|Stills from Double Fantasy recording session|
On August 19th, 1980 at the Hit Factory recording studios in New York City, director Jay Dubin filmed John Lennon & Yoko Ono with the intention of producing music videos to promote their upcoming release "Double Fantasy". A number of songs were filmed with the musicians recording the album including drummer Andy Newmark, and guitarists Earl Slick & Hugh McCracken.
Before 1987, no one except those present at the session on August 19th, 1980 knew that any footage existed at all from that night. None of the promotional videos since John's death contained even a hint from this session. Other snippets of 1980 footage filmed in November were included in the music videos for "Woman" and "Walking On Thin Ice" in early 1981, and in 1984 with the release of "Milk & Honey", clips for "Borrowed Time", "Nobody Told Me", "Grow Old With Me" and "I'm Stepping Out" were produced, but again nothing.
The first evidence that proved there was indeed a filming session came to light in 1987, with the release of approximately 30 minutes of off-line audio tape from the vocal booth that night. This audio was released on a bootleg record called "Before Play" on a record label called "Gnat Records". This audio tape was a revelation indeed, as John and the Double Fantasy band were not only playing "I'm Losing You" and "(Just Like) Starting Over" from the album, but in between camera takes were jamming on rock and roll oldies such as "Dream Lover", "Stay", "Mystery Train" and "I'm A Man", not to mention the Beatles' "She's A Woman". What was truly intriguing about this tape, proved to be the dialogue between John and the film director about camera angles and other details of the shoot. When this bootleg came out, there was still no information on what exactly was filmed other that the two songs : "I'm Losing You" and "(Just Like) Starting Over". There was no information on who the director was, who produced the footage, and what the exact date of the session was.
With the release of the theatrical documentary "Imagine : John Lennon" in 1988, it seemed that no one would ever know. Producer David Wolper and co-producer & director Andrew Solt worked with over 240 hours of footage, of which 200 hours were provided directly from Yoko Ono. Still, no Double Fantasy footage was found. Andrew Solt said the following when asked about Double Fantasy footage: " We had a couple of blind leads. I don't know if any exists. I've heard so many stories. Some local news station may have come in and done some shooting, but the tape seems to have disappeared. That's the one I was looking for. But it doesn't matter. The way the film works, we don't need to have a performance at the end."
in 1991, former Lennon assistant Frederic Seaman published a book called "The Last Days Of John Lennon", which portrays a decidedly different picture of the video shoot:
"Later that evening, things became even more tense. Yoko had hired a video crew to film John working in the studio. She directed the cameraman to shoot numerous close-ups of John's face from all angles. I felt bad for John, who had once told me that he hated to have his face filmed up close. Like a trapped animal, he jumped around and sang himself hoarse. He had been snorting cocaine, and he was so wired he was ready to jump out of his skin. It was painful to watch. The session lasted until 3:30 AM, and was sheer torture for all involved, except Yoko, who seemed to enjoy herself thoroughly."
For almost thirty four years this film has been missing, presumed destroyed. However, on page 275 of the book "The Solo Beatles Film & TV Chronicle 1971-1980" author Jörg Pieper writes:
"In 2005 a major Lennon film project was started but postponed in 2006. In the same year I was able to interview one of the professional researchers, who had unlimited access to Yoko's film archive, he confirmed that he never saw any footage of John's Hit Factory performance. However it can (be) revealed here for the very first time that 20 minutes of John's Hit Factory performance indeed survived in private hands, unnoticed by the public".
The stills shown here (John is playing a Sardonix guitar) could be an indication that something is going to happen with this footage, so that we finally may get to see it.
Further reading: Eagles Lair