There was a time when rock ‘n roll did not exist. Although John Lennon wasn’t present at its birth and had nothing to do with cutting the umbilical cord, he definitely deserves credit for raising it into the irresponsible child it has become today. If the former Beatle and proponent of world peace hadn’t been shot four times in the back by Mark David Chapman, he might have been around to help the genre through its more troubled and awkward phases (aka Matchbox Twenty). To celebrate the anniversary of Lennon’s birth, we present you with 70 things you didn’t know about the man who once was the Walrus.
1. Lennon often said he’d rather have been a member of Monty Python than the Beatles.
2. For a time, Lennon and Yoko Ono had a psychic on staff to help advise them with business deals. The psychic earned a stipend on par with their lawyers and accountants.
3. Lennon’s favorite game to play on tour was Monopoly.
4. Lennon first experienced LSD when his dentist, John Riley, furtively slipped some into his coffee at a dinner party.
5. As a teenager, Lennon’s aunt and parental guardian, Mimi Smith, would often tell him, “The guitar’s all very well, John, but you’ll never make a living at it.”
6. Lennon wanted Jesus Christ and Adolf Hitler on the cover of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, but was outvoted.
7. Lennon and Yoko made their debut art performance together at the Royal Albert Hall in an opaque white sack, contorting their bodies in silence on stage.
8. Lennon’s first band, The Quarrymen, would often hold their practices in the bathroom, with Lennon standing shoeless in the bathtub.
9. On the track “How Do You Sleep?” from Lennon’s solo album Imagine, the caustic lines “The sound you make is muzak to my ears” and “The only thing you done was ‘Yesterday'” were both directed at former band member, Paul McCartney.
10. Lennon once demanded that Yoko write him a list of everyone she’d ever slept with.
11. For several years Lennon’s paternal grandfather, also named “John,” toured across America performing black-face in Andrew Roberton’s Colored Operatic Kentucky Minstrels.
12. When asked about the uproar in America over his “more popular than Jesus” comment, Lennon responded, “There are more people in America, so there are more bigots also.”
13. After becoming fed up with fans doing more screaming than listening at shows, Lennon once said, “Beatles concerts are nothing to do with music any more. They’re just bloody tribal rites.”
14. Lennon, McCartney, and former Beatles’ drummer, Pete Best, were all in the same room as George Harrison when Harrison lost his virginity.
15. A former schoolmate of Lennon’s at Dovedale Primary once said, “If ever there was a scrap in the school yard, John was likely to be involved.”
16. Lennon’s son, Sean, first suspected his father was a Beatle when he saw Yellow Submarine on television at a friend’s house.
17. Lennon wanted his first wife, Cynthia Powell, to look like French actress, Brigitte Bardot. When Lennon returned home from the road one day to find Cynthia’s former Bardot-length hair cut short, he refused to speak to Cynthia for two days.
18. As a teenager, Lennon considered himself a Teddy Boy.
19. Bob Dylan introduced marijuana to Lennon and the rest of the Beatles.
20. The first instrument Lennon learned how to play was the harmonica.
21. Lennon read The Psychedelic Experience by Timothy Leary, et al. from start to finish on a couch in the middle of a bookshop.
22. Before he was famous, Lennon once said he’d rather commit suicide than get a conventional job.
23. Growing up, Lennon was highly self-conscious about his large nose.
24. Lennon once said, “You have to be a bastard to make it, and that’s a fact. And the Beatles were the biggest bastards on earth.”
25. Lennon, never a great driver, once crashed his car into a ditch and received seventeen stitches to his face.
26. Lennon encouraged Yoko to say the word “fuck” more often.
27. As a young child, Lennon realized that every large department store in Liverpool had its own Santa Claus, and asked his dad, “How many Father Christmases are there?”
28. Lennon bought a tiny, uninhabited island called Dorinish off the coast of Ireland for 1,700 pounds in 1967.
29. Lennon’s first wife, Cynthia, wrote her autobiography, A Twist of Lennon, on a typewriter that Yoko had given to Lennon and Cynthia’s son, Julian.
30. Approaching his 21st birthday, Lennon had serious doubts about ever making a career in music because he felt too old to become famous.
31. As a teenager, Lennon once accepted a friend’s challenge to masturbate ten times in a single day. Lennon fell short at nine.
32. Later in life, Lennon became a cooking enthusiast, often making lunch for his entire staff of ten to twelve.
33. Lennon referred to Rubber Soul as “the pot album” and Revolver as “the acid album.”
34. The first time Yoko met Lennon, she didn’t know he was a Beatle.
35. At a college party, Lennon once punched another student for asking Lennon’s then-girlfriend, Cynthia Powell, to dance.
36. Lennon thought of the lyrics, “He’s a real nowhere man/Sitting in his nowhere land” while lying on his king-sized bed surrounded by possessions in his mansion.
37. When Yoko was pregnant in the hospital, Lennon put on a pair of pajamas and got into the vacant bed next to hers, holding her hand across the gap.
38. When Lennon moved into his West Village apartment, his next-door neighbor was experimental composer John Cage.
39. The most time Lennon spent with his first wife, Cynthia, since marrying her, was on a weekend dubbed “Operation Cynthia,” where Lennon planned to turn her on to LSD.
40. When Lennon played cowboys and indians as a child, he always wanted to be the indian. His hero was Sioux Chief Sitting Bull.
41. Before Lennon went to Japan for the summer of 1977, he enrolled in a six-week course in Japanese at the Berlitz Language Center in Manhattan.
42. After the Beatles split and the bickering began, Lennon called McCartney’s songs “granny music.”
43. Speaking of his nascent relationship with Yoko, Lennon once said, “This is different from anything before. This is more than a hit record. It’s more than gold. It’s more than anything.”
44. While attending Transcendental Meditation sessions at an ashram in India with the rest of the Beatles, Lennon penned the lyrics “I’m so lonely I want to die” for the song “Yer Blues.”
45. At the age of seven, Lennon wrote and drew an entire magazine entitled Speed and Sport Illustrated, which included portraits of soccer players, cartoon strips, and an adventure story.
46. Lennon’s father, Alfred, was the mascot for his school’s soccer team.
47. For 36 pounds per week, Lennon hired a private chauffeur to be on call 24 hours a day.
48. Apparently, when Maharishi Mahesh Yogi asked Lennon why he was leaving the ashram early, Lennon responded by saying, “Well, if you’re so cosmic, you should know why.”
49. When Lennon first started playing guitar, he tuned it like a four-string banjo. It was Paul McCartney who showed Lennon how to play chords on six-string guitar.
50. For Yoko’s 47th birthday, Lennon bought so many gardenias that the local florists had to ship more in from out of state.
51. When Yoko was courting Lennon, she once invited him to a thirteen-day dance festival that would take place entirely “in the mind.”
52. One of Lennon’s favorite painters was Henri Matisse.
53. Six days after Beatles manager, Brian Epstein, died of an overdose, Lennon tried to get in touch with his estranged father, Alfred.
54. At one point, Lennon wanted to start a Beatles clothing retailer, somewhat like Marks & Spencer.
55. Early in the Beatles’ career, Lennon would sing half the set with a humorous German, French, or Mexican accent.
56. As a boy, Lennon preferred to receive pencils, paint boxes, and paper instead of toys.
57. At McCartney’s 21st birthday party, Lennon severely assaulted The Cavern Club’s deejay, Bob Wooler, after Wooler suggested Lennon had a homosexual encounter with the Beatles’ manager, Brian Epstein.
58. While living in America, the FBI, under J. Edgar Hoover, studied all of Lennon’s lyrics and analyzed every one of his television appearances to find a legal reason to deport him.
59. While trying to get a taxi ride in Tokyo, one driver called Yoko a “whore” and ordered both her and Lennon out of his vehicle.
60. Lennon once stole a harmonica from a small music shop in the Netherlands. Years later, after Lennon became famous, a small group of fans traveled to the store in the Arnhem area and reimbursed the owner for his loss.
61. Lennon’s debut as a serious actor was in the black comedy How I Won the War.
62. George Martin, the Beatles’ producer, once said Lennon was a “completely impractical man.”
63. Lennon walked around half blind as a boy because he was too embarrassed to wear his glasses. After discovering Buddy Holly, however, Lennon begged his aunt to buy him a pair of black horn-rimmed glasses.
64. Some critics believed Lennon could have been a film star, but apparently Lennon wasn’t interested in acting because he considered it an even more confining lifestyle than that of a Beatle.
65. Cynthia Powell wrote in her first autobiography that her marriage to Lennon fell apart when Lennon started taking mass quantities of LSD.
66. Lennon has said the song “Help!” was a true cry for help.
67. Soon after Lennon got his driver’s license in February 1965, various car dealerships parked an array of luxury vehicles outside his home, hoping to make a sale.
68. In Sunday school, Lennon once received a caning for calling the Scribes and Pharisees in the Bible “Fascists.”
69. Lennon survived a storm with 65 mph winds and twenty-foot-high waves aboard a yacht in the Bermuda Triangle.
70. After suffering from a gastric flu, Lennon went on a liquids-only diet for forty days, reading cookbooks the entire time to curb his hunger.