DECEMBER 8TH 1980:

It’s amazing that more than 33 years later new photo’s and frames surface of John
in 1980.

This photo is an unseen frame from December the 8th 1980, and is on the cover
of this weeks edition of the NME.

This photo says so much, and really moves me. At no other time
did John look like this, besides the pics of him in Hamburg taken by Astrid.

Something happened to John in the last couple of days of his life, he transformed,
he looked and sounded different, i can’t put my finger on it, nor put it into words,
but as this photo shows, John looks resigned, at peace, anticipating.

Yoko’s remembrances from this day may go some way into explaining it ..

WALKING ON THIN ICE by Yoko Ono was first published in Rolling Stone, December 2010 issue as “John’s Last Days: A Remembrance by Yoko Ono”.

“The last weekend was very quiet. The sky was cloudy in a restful way. And the town seemed as though it was asleep.

Saturday started with John listening to “Walking on Thin Ice”. As John was so focused on it, I went out to the news stand and suddenly thought I should get John some chocolates as a surprise. He loved chocolates, but it was not in our sugarless diet at that point. After the drug binges of the Sixties, John wanted both of us to clean up and be healthy “for Sean’s sake too.” But that Saturday, the last Saturday John would enjoy, I thought of getting him some chocolate and surpri sing him. I don’t know why I thought that. I didn’t like chocolates at all then, so I wasn’t suffering not eating them. I got some and came home. As I came out of the elevator, I was surprised by John opening the door to the apartment before I rang the bell. “How did you know I was coming back just now?” “Oh, I know when you’re back.” He was so happy that I got him the chocolates. I remember how he smiled.

The same day, John wanted all my artwork to be brought upstairs from the basement to the white room. This was not the first time he asked for it, but he asked for it on this weekend again. “It’s ridiculous. We have those great works, and we are leaving them in the basement. I want to enjoy them.” For me, it was boring to have to see my old works every day. As a result, my pieces were piled up in the basement storage covered in dust. In those days, I didn’t particularly care about that. “John, can we do it after we finish the album? We are all so busy now.” “No, we should do it now. You’ll never do it otherwise.” As he said it, there was a touch of sadness in his voice, as if he already knew we would never bring them upstairs. We didn’t.

All day, John did not stop playing “Walking on Thin Ice.” He played it over and over again. We still hadn’t overdubbed the guitar solo, so I thought he was checking what to do with it. But it was unlike him that he took so much time on it. I went to sleep. When I woke up on Sunday morning, he was still playing “Walking all Thin Ice” as he looked over the park. I knew the song was a good song. But I was just thinking of what else should be done musically. Never thought deeper than that at the time. Only just recently, it occured to me that maybe John was aware of the song in a different light.

Walking on thin ice
I’m paying the price
For throwing the dice in the air.

But it goes into the middle eight after the second verse:

I may cry someday,
But the tears will dry whichever way…
And when our hearts return to ashes
It’ll be just a story.

I hadn’t realized that it said “I may cry someday,” not “YOU may cry someday” or “WE may cry someday.”

What was I thinking?! John probably noticed it as he listened to the song that weekend, so intently. Was that what made him keep on listening? Did we know something? John? Me? Death was one thing we didn’t discuss that weekend. But it was around us like a thick fog.

The last Sunday. I’m glad in a way that we didn’t know that it was our last Sunday together, so we could have had a semblance of normalcy. But it turned out that it was not a normal Sunday at all. Something was starting to happen, like the dead silence before a tsunami. The air was gelling tenser and tenser, denser and denser. Then, I distinctly saw airwaves in the room. It was wiggly lines, like on the heart monitor next to the hospital bed, just before it becomes a flat straight line. “John, are you all right?” I asked through the density. He just nodded and kept listening to “Walking on Thin Ice,” playing it loud. “Walking on thin ice. Walking on thin ice …” “John, John, arrre youuuu alllll riiight?” I heard my voice vibrating. I could not go near John, for some reason. WALKING ON THIN ICE. WALKING ON THIN ICE. WALKING ON THIN ICE. I realized that both of us were in a strange dimension in a weird time zone, as if we were in a dream. Then it all stopped. I went into a long and shallow sleep, with John over me, kissing me tenderly.

Monday. The very last day of John’s life, we woke up to a shiny blue sky spreading over Central Park. The day had an air of bright eyes and bushy tails. John and I remembered that we had a full schedule. Annie Leibovitz’s photo session, RKO radio show, and studio work from 6 p.m. John liked being prompt. John was English, I was Japanese. The result was both of us possessed extreme austerity and hilarity back to back. The sky was turning gray in the afternoon. And John kept talking to the RKO radio guy, cramming in a lot of things. We nearly became late for the studio. I rushed into the car and saw John still signing an autograph for a guy in front of the Dakota. “John, we’ll be late!” I remember being a bit irritable. “Why one more autograph?” I thought. John said something like, “OK,” and rushed into the car, sat next to me and held my hand as usuaL The car drove off.

I know I speak of his hands a lot. I loved his hands. He used to say he had wanted hands like Jean Cocteau – long and slim fingers. But I grew up surrounded by cousins with those aristocratic hands. I loved John’s, clean, strong, working-class hands that grabbed me whenever there was a chance.

The studio work went until late at night. In a room next to the control room, just before we left the studio, John looked at me. I looked at him. His eyes had an intensity of a guy about to tell me something important. “Yes?” I asked. And I will never forget how with a deep, soft voice, as if to carve his words in my mind, he said the most beautiful things to me. “Oh” I said after a while, and looked away, feeling a bit embarrassed.

In my mind, hearing something like that from your man when you were way over 40… well… I was a very lucky woman, I thought. Even now, I see his piercing eyes in my mind. I don’t know why he decided, at that very moment, to say all that as if he wanted me to remember it forever. Did it matter that the whole world hated you if your guy loved you that much? Who cares if you had to live in hell with him? Some couples might be lucky to live in heaven. John and my heaven was in Hell. And we loved it. We would not have wanted it any other way.

Yoko Ono
London, October 18th, 2010

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29 Responses to “DECEMBER 8TH 1980:”

  1. mcarp555 says:

    A few days ago I was walking through my local Co-op, and saw this cover. Even from a distance, and with the image more than half covered by another magazine, I recognized instantly who it was. The Beatle Radar is always working.

    I remember that night, 33 years ago. It’s a knife in my heart that will never go away. I imagine it’s like what a lot of other Americans feel when they think of Sept. 11th. I grew up in Florida, and saw the shuttle Challenger explode with my own eyes. Knives in the heart.

    “Well even after all these years, I miss you when you’re not here…”

  2. Lizzie says:

    i love your post mccarp555. i also remember that day – though here in brazil we only found out the next morning – and it still hurts, and i still miss him, and i still remember his eLyes, his smile, his voice and the touch of his hand the first time we shook hands, a couple of days after i arrived in february of 1967 – all totally unforgettable. i read that article by yoko when it came out, miss tammy, i read it again the other day and again now. it’s amazing. “did it matter that the whole world hated you if your guy loved you that much?”. yoko was one of the most publicly loved women of our time. that infuriated a lot of people and still does. not me. i’m happy for her, for them. how wonderful that he could experience all that love, passion and companionship in his very short life! the photo is beautiful and sad. have a great weekend, everyone! we are still melting here in rio, in the hottest summer of the past 40 years…

  3. Tammy says:

    Hi,

    Yup, a little misleading, should have said never seen this frame in this quality before :-)

  4. Tammy says:

    Hi Lizzie,

    I’m still away on summer break, I feel your pain, we just had a run of four days at 110 degrees!!, I’d like to meet a climate change denier, I’d wring out my sodden jocks over their head! :-)

  5. Ishie says:

    Thanks for posting the picture and the article. I remember reading Yoko’s remembrance piece when it first came out and thought it so heartfelt and insightful. She captured those moments in time so beautifully.
    Only recently I listened once again to the last interview that John & Yoko gave and his strength, excitement and contentment was so palpable. Their love for one another and the life that they were living was evident … they had truly come full circle and ‘starting over’ was the gift that they gave to each other and to us.
    The 1980 photos of John will always be some of my most favorite because there was a calm, youthful glow about him that was never seen before in such a powerful yet quiet way. The sense of peace that he believed in and campaigned for was reflected in his eyes. He loved his life!
    To all of my friends that are sweltering in the heat, as I write type this it is 20 degrees and snowing in Connecticut!
    My best to all!

  6. Patsounds says:

    The article in NME is een awful one, with storytellers (sources) like Fred Seaman, Robert Rosen (mixed with okay quotes from Bob Gruen, Earl Slick, Tony Davillo and George Small). Just purchased a copy through iTunes. A not-must-have. Don’t buy it, It has nothing new in it.

    Best regards from The Netherlands: Patrick (Patsounds).

  7. Pete F. says:

    A very moving photograph. Miss you JL.

  8. BeatleMark says:

    For all of you Beatle instruments guys….I may have read or saw here that the last time John used his famous 1958 Rickenbacker guitar was recording “Walking On Thin Ice”.

  9. bill c. says:

    It was my 20th birthday , here in nearby Boston , the weather as unseasonably warm here and in NY . Every radio station playing every beatles song the next day seemed like they all had new , terrible meaning .

  10. Michael says:

    I was filled with images of John and George while watching last night’s GRAMMY awards. So sad to see Paul and Ringo sitting together and Yoko, Sean and Charlotte and Olivia representing in different areas of the theater. Just thinking how great it would’ve been to have all four with their families sitting together. Nice as it was, I was left with thoughts of what might have been. Still, I have to say that the atmosphere within me and without me is palpable regarding the upcoming 50th anniversary of the 1st Sullivan show appearance. Such a pivotal day in my life. 50 yrs later the memories are still so fresh. I’m so glad I was alive for it!

  11. Ishie says:

    I understand exactly how you feel Michael. I feel as you do.
    Last evenings Grammy performance of ‘Queenie Eye’ w/Paul & Ringo was joyous, yet bittersweet especially when the camera panned the audience and there was Yoko dancing w/Sean beside her looking very John circa 1969 … and then a glimpse of Olivia Harrison, Nancy Shevell McCartney and of course Barbara Starr …
    Reality hit hard when at songs end Ringo & Paul held hands when taking their bows. I was very emotional.
    I too am glad I was alive to witness the Beatles that Sunday evening in February 1964. From that moment to this, four Liverpudlian musicians changed everything for me …

  12. Jorge says:

    What I found sad was towards the end of the Grammy’s telecast when both Olivia Harrison and Yoko joined Alicia Keys onstage to announce the album of the year and Keys flubs her line by uttering “John Legend” er “Lennon”….don’t know if anyone else caught that

  13. Alex of Bronx says:

    I’m with you Ishie and Michael, I remember the first time also. 50 yrs went by real quick. Everything changed that Sunday night. Sort of like the Wizard of Oz when everything went from black and white to color. I knew from that first night that those songs were timeless and I knew I would be listening to them forever. No kidding, that is the truth and I was only 7 yrs old at the time.
    Very excited over the 50th . Going to the Beatlefest with one of my sons on Sat. Feb.08th. Maybe take a walk in Central Park before we head over, because Feb.08th would be the 50th anniversary of that.
    The Letterman Sunday night special may have some potential also.
    As a kid The Beatles were childhood heroes , they probably influenced me more then anything else outside of parents, sister, friends etc. I feel like they are part of my extended family.
    They are soundtrack of my life. It has been a wonderful ride.

  14. Michael says:

    Jorge… yes I caught that, too. Embarassing for her.

  15. Great blog, amazing photo. You’re right, he looks totally at peace in the photo, great to see such a rare image of John Lennon. We play lots of Beatles song with my group so I’m always looking to find out as much as I can about them, as people not just, musicians and see why they wrote the songs they did. Such legends. Congrats on their Grammy!!

  16. Lizzie says:

    i heard that too jorge… awful. once again, i don’t understand why julian is not invited to these events. it was lovely to see paul and ringo together, though. i can’t say i remember the ed sullivan show because we didn’t have that here in brazil. at that time, beatle news took a while to reach us. i’ll try to watch as much as i can of all the celebrations on youtube.

  17. Kwai Chang says:

    Close your eyes
    what do you hear?
    Do you hear the sound of your own heartbeat?
    Ocean child calls you…
    so I sing the song of love for you…(lia)

  18. Ishie says:

    Lizzie, it is sad that Julian is not present at these events & Cyn as well. At Julian’s Photography Exhibit in NYC a year or so back, outward appearances showed a fairly amicable meeting between Cyn, Julian, Yoko & Sean. I know that Julian & Sean have a relationship but that a Cyn/Yoko connection was still non-existent.
    They share a significant bond in that they both fell in love with the same man, married him & had a son by him. They had to help their sons through the grief & loss of their father’s timeless, cruel death (Julian lost John twice) and they carried on raising & caring for them. Julian & Sean are the heirs to the Lennon name and that should be understood & celebrated.

  19. Lizzie says:

    you’re right, ishie. as our beloved george said “all things must pass”. i saw that video of cyn and yoko hugging and was quite moved by it. julian was not invited to paul’s wedding… that made me sad. it’s like there’s a deliberate rule to keep him away. i would sort of understand cyn not being everywhere – i don’t see pattie being invited to everything – but julian is john’s son. on a lighter note, 45 years since the rooftop concert today! i’m going to a beatle get-together tonight here in rio: one of the many local cover bands (luckily, they don’t dress like the boys nor wear those ridiculous wigs) is playing the entire concert at a rooftop! and again i must go on and on about the fact that i was home in london that day and had no idea they were doing that. they were never at apple at lunch time, so… we all missed it! a couple of the girls were there but were not allowed to go up. i have to get the story from them to share with you.

  20. Ishie says:

    Lizzie … how I love your stories. You bring me back to the time & place and I feel as if I was there with you.
    I’ll be going to the Fest for Beatle Fans in NYC in February to celebrate the Beatles 50th in America! I love going to the fests and this one will be extra special!
    I’ll keep you posted on the happenings at the event and will think of all of my Beatle buddies that are not able to attend.
    All my best to everyone!

  21. Kwai Chang says:

    Re: Lizzie
    (She makes me dizzy)
    “Nothing’s Gonna Change Her World”
    (Hi Betty!)

  22. Lizzie says:

    hi ishie! that is my desire as i (finally…) finish writing my book (portuguese is all done, english still needs some translation), that you all can feel like you were there with me. if i can accomplish that… i’ll be a happy camper (i don’t know why people in the us say this, but i like it!). hi kwai! i get called betty everyday, by my brother and other members of my family. so i am your friend with double personality: betty pre-john lennon and lizzie after. i guess i am about to be officially considered a teenage sex maniac: last night i shared some memories of how sexy john was with a group of young fans at one of their pages on facebook they loved it so much they added an illustration to it, transformed it into something else and posted it i don’t know where… that will teach me to keep my mouth shut and concentrate solely on praising his music! concert last night was totally fab, i sang and danced until late and one of my knees reminded me that i am almost 63 and very overweight… dear greg, i’m sorry i’m using your post to chat, but i SO wish we had a chat option on this blog, it would be soooo much fun! be well, dear friends, i’ll be off to water aerobics in a little while.

  23. Kwai Chang says:

    Chat?
    (All I hear is music)

  24. Since 1963 says:

    No, Lizzie, don’t stop your chatting. Don’t you know you are Rock ‘n Roll royalty to us here. :)
    Probably not alone, I for one experience The Beatles vicariously through you, so go on, please.

  25. Kwai Chang says:

    Lizzie’s stories might be from an informal angle…
    but, they are as legitimate as anything official.
    She is speaking out of experience.
    She was there…
    motivations aside,
    for all fans.
    Thank you, Lizzie.
    How sad it must have been to leave!

  26. alexandre says:

    I have found out the Beatles in 76. At that time, the effect in me was like their music was in colour while the rest of the world was in black and white. I was 10 years old and every christmas and birthday was a chance to get one of their albuns from my parents. Then i was in the middle of all that when john passed away. At that time, hearing the albuns, radio shows about the beatles, bbc tracks, bootlegs, newspapers, magazines, all that…
    At that time, John was the favorite beatle (but he was retired for a while taking care of Sean). As a teenager, it was difficult for me to think of John being retired, so, some time later i was happy to hear one of the “double fantasy” tracks on the radio of a taxi i was with my mom.
    John’s death was a chock for me. It is like speeding a ferrari and suddenly in the middle the engine broke down.
    i am 48 now, and it is still difficult to accept it. How to to accept his departure in the middle of all that, so many important things to happen in the 80′s, 90′s with him. How is it possible to understand the entire importance of a man like John leaving the world with just “40 years old”…
    I will never understand this, until my last days in this world.
    thanks for reading this.

  27. Ishie says:

    Alexandre,
    The enormity of John’s passing is still so overwhelming and sadly 33 years have passed since that horrible night and we still wonder ‘Why?’.
    This is an historical week in America for Beatle fans. The 50th anniversary of the Beatles coming to America and the festivities are many. The phenomenon that was/is the Beatles will be celebrated and the impression and affect that they have had on so many of us will be shared and enjoyed.
    ‘John, Paul, George & Ringo’ … names that flow so easily and so perfectly together. The charisma, the cheekiness, the humor, the look, the style and the unending talent was without a doubt a once in a lifetime occurrence. Every piece fit … and still does!
    Paul & Ringo carry that legacy … they were 1/2 of the whole and then there is Yoko & Olivia to represent & carry the remaining half in and for the honor of their husbands.
    I consider myself very fortunate to be in this world when it all started. Albeit, I was young but I remember their first appearance on ‘Ed Sullivan’, the release of each new 45 & LP and all of the magazines and Beatle related items that came out adorned with the faces of my favorites!
    To Miss Tammy & all my Beatle friends who read, write & contribute to this blog, thanks for being there, for being friends across endless miles and oceans and for always sharing your love .

  28. luis says:

    I have had this one(and a lot more 1980′s pictures i¡ve not seen here) in my computer for almost 5 years . it’s rare that you just found it.

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