The secrets of Lennon's £100,000 jacket

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The Independent Culture

After learning that the consignment of jumble had been collected from the Manhattan apartment of John Lennon and Yoko Ono, he knew his initial hunch had been proved correct.

The gold braid belonged to an ornate jacket that Mr Morris had recognised as the item of "bandsman chic" that Lennon wore for a Life magazine photo shoot featuring the Beatles in 1966. Mr Morris then bought the garment for less than £10.

The ornate cream tunic with azure blue cuffs inspired the outlandish garb worn by the Fab Four for the cover of the landmark Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band album.

This week the jacket, thought to date from the First World War, was sold in London for £100,000 to an anonymous buyer at an auction of Lennon memorabilia. A handwritten manuscript of "All You Need Is Love" sold for £600,000.

Sadly for Mr Morris, who provided a certificate of authenticity for the jacket, the proceeds will not be entering his bank account but that of the anonymous owner who bought it at an auction in 1983.

Speaking before Thursday night's auction at the Hippodrome nightclub, the owner said: "The description sounded intriguing. I thought I was just getting an ordinary jacket - not one of the most famous things John ever wore."

The strange story of the garment's journey from Lennon's wardrobe to the auctioneers Cooper Owen began in 1966 when the bespectacled Beatle first acquired the jacket.

Although it is not known where exactly Lennon bought the tunic, it was purchased at the height of a trend in Sixties London for gaudy militaria.

A series of shops with whimsical titles, such as I Was Lord Kitchener's Valet on Chelsea's King's Road, had opened selling military dress uniforms to fuel the LSD-inspired thirst for all things psychedelic.

Recalling the jacket, Lennon once said: "Kids were already wearing army jackets on the King's Road; all we did was make them famous. We were the ones who were chosen to represent what was going on on the street." Pairing the jacket with a pair of multi-coloured striped trousers and neck tie, Lennon wore the tunic for the famous photo shoot with the photographer Henry Grossman.

Richard Porter, of the British Beatles Fan Club, said: "The jacket is one of the iconic garments of the Beatles. They were very much at the cutting edge of fashion and set trends."

Lennon continued to wear the moleskin jacket throughout 1966 but then it disappeared from public view until the day in 1977 when it turned up at the Salvation Army depot.

The item was part of a bundle of clothing given away to the charity during one of Lennon and Ono's clear outs. According to the certificate of authentication for the item, Mr Morris, a Salvation Army volunteer, got permission from a supervisor to buy the jacket after recognising it.

Some six years later Mr Morris put the jacket up for auction with other Lennon artefacts, but the market for Beatles memorabilia was at the time almost non-existent. The lot was sold for just £100 to the collector who saw his investment make a handsome profit on Thursday night.

Experts said the rarity of personal items from the Beatles added to the value of garments such as the jacket. John Collins, the managing director of Cooper Owen, said: "It's quite rare for something like this to come up. Most of John's stuff, Yoko has got. Paul McCartney kept all of his stuff. The only reason why some of John's stuff is out there is because he was very generous and gave things away."

Among the items that remain in the Beatles' possession are the jackets worn for the Sgt Pepper cover, created by the artist Sir Peter Blake and inspired by Lennon's original tunic.

Mr Porter said: "The look that John began in the Life shoot was carried over into the cover for Sgt Pepper. The band ordered jackets from a costumiers based on that tunic."

The yellow, blue, pink and red jackets worn for the cover were made to order by the famous theatrical costumiers Berman's & Nathan's, now Angel's Costumiers. Recalling the process of choosing their pseudo-military look, Paul McCartney said: "For our outfits we went to Berman's and ordered the wildest things, based on old military tunics."

Yesterday, the indications were that the tunic which inspired one of the most famous album covers in pop history may have returned to its original home amid reports that bidders also included Yoko Ono.

A lucrative legacy

By Elisa Bray

* The handwritten lyrics sheet used by Lennon during the Beatles' 1967 broadcast of "All You Need Is Love". The broadcast was the first ever live global television link and was watched by an estimated 400 million people around the world. The lyric sheet sold for $1,250,000 (£690,000) - the highest ever for a Beatles manuscript, beating the previous record of $400,000 for The Beatles' "Nowhere Man".

* The original iconic bedspread from Lennon and Yoko Ono's "Bed-in for Peace" in Montreal, Canada, 1969, was sold for £36,000. John Lennon and Yoko Ono donned their pyjamas and invited the world press for their second week-long "bed-in", recording the song "Give Peace a Chance" in their suite's living room in protest against the Vietnam war.

* Lennon's Yamaha electric piano from his Dakota Building apartment, a birthday gift from Elton John, sold for £160,000. His only electric piano at home, Lennon used it to rehearse songs for his "Double Fantasy" album which was released just before he was killed in December 1980. It was sold by Ono in 1984 to raise money for her "Spirit Foundation".

* After being estimated at £15,000 to £20,000 pre-auction, a pair of Lennon's infamous yellow tinted glasses fetched £62,500.