34 years ago today, John Lennon was shot dead. It sucked then and it sucks now. Below is a re-posting of a story I wrote a few years ago that, although unrelated to that dreadful evening and the days that followed, has a definite Lennon connection.
Years ago, through an autograph dealer in New York, I bought a little Rolodex-style Barclays bank card for $150, a card that had once been issued to John Lennon. This little card stated that anything under $200 in Lennon’s account could be withdrawn by his two lawyers without permission, but over $200 must be authorized by Lennon.
The card was signed by Lennon and the two lawyers.
I held onto this card for quite some time, but decided at some point to see what someone might pay for it, so I put an ad in an Ottawa paper and wondered what kind of offers might come up. Soon after, the phone rang.
It was a fellow in Ottawa who said he knew what the card was, he was a big Beatles collector, and said he had once played in David Peel’s band in New York, a band Lennon had jammed with and had produced Peel’s “The Pope Smokes Dope” album. He asked me if I would be willing to come to his place and have a look at what he had, and maybe make a trade. So I went.
The guy’s apartment was jammed with Beatles memorabilia, worth a large fortune for sure, and I could tell he really wanted my card. But if I was going to make a trade, what he was offering better be good. And it was.
He showed me about half a dozen sheets of Lennon’s hand-written lyrics of songs from the “Sometime in New York City” album, and suggested that if I wanted, I could choose one if would part with the card. Oh yes, I thought. I’ll definitely do this.
I chose the song “New York City,” written by Lennon in pencil, with his little caricatures of himself and Yoko drawn on the sheet along with the lyrics. I was more than happy to make this trade.
It wasn’t long after that when my wife and I, just making ends meet, thought our dingy old basement would look fabulous if it was gutted and renovated. Our house was small, we had two young kids, and living space in the basement would double the size of the house. It was a lovely thought to have such an addition, so I made the decision. I’d sell the Lennon lyrics.
I sent a copy of it to Sotheby’s in New York, and they asked if they could see the real thing to assess it properly, so down it went by courier. Soon after they wrote back and said yes, it’s authentic, and they put a possible selling price of $2500. I knew that in the near future Sotheby’s would be holding a Lennon auction, the timing was right, and the basement needed serious work, so I told them to go ahead and sell it.
It sold for $7000.
I know what you’re going to say. Imagine if I sold it today, it would go for much, much more. But $7000 was a big score for us back then, it had only been a $150 investment in the first place, and we were happy. And the basement ended up looking like a million bucks, with new furniture, a new televison, and lots of shelving to hold my hockey and Beatles collections.
Eventually we sold this house, got a fine price for it, definitely because of the new basement, and moved to Calgary. And the extra money we got from the sale allowed us to buy a beautiful place in Cowtown, which I was able to enjoy for a solid three years before my wife left me.