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Memories of John Lennon


Memories of John Lennon

edited by Yoko Ono

You might think that after reading 73 intimate descriptions of a
man, you'd know him better. The outer person would be stripped
away, the inner man revealed. In the case of this carefully
sculpted compendium about the outrageously and justifiably famous
John Lennon, you'll be left with your cherished memories and your
carefully guarded biases intact. But you'll have a good read for
your money.

John Lennon was a musical and lyrical genius who had the great
fortune of colliding with the one other of his own kind on Planet
Earth, the lordly Paul McCartney. In their musical prime as half of
the Beatles, they synthesized a sound that is classic and
unforgettable, tunes and word poems that have already happily
survived into another century.

Many of the people who write about Lennon in this collection are
unsparing in their praise and positive in their comments. Pete
Townshend, arguably as grand an old man as Lennon might have
become, calls him "a genius touched by some revelation." Billy
Preston noted that "he had the great gift to teach, and he was most
generous with it." Music historian Philip Norman notes, "he's
become a secular saint, which of course he would have thought

Some of the "memories" come from people with questionable
Lennonesque qualifications. Why, for instance, must we endure a
one-sentence offering from Norman Mailer that could have been
written by almost anyone? Some of the submissions, embarrassingly,
are from sycophantic fellow travelers anxious to demonstrate that
they taught the great man something, or that he adulated their
accomplishments. Jerry Lee Lewis recounts that Lennon kissed his
boots and murmured, "Thanks, Killer, for showing me rock 'n' roll."
While possibly true, the anecdote seems to belong somewhere

The most nitty gritty recollections come, not surprisingly, from
those whose persona rarely made it to the front pages, but who
worked with Lennon over a long period, like media advisor Elliot
Mintz, who accompanied John through "the lost weekend" on the West
Coast when he and Yoko had broken up temporarily. (Mintz, it should
be noted, has a slightly different version of the Jerry Lee Lewis
boot story.) He was close to both Lennon and Ono, and concludes,
"You can't get a handle on Lennon."

The photographs offer as much enlightenment as the text. Whether
the photographer was Julie Gold, Bob Gruen or Annie Liebovitz, the
images tell a consistent story. Lennon had a strong sensitive face,
a penchant for macho gear, and he and Yoko looked like identical
twins, often snapped wearing the same glasses, similar (or no)
clothes, or having mocked up the same hairstyle (perhaps some of
these were Yoko's artistic conceits). Looking at Lennon, and
recalling that he died at a time when most professional people are
just hitting their stride, it's difficult not to feel a tug of
sadness for having missed what might have come after his pointless

Yoko's central contribution to the book is a story about what it
felt like to be unpopular when she and John were together,
cementing the general impression that she was disliked for causing
the breakup of the Beatles and that this negativity bled over into
chic New York society and went on pinching long after the
celebrated Beatle divorce.

Absent from the proceedings are words from those former cut-ups,
Paul and Ringo, though they are mentioned in passing by observers
of John's rollicking ride through life.

There's no need recommending this book. Those of you who are hooked
on the Beatles, who have your favorite Lennon songs ("Imagine"
being the one referenced most often in this tome), and who won't
let the sweet dream die, will rush to buy it.  And there are
plenty of you out there.

Elliot Mintz put it nicely: "I was blessed to have spent the time
with him I did and wish you could have done the same. But if the
truth be told, you were never that far away."

Reviewed by Barbara Bamberger Scott on January 7, 2011

Memories of John Lennon
edited by Yoko Ono

  • Publication Date: October 1, 2006
  • Genres: Nonfiction
  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: It Books
  • ISBN-10: 006059456X
  • ISBN-13: 9780060594565