LENNON, John (1940-1980)
Plaque erected in 2010 by English Heritage at 34 Montagu Square, Marylebone, London, W1H 2LJ, City of Westminster
Music and Dance
JOHN LENNON 1940-1980 Musician and Songwriter lived here in 1968
The musician John Lennon lived in and around London at the height of ‘Beatlemania’. One building particularly rich in associations with this iconic era is 34 Montagu Square in Marylebone, where Lennon lived with Yoko Ono in 1968.
‘BEATLEMANIA’ IN LONDON
1963 was the year The Beatles released their first UK single, ‘Love Me Do’, and the year Lennon first stayed in London for any significant length of time. Brian Epstein secured Flat L at 57 Green Street in Mayfair for all four band members, but they used it mostly as a crash pad in between gigs. By November 1963 Lennon had moved with his wife and their son to a flat in 13 Emperor's Gate, Kensington. It became the scene of frenzied activity, with Beatles fans regularly besieging the building. The block has since been demolished.
Lennon moved out of London to Surrey in July 1964, and didn’t live in the city again until he moved to Montagu Square in 1968. But he still made regular trips into London, especially to the recording studios at Abbey Road, where the iconic zebra crossing image was shot for the 1969 album bearing the studio’s name.
AFTER THE ‘SUMMER OF LOVE’
Lennon’s move to Montagu Square in 1968 came at a time of personal and artistic change. The Beatles’ album Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band – often regarded as an early ‘concept album’ – had provided the anthem for 1967’s ‘summer of love’ while Lennon himself had been turning from hallucinogenic drugs to transcendental meditation.
One of the biggest influences in his life at this time was the Japanese artist Yoko Ono. They met at the end of 1966 and, developing a relationship born out of shared artistic and intellectual interests, were lovers by May 1968.
FROM HENDRIX TO LENNON AND ONO
The basement and ground-floor flat at 34 Montagu Square was the first home that Lennon shared with Ono. Forming part of a grade II-listed terraced house, the apartment has multiple Beatles and pop culture associations: it was bought in 1965 by Ringo Starr, who lived there in October of that year, and was later briefly tenanted by Paul McCartney and Jimi Hendrix in turn before Lennon and Ono moved in.
They lived there for five months from July 1968, during which time Lennon was creatively very active, working on The Beatles’ self-titled album - also known as the White Album – as well as on early collaborations with Ono. It was at 34 Montagu Square that the famous nude photograph of John and Yoko was taken for the Two Virgins album cover – one which EMI refused to distribute.
On 18 October 1968 the flat was raided by police, who found traces of cannabis there. He was subsequently convicted for possession of the drug on 28 November, six days after the White Album was released. It appears that it was while living at number 34 that Lennon began to experiment with heroin, the effects of which he later documented in ‘Cold Turkey’.
The media storm surrounding Lennon’s conviction forced the couple to move out of Montagu Square, and by 1971 Lennon and Ono were living in New York. When Ono unveiled the plaque to Lennon in 2010, she referred to his time at the flat as one which ‘spawned so much of his great music and great art’.