‘I just shot John Lennon’

‘John Lennon shot dead’ 9 December 1980

December 8 marked 40 years since John Lennon’s murder in 1980. Lennon would have turned 80 in October. Here are three newspaper covers from Lennon’s shooting: the London New Standard splash is from the day after his murder; the Mirror and Express two days later.

Lennon died at 11pm in New York, so, with London being five hours ahead, the national dailies missed the story. The Standard, being a London evening paper, was able to splash on the murder on December 9. The Standard story quotes the words of the killer when asked if he knew what he’d done: ‘I just shot John Lennon.’

The Standard‘s front was all about getting the news out as fast as possible for the London commute home. The Express focused on the killer, which would have been the most recent aspect of the story to come out.

The Mirror took a totally different tack. The editor at the time was Mike Molloy, who had originally trained as a designer. He obviously stood back from the story, realised that the paper would be coming out two days after radio and television had carried the news, and looked at it in a historical context. The result was a great design that marked the moment, with its ‘Death of a hero’ headline, all the vital details, and an iconic image.

This was in the days of hot metal, so they were constrained in the use of type sizes. These days, the type would have been, squeezed, stretched and sized to fill the space. But that would be just too clean and sanitised.

I particularly like the schoolboy-tie look to the Mirror‘s picture. It’s captioned as one of the last photographs of the former Beatle, taken in New York three weeks before. There’s no photographer credit, so it probably came from a photo agency the paper subscribed to.

‘John Lennon: Death of a hero’ – a classic Mirror cover
‘The man who shot John Lennon’ – the Express chose to focus on the killer

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One Response to “‘I just shot John Lennon’”

  1. Magazine tributes to John Lennon | Magforum blog Says:

    […] post was meant to have been published in December, after I showed three newspaper front pages from John Lennon’s murder in 1980. So here, belatedly, are three magazines that covered the same horrific […]

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