Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Come Together: John Lennon in His Time

1984, first edition, from Random House
Jon Wiener
Come Together: John Lennon in His Time
Bought newish for $10.95
Worn paperback with broken spine

Wiener not only writes of how Lennon wanted to bring people together to make a better world, but he tries to bring together all the contradictions of Lennon's complexity.  He points out, for instance, when John is not living up to his (JL's) ideals, but he also looks for reasons why.  If you're bothered by how John treated Cynthia at the time of the divorce, well, so is Wiener, but he's not about the deep-dish gossip like Peter Brown.

Wiener has a good sense of humor.  (Yes, I suppose he'd have to with a last name like that.)  In particular I like when he makes fun of the lack of pop-culture knowledge, and sometimes other knowledge, of the FBI.  Yet there's definitely a serious side to the book, focusing as it does on Lennon's politics, especially from 1966 onward.  The music is discussed, but from a political viewpoint.  (So he's a bit harsh about McCartney's music, although more often he's comparing Lennon to Dylan and Jagger.)  Interestingly, Wiener agrees with Schaffner and others that Some Time in New York City is a weak album.  (I've never heard it though I have Mind Games and some other Lennon solo albums on cassette.)  But he argues that it's not so much that Lennon's politics ruined his music but that Lennon needed to connect the personal with the political, as in "Give Peace a Chance," "Imagine," and "Watching the Wheels."

Speaking of which, I like that Wiener took the time to interview Kate Millett, who provides insights into not just feminism but New York at that time, Japan in the early '60s, John and Yoko separately and together, and the art world.  There's also a nice interview with Yoko at the end.  Some of the photos you've seen elsewhere, but check out the official FBI photo of "John Lennon," actually New York musician David Peel.

Wiener battled the government for over 25 years to get them to release information on the FBI's harassment of Lennon.  (This book was sort of Round One.)  The Reagan administration thought it was a security issue.  But Wiener eventually succeeded, and along the way wrote Gimme Some Truth: The John Lennon FBI Files (2000), which I've never read but would like to.

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