John Lennon Album Sleeve Art Recalls Alleged 1974 UFO Sighting

Nearly 40 years ago, John Lennon saw a UFO in the skies over Manhattan.

Lennon made note of the alleged UFO incident in the liner notes for his 1974 album Wall and Bridges with the following not-so-ambiguous sentence: “On the 23rd Aug. 1974 at 9 o’clock I saw a UFO J.L.”

A sketch Lennon did of the UFO sighting on a spare album sleeve, apparently as an idea for a possible cover for Walls and Bridges, was recently auctioned off by CooperOwen Auctions of London. Originally anticipated to sell for between $1600 and $2500, the Lennon UFO sketch ended up going for a $16,600.

Lennon had ended up giving the album sleeve sketch to Jesse Ed David, who the CooperOwen auction site describes as “an American guitarist and well regarded session musician who provided lead guitar for Lennon’s album Wall and Bridges (1974) and Rock and Roll (1975)”. The UFO sketch was auctioned from David’s private collection.

The sighting took place during John Lennon’s self-described “Lost Weekend”, a period from 1973 through 1975 when Lennon was separated from wife Yoko Ono, while he was living with then-girlfriend May Pang in a 52nd Street apartment in New York. Lennon and Pang both saw the UFO over Manhattan.

In a radio interview, Lennon described the UFO sighting on that hot summer night:

Lo and behold, there was this thing just hovering about 100 yards away. I saw it so close…I could’ve hit it with a brick if I’d thrown a stone at it.

I couldn’t see the colors because it was dusk, a good clear summer night, and around the bottom of it were just ordinary-looking electric light bulbs, blinking off and on alternatively, like on a billboard, and on the top of it was a red light.

And the thing I noticed was that there was no noise… so I realized it’s not a helicopter, then it must be a balloon… [but it was] maneuvering too well to be a balloon. So I just watched it… for about five or 10 minutes [and] it went off down the East River.

May Pang, in an interview reprinted via the Examiner, gave a few more details on what she and Lennon saw that night:

“What happened was, he [Lennon] was looking south. Our terrace overlooked the East River. He loved that terrace. He liked being by water, and used to sit out there a lot. (That’s where those pictures were taken by Bob Gruen. the famous NYC t-shirt pictures). He’s looking south and he’s seeing flashing lights behind him, and thinks it must be a billboard or something. Then he thinks, ‘wait a second, I’m in a residential area, what billboards?’ So he turns around to see this THING moving over his head, very slowly. So suddenly I hear John yell, ‘May!! Come here!” I didn’t respond right away because I’m looking for clothes, and then he yells, “MAY!! Get out here NOW!!”

“So hearing this urgency, I drop the clothes and now I’m nude (laughs) and running out there. ‘What is it??’ I say. He’s looking up and there’s this thing hanging over our heads! It moves slowly down the East River. I said, ‘what the heck? What is it, a blimp?’ Even though we knew what it was. He said, ‘my god, it’s a f***ing UFO!’ I’m screaming at the top of my lungs and I look around and all the apartment lights around us are black. No one is home. Mind you, it’s Friday night– a hot, summer night–everyone is out. I’m screaming, like a wild woman, and he’s calm. No one hears us or comes out.

“It tipped sideways—it actually flew sideways and dipped behind a building, then it came out again! You could have pitched a baseball at it. You could even see the wavy air around it from the heat. It was flying below rooftops! It was probably about the size of a two-man learjet, John said.

While John Lennon would continue to profess his belief in what he saw that night, he might have expressed disbelief at recent news of a Canadian dentist who plans to use a tooth of Lennon’s to clone to the legendary artist.