The chaotic 30th birthday that saw John Lennon denounce his father and record a classic solo song

The 30th birthday of John Lennon proved to be one of his most notable. With Paul McCartney putting out his famous press release that signalled the end of The Beatles just a few months prior, Lennon got to work on his debut solo album, John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band. All the while, he and his wife, Yoko Ono, were participating in Arthur Janov’s primal therapy, inspiring much of the album’s material.

On Lennon’s 30th birthday, he decided to extend an unlikely olive branch to his father, Alfred Lennon. Lennon and his son had regained contact in 1964, although their meetings were often tense and terse. The elder Lennon attempted to parlay his son’s fame into his own singing career but only got as far as recording one song, ‘That’s My Life’. John had broken off contact with his father but agreed to have lunch with him when Lennon turned 30.

When Alf arrived at Lennon’s Tittenhurst Park home, the meeting immediately started on the wrong foot. Unbeknownst to John, Alf had brought his wife Pauline and their 18-month-old son, David Henry Lennon. John was hoping to have a private meeting with his father, and when that didn’t happen, he launched into a tirade against his father that was fueled by his primal therapy sessions. Alf was so shaken by the event that he left a note with his solicitor in case his son made good on some of his threats.

“He launched into an account of his recent visit to America, and as the story unfolded, so the self inflicted torture began to show in his face, and his voice rose to a scream as he likened himself to Jimi Hendrix and other pop stars who had recently departed from the scene, ending in a crescendo as he admitted he was ‘Bloody mad, insane’ and due for an early demise,” Alf Lennon explained in the note. “It seemed he had gone to America, at great expense to have some kind of treatment through drugs, which enabled one to go back and relive from early childhood the happenings, which in his own case, he should have been happier to forget.”

“I was now listening to the result of this treatment as he reviled his dead mother in unspeakable terms, referring, also, to the aunt who had brought him up, in similar derogatory terms, as well as one or two of his closest friends,” he added. “I sat through it all, completely stunned, hardly believing that this was the kind considerate ‘Beatle’ John Lennon talking to his father with such evil intensity…”

“There was no doubt whatsoever in my mind, that he meant every word he spoke, his countenance was frightful to behold, as he explained in detail, how I would be carried out to sea and dumped, ‘twenty – fifty – or perhaps you would prefer a hundred fathoms deep,’” the elder Lennon concluded. “The whole loathsome tirade was uttered with malignant glee, as though he were actually participating in the terrible deed.”

In any event, John threw his father out of the house and once again cut off contact. It would be the final time that Lennon ever saw his father before the latter’s death in 1976. In direct contrast to the blow-up with his father, Lennon spent the rest of the day recording the song ‘Remember’ in an amicable session with Ringo Starr and Klaus Voormann. George Harrison even visited the studio, eliciting an excited response from Lennon at seeing his former bandmate.

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