Get Lit: Instamatic Karma: Photographs of John Lennon, by May Pang
In Beatles lore, a woman named May Pang is forever linked to the phrase “Lost Weekend.” That 1973 “weekend,” which lasted 18 months, is when John Lennon left Yoko Ono and, according to legend, wandered drunkenly in a haze until she took him back. (He was thrown out of LA’s Troubador nightclub twice, once for heckling the Smothers Brothers and once for walking around with a Kotex on his forehead.)
But May Pang, the young personal assistant he was living with, remembers the time differently. Lennon, she says, was mostly happy and productive, working on Walls and Bridges and his oldies album.
Recently she found a shoebox of old photos that support that claim and make up the bulk of Instamatic Karma.
The photos are decidedly casual – focus is an elusive thing – but they offer a nice look at Lennon and the mid-70s rock world.
There’s a series of photos taken as guests walk through the front door to Lennon’s New York apartment. Paul and Linda, Mick Jagger, David Bowie all grin with surprise; they could be partygoers anywhere, instead of a gathering of rock royalty.
There’s a photo of Lennon sprawled on his bed watching TV, with one of those unbelievably clunky 70s cable boxes at his side. There are plenty of shots of him with his son Julian, including all-but-anonymous visits to Disneyland and Disney World.
It’s at a Disney World hotel that the most startling picture is taken, at least for Beatle fans.
Lennon is there on vacation, but the paperwork that will finally, formally dissolve the Beatles has arrived. He tells Pang to get out the camera, and she shoots over his shoulder as, under the signatures of the other three, he adds his own and brings the group forever to an end.
Instamatic Karma is perhaps a little steep at $29.95, but any fan of Lennon will scarf it up. – Richard Connelly