“The Lost Weekend”: An Interview with May Pang

It’s five o’clock on a Thursday and on the line is May Pang, an artist who delivers her viewpoint through photography, novelization, and cinema. She’s calling to talk about The Lost Weekend: A Love Story, a film she is convinced will help to dispel some of the myths that have clung to her since her separation from John Lennon in 1975.

“For one, people say it was only a weekend,” she says. “When the reality is I knew him for ten years. I started working for him in December 1970, and he died in December 1980. It’s ten years to the month!”

Pang is right to speak out her truth, not least because she stands as one of three women who enjoyed a relationship with the Beatle and her shadow can be found all over Walls & Bridges, Lennon’s most inventive album outside of the Fab Four. “That’s me on ‘#9 Dream’,’ ‘ she laughs. “It was hard to sound sexy with everyone looking at me.” Instructed by Lennon to say his name, Pang walked into the studio room to deliver a surprisingly tender spoken word vocal. “John had what I called his ‘Cheshire Cat’ grin,” Pang says. Judging by her buoyancy, I find myself drawn to the woman who brought laughter and fun to the Beatle’s life after a difficult separation from Yoko Ono.

“Roy Cicala did the engineering for the tracks on Walls & Bridges,” Pang continues. “Roy’s assistant came to me and said, ‘John wants you.’ I didn’t know what to expect, but I went up to the microphone. And I whispered: ‘John, John.’ And that was ‘#9 Dream’.” Pang was present for Lennon’s creative second wind, giving him the confidence to write “Going Down On Love” and “Nobody Loves You (When You’re Down and Out)”, restoring faith in the songwriter who had issued such disappointing numbers as “The Luck of The Irish” and “One Day (At A Time).”

“I was there when David Bowie, Carlos Alomar and John wrote ‘Fame’,” Pang says. “Of course, at the time you’re living in the present, but when you look back, it’s fairly historic. I look back, and realize I was there for a lot of historic moments.”

It’s at this moment Pang asks where I’m calling from. “Dublin,” I reply. “Oh, Ireland,” she says, with a certain glee. “I did something with Gabriel Byrne called Jet Set Superstar. That was back in 1980, which is forty-something years ago now. Gabriel was very funny to work with, and he found out that he got his first film role while we were filming. It was for a film called Excalibur.”

Of course, I’m familiar with Excalibur, a film that melds English mythology against a pastoral Leinster backdrop. “It’s been so long since I’ve seen it,” she clarifies. “I’d need to remind myself of it.” But her memory of her time in Ireland remains as sharp as ever. “Barry Devlin was a friend of mine. He was in a band called Horslips. Barry was also friends with Gabriel, and he brought us together. Paul McGuinness was filming a documentary on the video, and he was also managing a band who were then unsigned. It was U2. He knew that I had contacts at Island Records, and asked if I knew the A & R person there to please put in a good word on the group. The first time I met The Edge, he wasn’t The Edge. He was a guy called Dave. When I met him months later in New York at a gig, I asked him, ‘Should I call you Dave, or The Edge?’ He wanted to be called The Edge.”

Pang can happily claim ownership to a side of Lennon’s life, which is why the release of The Lost Weekend: A Love Story isn’t just overdue, but offers a tidy continuation of the narrative spun in Peter Jackson’s critically lauded Get Back series. Vividly re-imagining the romance, the film plunges viewers headfirst into the liaison, which was lit from the most unlikely of circumstances. Not only did Ono give her blessing to the relationship between Lennon and Pang, she was, in many ways, the one who initiated it.

The film flits from archival footage to more modern realizations, culminating in a documentary that’s pleasantly cinematic to sit through. “These days, people seem to be more interested in visuals than in reading,” Pang says. “Yes, I have written a book [out of print], but I felt like this film was my way of getting the truth out. So many people have come to me expressing an interest in a film about the so-called ‘Lost Weekend.’ One director said that ‘all roads’ seem to lead back to me.”

Pang set out to finish what Beatle historians have spent decades piecing together. Impressively, the film boasts an honesty prevalent in Lennon’s most accomplished work. Pang seems happy to answer challenging questions, so I decide to ask her about her relationship with Cynthia Powell, Lennon’s ex-wife and mother of his child, Julian. “I thought it was important that John and Cynthia met up and had that closure which they didn’t get the first time around,” Pang explains. “Cynthia had raised Julian, and John eventually admitted to me that Cynthia had done a fantastic job raising him. I knew it was the right thing to do getting in touch with Julian and Cynthia. I felt so bad for Cynthia raising him on her own.”

Did Ono create a barrier between the divorced parents? “I don’t want to point fingers,” Pang says. Nevertheless, Pang did serve as a point of communication between the parties, and Julian enjoyed a relationship with his father he might not have enjoyed if it wasn’t for her guidance.

That brings me to the next question in my notes: Is it true that Paul
McCartney made overtures to Lennon, in an effort to resurrect the
writing partnership?  The phone goes silent, before Pang replies: “Paul
and Linda would come to visit us in New York all the time. That’s
another myth because people think we lived in Los Angeles. Well,
we spent a lot of time in Los Angeles, and had a lot of good times
there, but we lived in New York. Paul and Linda would visit us whenever we were there. Well, they said that they were going to New
Orleans to record their new album. John thought it was a fabulous

That sounded promising. “One day, I see John strumming on the guitar, and he asks me, ‘What would you think about me writing with Paul again?” Well, my head nearly spun around like Linda Blair from The Exorcist. So, I said, ‘That would be great.’ ‘Why?’ he asked. I said: ‘Solo, you guys are good but when you work together, no one can beat you.’ So, he thinks about that and says, ‘Yeah.'”

It’s at this point that Pang lets out a sigh when she says they never journeyed down to visit the McCartneys, who were recording Venus & Mars at the time. “We were going to go down to New Orleans to surprise them,” Pang reveals. “As it happens, I’m going to New Orleans in a few weeks for a photo exhibition. So, it will be some sort of closure; what might have been. I’m finally getting to go there.”

It’s tempting to imagine what might have been. Free from contractual obligations (The Beatles had dissolved their partnership in 1974), the individual musicians were free to create with whoever they pleased. “We were at Disney World when John signed the papers,” Pang says. “He was the last to put his name down. It was a lot of different papers to sign. Again, people don’t realize that.” Considering his importance in founding the band, it seems fitting that Lennon was the one who brought it to an end. I don’t think Lennon and McCartney were doing badly in 1974, but it’s a massive shame that they didn’t reunite in 1979, especially since neither Back To The Egg nor Double Fantasy exhibited McCartney or Lennon at their zenith. “Yes,” Pang agrees.

Where he sounded sluggish on Double Fantasy, Walls & Bridges shows a very different Lennon, excited by the importance, as well as the value, of his work. “He was very proud of that album,” Pang beams. “He produced it himself, and had it finished in eight weeks. Even he was amazed by that!”

These days it takes two months for a band to record a single song. “Yeah,” Pang cackles. “He would say to the musicians, ‘You can get high, but do it after the sessions.’ He was keen to keep everyone straight for what they were hired to do in the studio.”

This was a contrast to Phil Spector, who tried to bribe Pang with an assortment of confections during the recording of the Rock ‘n’ Roll album in 1973. “I didn’t drink or do drugs. He would look at John, and say something like, ‘Why is she giving opinions?’ John would say, ‘Don’t be silly, Phil. She’s alright.'”

Pang likens her vocal on “#9 Dream” to a vocal performance Ronnie Spector delivered on a Spector production. Pang recognizes Spector’s ingenuity, although there’s no denying his difficult nature in later years. Lennon was so confident of himself on Walls & Bridges that he didn’t need Spector as counsel, and the finished results are exhilarating in their design.

“‘#9 Dream’ was the last song he wrote,” Pang admits. “He wouldn’t write for an album, but when he felt ready to record, he would bring his cassettes in.” It’s at this moment I make a confession of sorts: “Nobody Loves You (When You’re Down and Out)”, a fiery number bolstered by brass, electrical instruments, and genuine commitment from the artist in the vocal booth, is my favorite Lennon song, both within and without The Beatles. Considering the lyrical nature, did the song emanate from a place of genuine discomfort? The answer surprises me.

“No, not really. People would associate it with that, so it was often easier to let people believe it was, but it just happened to be a song he was writing. He imagined someone like Frank Sinatra singing it. The album wasn’t ‘down and out.’ In fact, he said that one of the songs from the album would make a great commercial jingle. I’m not telling you which one it is,” Pang chuckles.

Between the film, the photo exhibition, and this interview, I can see that Pang is keen for everyone to understand the truth as she sees it. One of her pictures shows Lennon signing the papers that ended The Beatles. “It wasn’t a weekend. I mean, there was Los Angeles. We had Julian over, we went to West Palm Beach and Disney World. We met George Harrison, and then we went to the Elton John concert. People say that John and Yoko reconnected at that concert, but that’s not true. They didn’t reconnect until 1975.”

In the name of demystification, how did Pang meet David Bowie? “It’s a funny story, Eoghan. We met him at a party in Hollywood. It was Ricci [son of Dean] Martin’s twenty-first birthday party, and Elizabeth Taylor was there. I mean, can you imagine Elizabeth Taylor at your birthday?”

I am a red-blooded male. “Exactly,” Pang laughs. “John and I met lots of people in Hollywood; we met the Rat Pack. Anyway, we met Ringo at the party, as he came later because he had met Elizabeth on films he worked on. Then, Bowie starts walking down the hall: The Thin White Duke [sic]. I pointed him out to John, who didn’t always recognize people. David comes over and says [imitates British accent], ‘Elizabeth, darling.’ So, Elizabeth introduced us. We said he should meet up with us whenever he was in New York.” And out of that encounter, “Fame” was born, combining Lennon’s abstract lyricism with Bowie’s creative spontaneity.

With The Lost Weekend: A Love Story, Pang is issuing her own statement, generously offering Beatle fans a portal to a part of history that has been subject to conjecture and myth. Like much of Beatle lore, the truth is eminently more interesting than the fabrication.

“I can’t tell you how many bloggers, podcasts and journalists have expressed interest [in the film],” Pang beams. “People are like, ‘It’s about time.’ And the reviews in the States have been very, very positive indeed.”

The Lost Weekend: A Love Story is available to rent or buy on Apple TV, Amazon Video, Google Play Movies, YouTube, Vudu, etc. It’s also available on Amazon Prime Video.

-Eoghan Lyng

All photos courtesy of and copyright, May Pang

Other Posts You Might Like

13 comments on ““The Lost Weekend”: An Interview with May Pang

  1. Richard Cecil Short

    Real nice article with only one additional comment: I’ve always been quite fond of “Luck of the Irish” and “One Day At A Time”.

  2. Great article and interview. Filled in lots of details and countered some myths.

  3. Seamas Reilly

    This is the video she made with Gabriel Byrne:

    • Thank you Seamas! I’d never seen that video before. Fantastic on many levels.

  4. Rob Geurtsen

    I am astonished that May Pang is presented here as name calling celebrity, as if she is not a human being… I wonder Eoghan are you objectifying her, or is this the role she picks… whatever the answer, it is sad and unrevealing … I love the human being May Pang… may she live in grace.

    • Eoghan Lyng

      Whatever you think of the interview, I can promise I wasn’t objectifying her.

  5. Eoghan, is there a reason “The Thin White Duke” has “[sic]” after it? David Bowie had started to develop and “inhabit” that character in 1974, so the reference is not incorrect.

    That said, I don’t know *when* in ‘74 Ms Pang is recalling—especially since Paul actually did meet with John (and Harry Nilsson, and others) in Los Angeles during “the lost weekend” (specifically, March 28, 1974) and there’s a pretty bad recording to prove it. But she may have just been referring to David in the way she first met him, or the way he made the biggest impression on her. I know he started to look pretty rough by the time he jettisoned that character.


    • Eoghan Lyng

      Just to err on the safe side, really. Thanks for picking up on the information.

  6. Awww she loved him so much she’s selling him . So sweet .

  7. Edna Aherne

    I hate Bowie.

    Hate him.

  8. Harrison Bono Ulysses


  9. Badfinger (Max)

    A good interview…I just met her in Nashville yesterday…very nice lady with an interesting back story. I just wish John would have stayed with her. I have her book also with the photographs. I don’t understand some of the negative comments here.

Leave a Reply (and please be kind!)

Love the Beatles? Get this eBook FREE when you subscribe.

It turns out there's a lot to say. Just say "yes" to get yours.