In the 1970s, John Lennon’s girlfriend, May Pang, warily agreed to stay in a beach house with a number of other musicians to work on Harry Nilsson’s album. To her, the idea of staying in the house sounded like chaos, and she wasn’t wrong. The musicians spent their evenings drinking and partying and their days recovering from the night before. Pang even began referring to Ringo Starr’s room as the “den of darkness” because he didn’t want to let even a sliver of sunlight in.
John Lennon and May Pang | Art Zelin/Getty Images
John Lennon’s girlfriend, May Pang, was wary about staying in a beach house with musicians
Nilsson, one of Lennon’s close friends, was working on an album, and Lennon had the idea to lock a number of musicians up to ensure it was completed.
“There should be an asylum somewhere for aged rock ‘n’ rollers,” he told Pang, per her book Loving John. “Then we can all be put in padded cells where we belong. Let’s open an asylum. We should all rent a house and live together. Then we can watch Harry, save money, and make sure all the musicians get to the studio on time when we begin to work on Harry’s album.”
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Pang, who had dealt with Lennon and Nilsson’s drunken antics on many occasions, was not sold on the idea.
“I shuddered,” she wrote. “Meanwhile, John told Harry, who naturally loved the idea, and Harry, always the organizer, had Bruce Gravkal look for a house. Before I knew it, John and Harry had invited Ringo, Keith Moon, Hilary Gerrard, and Klaus Voorman and his girlfriend, Cynthia Webb, to live with us.”
John Lennon’s girlfriend referred to Ringo Starr’s room as the ‘den of darkness’
They settled in a spacious beach house in Santa Monica to work on the album. She said the days were quiet, but the nights often became raucous. After working on music in the afternoon, they headed to bars around midnight. Pang said that this behavior impacted their living arrangements, particularly for Starr.
“Ringo, however, wanted a bedroom with a bath attached, so we converted the den across the hall from us into a bedroom for him,” Pang wrote. “The only decoration in the den was a framed photograph of John F. Kennedy. Ringo, who disliked daylight, kept his blinds drawn at all times. I jokingly labeled his bedroom ‘the den of darkness.’”
The slightly eerie name was accompanied by vampiric behavior from Starr.
“I was up next, usually around ten, followed by John an hour later,” Pang wrote. “Ringo and Harry would be next. They always came down in their bathrobes and always wore dark sunglasses, and say, ‘Daylight hurts.’”
Ringo Starr has been sober since 1988
Starr went to rehab in 1988 and has been sober since. He said that, at first, he was worried that he wouldn’t be able to do anything without drinking.
“I was afraid at the beginning,” he told Rolling Stone. “[I thought] I don’t know how you do anything if you’re not drunk. That’s where I ended up. I couldn’t play sober, but I also couldn’t play as a drunk. So when I did end up in this rehab, it was like a light went on and said you’re a musician, you play good.”
Since then, he has been dedicated to his health, following a strict vegetarian diet and working out daily.
How to get help: In the U.S., contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration helpline at 1-800-662-4357.