We’re dipping into Far Out Magazine vault to bring you a very special moment in TV history as John Lennon gives his final television performance as part of an all-star tribute show.
April 18th, 1975, would mark Lennon’s final live performance as he took part in a televised tribute show for media mogul Sir Lew Grade, a person with whom The Beatles guitarist and singer had shared a chequered history with. Still, Lennon graced the show to perform his iconic song ‘Imagine’ and unbeknownst to the audience, appear on the stage for the final time.
Personalities such as that of Sir Lew Grade were part of the reason why Lennon had fallen out of love with the industry by 1975. The singer was shying away from it the glitz, glamour and green paper, and instead focusing on his family. Grade, meanwhile, was a man known for his ruthless cut-throat approach to business, an approach that eventually ended up with him engaging in a long, bitter, five-year battle with Lennon and McCartney over ownership of their material.
In 1969, Grade bought up the rights to over a hundred songs of Lennon and McCartney’s following some intense negotiations. It would lead to Lennon eventually suing Grade in 1974 and having to settle out of court, with the mogul remaining the co-publisher of all of his new songs. McCartney, on the other hand, would win his case. It was a tragic situation for the artist.
As the two moved into solo careers following the split of The Beatles, Grade greedily filed a lawsuit against both men aiming to trip their early forays into solo studio albums. It led to Lennon and McCartney cleverly beginning to share songwriting credits with their wives, therefore, cutting the potential songwriting revenue in half for Grade’s Associated Television publishing company.
Another agreement in the settlement that Lennon reached with Grade was that he was to record a new album. It led to the singer recording his album of covers, focusing on classic rock ‘n’ roll songs, fittingly called Rock ‘n’ Roll. Despite being one of the finer covers albums it still stank of Lennon thumbing his nose to Grade.
Lennon’s appearance at this tribute show for Grade was clearly one he would rather have not attended but he seemingly had no choice in the matter. Despite the fact he still held bitterness towards the entrepreneur for good reason, the singer took to the stage and completed his agreement. His performance of ‘Imagine’ was nothing short of exceptional, with John bowing out of public life on top form.
The band were labelled as ‘John Lennon Etc.,’ although it says ‘BOMF’ on the drumkit which stands for ‘Band Of Motherf*ckers’ which unfortunately had to be changed to appease the family-friendly programme. Lennon’s band performed with specially created masks from sculptor Ruby Jackson, which were worn on the backs of their heads.
The masks were reportedly a not-so-subtle direct reference to Grade’s two-faced business dealings. “It was a sardonic reference,” he was later quoted as saying, “to my feelings on Lew Grade’s personality.” Yet somehow he still managed to deliver a stunning performance, despite his feelings.
Mark Rivera later of Billy Joel and former Beatle Ringo Starr’s band played in the BOMF as did a 17-year-old Vinny Appice who would go on to drum with Black Sabbath. John Lennon, on the other hand, would sadly be murdered outside the Dakota Building in 1980.
The performance of ‘Imagine’ below remains his last.