The Story of John Lennon’s Silly Walk

In 2014, a goofy photo of John Lennon of The Beatles walking beside his wife Yoko Ono found its way onto the web. By the next year the folks at 4chan’s music section /mu/ had turned it into a meme, pairing the photo with the phrase “The Absolute Madman”, which still circulates today, although to a lesser extent.

Upon seeing the meme or the photo, many found themselves wondering why John Lennon was walking like that. One particular thread on Reddit that got quite a bit of attention in April 2017, with several users chiming in with possible explanations.

For a while it was not known where or when the photo was taken, but it has been confirmed to be from the 1971 Cannes Film Festival, with Lennon and Ono walking down the Rue D’Antibbes. This was after The Beatles called it quits, and just a few months following the release of Plastic Ono Band.

See another photo from that same night below.

As for why Lennon is walking like that, the only reasonable explanation, in my opinion, was that he was trying to be funny. He was dressed as a cowboy, and thus played the part by giving his best exaggerated cowboy impression for the camera.

It is also of note that the famous R. Crumb cartoon “Keep On Truckin'” was very popular around this time, first making its debut in 1968 and soon adopted by the Grateful Dead and many others partaking in the hippie culture at the time. Lennon was walking similarly to how the characters depicted in the cartoon walk.

The idea of silly walks was even more relevant in pop culture at the time thanks to the Monty Python sketch titled “The Ministry of Silly Walks”. It features a government building where people all have their own ridiculous walks, and a young man comes in looking for a grant to help develop the walk.

“The Ministry of Silly Walks” first aired on September 15th, 1970. This means that Lennon may have been making a reference to this sketch when photographed in May of 1971, not more than 8 months later.

Watch the sketch below.

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