JOHN LENNON PLANNED TO REUNITE THE BEATLES
May Pang's disclosure rewrites history of the most
influential pop music group
by Rip Rense
(May 2, 2008)
copyright 2008 Rip Rense, The Rip Post, all rights
WATCH: LENNON TALKS
ABOUT A POSSIBLE BEATLES REUNION DURING THE "LOST WEEKEND"
John Lennon paramour May Pang revealed that Lennon---the man who
instigated The Beatles' break-up---actively planned to reunite them in 1974,
but that "logistics" got in the way, The Rip Post has learned.
This is the first report
ever that Lennon not only wanted to make new Beatles music, but planned to
Pang’s revelation came during a
lengthy interview with Casey Piotrowski, host of the nationally syndicated
weekly radio program, “The Beatles Show,” in which she said that the
ex-Beatle wanted to record one new song with the group as a prelude to a
possible formal reunion.
"If one (song) comes
around and it works, maybe we'll do another,” Lennon said, according to
Pang. "It was to be behind the scenes. A quick one-off, and let’s see from
interview with Pang aired May 3 on WPMD-FM,
the Cerritos College station, and later in 23 other markets across the
In a follow-up interview
with The Rip Post, Pang confirmed the reunion story, and added that
Lennon considered upstate New York, possibly Syracuse, as site for the new
Beatles session. There was no talk of song titles, and the plan never got
past the talking stage, but Pang said it was clear that this was something
Lennon “absolutely” intended to do.
John Lennon and May Pang, 1975.
thought about it at one point, and we were considering it early on in
’74, just for the hell of it,” said 57-year-old Pang, reached in New York.
“Harry Nilsson wanted to be a part of it. We said, oh, that would be a good
idea---a one-off, and we would do it in the fall. We were thinking about
upstate New York, like Syracuse, because Ringo couldn’t be in New York City.
We were in the middle of a lawsuit and he didn’t want to be subpoenaed.”
revelation is not in Pang’s new book of snapshots and short reminiscences
based on her time with Lennon, “Instamatic
Karma” (St. Martin’s), and was not in her first book about Lennon, “Loving
John,” published in 1983. She has not mentioned it in other recent
“It could just be that no
one ever asked the question of her before: did John ever speak about
reuniting the Beatles?” said radio host Piotrowski. “The remarks (to me)
came so naturally and were so unrehearsed that I absolutely believe them.
And, if she was just trying to sell the book, she would have put that
information in there.”
Asked why the report had
not come out before, Pang said she erroneously thought she had included it
in her first book, “Loving John.”
“I thought I’d put it in
there,” she told The Rip Post. “And then people said to me, ‘I don’t
remember reading that!’ . . .But I think a lot of things were cut out. See,
I wrote about 600 pages, and my co-author (Henry Edwards) was really the
point man they went to. I was a novice, not the seasoned person. If I wanted
something in, they didn’t consult me. I may say it, but half the time it
didn’t go in. . .So in the end, I did not realize what was in or wasn’t. But
that was one of the things that I did talk about. I found my 600 page
original manuscript, and I’m considering putting back stories that didn’t
make it the first time.”
The disclosure rewrites
The group split up at
Lennon’s instigation in a chaos of recriminations between him and
McCartney in 1970, following years of increasing disharmony involving the
direction of the band’s music, their Apple Corps business, and personal
frictions. The pair subsequently engaged in public sniping, and feuded on
their solo albums. They traded shots, for instance, with Lennon’s “How
Do You Sleep?” on the “Imagine” album (“so Sgt. Pepper took you by
surprise. . .”) and McCartney’s “Too
Many People” (“you took your lucky break and broke it in two.”)
Lennon let loose with a caustic rant in an interview with Jann Wenner that
became chapter-and-verse history (the 1971 book, “Lennon Remembers”) rather
than the passing outburst it was.
The conventional thinking
is that the ex-Beatles never resolved their differences in Lennon’s
lifetime, and that McCartney and Lennon in particular were in little more
than rare telephonic contact at the time of Lennon’s horrific murder in
Yet Pang, who spent
almost two years with the Lennon in 1974-’75, and remained in contact with
him to the end of his life, describes things very differently. McCartney,
she said, was a very frequent visitor during her time with Lennon, who was
also on good terms with George and Ringo. (A sloppy party jam session from
the time with McCartney on drums and Lennon, Stevie Wonder, and others has
long been bootlegged.)
“I saw all of them," she
said. "We had three in one room in each instance. In L.A., it was John,
Paul, and Ringo, and in New York, it was John, Paul and George. And you
would never in a million years think that they had problems.”
She described Lennon
as feeling “sentimental” about The Beatles days, during her time with
him. He was, she emphasized, at peace with his Beatle past, and the other
“I think he was,
absolutely. There was no animosity. We spent all this
time with Ringo,
you know. We went out to L.A., Ringo played on (Nilsson's) ‘Pussycats,’ John
wrote a song for him (“Goodnight
Vienna”), and then of course, we were with George in New York, and he
said, ‘If you need my help, I’ll come out, I’ll work with you.’ He cared for
his brothers. He was okay with all of them, including Paul.”
Lennon’s fond feelings
for The Beatles are, in fact, probably hinted at in his song, “#9
Dream,” from the number-one 1974 album that Pang coordinated and did art
direction for, “Walls and Bridges.” With lyrics including “So long ago/
was it in a dream/ I thought I could feel music touching my soul,” the
song is thought to have been a paean to his days with the band---certainly
quite the flipside of the line, “I don’t believe in Beatles” from "God"
on the 1970 “John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band” album.
The reunion idea first
came up in early 1974 conversation in Los Angeles during the period Lennon
dubbed his “Lost Weekend”---the artistically productive 18-month separation
from wife Yoko Ono, during which he caroused with friends, recorded “Walls
and Bridges,” “Rock ‘n’ Roll,”
Nilsson’s “Pussycats” album, and performed live with Elton John.
“We had been hanging
out with Ringo a lot in L.A.,” said Pang, who was Lennon’s constant
companion during the period. “And it just came out of conversation, hanging
out: ‘Oh, wouldn’t it be great if we did this one gig,’ and they’d start
talking about it. ‘Yeah, well, why don’t we do this, and George would do
that, and Paul. . .’ So it was just thrown around, and everybody was like,
well. . .let’s do that.”
Or, as she told radio
“It was early in '74 when
it was discussed. (Quoting John) ‘Maybe we could do it for Fall of '74.’ And
Harry Nilsson even said, "Oh, I want to sing", you know? But, obviously,
certain things were not meant to be, as I would say."
A date for the reunion
was never firmed up beyond the fall.
“Well, it was a time
frame, not so much a date, but a time frame where they were thinking about
it. It was, ‘Yeah, we’ve got to talk to Paul, let’s think about this.’ Of
course at that point, in L.A., Mal Evans was there (the Beatles’ longtime,
beloved “roadie,” who was killed when he allegedly drunkenly aimed a rifle
at Los Angeles Police responding to a call for help from his girlfriend),
and Ringo. John always knew that if he really just sort of like focused in,
it could probably be done.”
What were the “logistics”
that got in the way of what would have been one of the most historic events
in music history?
“Everybody had other
plans,” said Pang, bringing to mind Lennon’s famous line from his 1980
song, “Beautiful Boy:”
“life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans.”
“Yes. Right. Exactly,”
she said. “Because nobody took the helm. If you really think about it,
everybody had something to do. This would have taken four different heads,
four different parties, to make it work. They were no longer under one roof,
they were under four different roofs. Everybody had their own manager, or
rep, or lawyer, or whatever else you want to call it. . . . It definitely
was more about the timing. Everybody was everywhere. George was getting his
tour together. Paul was getting ready for whatever he was doing, and Ringo
was doing his album.”
features a collection of snapshots mostly taken by Pang during her time with
the ex-Beatle. The photos show a very happy and playful Lennon, Nilsson,
Ringo, and various others who comprise a who’s-who of rock ‘n’ roll, but the
most historically important shot in the book is one showing John and Paul
relaxing together in the back yard of Lennon’s rented Santa Monica beach
house in 1974. There are scant other known images of the two ex-bandmates
together during the 1970’s.
Rare photo (not by Pang) of
Lennon & McCartney reunited at John's rented Santa Monica beach
house, 1974. Taken the same afternoon as Pang's photo in "Instamatic
Karma," this was snapped by Keith Moon's assistant. Probably the last time John and Paul were photographed
together. L to R: Lennon, Moon, McCartney, Linda McCartney.
Note Lennon is holding a Polaroid---one of Pang's shots. That's her
hand on his shoulder.
Click photo for larger image.
that proposed reunion did not happen, there was one other opportunity.
Lennon did consider writing with McCartney again, and in 1975 expressed a
desire to join his ex-bandmate in New Orleans for a recording session. Pang
“In January of ’75,
after The Beatles had officially broken up, and John had signed the
contract of the dissolution of The Beatles---he signed it at Disneyworld in
the Polynesian Hotel---we were home in New York. We had Paul and Linda
(McCartney) coming by, they were dropping in and out of our apartment quite
frequently. And Paul mentioned to John, ‘Oh, Linda and I are going to go
down to New Orleans. . .thinking about going there to record an album.’
“And then, all of a
sudden, John turned around to me one morning and he said, ‘What would you
think if I write with Paul again?’ And I spun my head around like ‘The
Exorcist,’ and I looked at him, and said, ‘Write with Paul? I think it’s a
great idea.’ He said, ‘Why do you think it would be a great idea?’ I said,
‘Well, you know, the two of you, solo-wise, are good, but the two of you
together, when you write, it’s something special. Nobody can beat that team
writing that you have. Look at all the Beatles’ stuff. Look at all the stuff
you’ve done.’ He sort of sat back and said, ‘Okay.’”
"Okay" as in he
intended to do it?
“Okay in the sense of
considering it in his head,” Pang continued. “We talked about it, and he
said, ‘Let’s go down to New Orleans. I’ve never been, and I’d like to go.’ I
said okay. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen."
If it had, she believes
it might well have turned into a Beatles session:
“I knew that if I got
him down there, it would have started something. I knew that it was that
close. I knew that he had already been itching for certain things. . .John
was ready. He was just open for hanging out with Paul, at home---in New
York, and L.A., but especially in New York. The two of them would pop up and
visit all the time. We’d go out to dinner around the corner from where we
lived, out for drinks, we were hanging out with them.”
But it was not to be. In
what was to be his last concert appearance,
joined Elton John on stage at Madison Square Garden on Nov. 28, 1974,
reconciled with Ono backstage, and the New Orleans trip never happened.
In a poignant and comical
incident that plays like heavy-handed symbolism in a movie, one of the last
times Pang saw Lennon and McCartney together happened one morning in heavy
New York traffic, just weeks before the Elton John concert. Lennon had tried
to contact McCartney by phone to set up dinner, but Paul was out. So John
and May set out in a taxi to keep a business appointment, only to find
themselves stuck in traffic.
"It was really quite
funny because we were in the taxicab, I think on 60th Street,
between 5th and Madison, and we looked over, and John goes, 'Oh
my God.' . .And he looks in the cab next to him, and who’s in the cab but
Paul and Linda. And he rolls down the window, and he’s yelling, 'Hey, Paul!
We tried to get you this morning.' Paul says, 'We’re on our way to see (I
think it was) Lee,' his father-in-law. And John goes, 'Yeah, we’re on our
way to Capitol.' Paul goes, 'Maybe we’ll have dinner later.' And now the
taxis are moving, and the two guys are sticking their heads out, and our
taxi went one way, and they went in a different direction."
Before Pang’s report of
Lennon’s desire to reunite The Beatles, there were only a couple of
indicators of his attitude on the subject. In a 1972 interview with then-KABC
Eyewitness News reporter Elliot Mintz, Lennon said of a reunion,“It’s quite
possible, yes. I don’t know why the hell we’d do it, but it’s possible.” In
1979, as part of an Apple Corps lawsuit against “Beatlemania,” Lennon
testified in a written statement that The Beatles still had an ongoing
interest in their trademark, and might reunite to record some new music for
a film autobiography.
The closest the band ever
came to regrouping happened on the 1973 “Ringo” album on the
the Greatest,” which featured John, George, Ringo, Billy Preston
(organ), Klaus Voorman (bass.)
(McCartney also performed on the album on two songs, making it the only
post-Beatles album that included all four group members.) During the
“Greatest” session in Los Angeles, Harrison allegedly suggested going on
tour with that band configuration, prompting Lennon to respond, simply, “Are
you daft?” While Lennon worked frequently with Ringo, and Ringo with
Harrison, McCartney steered clear of his ex-mates in favor of his career
with a new band, Wings.
There never has
previously been a report of Lennon planning to become a Beatle again,
prior to Pang's account.
Any such thoughts or impulses seemed to fade, if not die outright, after
Lennon went back to Ono, had a second son (Sean), and entered his reclusive, stay-at-home “house
husband” period that ended with the release of the “Double Fantasy” album in
1980. In one instance during that time, McCartney dropped in unannounced
at the Dakota, guitar in tow, only to have Lennon allegedly turn him away,
saying he was busy, remarking, "It´s not like the old days, y´know - you
can´t just turn up when you want."
The Pang revelation puts
a different light on what ultimately became a sad story. As one longtime
Beatles enthusiast put it, “It does my heart good to know that John and the
others got along, and that John wanted to put the band back together. It
takes a sad song, and makes it better.”
It also arguably puts to
rest any controversy lingering over the so-called “virtual Beatles reunion”
of the mid-90’s, in which the three remaining Beatles added music to three
Lennon home recordings furnished by Ono (two
of which were
finished and released.) Bill King, longtime editor of the oldest Beatles fan
publication in the United States,
“At the time of the
‘Threetles’ sessions, there was a segment of fandom and the critical
community who dismissed what they were doing, saying, ‘John wouldn't have
been part of it if he was alive.’ Pointing out that John himself had floated
this reunion idea makes that argument pretty much invalid. I'm not sure John
would have initiated a reunion, but if it had been for the purposes of the
‘Anthology,’ I think his earlier statement and Yoko's participation indicate
he would have been part of it.”
As for the reunion
that “logistics” apparently prevented, Pang said there is no indication
of what, if any, song titles Lennon might have been considering at the time
“because we didn’t get to that spot.” And yet. . .
“Knowing him, I knew that
he wanted to re-record certain songs for himself, you know? He always wanted
to record ‘Help!’ again. He didn’t like the version that went out. He wanted
to do a much slower
Rip Rense has covered The Beatles for 35 years for many newspapers and
magazines, and is a longtime contributing editor to Beatlefan magazine.
DID LENNON CALL IT A 'LOST WEEKEND?'
May Pang and friend.
"What do you say when you’re sitting next to your wife, and
people are asking you, 'What was it like being in L.A. and hanging
out with your friends?' What is the politically correct thing to say
at that moment? People forget the obvious. And the obvious is,
he’s sitting next to his wife. In fact, in most interviews, when
John was asked that question, they also noted that Yoko was sitting
next to John. What was he going to say? I had the best time?
That was all out the window. It’s an obvious, but nobody says it. In
that year and a half that I spent with him, I think we did more work
in his solo career than at any other time. Not only that, but he got
his first number-one album with a number-one single. And on '# 9
Dream,' I’m glad that I was the one who was singing on there. That
was my voice, which a lot of people didn’t realize. It’s not only
that whispering (on the song, a voice whispers repeatedly, "John')
but I also sing with him. In the new video (Yoko Ono) did to the
song, she has her mouthing my voice! As I said, Milli
Vanilli happens again. (Note: in the
video done to accompany the
re-release of “Walls and Bridges,” Yoko
indeed appears to speak Pang’s whispered calls of “John.”)
WHERE TO HEAR CASEY PIOTROWKSI'S FULL
INTERVIEW WITH MAY PANG:
Piotrowski: "Did John ever talk about the four of them getting
together? Do you think it would have happened?"
Pang: "Yes. We did."
Pang: "Absolutely. (Quoting John) Maybe we'll do one."
Piotrowski: "One song?"
Pang: (Quoting John) "If one comes around and it works, maybe we'll
Pang: "But, yeah, we talked about it. And the first one that they
talked about was early on, because it was early in '74 when it was
discussed. (Quoting John) ‘Maybe we could do it for Fall of '74.’
And Harry Nilsson even said, 'Oh, I want to sing,' you know? But,
obviously, certain things were not meant to be, as I would say."
Piotrowski: "It just never happened."
Pang: "It was just logistics. It was just a bunch of things going on
at the time."
Cerritos College station:
http://www.wpmd.org/ and. . .
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