Daytrippin' Beatles Magazine

The Latest Beatles News, Travel, Biography and Discography


The story behind John Lennon’s Strawberry Fields in New York

imagine-mosaic

For over 30 years, Beatles fans have been gathering at Strawberry Fields in Central Park to celebrate John Lennon’s life on his birthday, October 9, and also to mourn his death on December 8.

Located across the street from the Dakota apartment building where John Lennon lived with Yoko Ono, Strawberry Fields encompasses the pathways in Central Park that John and Yoko used to stroll together over the years from 1973 until Lennon was gunned down in front of the building in 1980.

Five years after his death, on October 9, 1985, what would have been Lennon’s 45th birthday, this tear-shaped section of Central Park stretching from 71st to 74th streets along Central Park West was re-named “Strawberry Fields” after The Beatles’ song “Strawberry Fields Forever.” The famous grey and white marble Imagine mosaic, which is the centerpiece of the area, was a gift from the city of Naples, Italy.

StrawberryFields-ceremony

The groundbreaking ceremony for Strawberry Fields was held on March 21, 1984 with Yoko Ono and Lennon’s sons Julian and Sean in attendance. A bronze plaque which was unveiled at the dedication ceremony lists 121 countries who endorse this Garden of Peace.

The idea for ‘Strawberry Fields’ was conceived by Yoko Ono and she “selected an ancient mosaic design found in Naples and placed the word Imagine in the center,” according to author Sara Cedar Miller. “The people of Naples were delighted, and artisans were dispatched to Strawberry Fields to inlay the Imagine mosaic medallion, faithfully copying the design Yoko had chosen.”

While most people think of the Imagine mosaic section as the major part of Strawberry Fields, there are actually 5.3 acres in total that make up the whole of the area. For the landscape design of this section of Central Park, Yoko worked with landscape architect, Bruce Kelly, to create a fitting memorial to John Lennon that was “more nature than culture.”

StrawberryFields-NewspaperAd-sm

Yoko’s letter in the NY Times on August 19, 1981

In August 1981, Ono placed letters in the New York Times and many other newspapers asking for donations from other countries to create this peace garden. Many countries sent native plants; for example, an oak tree from Great Britain, dogwoods from Monaco, tulip bulbs from the Netherlands, maples from Canada, etc. And, of course, strawberries were planted by the Central Park Conservancy.

The area is shaded by elm trees and provides many benches for visitors to relax and “imagine.” Strawberry Fields is intended as a quiet place for reflection, designated as a “quiet zone” in the Park. In exchange for a generous donation to the Central Park Conservancy, patrons can get their name inscribed on a plaque on one of the benches.

Yoko Ono still lives in the Dakota and her windows overlook the Imagine mosaic at 72nd street and Central Park West. While the word “Imagine” is recognized for Lennon’s famous song first released in 1971, it is also a concept that Ono has portrayed in her artwork long before she met Lennon. He even admitted that he got the idea for the song from her.

The song “should be credited as a Lennon-Ono song, because a lot of it, the lyric and the concept, came from Yoko,” John Lennon said in a 1980 interview, shortly before he died.

StrawberryFields-plaque

In 2017, the National Music Publishers Association announced that Ono would share songwriting credits for Lennon’s “Imagine.”

“Those days, I was a bit more selfish, a bit more macho, and I sort of omitted to mention her contribution,” Lennon added, noting that the song makes direct reference to Yoko’s 1964 book, Grapefruit.

 

It was Yoko’s intention to continue the world peace sentiment that she and Lennon had initiated in 1969 which included planting an acorn in England and then sending acorns to heads of state around the world. In her 1981 letter, Ono said, “John would have been very proud that this was given to him, an island named after his song, rather than a statue or a monument….It will be nice to have the whole world in one place, one field, living and growing together in harmony.”

strawberryfields-book-large

Note:
A book called Strawberry Fields: Central Park’s Memorial to John Lennon chronicles the creation of this memorial. The book, released in 2011, was written by Sara Cedar Miller, the official photographer and historian of the Central Park Conservancy. The 95-page book is filled with gorgeous color photos as well as historical documents and black & white photos.

The Central Park Conservancy also sells souvenirs of the Imagine mosaic, including a blanket, coffee mug and jewelry.

***

*
Check out our latest Daytrippin’ Beatles newsletter: bit.ly/1SfD6R3
(If you are not on our mailing list, go here to subscribe.
Note: this newsletter is different from following our blog posts)
*
For more Beatles news, follow Daytrippin’ on Twitter and Facebook
*

Continue reading

Advertisements


The Beatles first visit to New York City in 1964: A Day by Day Diary

At 1:20 pm on Friday, February 7, 1964, The Beatles landed in America for the very first time, and music history would never be the same. It would be a busy weekend for The Beatles leading up to their historic debut on “The Ed Sullivan Show” on Sunday night as they took New York City by storm.

beatlesny-feb71964

FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 7

After The Beatles landed at JFK airport to thousands of screaming fans, they held a short press conference at the airport. They charmed the press with quick-witted answers like:

Question: Will you sing for us?
John Lennon: No, we need money first.

Question: Do you ever get a haircut at all?
George Harrison: I had one yesterday.

Question: Why does your music excite people so much?
John Lennon: If we knew, we’d form another group and be managers.

The Beatles were then whisked away to The Plaza Hotel (Fifth Avenue at Central Park South) in Manhattan. When the Beatles first arrived at the hotel on February 7, 1964, at least 50 policemen were needed around the hotel to try and keep the hordes of fans in line.

The Beatles were taken to the Presidential Suites on the 12th floor (rooms 1209 through 1216). With the chaotic scene and mass pandemonium created by the fans in front of the hotel, The Plaza management was shocked to learn that the reservations made for these “English businessmen” were actually the Beatles.

first_us_visitInside the Plaza Hotel, The Beatles watched news reports about themselves on television and conducted phone interviews with local radio DJs including Murray the K. This was documented in the exceptional film by The Maysles Brothers, The Beatles First US Visit.

[Note: After the mayhem of The Beatles first U.S. visit, the Plaza Hotel management did not want the Beatles to return. In subsequent visits to New York, The Beatles would stay at The Warwick Hotel.]

SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 8

The next day, Feb 8, George Harrison had strep throat and stayed in bed. His sister, Louise, came to the hotel to take care of him.

While George was sick in bed, John, Paul and Ringo entertained reporters for a photo shoot in Central Park followed by many fans. They took a horse and buggy ride, posed on rocks by a lake, and had lunch at the boathouse.

beatles_heads horse-nydailynews

The threetles also went for a rehearsal at the Ed Sullivan show studio (1697 Broadway), now home to CBS’ “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.” Since George was sick, road manager Neil Aspinall stood in for him, as can be seen in many photographs.

That night, John, Paul and Ringo went to the 21 Club restaurant (21 W. 52nd Street) for a dinner party hosted by Capitol Records. After dinner, they were given a car tour of Manhattan to see NYC landmarks including the U.N. building, the Empire State Building, Broadway and Times Square, according to author Bruce Spizer.

SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 9

The day of the Beatles television performance there were thousands of teenage fans waiting up and down Broadway trying to get a glimpse of the Beatles entering and leaving the studio. Even though there were 50,000 requests for tickets to the show, there were only 728 seats available inside. Watching the Beatles’ performance that night in the studio audience were John’s wife, Cynthia Lennon and George’s sister, Louise Harrison.

A record 73 million people watched that night. The Beatles’ sang five songs in two separate segments including “All My Loving”, “Till There Was You”, “She Loves You”, “I Saw Her Standing There” and “I Want To Hold Your Hand”. The Beatles made such an impact with their historic live appearance that it launched Beatlemania in the U.S. which still endures to this day.

Earlier that day on February 9, The Beatles taped another performance for “The Ed Sullivan Show” which was shown on Sunday, February 23 after the Beatles had returned to England. On Sunday, Feb. 16, The Beatles appeared on the show again live from Miami, Florida. All of The Beatles appearances on the show are included on the DVD set, The 4 Complete Ed Sullivan Shows starring The Beatles.

After the show, The Beatles celebrated by first going to The Playboy Club (59th street and Fifth Avenue) conveniently located across the street from The Plaza Hotel. Paul McCartney commented: “I think the Bunnies are even more lovable than we are.”

Next, The Beatles went to the Peppermint Lounge. Just like a scene from A Hard Day’s Night, Ringo Starr danced the night away as John and Paul grooved from their seats.

MONDAY, FEBRUARY 10

Beatles MagazineOn February 10, 1964, Capitol Records president Alan Livingston presented the Beatles with gold records for “Meet the Beatles” and “I Want to Hold your hand” at the Plaza Hotel.

Several press conferences were held inside the Terrace and Baroque rooms of the hotel that day for the media. One member of the press who interviewed The Beatles that day was celebrity psychologist, Dr. Joyce Brothers.

After a full afternoon of interviews, the Beatles hosted a cocktail party for members of the press at the Plaza.

In just a brief four-day visit, The Beatles had conquered America. They were due to stay in America for another 10 days to perform their first U.S. concerts and appear for a second time on “The Ed Sullivan Show” live from Miami.

***
Want to learn more about the history of The Beatles early days?
Take Daytrippin’s exclusive online course,
The Early Beatles: How The Fab Four Came Together

free-preview-course-fb-ad

The Early Beatles course will be offered again in 2017

Sign up and be the first to be notified when enrollment is open again for The Early Beatles course this year!

Click here to sign up

***

 

Check out our latest Daytrippin’ Beatles newsletter: bit.ly/1SfD6R3
(If you are not on our mailing list, go here to subscribe.
Note: this newsletter is different from following our blog posts)
*
For more Beatles news, follow Daytrippin’ on Twitter and Facebook
*


May Pang, Nancy Lee Andrews and Shannon come together for Beatles art exhibit

By Shelley Germeaux

The National Arts Club in New York City announced on January 24 that May Pang, Shannon, and Nancy Lee Andrews will hold a fine art exhibition and book signing dedicated to the Beatles from February 8 – 15.

Called All You Need is Love, this is a Valentines Day art theme honoring the love Pang had for John Lennon, and Nancy Lee Andrews had for Ringo Starr, with never-before-seen photos of all four Beatles. Shannon, the well-renowned Beatles artist, will have an impressive display of her photo-realistic paintings.

Ringo Starr and Nancy Lee Andrews
[Photo courtesy Nancy Lee Andrews]

An artists’ reception will be held February 8 from 6-8PM by invitation only, and the exhibit is open to the public at 8pm.

Marina Deco, curator of the exhibit, said, “May, Nancy and Shannon each offer a unique view of the Beatles from the eyes of a woman in love to the artist’s creative insight. The old world atmosphere (of the National Arts Club) offers romance and history as a perfect backdrop for their work.”

Nancy Lee Andrews, photographer and model, met Ringo Starr in 1974 through John Lennon. Her photos of Ringo were featured in her book, A Dose of Rock n Roll.

May Pang grew up with music all around her and was determined to work in the industry. She met John and Yoko in 1969 while working for Apple and became their personal assistant. In 1973 during John’s separation from Yoko, she became John’s lover and companion. She has published two books about that time period, and will be signing copies of her photographic tribute to her time with John, Instamatic Karma.

Shannon is regarded as the “World’s Greatest Beatles Artist,” a name bestowed upon her by the Lord Mayor of Liverpool in 1998. Her photographic paintings grace the walls of the Hard Day’s Night Hotel in Liverpool. Her most recent piece, John Lennon at 70, will be unveiled at this exhibition.

The National Arts Club is located at 15 Gramercy Park South in New York City.

GALLERY HOURS

According to the press release, the hours for the week long exhibition are as follows:

Tuesday Feb 8 – press reception 6-8pm, open to the public at 8pm.

Wed – Fri (9th, 10th, 11th) – 11am – 5pm

Sat-Sun (12th – 13th) – please call ahead (609-865-8721)

Mon (14th) – 11-5pm

Tues (15th) – 10am – 12 noon; 3 – 5pm

******
Note: This article was originally published on the John Lennon Examiner column on Examiner.com

******

For more Beatles news, follow us on Twitter