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October 10, 2015

23 Facts You May Not Know About John Lennon

John Lennon was the leader and founding member of the Beatles. Whether as a singer, composer, musician, writer, or actor, John was a true original. Not only was he a great artist, but he was a truly fascinating man. To celebrate what would have been the late Beatle's 75th birthday, let’s take a look at a few facts you might not have known about one of Rock's most unforgettable icons:

1. He was a choir boy and a boy scout

Yes, John Lennon, the great rock ‘n roll rebel and iconoclast, started his singing career as a choir boy at St. Peter’s church and was a member of the 3rd Allerton Boy Scout troop.

John Lennon as a baby

2. Elvis Presley inspired his first band

Elvis Presley's instant notoriety inspired 16 year old Lennon to create a band called the Quarry Men (named after his school). Lennon soon met Paul McCartney at a church event on July 6th, 1957. McCartney joined the Quarry Men then a year later introduced Lennon to George Harrison, which started the journey towards The Beatles.

The Quarrymen performing in Rosebery Street, Liverpool on 22 June 1957. (Left to right: Hanton, Griffiths, Lennon, Garry, Shotton, and Davis)

3. He was the last Beatle to learn how to drive

John got his driver’s license at the age of 24 (Feb. 15, 1965). This late attempt at driving seems to be for good reason- he was a terrible driver. He finally gave up driving after he totaled his Aston-Martin in 1969 on a trip to Scotland with his wife, Yoko Ono, his son, Julian, and Kyoko, Ono’s daughter. Lennon needed 17 stitches after the accident. He and Yoko mounted the wrecked car on a pillar at their home in England. He always used a chauffeur or driver after this incident.

The Beatles congratulate John Lennon on passing his driving test in Weybridge, Surrey, 1965.

4. He was the only Beatle who didn’t become a full-time vegetarian

George Harrison was the first Beatle vegetarian; according to most sources, he became an official vegetarian in 1965. Paul McCartney joined the “veggie” ranks a few years later. Ringo became a vegetarian not so much for spiritual reasons, like Paul and George, but because of health problems. John had toyed with vegetarianism in the sixties, but he always ended up eating meat, one way or another.

John Lennon, Paul McCartney and George Harrison sharing the breakfast experience.

5. He was featured on the first Rolling Stone magazine cover

It's an incredible honor for any musician to be featured on the cover of Rolling Stone, but John Lennon was the first person ever to be featured on the cover! Back on November 9th, 1967, he was the cover story.

The first issue of Rolling Stone was published in San Francisco. The cover featured a photo of John Lennon dressed army fatigues for his then recent film How I Won the War.

6. Two of his true loves were caffeine and breakfast

Lennon publicly struggled with his weight after a reporter called him, "the fat Beatle" back in 1965, but that didn't curb his love for breakfast. Secretary/lover, May Pang said that Lennon loved cooking and eating a full english breakfast (complete with black pudding). He also had a taste for junk food ("Walls and Bridges was made on Whoppers and Pizza," he reportedly admitted). His other true love was caffeine; he was constantly consuming coffee and black tea.

John Lennon and his wife, Yoko Ono share a cake at the Apple offices in London, 1969.

7. He loved the ocean

Lennon was raised in a port town, Liverpool, so it's no surprise that he liked the ocean. But in reality, the man loved the ocean. He wrote about it in many songs (You Are Here, Beautiful Boy and more). He even used it as a means of meditation and relaxation. He chartered a sailboat ride from NYC to Bermuda to record demos for Double Fantasy and took that time with the ocean to quit smoking.

Tyler Coneys, left, was a member of the crew on the Megan Jaye, the 43-foot sloop on which John Lennon sailed to Bermuda in 1980.

8. One of his favorite purchases was his Gorilla Suit

In an interview with good friend and reporter, Maureen Cleave, Lennon admitted that along with a huge altar crucifix, a pair of crutches, and an enormous Bible he bought in Chester, one of his favorite possessions was his Gorilla Suit.

"I thought I might need a gorilla suit," he said; he seemed sad about it. "I've only worn it twice. I thought I might pop it on in the summer and drive round in the Ferrari. We were all going to get them and drive around in them but I was the only one who did. I've been thinking about it and if I didn't wear the head it would make an amazing fur coat-with legs, you see. I would like a fur coat but I've never run into any."

Reporter Maureen Cleave, a good friend of John Lennon's, wrote a personality article about him that would be published in the March 4th 1966 edition of the London Evening Standard.

9. John Lennon once almost beat a man to death

This one takes a bit of explaining. There had long been rumors that Lennon was gay and one night the rumors lead to things getting far out of hand. DJ Bob Wooler was a close friend to the band, having presented them on stage over 300 times.

It all happened on June 18, 1963, Paul's 21st birthday. Wooler had been joking around with John and said (with heavy gay intimations): “Come on John, what really happened with you and Brian (Epstein)? Everybody knows anyway, so tell us.”

John, in a drunken rage, proceeded to beat the crap out of a shocked Bob Wooler, actually kicking him in the ribs again and again, as he lay on the ground in a bloody heap.

Lennon himself said: “I realized I was actually going to kill him… I just saw it like a screen. If I hit him once more, that’s really going to be it. I really got shocked and for the first time thought: ‘I can kill this guy.’” Wooler was rushed to the hospital and given treatment for a myriad of injuries, including broken ribs.

Paul McCartney and John Lennon, with Bob Wooler (The Cavern Club's DJ) in the summer of 1961.

10. He hated his own voice

Incredibly, one of the greatest singers in the history of rock music, John Lennon hated his own voice and loved to double-track his records. He would often ask the Beatles producer, George Martin, to cover the sound of his voice: “Can’t you smother it with tomato ketchup or something?”

Singing his heart out, Hamburg, 1966.

11. He was dissatisfied with all the Beatles’ records

Dining with his former producer, George Martin, one night years after the band had split up, John revealed to Martin that he’d like to re-record every Beatles song. Completely amazed, Martin asked him, “Even ‘Strawberry Fields’?” His response, “Especially ‘Strawberry Fields'”.

John Lennon is seen with George Martin, the band's producer often dubbed the fifth Beatle, who first signed the Beatles to his Parlophone label when they were unknown.

12. He loved to play Monopoly

During his Beatle days, John was a devout Monopoly player. He had his own Monopoly set he’d bring with him and often played in his hotel room or on planes. He was crazy about the properties “Boardwalk” and “Park Place”. He reportedly didn’t generally care too much if he lost the game, as long as he had “Boardwalk” and “Park Place” in his possession.

Beatles monopoly

13. He sometimes slept in a coffin

According to Allan Williams, an early manager for the Beatles, John liked to sleep in an old coffin. Williams had the old coffin on the premises of his coffee bar “The Jacaranda”. As a gag, John would frequently nap in it.

John Lennon sleeping

14. He once saw a UFO

According to the Beatle himself, he saw a UFO from his terrace on 53rd Street in Manhattan! It was August 23rd, 1974, and he wandered out stark naked to see a UFO clear as day hovering above. He even summoned his secretary May Pang who claims to have seen it, too. There were a number of calls to the police that day from others in the neighborhood with similar sightings.

John Lennon and girlfriend May Pang at the Beacon Theatre for SGT. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band on November 17, 1974 in New York.

15. The best lyric Lennon ever wrote

A friend once asked John the best lyric he ever wrote. “That’s easy”, replied Lennon, “All you need is love”.

On June 25, 1967, the Beatles participated in the first worldwide TV special called “Our World”. During this special, the Beatles introduced All You Need is Love, one of their most famous and recognizable songs.

16. John was originally supposed to sing lead on the Beatles’ first record Love Me Do (1962)

John sang lead on a great majority of the early Beatle records, but Paul took the lead on their very first record. The lead was originally supposed to be John’s, but because John had to play the harmonica, it was instead given to Paul.

The Beatles, EMI Studios, Abbey Road, 4 September 1962.

17. The last time he saw Paul was April 24, 1976

Paul was visiting him at John’s New York apartment. They were watching “Saturday Night Live” together when producer Lorne Michaels, as a gag, offered the Beatles $3,000 to come on the show. John and Paul almost took a cab to the show, but finally decided against it. (It would have been one of the great moments in television history.

John Lennon and Paul McCartney in 1965.

18. Bob Dylan introduced Lennon to marijuana

The Beatles met Bob Dylan during the end of their U.S. tour on August 28th, 1964. The artists were introduced by their mutual friend, writer Al Aronowitz, and they spent time together in the Beatles’ hotel room. Many believe Dylan turned The Beatles on to marijuana for the first time, which heavily influenced the band in both their image and songwriting.

Bob Dylan proudly introduced John Lennon and the rest of The Beatles to pot. Both LSD and reefer were hugely influential to the band. In fact, Lennon referred to Rubber Soul as, “the pot album” and Revolver as, “the acid album.”

19. Lennon and Bowie wrote Fame together

John Lennon and David Bowie had a mutual hatred for fame and all it entailed. This shared disdain, plus an intense jam session, would evolve into one of Bowie's most famous songs. Bowie had invited Lennon over to screw around with some music and after many conversations discussing the stresses of fame they wrote and recorded the song.

Lennon ended up playing rhythm guitar on the track and you can even hear him on the background vocals.

John Lennon and David Bowie, 1975.

20. His last concert performance was during Elton John's set

Back in 1974, Elton John bet Lennon that if Whatever Gets You Through the Night (a song they had collaborated on) hit #1 on the billboard charts, Lennon would play it with him at Madison Square Garden. Well, it hit #1 and Lennon was a man of his word. And they didn't just play Whatever Gets You Through the Night but also Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds and I Saw Her Standing There.

It would be John's last major concert appearance.

Elton John and John Lennon at Madison Square Garden, 1974.

21. He loved the B52's

Lennon heard Rock Lobster by the B-52's in 1979 while in a disco in Bermuda. He instantly recognized Cindy Wilson's scream at the end of the song as an homage to Yoko Ono. After that moment, he and Yoko listened to the B-52's album again and again while working on their Double Fantasy album.

Right before his death, Lennon had said that The B-52s’ debut album was his favorite album of all time.

The cover art for The B-52's by The B-52's.

22. The last photograph of John Lennon

In this last photo of John Lennon while he was alive, he was signing an album to the person who was to assassinate him a few hours later. John obligingly signed a copy of his latest album Double Fantasy on the morning of his death for his killer. Later that same day, John returned from the recording studio and was gunned down by Mark David Chapman. Morbidly, a photographer later sneaked into the morgue containing John’s body and snapped a photo of it before it was cremated. John’s body was cremated the day after his assassination. Yoko Ono has never revealed the whereabouts of the ashes or what she did with them.

The man who shot John Lennon, Mark David Chapman, appeared in the last photo taken of the musician. He was asking for an autograph.

23. His final resting place remains unknown

Lennon was cremated after his tragic murder on December 8, 1980. Fans have theorized that his ashes were spread at Strawberry Fields, which is a section of Central Park that Lennon often visited and was posthumously named for his famous Beatles song. However, this has never been confirmed nor denied by Ono, so the location of his ashes is still unknown.

People jam the street at Central Park West and 72nd Street in New York, just outside the Dakota apartment house where John Lennon lived, Dec. 14, 1980, after leaving a memorial service held at the bandshell in Central Park, across the street. Lennon was murdered as he entered the building at left on Monday, December 8. Police estimated the crowd at 50,000 to 100,000.


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