The Lennon Tapes | Cigar Reviews by the Katman

If you were born in the 60’s or earlier, you remember the day that John Lennon was murdered. I was 30 in December, 1980. I had just gotten home from an all night session at my recording studio in Long Beach, Ca.

As an avid Beatles’ fan, I was devastated. For me, it was no different than JFK’s or RFK’s assassination. It knocked the wind out of me.

I called my engineer and told him to cancel all bookings that day. I hunkered down in my house in North Long Beach and over the next few hours, lots of friends showed up. We sat on furniture and the floor as we spread all of our Lennon and Beatles albums on the carpet. We played Lennon’s music all day long. We were all in such shock that everyone processed it differently.

We passed around joints and drank lots of tequila. This caused many of my friends to break down. We all felt a connection to a man we had never met…but whose music affected all of our lives.

The next day, life continued and everyone went back to work…sad and in denial.

Lennon and Yoko had done an interview just before he was killed. It was very professional and interesting questions were asked. Lennon was fascinating. Yoko was a major disturbance when she ranted on.

It took several weeks, maybe longer, for the production company that had gotten the job of putting the interview together on five 12″ vinyl records. Westwood One was a major distributor of all things made exclusively for radio. They edited the interview and interspersed it with music that was being discussed. It was all presented in chronological order.

These 5 albums only went out to Westwood One radio stations. There were hundreds of stations across the country that were contracted for their products.

I had a good friend, Marshall Thomas, that was a radio DJ on one of the big 50,000 watt stations in L.A. It was either KLOS or KWST. I can’t remember which. Marshall got an announcing gig on the vinyl records. I believe the only sponsor was Budweiser Beer. And those commercials were at the start of each interview episode and interspersed throughout the presentation.

He was given a full set of the vinyl albums. As soon as he received them, he came to my studio to show me. He said I could make a copy of all 5 albums. So, I cranked up the recording studio and we went from vinyl to cassette. And the photos above are my cassette copies that I’ve kept in a holy sepulcher for 40 years. I’ve kept them all this time in a sealed container and they are mint. As I don’t have a cassette player, I haven’t listened to them in at least 10 years.

I looked online and there are various versions of the interview available…but not a sign of those original albums or even the original recordings in the format used on those albums. I’m guessing only a couple thousand were produced and those that received them, still have them. And no one is putting them on eBay.

I should get them transferred to CD.

Every time I took a road trip, I got to listen to all 5 hours. Always found myself sobbing when I finished.

I realize that John Lennon means more to Boomers than other generations…and I understand. I remember watching The Beatles on The Ed Sullivan show in February, 1964. I was beside myself and overwhelmed. The records had been out for a year but this was magic in motion. I had wanted to be a bassist and I saved my money that year and bought a Hofner violin bass…just like McCartney’s.

My wife, Charlotte…a German, remembers begging her psychiatrist father to take her with him in 1962 to Hamburg as he was attending a psychiatry convention. Her dad, reluctantly, took her to the Indra Club where The Beatles were the band of residence…and honing their chops. Charlotte got to meet all of the boys and found herself in rapture. But since they all resided in a single room behind the stage, without much bathroom access, Charlotte said they stunk to high heaven. Still, her father took photos of her with The Beatles and she remembers them being very nice; and very kind to her.

John Lennon was only 40 years old when he died. I can only imagine the music that could have been produced once he and McCartney made up and stopped fighting. Age would have mellowed them and I want to believe McCartney’s music after Lennon’s death would be so much more impactful if he still partnered with John.

Side note: After nearly 7 weeks with this gawdawful flu, the third round of antibiotics has finally rid me of the infections. Smoked my first cigar today. Only got an inch in before I was swooning. So, I look at it as merely circumcising the cigar. I have another stick next to me ready to go. I can’t wait to get back to being the inappropriate reviewer everyone loves to hate.


13 replies

  1. Phil,

    Glad to see you’re getting better and just around the corner from 100%.


  2. Thanks Young Phil…While I feel a whole lot better, going from a rag doll to an erect Hominid will take a week or two.
    I’m smoking that little Cuban right now and it’s giving me a splitting headache…go figure…lol. I shall not give up!
    ~ Old Phil

  3. Sorry you have been sick. Take care of yourself and looking forward to your uniquely creative reviews.

  4. Hi Arless,
    Thanks buddy. It was only the flu and ancillary infections that come with it when you’re old as dirt.
    Thank goodness that Covid was never in the picture. I’m a lucky guy. Feeling alright yesterday and today.
    Stay safe and be well,

  5. Wow. Sad memories. I don’t think I could listen to the set.

  6. I’ll gladly digitize those cassettes if you want.

    I can’t believe you don’t have a cassette player anymore. 😢

  7. Hi Keith,
    Thank you for the offer.
    I’ve been talking to several studios around town about this. My main concern is an ethical one.
    First, As I don’t see this original version anywhere (eBay,etc), I thought 5 CD’s with nice labels on it might be worth a couple of bucks online.
    Here is the conundrum…I don’t own the copyright to this material. I’ve got a lawyer friend looking into the ramifications of selling these; albeit in a different format than the 12″ vinyl pressings.
    I don’t want to get sued even though Westwood One went out of business in 2006.

    The second issue is trust. If I hand over my originals to a studio, how can I be sure they don’t get ‘lost?’
    Or that the studio has the same idea as me and now has the original version in their possession?
    The studios agreed to allow me to be present during the digitizing. But once they send them out for pressing, I lose control.

    I’m looking into several options. Now that I’m finally out of the woods of this 7 week long flu…I can give it some serious attention.
    Having been in the music business for 14 years showed me that everyone is unethical and untrustworthy. That wasn’t a slight aimed at you.

    I have a friend who I’ve known for over 40 years still in the music industry. He has all the equipment to do what I need. But years ago, I sent him original 3/4″ video tape cassettes of my Eddie Munster project and the Hound Dog video. He made some nice DVD’s for me and returned all the 3/4″ cassettes to me except for the original. He swears he put it in the box. Meanwhile, it is missing forever. I know he kept it. 40 years I knew the guy…and he fucks me.

    I will email you concerning this in the near future to discuss some possiblities.
    Thanks again,

  8. I understand where you are coming from. You don’t know me People generally suck. If they aren’t out to screw you, they’re unrealiable numbskulls.

  9. It wasn’t directed at you Keith.
    I learned the hard way that there is a narrow tunnel in life of people you can really trust.
    And it’s usually family…although, not always.
    You have a bad experience and you swear you’ve lerned your lesson…and then you do it again.
    Sometimes I wonder how the human race survived without annihilating itself…it’s not like we haven’t tried.

  10. Hi Phil. I’m having my well-deserved cocktail and reading your website (is there a PA (Phol Anonymous)? I wish you good healthiness 2021. What a year. Ouch.

    I do have a question. A Dr. friend of mine plays bass and smokes cigars (I clued him into your singular talent). I need some material when talking with him. Who are your picks for greatest bass players of all time and why. Maybe an article to answer. I don’t think I would be the only one to enjoy this. And…..I really kissed your ass here, though sincerely, so a little help.

  11. Hi Mark,

    This is a list of bassists that influenced me and who I studied during my formative years from 1965-1975. There are plenty of wonderful bassists out there but these on my list made a huge impact on my playing and style.
    They are in no particular order but somewhat chronological.
    James Jamerson, Paul McCartney, Carol Kaye(I took private lessons from her in the late 1960’s), Jack Bruce, Jaco Pastorius, Larry Graham, Ray Brown, Stanely Clarke, Ron Carter, Chuck Rainey (I took private lessons from him in the late 1960’s), John Paul Jones, Verdine White, Lee Sklar, Nathan East, Willie Weeks, Abe Laboriel, Joe Osborn, and Tim Bogert.

  12. Ahhh. Fantastic. Thank you. Cheers to 2021!

  13. A happy $600 to you, Mark.
    Let’s hope that this time next year, we will be congregating once again…only we’ll all be flesh eating zombies; or dentists.

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