When former BBC radio DJ Andy Peebles was returning back to London after having interviewed John Lennon & Yoko Ono in New York City, he had no idea it would be one of Lennon’s final interviews. 40 years after Lennon’s death on December 8th, 1980, fans around the world are still clamoring for more insight into his last days.
In BritBox‘s documentary, Lennon’s Last Weekend, the final moments of the peace activist and Beatles member’s life are detailed with a focus on his interview with BBC Radio’s Andy Peebles just two days before his life would tragically be cut short. Edited in December 1980 and aired on BBC Radio in January 1981, the audio clips of Peebles’ interview with Lennon and additional commentary from people that worked with Lennon tell a story of a pop star who had found his freedom before having it painfully snatched away.
Lennon’s Last Weekend leaves no stone unturned as it goes in-depth on Lennon’s drug use and his relationship with the controversial Yoko Ono. An avant-garde performance artist, Yoko notoriously received a wave of unfair criticism for being in love with the Beatle and for wanting to be involved in what he had going on. The doc also gets into John Lennon’s 18-month split from Yoko that he calls his lost weekend due to the excessive drinking during his wild nights out with friends Keith Moon and Ringo Starr. In regards to his drug usage, Lennon opens up about his song ‘Cold Turkey’, which is all about his experiences getting off heroin.
Lennon’s Last Weekend is at its most eerie when Lennon tells Andy Peebles just how free and safe he felt in New York City. Having gotten so famous at such a young age, Lennon reveled in being able to go to a restaurant or the movies without being mobbed by throngs of fans. As George Martin mentions, John was seeking peace and still loved his fans, but wanted to have a respite from the insanity he faced being in show business. For the first time in his life, he didn’t have to do anything. Lennon proclaimed just 48 hours before his murder “I can go out this door now and go in a restaurant. Do you know how great that is?”
Andy Peebles conducted his interview with John Lennon on December 6, a Saturday night; two days later, as Peebles was halfway across the Atlantic on a flight home, Lennon was killed when he was shot by a fan who, just six hours earlier, had asked the Beatle to sign a copy of the Double Fantasy album. People around the world were in a frenzy when the news broke, as this was the first high profile murder of a pop star and had a reaction akin to JFK’s assassination.
Producer and broadcaster Malcolm Gerrie said it best: “Andy Peebles thought he was coming back with 8 reels of quarter-inch tape, in fact, what he was coming back with was probably the greatest obituary in the history of popular music.”
Lennon’s Last Weekend launches December 8 on BritBox, the joint streaming service of British television staples BBC and ITV.