October 3, 2005

"The impossibly wild, angry, infuriating, talented, cruel, funny, magnetic young rebel who would love and torment her and eventually cast her aside."

That would be John Lennon, according to this WaPo article on the occasion of Cynthia Lennon's hot new memoir:
In the standard accounts of the Beatles' rise, she's usually written off as the impressionable and clueless young thing who ensnared John in marriage after getting pregnant. Her own version is very different: They were young and madly in love and good for each other until fame, drugs and a bizarro performance artist named Yoko Ono swept him away. In person she has survivor's radar and a sweet, knowing demeanor that seems anything but clueless....

Her portrait of John is loving but candid. There are some fond moments: the scene of the boys dressed in black suits, like undertakers, at the wedding is hilarious, and John's joy at seeing his baby son Julian for the first time is heartwarming. But he could be vindictive, controlling, cynical and egocentric, she says. He insisted that she dye her hair blond to look like Brigitte Bardot and became furious when she cut it too short. Later on he bullied her into taking LSD even though it made her sick.

Then, as the madness of Beatlemania overtook him, he shut her out altogether. He hit her only once, she says, in a jealous rage early on after she danced with his best friend, Stuart Sutcliffe. It took him three months to apologize, and it never happened again. But the verbal abuse, the mocking and the demands never ceased, she says, although she confesses that she was far too passive and forgiving, inevitably shying away from confrontation for fear of losing him....

One living person who won't care for Cynthia's account is Yoko, who comes across as manipulative and vindictive or just plain oblivious. The book will confirm every Beatles fanatic's worst image of the woman many still blame for breaking up the world's favorite band.

Yoko changed John, made him fragile and precious and needy, cut him off from family and friends, according to Cynthia's version. "He was a different man when he was with me -- much more gregarious and all encompassing. John was never really precious when I knew him, never fragile."
I'd much rather hear this version of John than the saccharine pop culture John, the one that plays with the soundtrack "Imagine."

8 comments:

Mark Daniels said...

Her version of Lennon seems plausible and much more like I think he was than he's often portrayed.

I read once years ago though, that Cynthia Lennon knew she had lost John to Yoko Ono the moment that she met her. The connection to what Lennon deemed "artistic" in her personality created one of the bonds he had to Ono.

The notion that Yoko Ono broke up the Beatles is absurd, of course. The clash of hyper-inflamed egos is what brought on the demise of the band. Ono may have encouraged Lennon's egotism, always present. But other sycophants and loved ones encouraged him and the other members of the band in thinking themselves "all that," as well.

XWL said...

The old saying "Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned" should be appended to state "Hell hath no fury, and publishers hath no better friend, like a woman scorned"

aidan maconachy said...

A little aside here with a Dylan post re his presumed "right wingedness".

Just found out that he hung with Sean Penn for six months and is George Galloway's main pop icon!

So there.

As for John Lennon - I never rated him - or the Beatles for that matter. I found his life and antics sad and ridiculous.

Have a nice evening :)

Ann Althouse said...

Aidan: Neither of those facts is inconsistent with the actual point I made.

miklos rosza said...

I know someone who has met and had dinner with Sean. He found him to be agreeable, but was surprised that he seemed to have absolutely no sympathy for his disinherited half-brother Julian.

Maybe something has changed, but from what I know Julian got a very raw deal. It's pretty rough when your father was worth hundreds of millions of dollars and left you not one cent.

Common decency might seem to call for some sharing, maybe just a few million, but Yoko (and Sean, to the extent he's an independent agent) did not see it this way last I heard.

I'm happy to be corrected if I'm wrong.

aidan maconachy said...

Ann - I responded in kind with my post in the "More on the right wing meme" thread.

I got the info about Penn and Galloway at Harry's Place and thought it was kind of amusing.

Are you a John Lennon fan also? If so, what direction do you think his inner political compass was pointing?

Ann Althouse said...

Aidan: Of course, I'm a John Lennon fan. I think he was at his best when he wasn't political, when he wrote about love, art, himself, and spirituality. He dabbled in politics and others tried to pull him in, but it didn't really serve him well. Like most artists, when he spoke of actual political positions he chose the left, but he produced his best art and had his best chance at greatness when he turned away from politics. I think he was more interested in the personal and psychological, and that's where his best songs are. If he could have broken from the lefty politics that dragged him down, he would have been a greater artist.

knoxgirl said...

Yeah, a musician being leftist and a hippy back then (or now, for that matter) was conformist, not rebellious. Hardly creative or "outside of the box" thinking, not inducive to good artistic expression.