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Fifty Years After the Beatles Broke Up, Trove of Memorabilia Goes on Auction

Sotheby’s sale includes records, posters and a high school detention sheet decrying John Lennon’s “continuous silly behaviour in class”

These frames may have been the first pair of iconic round glasses worn by John Lennon. (Sotheby’s)
smithsonianmag.com

If you’ve ever dreamed of wearing a pair of John Lennon’s iconic round glasses, now’s your chance—as long as you have $50,000 or so to spare.

A half-century after the Beatles’ breakup, Sotheby’s is auctioning a wide-ranging collection of objects related to the beloved band, including a set of the signature Windsor spectacles.

The 63 lots up for auction span the Beatles’ career, starting before John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr began playing together in Liverpool in the late 1950s and early ’60s and continuing through their rise to superstardom.

Among the items featured are a signed, seven-inch vinyl record of the band’s first single, “Love Me Do”; fan club newsletters; posters; and royalty statements.

The glasses, which are expected to sell for between £30,000 and £40,000 (roughly $38,700 to $51,650 USD), may have been Lennon’s first pair in that style. He gave them to his housekeeper, Dorothy “Dot” Jarlett, in 1965. At the time, the musician was wearing contact lenses during public appearances; he only began wearing glasses publicly the following year.

Love Me Do single
A signed copy of the Beatles' first single, "Love Me Do," is up for auction. (Sotheby’s)

An even earlier piece of Lennon memorabilia is a detention sheet dated to his high school years. Torn from a 1954 notebook, it lists 22 offenses apparently committed in just eight weeks by the Beatle-to-be, including “No book and very idle” and “Continuous silly behaviour in class.”

As Sotheby’s notes in the lot’s description, “A rebellious nature, contempt for authority, caustic wit, and an irresistible desire to perform are characteristics that make a rock and roll star. They are less conducive to a successful school career.”

Also up for auction is a mural-sized print of the Beatles’ first encounter with Muhammed Ali. In Chris Smith’s 1964 photo, the heavyweight champion pretends to knock the rock stars down.

Biography’s Brad Witter recounts an exchange that took place during the photo shoot: “At one point, Ali reportedly told The Beatles, ‘You ain’t as dumb as you look!’ Fired back Lennon, ‘No. But you are!’ Following a brief awkward silence, the whole group erupted in laughter.”

Sotheby’s sale includes various items associated with the Beatles’ manager, Brian Epstein. These include a wristwatch that he used to keep the band on track during their 1966 world tour and a pocket address book that the auction house says provides “a unique Who’s Who of the world of the Beatles and London’s ‘Swinging Sixties.’”

Per Reuters’ Mike Davison, many people consider Epstein’s 1967 death a factor in the band’s messy breakup. After his passing, the four began pursuing separate projects, and they soon became swept up in highly publicized conflicts.

The Beatles arrive at JFK Airport
The Beatles arrive at John F. Kennedy International Airport in February 1964. (Public domain via Wikimedia Commons)

In April 1970, McCartney, who was then promoting his first solo album, announced that he was leaving the Beatles. This calculated move—undertaken without his band members’ input—enabled him to control “the story and its timing, and undercut the other three’s interest in keeping it under wraps” as their new album, Let It Be, went on sale, wrote Tim Riley for the Conversation earlier this year.

“We were all hurt [McCartney] didn’t tell us what he was going to do,” Lennon later said to Rolling Stone. “Jesus Christ! He gets all the credit for it! I was a fool not to do what Paul did, which was use it to sell a record.”

In other Beatles memorabilia news, Neal Augenstein of WTOP reports that RR Auction is selling a Meet the Beatles promotional album signed by all four band members. The quartet signed the cover sleeve just two days after their first live appearance on “The Ed Sullivan Show.” At the time, the Beatles were traveling by train to the Washington Coliseum, where they would perform their first concert in the United States.

“The Beatles were inaccessible,” Bobby Livingston, executive vice president of RR Auction, tells WTOP. “By the time they got to the United States, U.S. albums (Meet the Beatles) were different from the Parlophone versions in the U.K. (With the Beatles). So, you couldn’t really get to the Beatles and have them sign a promo album of Meet the Beatles.”

The RR Auction sale will take place online on October 7. The Sotheby’s auction concludes Thursday.

About Livia Gershon
Livia Gershon

Livia Gershon is a freelance journalist based in New Hampshire. She has written for JSTOR Daily, the Daily Beast, the Boston Globe, HuffPost, and Vice, among others.

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