empire) in 1965.

By the time the Beatles had landed in India, they had made a command decision. This would be their last tour. They were never going to go on another tour again. Never again, swore John, was he going to risk his life for a stadium filled with screaming 13-year-old girls.

Brian said, “Sorry, lads, we have got something fixed up for Shea Stadium. If we cancel it you are going to lose a million dollars.” So they played New York’s Shea Stadium later that summer. It was the first stop on their U.S. tour, their final tour as the Beatles.


Click here to read: “Imelda Marcos Almost Gets the Beatles Killed Part 2”

(1) Spitz, Bob. The Beatles: The Biography. (New York: Little, Brown and Company, 2005)

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