John Lennon and Yoko Ono in a variation of the famous and controversial nude photo which appeared on their album Two Virgins.Lennon and Nudity
Pushing the Envelope in 1968, John Lennon Posed Nude for an Unprepared World

by ladyjean (Jean Teeters)

Although Two Virgins was John Lennon's
first major display of "public" nudity,
it wouldn’t be his last. And when you
take a look at the arc that was John’s
life, it seems he may have been born
an exhibitionist.

John Lennon was clearly a supporter of a human being’s right to nudity, be it in private or in public. At a time when it was unheard of for a mainstream celebrity to appear naked, John shocked the world with the controversial cover of Two Virgins. But that wasn’t his first foray into exhibitionism...and it wouldn’t be his last.

John Lennon stands on a Hamburg street in his underwear. John ventured out into the night on a dare from his mates.HAMBURG

The stories about John’s appearance on stage in Hamburg semi-clothed goes from “John in his underwear with a toilet seat around his neck” to “John naked with a toilet seat around his neck.” (Knowing the climate of the Reeperbahn at the time, it seems quite likely that John could have gotten away with appearing nude.) The later version of the toilet seat story includes a titillating account of John being in the men's room prior to that appearance (with a lovely lass performing fellatio on him while he sat on the toilet). When he didn’t show up on stage in time for their scheduled set, someone came to look for him, finding him in the toilet. In his anger at being disturbed just prior to orgasm, John pulled the now-infamous stunt. But who knows what the actual truth about that incident might be.

On a milder, but quite humorous note, John also ventured into the late night streets of Hamburg wearing only his jockey shorts. It seems the other lads dared him to read the newspaper outside on the sidewalk while in his underwear, and not being the type to have his mates see him as anything less than fearless, he did it. Fortunately, one of the boys had the foresight to take a few snapshots of this event for posterity.


There are many stories about all kinds of wild escapades that went on during the years of Beatlemania, both on the road and off. But there are no documented incidents of John appearing nude in public during that period. It took the liberating influence of Yoko Ono for John to once again bare his body. And this time he did it to make a statement.


John fell madly in love with Yoko. He wanted to share that love with the world. What better way than for the couple to pose nude for the cover of their first album of avant garde music? And on November 9, 1968, that’s exactly what was revealed, when Two Virgins was released. It must have made sense to John at the time, but the wisdom of it was lost on practically everybody else.

The nude photo of John Lennon and Yoko Ono from the controversial Two Virgins album. This kind of thing was just not done in the late sixties.The uproar of criticism was heard around the globe as the photo made its way to the press and the public at large. At it’s mildest, the album cover, featuring a photo of the couple in full frontal nudity, was being called “obscene.” It seemed to incite outrage from every sector, young and old alike. The press seemed appalled and so did the fans. The question being asked was universal: Has John Lennon lost his mind?

John made the following statement in defense of all the criticism: “The main hangup in the world today is hypocrisy and insecurity. If people can’t face up to the fact of other people being naked or smoking pot, or whatever they want to do, then we’re never going to get anywhere. People have got to become aware that it’s none of their business and that being nude is not obscene. Being ourselves is what’s important. If everyone practiced being themselves instead of pretending to be what they aren’t, there would be peace.”

The album went out on the Tetragammon label wrapped in a brown paper covering. Most record dealers wouldn’t carry it. In some places it was confiscated as pornography. And most people weren’t interested in hearing the record inside the cover. It was basically considered to be just a bunch of funny electronic sounds mixed with Yoko’s ear-splitting wails.

Actually, the main offense was most likely that the photo was rather ugly. Posing in the flat that Ringo Starr had temporarily allowed them to use, amongst piles of clothing and other assorted possessions in a clear state of disarray, was certainly not the ideal setting for that type of photo. It clearly didn’t show either of them at their best. In hindsight, John would admit this himself years later, describing their appearance as “two slightly overweight, flabby junkies.”

Another photo of John and Yoko from the Two Virgins era: here they pose nude amid the disarray of their temporary London flat that was sub-leased to them by John's bandmate, Ringo Starr.But at the time the photo was released, he had this to say: “We were both a bit embarrassed when we peeled off for the picture. So I took it myself with a delayed action shutter. The picture was to prove that we are not a couple of demented freaks, that we are not deformed in any way, and that our minds are healthy.” Unfortunately, the world chose to avidly disagree.

John and Yoko initially took a lot of heat over Two Virgins, but over time the ruckus simmered down, as the press busied itself with reporting the Lennons’ continuing stream of counter-culture activities (which would later become known as “the ballad of John and Yoko”).


Even after the furor over Two Virgins, just a few years later John went on to become the subject of a self-made film entitled Self Portrait, which was 20 minutes or so of his penis reaching semi-erectness in slow motion. It seems this is hard (no pun intended) to come by on VHS. The rest of John and Yoko's short films are available on bootleg videos, but, alas, for those of us who’d like to see it, Self Portrait is not.


Stories abound, by those who were around John in the late seventies, of his penchant for going nude in the Dakota regardless of who was there. He would pad down the hallway from his bedroom, naked as a jay bird, to greet the new day and anybody who happened to be around. Sitting nude with his legs propped up on the kitchen table (his member flaccid in his lap), he would give his “daily dissertation” (i.e., a long talk about whatever was on his mind at the time) while chain smoking and drinking vast amounts of tea and/or coffee. Apparently John’s desire to go nude in his own home was made clear to all those who were regularly present at the Dakota.

John and Yoko, once again nude, during a video shoot in November 1980.DOUBLE FANTASY

The video shoot that Yoko scheduled in the late fall of 1980 for the upcoming promotion of Double Fantasy relied partially on the filming of simulated lovemaking that required both John and Yoko to be naked. The sequence was: John and Yoko walking into a bedroom; embracing; undressing; and falling on the bed to make love. Those in the know say that John had no prior knowledge of Yoko’s plans before arriving at the location for the video shoot. Regardless, he certainly seemed to be enjoying himself: there are many "outtake" stills of him laughing, smiling, etc. Those who were present commented that he seemed to have absolutely no problem with disrobing, but that there was a minimal crew during the actual filming.

John and Yoko from the cover of Rolling Stone: in this Annie Leibovitz photo, they recreate John's famous art piece from 1969, Bag One.THE LAST PHOTO SESSION

John's last gift of bodily exposure to the world was once again posing nude, seemingly crawling up the side of Yoko's body for the cover of Rolling Stone. These photos, taken by Annie Leibovitz on the last day of John's life, serve as a fitting farewell from John to a public who idolized him. According to one of Leibovitz's assistants, when asked if he'd agree to being photographed nude, John said "No problem," and immediately stripped down with no signs of modesty. In a way, this well-known photograph brought one of his most famous sketches, Bag One, to life. It’s as though he was acting that drawing out on the living room floor of the Dakota ten years later. Perhaps that was his conscious intention...perhaps it was simply synchronicity. Regardless, that last photo session includes some of the most beautiful photos ever taken of John. He certainly looked "loverly" at the end.

That's my brief essay on Lennon and nudity. I think he was a true advocate of nudity being a natural state that calls for no sense of shame. He certainly dared to do his part in pushing the envelope on this issue during his lifetime. And my guess is that he's now happily walking naked somewhere in the great beyond.

Copyright © 2001-2008 ladyjean / / Jean Teeters

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