American Masters LENNONYC
“I just want sashimi. Kitcho. 45th Street. Look it up in the phonebook. Say who it’s for. Yoko Ono, not me. Say it’s for Yoko Ono. . . (laughs). . .otherwise I don’t get it.”
After a five-year hiatus, John Lennon was back in the studio. Lennon had famously walked away from the music business, the fame machine, everything. He baked bread, took care of his son Sean, spent his time “watching the wheels go ‘round and ‘round.” But now Lennon was back recording. He was, perhaps for the first time in his life, unreservedly happy.
It had been a long, difficult journey to this point. Lennon had been persecuted by the Nixon administration, who had used the FBI and the INS (Immigration and Naturalization Service) to tap his phone and put him and Yoko under 24-hour surveillance, all in an attempt to deport him for political purposes. Lennon had been consumed by drink, making, on more than one occasion, a public ass of himself. And, for eighteen months, he had been kicked out of the Dakota by Yoko Ono, the great love his life. (It was a period Lennon later referred to as his “lost weekend.”)
But, in early August, 1980, John Lennon was at The Hit Factory recording what would become Double Fantasy. The songs Lennon had written for the album didn’t speak to the pain of his past—he was done with that. They were about the life he had built with Yoko and Sean: Watching the Wheels; Woman; Beautiful Boy. Each song spoke to the newfound contentment Lennon had achieved.
LENNONYC is about that journey. It is the story of one of the most famous and influential artists of the Twentieth Century, and how he found redemption not in the public adoration he craved as a youth, but in the quiet and simple pleasures of fatherhood. It is also an immigrant’s tale. For while John Lennon may not be your typical immigrant he surely was just that. Lennon came to New York City in 1971, seeking what every other immigrant who has washed up on its shores has sought: freedom—the freedom to be himself and not “Beatle John,” the freedom to love without the overwhelming public scorn he and Yoko had suffered in London, and, simply, the freedom to live a normal life. That, more than anything, is what New York City offered John Lennon: the ability to go out to a movie or a restaurant, to hail a cab. In New York he could be free.
LENNONYC tells this story with never before-released in-studio recordings, concert film only recently transferred to HD, and a trove of Lennon/Ono compositions—some in versions previously unheard. It also contains interviews with those closest to Lennon during this period in his life—friend and photographer, Bob Gruen; Jim Keltner, a drummer on many Lennon solo projects in the 1970’s; May Pang, Lennon’s companion during his “lost weekend,” Elton John, rock superstar, and co-conspirator on the hit single Whatever Gets You Thru the Night, and Jack Douglas, the producer of Double Fantasy. LENNONYC also contains one of the most powerful and emotionally direct interviews Yoko Ono has ever given. In fact, it is the filmmakers’ unique and exclusive relationship with Ms.Ono that makes LENNONYC so special. No film about John Lennon has ever covered this story with the same breadth and depth as LENNONYC.
As the public turns its attention to what would have been Lennon’s 70th birthday (October 9, 2010), and the 30th anniversary of his murder (December 8, 2010), LENNONYC is uniquely posed to commemorate the life of one of the most important and influential artists of the Twentieth Century—someone whose life and work is as powerful and relevant today as it has ever been.
LENNONYC is a co-production of Two-Lefts Don’t Make a Right Productions, Dakota Group, Ltd., and THIRTEEN’s American Masters in association with WNET.ORG for PBS and will have its US television premiere on PBS’s American Masters series in November 2010. Director/writer is Michael Epstein. Executive producers are Stanley Buchthal, Michael Cohl, and Susan Lacy. Producers are Susan Lacy, Jessica Levin, and Michael Epstein. Susan Lacy is the series creator and executive producer of American Masters.