Thursday, April 16, 2015

John Lennon sees a UFO in New York City, 1974

from Dangerous Minds:

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.)

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