The Erotic Art of John Lennon — Historic First Showing in SCREW

John Lennon was perhaps the most iconic figure to ever grace the covers of SCREW — and it just so happens he was one of our biggest fans! The influential singer, songwriter, peace activist, founding member of The Beatles, and other-half of the legendary Lennon-McCartney songwriting team, with more awards and accolades than anyone can count, is a symbol of so many things to so many people he might as well be Jesus Christ. Yet fifty-three years from his first interview with SCREW, most people still don’t know he was an erotic artist.

John’s relationship with SCREW goes back to the beginning. It was the first year of SCREW’s publication, during John and Yoko’s Bed-In-For-Peace in Montreal that they granted SCREW publisher Al Goldstein an interview. John loved the irreverence of SCREW. He was a subscriber, often calling in to have his subscriptions forwarded to wherever he was in the world because he hated to miss an issue.

John’s first interview, which appeared in SCREW #18 (June 1969), helped give the magazine a much-needed boost in credibility and prestige. In it, John showed a side of himself he was unable to show in other publications. Here’s an excerpt:

SCREW: What was your first sexual experience and how old were you?

John: Oh, probably around six, you know, I don’t remember anything before that, really, I mean I suppose your first sexual experience is fiddlin’ with yourself, but the first of my big episodes was a little girl up in entry and we had her knickers down and some guy came along, you know, and she ran off with her knickers around her legs and we all ran away. She was about four years old. All the other guys got caught but me (heh, heh!), so that’s why I remember it so well. We were just lookin’ and before that I can’t remember anything.

SCREW: You want to pose naked for our centerfold? We’ll be glad to take the picture.

John: You and whose army? I even took the photograph for Two Virgins. We were alone when we took that photograph. We’re very shy people, you know. What do you think we are, some kind of sex perverts or something? You’re talkin’ to Abbott and Costello.

SCREW: Do you still want to get into the United States?

John: Sure. I want to see Nixon, to give him an acorn… We think the whole scene’s too serious, that’s why SCREW is good… The whole movement is all a load of intellectual shit. And all them “hippie-aware” people are just a gang of snobs.

SCREW: I was once managing editor of a paper called The New York Free Press and the main problem with it was it took itself so serious. If I wanted to say this cop was kind to children I’d probably get censored.

John: Right! That’s where it’s at. Like the Underground in England is so serious. The International Times is so serious they won’t even review our records. Because we made it. We “sold out” and it’s a real laugh. Now they’re talking about changing it and talkin’ about Gandalf and fuckin’ Alice in Wonderland. The hobbits.

SCREW: Are you guys ever planning to get together again and do something?

John: I’ve tried to get them all on the road, but Ringo doesn’t want to, so… I’m not that mad about it, but I’m interested in going out. So I’m just doin’ a few gigs with Yoko.

SCREW: Have you gotten out of the bed at all these past few days?

John: Just to shit and pee.

SCREW: You got that SCREW reader? Get closer to the mike.

John: Yeah, we got out of bed one day and we just SHAT!

SCREW: This is going to be hard to take. A lot of little girls are going to be very disappointed to find out that a Beatle shits.

John: I used to wonder about the Queen.

SCREW: Why did you come to Montreal?

John: Because they wouldn’t let me in the States.

SCREW: But you could’ve gotten in?

John: They only would have let me in if I did an anti-narcotics thing with a senator. McGovern, I think.

SCREW #48 (Feb 2, 1970)

SIX. MONTHS. LATER…

The Erotic Lithographs of John Lennon weren’t allowed a public showing in London because they were deemed, too “doity,” so they were en route to New York’s Lee Nordness Galleries on East 75th for their first American showing, February 7th through 26th, 1970. In the mean time, the fancy-schmansy, high-falutin’, artsy-fartsy, modernist-snob magazine du jour — Avant-Garde — had scheduled a review of John’s art in their upcoming March issue. It would be the first time John Lennon’s art would be featured in print to the American public.

Or not…

Unbeknownst to the folks at Avant-Garde, John had already gifted a complete set of his lithographs to SCREW for exactly that purpose. (For the longest time Al claimed to have purchased them, but he didn’t. He just said that to avoid having to split them with his partner, Jim Buckley.) And so SCREW, not Avant-Garde, would be the first publication to exhibit John Lennon’s erotic art in-print — not all of it, just four of his works — giving Americans their first inside glimpse into the dirty mind of their favorite Beatle.

Here they are, as they originally (and first!) appeared in SCREW #48 for February 2, 1970. These works are part of a collection known as John Lennon’s Original Bag One Lithographs (1970):

“I Do” by John Lennon
“Bag One” by John Lennon
“Erotic #4” by John Lennon
“Untitled” by John Lennon

Ten. Years. Later…

Ten years and ten months after his erotic art appeared in SCREW, on December 8, 1980, John Lennon was assassinated outside his home in Manhattan. The following week, SCREW published the most somber introduction in its 52-year history:

“The sickening circumstances of John’s tragic departure have left us dumbstruck. His importance to many people far exceeded that of any president or world leader, and he was one of the most beloved men in the world. He struggled to eliminate the aura of godliness that people thrust on him, as the following reprint demonstrates. Alas, in the worst way of all, we have seen that he is not a god, but a mortal man.”

Al Goldstein, Publisher, Screw Magazine (Dec. 15, 1980)

If you are interested in seeing more of John Lennon’s artwork, or purchasing a signed piece for your collection, visit the Pacific Edge Gallery at 540 S Coast Hwy #112, Laguna Beach, CA, or check out their website, “The Art of John Lennon,” at www.the-art-of-john-lennon.net.

— P

Featured Photo: John and Yoko during Bed-In-For-Peace, Montreal (June 1969)

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