Today - 11th May - marks the 54th anniversary of the Beatles debut album, Please Please Me’ reaching number one for the first time. Released in March 1963, the record slowly crept to the top of the UK album chart and stayed there for an incredible 30 weeks – making it the longest running number 1 album by a group ever. It was eventually replaced at the top by the band’s follow up album ‘With the Beatles’ seven months later - which stayed there for 21 weeks! A total of 51 consecutive weeks at the top of the chart! In honour of these momentous achievements we thought we’d have a rifle through our John Lennon collection and tell you the story about one of our best sellers from the end of the Beatle era: our John Lennon Come Together tee.
This picture of John and Yoko was taken in 1971 at Cannes Film Festival where they were publicising 2 short films by Yoko, entitled ‘Apothesis’ and ‘Fly.’ The Come Together t-shirt logo was designed in 1969 by Arnie Goodman and Rob Rose, who originally sold t-shirts bearing the peace symbol to the hippie communities of Los Angeles and San Francisco. Around this time Arnie was in a band called Pernod that were signed to Frank Zappa and this is how we think John got hold of his iconic tee. But we’re not too sure which came first – the t-shirt or the song - as ‘Come Together’ was recorded in July 1969 at Abbey Road Studios and released in October that year. It was one of the last tracks that the band ever recorded together, as John announced he was leaving in September of that year.
The song was originally intended to be used as a campaign song for LSD advocate and philosopher Timothy Leary, in his run for governor of California. Leary’s campaign slogan was ‘Come Together’ and he fancied his chances running against the original space cadet and president-to-be Ronald Reagan. Unfortunately the campaign came to an abrupt halt after Leary was imprisoned for possession of marijuana and Lennon decided to rework the song for inclusion on the Beatle’s Abbey Road LP.
Speaking in an interview with David Sheff, Lennon explained that he really didn’t think it would have worked as a campaign song anyway:
“The thing was created in the studio. It's gobbledygook; Come Together was an expression that Leary had come up with for his attempt at being president or whatever he wanted to be, and he asked me to write a campaign song. I tried and tried, but I couldn't come up with one. But I came up with this, Come Together, which would've been no good to him - you couldn't have a campaign song like that, right?”
If circumstances had been different - and the campaign song hadn’t been ‘gobbledygook’ - would Leary eventually have taken Reagan’s place in the White House? There’s an alternative reality worthy of a movie script! With Cannes festival coming up next week, and the legend surrounding the Beatles first and last albums, this vintage tee really has a story to tell! Check it out in out online shop – and if you manage to write that movie script, we hope to see you wearing it at Cannes.