Just how blind was John Lennon without his glasses?

Michael Gerber
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John Lennon without his glasses

Lennon peers down uncertainly at a 45.

So we’ve all heard how John Lennon without his glasses moved around in the land of Monet—how his famous tough-looking stage persona was actually him peering nearsightedly into the crowd, hoping he’d see the incoming bottle or fist just in time to avoid it—but this photograph made me smile. Beatle John blinks down at that thing like he’s 85. “Is this bloody ‘Watch Your Step’?”

A slight disability like that (perhaps the disability is being too vain to wear your specs!) often pushes people into their imagination. From there, it’s a short step to full-blown creative pursuits. And bad vision isn’t all bad; I still remember the day I was walking down the street and saw a beautiful little bird leaning against the gutter, almost as if he were sitting in a chair watching the titanic cars whiz by. Then I looked again, and it was a wadded-up napkin.

(I preferred it when it was a bird.)

Anybody have any favorite Blind John stories, put ’em in the comments.

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No Comments

  1. Avatar Devin wrote:

    My favorite Blind John story is actually a Blind John joke, one from his own mouth. At the “Get Back” sessions he’s complaining about certain public statements from Michael Baden-Powell, English director of the Boy Scouts, tending to frighten boys off the natural practice of masturbation. Lennon swears from experience that the common horror story about masturbation is inaccurate: “I can tell you,” he says, “you don’t go blind, but very shortsighted.”

  2. Avatar karen wrote:

    @Devin–that story is too funny!

    Paul tells a funny story about blind John: John told Paul that when he was walking home from his place he saw Paul’s neighbours outside having dinner. This intrigued Paul, so he did a walkabout and saw the outside diners: a nativity scene on the front lawn. 🙂

  3. Avatar stew72 wrote:

    I like Paul’s story of John and Cynthia arguing about which one of them would have to wear their specs into the restaurant.

  4. Avatar hologram sam wrote:

    Reminds me of James Thurber’s essay “The Admiral At The Wheel” where he thinks he sees various whimsical things, but it’s really his failing vision.
    All Buddy Holly fanatics know that Lennon was blind as a bat until he was inspired by Buddy’s specs to put on a pair of glasses…. and for the first time he actually saw his appreciative audience. Paul has told this anecdote many times, usually at Buddy Holly conventions.

  5. Avatar Annie McNeil wrote:

    You can hear Paul tell the nativity story, and find all sorts of other awesome rarities, (including Get Back sessions recordings/transcripts) at this AMAZING blog: http://amoralto.tumblr.com/

  6. […] Annie brought it up in re: the Nativity story referenced in our earlier post on John’s eyesight (Amoralto has an excerpt from “The Lost Lennon Tapes” where Paul tells the story to an […]

  7. Avatar Linda wrote:

    There is a story that George tells, but for the life of me I can’t remember where I heard it — probably on YouTube somewhere. George quips that John was blind as a bat, but never wore his glasses. So he would walk into a club or restaurant behind George or Paul, letting them lead the way. Many a time, however, they led him into a bathroom or broom closet. Nice lads!

    P.S. This is my first time posting here. Hello everyone.

  8. Avatar james wrote:

    I don`t know for sure when this happened, but Lennon started wearing contacts at some point during their touring years. Of course, when they quit touring he wore his granny glasses.

    • According to Goldman, Lennon had an assignation with a woman in Hong Kong who showed him how contact lenses worked. (“Great night! Great night!” he quotes Lennon as saying; it’s one of the few positive moments in the book.) I assume that was during their 1964 visit.

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