Lennonology Author Joins John Lennon 75th Birthday Party

Lennonology logo title

Noted Beatles author Chip Madinger publishes Lennon-Ono chronology spanning 1966-1980

By Stephen K. Peeples

Just in time to help celebrate what would have been rock music icon and peace activist John Lennon’s 75th birthday on Oct. 9, noted Beatles collector and author Chip Madinger and his historian-collector co-author Scott Raile will publish a new book titled “Lennonology: Strange Days Indeed – A Scrapbook of Madness.”

Lennonology logo titleThe detailed chronological journal traces the tumultuous personal and creative relationship of the Liverpool-born Lennon and Japanese-born, London-based avant-garde artist Yoko Ono, from their first chance meeting in November 1966 to their wedding in March 1969, all the way through his murder in December 1980.

Author of 2001’s acclaimed “Eight Arms to Hold You: The Solo Beatles Compendium” (with co-writer Mark Easter), Madinger and collaborator Raile meticulously researched everything in the 500-plus-page “Lennonology” (with an additional 180 pages of quotation citations to be posted online only).

Researched, written and fact-checked over the nearly 15 years since Madinger’s first book, “Lennonology” launches a series of reference books he has in progress under the “Lennonology” banner.

Madinger probably would have wrapped this first volume a bit sooner, but as he immersed himself in the project, it mushroomed. And he accepted a series of other Lennon- and Beatles-related assignments few die-hard hard-core Beatles aficionados in media would turn down.

The first photo image in 'Lennonology' - John & Yoko dressed in drag, Courtesy Open Your Books LLC.
The first photo in ‘Lennonology’ – John & Yoko dressed in drag, shocking the bug-eyed 19th-century character behind them. Courtesy Open Your Books LLC.

They included writing and production roles on PBS’s “American Masters: LENNONYC”; a VH1 Classic Album Series’ closeup of Lennon’s epochal first post-Beatles solo album, 1970’s “John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band”; an eight-disc collection of the Lennons’ phone conversations with WABC/New York deejay Howard Smith titled “I Am Not a Beatle”; and the first authorized CD release of Paul McCartney’s soundtrack to “The Family Way.”

Madinger also contributed research and archival material for a number of reissues including The Beatles’ “Capitol Albums: Volume One” and the “Magical Mystery Tour” DVD/Blu-Ray for Apple Records.

(A non-Beatles credit worthy of mention is Madinger’s archival work on the 40th anniversary edition of Elton John’s “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” album, for Universal Music.)

In 2005, Madinger teamed up with Raile, a fellow Beatles collector and historian. Over the next decade, the co-conspirators compiled what they believe to be the most well-researched and comprehensive account of John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s interconnected artistic legacy ever created.

Madinger is publishing 500 limited-edition boxed copies of “Lennonology” at prices ranging from $150 to $1,500 including numbering, author signatures and other bonus material; more than half are already pre-sold. An initial run of 1,500 softcover copies is also pre-selling well at $100 each. All tiers are available from Open Your Books LLC at www.lennonology.com.

Chip Madinger Talks About ‘Lennonology’

Madinger’s publisher had sent the first two chapters for my review, and I read them in one pass. Could not put them down. Madinger and I plan to talk again after I’ve read the complete book.

Based in the western suburbs of St. Louis, Missouri, he was in his home office when this reporter spoke with him on the phone in early September. The book’s final galleys had just been delivered and he was about to start a marathon proofreading sessi0n.

Here’s a transcript of our convo:

Yoko Ono and John Lennon, Sept. 27, 1967. Courtesy Open Your Books LLC.
Lennonology – Yoko Ono and John Lennon, Sept. 27, 1967. Courtesy Open Your Books LLC.

Stephen K. Peeples: Why do you think we’re still talking about John Lennon? He’s been dead almost 35 years.

Chip Madinger: That’s a good question. There was something special about him. He had that draw, he had that magnetism. He was very truthful, had a lot to say, and didn’t sugar-coat it. People were just enthralled with his personality.

I think Yoko’s done a wonderful job of curating John’s legacy and basically keeping his spirit alive without exploiting it. Every year or every few years, she tries to mark the anniversary of his birthday with a release of some sort of previously unavailable material, be it music or artwork.

One year [1988] she gave us “The Lost Lennon Tapes,” which ran for a few years, and that was a terrific present for the fans. It was a great audio history, and paired with the unreleased music.

[The same year, Ono provided the Lennons’ video and film archives to producers Andrew Solt and David Wolper for the acclaimed film documentary “Imagine: John Lennon.”]

'Lennonology' entry for John Lennon's 28th birthday. Courtesy Open Your Books LLC.
Lennonology – Entry for John Lennon’s 28th birthday. Courtesy Open Your Books LLC.

Yoko’s come out with several albums of unreleased material, the remasters, the remixes. She’s kept his spirit to the fore.

Some people will criticize Yoko for putting John’s artwork onto coffee mugs and coloring his artwork and putting it on sale, but I think she’s done a terrific job of keeping his legacy alive.

Peeples: You’ve been working on this first installment of “Lennonology” for 15 years!? Well, there were a few other cool projects along the way that accounted for part of that time, at least…

Madinger: When I released “Eight Arms to Hold You” in October 2000, I immediately started keeping notes for what I felt was going to be an updated edition of “Eight Arms to Hold You.” And I of course started with John in the first chapter and started to realize how linked he and Yoko really were, and how much she was a part of his art and how much he was a part of her art.

To just go through and talk about Lennon’s music and his artwork without mentioning Yoko, you were really only getting half of the story. It ended up becoming a day-by-day, not necessarily every day, history written in a linear fashion without foresight that walks us through John and Yoko’s life together from 1966 through the end of 1980.

Lennonology entry for Nov. 12, 1968. Courtesy Open Your Books LLC.
Lennonology – Entry for Nov. 12, 1968. Courtesy Open Your Books LLC.

I think “Lennonology” is the first time Yoko’s artistic output has been detailed this thoroughly. All of her recording sessions are included, the filming sessions for all of the artistic films she and John put together, recording dates for sessions she did without John when they were separated in ’73-’74 and she did the album with [guitarist] David Spinozza. All of Yoko’s works are given as much credence as John’s. It’s given equal coverage, as much as we could. John might have been more prolific in some ways, but we tried to strike a good balance which how much coverage each of the Lennons received in the book.

Peeples: You gathered information from myriad sources to compile this chronology, but not the most obvious ones.

Madinger: We researched “Lennonology” from scratch. As you know, there are libraries full of Lennon and Beatles books, which in a lot of cases have very little new information – it’s all copied and pasted together from existing sources. So, I started by researching it from scratch, going back to find contemporary accounts. No rehash.

About five years into the project, Scott Raile, another Beatles collector and author, came on board and helped with the research, then put together a draft of the book, and was a great sounding board throughout.

We did a lot of interviews with the Lennons’ contemporaries, but they were mostly for color – since it was 30-35 years ago for a lot of these situations, a lot of memories had faded. You’ve seen The Beatles’ “Anthology” and how all the Beatles tell different stories about the same event. So I let the newspapers and studio documentation and all the paperwork from the government be the foundation for the book, and the interviews and the like were for color.

And I have to say I’m very glad John did not take on his Aunt Mimi’s last name, that he wasn’t formally adopted, because searching for “John Smith” would’ve made this very difficult.

Lennonology - John Lennon's 1968 U.S. visa.
Lennonology – A copy of John Lennon’s 1968 U.S. visa. Courtesy Open Your Books LLC.

Peeples: You mentioned paperwork from the government — along with bringing Yoko’s story more to the fore, you said later chapters of “Lennonology” bring out lots of new details about John’s battle with the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service from 1972 through 1976, when he was fighting deportation back to England.

[To quickly recap, aging segregationist Senator Strom Thurmond (D/R-South Carolina) was tipped off in early 1972 about the Lennons’ not-so-secret plan to join up with the Yippies and Black Panthers and campaign against President Richard Nixon’s re-election that November.

The Vietnam war was raging, and it would be the first election in which 18-21-year-olds were allowed to vote, and many were anti-war. Nixon’s platform was pro-war, so he was vulnerable.

A Nixon supporter, Thurmond sent a secret memo on Feb. 4, 1972 — the same day the Lennons began a week as co-hosts of “The Mike Douglas Show” and featured guests like Yippie Jerry Rubin and Black Panther Bobby Seale — to U.S. Attorney General John Mitchell and Nixon aide William Timmons.

Attached to the secret memo was a note from the Senate Internal Security Committee, which suggested Lennon’s anti-Nixon activism could be a problem, and yanking his visa when it expired in May might be a good “strategy counter-measure.

Lennonology - John Lennon pot conviction news brief, Nov. 28, 1968. Courtesy Open Your Books LLC.
Lennonology – John Lennon pot conviction Associated Press news brief, Nov. 28, 1968. Courtesy Open Your Books LLC.

Discovering Lennon’s 1968 pot bust and conviction back in the U.K., the Nixon Administration used that to justify ordering the INS to initiate deportation proceedings and covert surveillance. Government agents indeed wiretapped the Lennons’ phone, something John suspected throughout the standoff, which finally ended with a court ruling in his favor on Oct. 7, 1975. He was issued a green card for permanent residency on July 27, 1976.

This was all documented in history professor and author Jon Weiner’s  acclaimed 1984 book “Come Together: John Lennon in His Time” and the 2000 followup, “Gimme Some Truth: The John Lennon FBI Files,” both based on documents Weiner obtained from the government via the Freedom of Information Act.]

Madinger: Through the Freedom of Information Act, we turned up about 3,000 sheets of files for the immigration case that weren’t among those Jon had used. It basically allowed me to present a very thorough account of Lennons’ whole fight with the INS.

It tells the story with a lot more information. It becomes very obvious from the very beginning that the government wanted John and Yoko out. There’s a paper trail that they wanted them out.

Soon after the Thurmond memo, Sol Marks, then the district director of the INS in New York City, got his marching orders from Washington that the Lennons were to be deported. Leon Wildes, who was retained by John and Yoko as their legal counsel for the immigration case, talked to Marks, and Marks basically told him, “Leon, tell your people to get out.”

John Lennon & Yoko Ono Bed-In. Photo: Ivor Sharp.
John Lennon & Yoko Ono Bed-In. Photo: Ivor Sharp.

After they were served with deportation orders, Leon filed appeal paperwork so the Lennons could stay. And there was a paper trail showing that their application was taken and put in the safe of another director’s secretary, so it was never addressed. As they got to the 30-day cycle of when those applications had to be processed, the Lennons’ were mysteriously nowhere to be found.

There’s a piece of paper in all of [these FBI documents] that says, “The Lennons’ applications are kept in the safe of Mr. [Spivak]’s secretary.”

Around ’73-’74, there’s evidence of the [Lennons’] lawsuits against the government for the wiretapping, and there are documents relating to the case from [FBI Director] J. Edgar Hoover going back to ’72. There was a lot more going on behind the scenes than even Jon Weiner would’ve loved to believe.

That was a difficult section of the book to write. It had to be taken out and written on its own in a linear fashion to make sure everything worked, then dropped back into the body of the book.

Peeples: No room for factual error anywhere, but especially there.

Madinger: No. And if I get the time, I’m considering pulling that section of “Lennonology” out and just putting it on the website on its own. If people want to look at the INS section, they don’t have to flip through 500-plus pages of recording sessions and the like and they can just read all of the applicable entries to the deportation.

‘Lennonology’ ‘Worth the Wait’

Peeples: A decade and a half is a long time to work on just about any single project. Kudos for sticking with it.

Green card day: Leon Wildes, John Lennon and Yoko Ono, New York City, July 27, 1976.
Green card day: Leon Wildes, John Lennon and Yoko Ono, New York City, July 27, 1976.

Madinger: I think it’s definitely been worth the effort and the wait. A lot of people have been asking about the book for a long time, and it’s here. It’s really neat to see the story unfold and how one incident will lead to another. There have been a lot of little stories left in that foreshadow future events without actually giving away the secret. There are lots of neat illustrations that haven’t been seen before, documents, memorabilia, [trade] ads and the like. It’s a good read.

I plan on supplementing the book with material on the “Lennonology” website. The indexes were so huge, there was no reason to put them in the book. Otherwise people would be flipping back and forth. So there’s a 180-page list attributing all the quotes. Just the quotes. For all the scholars who want to know where I got this quote and that story, it’s all been documented and will all be on the website.

Peeples: Does the finished book meet your expectations?

Madinger: I’m thrilled with how “Lennonology” has turned out. It was a book I wanted to see written and wasn’t forthcoming, so I worked on it myself. It’s the first book in what’s going to be a series of reference books, and this is the foundation with the day-by-day diary, as it were, of their life together.

Lennonology - John Lennon & Yoko Ono 'Milk and Honey' cover art, 1981.
Lennonology – John Lennon & Yoko Ono ‘Milk and Honey’ cover art, 1981.

The subsequent issues are going to be a considerably more detailed look at their recordings and their artwork and their own records, and basically all of the documents that still exist and what their contents are and where, in some cases, where people can find them, and some of the background stories behind them.

I learned a lot in writing this book. You go to interview one person [and] they’ll suggest you talk to somebody else, and that will just keep mushrooming. It got to the point where there were so many people to talk to, I just had to be very selective with who I went to get information from.

Eventually I had to say, “OK, I’ve been working on this long enough. We need to tie it up, put it out.” The material that didn’t make it into this one is going to fill the new issues. Maybe next year, maybe 18 months from now, we’ll see Volume 2.

Peeples: When you started this in 2000, I’m sure you timed it so it would be done by John’s 75th birthday.

Madinger: Of course! Right now, I’m 15 years into a two-year project!

Special thanks to Paige Hagen for the transcription.


Yoko Ono and Stephen K. Peeples, Dakota, New York City, July 1989
Yoko Ono and Stephen K. Peeples, Dakota, July 1989

Santa Clarita journalist and Grammy nominee Stephen K. Peeples  was the original writer-producer of the award-winning “The Lost Lennon Tapes” radio series, heard worldwide on Westwood One from 1988-1990. He is an entertainment reporter for Santa Clarita, California television station SCVTV and its website at SCVNews.com, and for Santa Clarita radio station KHTS AM 1220 and its website at HometownStation.com. Peeples hosted and co-produced SCVTV’s WAVE-nominated  “House Blend” music and interview program for five seasons, 2010-2015, creating 69 shows spotlighting local artists performing their original material.  He was also an award-winning newspaper online editor, and an in-demand website project manager and content editor. He blogs at his personal site, https://stephenkpeeples.com.

Article: Lennonology Author Joins John Lennon 75th Birthday Party
Category: News & Reviews
Author: Stephen K. Peeples
Article Source: StephenKPeeples.com

Lennonology Author Joins John Lennon 75th Birthday Party