The Lennon tour of 1981

On stage at Madison Square for Thanksgiving 1974, guest starring with Elton John.

Roadie Henry Smith was preparing for the May 1981 John Lennon tour when he got a call from Roberta Flack, informing him that Lennon had just been shot and killed. Flack had been a former resident of the Dakota building in New York City, and had been informed by staff there about the senseless murder. Henry was at the time in full preparation of Lennon’s comeback tour and was going to act both as a road manager and a booking agent.

Smith was introduced to John Lennon late in 1980 by producer Jack Douglas, who produced the album “Double Fantasy”. It was shortly after the completion of the album and Lennon, for the first time in a long time, was getting ready to tour.

The official announcement that Lennon would undertake a U.S. and Europe tour was made on October 8, 1980. The musicians who had worked with him on “Double Fantasy” were in active rehearsal for the concert tour that Lennon hoped would hit the road in seven months. At the point when Smith was contacted, Lennon was looking for a road manager and crew support.

It was agreed that Smith would be road manager for the Lennon tour and pull together a core group of technicians that included long time crew mates Dick Hansen and John Conk from the famed Brittania Row sound and lighting company. He also talked John out of having Bill Graham promoting the tour and hiring a separate booking agent (“You don’t need all that! You’re John Lennon!”). Smith would take on the part of a de facto booking agent as well.

As for the visuals on stage, Smith envisioned using video, which still wasn’t all the rage that it is today. He contacted British architect Mark Fisher, who had designed stages for groups like Pink Floyd, The Rolling Stones and U2. Smith called Fisher from New York in the afternoon, Fisher got on a plane that night and flew to New York. On the plane, he started putting his ideas to paper. Everybody was in agreement that Lennon’s shows had to be nothing short of spectacular. “One World, One People” was to be the name of the tour, which was going to be, indicated Lennon, some reworked early Beatles’ songs, some Lennon solo songs and some 50’s rock and roll to go along with the selections from Double Fantasy.

The video that was envisioned, would first be of John and Yoko walking around in the city where the concert of the night was, filmed the day before, before walking on stage. Another idea was to film the audience walking in to the venue, and showing that footage to the crowd once they were settled.

“A lot of what was going to happen during the show was John and Yoko on stage, drawing pictures of what the songs meant to them. So, as a song was going to be played, the audience would see a stick figure that John drew, representing what the song meant to him. It definitely would have been different and very personal.”

Source:  Rock Cellar Magazine: Roadie Henry Smith on the Early Days of Led Zeppelin and the John Lennon Tour That Might Have Been (2011)

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