John Lennon was one of three men nominated by eminent thinkers of the day as Man Of The Decade.
Lennon was nominated for the accolade by anthropologist Desmond Morris. The other choices were John F Kennedy, chosen by Alistair Cooke, and Hi Chi Min, nominated by Mary McCarthy.
Morris, Cooke and McCarthy each presented a 20-minute segment on their choices as part of a documentary commissioned by Associated TeleVision (ATV). The documentary was shown in the UK on Tuesday 30 December 1969 from 10.30-11.30pm, with the section on Lennon appearing last.
Lennon and Desmond had met a few days previously to select archival footage and newsreel to accompany the speech. Several clips were chosen for the programme: The Beatles performing Some Other Guy, recorded in Manchester on 17 October 1962 for People And Places; Beatlemania at Kennedy Airport on 7 February 1964; three scenes from A Hard Day’s Night; the Scotland Yard sequence from Help!; I’m Down performed at Shea Stadium on 15 August 1965; footage from the 30 July 1968 session for Hey Jude; scenes outside Marylebone Magistrates’ Court, London on 28 November 1968, when Lennon pleaded guilty to cannabis possession; one clip from the Amsterdam bed-in and two from the Mondtral one; and the promotional clip for Something. Also shown was a clip of crowds singing Give Peace A Chance from the anti-Vietnam War demonstration near the White House in Washington, DC on Moratorium Day, 15 November 1969.
Morris visited Tittenhurst Park, Lennon’s home in Ascot, Berkshire, on this day to film an interview. Much of the footage involved Lennon walking around the grounds of Tittenhurst with Desmond and Yoko Ono, discussing a range of topics.
The finished segment begins with Lennon describing his education as a waste of time, saying how little he learnt apart from reading and writing. He says many musicians find success outside of the mainstream system and conventional values, and goes on to discuss contemporary music’s journey from early rock ‘n’ roll through to psychedelia and back down to Earth.
Lennon seems positive about the future, speaking favourably about the Woodstock and Isle of Wight festivals and the recent anti-war march in Washington. He said each event was less violent than an average Beatles concert, despite involving more young people.
Speaking of drugs and meditation, he says they were ways of coping with the pressures of life, and describes his relationship with Ono as a plant that needs constant nurturing. Only by concentrating on such relationships, he says, and by communicating openly would the world find harmony.
The interview ends with Lennon speculating that the following decade would be good, telling viewers such as “Mrs Grundy of South Birmingham-on-Toast” not to fear a world run by people like him.
The sixties was just waking up in the morning, you know. And we haven’t even got to dinner time yet. And I can’t wait, you know. I just can’t wait. I’m so glad to be around. And it’s just gonna be great and there’s gonna be more and more of us.
While the interview was being filmed, a separate camera crew from the BBC was taking footage of Lennon talking to Morris for another documentary, The World Of John And Yoko, which was shown as part of the BBC 1 series 24 Hours on 15 December from 10.30-11.05pm.
The BBC crew spent the next five days filming the Lennons in a number of locations, in return for surrendering the rights to the footage. Much of it was used in the 1988 documentary Imagine: John Lennon.