- John Winston Lennon. Vol. I: 1940-1966 by Ray Coleman
Sidgwick, 288 pp, £9.95, June 1984, ISBN 0 283 98942 4
- John Ono Lennon. Vol. II: 1967-1980 by Ray Coleman
Sidgwick, 344 pp, £9.95, November 1984, ISBN 0 283 99082 1
- BuyJohn Lennon, Summer of 1980 by Yoko Ono
Chatto, 111 pp, £4.95, June 1984, ISBN 0 7011 3931 5
We already know the story. A lad from Liverpool seized black rhythm and blues and transformed it. The sound that white America found too funky for its clean earlobes was re-synthesised by the Beatles and ricocheted out of Matthew Street and the Reeperbahn to recapture Teensville USA. J.W. Lennon, grammar-school dissident and art-school yobbo, used the idiom of rock and roll to charm London into cultural submission, drive Britain half-crazy with excitement and enchant the world. But then saw through the corporate pantomime and, with Yoko Ono, turned the tables on his prodigious fame, discovered Art and Politics and mixed them with feminism to become, in a swift series of transmogrifications, a cynic who spoke for Utopian socialism, a roughneck who pleaded for peace, an anti-sexist sex symbol and an advocate of the one male role never mentioned in rock and roll – that of father. Self-exiled in a country which idolised him without beginning to understand his talent, he was treated to that great nation’s highest reward for achievement – assassination. Sic transit gloria mundi. Or, as the motto of the Quarry Bank Boys Grammar School put it, ‘Out of this rock, you will find truth.’
The full text of this book review is only available to subscribers of the London Review of Books.