Volume I, Issue 1: November 2008

Meeting the walrus

by Kathryn Bold, University Communications

To view the Flash video, please ensure the following:

  • You have the Adobe Flash plugin installed. Get the latest version here.
  • Your browser supports cascading style sheets (CSS).
  • Any ad-blocking software you are using is disabled.
Kerrin Piche Serna / University Communications
For rock journalist David Goggin '69, meeting John Lennon was among the highlights of his UCI days.

One can only imagine what John Lennon thought of the brash UC Irvine student who turned up at his Weybridge mansion one autumn day in 1967. Lennon must have been somewhat bemused by the college kid sporting wispy facial hair and a jacket he’d embroidered with Lennon’s picture, because instead of shooing David Goggin away, the reclusive Beatle invited him in for tea.

“I guess he found me intriguing,” Goggin ’69 recalls. “I heard him tell someone later, ‘This is David. I found him in my garden.’”

Goggin’s knack for gaining entrée to musicians’ often guarded world served him well in the years to follow. A journalist who has interviewed and photographed everyone from Fiona Apple to Frank Zappa, Goggin has been called “the mother of all flies on the wall” for his ability to infiltrate recording studios and win the confidence of rock stars, artists, directors, producers and media figures.

It was the bubble machines that wreaked havoc.

His natural curiosity – and flair for showmanship – flowered at UCI, where he majored in English and studied pretty much everything else: art and film (his “unofficial minor”), German, philosophy, creative writing, biology, Shakespeare and the history of drama.

“UCI was a new school and the very shape of the courses and disciplines was open to creative sculpting,” Goggin says.

He co-founded a student-run guerilla theater that staged satires and skits, often lampooning school administrators in the plaza between the library (now Langson Library) and Gateway Commons (now a study center).

“I was one of the merry pranksters on campus,” he says.

He also helped organize rock concerts and light shows, bringing Big Brother and the Holding Company with Janis Joplin to campus in their first Southern California appearance.

Buffalo Springfield – with Neil Young and Stephen Stills – also played in Crawford Hall – which took a beating thanks to Goggin and company’s makeshift light show.

“We had overhead projectors, and we put colored water and oil between glass clock faces and squeezed them to show psychedelic blobs on the walls. We had black lights, strobes and bubble machines. It was very trippy.”

It was the bubble machines that wreaked havoc.

“We didn’t realize that 3,000 people dancing on soapy water would be a problem, and we destroyed the gymnasium floor.”

The campus got a reprieve when Goggin spent a year abroad studying at University of Edinburgh, Scotland. On a stop in London, he located Lennon’s house. Posing as a journalist (“I’d written for the university newspaper”), he talked his way past Lennon’s then-wife Cynthia and housekeeper, who let him hang out in the garage with the Beatle’s flower-painted Rolls Royce. When Lennon eventually came out to meet Goggin, he seemed intrigued by the young man’s knowledge of hypnosis, meditation and biofeedback – which Goggin had gleaned from his work-study job in UCI’s psychology department.

After tea, Goggin rode in a limo with Lennon and George Harrison to a taping of the David Frost show, chatting with them about transcendental meditation. Then he hung out with the band in their Abbey Road studio during a recording and mix of “I Am the Walrus.”

“Not even their wives were allowed in those sessions,” he says. Lennon even invited him back in June 1968, when the band recorded “Revolution 9.”

Since those heady times, Goggin, an L.A. resident who goes by the alter-ego pen name Mr. Bonzai, has interviewed and photographed more than 500 musicians and written four books, including his upcoming title from Berklee Press, Music Smarts: Survival Tips from the Pros.

“I still publish interviews every month. I think people open up to me because I’m not threatening,” he says. “I have a positive attitude about life and an innate curiosity. I’m not out to dig up dirt on people. There’s plenty of good stuff to write about.”