Lensless Lennon shades go on auction

by William Hollingworth

Kyodo

An online auction of John Lennon’s sunglasses frames, which he gave to his Japanese translator at the end of the Beatles’ controversial concerts in Tokyo, is attracting great interest, and organizers hope they fetch as much as $2 million.

Lennon and his Japanese translator built up a good rapport after being holed up in a Tokyo hotel during the 1966 visit due to demonstrations and death threats against the band.

The Beatles were playing five concerts that summer at the Nippon Budokan Hall in central Tokyo and critics felt that playing pop music at the hall, originally designed for martial arts, undermined its status as an important sporting arena. It was the first and last time the famous group performed in Japan.

As a parting gift, Lennon gave the translator his trademark gold-rimmed shades.

Now the glasses are up for auction at the British Web site 991.com, where anyone can place a bid until July 31.

There is also an added twist to the glasses that the auctioneers hope will attract more interest from Beatles fans.

On hearing that Lennon had been murdered in 1980, the Japanese translator pushed the lenses out of the glasses so that “Lennon could see in death,” according to 991.com.

In 1984, the translator sold the glasses and they have now found their way to auction.

John Warner, from the auction house, said there had been “a good deal of interest” from Japan, but he would not disclose the bids received so far or who was selling the item.

According to 991.com, the last time a pair of Lennon’s spectacles came to public attention was in 2002 and they are now the star attraction at The Beatles Story exhibition in Liverpool, valued at $2 million.

Warner said: “They are a massively iconic item from one of the greatest luminaries of pop. 1966 was a roller coaster year that saw Lennon creating his own identity, of which the round glasses were very much a part.”

“An item like this comes up so infrequently that it’s impossible to predict how high the bidding will go.”

When selling the glasses in 1984, the Japanese translator left a note to confirm provenance. Unfortunately, the translator’s name is not clear on the letter, but the individual claimed to work as a producer for Nippon Television.

In it the translator states: “John Lennon sunglasses no lense (sic), given to myself . . . at time translator for Beatles at Tokyo Hilton. John Lennon wore same glasses at Budokan for shows, had silver glass (sic), too.

“He gave me this. I gave copper cups to him. Very nice man. Lenses removed when he die (black) as I/we feel he sees us after death in Japan.”