May Pang on John Lennon's creative process: "He was always nervous about his own writing"

In this "Everything Fab Four" conversation, the former rock exec opens up about being an eyewitness to rock history

Published November 12, 2022 7:30PM (EST)

May Pang and John Lennon sitting in club; circa 1970; New York. (Art Zelin/Getty Images)
May Pang and John Lennon sitting in club; circa 1970; New York. (Art Zelin/Getty Images)

Photographer, jewelry designer and former music executive May Pang joined host Kenneth Womack to talk about falling in love with the music of the Beatles (and her subsequent relationship with one of them) on the latest episode of "Everything Fab Four," a podcast co-produced by me and Womack (a music scholar who also writes about pop music for Salon) and distributed by Salon.

Pang, the first of her Chinese family born in America on both her parents' sides, grew up in New York City's Spanish Harlem where she "didn't look like everybody else" in the neighborhood or at school. She laughs when Womack asks if she was raised in a musical household: "No. I don't think so. My father blared traditional Chinese music all the time — but it definitely wasn't my music."

As she grew up watching TV shows such as "American Bandstand," her mother was more supportive of her interest in popular music. But, as with millions of others, Pang's teenage heart was completely changed watching "The Ed Sullivan Show" on February 9, 1964. "I went into it thinking, 'I don't understand this group.' And then from their first note and just the way they looked, I was like 'Oh my God, this is it!' I was a convert."


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After high school, where friends left notes in her yearbook referencing her love of music, Pang went on to college and realized it wasn't for her. In 1970, she began working in New York as a receptionist at ABKCO RecordsAllen Klein's management office, which at the time represented Apple Records as well as John LennonGeorge Harrison and Ringo Starr.

In December 1970, Pang was invited to assist Lennon and his wife Yoko Ono with their avant-garde film projects, which led to a full-time position as their personal assistant in 1971. When Lennon and Ono separated in 1973, Pang and Lennon began a relationship that lasted more than 18 months. Lennon later referred to this time as his "Lost Weekend," now the subject of a new documentary film. In addition to acting as Lennon's muse, Pang served as production coordinator for him on such albums as "Rock 'n' Roll" and "Walls and Bridges," which included "Whatever Gets You Thru the Night," John's only number-one solo hit during his lifetime.

"John would never say, 'Oh, I just wrote a hit,'" Pang explains. "He was always nervous about his own writing. But at the same time, he was so brilliant." And having spent time in the company of the other Beatles as well, she says it was really "their relationships with each other, and their sense of humor" that made the band so successful. That is, she says, in addition to their talent. "I don't think any other band even comes close."

Listen to the entire conversation with May Pang on "Everything Fab Four" and subscribe via SpotifyApple PodcastsGoogle, or wherever you're listening.

You can catch May Pang live in conversation with Kenneth Womack, including an exclusive viewing of her "The Lost Weekend: A Love Story" documentary, on Friday, November 18, 2022, at the Grammy Museum Experience Prudential Center in Newark, NJ

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"Everything Fab Four" is distributed by Salon. Host Kenneth Womack is the author of a two-volume biography on Beatles producer George Martin and the bestselling books "Solid State: The Story of Abbey Road and the End of the Beatles" and "John Lennon, 1980: The Last Days in the Life." His latest project is the authorized biography and archives of Beatles road manager Mal Evans, due out in 2023.

By Nicole Michael

MORE FROM Nicole Michael

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Everything Fab Four Interview John Lennon May Pang Music The Beatles