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Author Topic: The John Lennon I knew  (Read 2113 times)

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BlueMeanie

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The John Lennon I knew
« on: March 02, 2008, 12:01:14 PM »

Just found this 3 year old article from The Telegraph, by Maureen Cleeve.

The man who changed the course of pop music would have been 65 this week. Maureen Cleave, who knew the Beatles at the height of their fame - and who relayed Lennon's most notorious quote to the world - recalls his chippy genius, and wonders if he would ever have been friends again with Paul McCartney

For those of us who wasted hundreds of column inches in the 1960s looking for the new Beatles and the new Rolling Stones, it's disconcerting to find them still here 40 years on. Not only here but still (most of them) on tour, cavorting about with their hair dyed in various fetching shades of cigar, from Hamlet to best Havana.

Had he been spared, what would a 65-year-old John Lennon be like? What would he make of Sir Paul and Sir Mick? Pretty short work, I should think. Would he, like Sir Cliff, be having the Prime Minister to stay? Not on your life.

He never wanted to grow old: "The only thing I'm afraid of is growing old - they grow old and they've missed it somehow," he once said, cheerfully dismissing a third of the human race. Charisma rarely survives the ageing process but, killed in the prime of life, Lennon remains a very powerful absence.

Early in l963, Gillian Reynolds tipped me off about this odd group in Liverpool who inspired an unaccountable frenzy in the young. The London Evening Standard sent me to interview them. I wondered then how Lennon, looking so like Henry VIII, could possibly become a pop idol. With a Napoleonic sense of his own destiny and an Olympian disregard for the rest, he didn't have the humility required at the time.

If he hadn't liked me, I wouldn't have dared like him, but I was all right because I had a fringe and a pair of red boots, considered rather daring. The Beatles attached tremendous importance to physical appearance; the dreaded moment in any performance was when they got hot and sweaty and their fringes stuck to their foreheads, making them look slightly like Hitler.

Lennon was the most interesting of them: imperious, unpredictable, indolent, disorganised, childish, vague, arrogant and very good at answering back. Nice enough fellows, said Ted Heath, but they didn't speak the Queen's English. Lennon was on to this in a flash: "And I bet half the people who voted for him didn't speak the Queen's English either."

One could hardly believe the speed with which they became famous. In the beginning of 1963 they were the darlings of Merseyside. By October, they were famous all over Britain. A year later, soon after their appearance in the United States, they were probably the most famous people in the English-speaking world.

Theirs was the fascination of repetitive siblings, the almost sinister attraction of identical quads - how alike they were, how very different.

For two years they were out of breath. They ran to escape screaming mobs of frightening harpies. "Come on Thingy," they'd roar at me as I pelted after them. They were smuggled in and out of food lifts. Once, in America, just like the Marx Brothers, they dashed through a palm court orchestra playing to ladies eating ice cream.

It was exhilarating while the novelty lasted, though Lennon, far from being surprised and grateful, seemed rather nettled he hadn't been famous sooner. "I was always surprised I wasn't a famous painter. I used to look in the paper and half expect to see my photograph there."

He found his own story, the Beatle story, romantic; he liked to talk about the rags and the riches and, by the time they reached the top, fame had so cut them off from real life there wasn't much else to do but talk.

Lennon once said, "The trouble with reality is it leaves a lot to the imagination", and it's almost impossible to exaggerate the destructive force of modern fame. As John Upd**e said: "Celebrity is a mask that eats into the face."

When fantasy becomes reality, when you are rich and famous beyond bounds, when you have to come to expect instant results, how do you keep your feet on the ground? The Royal Family have training and a supportive set-up; modern celebrities are hemmed in by press officers, preventing them from saying anything of the slightest interest.

I last saw Lennon in 1966, when he had moved to an absurd stockbroker Tudor mansion in Weybridge, cut off from the rest of the world except for George and Ringo, who lived in stockbroker Tudor mansions nearby. "What day of the week is it?" he would ask with interest when you rang up.

They saw only each other, driving between houses in their Ferraris and Rolls Royces - all with black windows. ("I'm going to get a bicycle with black windows," said Paul, always better at real life than the others.)

They had swimming pools, but they rarely went outdoors or took any kind of exercise. "Sex is the only kind of exercise I bother with," said Lennon. At two in the morning they might set off for clubs in London. They didn't know day from night; as for mealtimes, they hadn't had those since the early days in Hamburg.

He had everything money could buy but not what he wanted. "Here I am in my Hansel and Gretel house, famous and loaded, and I can't go anywhere. There's something else I'm going to do, only I don't know what it is, but I do know this isn't it for me."

Prophetic words, fulfilled sooner than he might have thought. He'd told me he was reading about religion. "Christianity will go," he said. "It will vanish and shrink
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Kevin

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Re: The John Lennon I knew
« Reply #1 on: March 02, 2008, 03:09:51 PM »

Quote from: 483
Had he been spared, what would a 65-year-old John Lennon be like? What would he make of Sir Paul and Sir Mick? Pretty short work, I should think. Would he, like Sir Cliff, be having the Prime Minister to stay? Not on your life.


Bless her. It makes excellent copy, but she has absolutely no idea. By her own admission she last saw him in 1966. And who could have fortold Ozzy Osbourne becoming a "national treasure" way back in Sabbath's heyday, or Schwarzenger becoming a politician? More myth propogating I think. Boooo.
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don't follow leaders

alexis

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Re: The John Lennon I knew
« Reply #2 on: March 03, 2008, 01:17:03 AM »

I liked reading it!
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I love John,
I love Paul,
And George and Ringo,
I love them all!

Alexis

walrusgumboot

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Re: The John Lennon I knew
« Reply #3 on: March 03, 2008, 08:02:08 PM »

 I seems to me she's adept at playing the "fame by association game"...I don't know if any of you recall Bebop

Deluxe, well I was born over the road from Bill Nelson and as little kids we played together, I grew up with and went to

 school with Rob Bryan...and all these years on " so what"..it doesn't make me any different or more interesting, it's

just something that happened-like Ms Cleave having last seeing John in 1966..wow!!
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JimmyMcCullochFan

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Re: The John Lennon I knew
« Reply #4 on: March 03, 2008, 08:39:14 PM »

^ Charlie Tumahai was the bass player in Bebop Deluxe. He was later in a band called the Dukes with Jimmy McCulloch.

I liked the article, great stuff. I don't agree with her saying that John and Paul wouldn't have made up...they were already starting to when John passed.
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harihead

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Re: The John Lennon I knew
« Reply #5 on: March 06, 2008, 04:56:33 PM »

Great article. Like others have expressed above, I'm not sure her prophetic vision is very prophetic, but it makes for fun reading. :)

John made these comments when he was a young man. I love his interview--help me, on Dick Cavett?--where he says he doubts he'll be playing rock 'n' roll when he's "old and astmatic and 50". Makes me laugh. Were he able to reach 50, I'm sure he'd have a different perspective. "Wow, asthma isn't automatic-- imagine that!" :D (John himself was frightening prophetic about Mick Jagger. In the same interview, he says, "Oh, he'll be doing what he's doing now when he's 65!")

I loved this:

Quote from: 483
Theirs was the fascination of repetitive siblings, the almost sinister attraction of identical quads - how alike they were, how very different.
Yet another theory behind Beatlemania. Here we are, 45 years later, and we still haven't a clue what caused it, just our speculations. I find that delightful.

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All you've got to do is choose love.  That's how I live it now.  I learned a long time ago, I can feed the birds in my garden.  I can't feed them all. -- Ringo Starr, Rolling Stone magazine, May 2007<br />

adamzero

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Re: The John Lennon I knew
« Reply #6 on: March 06, 2008, 07:01:58 PM »

I liked the article.  But I think Lennon would be a horrible old crank--a lot worse than Bob Dylan.  A contrarian for the sake of contrariness.  I doubt he'd be with Yoko.  He'd have found a respectable mother figure/caretaker.  And I'd bet he would have loved the Anthology project (he seems a  collector of sorts) and tinkering with old songs (and trying to get them the way he'd imagined.)  He probably would have loved "Love."

I bet like Dylan he would have made some so-so albums (in the "safe" mode of Double Fantasy) in the 1980s but be semi-retired in the mode of Roger Waters.  I hate to think it, but all that screaming (Twist and shout, etc.) had taken a toll on his voice by the mid-70s.  I'd hate to think of him sounding like Dylan does these days.
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Ligger

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Re: The John Lennon I knew
« Reply #7 on: March 22, 2008, 10:58:03 AM »

Thanks for taking the time to post that article.

What a delightful read.

Each writer's memories helps us to connect the dots about who John was.
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cubanheel

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Re: The John Lennon I knew
« Reply #8 on: August 06, 2008, 09:55:32 PM »

I enjoyed reading it too, and thanks for posting! She has a distinctive writing style, and ok she hadn't seen John since 1966, but still, I haven't EVER met him AT ALL, so she's still got some credence!
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Jane

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Re: The John Lennon I knew
« Reply #9 on: August 07, 2008, 08:06:38 PM »

Yes, interesting article. I have always thought that John was childish, or rather boyish, as he himself said. And I will think over the word "inforgiving". I believe it is right.
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