Although many laughed off the musician, Lennon never backed down from his assertion of what he had seen in the dark Manhattan sky.
Lennon’s infamous ‘lost weekend’
The “Imagine’ singer experienced what he called a “lost weekend,” only his “weekend” lasted 18 months from late 1973 to early 1975. During this time, Lennon and his wife Yoko Ono were separated. He took up with his secretary May Pang and left New York City for LA. It was a creative time for Lennon, but one during which he drank and did drugs to excess. On top of that, the partying he engaged in led to newspaper write-ups chronicling his outlandish behavior in public.
“Let off the leash as he now felt, John ‘hit the bottle like I was 19, 20….,'” his biographer Philip Norman wrote in John Lennon: A Life. “And as ever, just a couple of drinks in the American supersize changed him in an instant from irresistible charmer and jokester to surly, incoherent, venom-tongued, trouble-seeking, and often violent drunk.”
What the former Beatle claimed to have seen
By 1974, Lennon and Pang returned to New York City to a penthouse on the East side. It was there that the musician witnessed a UFO in the sky.
Speaking in 2020 with New York City radio personality Ken Dashow of Q104.3, Pang recounted the sighting and stood by Lennon’s version of events. She recalled that he at the time had been working on Walls and Bridges and that “this particular night, we had just come back from the studio. We had just finished listening to all the mixes of [the album].”
The couple had decided, she said, to go out for pizza. “I’m in the other room getting dressed, so he’s standing out on the balcony, it’s a beautiful summer’s night, it’s Friday. This block where we lived are some high-falutin’ people, we’re talking about Kissinger, you’re talking up the block was John Mitchell, Greta Garbo. So, John’s standing out there, naked mind you, in the dark. He’s looking downriver.”
Pang described what Lennon told her upon seeing the object: “‘I’m looking downriver, and I see flashing lights. So I’m thinking, ‘Oh yeah, it’s the billboard sign.’ Then it dawns on me, ‘There’s no billboard sign; we’re in a residential area.’ And as he turns, he sees this thing overhead, moving very, very slow, I mean crawling.”
Lennon had a friend call around about the UFO
Lennon, she said, began calling out for her to come to the balcony. When she raced out to see what was happening, “I look at this thing that is so close to us. No sound. I could see the underbelly of this object. You could see white lights around the rim and then one solid red light. You could actually see this whole vessel.
“It just cleared the building next to us; that was it. And there was no noise. John looked at me and said, ‘You’re seeing what I’m seeing.’ And I go, ‘It’s an effing UFO!'”
The pair watched the object for “10, fifteen minutes” move in a “slow crawl down the river.” It even moved sideways, according to Pang. Having forgotten their pizza dinner, Lennon and Pang watched it make its way over the borough of Brooklyn and the Williamsburg Bridge, sit there for “a second,” and then all of a sudden go “straight up.”
The “Whatever Gets You Thru the Night” singer related the event to his friend, photographer Bob Gruen, who called around to newspapers and the police and was told many other residents had called about the flying object.
Lennon noted the experience on the liner notes of his 1974 album Walls and Bridges: “On the 23rd Aug. 1974 at 9 o’clock I saw a UFO”