John Lennon’s Mental Breakdown After Being Tied Up, Manager Tony King Recalls

Tony King is a man who saw it all. Throughout his six-decades-long career in the music business, he spent lots of time with numerous rock icons, including the Beatles’ John Lennon. Speaking to BBC Radio 5’s Nihal Arthanayake, King recalled the day John Lennon had a breakdown for his hands were tied behind his back.

John Lennon had one of the most calming auras as a rock and roll icon, but things were rather different behind the curtains. He had been drinking a lot and using substances, which inevitably affected his mental well-being. Especially when he and Yoko Ono separated in 1973, Lennon fell into despair, even when he was having an affair with May Pang.

Looking back on those days, Tony King recalled one incident when John Lennon had a mental breakdown. According to King, Lennon’s partner May Pang called him in the middle of the night to ask him to come over. As it turned out, the late Beatle had gone crazy in the studio for no apparent reason and had his hands tied up on his way home.

Tony King said he went to Lennon’s flat, which belonged to Lou Adler. He then saw him screaming and shouting in the doorway and looked inside to see everything was torn apart. When Tony approached Lennon, he fought him, went into a blackout, and told Tony he didn’t know he was that strong after regaining consciousness.

Here is what Tony King recalled about that day:

“One night, I was asleep. [It was] three o’clock, the phone rang, and it was May. She said, ‘John has gone crazy; you’ve got to get over here!’ So, I had to jump in my T-Bird, which I’d rented, a great tank of a car, and drive over to the house that I’d managed to get him, which belonged to Lou Adler, who produced the Mamas and the Papas and Carole King. He had a lovely house opposite the Bel Air Hotel in Bel Air.

I arrived, and May was in the street. I happened to hear this bellowing sound. I said to May, ‘What is it? What’s going on?’ She said, ‘Well, John got really wild in the studio, they brought him home, and I think they tied his hands behind his back to stop him lashing out. He broke free, and he’s now gone a bit mad in the house.’ So, I went to the house to see him, and he was standing in the doorway, screaming and shouting.”

He continued:

“I looked over his shoulder and saw all these gold records were bent, the Mamas and the Papas and Carole King’s tapestry bent, windows smashed, and Lou’s collection of walking sticks broken. He was standing there, and I thought, ‘How am I going to deal with this?’ So I just said to him, ‘John, what’s the matter?’ And he fell on my shoulder and started crying. He said, ‘They tied me up, Tony, they tied me up. I’m so scared. I’m so scared.’

I said, ‘Well, come on, let’s go inside, sit down and talk it over.’ So, we got in, and then he went into a blackout situation. He started fighting with me, and I was rolling around the floor with him. I managed to lay completely on top of him, with my nose one inch from his. At that point, he came out of the blackout and looked me in the face. He said, ‘Oh, I didn’t know you were so strong, dear,’ started laughing, and then we went and sat down. That kind of broke it.”

So, John Lennon had difficulty getting over his separation from Yoko Ono, and the substances he used took their toll on his mental health. This resulted in a mental breakdown, and getting his hands tied up didn’t do Lennon well either. However, Tony King was in the right place at the right time, and he eventually helped the late star regain his consciousness.