For years I’ve been trying to tie down a timeline of John in 1980, it’s proving much harder than i ever expected. Some days were documented beyond belief, and other days absolutely no information at all has surfaced, i find this kind of amazing as on some days (the 8th of December for instance) John was photographed by no less than three different people, but other days like the 1st of December there is nothing at all documented.

With the photo’s below, and some information, i have attempted to piece together John’s movements and activities during December 1980. I’m calling for any help and discussion and information any of my blog readers may have, there are a couple of grey area’s and if anyone can help sort these out then please speak up.


At the studio, probably whist recording the guitar plus keyboards for ‘Walking on thin ice’.


Above pic: John probably on his way to the studio, he’s wearing his black Adidas shoes, blue jeans and his new Oriental jacket. Photo copyright Paul Goresh.


Above and below pics: The sequence of photo’s highlights why it’s so hard, and confusing, to date some of these photo’s. John really was a chameleon and in the space of just a day would change his looks and confuse everything, just by removing a jacket, or changing his glasses which he done several times a day. The above pic shows John in his kitchen photographed by Annie Leibovitz, under the table you can see John’s Adidas shoes and red socks, and he’s wearing blue jean’s and a blue denim shirt

Above pic: John at the Record Plant studio later in the day photographed by Bob Gruen, here we can see john has put a red patterned jumper on, as well as his new GAP leather jacket, and changed his glasses from his blue frames to his orange sun glasses.

Above pic: You can see apart from John’s jacket both John and Yoko look almost identical to the pic taken on the 2nd

Above pic: Inside the studio John has taken off the leather jacket and placed it over the back of the chair, leaving him wearing just the red jumper, Yoko has also removed her coat leaving us with another look altogether. The confusion comes on this day as Bob Gruen states that he took the above photo’s of John and Yoko at the studio on the 5th, but i’m going to make a call here and sugest that he is mistaken, on both days (the 4th and the 5th) John is noted to be wearing different clothes, if you look at John’s hair in the photo where he is playing guitar on the bed, and then later when he is standing in front of the giant guitar at the Record Plant, you can clearly see it just has to be the same day, his hair is identical and even has the same strand falling over his forehead with the same blue denim clothes, but with added jumper and leather jacket, and a change of glasses.


John and Yoko were interviewed for the Soho weekly news at the Record Plant studio’s, Yoko was doing her vocal overdubs for ‘Walking on thin ice’. The interviewer noted John was wearing his oriental jacket.

It’s possible that on this day John had the first of two haircut’s, he definately had a haircut on the morning of the 8th but the photo’s of the 5th and 6th seem to indicate he had a haircut on the 4th as well.


Above pics: The Soho weekly news interview continues at 2.00am, the interviewer noted that he left at 5.30am, and that John and Yoko were leaving at 7.30am. John and Yoko’s limo was waiting out the front when John walked the interviewer out. I’m going to go out on a limb here, Bob Gruen say’s these photo’s were taken on the morning (dawn) of the 6th, but after reading the interviewer describe John wearing the oriental Jacket the previous evening (the 4th) and the fact that John and Yoko did leave the studio at dawn on the 5th i’m assuming Bob got his dates mixed up, the only thing that still throws me is the fact that Bob says he sat around all night talking to John, but as is now known John was talking to the interviewer from the Soho weekly news all night and into the morning, who know’s maybe Bob just hung out with them as they talked, at least this puts Bob in a time frame where he was with John until dawn as well.

Some time during the day Yoko has a preliminary meeting with Andy Peebles at Studio one.

Later in the evening John is interviewed by Rolling Stone magazine in Studio one at the Dakota, the interviewer describes John as wearing blue plastic framed glasses, needle chord pants, Calvin Klein sweater and a torn Mick Jagger t-shirt (probably the black ‘Reception’ t-shirt he is also wearing on the ‘Double Fantasy’ cover as well as on the cover of ‘Walls And Bridges’. The interviewer travels with John and Yoko to the studio as they mix some of Yoko’s songs for the ‘Walking on thin ice’ extended single (‘Kiss Kiss Kiss’ and ‘Every Man Has A Woman who loves him’).


John continues talking until 4.00am with Jonathan Cott of Rolling Stone magazine as Yoko naps on a studio couch. John speaks of his plans for touring with Yoko and the band that plays on Double Fantasy.

Later in the evening at 6.00pm John and Yoko meet Andy Peebles at the Hit Factory Studio’s (see above pics), John is wearing black jean’s, a black wool jumper and his silver jacket (which can be seen in some photo’s laying on the floor of the Hit Factory) the interview lasted three hours and twenty minutes.

Above pic: At approximately 10.00pm John, Yoko and the BBC team went to ‘Mr Chow’s’ restaurant 324 E. 57th St. for dinner which lasted approximately three hours.


Nothing documented for this day, it has been reported that John and Yoko stayed in and read the Playboy interview which had just hit the stands.


Above pics: Photographed by Annie Leibovitz sometime around noon, what is known is that sometime during the morning of the 8th John had a hair cut, so are we to assume that John had either none or very little sleep after leaving the studio at dawn?, John then had a very busy day, a haircut in the morning, photo shoot with Annie Leibovitz in the early afternoon, and then the interview in Studio One with RKO radio in the late afternoon. It’s believed John and Yoko left the Dakota at approximately 5.00pm to go to the Record Plant Studio’s. On the raw tapes of the RKO interview you can hear Yoko comment that the car was ready to take them, tho apparently they got a lift with the RKO team in their limo as John and Yoko’s wasn’t available.

Above pic: John and Yoko in Studio One with Dave Sholin from RKO radio

Above pic: The Stage Deli where John and Yoko were to eat on the way home from the studio on Monday December the 8th.

The rest of the time frame is pretty well known and we don’t need to really go into it here.

Any thoughts, corrections or information will be greatly appreciated.

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28 Responses to “DECEMBER 1980 – A TIMELINE:”

  1. Vince says:

    This might help answer some questions . John must have had his haircut in the early
    morning of Dec 6 1980 judging by the photo taken from the BBC interview conducted in the late afternoon. The early morning photo of John&Yoko taken by Bob Gruen just hours after their dinner with Andy Peebles which would date it the morning of Dec 7 … For most of that day they relaxed and read a copy of their Playboy interview that hit the newstands over the weekend. Yoko called David Scheff to let him know how pleased they were with the interview.

    On Dec 8, John stopped at Cafe La Fortuna for breakfast and returned to the Dakota to call his Aunt Mimi and prepare for the second Rolling Stone magazine photo shoot followed by an interview held in Studio one for RKO radio. John and Yoko were at the Record Plant from about 6 pm to 10:30 producing the master for “Walking on thin Ice” and listening to a tape of Yoko’s “Open Your Box” from 1973 for a possible inclusion on a special release to have been called “Yoko Only” . The plan was for John&Yoko to attend a rally in San Francisco for Asian workers on Dec 13 then a recording session for Ringo’s new album just after the new year.

    Ironically on the week of Dec 8, John was to co host the Mike Douglas show from Hawaii but postponed the tv appearance due to their busy schedule. By the way, Keep up the good work on your Beatles Photo Blog.

  2. Adam from Canberra says:

    The photo you’ve got listed on the 2nd was taken by Paul Goresh. I always understood that Mr Goresh used to hang around the Dakota primarily- so that means this photo could be John crossing the street to return home?

    I have a clearer shot earlier in the sequence (from the ‘John Lennon Summer of 1980’ book) which *almost* clearly shows what is written on the little white sign in the window to the right of John’s head: it looks like it reads DR. M. BURBEN (or BURGEN/BERMEN/BURBEN?) DENTIST.

    I’ve never been to the Dakota so I don’t know what it looks like on the other side of W 72nd.

    I hope this helps!



  3. Rolando Ortiz de la says:

    Does anybody have the complete RKO interview?, cos i have the complete BBC interview (12/06/80) want to trade???

    Other thing, in many tv shows they said john had a hair cut in the morning of the 8th, but i have to agreed with vince, because is pretty obvious that he had a haircut before that day.


  4. Randy says:

    Part of me thinks this is just depressing. I want to go back in time and tell John at The Stage Deli that there is a crazy man waiting to kill him. But part of me thinks its nice that his last week on Earth he spent working on a GREAT Yoko record talking to the world about life and peace.

    That is still the darkest day of my life. I miss you everyday, John.

  5. Adam from Canberra says:

    Bob Gruen in the ‘Memories of John Lennon’ book says the pictures at the Record Plant with the ‘baby grand’ guitar etc (i.e the nes you have listed under 3 December) were taken on 5 December.

    And the photo you’ve got for 7 December was taken on the 6th!

    I’m not saying Bob is correct and you are not- just more first hand source grist to the mill!



  6. Tammy says:

    Hi Vince,

    > John must have had his haircut in the early
    morning of Dec 6 1980 judging by the photo taken from the BBC interview conducted in the late afternoon.

    Ummm, i dont think so, if you look at it it’s really full and fluffy, his hair looks different and a lot shorter around the sides on the 8th than on the 6th.

    > The early morning photo of John&Yoko taken by Bob Gruen just hours after their dinner with Andy Peebles which would date it the morning of Dec 7

    Thats what i’ve always read it as, but if you look at the pic John is wearing totally different clothes than in the BBC interview, i dont see why John and Yoko would have gone home at 12.30am, changed and gone back to the studio to walk out at dawn, the only logical time frame for oriental jacket photo on the street is the dawn of the 8th.

    > then a recording session for Ringo’s new album just after the new year.

    I actually found a date quoted by Jack Douglas for this, it was supposed to be in LA on January the 14th 1981.

    > Ironically on the week of Dec 8, John was to co host the Mike Douglas show from Hawaii but postponed the tv appearance due to their busy schedule.

    Wow, never knew that!


  7. Tammy says:

    Hi Adam,

    > Bob Gruen in the ‘Memories of John Lennon’ book says the pictures at the Record Plant with the ‘baby grand’ guitar etc (i.e the nes you have listed under 3 December) were taken on 5 December.

    I know he says that, but i’m gonna stick my neck out and say that he’s mistaken, if you look at the Leibovitz pics of John which were definately taken on the 3rd the photo’s of John at the Record plant are almost identical, his hair isnt a little bit the same it’s totally the same, even down to the same strand falling over his forehead, it’s just too similar to not be from the same day.

    > And the photo you’ve got for 7 December was taken on the 6th!

    Again i know thats what Bob says, but John wasnt dressed like that on the 6th if you look at the BBC photo’s.


  8. Colin says:

    Greg, I also think you are totally wrong about the haircut. That group shot with Cott under the 6th definitely has a haircut compared to the days earlier. Even the shots on the 7th with the big blue hat look like the haircut in more greasy unwashed/no blow-dry form. The only other explanation is he had a second “touch-up” trim on the 8th. That Dec 6 photo doesn’t even look questionable about already having some sort of a haircut.

    Great job though you’ve done here for a long time!

  9. Tammy says:

    Hi Rolando,

    I really dont think John had a haircut before the 8th, i know it looks different on the 6th, but it looks to volumous on the 6th, to me it looks all fluffy like it has just been washed and brushed back behind his ears, on the 6th you can see the volume around the back, but on the 8th it’s been cut back to just whispy bangs.


  10. Anonymous says:

    Hi Greg,

    First of all, thanks for a great blog!

    I think you’re right about Gruen’s memory of the days he was with John being off. His recollection simply doesn’t add up. According to Gruen, the two sets of pictures in front of the big guitar and on the street were taken on the “Friday and Saturday morning”. This is inconsistent with Gruen saying that he took the pictures of John in front of the guitar and then came back the “next night” and waited through until 6 or 7am the next day to take pictures of John in the new jacket, which would then make that Sunday morning, not Saturday. Gruen also says that after taking the pictures on the street, he was asked to come by the BBC interview “the day after”. We know that the BBC interview definitely took place on the Saturday, so there’s no way Gruen can be right about the pictures on the street being taken on the Saturday morning and also about being asked to come by the “next day” to the BBC interview. I trust Gruen’s memory of waiting in the studio with John and Yoko and of being asked to drop by the BBC interview “the next day”. I think Gruen is just getting the days he’s talking about mixed up. I disagree with you Greg about John not having a haircut before the 8th, his hair is definitely much shorter in the pictures taken on the 6th, as well as in Gruen’s second set of pictures on the street. John then got another haircut on the 8th.

    Trying to piece all this together, I agree the pictures of John in front of the guitar were almost certainly taken on the Wednesday evening. John then asks him to come back “the next night” to take a picture of him in the oriental jacket. Gruen comes back to the studio on the Thursday evening. John, in the meantime, has had a haircut. Gruen stays with John in the studio Thursday evening through to early Friday morning, at which point the pictures on the street are taken. John then asks Gruen to come back and take pictures at the BBC interview the next day (Saturday). Looking at it this way, Gruen’s recollection of the details seems to sync up with what we know of John’s activities on those days. It doesn’t seem possible that Gruen could have been with John on either the Friday or Saturday evenings, as it’s well documented John was with Cott and Peebles those nights until the early hours. I don’t think it’s likely he was with John on the Sunday evening either, as this makes Gruen’s account of the details, John telling him to come by the BBC interview, completely wrong as well as getting the days wrong.

    Hope this helps,

  11. Tammy says:

    Hi Gary, you know looking at it maybe John DID have two haircuts, one sometime on the 4th or 5th and the second on the 8th, why someone would do that i have no idea.


  12. Sebastian says:

    i would think he probably wasn’t thrilled with it the first time – it was a pretty drastic change of hairstyle and maybe it was done quickly, he wasn’t totally happy with it, and knew he was going to be photographed by leibovitz soon, promoting his record, etc. so then he gets it trimmed a little shorter the morning of the shoot. might also explain the hat on the 5th- suddenly he was cold! just a thought. who knows. cool idea though, trying to piece this week together. at least it seems like it was a happy, exciting, and productive time for him.


  13. Anonymous says:

    Yeah I think we can be sure John had two haircuts that week. John’s hair is very long in the pictures by the big guitar, the longest he had it during those last few months I think. It’s much shorter in the pictures taken by the Peebles crew on the 6th where you can see he now has a fringe of sorts. Numerous sources refer to John venturing out early on the 8th and arriving back at the Dakota with the new, shorter still, “50s style” haircut.

    Just another possible thing I’ve noticed: I’m not sure John is wearing the oriental jacket in the picture you have as taken on the 2nd (crossing by the taxi). If you look closely at John’s left arm, I think you can see the seam of his black leather jacket. I think it’s likely then that these were taken the same day as the big guitar photos on the Wednesday evening (the new oriental jacket getting its debut the next day, accompanied by John’s new, shorter haircut).

    It’s interesting too that the Soho news interviewer mentioned John was wearing his new oriental jacket on the Thursday evening; I think this is further evidence that this was the night Gruen spent with John, as is the fact that this interview was recorded at the Record Plant on 44th street, where Gruen says the photos on the street were taken the following morning.

    There really were some wonderful photos taken of John and Yoko that year; so many different looks for John and his face always seems to tell a story in each picture. Thanks for putting them together like this.


  14. Tammy says:

    Hi Gary and everyone, please have a re read of this entry, i’ve regigged the day and moved the oriental jacket photo to the morning of the 5th, as it was worn on the evening of the 4th, have a read and you’ll see it makes more sense that this was how it went.

    Gary i have a huge version of the pic of the 2nd in colour and you can see the black jacket isnt leather, it’s obviously fabric and much longer than the leather coat was, let me know what you all think of this sequence, i think it now really makes sense,


  15. Mr. Music says:

    I find it really spooky seeing the images of him taken on the day he died. I just think about him having his picture taken and having no idea that his life was almost over. It’s… I don’t know. It bothers me in a very strange way.

    As far as no documentation of him on certain days (like Dec 1) I don’t find that all that strange… Maybe he just didn’t go out that day?

  16. Anonymous says:

    Greg, looking at it again I agree I’m probably wrong about the leather jacket in the pic from the 2nd. John is carrying a bag over his right shoulder and seems to be wearing a large scarf, which I thought might have been obscuring the furry collar of the leather jacket. But as you say it does appear to be a much longer jacket, though it’s still hard for me to tell whether it’s the oriental jacket. I can’t see the lettering the oriental jacket has down the left arm in the photo you posted.


  17. Vince says:

    I found a link for an article from the UK Mirror publication that goes into some detail regarding John’s last day.–monday-8th-december-1980-lennon-s-last-day–name_page.html

    By David Edwards 3/12/2005
    Related Articles

    John Lennon had been living quietly in the city and had just made his comeback after five years away from the studio.

    “John and I were gloriously happy in the first week of December,” his widow later recalled. “In our minds, we were a team – old soldiers.”

    So exactly what happened on December 8, 1980? Here, we chart the final hours of the ex-Beatle and how he was targeted

    7.30am As the sun rises over Central Park, 40-year-old John Lennon gets out of bed and slips into his black kimono.

    Leaving his wife, Yoko Ono, sleeping beneath the sheets, he creeps into the living room and stares out at the Manhattan skyline.

    Yoko finds him lost in thought as sunlight floods into the stark, whitewashed room.

    Both are on a high. After five years out of the limelight, their new joint album, Double Fantasy, is riding high in the charts and they are busy recording a follow-up.

    “What are we going to do when it’s No.1, John?” Yoko asks.

    “I’ll take you out to dinner,” he replies.

    “That’s a date?”

    “That’s a date.”

    Although the album went on to top charts around the world, John was never able to keep his promise…

    Today is one of the warmest December days New Yorkers can remember. But John and Yoko don’t have time to enjoy it – they have a full day’s work ahead, including a photo session and a radio interview.

    9.00am John and Yoko leave the Dakota and have breakfast at the Cafe La Fortuna, on West 71st Street. John tucks into eggs benedict and follows it with a cappuccino and Gitane cigarette.

    John then decides to have a haircut, after which the couple return to their sprawling 34-room apartment and welcome photographer Annie Leibovitz inside. 11.00am She asks John if he’d consider stripping off for the photo, while Yoko remains clothed. The resulting picture makes the frontPhoto shoot for Rolling Stone magazine cover cover of Rolling Stone magazine six weeks later. 1.00pm San Francisco radio producer Dave Sholin arrives to conduct what becomes John’s last interview.

    During the three-hour session, the musician poignantly says: “We’re either going to live or we’re going to die. I consider that my work won’t be finished until I’m dead and buried – and I hope that’s a long time.”

    5.00pm Sholin offers John and Yoko a lift to the recording studio. Outside the Dakota, the pavement teems with office workers heading for the subway.

    John and Yoko, 47, spend four-and-a-half hours working at the Record Factory. John arranges to return at 9am the next day, turning to engineer Jack Douglas and smiling: “See you tomorrow morning, bright and early!”

    10.35pm Their limousine takes them up Eighth Avenue to Columbus Circle, continues north along Central Park West and then left into 72nd Street. On the way, John chats excitedly about saying goodnight to his five-year-old son, Sean.

    Greg, I edited the full article in order to avoid any references to a person not worthy of mention.

    Switchboard operator at the Record Plant obtained John’s last autograph on the night of December 8 1980.
    BBC NEWS | Entertainment | Music | ‘Final’ Lennon autograph for sale

  18. Anonymous says:

    i missing so much pictures

  19. Anonymous says:

    When I was a teenager, a year or two after Lennon was murdered by that creep, I remember fantasizing about flying to New York that day and going to the Dakota to somehow stop him from killing John, perhaps by warning the security guard. Ridiculous, I know. But if a time machine existed, I’m sure many of us would do it right now. It’s still amazing to me that John and Yoko didn’t have some sort of security. I just don’t get that.
    Aside from John’s death and the tragedy it inflicted on his family, it’s sickening to think of all the music that was lost. I wonder what the followup to Milk and Honey would have been like, or his fifth or sixth album after coming out of retirement? And how would he have influenced artists in the 1980s to be more political, or been himself influenced by them? It’s hard not to speculate on what-ifs.

  20. Jack says:

    it does not seem that John & Yoko stopped at the Stage Deli, after the ” Walking on Thin Ice ” re-mixing, before going home to the Dakota despite what Randy was writing.

  21. Tammy says:

    True, they did ‘not’ stop at the stage deli, they drove strait home, they had planned to stop, but John wanted to get home to check on Sean.

  22. Jack says:

    I recall it just as Tammy recalls it.

  23. james says:

    I haver to say I find it hard to believe John and Yoko were booked to co host the mike douglas show, even if its said that they subsequently cancelled due to the schedule, its possible but from listening to his interviews at that time, John still didnt sound ready for national exposure of that kind, perhaps in a few months he would have, perhaps he was tentatively booked but I would be very surprised that had happened.

  24. Timmy says:

    Hey, Tammy and Rolando Ortiz, I have the complete interview special that Dave Sholin did w/ The Lennons on 12-8-80. I can be reached at: TICDS@SBCGlobal.Net Thanx for a great posting here. Peace…

  25. Jo says:

    Thank you for posting these amazing photos, Tammy. That week still haunts me and will until the day I die….So, glad you’re back to share more amazing photos, Tammy.

  26. Bluesdude says:

    John had his haircut, got out of the cab at the Dakota and walked right past fuckhead reading his book like the mental murderer he was about to become. I’m glad the piece of shit never got the thrill of spotting John that afternoon.

  27. BeatleAL says:

    Very Tastefully done. I’m glad you did not include the Paul Goresh photos of Dec 8 of John signing the autograugh on Double Fantasy for “what’s his face”. We’ve all seen it a million times, so thanks for skipping that one. Peace

  28. I really would like to know where can I get the GAP leather jacket that John was wearing in 1980. I tried the costumer department of GAP but they say they don´t have it anymore. Does anyone have a clue or knows where it is sold?

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