Thursday, June 20, 2013

It ain't fair

This story of meeting John goes with a photo that I posted a long time ago.  I love it when I find a story that goes with a photo.   I found this story in the December 1982/January 1983 issue of Beatlefan magazine.  It was written  by E.S. Moger (who says his name is Steve in the story) of Ann Arbor, Michigan.   

Photo taken by E.S. Moger of his friend interviewing John and Yoko in the hallway of the hotel before leaving for the rally
this photo was taken shortly after the meeting, in the car on the way to the rally

This wasn't taken the day of this story, but I thin it is the only photo I have seen that has John with John Sinclair.

Ask Beatlefans what they remember most when they think of John Lennon and you’re in for as many different answers as there are Beatlefans.    Some will say his singing voice.  Others, his songwriting abilities.  Some will point to the fact that he was the unofficial “leader” of the Fab Four.  Still others will remember that Lennon was the one who once said The Beatles were more popular than Jesus Christ.  But perhaps the thing John Lennon will be most remembered for besides his music, is his activism.
His efforts for peace and love, for equality on all levels they all showed us the other side of the man most history books will record as simply a “rock n roll idol.”

It was because of his social activism that I was granted a rare opportunity to meet my idol, John Lennon , in December 1971.  I was working at a Detroit area radio station when one of their reporters asked if I would like to meet John Lennon and Yoko Ono in person.  What a question to ask a die-hard Beatlefan like myself, I thought!

So it was on December 9, 1971.  I found myself loaded down with cameras, microphones, tape recorders, and one reporter and driving out t Ann Arbor, Michigan, to interview Lennon.
The former Beatle had agreed to perform at the “John Sinclair Freedom Rally” at Chrisler Arena.  Sinclair had received a 10 year prison sentence for possession of two marijuana cigarettes.  Feeling the punishment was harsh and unjust, Lennon agreed to do a benefit concert at his own expense to raise money for Sinclair’s defense fund.

At 8:30p.m., I knocked on the Presidential Suite of the Ann Arbor Hotel.

“Are you sure your sources were correct?” I kept asking the reporter.  How could we have simply waltzed up to this spot without a dozen people stopping us?  “Don’t worry Steve,” he kept assuring me, “this is the floor and the right room.”

My heart was racing a mile a minute when, without warning, on the third knock, the door opened and there stood Yoko Ono in the flesh! The reporter asked her if we might get a chance to speak with Lennon before the scheduled concert that night.  Ono replied that they both had been traveling a lot lately and were very tired.  But perhaps later, on their way to the arena, they could answer a few questions.  We both thanked her and agreed to let them rest. 

I stayed in the hallway outside Lennon’s hotel suite form 8:30p.m. until he finally burst into the hallway at 12:35a.m.  His hair was short and though the hallway was dim, he wore a pair of sunglasses.  Underneath his short black leather coat, he wore a black T-shit with white letters reading, “You Are Here.”

Lennon looked tired and weary as he approached us.  Without waiting for hm to speak, the reporter began asking questions.  I noticed Ono speaking up as often as Lennon, giving answers as though as were an extension of him.  

Lennon said he had been contacted by someone regarding the rally and wholeheartedly supported it.   He just couldn’t conceive of anyone being jailed for 10 years because of two marijuana cigarettes.  No, he had never met Sinclair, but the issues raised in his case were very close to Lennon. 
During the interview, both Lennons looked my way more than once, I suppose wondering why I hadn’t taken any pictures yet with the camera slung around my neck.  I had not more out of respect for them, than nervousness.

Thank heavens I was with someone, because many times I had a chance to say something yet did not.
Lennon  finally mentioned the song he had just finished writing for the occasion about Sinclair’s confinement in jail.  He planned on performing it that night.  Unexpectedly, there was a deadening silence with no one saying a word.  It was then that I saw my chance to snap a few pictures.
The impasse was finally broken when Lennon mentioned that he had to leave for the concer.t  It was then that I found my tongue and allowed myself to speak, “John can I help you carry your case?”  Ono looked down at the one case Lennon was carrying and a slight smile began to form on her lips.  Then I heard Lennon’s reply, “Thanks, but I think I can handle my guitar myself.  See you later.”  I watched as the Lennons stepped into the elevator and disappeared from sight.

Over 15,000 people paid to get in – not to see Stevie Wonder, Jerry Rubin, Allen Ginsburg or others – but to see and hear John Lennon who finally walked out onstage at 3 a.m.  He and Ono played for only 20 minutes – long enough to sing the song he had written for this special event, “John Sinclair” and a few others.  John Lennon had come to our town to play and sing for a man he didn’t even know!

Sinclair was able to listen to a live broadcast of the concert from his cell in Jackson Prison.
We may never know whether Lennon’s benefit concert was a catalyst for the events that happened in the days following b ut John Sinclair was released on bond by an appeals cour ta few days after the 1971 rally, having already served a few years of his sentence.  Later, the remaining portion of the sentence was commuted for being “harsh and unusual punishment.”

The song Lennon wrote for Sinclair was later recorded on the lp, “sometime in New York City.”  Naturally I have the song and the lp, but more importantly I have the memory of John Lennon during this very active and important part of his life.
--E.S. Moger

1 comment:

  1. Aw, I completely understand, I would have been terrified to say anything, and would have blurted out something like that! Also, way cool to have that picture of Sinclair with Lennon!!

    Thanks for typing this one up, Sara!