Friday, January 18, 2013

John Lennon In My Life

1983, undated (but probably that year) McGraw-Hill edition
Pete Shotton and Nicholas Schaffner
John Lennon In My Life
Original price $14.95, purchase price $9.50
Worn paperback

Shotton was Lennon's best friend for many years, to the point that John called them "Shennon and Lotton."  Schaffner of course is one of the best writers on the Beatles.  Yet, I feel like this book is less than the sum of its parts.  The parts that I suspect are Schaffner's contributions feel like a replay of Beatles Forever and British Invasion.  They don't blend very smoothly with Shotton's memories of his best mate.  This book is very definitely a reaction to tell-all books, and the slighting references to Peter Brown (whom Shotton worked with while running Apple out of a closet) suggest that either Brown's book had come out at that point, or Shotton was at least aware it was going to be published soon.  It is itself a "no trousers" book (sometimes literally, as in the chapters where the two friends would masturbate or have sex with women in the same room), but a much less vicious one.  For instance, Shotton minimises the heroin usage that Brown plays up, both shortening the length of John's experience with the drug and the impact it had on him.  It's clear that Yoko couldn't stand Pete, perhaps out of jealousy and/or insecurity, but he's more sympathetic to her than many writers.

I'm finding in reading so many books that discuss John Lennon that I'm not sure what to make of him anymore.  At 12, when he died, I thought he was just another dead stoner rock star, although dead by a shooting rather than drugs.  (Somehow I didn't quite connect him with the Beatles, or I had a lower opinion of him as a solo artist.)  Then at 16 or 17 I hero-worshiped him because of his pacifism.  Now I see that he was a pacifist, but violent at different points in his life, including his "Lost Weekend."  Under Yoko's tutelage, he became a sensitive feminist, but he never completely shook off his sexist "Northern" upbringing.  (Neither did the other Beatles of course.)  And so on, including with the different sides of his music.  The cover of this book symbolises the paradox he was, since the back-cover is a mirror image of the front, down to the title and authors.  Perhaps having coauthors is appropriate after all, even if, as with John himself, the sides never quite balance.

Two more views of Lennon, the emotional and the political, are coming up shortly, with John Lennon: For the Record (his Penthouse interview from 1971, but not published till '84), and Come Together.

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