Friday, March 29, 2013

The John Lennon Letters

The John Lennon Letters
Antonio G. Pereira © 2013 Antonio G. Pereira

        The John Lennon Letters. Edited And With An Introduction by Hunter Davies. Published by Little Brown and Company. New York. Yes folks, that's the same Hunter Davies who wrote the only authorized Beatles biography, that was originally published in the Fall of 1968. What we have here is a fascinating look at John Lennon's life through his written and typewritten correspondence with people during his lifetime. For example, from the first time I saw it in Ray Coleman's 'Lennon' biography, I was mystified by the illustration that John Lennon drew in his first Christmas Card to Cynthia Powell in 1958, of the two of them together; which is reproduced in The John Lennon Letters. Their appearance of dress and hair, resembles what they would look like circa 1967/68. The problem with this book, good as it is, is that it's not a complete picture; and therein lies it's major flaw. I find it a little odd, (or maybe questionable is a better word) that there are no letters in this book with Dick Gregory, Ron Dellums (who by the way, John is quoting in letter 167 in Part Fifteen, from a statement he read on The Dick Cavett Show {see the DVD 'Lennon NYC', or the book, 'Come Together' by Jon Wiener, Chapter 19 pages 214-215}), or anyone from Motown (Photographs do exist of The Beatles and Brian Epstein posing with The Motortown Revue. {Need I mention the mutual influences of Motown and The Beatles on each other?} I remember seeing a full page black and white photograph {taken circa 1966? - this is of course apart from the photos of Beatles and Epstein visiting with Berry Gordy and his family  } in what must have been a limited edition giant Motown Songbook, in The Musique Boutique on Broadway near Columbus Circle; in the late '70s or early '80s. This store may have been a relation to The Musique Boutique that existed near Picadilly Circus in London during the early 1970s. This was a music bookstore that carried rare and hard to find UK versions of Rock and Soul music books.) or surprisingly, Clara Hale (The late Gil Noble, who had a long running Public Affairs program on the Channel 7 ABC Network, here in New York that ran for decades named, 'Like It Is', and on which Gil interviewed an International array of guests from every continent on the planet {Who can forget Gil airing the footage of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in one of his last speeches, speaking to an audience here in New York at Riverside Church, about why he was against The War In Vietnam. And not only giving an accurate and detailed history of The United States involvement in that country, but with an unsettling Soothsayer's Vision, predicting the final outcome of the war.}, conducted a fascinating interview with Clara Hale {who started Hale House in Harlem}. This was in the early 1980s, and took place around the time that HUAC and McCarthy participant and devotee, "I hope they all get botulism" Ron, and 'Just Say No', 'Stop The Madness' Nancy, Reagan, tried to recognize 'the coloured woman who started the place for drug addicted babies', and co-opt Hale House into their agenda. During the interview on 'Like It Is', which was after this recent obvious co-opt attempt had taken place on television, Clara Hale mentioned in passing to Gil Noble that 'John and Yoko had not only been donating money to Hale House for a long time, but used to come up to visit often; long before Ron and Nancy were in the White House.) The Letters to Derek Taylor (Part Twenty) are mostly hysterically funny and loaded with puns, although with the occasional racial crack at Jews or Blacks or (technically in one sentence), the jap/anesque version of Taylor's autobiography (a throwback to ye olde english humour when Britain had an {don't laugh} EMPIRE?). Interesting that it's in this section and to Derek Taylor in particular, that Lennon lets loose with these type of asides, as in his (sort of) 1973 autobiography, As Time Goes By', in Part 20 London 1969, Derek Taylor who otherwise wrote quite an informative and interesting book, makes quite a blatantly (unless of course, he was paraphrasing someone else?) racist remark referring to blacks. {As well as being intellectually presumptuous, this all access to informational dissemination, while being 'oh so convincing', type of reconfigured for the 1980s Reagan/Bush/Thatcher/MTV AngloAmerican Transatlantic mentality, that spawned progeny like the SGT. Pepper: It Was Twenty Years Ago Today documentary (Although interestingly, it is Abbie Hoffman who hints at the fact that there are voices missing in this self-congratulatory ITV documentary), and the amateurish and calculated accompanying book, by the way, being prime examples of uneasily (and knowing it while you're doing it) half-telling a very uncomfortable and intricately more complicated historical story of the 1960s; and avoiding the fact that you're looking through a transparent glass, and can see people on the other side. Now what do you think they see from their side? Do you think you should go find out? mmmm.... Do you think maybe this book might help?: 'A Pictorial History of the Negro in America' -revised edition- by Langston Hughes & Milton Meltzer - Published by Crown Publishers, Inc., New York} But to give Derek his due (he was smart and savvy enough to take complete advantage of the British Invasion {thanks to The Beatles, and of course Brian Epstein hiring him in the first place}   while being British was in season here in the U.S.), he wrote some pretty decent liner notes for Billy Preston's first solo album on Apple Records, 'That's The Way God Planned It' (albeit while strangely avoiding mention of Preston's direct connection with The Beatles through Little Richard, when they were Little Richard's opening act in Hamburg in 1962   {see Billy's reminiscence in the book, 'Memories Of John Lennon' - Published by HarperCollins - Pages 219-220}). It's worth mentioning while we're on this subject, that loaded mother of a photo of The Beatles with journalist Larry Kane, taken during the 1965 American Tour. Placed historically in and quite appropriately, Chicago (already witness to, and as the '60s wore on {see The World Book Encyclopedia Yearbooks - 1964 through 1969 Published by Field Enterprises Educational Corporation, Chicago Illinois}, some of the worst racial hatred and flagrant abuse of Civil Liberties experienced in the United States), John is holding up to the camera, the current issue of Ebony Magazine he had been reading with the cover headline, 'The White Problem in America'; which you will find reproduced in the accompanying DVD to Larry Kane's book, 'Lennon Revealed', and at this remarkable blog In Part Sixteen of The John Lennon Letters, it's really good to see John's very accurate response to rather obnoxious remarks made by Todd Rundgren in a Melody Maker interview. Todd, a very professional but mostly derivative songwriter, gets put in his place permanently. (See the very revealing 1998 interview, "Todd Rundgren: Go Ahead, Ignore Me!" Go to the Internet Archive  Type  into the Wayback Machine Click Browse History and choose 2010) Since the publication of Cynthia Lennon's 2nd autobiography, 'John', and then May Pang's book, 'Instamatic Karma', now that The John Lennon Letters has published correspondence from this era, there seems to be a grey area situation where you have to make up your own mind. One thing becomes clear in this book however, John was always very generous financially, to his relatives. It's touching to read the story in Part Fourteen, of the letter John wrote to musician Steve Tilston. (This story was first printed in the Aug. 16th, 2010 edition of the British newspaper The Telegraph, under the heading 'John Lennon letter to aspiring Folk Singer received nearly four decades later'. Though the reproductions of the photographs that begin each part of the book, and the letters, are excellent and beautifully done, (the simple design of the book itself is gorgeous) there is a very careless picture research mistake made at the beginning of Part Six; using an obvious photo of John by a pool in L.A. in 1973 (that is from a series of photos taken for the cover story of the interview he gave to Crawdaddy for their March 1974 issue) and attempting to pass it off as Lennon at home in Kenwood in the late '60s. A similar careless picture research job was done in The Beatles Anthology book, in the beginning chapter on John Lennon, attempting to pass off a photo of a teenage John with either a relation or one of his Aunt Mimi's borders, as John with his Uncle George. The only authentic picture of a very young John Lennon with his Uncle George, is the one in Chapter 1 of the companion book to David L. Wolper's film, 'Imagine: John Lennon'; and it is a moving photograph to see. Overall though, The John Lennon Letters is a remarkable book, sure to make quite a lot of people the world over, very happy; for in it, we get a pretty good snapshot of the life of someone who meant so much and continues to have meaning to so many.

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