You have no idea how many pairs of glasses I have researched in the past that the owners have claimed belonged to John Lennon. Most of them can be dismissed fairly quickly, the prescription is wrong or the provenance is not strong enough. But every so often, along comes a pair that made me stop and think.
Round “Granny” glasses were so closely associated with Lennon’s look that they have become his trademark, the image perpetuated by Lennon himself – whenever he drew a caricature of himself, it was always the round glasses and long hair. Not surprising then that a pair of Lennon’s trademark glasses are always highly sought after by Beatles and John Lennon collectors and any pair offered should be subject to great in-depth research.
I was lucky enough to be approached with a pair of Lennon’s glasses in 2008 that turned out to be fully authentic. Firstly, they had originally been sold to the current owner by the wife of American comedian, Tommy Smothers. Further research revealed that Lennon had been wearing the glasses during his “Lost Weekend” in 1973 and had lost the glasses in a scuffle during a Smothers Brothers performance at the Troubadour Club in LA. The provenance had been verified, now we had to locate a photograph of Lennon wearing these exact glasses.
The more photographic evidence we could find, the more interesting the glasses become. We thought of all the images we knew of Lennon wearing glasses – first stop would be to check all of Bob Gruen’s photographs of Lennon around that time – Gruen took that fabulous photograph of Lennon wearing 3 or 4 pairs of glasses on his head. But none of those matched. We then took a look at the Mind Games single, where Lennon wears a pair of tinted glasses. They matched! Upon poring over another 200 or so images of Lennon, we found another photograph taken for an interview published in Crawdaddy magazine during Lennon’s time in LA in 1973. We contacted the photographer, Tom Zimberoff, who had taken the original photo and asked him for a high resolution image so that we could examine the glasses in closer detail and again, they appeared to match. And then, the icing on the cake, through a photographic agency, we discovered a photograph of Lennon taken outside the Troubadour Club the very night he lost his glasses and there he was, minus specs. That photograph completed the story.
The detective work is what makes this job so rewarding. I can spend months researching one item but when the history of the item is revealed, it makes the artefact so much more poignant and exciting. These John Lennon glasses came to auction in 2008 and ended up making $78,467.
This is the latest Dig blog article about Beatles Memorabilia published at Collectors Weekly.