John Lennon’s Records and Compact Discs with Andy Warhol Art

john Lennon’s 1986 album “Menlove Ave” is probably the best known of his recordings that use Andy Warhol’s art. But there are some others and one, in particular, that has not previously been recognized.

John and Yoko Lennon and Andy Warhol were friends. I’m sure they basked in each others’ glory. Andy Warhol took Polaroid photos of John and two of these were recently auctioned at Christies (https://onlineonly.christies.com/s/pop-culture/john-lennon-97/3106/).

Andy Warhol's Polaroid pictures of John Lennon. Circa 1969.
Andy Warhol’s Polaroid pictures of John Lennon. Circa 1969.

The photo on the left bears a striking resemblance to the cover photo on Lennon’s album “Imagine”, released on 5th September, 1971. Only the position of the cloud is different.

John Lennon's "Imagine" LP cover.
John Lennon’s “Imagine” LP cover.

There may be an explanation for this, however. Photographer Iain Macmillan was a good friend of the Lennons. He had been introduced to John by Yoko at her 1966 exhibition at the Indica Gallery in London, where she first met John. Macmillan was commissioned to take the cover photo for The Beatles’ “Abbey Road” album and had take portrait photographs of John as well. It was he, apparently, that placed the cloud on the cover of the Plastic Ono Band’s “Live Peace in Toronto” 1969 album.

"Live Peace in Toronto" cover art.
“Live Peace in Toronto” cover art.

The cover design of Lennon’s “Imagine” album is credited to Yoko Ono but Wikipedia’s article on the album credits the cover photo to Andy Warhol. Thus this album is a previously unrecognized Andy Warhol cover appearing only five months after Warhol’s cover design for The Rolling Stones’ “Sticky Fingers” LP. Several singles bear the same cover photo including Lennon’s “Jealous Guy”/”Going Down on Love” and versions of “Imagine”.

Macmillan’s Lennon portraits turned up first on Lennon’s posthumous “Menlove Ave” LP compiled by Yoko Ono and released in 1986. According to the story I have heard, Yoko approached Warhol with Macmillan’s Lennon photographs and asked him to paint two portraits for use on the album cover.

"Menlove Ave" LP front and rear art.
“Menlove Ave” LP front and rear art.

These portraits would reappear when Q magazine with the May 2005 edition which contained two CDs of John Lennon’s songs covered by other artists including Madonna, Oasis, Paul Weller, Wilco and Badly Drawn Boy, amongst others.

John Lennon Covered #1 and #2.
The Front covers of Q Magazine’s CDs “John Lennon Covered #1 and #2.”
Andy Warhol's two portraits of John Lennon.
Andy Warhol’s two portraits of John Lennon.

There are other pressings that use Warhol’s Polaroid photos, including a 12-inch maxi and the 1971 Japanese “Imagine/It’s so Hard” 7-inch single.

Advertisements

3 thoughts on “John Lennon’s Records and Compact Discs with Andy Warhol Art”

  1. Nice post once again Richard, the Imagine cover is very intriguing. On the one hand i’m tempted to not stray from the credit that is actually on the album itself. But on the other hand i can’t disagree that the resemblance between the polaroids is striking. Pretty much just a lock of hair that is out of place… 🙂 And since Christie’s seem certain enough to claim that the shots are by AW well, yeah… intriguing to say the least.

    1. Thanks, Niklas. I like to try to be provocative! But I was really surprised when I read the Wikipedia article on the “Imagine” album as it unequivocally cited Warhol as the cover designer.
      History tells that when AW took polaroid photos of people he was going to paint, he took many pictures and let the subject choose which he would use. He probably took many more photos of John Lennon than the two sold by Christies.
      I agree that it is difficult to argue with the credits printed on the album’s inner sleeve, but perhaps it was Yoko who came up with the idea of using one of AW’s Polaroid pics as the cover image. And I am sure tha AW would not have minded that his buddies used it without a credit.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s