Memorials, merchandise for Lennon 70th anniversary
Reuters, Oct 6, 2010 11:00 pm PDT
LONDON (Reuters) – What would have been John Lennon’s 70th birthday on Saturday will be marked around the world with memorials, music and plenty of merchandise.
Yoko Ono, Lennon’s widow and the guardian of his commercial and musical legacy, will lead the tributes from Iceland, where she will light the Imagine Peace Tower in memory of Lennon and perform with their son Sean.
In the singer’s birthplace Liverpool, Lennon’s first wife Cynthia and their child Julian are expected to unveil a monument dedicated to the artist and funded by the Global Peace Initiative involving young artists.
“Nowhere Boy,” a film about Lennon’s early years before he found fame and fortune with the Beatles, hits U.S. theatres on Friday and on Saturday, the documentary “LennonNYC” will be screened in New York, where he was killed on December 8, 1980.
The 30th anniversary of his murder at age 40 is expected to launch a new wave of Lennon-mania in December.
“It’s a strange phenomenon in a way, but probably the Beatles are more popular now than they ever were,” said Jerry Goldman, managing director of the Beatles Story museum in Liverpool which will be custodian of the new $350,000 monument.
“Lennon is the most iconic of them. His activities for peace with Yoko, his ‘bed-ins’, perhaps don’t count quite so much as the music,” he added.
“‘Imagine’ is a world anthem, as is ‘Give Peace a Chance’. Whenever people gather to protest … you are probably going to hear them singing a Lennon song. More than anything else it’s the music, and nobody has come close in recent years.”
Few would debate Lennon’s musical influence.
As one half of the key songwriting axis in the Beatles alongside Paul McCartney, Lennon was responsible for much of the band’s catalog, including seminal hits like “She Loves You,” “I Want to Hold Your Hand” and “A Hard Day’s Night.”
As a solo artist after the group split in 1970, he went on to produce songs including Imagine, and became a symbol of opposition to the Vietnam War.
Lennon’s legacy is also big business. Critics have accused Ono and others of cashing in on his memory and betraying the ideals of a man who once sang “imagine no possessions.”
Ono has overseen the release of a digitally remastered Lennon catalog, including eight studio albums and several newly compiled titles, on the EMI Music label.
“Remastering was emotionally hard for me,” she wrote recently on Twitter.
“I felt John was at my side, and when I looked at my side, there was only an empty chair. I was crying, but still my job was to listen to John, like I used to … So I am a lucky girl.”
Ono also authorized Gibson to make three special edition acoustic guitars priced between $4,700 and $15,000.
Montblanc has produced a Lennon-related pen, complete with sapphires and diamonds and retailing in luxury magazines for a cool $27,000.
“It’s easy to lose sight of the music with all the surrounding Lennonphilia that, over the next few weeks, will be particularly cloying and suffocating,” said Brian Boyd, music columnist for the Irish Times.
Ono has defended her decision to allow Lennon’s name to be used to endorse products, saying it is the most effective way to keep his name and music in the public consciousness.
And in response to complaints in Britain earlier this year when archive footage of the singer was used in a car advertisement, son Sean tweeted: “Having just seen ad I realize why people are mad. But intention was not financial, was simply wanting to keep him out there in the world.”
Happy Anniversary, Abbey Road!
by Kara Kovalchik – August 10, 2009 – 12:02 PM
The original photograph was snapped on August 8, 1969—40 years ago this past Saturday. As one of many tourists who has attempted to re-create that photo (darn, that’s a busy street!), I present a few interesting behind-the-scenes fact about the Abbey Road cover shoot.
Paul McCartney had the original concept for the cover, and had sketched out four stickmen walking over the “zebra crossing” (the name given to the stripe marks on roads indicating pedestrian crossings in England) just outside Abbey Road studios. Photographer Iain Macmillan was hired to capture McCartney’s vision on film. Macmillan climbed a ladder that perched him about ten feet above the fabled street. A police officer held the traffic back while Macmillan squeezed off a few shots of the Beatles crossing the street in one direction. Some traffic was allowed to pass for a short time, and then Macmillan photographed the group crossing the street in the opposite direction. He took a total of six photographs during the shoot, and it was number five – which featured all the band members’ legs in a perfect “V” formation- that was ultimately chosen for the cover.
When the rumor that Paul McCartney had actually died in a 1966 car crash started spreading, conspiracy theorists had a field day with the Abbey Road cover. It was rife with clues, according to them. For example, Paul was barefoot, which is the way corpses were buried at the time in England. (In actuality, Paul had turned up at the photo shoot wearing sandals, but had kicked them off after the first two takes.) Also, the Volkswagen behind George bears the license plate number “28IF” – obviously meaning Paul would be 28 years old if he had lived. (At the time of the photo shoot, Paul McCartney would have been or was 27 years of age.)
After the road-crossing photo was finished, Iain Macmillan set off to find a good “Abbey Road” street marker sign to use for the back cover of the album. He found it at the junction of Alexandra Road and started taking photos of the sign. Much to his chagrin, while he was busy shooting an oblivious woman in a blue dress walked right in front of his viewfinder. While reviewing his shots later that day, however, he decided that the “blue dress” photo was the most interesting of the bunch, and he ended up using it in the final composition.
In a somewhat revolutionary move for that time, the front of the album cover did not mention the band’s name or the album title. That decision came from John Kosh, who was the creative director for Apple Records at the time. Kosh was already well known in the London avant-garde art scene when the Beatles hired him, and his argument for the “photo only” album cover was that they were the most famous band in the world and there was no need to clutter the photograph with text. EMI Records protested at first, saying they’d never sell any records that didn’t indicate who the artist was, but the Beatles supported Kosh’s vision, and in the end, they were right.