Monday 17 April 2023


The interest of documentarians in the Beatles is at a high right now, with Peter Jackson's Get Back series enjoying success in 2021 and a new documentary on Paul McCartney in the works. But it is hard to think of a pop star whose life has been more feted and speculated over than John Lennon. Even as the former Beatle carved out new professional and domestic roles for himself as a solo artist and a hands-on father in the 1970s, speculation was abundant regarding Lennon's private life, his relations with his former band members, and his unconventional relationship with conceptual artist Yoko Ono. In 1973, however, Lennon embarked on an affair with May Pang before reconciling with Ono later in the decade.

Now May Pang's side of the story is being told in a new documentary, The Lost Weekend: A Love Story. Here's what to expect.
At the turn of the 1970s, Lennon was striking out on his own. The Beatles split in 1970, and Lennon pursued his solo career with gusto, releasing several albums in collaboration with Ono. But by 1973 the marriage was in crisis.

By then, May Pang had entered the picture. The daughter of Chinese immigrants, Pang's association withJohn began in 1970, when she walked into the office of the Beatles' sometime manager, Allen Klein, and blagged her way into a job with the Beatles' company, Apple Corps. Shortly thereafter, she found herself working as a personal assistant to Lennon and Yoko Ono, whom Lennon had married in Gibraltar in 1969. Pang's early tasks included fulfilling Ono's peculiar requests in pursuit of her conceptual artworks, such as finding a fly for use in a film in the middle of a New York winter.

However, Pang was surprised when, in 1973, Ono told her that she thought Lennon was ready to see other women - and asked Pang herself if she would be his affair partner. Although both Pang and Lennon balked at the idea initially, before long, they found themselves in a relationship - with Ono's blessing.

The "lost weekend" was anything but. In fact, Lennon's affair with Pang lasted around 18 months, during which time the pair relocated from New York to Los Angeles, and Lennon's alcoholism and wayward behavior were on full display.

While in Los Angeles, Lennon continued to record despite his estrangement from his recording partner. One of the fruits of his time in LA was the Rock 'n' Roll album, a collection of cover versions of rock 'n' roll songs he had found influential in earlier times. The sessions were famously chaotic and were overseen by an equally chaotic Phil Spector - the famous producer absconded with the master tapes at one point. Lennon also recorded an album of original material titled Walls and Bridges during the "lost weekend"; like Rock 'n' Roll, it was a hit, achieving Gold record status in the US and Silver record status in the UK.

Through it all, Pang provided Lennon with crucial encouragement, and gradually, he began to recover from the worst excesses of this tumultuous period. Lennon and Ono remained in contact by telephone all the while, with Pang alleging that Lennon was happy to hear that Ono had embarked on an affair of her own with a musician while he and Pang were together.
In the end, Lennon returned to New York in 1974 and to Ono the following year. But perhaps the most startling part of the documentary - though it has been hinted at in the past by people who knew Lennon, as well as Pang herself - was that the former Beatle remained firmly in love with Pang even after the affair formally ended.

In fact, Pang even claims that she continued to be intimate with Lennon at intervals until his murder in 1980. And it is this aspect of their relationship that the documentary so clearly emphasizes - the love for Pang from one of pop music's most iconic and unconventional stars.

Hardcore Beatles fans will know a good part of Pang's story already - she has gone on record on more than a couple of occasions regarding her romantic relationship with Lennon, including in print with two books - but the combination of archive footage and Pang's frequently revealing personal insights make this documentary one to watch.


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