PICTURE EXCLUSIVE: The Last Photos of John Lennon and Yoko Ono reveal couple's 'unclouded happiness' in the months before deranged gunman tragically ended ex-Beatle's life
· Before John was murdered in 1980, his days with Yoko were captured on camera by noted photographer Kishin Shinoyama
· John had been obsessed with alcohol, women and drugs, John told the photographer, until Yoko came into into his life
· The couple worked tirelessly on Double Fantasy - John's last album
· 'Coming to New York gave him freedom. I think this was the moment when he took off his armor,' writes Yoko, in what proved to be tragic irony
By CAROLINE HOWE FOR DAILYMAIL.COM
PUBLISHED: 25 March 2015
In the months before John Lennon was tragically gunned down outside The Dakota in New York City on December 8, 1980, by deranged killer Mark David Chapman, life for the ex Beatle and his bride Yoko Ono was full of 'unclouded happiness'.
And those moments, during the creation of what would be their last album together, are captured in the collection of photographs of the couple, published for the first time in the book, Double Fantasy.
The photographs were taken by Kishin Shinoyama, who has now written about them in a book by him and Yoko Ono, published by Taschen Books in multiple international editions.
The touching and beautiful collection of never-before-seen photographs were shot while they were making their last album together: the Double Fantasy Album.
Woman: John confided to the photographer who shot these pictures that he had been obsessed with alcohol, women and drugs until Yoko came into into his life
Double Fantasy, which won the Grammy award for album of the year, was a love story in song
Cozy: John and Yoko schmooze in the outdoor patio of a Manhattan restaurant.
'John couldn't go out anywhere while he was in the UK because of his fame,' writes Yoko. 'Coming to New York gave him freedom. I think this was the moment when he took off his armor.' Ironically, John was killed in front of the New York City apartments building behind the couple, where they lived
John and Yoko leave their apartment at The Dakota and head to Central Park across the street
The Beatles had broken up a decade before.
John had embraced a new life he described as 'househusband' and he was now focused on creative, political and musical projects. The couple had made international news in 1969 with their Vietnam War protest, the Bed-In in Amsterdam and Montreal.
The Double Fantasy album was going to be John's comeback at age forty, reflecting his personal growth in music and self that he attributed to Yoko, now 82, the first woman who told him that his previous lifestyle of wantonly pursuing women, alcohol and drugs was meaningless.
Paul McCartney and John had finally resolved a bitter rift that dissolved when both men bonded over fatherhood and baking bread. They were once again 'good friends', McCartney told Jonathan Ross on his show last December.
McCartney was one of three people that Yoko called when she returned home from the hospital that fateful night to say that John had not survived the five hollow-point bullets Mark David Chapman fired at the singer just outside their apartment at The Dakota, across the street from Central Park.
'It was just so horrific that you couldn't take it in – I couldn't take it in', McCartney said. 'Just for days, you just couldn't think that he was gone. It was just a huge shock and then I had to tell Linda and the kids. It was very difficult for everyone. That was like a really big shock, I think, in most people's lives. A bit like Kennedy there were certain moments like that.'
Beautiful boy: John relaxing with son Sean Lennon at their Dakota apartment
Hanging out: The couple, in the New York living room, loved living in the city
At work: The couple worked intensely for over a month, recording 28 songs - 14 of John's and 14 of Yoko's
The concept of Double Fantasy was a back-and-forth dialogue, a kind of musical conversation between them
George Harrison was deeply shocked by his bandmate's murder but had had little contact with him in the years prior to the murder.
Broken up emotionally, Ringo Starr and his wife, Barbara Bach, immediately flew to New York to offer comfort to Yoko.
'They were two people in one,' Ringo said.
Lennon was the unofficial leader of the Beatles, 'the cheeky wit and sardonic soul of the Beatles', Newsweek wrote in 2014. His death was the end of an era.
Yoko remembers the last time the couple went into the studio together in 1978, the Hit Factory in New York.
Yoko introduces the collection of photos in the book.
'When John and I decided to make the album Double Fantasy, breaking a five-year silence, we wondered whom we should ask to take the photographs. As the two of us thought about it, suddenly the face of Kishin Shinoyama came to mind.
'I said, "For once, I'd really like to have a Japanese photographer." John quickly agreed, saying, "Right, that sounds good." I never expected that "for once" would turn out to be the last album John and I made together, and that "for once" would live on forever'.
Kishin Shinoyama remembers that last recording session: 'I checked in at the Hotel Lexington, and by early afternoon I was down the street at the door of The Hit Factory on West 48th Street, the recording studio where John and Yoko were working on the final parts of the record, inserting choruses and other additional layers of sounds.
'The two had been working intensely for over a month, recording 28 songs — 14 of John's and 14 of Yoko's. The concept of Double Fantasy was a back-and-forth dialogue, a kind of musical conversation between them.
'As I entered the studio, the atmosphere was of creativity and concentration. Yoko greeted me and immediatelyintroduced me to John. He was slim and dressed all in black. His demeanor was very sweet, gentle . . . almost tender. He welcomed me warmly and then returned his attention to four backup singers, directing them as they laid down the chorus to a song he had written called "Woman".
Chill: John was trying to clear away those feelings - of fame, of the past - in order to become a new person, says the photographer
'Throughout the sessions, I noticed that John always spoke with the staff and the studio musicians in a quiet, clear manner, remaining calm and focused, despite the seemingly endless days and nights of work. Overall, there was a feeling of both relief and exhaustion in the air, a sense that this important and cathartic project was finally nearing completion'.
While dining later at Mr Chow's, Kishin learned that he and John were both 40 years old.John revealed 'he was at a turning point, that he wanted to forget everything that had come before and start again', Kishin writes.'He was trying to clear away those feelings — of fame, of the past — in order to become a new person.
'He explained to me that without Yoko, he wouldn't be there now - that the first part of his life he had been obsessed with alcohol and women and drugs, and that Yoko had been the first woman to tell him that what he was obsessed with was meaningless.
'He felt that those words had changed him, and this new album was going to celebrate that change'.
A month after Kishin returned to Japan, John was shot and killed.
'I look back at these photos, so many years later, and I feel that I captured John and Yoko at their happiest moment. They were doing creative work, working on the album, recording together. And they were raising their son and loving each other and living a full life together,' Kishin offers.
'It was such a lucky time for me to be there, a moment of unclouded happiness for John and Yoko.'