By Alan L. Chrisman
There had been rumors of John Lennon and Paul McCartney getting secretly together for a recording session in L.A. in 1974. Well, last week, May Pang in an interview with the L.A. Examiner, confirmed they did take place. Pang was John’s girlfriend during his separation from Yoko and his infamous “Lost Weekend” in 1974. This may well be the last known sessions between John & Paul. This would have been somewhat shocking at the time because, as far as the public knew, since the Beatles split in 1970, Lennon and McCartney were still quite estranged from each other.
She describes the night when Paul and wife, Linda, showed up at the studio. John played guitar and sang lead, Paul played drums and harmony, Linda, organ, and as well, there was Stevie Wonder on piano, Jesse Ed Davis on lead guitar, and both Harry Nilsson and Stevie Wonder sang harmonies too. The group jammed briefly on a couple of rough rock ‘n’ roll oldies including “Stand by Me”and “Lucille” (two songs which John would have recorded the fall before with legendary producer, Phil Spector, for John’s album of oldies, Rock ‘n’ Roll). Lennon was there producing his friend, Harry Nilsson’s album, Pussycats and the McCartney’s were there the first night of those sessions.
Pang also described another recording session between Lennon and Mick Jagger, around the same time, called the “Too Many Cooks” session, after a cover of a Willie Dixson song, which May says that Lennon produced. The back-up band consisted of Jesse Ed Davis on guitar again, keyboardist Al Kooper, who played with Dylan on his Highway 61 Revisited album and founded Blood, Sweat & Tears, Danny Kortchmar, guitar player for James Talyor and on Carol King’ Tapestry album, Jim Keltner on drums, and bassist, Jack Bruce from Cream ( who has just recently passed away-see my previous tribute blog on). The story goes that supposedly the recording tape had lain for years under May Pang’s bed! Jagger said he had forgotten about it for a long time, but it did finally end up on his Very Best of Mick Jagger album in 2007.
Both these artifacts are quite historical, with John and Paul’s last and also a rare Lennon/Jagger recording and worth hearing.
Pang was in Germany recently, promoting her new book for the German market only, John Lennon & May Pang, Another Love. She had released an earlier book about her life with John, Loving John, in 1983 and a photo book, Instamatic Karma (2008). She also mentions John’s recording with David Bowie ”Fame” (’75) which he co-wrote, based on a Lennon guitar riff.
I actually met May Pang in 1994. It’s kind of an interesting story. I was attending my first Beatles’ Convention in Stamford, Conn. I had gone there because I had created a “fantasy” project for a course I had just taken at a local college about putting on events. The fictional event my fellow classmate and friend, Al, both being Beatles fans, had proposed was a Beatles Convention. A couple weeks after we had presented this fantasy event to our class, someone told me about a Beatles’ Convention in Conn. We had never been to one before, but we especially wanted to meet one of the guests, Cynthia Lennon, John’s first wife. I had read her first book about John which came out originally in ’78 , A Twist of Lennon. That’s the reason I went, so Al and I took the bus from Ottawa, Canada, where we lived. And there we did get to meet and talk to Cynthia a couple times and she was warm and lovely and autographed several items for us.
As I said, Cynthia was one of the main guests, as well as Paul McCartney’s step-mom, Beatles’ band, Badfinger, and several others. But at that same convention in Conn. in ’94, to my and everyone else’s surprise May Pang showed up unannounced. She wasn’t supposed to be a guest. In fact, I didn’t know if Cynthia and May even liked each other, as I knew Cynthia and Yoko didn’t, and May had been Yoko’s assistant, before Yoko had “assigned” her to watch John.
But on the final day of the Convention, I was in the dealers’ room, with hardly anybody there, when I noticed this Oriental-looking woman talking to a well-known dealer who’d also written several books on The Beatles. I heard the dealer say,“Oh May, I’ve got my latest book and your personal copy for you”. I knew right then it must be May Pang. As I said, there was hardly anyone else in the room, but us. I asked her if I could get a picture and told my friend, Al, to run up and get our camera ( this was before selfies). Like Cynthia, she was warm and friendly. She signed one of my favorite John Lennon albums, Walls and Bridges, recorded shortly after the McCartney and Jagger sessions mentioned above. May said she even sang on one of the songs on it, one of my favorites, #9 Dream and that other songs were actually about her, such as “Surprise , Surprise (Sweet Bird of Paradox), which I had always thought was about Yoko. Along with May was, to my surprise too, Fred Seaman, John’s assistant at the Dakota, whom Yoko would later accuse of stealing John’s diaries.
In fact, the reason May Pang was there was that she was actually close friends with Cynthia and had come in to see her from New York at the Convention. May, I found out later, had encouraged John , when separated from Yoko, to re-establish his relationship with John’s and Cynthia’s son, Julian, and Cynthia had appreciated it and Cynthia and May had become good friends.
So it was quite a weekend, meeting the lovely Cynthia Lennon and other Beatles’ insiders, and on top of that, meeting unexpectedly John’s girlfriend and confidante, May Pang. May gave me her business card as well, on it was also Tony Visconti’s (David Bowie’s longtime producer) address, whom she was married to at the time). My friend, Al and I went home the next day, with dreams of perhaps even putting on our own Beatles’ Conventions back in Ottawa, inspired especially by meeting Cynthia Lennon and May Pang in one weekend!
For now we also had contacts for several Beatles’ guests. And we were to do exactly that-put on our own Beatles’ Conventions. The story of which, along with meeting several others in the Beatles’ circle, is told in my book, “ It’s A Long Way Home”( & How Beatles’ Music Saved My Life”).
HEAR below ‘LAST’ LENNON/McCARTNEY RECORDING SESSION, L.A. ,1974:
& Hear below LENNON/JAGGER SESSION, 1974, “ TOO MANY COOKS”: