Welcome to the Caribou Ranch blog!
In our posts, we will dive into the remarkable history of the Caribou Ranch and detail the visits of many talented artists who came to the ranch to escape the hustle and bustle of their paparazzi-filled lives. Here, they experienced creativity and wonder in the one-of-a-kind beauty and solitude that you can only get at 8,600 feet in the midst of the Colorado Rockies.
To start off our series, we felt that the best artist to showcase should be one of the greatest in music history: John Lennon. It was perhaps the most exciting time at Caribou Ranch.
John Lennon’s Stay At Caribou Ranch
By the mid-1970s, the staff at Caribou Ranch was pretty used to having some big names come to visit, but in July of 1974, when John Lennon came to stay for four days, it was beyond difficult for everyone to hold back their excitement.
“There were a lot of stars up here, but when John came up, we all couldn’t believe it.”
- Ranch Manager John Carsello
Lennon came to visit during his 14-month “Lost Weekend,” when he was separated from Yoko Ono and had just recently experienced his infamous ejection from the Troubadour for drunkenly harassing the Smothers Brothers.
John Lennon arrived at Caribou Ranch accompanied by his new girlfriend, May Pang, in order to record a new guitar and vocal sample to be featured on Elton John’s version of Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds.
The ranch offered an incredible escape for Lennon, more so than most artists because at the time the U.S. government was actively attempting to have him deported due to his strong antiwar stance and powerful influence among the youth.
While working alongside Elton John in the Caribou Ranch recording studio, Lennon was treated like a king. Elton John, who was considered the boss of the operation, made sure that anything John Lennon wanted, he received. According to James Guercio, owner of the ranch, the only thing that Elton John would not give Lennon control of was the heat in the ranch. Elton would keep the place roasting, and Carsello, the manager, would have to help Lennon open the windows in his room each night for him to be able to sleep.
Lennon and Pang stirred up the tiny town of Nederland, Colorado, that sits just east of Caribou Ranch when they took the car out for a trip down to run errands and buy cowboy boots in nearby Boulder. He loved the rustic Americana feel of the small mountain towns, and he would end up wearing these Boulder cowboy boots on multiple occasions throughout the remainder of his career — including the night he was tragically shot.
At this time, there weren’t as many visitors to Colorado as it was not the grand tourist destination that it has become today. So, when anyone came to town, especially a legend like John Lennon, people had no idea how to react. “He freaked everyone out in town,” Carsello said, but he signed autographs for anyone who wanted one.
Many artists, including Lennon, came to visit the Caribou Ranch unprepared to face the brutality of Mother Nature in the Rocky Mountains. They would show up with next to nothing outside of their typical New York or Los Angeles fashion with flat shoes and thin layers. The staff would always have to equip the arriving guests with winter gear.
The altitude would have an effect on many artists, including Lennon, but, luckily, owner James Guercio also equipped the studio with an oxygen tank. So when the two were recording, as an avid smoker, John Lennon would desperately grab for the oxygen tank tube after each take.
The altitude also had an effect on the music. In many cases, bass that sounded relatively thin on tape in Caribou Ranch would suddenly boom when played again back at sea level. Artists could also sing an octave higher, which was another reason that Elton John initially talked Lennon into coming up to visit the ranch.
Compared to many other artists that would stay up recording through the night hours, the recording sessions with Elton John and John Lennon were quick. The four days were spent relaxing, enjoying nature and each other's company, and escaping from the chaos surrounding them elsewhere in the country.
We hope you’ve enjoyed this look back in time to one of the greatest moments in the glorious history of Caribou Ranch. Stay tuned for more upcoming posts featuring other noteworthy artists that have paid visits to the ranch, and shop our authentic line of music memorabilia online today!