27th August, 2015

Interview: Bob Gruen talks 'John Lennon: The New York Years'

As part of International Beatleweek and John Lennon's 75th Birthday celebrations, the Beatles Story caught up with John Lennon's New York photographer, Bob Gruen, whose photographs are now available to view at our exhibition. Here, Bob discusses his book, 'John Lennon: The New York Years'.

Within your book, 'John Lennon: The New York Years', you tell us of the first time that you did a photo shoot for John and Yoko, later being asked "to keep coming back to hang out and take any pictures you want". How did that feel?

I felt like I was floating...it seemed unreal that I really just spent a few hours with John and Yoko and we all felt comfortable and had a good conversation and a few laughs and they liked my photos and they liked me.

The book tells us of a time Mick Jagger unexpectedly showed up at the recording studio and you describe how "John and Mick were like old schoolmates". As someone who became great friends with John yourself, would you say he shared special relationships with a lot of people?

Like most people, he had a small circle of close friends, but many people he was friendly with.

Your book chronicles the period of John's 'Lost Weekend', in which he separated from Yoko and drank heavily. How do you feel John transformed during this period?

First he regressed and then he grew up.

The book displays photos of John during his five year hiatus from music as "househusband". How different was John the loving father to John the artist?

John was always an artist, and taking time to raise Sean was a learning experience that he related in the art he made during this period. I think being a loving father was part of his life as an artist.

You tell us of a happy occasion when Paul and Linda McCartney stopped by to visit John and Yoko when you were with them in the Dakota where they lived. What was it like to see John and Paul reunited?

It did seem like a special visit…Paul and Linda came by surprise and everyone had cups of tea, English style, and they all seemed comfortable and happy to catch up with each other.

You were with John only a couple of days before that deeply saddening and ill-fated night on December 8th 1980. Where in life do you feel John would be if he were still alive today?

I can't speculate on what could be, certainly his influence is greatly missed. He was always ahead of his time. To see where he was at the end of his life read the BBC Andy Peebles interview or the Playboy interview by David Sheff - both out as books and together the best interviews with John.

Finally, what is your favourite photograph which you took of John Lennon?

I don't make lists of 'favourites' and I think there are over 150 favorites of mine in my book "John Lennon – the New York Years". If there is one that I think is most important it would be the photo we took at the Statue of Liberty because for many people John is a symbol of the personal liberty that the statue stands for.

Click here for more information on Bob's photographs, exhibitions and books.

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