When New York photographer David M. Spindel arrived at the recording studio The Hit Factory in November, 1980 for his latest job, he was unaware his subjects would be John Lennon and Yoko Ono. He was given full access to photograph what turned out to be the final day of recording sessions for their “Double Fantasy” album. Modern Rocks Gallery is now offering Spindel’s historic photos in a collection dubbed “John Lennon Edition 75.” You can see some of the photos on this page.
Spindel told Beatles Examiner he wasn’t told in advance who he would be photographing. “My wife and I were busy building our new house in New York, and my architect’s fiancé came to me with this request: ‘My future brother-in-law got a job working with some musicians who are recording an album and they’re looking for a photographer.’ I said, ‘Well, who is it?’ And she said, ‘Well, it’s someone who’s been in the music industry for a while but hasn’t done a record in five years. And, well, I can’t tell you because of strict confidentiality reasons.’
“When I arrived at The Hit Factory, Yoko came out of the recording room. She looked familiar, but I wasn’t sure. I had not seen that many recent photos of her and even so, people look different when you see them in person. Quietly, Yoko led me to a small room and left me there to set up my equipment. The first photo she wanted was of a group of about 10 musicians. I told her that there wouldn’t be sufficient space in the room she had picked so we selected another area. When I went back to get my equipment, a man was lying on a floor mat getting a massage. I thought to myself, ‘Wow, these musicians have got it made!’ As I started to move my equipment, the man on the floor turned towards me. It was John Lennon. Now him, I knew! I broke out in a cold sweat! I was going to photograph John Lennon!”
He said their first encounter was memorable. “Lennon turned to me and said, ‘I usually charge people a fee to watch me get a massage.’ I was sure he was joking so I thought for a second and said, ‘I usually charge people to watch me move my equipment. Let’s just call it even.” Lennon replied, ‘I’m gonna enjoy working with you.’”
Spindel said he found right away that his presence was special. “There was something very undeniably extraordinary about him that’s difficult to put into words. I can say he had an inner wisdom, a charisma, and an uncommon yet perfect sense of humanity that few people possess. Spending time with him made me feel absolutely incredible, positive, and alive. His love of life and family seemed to be what inspired him most and he was a man who truly loved his work – his music.”
He said after it was all over, he still couldn’t believe it. “As I rode back to my studio, I found it difficult to believe this whole experience really happened.” But attempts to schedule another photo session were unsuccessful. “During the next month, Yoko and I made arrangements for more photos but their busy recording schedule became more prohibitive. Weeks passed and now it was the month of December and tragedy struck.”
But he said the spirit of Lennon lives on for him. “I feel that John will never really die, for he lives on in our hearts and minds through the genuine spirit of his music, lyrics, and paintings. I will always have truly fond memories of the special time I spent with John and feel truly blessed to continue a great friendship with Yoko to this day.”
Steven Walker, co-owner of Modern Rocks Gallery, commented about the photos, “Spindel took these intimate photographs of John and Yoko, just three weeks before Lennon’s untimely death. They’re a rare and very personal look at one of the most important artists of modern music.”
The five prints in the “John Lennon Edition 75” collection are available in one 16″ x 20” size and are signed and hand numbered with a limited edition of only 75 prints available for each. In addition to the “John Lennon Edition 75,” Modern Rocks Gallery has a collection of other images from the “Double Fantasy” session available as signed, open edition prints. Both the “John Lennon Edition 75” and Spindel open stock collection are available through the gallery.