Excerpt: 'The Last Days of Dead Celebrities'

"He was so excited on the phone," recalled Yoko. "He said, 'I wrote two songs.'

"And I said, 'I have two songs. Let's make an EP.'

"And then the next day, he said, 'Now I have two more.' "And I said, 'Well, maybe now it should be an album.' That's how it started. We decided to work on a theme, and he was very excited about that. He just kept thanking me and thanking me."

On Tuesday, August 5, John and Yoko entered the Hit Factory, on West Fifty-fourth Street in New York, to begin recording the album, Double Fantasy. Producer Jack Douglas was at the controls, and photographer Bob Gruen was given almost free reign to document the sessions with candid pictures.

"I visited the studio on and off from late summer through the end of the backing track sessions," said Gruen. "I was there a number of times while they recorded. We really had no set appointments. I just did things as the situation came up. John was extremely positive about the music he was making, and excited to be back in the studio. He was coming from a position of real strength in his life. He had spent five years out of the limelight, and he had taken time to raise his son and learn about parenting and about living.

"The album was to be about the relationship between a man and a woman," said Gruen. "And in that regard it was very much a John and Yoko project, not just John Lennon. A track of his would follow a track of hers, and then they'd stop to talk about their feelings and deal with the relationship. To me, he appeared so grounded."

"I had been in a hundred recording studios with different artists, and I'd been with John in various studios, as well," said Mintz. "The recording of Double Fantasy was unique because in many ways it was a metaphor for the way John's life was coming to completion. All these recording studios-the Hit Factory, where John and Yoko recorded the album, or the Record Plant, where it was mixed-have closed-circuit cameras at the front door. They have this so an engineer can see who is ringing the buzzer. A lot of sessions sometimes go on into the middle of the night. The studio may not be in the best neighborhood. So they need these cameras for security reasons. One of the things I remember about the Double Fantasy sessions was John and Yoko pinning a large photograph of Sean to the face of the TV monitor above the recording console. You couldn't see who was outside, but for John and Yoko it was more important to see Sean staring down at the console.

"Yoko also created this small anteroom just off of the control room, a white room, twenty by fifteen," said Mintz, "that she made to look like a mini version of their living room at the Dakota. The lighting in this room was lowered, and it was filled with candles and incense. A Japanese woman named Toshi served tea. It was a room John and Yoko would go to when there was a lull in the session. I remember going with them into the room. John was wearing slacks and a jacket and a shirt that was open at the collar. In that room, he spoke about the project softly, tentatively, and rhapsodically. It was a quiet room, unlike any room I'd ever seen at a rock and roll recording session. None of the other musicians or technical people ever entered that room. It was mostly a room where John and Yoko could relax."

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