On John Lennon’s “Lost Weekend” & The Beatles Reunion That Never Was

John Lennon and Paul McCartney hang out in Los Angeles

By Danny Abriano
 
As a Beatles fanatic who was born three years after John Lennon was senselessly taken in December of 1980, I’m often bothered by the fact that I never shared the world with John. Since The Beatles formed and broke up before I was born, I also think about all of the “what ifs.” One of the most pondered, of course, is “what if The Beatles had gotten back together?”
 
During John Lennon’s “Lost Weekend” – the time he spent away from Yoko Ono from the summer of 1973 to early 1975 – he was with May Pang (and many others), and reportedly gave serious thought to a reunion with Paul and the rest of the group.
 
Before delving into the potential Beatles reunion, though, it’s important to discuss why the Lost Weekend came about in the first place.
 
John’s marriage to Yoko was floundering, and Yoko basically chose May Pang – who was an employee of theirs – as a lover and companion for John to have during their time apart. John spent lots of The Lost Weekend in Los Angeles, with friends such as Mal Evans and Harry Nilsson.
 
This month in 1974, one of the most infamous events of The Lost Weekend took place – the night John and Harry Nilsson were kicked out of the Troubadour Club for heckling the Smothers Brothers. As the story is told in “Lennon In America” by Geoffrey Giuliano:

One evening, Lennon, along with May Pang and Harry Nilsson, arrived at the Troubadour around midnight to catch the opening night of the Smothers Brothers act. Already overloaded on Brandy Alexanders, John became immediately disruptive, joining Harry in a cacophonous songfest and hurling a stream of obscenities at the Smothers. Events took a nasty turn when the duo’s manager Ken Fritz confronted an out-of-control John and hauled him from his seat.  Lennon exploded, overturning the table and the pair exchanged a few halfhearted fisticuffs. Lennon and company were literally thrown out the door where they tumbled into a party of incoming patrons, touching off a full-blown street brawl. The incident made worldwide headlines the following day.

While the Troubadour incident sheds light on how wild Lennon could be during the Lost Weekend, not every moment was dedicated to debauchery.
 
During this time, Lennon completed three solo albums (“Mind Games,” “Walls and Bridges,” and “Rock ‘n’ Roll”), produced the “Pussy Cats” album for Harry Nilsson, and wondered aloud about a potential Beatles reunion. As May Pang told it:

John really thought about it at one point, and we were considering it early on in ’74, just for the hell of it. 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 had been hanging out with Ringo a lot in L.A., 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.

In addition to his words to Pang, John had also spoken openly around that time about a potential Beatles reunion.
 
So, why didn’t a reunion happen?
 
According to Pang, none of the Beatles ever took the lead on hammering out the details. By 1975, John was back with Yoko and at the beginning of a five year break from the music business.
 
Lennon was at times in the process of losing himself completely while he was away from Yoko during the Lost Weekend, and his decision to get back together with Yoko was his.
 
However, like many fans unfairly blame Yoko Ono for the breakup of The Beatles, many also claim that her presence prevented any potential Beatles reunion from happening. May Pang supposedly encouraged John to reunite with Paul – something Yoko apparently didn’t do. Still, every choice John made was his.
 
While a Beatles reunion never took place, John Lennon and Paul McCartney did record together after the breakup. The date was March 28th, 1974, and a John and Paul reunion (with Harry Nilsson, Stevie Wonder and others also playing) came to be during a night of partying in the studio in Los Angeles.
 
The tape of the session is out there on the bootleg “A Toot and A Snore in ’74,” and is mostly a convoluted mess of voices and noises. Still, it has John Lennon and Paul McCartney playing and singing together four years after the breakup of The Beatles, something that can’t be found anywhere else:
 

 
Listening to John and Paul play and sing together on the tapes above is both sad and thrilling at the same time.
 
It’s just a jam session, and an alcohol and drug fueled one at that. However, it makes me think about what would’ve happened if a legitimate Beatles reunion had ever occurred.
 
After the breakup, the solo Beatles recorded with one another often, but never recorded as a foursome again. Most notably, John, George, and Ringo played on Ringo’s “I’m The Greatest,” and George, Paul, and Ringo played on George’s tribute to John “All Those Years Ago” after John was killed.
 
What would’ve happened if the group had gotten back together? Would it have been something that blew up as quickly as it materialized? A one album thing? Something that resulted in a second long-lasting effort? With their legacy already cemented, would it have even been worth it?
 
I was at Radio City Music Hall in 2010 when Paul surprised Ringo on stage for his birthday and of course sang “Birthday.” No one in the crowd knew Paul was about to show up, and the entire place went into absolute hysterics when Paul’s hofner bass was placed on stage, followed shortly thereafter by Paul running out and grabbing it. When Ringo ran behind the drum kit and sat down to start playing with Paul, it felt as if the mezzanine where I was sitting might collapse.
 
I had seen Paul in concert before, and I had seen Ringo in concert before. This was different, though. On stage were two Beatles – the only two who were left – performing together. It was more than special – there isn’t really an adequate word to describe it.
 
What would an official Beatles reunion have done to impact moments like the one above? Watered it down, or somehow enhanced it?

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Mark Lapidos Meets John Lennon 4/28/1974

The Most Important Day In FEST History, April 28,1974 Part Two (short version). It’s a warm 82° Sunday in NYC and I am in Central Park, along with 100,000 other people waiting to see John Lennon and Harry Nilsson come on stage with NY DJ Cousin Brucie for the March of Dimes. I am wearing my brand new 10th Anniversary Beatles Shirt that Capitol Records had made. I had the shirt because I worked at Sam Goody (NY’s largest music store) and we happened to have a sale on Beatles records that week. I heard about the shirts and had Capitol send me a box for my staff to wear in store all week. NO ONE else had these shirts. That morning,  I spot a guy wearing the same shirt in the park that morning and I don’t recognize him. I manage to get through the crowds and ask him where he got the shirt. Well, it just so happened the night before, he met John and Harry, and lucky for him they needed a ride back to their hotel! He drove them there and was invited up to their suite, John signed an autograph and gave him THAT SHIRT! I asked him What Hotel, and he told me. I asked him What Room and he told me that, too! The only person in that park of 100,000 who would know that information and because it was such a warm day, wore the shirt that John gave him the night before, and I found him!

An hour or two later, John and Harry enter the park and arrive on the stage, to a thunderous NY welcome.  The hotel where they were staying was just outside the Park. I walk into the hotel, sit down, calm down, and get my nerve up to get into the elevator for the trip of a lifetime. I walk up to the suite door, take a few more deep breaths and knock. Harry opens the door. I say “Hi, I’m Mark Lapidos and I want to speak to John about Beatlefest”. He looks at me and says, “Come on in”. A few long, minutes later, John enters the parlor, we shook hands and sat down. I proceeded to tell him my idea of a Beatles Fan’s Celebration honoring the 10th Anniversary of The Beatles Arrival in America, in Feb, 1964. I had already booked the hotel, so I told him it was to take place at the Commodore Hotel on 42nd Street on September 7-8, 1974. I told him I was a manager at Sam Goody, and he could tell I was a fan. The event I envisioned was a hotel full of Beatles Fans celebrating a common love for The Beatles, with films, live concerts, guests, discussions, a flea market, an art museum and more. John leaned forward in his chair, got very excited about the idea and said, “I’m All For It. I’m A Beatles Fan, Too!” 39 years later, I can still close my eyes and see and hear him say those exact words to me. I told him I also wanted to have a charity raffle of signed items from The Beatles. He said he had an old guitar in his attic that he would sign for the raffle (and he did). He picked the Phoenix House in NY, a drug rehab center as the recipient of the money raised (We raised $3,000 that show and have had Charity Raffles at every FEST since.) John asked me to return to the suite two days later, where his associate called Apple in London to fill Neil Aspinall in on the event details and the rest is history. The show was a huge success and it  even made the cover of Rolling Stone! I did get to personally talk to John a few months later to tell him how is went and to thank him for all his help. He was happy to hear it went so well.

Realizing a dream can only happen if you truly believe in your abilities and to pursue them with 100% of your being – and with a little luck!

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