Wednesday, 16 June 2010

Stop Press #2: Lennon in 1978

As You Never Give Me Your Money was an attempt to focus on the truth about the Beatles' post-split adventures, I skipped past most of the rumours that were attached to their names in the 1970s.

To pick a year and a man almost at random, take the case of John Lennon in 1978. He spent most of that year in America, the summer in Japan, and none of it, so far as we know, in the recording studio. In which case, why were there 'confirmed' reports in April 1978 that Lennon was hard at work at the Record Plant in New York, making a new album? We're not talking one person's fantasy here: the same story spread across the UK & US media, alongside suggestions that Lennon was about to sign a deal with Columbia Records (who instead signed up Paul McCartney).

In that same month, another Lennon tale was printed in dozens of US newspapers. This time, he was said to have agreed to play the lead role in The Street Messiah, a Hollywood movie about a rock star who finds religion and seeks to convert his entire fanbase. Two things spring immediately to mind: the similarities with the mid-60s Paul Jones vehicle, Privilege, though that was based on politics, not religion; and the fact that the following year, Bob Dylan would take on the role of 'Street Messiah' for real.

The film was supposedly going to be directed by William J. Levy, a name that doesn't show up on the database. It was never made; Lennon never mentioned the possibility in his final interviews; and the mysterious Mr Levy never got his name onto a single set of movie credits, even as deputy bottle washer. So where did this apochryphal story come from?

Finally, at least one recognised Beatles historian claims that April 1978 was when Lennon and Ono sent out a press release about their forthcoming Broadway musical, The Ballad Of John And Yoko. Except that if they did, it was ignored by the entire worldwide media. Does that sound likely? File this rumour under 'flights of the imagination' as well. And ponder for a second on the iconic power of a man who could attract global gossip, then and long after his death, without ever leaving the sanctuary of his Central Park West apartment.

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