I’ve always enjoyed of interviewing politicians or celebrities live on radio. Last week for example I was thrilled to chat with the drummer of Status Quo (1963-1981) John Coghlan, as they were part of my soundtrack during the 70’s. Then, to my surprise an opportunity arose to interview a woman who was as close as it’s possible to get to my musical hero.
For around 18 months during 1973 and 1974 John Lennon lived through what he called his ‘lost weekend’. He was referring to the time that he and his wife, Yoko Ono, spent apart: she at their home in New York and he at a beach house in California. Their much publicised separation was surrounded by rumour and millions of speculative newspaper column inches as it became clear that John’s constant companion during this time was the Lennon’s personal assistant for the previous three years May Pang. May had been encouraged by Yoko to accompany John to California to ‘keep him safe’ as she sent him off into the wilderness to sow the last of his wayward nature in the fertile land of Palm Beach. Yoko’s belief was that John needed to get the ‘wandering’ part of his nature out of his system once and for all. This period in Lennon’s life is often referred to as nothing more than a debauched sad drunken time spent with his other wayward musketeers, Ring Starr, Harry Nilsson, Elton John and Keith Moon, which led to a host of chaotic antics fuelled by alcohol.
Even Paul McCartney dropped in to see John at the bungalow and May had taken the last ever pictures of the two musicians together.
Yet through all of this John not only produced three of his own albums: Mind Games, Walls and Bridges and Rock n’ Roll, but proved his competence as a producer on Harry Nilsson’s album Pussy Cats. May Pang was there through all of this, working on some of his finest released material. Indeed, one of the tracks from Walls and Bridges became his only solo number one during his lifetime, namely Whatever Gets You Thru the Night (with Elton John). May and John set up home for a time at 434 East 52nd Street, with their two cats Major and Minor. She received an RIAA gold award for her work on Walls and Bridges and continued her work as production coordinator of Lennon’s Rock ‘n’ Roll album, where she was credited as “Mother Superior”. May remains friends with John’s first wife Cynthia and his son Julian, and is often to be seen in the company of Paul McCartney’s brother Mike and stays in touch with Paul’s stepmother Angie. During the interview last Thursday she told me of a meeting she had with Yoko Ono at a hotel in Reykjavík, Iceland. It was a classic ‘Casablanca’ moment: ‘of all the hotels in all the world she has to walk into mine’. Not only that, but to add to the coincidence they met on what would have been John’s 66th birthday.
May Pang today
Pang married record producer Tony Visconti in 1989; the couple divorced in 2000. They had two children, Sebastian and Lara. She remains in touch with some of the people from her time with Lennon, and was invited by Paul McCartney to the memorial service for Linda McCartney. She was an invited guest at The Concert for George in 2002, and remains close to Cynthia Lennon, her husband Noel Charles, and Lennon’s first son, Julian Lennon.Pang is currently living with her children in Pomona, upstate New York, and produces a line of stainless steel feng shui jewelry. She is a volunteer for an animal shelter called Animal Haven in New York, and the owner of a dog rescued after Hurricane Katrina.