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You are viewing JOHN LENNON


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In 1967, rock ’n’ roll was flourishing, the hippie movement was happening and pop sensations (such as the Beatles) had gone from being perceived as teen heartthrobs to experimental artists. But the old guard that controlled and wrote for newspapers and magazines still appeared to regard rock music as an inconvenient fad.

Trade papers, like Billboard, covered younger band’s sales and popularity, but rarely dug deeper into the significance of the music. Self-published fanzines were lovingly devoted to their favorite musicians, but rarely lasted more than a handful of issues. Aspiring journalist Jann Wenner saw an opportunity.

The New York native had moved west to attend the University of California, Berkeley, where he wrote for the student newspaper. While writing for The Daily Californian in 1965, he struck up a friendship with Ralph J. Gleason, the San Francisco Chronicle’s jazz writer who was nearly 30 years his senior. Unlike many other jazz aficionados, Gleason appreciated rock, Bob Dylan and soul singers. He soon became Wenner’s mentor.

“He loved Lenny Bruce and politics. He had an open mind and an open ear,” Wenner recalled. “He revered the rock poets, but he always had perspective, which was the name of his column: ‘Perspectives.’ I’d be like, ‘Jerry Garcia is the greatest guitarist in the world!’ He’d say, ‘But, Jann, have you heard of Wes Montgomery?’”

A couple of years after their first meeting, during which time Wenner had dropped out of college, the 21-year-old rock fan told Gleason about his big idea: a rock ’n’ roll magazine that would explore all aspects of the music, but also hold itself to high journalistic standards. Gleason was intrigued and they started to think about magazine names – the Electric Typewriter, the New Times and, eventually, Rolling Stone. Although Wenner would later write in the first issue that the name was a reference to the Muddy Waters tune and the famous rock band and the Dylan song, the latter was the real inspiration.The pair had an idea, a name and two writers (themselves), but no money or staff to begin. Wenner borrowed money from family, as well as his future wife’s parents, and enlisted the help of volunteers. Those who wouldn’t work for free, such as photographer Baron Wolman, received stock and retained the rights to their contributions.

In the fall of 1967, Rolling Stone began operating out of a loft at 746 Brannan Street in San Francisco, a space Wenner had secured by promising to use the owner’s downstairs printing press. A staff that included Wenner’s girlfriend Jane Schindelheim, her roommate Angie Kucherenko, art director John Williams and professional journalist Michael Lydon was small, but dedicated. Many early articles would be credited to RS Editors or not carry a byline at all. “We didn’t put our names on everything,” Lydon said, “because that would have showed how few people were working for the paper.”

However, Lydon did have his name on the first issue’s big page-one story, a piece investigating some missing profits from that year’s Monterey International Pop Music Festival. The cover, which looked more like a newspaper in the early going, also featured pieces about local band Jefferson Airplane and local pop/rock radio station KFRC. It was a very California-centric first issue.

That is, with the exception of the element that everyone remembers about the first Rolling Stone cover. Just a couple days before printing, Wenner selected a photo of John Lennon, a promotional shot from the Richard Lester film How I Won the War, which was hitting U.S. theaters at the same time the magazine was introducing itself. “It was the last piece of the puzzle for the issue,” Wenner said at a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Exhibit highlighting 50 years of Rolling Stone. “It was a defining cover, because it encompassed music, movies and politics .


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Jonas Mekas: ‘At the time I saw a lot of John and Yoko, and I always enjoyed our time together.’ Photograph: Jonas Mekas/Gretchen Berg/Courtesy Anthology Editions Copyright Jonas Mekas


I began taking pictures in a serious way just after the second world war. I had been in a labour camp and, when the war ended, a displaced person’s camp in Germany; so my earliest images depicted the life of refugees.

I came to the US on 30 October 1949, aged 27. I knew someone in Chicago and he guaranteed me a job so I could get my green card. But when I landed in New York I decided it would be foolish to go anywhere else: it was electrifying, exciting. Everything was changing in the arts world – it was about to explode, with Marlon Brando, Ginsberg, the beat generation.

I didn’t care for the city itself; I barely noticed it. It was the intensity of life that caught me: I immersed myself in poetry, theatre, ballet and cinema. A few weeks after I arrived, I bought a 16mm film camera and started to make movies. The war had taken my growing-up period away from me, so I decided to catch up.

By 1960, I was editing Film Culture magazine, and that’s when I first met Yoko Ono. She was studying in New York and making her earliest work. In order to settle here, she needed a green card, so she came to me for a job. I was her sponsor.

A few years later, she went to London and met John Lennon. They returned together, and on his first night in New York, we all met for coffee. In December 1970 they came to the Invisible Cinema, a specially designed theatre I had just opened on Lafayette Street. I organised a little film festival and Yoko made two films for me in 10 days: one called Legs, and one called Fly. Legs consisted of a camera panning around different legs, mostly belonging to John and Yoko’s friends; Fly followed a fly in close up as it walked over the body of a nude female.

The cinema was designed for 70 people; when you were in your winged seat, you saw only the screen – not your neighbour or the person in front of you. The walls and seats were black velvet so that during the projection everything was dark but the film. In this photograph, we’re waiting for a movie to start.

At the time I saw a lot of John and Yoko, and I always enjoyed our time together. He was open, relaxed, very spontaneous. It felt like anything could happen, at any moment. Yoko was more controlled, but she was very warm and we remain good friends. She loved New York as much as I did. She once wrote to me from Japan, where she was working: “I’m coming to the end of my wits,” she wrote. “New York is my only town. Kiss the pavements… for me.”

It was through her that I came to dance with Fred Astaire, for her 1972 film, Imagine: he danced across a room, and I followed him, with no rehearsal. It was brief, but memorable.

I think Yoko is misunderstood. Those who blame her for the breakup of the Beatles – that’s not the woman I know. She and John were very sweet, very much in love. I’m lucky to have met them; I was lucky, too, that I had to leave my country, and arrive in New York when I did.



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Yoko Ono will share the story of the making of John Lennon’s album “Imagine” in a “landmark publication” with Thames & Hudson.

The book is due for release in October 2018 and will contain “unseen photographs, artefacts and new interviews” with the people who were there when the album was conceived and recorded.

This year Ono belatedly received an official co-credit on the album’s title track, in accordance with Lennon’s wishes.

Ono said: “A lot has been written about the creation of the song, the album and the film of ‘Imagine’, mainly by people who weren’t there, so I’m very pleased and grateful that now, for the first time, so many of the participants have kindly given their time to ‘gimme some truth’ in their own words and pictures.”

Tristan de Lancey, head of illustrated reference at Thames & Hudson, signed the title directly from Ono.


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While staying in the Himalayas, John Lennon would write several letters to fans, expressing the value of their newfound meditative practices. Many of these letters were published in The John Lennon Letters, find two of them below.


Dear Beth:

Thank you for your letter and your kind thoughts. When you read that we are in India searching for peace, etc, it is not that we need faith in God or Jesus — we have full faith in them; it is only as if you went to stay with Billy Graham for a short time — it just so happens that our guru (teacher) is Indian — and what is more natural for us to come to India — his home. He also holds courses in Europe and America — and we will probably go to some of these as well — to learn — and to be near him.

Transcendental meditation is not opposed to any religion — it is based on the basic truths of all religions — the common denominator. Jesus said: “The Kingdom of Heaven is within you” — and he meant just that — “The Kingdom of Heaven is at hand” — not in some far distant time — or after death — but now.

Meditation takes the mind down to that level of consciousness which is Absolute Bliss (Heaven) and through constant contact with that state — “the peace that surpasses all understanding” — one gradually becomes established in that state even when one is not meditating. All this gives one actual experience of God — not by detachment or renunciation — when Jesus was fasting etc in the desert 40 days & nights he would have been doing some form of meditation — not just sitting in the sand and praying — although me it will be a true Christian — which I try to be with all sincerity — it does not prevent me from acknowledging Buddha — Mohammed — and all the great men of God. God bless you — jai guru dev.

with love,

John Lennon


Dear Mr. Bulla,

Thanks for your letter. If every request like yours was granted — there would be no “huge treasure” as you call it. You say “peace of mind minus all other things on earth is equal to nothing” — this doesn’t make sense. To have peace of mind one would have to have all that one desires — otherwise where is the peace of mind?

Even a “poor” clerk can travel the world — as many people do — including friends of mine some of whom are at this academy now, all equals “poor.” All you need is initiative — If you don’t have this I suggest you try transcendental meditation through which all things are possible.

With love,

John Lennon
Jai guru dev


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John’s 38th and Sean’s 3rd Birthday, Tavern on the Green, 1978

Photos by Nishi F. Saimaru




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Paul has remembered John on what would have been his 77th birthday.

The musician wrote he was “reaching out to Johnny on his birthday” in a post on Twitter alongside an old photograph of the pair.

In the black and white snap, Paul is reaching across a recording studio towards Lennon.

Ringo paid tribute with a photo of the pair in their Beatles days alongside the message: “They say it’s your birthday peace and love”.


The Harrison family paid tribute with a photo of John, in 1964.