Executive Honorary Members

Sir Paul McCartney
Ringo Starr

Executive Patrons

Sir George Martin
Julian Lennon

Patron

Astrid Kirchherr

Honorary Members

Cynthia Lennon
Pete Best
Yoko Ono
Gay Byrne
Geoff Rhind
Gerry Marsden
Allan Williams
Richard Lester
Harry Prytherch
(The Original Quarrymen):-
Rod Davis
Colin Hanton
Eric Griffiths
Len Garry
Pete Shotton

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John Lennon

 

 

 

John Lennon

 

1940 - 1980

 

 

John Lennon Remembered

 

 

 

 

Where were you the day John Lennon died?

 

It was President Kennedy, ennobled by youthfulness and the proliferation of the mass media, whose assassination made such a universal impact that millions remember where they were on hearing the dreadful news.

 

Inevitably others with a worldwide influence are now similarly accorded this accolade. It is perhaps a mark of the times that this mantle now embraces popular culture as well as world statesmen.

 

The greatest claim to this macabre fame must be John Lennon, who was killed 20 years ago. As his assassination occurred outside his New York home during the evening, the news broke in Ireland and Britain in the small hours. Most people were in bed, but what are their recollections on hearing it? After all, the killing was not only the death of one the most famous pop musicians and composers, but also a father and husband.

 

Below: People who knew John Lennon personally, or as a fan, recall the day he died.

 

Tell us where you were or what you were doing at the time you heard John was shot. You can e-mail us at the address below and your story will be put on this page.

 

Yoko Ono (Wife)

 

John's widow, Yoko, saw her husband gunned down in front of her as they left their apartment in the Dakota building. She says she has worked hard to make sure his songs and message weren’t lost in the years since the murder. "I feel we’re still working together," she says.

 

Today Yoko will sit in her apartment at the Dakota, where she still lives, alone with her memories.

 

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Pete Best

 

I was getting ready for work with the civil service when my wife called him to say: "Pete. you’d better come and listen to this..," Pete told the ECHO: "It was about 6am and I was getting ready for work at the job centre at the time. Kathy had been listening to the news and shouted upstairs that John had been murdered.

 

"It didn’t enter my head it was John Lennon and I asked ‘John who?’. Did she mean John, the neighbour, or someone I worked with? I initially thought it was a sick joke but as the news flashed on and on, I realised it was true. John, who I had played with and been friends with for three years, was dead. My first thoughts were, ‘Why? What had this guy done to anyone?"’

 

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John Travolta (Actor)

 

"I blocked out where I was when I heard," says actor John Travolta. "I kind of just travelled in my mind to where it happened. I was so familiar with that spot because I had lived in the building next door. I imagined how safe he must have felt going in and out of there, because I know I did. The Beatles meant everything to me growing up and John inspired youth to speak out."

 

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Keith Richards (Rolling Stones)

 

When he heard of the shooting, the Rolling Stones guitarist was convinced his friend would pull through. "I was downtown on Fifth Avenue," says Keith. "The first news I got I thought, ‘He’ll make it — it’s just a flesh wound.’ Then later on, the news really came. You think, ‘God, why can’t I do anything about it?’ I got well drunk on it. And I had another one for John."

 

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Marianne Faithfull (Singer)

 

"I had just got into a minicab in London when the news came on and then they played all John Lennon songs," says singer Marianne. "The most amazing time I ever had with John was when we went to see the Maharishi in Bangor and that’s when I got the closest to him. He was so funny. But I was always a bit frightened of him because he was so incredibly clever.

 

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Noel Gallagher (Singer)

 

The Oasis guitarist, who was 13 when Lennon was murdered, says: "I was in my front room in Manchester listening to a football match and they interrupted it to say John Lennon had been assassinated. It was like ‘F*** it was just silence really. I didn't know what it meant until I dissected the White Album and then I thought 'F***, this guy is not around any more."

 

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Mike McCartney (Paul McCartney’s brother)

 

"I was woken early in the morning by some radio station calling and I could not believe it. My other reaction now is that I cannot believe how long ago it was. At the time I just kept saying, ‘What are you talking about?’ I was simultaneously coming round and trying to take it in while in shock. I had seen him in New York some years previously and he was on great form. He was just coming back into the business, talking about returning to Liverpool and writing some good songs. People were accepting that John Lennon was back.

 

Then suddenly this maniac took his life away, putting three or four bullets in his back. It as the ultimate act of cowardice. Then to hear his killer say about his release from prison, ‘John would like me to come out,’ is more insanity. Demented people like this are being put back into society when they should be locked away and the key thrown away. I’ve never said the name of the man that shot John because it gives him the fame he craves for"

 

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Ted Robbins (Paul McCartney’s cousin)

 

"I was lying in bed at my parent’s house, when I was told by my mum. I was absolutely stunned. My sister Jane and I were in tears. I remember when I was about 12 or 13 years-old Paul taking us to visit Abbey Road Studios at Easter time and John saying in his very dry way: ‘Do you like chocolate?’ and then giving us a great big chocolate rabbit.

 

I saw him occasionally during The Beatles years. He used to come down to my Dad’s pub in Reading and Dad put him and Paul on a double bill called The Nerk Twins. They’d be about 16 and drink cider, get tiddly and crawl around under the tables acting daft. John was always considered a naughty, sharp lad. I know Paul was really glad he and John had made up before he was killed."

 

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Spencer Leigh (Author and pop musicologist)

 

"The impact of John Lennon’s death was not like Kennedy’s. The president’s assassination took place at about 5pm our time so everyone was somewhere, whereas Lennon was shot at 10pm New York time, which was while we were all in bed. I remember hearing something on the radio as I dressed for work. John was being referred to in the past tense. I don’t feel it was the end of an era as he had done so little in the years prior to his death. But then I didn’t feel it was ‘the day that the music died’ either when Buddy Holly was killed.

 

However, I believe there was still lot of music in John Lennon. The Double Fantasy album shows that we lost out on a good deal more great music".

 

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Ray Johnson (Cavern City Tours)

 

"I remember being told the news of John Lennon’s death as clear as daylight by my wife at 630am when she brought me a cup of tea. I also remember not going to work (I was a water meter fitter) and ringing in with the excuse I was sick, whereas I was upset. I played in a Beatles cover band and was a huge fan.

 

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Bill Heckle (Cavern City Tours)

 

"I vividly remember when I heard that John Lennon was shot. I got a phone call at 4:30am from my girlfriend (now my wife) Diane who was on an early shift at Littlewoods and had just got the news that he had been pronounced dead. Shocked by being waken up by this tragic news, I staggered into the kitchen, totally bemused.

 

When I heard Imagine being played on the radio I knew it was true, I remained shocked all day. I was a teacher then, working at Bebington Boys School and the kids were all crying. Their parents were all first-generation Beatles fans and were so upset that the boys became distressed too. It’s astonishing that this tragedy happened 20 years ago, yet to us John Lennon is still here."

 

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John 'Hoppy' Hopkins (photographer)

 

"I got to know John Lennon from meeting him at a gallery in 1966 where Yoko Ono was having one of her ‘happening’ exhibitions. Their largesse, tolerance and generosity was extraordinary. When he was killed I was deeply shocked. After all, he was not a threat to anyone.

 

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Gerry Marsden (Gerry and the Pacemakers)

 

"I was in bed when Radio City, I think, phoned to say John Lennon was dead. The next morning my wife asked who had phoned. Until then, I thought I had dreamt John Lennon had died! I spent all day speaking on just about every radio station, as I knew someone had to tell his story. John was my best pal, we used to mess around together and had the same sense of humour. We both started off playing in skiffle groups, me in the Gerry Marsden Skiffle group and John in the Quarrymen. That’s how we met and became good friends.

 

We were in Hamburg together (by then in the Pacemakers and The Beatles). We were just kids having a ball. What we got up to is not printable! The worst part is that once we started touring and making records we couldn’t see each other, although I would stay with him and Cynthia in London. When The Beatles refused to do How Do You Do It, John said to Brian Epstein, ‘That’s a really lousy song, why don’t you give it to Gerry? He’ll do it?’ I still thank him in my prayers for my first number one. He was a really good mate. I really wish he was alive today."

 

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John Wray (Musician) 

 

"I was still at school, a 15-year-old Beatles fan with a bedroom full of their music since I was a boy. I was woken by Dad who told me the dreadful news that Lennon was dead. I remember it as if it was yesterday. My friends and I all bunked off school and spent the day playing his music. Lennon had been away from the scene for five or sixyears and had his new record (Double Fantasy) out. (Just Like) Starting Over was falling down the charts but went straight back up to number one when he died. Before that everybody had been expecting good things from him again."

 

A production worker with Niagra Manufacturing, Denbigh, John plays Beatles music as a solo performer. He says: "Everybody hoped for a Beatles reunion, but when Lennon was shot that was it."

 

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Bob Woolen (Cavern Club DJ)

 

A dose of festive flu meant the man who introduced The Beatles live on nearly 400 occasions was one of the last to hear the tragic news.

 

Bob Woolen, the legendary promoter and Cavern Club DJ, recalls: "I was possibly the last person to hear of John’s death. I was laid low in bed and so hadn’t gone out to the office in the morning as I would usually have done, and I wasn’t on the phone at the time so no-one could contact me that way. When I finally rose from my sick-bed at lunchtime and switched on the radio, I couldn’t believe it. My initial response, which is ridiculous, was that someone was having a joke. But people don’t joke about things like that. But it just didn’t seem possible. I was devastated. I had to get into action and went straight down to the Grapes in Mathew Street where many fans had gathered to mourn him. We talked about our memories of him, which seemed to help."

 

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Bill Harry (Author)

 

It was only 8am but Bill Harry's phone had not stopped ringing. The celebrated Beatles author was fast asleep when he was awoken by the first call and told that John had been shot, but he was left in doubt as to the consequences.

 

"I had hoped it wasn’t serious," remembers Bill. But those hopes were in vain. Eventually as more and more people phoned with the heartbreaking news, Bill was forced to leave the phone off the hook.

 

"I just couldn’t take it any more, I couldn’t talk to anyone," says Bill. "I was so upset my face came out in red blotches. I really couldn’t deal with it. I had known John for so long and, ironically, that he had trouble expressing grief, and despite the many approaches to talk about him to the media I just couldn’t do it. And, 20 years later, I remember it all only too clearly still."

 

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Allan Williams (Promoter)

 

"I will never forget the moment I first heard," says The Beatles first promoter. Allan Williams was not alone in his grief. Like many, he had woken up to the news: "It was five in the morning, the phone rang and I went downstairs to answer it. The person on the other end of the line told me John Lennon had been shot dead outside the Dakota Building. I asked him if he was sick and hung up. I thought it was a strange call. But within seconds, it rang again and someone from a radio station asked me to get in a taxi and go down to the radio station."

 

From then began a series of interviews which took Allan from Merseyside to Birmingham and London.

 

"There were so many phone calls from around the world about my reactions that I don’t think I really allowed it to sink in. But after they were all over and I arrived at a friend’s house where I was staying the night in London, it suddenly dawned on me that this had happened - and I burst into tears."

 

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Shelagh Johnston (Manager - The Beatles Story)

 

It was too much for Shelagh Johnston to even step out of her front door when John Lennon died. So she kept her son away from school and spent the day at home with her children, quietly reflect on the news which had broken her heart.

 

"I couldn’t cope. People were coming up to me and asking me how I felt," says Shelagh, manager of The Beatles Story in Liverpool. "I remember so clearly waking up at 6:45am and thinking how nice they were playing John Lennon’s music on the radio. Then another John Lennon record came on... I thought it was odd, just before the news. but then the headline story was that John had been shot in New York. I was stunned. I thought it was a mistake, a mis-identification".

 

"I was a young mum at the time. Andrew, was five, and the twins. Barbara and Jennifer, were two. I was getting them ready, Andrew for school, and I just stopped. Andrew didn’t go to school that day. I explained to him that someone special had died and gone to heaven. I had worked for The Beatles - I had looked after Paul McCartney's fan mail from 1961-64 - I had seen and met them; they were a part of my life. The memories came flooding back and I thought what a waste of life; such a talented man, a brilliant musician. And John’s memory seems to become stronger as the years go on."

 

John Lennon Remembered

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