Tuesday, January 20, 2015

John on the Road with Sgt. Pepper

Just a few small articles about some lucky fans that saw John Lennon on the opening night of the Sgt. Pepper on the Road Broadway Play.  I never knew about John throwing the albums into the crowd on opening night.     I located these stories in the Nov/Dec 1974 issue of The Write Thing.   

'©ImageCollect.com/Photo by Robert Fitzgerald/Globe Photos,inc. 

I’d like to tell you about my brief but exciting encounter with John Lennon.  You know the new play that just opened up in NYC, “Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band?”  Well, opening nigh was Sunday, November 17 (1974) so we went up to NYC because we heard that John and Paul were supposed to attend, and we wanted to catch a glimpse of them.  When we got to the Beacon Theatre, there were hundreds of people lined up along the street and around the theatre.  And then the limousines started arriving, and the celebrities started piling in.  Paul never showed, but John did, just as he said he would.   His limousine pulled up, and right away, you could feel the excitement in the air, but the commotion didn’t start until he got out of the car, accompanied by May Pang.  Flash-cubes went off, reporters crowded in, people started screaming and running after him.   In his hand were three albums:  Walls and Bridges, Band on the Run and Ringo. He could barely make it to the door with all the people surrounding him, so that when he was a couple of feet away from the door, he must have just gotten so disgusted with the whole scene, that he took the albums,  and flung them out to the people.   But John had a few surprises up his sleeve.  Inside the albums were free tickets to the opening night of the play.  One man got one of the albums, and inside were 5 tickets.  He was so happy that tears streamed down his face.  If you didn’t know better, you’d swear that it was 1964 again, with all the hysteria going on.  When John finally reached the door, and was safely inside, the cops started shoving everyone past the barricades, and even hit someone over the head with their billy club.  When everything had finally calmed down, guess who arrived?   None other than Yoko Ono!   She looked very nice in her white silk gown and talked to the MC before going in.  Wonder what she was thinking, everyone was yelling, “We want Lennon!”  But alas, to no avail.
--Kathy D.  New Jersey

Let me start off by saying my two friends and I have been trying to meet and get to rap to any one of the “great ones” since they broke up.  Since Beatlefest, we have set goals to seek out all four, either by meeting them somewhere or see them in concert.   Well, we did get lucky.   It was the premiere of the play “Sgt. Pepper.”  Waiting outside, a limousine pulled up and out stepped John Lennon with May Pang.  From that moment on the crowd went crazy just like 1964.  We followed John inside with the rest of the crowd right to his seat.  From then on my friends and I were talking to him, asking for autographs and shaking hands with him.   By the way, the play is excellent, the way the different Beatle songs are blended in with the plot of the play.  If it comes around you, it is worthwhile seeing.  Feeling quite good after that event we really felt he would play with someone in concert soon.   Our request was answered when we heard that for the Thanksgiving Elton John concert John Lennon was to make an appearance and play a couple of songs.  As we waited, about halfway through the concert, Elton John proudly introduced John Lennon.  John started out by playing “Whatever gets you Through the Night” with Elton backing up.  Then John did one song for his “former finance”, meaning Paul McCartney, it was “I saw her standing there,” with Elton backing again on vocals.  Then Elton John came out with his new single, the Lennon-McCartney song “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds,” with John playing backing guitar and vocals.  Finally on one of the encores, John, feeling really good, came back on to sing and play tambourine on “The Bitch is Back.”  It was quite a night!
--Peter P.  New Jersey


  1. Thank you, Sara! I love this period in John's life and it's great be able to read these firs-hand accounts.

  2. I have always wondered about the exact date of this premiere that John and May attended. The pic of John and the billboard outside clearly states the premiere is Nov 14. BTW that pic was taken on another different day entirely! The fan reports state the premiere was Nov 17 (you don't forget the date you meet a Beatle!) so what's going on exactly and which date is correct?

    1. I actually know the answer! The show was supposed to have opened on the 14th, but the actor that was to play Billy Sheers was injured and Ted Neely was given the part. This pushed the opening date from the 14th to the 17th. The photos of John with the billboard were taken with the original Billy Sheers prior to the 14th for promotional reasons, but most of it couldn't be used because of the wrong lead actor. I don't have my files with me (at work), so I am going off memory .