John, Yoko and the Double Fantasy band
The day after the video shoot
Before 1987, no one except those present at the session on August 19th, 1980 knew that any footage existed at all from that night. None of the promotional videos since John's death contained even a hint from this session. Other snippets of 1980 footage filmed in November were included in the music videos for "Woman" and "Walking On Thin Ice" in early 1981, and in 1984 with the release of "Milk & Honey", clips for "Borrowed Time", "Nobody Told Me", "Grow Old With Me" and "I'm Stepping Out" were produced, but again nothing....
The first evidence that proved there was indeed a filming session came to light in 1987, with the release of approximately 30 minutes of off-line audio tape from the vocal booth that night. This audio was released on a bootleg record called "Before Play" on a record label called "Gnat Records". This audio tape was a revelation indeed, as John and the Double Fantasy band were not only playing "I'm Losing You" and "(Just Like) Starting Over" from the album, but in between camera takes were jamming on rock and roll oldies such as "Dream Lover", "Stay", "Mystery Train" and "I'm A Man", not to mention the Beatles' "She's A Woman".
What was truly intriguing about this tape, proved to be
the dialogue between John and the film director about camera angles and
other details of the shoot. When this bootleg came out, there was still
no information on what exactly was filmed other that the two songs : "I'm
Losing You" and "(Just Like) Starting Over". There was no information on
who the director was, who produced the footage, and what the exact date
of the session was.
CLICK HERE for complete transcript & sound clips from this tape!
With the release of the theatrical documentary "Imagine
: John Lennon" in 1988, it seemed that no one would ever know. Producer
David Wolper and co-producer & director Andrew Solt worked with over
240 hours of footage, of which 200 hours were provided directly from Yoko
Ono. Still, no Double Fantasy footage was found. Andrew Solt said the following
when asked about Double Fantasy footage :
SOLT : " We had a couple of blind leads. I don't know if any exists. I've heard so many stories. Some local news station may have come in and done some shooting, but the tape seems to have disappeared. That's the one I was looking for. But it doesn't matter. The way the film works, we don't need to have a performance at the end."
Of course, the burning question was : "What about this audio tape?" The evidence was clear upon listening that there was footage, and not by some local news station, but specifically filmed for promotional music videos. For the next 4 years, no further first hand information was available. This all changed in 1992, but the year before, in 1991, former Lennon assistant Frederic Seaman published a book called "The Last Days Of John Lennon", which portrays a decidedly different picture of the video shoot:
SEAMAN : PG. 204-205
"Later that evening, things became even more tense. Yoko had hired a video crew to film John working in the studio. She directed the cameraman to shoot numerous close-ups of John's face from all angles. I felt bad for John, who had once told me that he hated to have his face filmed up close. Like a trapped animal, he jumped around and sang himself hoarse. He had been snorting cocaine, and he was so wired he was ready to jump out of his skin. It was painful to watch. The session lasted until 3:30 AM, and was sheer torture for all involved, except Yoko, who seemed to enjoy herself thoroughly."
This bleak picture portrayed by Frederic Seaman seems
to be directly contrasted from reading the transcript of the "Before Play"
audio tape, listening to the communications between John and the director,
and hearing the Double Fantasy band in the studio lead by John in playing
rock and roll oldies between takes!
CLICK HERE for complete transcript & sound clips from this tape!
On April 20, 1992, NHK-TV of Japan broadcasted a nearly 15 second clip of the footage as part of a documentary produced with children in mind, called "Tsukai Ningen-Den", translated as "Dashing Life Stories". This clip opened with scenes of drummer Andy Newmark, guitarists Earl Slick & Hugh McCracken, and Yoko Ono getting ready to sing at the microphone, and then it cuts off. Most importantly a 3 second clip of the original slate was shown, and finally answered some questions!
On this slate, the date was identified as August 19, 1980,
the session took place at night, John & Yoko were listed as producers,
and Jay Dubin was listed as the director. After viewing this clip, I attemped
to contact NHK-TV directly to find out any information I could, but this
did not prove to be easy. After researching the correct address and contact
person, I sent a letter to NHK-TV requesting any possible information concerning
the footage shown on their program. Mariko Saeki of the Programming Department
sent me the following reply on November 11, 1993 :
SAEKI : "I have your letter of November 1, asking us the specific footage of John Lennon from our program. On this matter please contact the following person :
Mr. Keisuke Ono
Sincerely, (signed) Mariko Saeki
cc Keisuke Ono
At this point, I did not who this person was, and whether or not he was related to Yoko Ono. Research pointed out however that Mr. Keisuke Ono was indeed Yoko's younger brother. Could he have provided this footage to NHK-TV? I immediately sent off a registered letter to him at this address, and although I received the signed return receipt, I never received a reply.
There has not been a single additional clip of this footage broadcasted since 1992. For 5 years, I could not find any additional information. With the advent of the Internet, I decided to try again. Searching by name, I entered "Jay Dubin" and found an interesting web page. On this web page, there was information on the Emmy winning children's television show called "Beakman's World". Jay Dubin was listed as director! I immediately sent an e-mail to Mr. Dubin and asked if he was the same person who directed a video shoot of John Lennon on August 19th, 1980. Indeed he was and he invited me to speak with him via telephone!
I called Mr. Dubin on April 25th, 1997, and we spoke for approximately 20 minutes. I learned that he has directed over 50 music videos, including the classic Billy Joel clips starring Christie Brinkley - "Uptown Girl" & "Tell Her About It". In this informal chat, I asked a number of questions to try to get any details possible on the shoot, and Mr. Dubin was very gracious and generous in his responses. First I asked how he was chosen to become director of the shoot. He replied that in 1979, Jack Douglas was considering organizing a "super concert" in Brazil, and he was asked to direct the film of the show. Although the concert never occurred, Jack Douglas still kept in touch. One day, Mr. Dubin received a phone call from someone claiming to be John Lennon. Mr. Dubin said to the voice on the phone - "Yeah, right", but then the voice sang the first line of "I Want To Hold Your Hand". Still skeptical to believe him, all of a sudden Jack Douglas came on the line, and said that it was indeed John Lennon, and that he wanted to do a video shoot at the Hit Factory in New York City. Mr. Dubin accepted this offer.
Mr. Dubin then tried to fill me in on some details of the shoot. He said it was a 2 camera live shoot, on 1 inch video tape. He could not remember the songs filmed, although he remembered filming one of Yoko's alone, and one with both John & Yoko. He remembered that in the control room was Yoko, Jack Douglas and himself. He said there was no post-production or editing done by him because they were going to film more. I asked where the original video tapes could possibly be, but Mr. Dubin said "We turned them over to Yoko." and that 2 guards came up to collect the tapes and take them to her personally. Mr. Dubin said that no copies were made before the tapes were handed over.
Mr. Dubin also told of a great moment during the shoot. He recalled at one point there was trouble with one of the cameras and that it produced interference with a green like "ghosting" effect. When told of the problem, John said, "Keep it on, it's me, they'll think it's artistic!".
Mr. Dubin also remembered that there was a 20 second clip of the crew on the tape, and that a grip named "Loucas George" was filmed singing "Feelings" with John at the piano! Also - Mr. Dubin had kept the original slate clapper with the John & Yoko information on it, but it was unfortunately lost when he moved to the West Coast in 1990. I ended my conversation by asking Mr. Dubin if he knew that the footage he directed was never used. He shocked me and told me that it was used in the mid 1980's. I said I didn't think so, but I was wrong... After researching, I found that Mr. Dubin was correct and he had even received "camera" credit for the circa 1985 documentary "Yoko Ono: Then & Now" that was broadcast on the A&E cable network, and also released on home video. In this documentary, approximately 10 seconds of footage from the session is shown, and underneath the narrative, you can clearly hear Yoko's song, "I'm Moving On".
Since that day, once again, there has been a dry spell
of information. With the upcoming release of the 4-CD box set -
The John Lennon Anthology , I was hoping that perhaps now was the right time for some of this footage to finally be seen. However, "Working Class Hero" was premiered on VH1 as the video to promote the box set, and the single highlights disc, "Wonsaponatime". BUT NOW, from Tony Levin, bass player on the Double Fantasy sessions, it seems there could possibly be a release of this footage. From Mr. Levin's personal tour diary website and Papa Bear Records, this was posted on October 30th, 1998!
LEVIN : Portland, Oct 30
A lot of developments today.
I've heard that there's to be a four CD anthology of John Lennon's work released next week by Capitol Records. It'll be titled Onceuponatime. And there is a plan afoot to shoot a video of one song, "I'm Losing You," that I played on with Rick Nielson and Bun E. Carlos. Talk about short notice, they just called me about it, and the video is being shot in L.A. next Monday - so it's a possibility that I'll fly down from San Francisco that morning, shoot the video, and fly back for soundcheck that afternoon and gig that night!
From this posting, it seems there will be a video shoot in Los Angeles on Monday, November 9th! Could Tony Levin, Rick Nielson & Bun E. Carlos be recreating their parts to be edited into the existing footage of John Lennon performing "I'm Losing You" on August 19th, 1980?? Let's hope so, and perhaps we can solve this 18 year old mystery!
UPDATE : NOVEMBER 10th, 1998
Details are slowly coming in about the latest "I'm Losing You" video shoot. Good Day Sunshine publisher, Matt Hurwitz, has the first look at the making of the video, which was posted exclusively on the Abbeyrd Beatles Page, and is re-posted here with his permission (Thanks, Matt! Click here for details on subscribing to Good Day Sunshine.) :
HURWITZ : "Just wanted to pass along some exciting news about a new video being produced by Capitol for the song "I'm Losing You," taken from their recent release "The John Lennon Anthology."
"The video is directed by Dean Carr and will combine new footage of three of the backing musicians who originally played on the song, released in 1980 on "Double Fantasy," with some other images. The three musicians, as you may have heard, are Rick Nielsen and Bun E. Carlos from Cheap Trick and bassist Tony Levin. The three were filmed last week at a soundstage in Los Angeles, and, as Tony says, they all three remembered their parts from 18 years ago, to his surprise!"
"Besides the three musicians, the other real treat of this unique video will be the "other images" used. Zipping about the screen will be animated figures of John's original line drawings. Tony Levin will be seen, for instance, flicking a strange Lennon character off his shoulder while playing, taken from John's "Moi Dad." The animation team is headed by one of the animators who worked on Disney's "Who Framed Roger Rabbit," already skilled in combining animation and live action."
"The film is expected to be completed before Thanksgiving. I'll let you know as soon as I hear anything about a premiere date. Should be an exciting video to look forward to seeing."
AND MORE DETAILS ON THE SHOOT....
From Tony Levin's personal tour diary, more details were provided about the shoot in Tony's words :
LEVIN : "P4 Tour - Day 11 - San Francisco, Nov. 2"
"The Lennon taping."
"Still no computer, and again I'm in Chris's room late at night, using his. Today we taped the video in L.A. for John Lennon's "I'm Losing You" - When I arrived at the studio, Rick Nielsen (THAT'S the correct spelling of his name) and Bun E. Carlos were there, looking at my web site! We hadn't met up since we recorded the track - in August 1980. Amazingly, after 18 years, we all remembered our parts on the song. The video shoot was fun and very professional - between shots of the three of us playing (in front of white screen for John's films and drawings to be added in) and riding a bicycle for three, and holding big balloons.... between those takes I was playing around on Rick's computer - their site, CheapTrick.com, has a cute hotel room interface, where the visitor gets a room key and goes exploring. Check it out!"
"The last shot I did (I had to catch a plane back to San Francisco for soundcheck) was of the three of us throwing buckets of green paint onto the wall. Don't know the reason for that particular shot - but I rushed out to the plane, made it, and spent the flight sitting there with green paint spattered on my pants and shoes! An interesting memento of the video!"
UPDATE : NOVEMBER 11th, 1998
Good Day Sunshine publisher, Matt Hurwitz, has passed along some more information from a source at Studio One : (Thanks, Matt! Click here for details on subscribing to Good Day Sunshine.) :
HURWITZ : "I asked Studio One if they expect to use the footage you mentioned in any upcoming releases, either for promotional use or in any videos produced to promote "The John Lennon Anthology." The source there was aware of the footage, but says that as far as he knows, it doesn't even exist any longer, and, therefore, it won't be appearing for current use."
UPDATE : DECEMBER 4th, 1998
A press release from Capitol Records :
JOHN LENNON'S FAMOUS LINE DRAWINGS COME TO LIFE
IN UPCOMING VIDEO FOR "I'M LOSING YOU"
John Lennon's poignant line drawings, known to many around the globe, are going to spring to life as they make their animated debut in the upcoming video for the legendary musician's "I'm Losing You" track from the four-CD boxed set The John Lennon Anthology. "I'm Losing You" features Rick Nielsen on guitar and Bun E. Carlos on drums, (from Cheap Trick) and bassist Tony Levin (from King Crimson), each of whom played on the original version of the song with Lennon in 1980. In a playful and whimsical fashion, well known animator David Spafford has extended upon Lennon's original drawings, making them come to life as they float through and interact with the musicians 1998 live performance.
Yoko said, "It brings out John's playfulness, I'm very pleased."
The video was directed by Dean Karr (Dave Matthews Band, John Forte, Marilyn Manson, etc.) and produced by Arthur Gorson for Black Dog Films. The director of photography was James Hawkinson.
"What an amazingly fresh-sounding track! It was a great honor and a major challenge for all involved to undertake a new video for John Lennon. Dean Karr's concept allowed us to keep Lennon's spirit alive and visually exciting," said Gorson.
On Thursday, December 3rd, 1998, the new John Lennon video for "I'm Losing You" was premiered on VH1 at 11:00 AM and repeated again the following day at 8:00 AM on VH1's "Premiere Videos" program. I awaited the world premiere with unbelievable excitement. Could it be now, after 18 years, the lost lost and perhaps most historically significant John Lennon footage finally be seeing the light of day? Unfortunately, the answer is NO. While the new video is quite visually stunning, and very original, full of John's artwork and ideas running across the screen, not a single clip of the August 19th, 1980 footage was included.
HERE to see the I'M LOSING YOU video (1998) from CAPITOL RECORDS in real
CLICK HERE to see the I'M LOSING YOU video (1998) in truplay by PIXELON.
(T1 or cable modem)
UPDATE : JANUARY 26th, 1999
On January 26th, 1999 in a post to the rec.music.beatles newsgroup, former Lennon assistant and author
FRED SEAMAN replied to a question about the video shoot :
FRED SEAMAN : "I remember the film shoot in question, but I've never seen the footage. I have no idea what happened to it and why, after all these years, it hasn't surfaced. I don't remember what songs John performed. I do recall that John was very "wired" (on coke) that evening and maybe that's why Yoko is withholding it."
UPDATE : FEBRUARY 5th, 1999
Beatlefan publisher, Bill King, has passed along the new 20th Anniversary edition of BEATLEFAN (issue # 116) which contains an in depth interview with producer Jack Douglas conducted by contributing editor Ken Sharp, and includes the following comments pertaining to the video shoot. (Thanks, Bill! Click here for details on subscribing to Beatlefan.) :
QUESTION : I heard that there were some sessions that were videotaped. There's even a bootleg out.
JACK DOUGLAS : "Oh, man, there was an amazing shoot...John told me - now the guy that shot it was, I don't know if you remember these commercials called, they were Crazy Eddie. 'Come on down to Crazy Eddie.' It was an ad, right?"
QUESTION : For a record store. Or electronics.
JACK DOUGLAS : "Yeah, electronics. I got the guy who did
to come in and do this video."
QUESTION : Do you remember what songs or was it just a session?
JACK DOUGLAS : "He was there for a week."
QUESTION : There's a bootleg out where someone says "Look
at the camera, Johnny"
and he says "I know what I look like, I look like a f***ing bird."
JACK DOUGLAS : "Yeah."
QUESTION : So there were some sessions filmed?
JACK DOUGLAS : "Yeah."
QUESTION : Who has the footage?
JACK DOUGLAS : "Now here's what... I asked John where it was, I've heard two things. "I tore it up in the bathtub," "I sunk it in the pool."... But I heard that it exists somewhere and that he was so thin at the time that he didn't like, you know, it was so weird, because he was always John the Fat Beatle and that he felt great to be John the Skinny Guy, you know, but he felt that he looked too thin and he had his hair - we used to call him 'Skinny Head', he'd tie his hair back in a ponytail and his face looked like about, like it was this narrow. It looked great, actually, but he didn't like it. But I'm telling you, these things were fantastic, I saw the footage. I wish I could remember the guy's name. It's like on the tip of my tongue, the guy who shot them."
QUESTION : You think if Yoko had it, she'd release something.
JACK DOUGLAS : "I know, I know. I wonder if it really got destroyed."
QUESTION : I hope it didn't.
JACK DOUGLAS : "It was such a professional job."
QUESTION : But how could it have gotten destroyed, if there's audio on a bootleg?
JACK DOUGLAS : "The audio's from my hidden mike tapes."
QUESTION : That's it then.
UPDATE : FEBRUARY 10th, 1999
Beatles Video Digest publisher, Brad Harvey, recently corresponded with bassist Tony Levin, and passed along the following comments pertaining to the 8.19.80 video shoot :
(Thanks, Brad! Click here to see the full Tony Levin article & for details on subscribing to Beatles Video Digest.) :
TONY LEVIN : " There was a video crew who shot each of us. John was especially animated during his takes. I was surprised that the film has never come out (at least that I know of), but I don't know why."
Well, the new 1998 "I'm Losing You" video included none of the original 8/19/80 footage at all, and a representative from Studio One believes the footage to no longer exist..., but WHAT HAPPENNED?
As the mystery continues, we will keep you updated!
Please note : As of May 15th, 2000
- no other information has surfaced.
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For the definitive,
track by track history and annotated review of
THE JOHN LENNON ANTHOLOGY,
From the forthcoming book :
Eight Arms To Hold You:
the solo beatles compendium
by Chip Madinger & Mark Easter.