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Radio Shares Time With a Beatle Off the Record

January 29, 1988|RIP RENSE

The late John Lennon always wanted his own radio show, and his wish is coming true, in a manner of speaking, via the Westwood One radio network's "The Lost Lennon Tapes," a yearlong weekly program devoted largely to unreleased music and words of the slain Beatle.

Hosted by longtime Lennon friend and former Los Angeles radio talk-show host Elliot Mintz, "The Lost Lennon Tapes" debuted Sunday on KMPC-FM (101.9) with a three-hour special that previewed what will follow in the series. The hourlong programs will air Sundays at 10 a.m., with a repeat at 11 p.m. Wednesdays.

"John often toyed with the notion of hosting a call-in radio show for WBAI, the Pacifica station in New York," said Mintz, who is now spokesman for Lennon's widow, Yoko Ono, who released the nearly 300 hours of privately made tapes to Westwood One. "He liked the idea."

Among other things, "The Lost Lennon Tapes" will include over the next year:

--Hours of previously unheard interviews and conversations with Lennon--including Rolling Stone publisher Jann Wenner's never-broadcast "Lennon Remembers" interviews from the early '70s, as well as candid, sometimes emotional childhood recollections and Lennon's daffy running commentaries over movies and radio programs.

--Numerous unreleased Lennon songs as he performed them at home, usually with acoustic guitar or piano. Among the tunes: "Life Begins at 40," a song written shortly before his death that was intended for Ringo Starr, and "Tennessee," a composition inspired by playwright Tennessee Williams.

--Early, embryonic versions of well-known Lennon songs (usually sung with quiet guitar back-up).

--Rare recordings of the Beatles performing live on BBC Radio from 1962 to 1965, including Lennon singing Chuck Berry's "I'm Gonna Find My Baby," plus recordings of Lennon, George Harriso1848385616one-time bass-player and close Lennon friend Stuart Sutcliffe jamming and rehearsing early in 1960.

Ono said she decided to make the tapes available for the same reasons she has overseen the posthumous release of several other Lennon works, including three albums, a book of Lennon's writings titled "Skywriting by Word of Mouth," numerous videos and artworks.

"I think that the spirit of sharing is what we were all about," she said by telephone from New York. "I have the choice of keeping these things locked up, or to share them. And I think that it's in John's spirit to share them."

The material, she said, is not suitable for release on record, although still "valid to share." Radio, she added, is the perfect forum. Westwood One paid for the rights to air the Lennon tapes but the sum has not been disclosed.

"Most interview/music specials," said Westwood One chairman Norm Pattiz, "are typically sitting down and talking to artist about past, present, and future, and playing tracks. It's formula and it works. But this is something altogether different, because this is somebody who is, of course, not with us anymore, and everything that's ever been done with him--almost every interview piece--is at our disposal."

Mintz, who has been media consultant for such personalities as Ono, Don Johnson and Diana Ross since leaving radio in 1978, sees "The Lost Lennon Tapes" as a way of telling a new generation "what the big deal was."

"John, if alive, would be 48 years old now and far removed from today's...pop culture," Mintz said. "I don't know how well he would have translated into the MTV generation. He was clearly obsessed with audio. Not that video didn't mean anything to him, but sounds were his world.

"I like the idea that the (current generation) will get a sense of that kind of presence, because it will also make them see some of the hollowness...some of the emptiness inherent in some of the acts of today. John wasn't an act. He wasn't show biz. He was real biz. He was real."

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