John Lennon – "It wasn’t a rip off, it was a love-in"

Bonhams to sell John Lennon’s letter to journalist justifying The Beatles Early Cover Records inspired by American Black Music

John Lennon LetterIn an article The Beatles Betrayal in the New York Times, written in 1971, a journalist accuses the Beatles, and other white artistes, of imitating and exploiting American black music in their early cover records. Upset at the charges levelled against him and his fellow musicians, Lennon was stung into sending a response. His reply – a concise summation of how much the Beatles and their contemporaries admired American black music and the debt they owed to it will be sold in a sale of Rock n Roll & Film Memorabilia at Bonhams in Knightsbridge on Wednesday 24 May 2006.

Lennon’s letter reads:

‘Money’, ‘Twist’n’Shout’, ‘You really got a hold on me’ etc, were all numbers we (the Beatles) used to sing in the dancehalls around Britain, mainly Liverpool. It was only natural that we tried to do it as near to the record as we could – i always wished we could have done them even closer to the original. We didn’t sing our own songs in the early days – they weren’t good enough – the one thing we always did was to make it known that there were black originals, we loved the music and wanted to spread it in any way we could. In the ’50s there were few people listening to blues – R + B – rock and roll, in America as well as Britain. People like – Eric Burdons Animals – Micks Stones – and us drank, ate and slept the music, and also recorded it, many kids were turned on to black music by us. It wasn’t a rip off. it was a love in, signed John + Yennon P.S., what about the ‘B’ side of Money? P.P.S., even the black kids didn’t dig blues etc it wasn’t ‘sharp’ or something. [SIC]

Included in the lot is a photocopy of the article and a carbon copy of the journalist’s reply to Lennon, which remained unanswered. The letter is estimated to fetch £12,000-15,000.

A black felt hat decorated with six metal discs worn by John Lennon on the last official Beatles photo shoot will also be sold – estimated to fetch £15,000 –20,000.

The last official photo shoot for the Beatles took place at Tittenhurst Park on Friday 22nd August 1969, two days after their final recording session. Photographers present were Ethan Russell, Monty Fresco (from the Daily Mail) and Mal Evans. Several of Ethan Russell’s pictures were later used for the cover of the compilation album ‘Hey Jude’, issued in early 1970. The shoot is described in detail in ‘The Beatles London’, Piet Schreuders, Mark Lewisohn, Adam Smith, Publ. Hamlyn, 1994, pps.100-102.

The hat, made in 1969 is stamped Stelzig’s Roper 5 XXXXX Quality and Stelzig’s Saddlery Co. Houston, Texas, and will be sold with two publicity photographs and a statement of provenance. The statement confirms that the hat was borrowed by John from Mal Evans and worn on various occasions. It was Mal Evan’s widow, Lily, who added the purple band which is seen in numerous photographs from the period. This is now missing but the outer band still bears the pinholes where it was attached.

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