Friday, March 15, 2013

John Lennon's Pentax Camera and His Infamous 'Two Virgins' Album Cover


It's a black Asahi Pentax SV camera. According to Hard Rock Memorabilia, this Pentax camera was purchased by John in the mid '60s. It may have been the camera that shot the infamous 'Unfinished Music No.1: Two Virgins' album cover.

On Jan. 2, 1969, 30,000 copies of John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s ‘Unfinished Music No. 1: Two Virgins’ were seized by police at Newark Airport on the grounds that its cover photograph was deemed pornographic.

The album, which had been released the previous November, featured a picture John and Yoko stark naked on the cover which, even by today’s standards, is still not necessarily the most effective way of getting product onto the shelves. As such, it was distributed in a plain brown wrapper with a cutout where the couple’s faces were. The photo — which you can see here in it’s “not safe for work” form — was taken in the basement of Ringo Starr‘s house, where Lennon was living with Yoko after leaving his first wife, Cynthia.

Lennon said of the photo, “We were both a bit embarrassed when we peeled off for the picture, so I took it myself with a delayed-action shutter. The picture was to prove that we are not a couple of demented freaks, that we are not deformed in any way and that our minds are healthy. If we can make society accept these kind of things without offense, without sniggering, then we shall be achieving our purpose.”

The images were used on the couple's 1968 album 'Unfinished Music No 1: Two Virgins', and were taken by them on a self-timer.

In an interview with Rolling Stone on November 23, 1968, by Jonathan Cott, John Lennon opens up more about that infamous 'Two Virgins' cover.

You just showed me what might be the front and back album photos for the record you're putting out of the music you and Yoko composed for your film Two Virgins. The photos have the simplicity of a daguerreotype . . . .
Well, that's because I took it, I'm a ham photographer, you know. It's me Nikon what I was given by a commercially minded Japanese when we were in Japan, along with me Pentax, me Canon, me boom-boom and all the others. So I just set it up and did it.

For the cover, there's a photo of you and Yoko standing naked facing the camera. And on the backside are your backsides. At your "For Yoko" show at the Fraser Gallery you just said, "You are here," showed some things that were there, and then people got the horrors. What do you think they're going to think of the cover?
Well, we've got that to come. The thing is, I started it with a pure . . . it was the truth, and it was only after I'd got into it and done it and looked at it that I'd realized what kind of scene I was going to create. And then suddenly there it was, and then suddenly you show it to people and then you know what the world's going to do to you, or try to do. But you have no knowledge of it when you conceive it or make it.

Originally, I was going to record Yoko, and I thought that the best picture of her for an album would be her naked. I was just going to record her as an artist, we were only on those kind of terms then. So after that, when we got together it just seemed natural for us, if we made an album together, for both of us to be naked.

Of course I've never seen me prick on an album or on a photo before: "Whatnearth, there's a fellow with his prick out." And that was the first time I realized me prick was out, you know. I mean you can see it on the photo itself – we're naked in front of a camera – that comes over in the eyes, just for a minute you go!! I mean you're not used to it, being naked, but it's got to come out.

How do you face the fact that people are going to mutilate you?
Well, I can take that as long as we can get the cover out. And I really don't know what the chances are of that.

You don't worry about the nuts across the street?
No, no. I know it won't be very comfortable walking around with all the lorry drivers whistling and that, but it'll all die. Next year it'll be nothing, like mini-skirts or bare tits, it isn't anything. We're all naked really. When people attack Yoko and me, we know they're paranoic, we don't worry too much. It's the ones that don't know and you know they don't know – they're just going round in a blue fuzz. The thing is, the album also says: look, lay off will you, it's two people– what have we done?

(John Lennon's Pentax camera, via Ultimate Classic Rock, Mail Online, and Rolling Stone)

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1 comment :

  1. I bought one like this, also black, in 1968 in Guiné were I was fighting a colonial war. I used it for more than 30 years and I still have (and shoot it sometimes)