Iconic Spotlight : John Lennon, by Michael Brennan

John Lennon in Beverly Hills
John Lennon in Beverly Hills
John Lennon in Beverly Hills
John Lennon in Beverly Hills


John was promoting a new album called "Mind Games" and I had been invited on behalf of some UK publications to spend some time with him. Although having experienced ‘Beatlemania’ in Manchester & Liverpool in the 1960's, but because of the madness of those times, I had never had the chance to meet him ‘up close and personal.’

He was living in record producer Lou Adler’s house in Beverly Hills. When I rang the doorbell, he came to the door and said, "come on in, I'm watching Princess Annie getting married on the telly." Not a public-relations person or hovering lawyer in sight. I hadn't brought an artillery of camera gear so I sauntered into the living room where John was on the phone talking to his son Julian in London while watching ‘Annie's marriage.’

After a while he turned to me and said, "suppose we better get these photy's done".

It was clear Lennon had thought about the task at hand since when we went outside, a guitar and a portable wireless were already set-up alongside the lounger by the pool. Along with the ubiquitous pack of French ciggies called Disque Blue.

After taking a few obvious photos of the former Beatle John (he struck me that after all these years of fame and celebrity he couldn’t figure out what it was all about and why were idiots like me bothering about him) we ended up walking back to the house. John was back-lit by the morning sunshine. Using a medium length lens, I asked to just stop. I took five or six frames of a slightly unshaven John Lennon which is my favourite picture from that day. The portrait, to this day hangs in my kitchen!

On that day, we ended up back in his kitchen where he offered me a cup of ‘genuine’ English tea, a rarity at that time confined to his house in LA and mine in NYC.

There was a BBC radio programme in the 1960s and 1970s called “Housewives Choice” usually hosted by dubious elderly disc jockeys and obviously aimed at all the ladies at home listening to the creaky old BBC.

The conversation progressed to a duo harmonising the sometime housewife entrancing song which went something like this “I like a nice cuppa tea in the morning, I like a nice cuppa of tea for me tea and my idea of heaven when it’s half past eleven is a nice cuppa tea” (think of the song sung by daft BBC radio bloke).  Of course, inevitably ego played a major role, so I had to shut John up since I felt my version was the better.

I spent most of the morning of Nov 14, 1973 with John Lennon. After the relaxing "cuppa tea" he had to kick me out since he had other media tasks to perform after my departure. As I left he said, "maybe I might run into you again in New York.”

Sometime later, I was back in New York City, walking down Second Avenue around the 60's and John along with his girlfriend May Pang were slowly walking toward me. I stopped to say hi but it clearly wasn't a good idea since his response was nowhere near as welcoming as the Beverly Hills collision. A few years later while photographing May Pang I mentioned the chilly reception and she chuckled and said she remembered it because John really hated being stopped in the street and felt that New York City was his private space.

-Michael Brennan

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