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October 08, 2010


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I love The Beatles. Always have. Always will. Forever grateful for the music and the memories.



Well, goddang, Glenn, now you got me all choked up, and I'm only 22 years old. I can only imagine the potency that The Beatles must have for those who actually grew up with their music as it was new. I gasped just reading about that white piano.

(I apologize if there's any tone of 'Gosh, you're an old fart!' in what I wrote above. I only mean to convey, in my clumsy way, a sense that 1. The Beatles are still pretty damn magical, even to the children of the Baby Boomers, and 2. That was a real nice piece of writing.)

Stephen Bowie

I'm just now reading the section of Richard Brody's Godard book in which Jean-Pierre Gorin refers to himself as "the Yoko Ono of the cinema," and Brody returns to the metaphor several times. I wonder what Yoko would make of that.

Glenn Kenny

@ Stephen: I can't speak for Yoko, but I'd dare say she'd find the comparison somewhat amusing. She digs Godard, for sure.

@ Fernando: Thank you, and no "old fart" implication taken.

Stephen Whitty

Thanks for this, Glenn.

The absolute fondest memory of my young life was being 7 years old in 1966 and going with my parents on a vacation to Lake George, NY.
They went off with the adult hosts. I was left with the -- both terrifying and exciting -- older children, who were mostly teenagers.

The teens wanted to go out, and weren't going to let babysitting stop them. So they crammed me in the backseat of their green Mustang convertible, and out we went for shakes and burgers, And, or so it seemed, "Yellow Submarine" played constantly.

I loved, LOVED, that song ever since, although my first Beatles album, bought at E.J. Korvettes, was "Abbey Road." And by then the end was near.

Truth told, I will never love any artist more than John Lennon, and one of the things that was so wonderful about him -- and that drives me so crazy about so much of the coverage surrounding him -- is that he contained multitudes.

He could write songs that children could sing, and that sad adults could sing, and that adults at the barricades could sing. (Do NOT start me on the consistent brush-off afforded "Sometime in New York City," which has some terrific music, simply because it's too radical for the current crowd.)

John was many things, and like any artist, whether it's Orwell or Springsteen, the painful thing is to see different sides try to ignore those various, brilliant, uncomfortable angles to say, THIS is who he is. We claim him for US.

John Lennon was nobody's man, exclusively -- not the mop-top crowd, not the power-to-the-people folks, not the let's-all-sing-'Imagine' crowd.

And the best tribute any fan could give him today is actually to look to the specific John Lennon image they were never comfortable with -- pompadoured rocker, street-fighting Marxist, utopian pacifist, pop-song tunesmith -- and embrace it.

Because all of it was as much as part of John as anything else.


Glenn, forgive me if you already know this, but the fellowship you speak of on The Ballad of John & Yoko w/r/t Paul's harmonizing vocals goes even deeper: John and Paul recorded that whole thing without the other two Beatles, and yes that display of camaraderie is something that never fails to move me as well.

Glenn Kenny

@ lazarus: Indeed. The whole rhythm section is Paul; he's playing drums as well as bass. The track really kicks ass...


I figured as much.

Also, despite that fuzzy feeling, it's smug Macca faces like the one in that photo above (disapproving of Yoko?) that make me want to sock him in the jaw from time to time.

Castle Bravo

You know... I would never want to see John at 70.


If you've ever heard the LET IT BE tapes with Yoko singing (sic) along, I'd be at one with Macca too. Great song though.

That Fuzzy Bastard

What I find most frustrating about the Lennon hagiographies is that the real Lennon was so much more interesting (and, for film purposes, dramatic) than the plaster saint of Love that so many want to turn him into. It would be incredibly compelling to see a man so naturally inclined to competition, violence and cruelty trying like hell to be decent.

"I am a violent man who has learned not to be violent and regrets his violence. I will have to be a lot older before I can face in public how I treated women as a youngster."

His whole crusade for peace seems far less naive when one can see that he believed the awful world could be redeemed because he was an awful man who was able to redeem himself, if only fitfully, if only sometimes. I would love to see a movie about a man inclined to beating his girlfriends, sniping at his colleagues, and sinking into a heroin hole, but who's trying, every minute, not to do those things. The Hours And The Times got closer to his casual cruelty, but couldn't really dive into what the corrupting effects of fame did, and therefore couldn't get at the struggle he waged against it; I wish a Lennon movie would. Any idea if "Nowhere Boy" is going to get into that?


"You know... I would never want to see John at 70."

I'm sure he would disagree.

Glenn Kenny

@ bill: Yeah, I know. But the commenter who calls himself Castle Bravo can't help himself. And he's just jealous that he can't drive anyone crazy enough to shoot HIM. The INSIGNIFICANCE of who he is, what he does, just rubs his knit cap the wrong way.

@ Fuzzy: Yes, Lennon could be said to have embodied Dostoevskian contradictions. I'm not sure that cinema has its own Dostoevsky at the moment. Sad to say, my friend who groused about the doc would probably have been better pleased by a flat-out condemnation than by anything that might have properly and fairly conveyed the contradictions.

Castle Bravo

I was standing on the subway yesterday next to somebody reading Catcher In the Rye... never know...

Glenn Kenny

Oh, the good-natured banter!

Somehow I'm reminded of the exchange in Castle's favorite movie, "Raging Bull," when LaMotta's doing his lame standup routine in a strip bar and one of the drunks half-heartedly heckles "Funny man" and LaMotta half-heartedly mumbles back "That's why I'm here." I think I'll step away from the internet and get outside for a while, as it's too nice a morning to be steeped in the faux-bonhomie of perfunctorily-traded not-at-all-entirely-fake insults...

Castle Bravo

Never intended to insult anybody. My point was just that there are certain iconic people who, for some reason, are better left in our consciousness as young and unsullied. That's all. I wasn't knocking Lennon.

That Fuzzy Bastard

Man, a Cassavettes biopic of Lennon would have been somethin' else.

Don R. Lewis

I vividly remember being like, 9 or 10 years old and my mom came into my room to wake me up to tell me John Lennon had been shot and killed. We just cried and cried. Such a sad, sad memory.

Did anyone catch that BBC movie "Lennon Naked" starring Christopher Eccleston as Lennon?? I saw a trailer and it looked as if the film was seeking to show Lennon's darker side. I gotta tarck that flick down...

Stephen Bowie

"...the faux-bonhomie of perfunctorily-traded not-at-all-entirely-fake insults..." Boy, is that a terrific phrase to describe a common style of internet interaction.


Gee, Castle-I don't really think your comment needed any explication. Also, your follow-up quip was even more asinine. Now go get your shinebox....


Man, that single cover pic really says it all.

Fuzzy Bastarrd

@ Don: Hunh---just read the Independent review, and it sounds like exactly what I was thinking. And Eccleston is a great actor for the part... Off to the Torrentmobile!

Chris O.

Another excellent post, Glenn, and I don't have much of substance to add, though I like to think that I'm also "that kind of Beatles fan." I was thinking today how one could even write an essay about his using basically the same line in a fourteen-year span: "Everyone seems to think I'm lazy" from "I'm Only Sleeping" and "People think I'm lazy" from "Watching The Wheels." (Joke's on them, his going five years in between albums is almost SOP for a lot of big acts nowadays.)

And how great of an opening line is "Half of what I say is meaningless" from "Julia," a song that doesn't seem to get as much attention as it should (understandably overshadowed by "Mother")?

Castle Bravo

I suppose people who grew up while Lennon was alive have a much different reaction. He was 5 when I died, so my entire consciousness of him is based around a person frozen in time. Nothing was taken away from me. That's how he's always been.


excellent post Glenn. Seeing the piano and hearing to that phone call must have been an out-of-body experience. holy crap.

Castle Bravo

Did I actually type 'he was 5 when I died?... -- or is Glenn having fun with the editing?...

Glenn Kenny

@ Castle Bravo: No, you typed it. If I ever edit the comments of others, it's to make corrections, not to add errors. I may be a dick, but I'm not a scumbag. Or at least I endeavor not to be.

In any event, I think everybody got the idea. Maybe we should just drop it for now.

Castle Bravo


David N

"Lennon Naked" is intent on showing some other side to Lennon (addiction, daddy issues, cruelty to women, blah blah blah), but its cheap and shoddy and even a little cringe-inducing at times. Too many reconstructions of scenes a Beatles fan will have read about for comfort - the Beatles sit around a conference table at Apple discussing legal matters and Lennon keeps them all laughing with a string of witticisms and put-downs, that first meeting with Yoko, etc.

Eccleston is fine - he has something of the depth and rage to play Lennon - if too old and Mancunian, but the only really worthwhile Beatles film not starring the actual Beatles remains "The Hours & the Times" with Ian Hart fantastic as Lennon.

The only moment in all their catalogue for me that moves me in the same way as those harmonies on "The Ballad of John & Yoko" is when Lennon's harmony kicks in on a verse near the end of "Hey Jude". Great moment.

Tom Carson

I don't mean to add to any embarrassment the author may feel, but "he was five when I died" may be the greatest accidental tribute John will ever get. I think I've made the same mistake in conversation about JFK at least once.

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