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A Cool Story

Two pictures, one connection and both taken in New York City

Hanging on my wall at home is a picture of John Lennon but not just any old picture of John Lennon. It is a photograph, taken from the original negative, and it shows John sitting at the mixing desk smoking his cigarette during the Double Fantasy recording sessions at The Hit Factory, New York City, in 1980. Sadly it was to be one of the last ever pictures taken of John Lennon before he was tragically shot and killed only weeks later outside his apartment building, in New York. There’s a certain poignancy to the image that’s inescapable yet it is strangely reassuring and empowering at the same time. It is, without question, one of my favourite pictures of John Lennon.

I bought the picture from an art gallery in New York City, not far from Columbus Circle, whilst I was visiting the city on holiday. The owner of the gallery was a gentle, talkative, and knowledgeable chap who waxed lyrical about anything and everything. He told me they’d recently held an exhibition there of Rock ‘n’ Roll Artwork and Memorabilia, and some of the John Lennon ‘Double Fantasy’ pictures had been pride of place in the exhibit. The acclaimed photographer who had taken the pictures had also been in attendance that night, a Mr. David M. Spindel. His story is quite an amazing one but I’ll let him tell you all about it - more on that in a bit.

A few years later I returned to New York with my good friend and song writing partner, Alex Hall. We had organised to play some acoustic shows in the city through another good friend of mine, Jacob Golding, who was living there at the time. One of the shows we played was at an intimate music venue called Rockwood Music Hall down on the Lower Eastside of Manhattan. A cool, glass fronted building with a great vibe – you could even see the yellow taxi cabs driving by as you performed on stage.

So, what about that connection?

After our set I was milling around in the audience chatting with various people when I noticed my friend Jacob talking to this guy with a camera. The guy was showing Jacob some of his pictures so I wandered over, somewhat intrigued, and said hello. Jacob introduced me and we all got talking. The guy congratulated me on our set and was very friendly. He showed me some of the pictures he had taken that night and I asked him whether he did this full time or if it was just a hobby. He told me he was a professional photographer and had been in the business for many years. I asked him what sort of photography he specialised in and he explained that he’d started out doing still-life photography before branching out into portrait work, baseball icons and memorabilia.

"Have you photographed anyone famous?" I asked, cheekily.

“Oh sure,” he replied.

“Joe DiMaggio, John Lennon.”

“John Lennon?!” I exclaimed. “When did you photograph John Lennon?”

“Oh I was the photographer on the Double Fantasy sessions,” he said.

By this point the penny had well and truly dropped - I was chatting with Mr. David Spindel himself. Not only that, he'd been shooting pictures of us performing on stage!

With a rush of excitement, I bragged to David about owning one of his John Lennon 'Double Fantasy' pictures which I'd bought from the Columbus Gallery a few years previous. I think David was as surprised as I was by this coincidence and happily went into great detail about the picture and how he’d got the job that day. He told me how great John and Yoko were and how relaxed they had made him feel. He seemed incredibly proud and explained how upset he was to hear the devastating news of John's death only weeks later and how important those final pictures of John were to become, not just to him but many around the included.

Pretty cool story, right? What are the odds of that happening?

So there you have it - now you know the connection between the two pictures above. They were both taken by David M. Spindel. 

Mike Moss & Alex Hall at Rockwood Music Hall, NYC - David M. Spindel

To see more amazing photographs from the 'Double Fantasy' sessions and read his incredible story, check out David M. Spindel at:

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