“Blood on the Tracks: The John Lennon Story” chronicles the life and times of the musical legend, artistic visionary and cultural icon formerly of Beatles fame. We can’t forget about you, Yoko Ono, you’re a genius, too. This iHeartRadio & Double Elvis production by Jake Brennan is one beat true, two beats crime, and three beats to a measure of spoken word, lo-fi. The story is told from vocal reenactments of those who knew John well: Yoko, Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, David Bowie, Elton John, Richard Nixon, Mark David Chapman, and more. The 10-episode series focuses on the 1970’s trying times. Let’s give peace a chance.
When the government encounters someone of John Lennon’s caliber and influence, creating a zeitgeist of ideas, cultural moment, and political influence, it’s only natural they’d feel intimidated. Especially when folks like John and Yoko were able to widely attract the impressionable youth demographic, first time voters, which was a problematic age group for the government to take under its wing. With John’s other proclamations like The Beatles are “more popular than Jesus,” the government was not too keen.
John met Yoko at her art show in London. Her piece, Ceiling Painting/Yes Painting, required viewers to climb a ladder, take a magnifying glass, and look through it to read the word, “Yes,” written on the ceiling. They hit it off. In 1971, John and Yoko permanently moved to NYC, and the government wanted them to stay far away. The government devised a plan to try to ban them. John and Yoko’s phone lines were tapped, yet they found nothing. The government realized John and Yoko faced a drug charge in 1968, which they thought they could use as the reason to kick John out of the country and deny his green card.
Sgt. Norman peppered John — what a bust!
In 1968, John and Yoko were staying at Jimi Hendrix’s old flat in London. John received a tip from a friend that he was London’s Drug Squad’s latest target. This is the same group that busted The Rolling Stones’ Mick and Keith (drummer Charlie Watts, you’ll be sorely missed) for finding cocaine and cannabis in their possession and broke down Donovan’s door in the middle of the night for hash. The squad’s leader, Sgt. Norman Pilcher, had a personal vendetta against rockstars.
One morning, someone was at John and Yoko’s door shouting about a warrant. John and Yoko ignored it for a few moments before they heard activity at the window. They looked outside as a team of police swarmed the building’s perimeter, and someone was breaking in through the window. John asked the several officers and detectives to stand down and to meet him at the front door.
Norman and his squad entered the apartment, and he began to gloat. Norman brought so many officers with him because he thought he was about to break up some sort of sex party. Alas, only John and Yoko were in the apartment. They planned on having a chill day in bed together. But Norman was intent on finding something incriminating to ruin their day and try to destroy their reputation. Norman, like so many others who interact with celebrities, had trouble seeing past John’s mythology and thought some drama could be uncovered.
Not so fast…
The drug squad unleashed police dogs to check the flat. Cannabis was found in a binoculars case, a cigarette roller, and film canisters, totaling around an ounce. They could not prove whose it was. At the time, Yoko and John said they weren’t taking drugs. They adhered to a macrobiotic diet and went so far into their health kick as abstaining from caffeine. John wound up taking full acceptance of the charges to protect Yoko, because he thought he would solely face a fine and move on.
In the podcast, as told by the voice playing Yoko, we hear that Norman filed false reports and planted drugs to frame many folks. He was convicted of perjury later on.
John and Yoko take NYC
In 1973, John and Yoko settled on the Upper West Side by Central Park on the 7th floor of the Dakota. So much unrest was happening in the world, including the Vietnam War. In addition to the worldly upheaval, John and Yoko’s home life was bombarded by fans congregating outside their building. Sometimes, fans would find their way upstairs, past security, and help themselves into the apartment. Robert Ryan (from Crossfire and The Wild Bunch) and his wife lived in the same apartment before John and Yoko moved in. Robert’s wife died in the apartment, and Robert moved out. So to begin with, Yoko’s voice in the podcast reported that the apartment had creepy vibes.
In 1975, the famous duo’s son was born on John’s birthday, October 9th. Their lawyer had reported the court ruled in his favor for John to stay in the United States. Before moving to the States, Beatles fans were not kind to Yoko. They viciously claimed she was the reason the band broke up. So they were so happy to move to America.
John fought for peace through his song’s messages. He also aligned himself with poet John Sinclair’s efforts to be cleared from drug charges when he was arrested for cannabis possession.
The second episode discusses President Richard Nixon’s rising paranoia against John Lennon. Nixon took great strides in attempts to subdue John. By befriending creatives downtown, and with John and Yoko’s vocal political stances, John was considered radical by association.
The series will take listeners through John’s experiences leading up to his assassination in 1980. We’ll also hear fictionalized narratives from the perspectives of John’s assassin and The Catcher in the Rye’s Holden Caulfield.
In season one of this podcast, we heard about “The Phil Spector Story.” Jake Brennan previously created the music podcast, “DISGRACELAND.”