Lennon, Yoko and Ray and me – by Duncan Harley

The weekend papers are brim-full of John Lennon tributes. It’s an anniversary of when he died.
Shot five times from behind by a fan intent on taking over his fame, Lennon bled to death in a New York street some four decades ago while we all listened intently to his music.

As the tabloids screamed the news, the perp – some sad man called Chapman was arrested, tried and incarcerated. Seemingly, aged 63, he is about to get out of the penitentiary – that is if he can be pronounced sane.

Today’s Times Mag’ carries a piece by biographer Ray Connolly who describes himself as a friend of the dead musician. Fluently illustrated with shots and quotes from the day, it makes for a good read although one has to wonder how well Connolly actually knew the dead star and why he waited 38 years to tell the tale.

It’s a bit like when a famous gangster dies. Headlines scream the loss and news-weary tabloids predict the death of crime as we know it. Twill never be the same. Extortion is now officially dead. He, or perhaps she, will never be replaced. Then the biographers emerge years later to tell the unknown tale of how he came from nothing and loved his old granny to bits and never actually wielded the hammer that nailed a rival's head to a coffee table. 

Mind you alongside the tale of how Chapman shot the Beatle, the long list of dead pop icons unusual demises stretches almost as far as Eden. Elvis, Otis, Guthrie and Joplin are just the tip of the iceberg. In fact, I seem to recall that Elvis died on the toilet whilst having a well-earned crap.
I well recall the death of Hendrix. It was 1970 something and I was living in a grotty student flat in Glasgow’s Kelvingrove. It was a fellow flat-dwellers birthday and we had a party planned. In those pre-FB days parties were spread by word of mouth, often in pubs and towards the end of a good night out.
‘Fancy coming back to Baliol Street. There’s a party on and there’s loads of birds and shit invited’ .

Invited, was of course the emotive word. Invited does not equate with coming, or being there or indeed present. In this case there were loads of guys and, unbeknown to me, the bathroom had been taken over by a local prostitute. Don’t ask me why or who invited her to set up shop. I can only assume that a fellow flat-mate had some role in it. On reflection, it was probably John McDonald. He always had an eye for the money and was never averse to a bit of fraud in the kitchen kitty department.

Anyway, after turning a few tricks, the lady emerged to find me waiting my turn for the loo. ‘Oh no, I can’t do you’ she said. ‘After all your girlfriend was at school with me and she’s here in the room next door’.

I have to admit that I had no idea at the time that sex was for sale in my bathroom. All I needed was a piss.

As for Ray’s biography, well I could easily have written that. After all, at 38 years distance anything goes. If you’re needing a biography written then look no further than me - but that will be a pound.

Duncan Harley is author of The A-Z of Curious Aberdeenshire and the forthcoming The Little History of Aberdeenshire.


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