Monday, June 2, 2014

Lennon's Memory Shines on

One of my favorite items in my Beatles collection are the Beatles scrapbooks that I own.   I love the fact that some fan spent hours collecting articles and photos of the Beatles and taping them into a scrapbook and writing dates and notes.   I was looking through some of my scrapbooks from the solo years and I can across this article about John Lennon's security guard from 1980.   I know that I have posted his photo on this blog in the past, but here is a little more about him.

I found this article, which was written in 1981 to be sad.   I hope this man hasn't spent the rest of his life thinking "if only I...." when it comes to John's death.  Really I doubt there would have been anything he could have done if he was with John.   Please note that in respect of the wishes of Yoko Ono, Paul McCartney and my fellow John Lennon fans I have removed the name of John's killer from the article and have just referred to him as "the killer."   I have maintained not to post his name on this blog or post his photograph, however if someone chooses to do so in the comments section, I will not stop their freedom of speech to do so.   Thank you for understanding. 

Lennon’s Memory shines on
By Bill Carlton
The Daily News December 22, 1981

John Lennon inspired a lot of people with his music, but he inspired the Rev. James McClain with his life as well and gave him the extra strength he needed to make his own music.  

In the last few months before Lennon’s death, McClain was his personal bodyguard at the Hit Factory recording studio on W. 48th St.  McClain worked as a security guard there and was assigned to protect Lennon and Yoko while they were making the “Double Fantasy” album.

Lennon refused McClain’s offer to travel with him and guard him around the clock.  So the former Beatle, who never carried a weapon, was defenseless against the gunman when he arrived home at the Dakota just over a year ago.

“If only I had been there, maybe I could have helped” are words that have haunted McClain ever since.

The big, burly, 41 year old minister is an ex-convict who once served a three year stretch for bank robbery.  He became a born-again believer in Lewisburg Prison and on his released in 1974, was ordained a Pentecostal minister in Harlem.

After meeting John Lennon, however, McClain says he was inspired and encouraged to record an album of his own gospel music and thereby fulfill a life-long ambition.

“He didn’t know how much he helped me,” McClain says.  “He left a big impact on me as far as songwriting is concerned.  He found out I was a musician and I sang him a few bars of gospel.”   “Wow, James!” John said, “You have a nice voice.  I want to hear your record.  You got some stuff I can hear? “  So I gave him a tape of 13 songs and he liked them so much he carried the cassette around.  He told me to make sure he got a copy of the single I was working on, ‘Somebody Somewhere need the Lord’.  But he died a month before it was finished.”

In mid-summer of 19890, when the recording session began for “Double Fantasy,” McClain’s job was to meet John, Yoko and often their son, Sean, when their limo arrived at the Hit Factory near Ninth Avenue, usually late in the afternoon.  He made sure they got safely through the crowd of fans, into the building and up to the sixth floor suite prepared for them.  He escorted them back into the limo when the session ended, often at 3 or 4a.m.

“Security came first,” says McClain, an imposing man who doesn’t carry a gun.  “There were always crowds of people outside the building but we never had any problems.  I check out everybody who was waiting and if they looked suspicious I would immediately question them.  ‘Who are you?  Why are you waiting so long?  Let’s see some ID.’  I encountered quite a few suspicious people.  When I saw the pictures of the killer, I had the feeling I’d seen him before, outside the Hit Factory.  But I wasn’t sure.”

Sometimes a mob of 50 or more people would be waiting when the limo pulled up.  “the young girls would cry and go to pieces,” McClain remembers.   “John would kiss them on the cheek and pose for pictures, always with Yoko.  Once he came and nobody was there.  He was shocked.  He lived for the fans.  He didn’t always want to be bothered, thought.  One day he ran down the hallway to escape them and get in quick.  He was very fast on his feet.  If he could have gotten a few steps on his killer, I’m sure he’d be alive today.”


  1. What a lovely story! Thanks for posting, Sara!

  2. Nice share. I love these "everyday" type stories you find. And I'm with you... I never say that creep's name.

  3. Great story to read. If only.

  4. What a wonderful and heartbreaking recollection from Rev. McClain. I too, hope he didn't live the rest of his life, thinking "what if . . ." He did his job and did it well. The only way the outcome could have been different was if John had been driven into the driveway of his building and immediately exited the car. But, the fates were what they were. Thank you for posting.

  5. Yes great story I loved this bit of info, and the photo that goes with it. IF only.