The first single from John Lennon’s posthumously released 1984 album Milk and Honey, “Nobody Told Me” is a great little tune that contains a very interesting line. Produced by John and Yoko, the record – and especially this single with it’s retro vocal echo effects – reminds me of Lennon’s best work with Phil Spector, and “Nobody” is among the best of Lennon’s free-association groovers epitomized by songs like “Come Together” and “I am the Walrus.” “Nobody’s” lyrics are full of random-seeming references and images – listeners are treated to bathroom Nazis, starving Chinese and a “little yellow idol to the North of Kathmandu.” However, the most interesting line finds Lennon singing about “UFOs over New York…”
In 1974, John Lennon saw a UFO in the sky over Manhattan. His then-girlfriend May Pang saw it as well. In this article by Pang’s friend Larry Warren, Warren aims to set the record straight regarding Lennon and his close encounter:
There’s UFOs Over New York and John Lennon Wasn’t Too Surprised Or Why I Hate December
By Larry Warren
With this being my first contribution to The Researcher and considering this publication originates in the great city of Liverpool, I thought I’d write about John Lennon’s August 1974 UFO experience. I had first-hand knowledge of this event because I knew May Pang, Lennon’s assistant and companion during his infamous “lost weekend”. May was with John Lennon when the UFO sighting occurred. And maintained a vivid recollection of it. Over the years I’ve seen Lennon’s sighting misrepresented by writers in various books and magazine articles (either because of the writers ignorance of the facts or unease with the subject matter). I have also experienced the same thing as have many other high-profile UFO witnesses, and look forward to the day when many UFO researchers and writers become a bit more professional in their work. For now, let’s set the record straight on this event.
In the summer of 1988 I had an opportunity to speak with May Pang about her and Lennon’s experience while sitting in her New York city apartment, surrounded by artifacts of May’s time spent with one of the most famous people of this century. Over the apartment door hung the old style New York City street sign that John found and brought home. On a table, a silver-framed photograph that May had taken of Lennon, lying in bed with his two cats called “Major and Minor”. The ceiling to floor mirrors he bought to make their East 52nd street apartment living room look larger. Most notably, I saw the gold record presented to John Lennon for his introspective album “Walls and Bridges”, and it was this record that Lennon was recording when he had his amazing UFO sighting. Fourteen years had passed since the event, however, to May Pang, it was as if it had happened yesterday.
It was a typically repressive late summer evening in New York City, with air so heavy you could almost cut it with a knife. John Lennon and May Pang had just returned home to their east 52nd street apartment building, after spending a long day at the Record Plant East recording studio, where John was immersed in the final mix down of the Walls and Bridges album. Lennon loved the 52nd street address as it was only one building removed from the East River, and the view from their top floor apartment over to the docks of Brooklyn and the navy shipyard reminded him of Liverpool. Another point of interest for John Lennon was the fact that the reclusive actress Greta Garbo also lived on the block and he hoped to catch sight of her.
The night of August 23 was no different from any other that month for John and May. John made and received phone calls, watched TV and listened to the day’s recorded work while making notes. May Pang recalls that the apartment was hot that night, but by 8 O’ Clock the night air had cooled off enough for her to have turned off the air conditioning and opened the windows to get a breeze off the river. Just off the apartment’s living room was a part of the building’s roof which also acted as a private observation deck, with a great view of east New York. Access was only granted by climbing out of a window, which Lennon often did. The haze had now cleared over New York’s skyline. At about 8:30 p.m., May decided to take a shower, leaving Lennon alone in the living room reviewing mock-ups of his new record’s cover. The cover art on the final product would be a painting by a 12 year old John Lennon. A short time later, as May was drying off, she heard John yell to her from the outside roof, “May come here right now!” Startled, she ran to John’s aid finding him standing on the roof nude and pointing wildly southeastward. As May remembered, finding John Lennon nude on the roof was not a surprise, as he had no aversion to wallowing around in that condition. What did surprise her was what he was pointing at. Just south of the building now was a brightly lit “classic” circular UFO, floating silently and less than 100 feet away from the couple. As John Lennon would later describe, “I wasn’t surprised to see the UFO really, as it looked just like the spaceships we’ve all seen on the cinema growing up, but then I realised this thing was real and so close, that I could almost touch it!”. As they watched, the UFO moved silently away. May told me that the lighting on the thing left them awe-struck, as it would change its configuration with every rotation. The object made no sound. The main structure of the craft could also be clearly seen for the duration of the event, due to the last remnants of the still setting sun. May ran back into the apartment and grabbed a 35mm camera, and once back on the roof both she and John took numerous pictures of the craft. May remembers John’s arms outstretched as he yelled at the UFO to come back and take him away! “He was very serious and I believe he really wanted that thing to take him with it back to wherever it came from, but then that was John Lennon, always looking for the next big adventure”. Soon the object passed the United Nations building and slowly veered left, crossing over the East River, then over Brooklyn and soon the UFO simply blended in with the heavy commercial air traffic in southern Long Island. John Lennon and May Pang, both shaken by the experience, climbed back into the apartment. John picked up the phone and called up his friend and noted rock photographer Bob Gruen. Lennon told his friend to come over as soon as possible as he had some film he needed developed urgently! As they waited for Gruen to arrive, John began making sketches of the object he had seen, noting its size and distance. Then John called Yoko Ono at the Dakota apartments to tell her about the UFO and as May remembers it, Yoko became upset at John, because she hadn’t seen it too, and felt that he had “left her out of all the excitement”.
Finally Bob Gruen arrived and John told the photographer what had transpired. Gruen later recalled “I took the film home and put John’s roll between two rolls of film I’d taken earlier that day and developed them”. “My two rolls of film came out perfectly but John’s roll was blank. Later I asked him ” did you call the newspaper?” and he said “I’m not going to call up the newspaper and say, This is John Lennon and I saw a flying saucer last night”… So Bob Gruen called up the local police precinct and asked if anyone had reported a UFO or flying saucer. The police responded with “where? Up on the East Side? You’re the third call on it”. Then Bob called the Daily News and they said, “On the East Side? Five people reported it”. At last, Bob called the ultra conservative New York Times and asked a reporter if anybody had reported a flying saucer? The reporter hung up on him.
Neither John Lennon nor May Pang would ever forget their UFO experience, but then again, how could they? This very real phenomenon changes and effects everyone touched by it, whether rich, poor, famous or not, it effects us all. Though John Lennon was hesitant to report his sighting to the media, he nevertheless took a stand concerning the sighting. When his album, Walls and Bridges, was released in the Autumn of 1974, any fan would see the notation on the booklet that accompanied the record. On the bottom right of the back cover it reads “On 23 August 1974, I saw a UFO J.L.”. That simple statement meant a lot to many of us who read it. Most “flavour of the week celebrities” would never have had the nerve, but John Lennon was different, he had substance and was not afraid to take a stand. He was an inspiration to many people and perhaps that is why we still feel the sadness and loss due to his murder in 1980.
After speaking with May Pang about the UFO sighting with John, reading his extensive notes and studying his drawings, I was left with no doubt that John Lennon would have made one hell of an objective, thoughtful and professional UFO researcher. God knows, we need him now more than ever. May pang played an audio tape for me that John had recorded a few weeks after his experience. On the tape he discusses his thoughts on the UFO subject in general. I took notes and fully agree with his conclusions. In brief, Lennon states that he had no doubt that the craft he saw was from another world and discounted that it could have been a secret government test plane. That argument was stupid in 74 and it’s still stupid now in 99. John Lennon also felt that the craft he saw was part of a much larger fleet stationed just north of New York city, up in the area of the nuclear power plant at Indian Point. A side note: that area is and has been for many years a UFO hot bed, see the book “Night Siege”. This area is the heart of the Hudson Valley “giant triangle” sightings and some have been described as being the size of three football fields. Government experimental craft? I think not. The people who promote these ideas should stand under one of these monsters, I’m sure they would be humbled.
John Lennon went on about his theory of how these craft use the earth’s gravitational field and take energy form nuke plants to counter the earth’s gravity. In the book I co-authored with Peter Robbins called “Left at East Gate”, I also write about some amazing sightings I had while living in New York. In fact, it is a rather common occurrence for many people, (not just farmers)… Lennon also voiced his opinion and suspicion of a high level conspiracy to cover up verifiable UFO sightings and close encounters with aliens. He continued that “if the masses started to accept UFO’s, it would profoundly affect their attitudes towards life, politics, everything”. John explained, “It would threaten the status quo”. “Whenever people come to realise that there are larger considerations than their own petty little lives, they are ripe to make radical changes on a personal level, which would eventually lead to a political revolution in society as a whole”.
Right on John! Peter Robbins and I have been trying to promote that point of view for the last ten years and I personally have been doing it for nearly eighteen, but I often wonder if anyone is paying attention?
The following day May Pang asked me to help her organise many of John Lennon’s personal effects that she still retained, as a rep’ from Sotherby’s auction house was coming over that week to assess the value of the items for insurance purposes.
In a box I found numerous dated copies of the British UFO journal “Flying Saucer Review”(FSR). All were addressed to John Lennon. I was surprised because I thought the 1974 sighting was John’s first introduction to the world of UFO’s, but the FSR’s dated back to the late 60’s. I asked May if John had an earlier sighting he might have mentioned?… As she carefully folded the black velvet suit he had worn on stage with Elton John in November 1974 at Madison Square Garden, May replied “Oh no, 74 wasn’t John’s first sighting”. “In fact he told me that more than once he suspected he had been “abducted” as a child back in Liverpool!” “And he felt that experience was responsible for making him feel different from other people for the rest of his life”. “Abducted” I said. “You mean by aliens?” May Pang answered. “Yes, but John didn’t go into detail about it”. I was stunned, but that’s another story…
December 8th 1998, late evening and I’ve managed to finish the first serious attempt at writing I’ve made since I wrote the last chapter of Left at East Gate, and it’s great to be back at it.
Two days ago, an auction house offered an autographed copy of John Lennon’s last record “Double Fantasy” for sale. I don’t know if it was sold or not. Christ, it was estimated to go for 1.4 million US dollars. I have to say that the sale of this particular piece of memorabilia makes me sick to my stomach, as the album was signed by John Lennon to a fan whose name he would never know, but we all do. The date was December 8th 1980 and the fan was Mark David Chapman. Maybe something good will come from the sale of the record, I keep telling myself, perhaps the owner of the damned thing will donate a portion of the profits to benefit stronger hand gun control via the spirit foundation, John Lennon’s charity. What the hell am I thinking? In America in the 1990’s, money rules, and the heart has no place to call home, and that’s the flipping truth.
Two and a half weeks after John Lennon’s assassination, I briefly thought of him while blindly walking thorough a pitch black forest in southeastern England, and eighteen years later his final words to reporter David Sholin of RKO radio spoken only hours before his death still cross my mind. “Who knows what’s going to happen next?” Well folks, none of us do and that’s why I hate December.
[Larry Warren is a well-known lecturer on the international UFO conference scene and has co-authored a book called Left at East Gate. The book covers many of his UFO experiences along with the associated government and military cover-ups.]
Thanks for reading.