Friday, October 8, 2010

Rhythm, Riots and Revolution

Whatever your take on him (and the more I read the more mixed my opinion becomes) the musical legacy of John Lennon (and fellow Fabbers) is a body of work, that in the coming decades and centuries will be buffed, studied and beard-stroked over by academic experts and amateur enthusiasts alike. The beatification was already underway in the sixties. Fifty years on The Beatles, as an institution, have become so stately they now outrank the Royals. It follows then that their catalogue will, over time, be elevated to the level of historical classics.

Lennon was always a sprinter compared McCartney's marathon stamina and long-distance game play. Bullish at first, buzzing with rough-boy beans and bravado - later throwing himself deeply and completely into any new fashion, fad or thrill. His gang leader looning and mop-top song writing rush were an early creative growth spurt that spluttered and slowed just as Macca's late-onset ascent began to bloom, blossom and focus.

I'm no musicologist or phsycologist but my guess, for what it's worth is - that Lennon's attention deficit drive and fidgety, creative tics inform his signature songwriting style: shifting rhythms and twitchy time signatures,  more than his fractured background. That history gets written in the lyrics and interviews.

Like most heavyweight greats Lennon's life story can be a minefield of hypocrisy, silly mistakes and high irony:an abandoned child who had little to do with his first son, the working class hero in white Rolls Royce, a peace campaigner gunned to death. Whatever your thoughts, angles or arguments on him may be, the best of Lennon is defined by his legacy not his Legend.
Part of me suspects that I'm a loser, and the other part of me thinks I'm God Almighty - John Lennon

 So what's on the 70th birthday playlist ....

(Take 1 fumbles then) Take 2 of an overlooked Fab fave of mine.

An updated take on their trippiest track.

Dr Winston O'Boogie getting two songs from one chord sequence.

Late period Lennon with sort of riffing  contemporary Weller dips into

The Beatles - Tomorrow Never Knows (Leftside Wobble Edit)

I'll leave the last word to Lennon - with a poppermost quote on Beatlemania at 20 seconds in

Thanks to all at the Unfinished Lennon site for helping locate the above clip and quote


EXPO67 said...

I can remember the day I heard that John Lennon had been murdered by that fuckin' American weirdo freak.
I was on the bus going to school that morning and for once the whole bus was quiet. Every kid was just so stunned at the bad news.

That evening the TV schedule was re-arranged to show a Beatles film. I believe it was 'Hard Days Night'

Can't believe it's 30 years ago!!

drew said...

Sorry Mondo, the loveable mop tops do nothing for me and never have.

I remember the day he died vaguely, it had no impact on me or any of my mates if i remember correctly.

Can more vividly remember Elvis dying as my dad's colonial cousins were over on holiday and staying with us. As I remember there was much wailing and nashing of teeth.

Five-Centres said...

I'm no Lennon fan I'm afraid,. My favourite solo Beatle is Ringo.

John Medd said...

There's always been something about Lennon that gives me a thrill (even to this day) when I see old footage of him or hear old interviews/press conferences. Of course dying didn't do his reputation any harm whatsoever; he never got old, he never got (too) embarassing and, more importantly, he never turned into Paul McCartney.

Mondo said...

I remember being sleepy and stunned Expo - as mum had woken me up to share the breaking news. DLT was on the radio and seemed shell-shocked and lost for words

Elvis, was another blow Drew - I was at my aunt's hairdressers in Salisbury, but a different sort of shock. At that age Elvis seemed more omnipresent and immortal than The Beatles

I'm more of a Macca fan than Lennon FC, and if anything get riled with the myth of him as: a poster boy for peace, revered as a drug induced mystic and seemingly to have the better rep for his catalogue over McCartney. Don't get me started on Allen Klein, Phil Spector and Yoko. However, having said that, at his best - the songs, attitude, voice and interviews crackle with magic.

That's it J, when he's on form, he's on fire...

Mondo said...

PS the R, R & R title is taken from this sixties Christian Crusader publication on The Fabs and assorted rockers as a corruptive influence on the youth of America

Cusp said...

Well as you say the beatification started early on. Maybe it's that quirkiness that appeals. I know someone who is absolutely besotted and who has a son whose middle name is Lennon. Don't really get it myself but at least he had an honesty about him ..warts and all. Not sure you get that with Macca...too aware of his image and being seen to be nice.

Loved Beatles when I was little: great memories of going in my friend's Dad's VDub to see Hard Days Night at Odeon, fancy dress in 'Beatles jacket' my Gran had made, being allowed to stay up and watch Magical Mystery Tour :O)

Matthew Rudd said...

I can't make my mind up. I loathe the majority of his solo work - Imagine makes my teeth itch - and yet can't work out whether the brilliant immortality of his 60s canon outweighs the slapdash, tedious stuff he produced in the 1970s. Oddly, two songs of his I do like were from Double Fantasy (Woman and Watching The Wheels), so maybe he was on the verge of doing it "properly" again and re-focussing for the 1980s before Chapman intervened. I also love Jealous Guy, irrespective of the shitnesses he committed to inspire the song in the first place. But that's about it.

I once got accused of being disingenuous when I suggested that Lennon wasn't that popular when he copped it, on the grounds that (Just Like) Starting Over had only scraped the Top 10 in the UK and was well down the charts on the day he was shot, and that if Imagine really had been any good, it would have done a lot better in 1975 when it was first issued. Now it's every lazy twat's and tacky poll compiler's favourite song ever ever ever. Well, bollocks. They only think it's good because Lennon is dead now. I stand by that opinion. At least Bohemian Rhapsody got to No.1 when it was first released.

I loved it when EMF caused Yoko Ono to throw a wobbler and threaten lawyers on to a bunch of yobbish leapers from the Forest of Dean. I found that really funny.

My parents liked the Beatles without going mad for them, and that's the opinion I take too. I own everything they've ever recorded but as much because I feel I have to as want to. My favourite is the medley that takes Golden Slumbers into Carry That Weight and In The End.

Mondo said...

Very true Cusp, a couple of weeks agoI was speaking a mate who worked for Record Mirror, he said Linda was a darling, but trying to get to the real Paul was like nailing Jelly to a wall. Didn't help that he knocked a coke over Macca's lap, when they first met though.

With you all the way Matt, for all the soppy-songs stick McCartney gets compare his and Lennon's 70s output. Most of the Macca albums are worth grabbing. Lennon's greatest hits will do you (and several of those have had the life played ou of them). Although Walls and Bridges is worth bagging. Oh, and that Abbey Road run genius in widescreen

Cocktails said...

Lennon is a very complex man. Very talented and very annoying!

Have you seen Harry Enfield and Paul Whitehouse's 'eldery Beatles' take? I'm not sure what to think. On the one hand it's clever, on the other mortifyingly unfunny... probably more the latter really!

davy h said...

Two books are really good eye-openers on the real person behind the myth - his half-sister Julia Baird's 'Imagine This' and poor old Cynthia's 'John', which is excruciating on the appalling way he treated her and Julian.

I'd take 'In My Life' and 'Girl' anytime, anywhere mind.

davy h said...

Sorry, I meant to say the Julia Baird book is a revelation re. the kind big brother John you never hear about.

Simon said...

For Sale, The White Album, Revolver and Rubber Soul. Chuck in some of the singles a's and b's from 65/66 peak and that's my lot really. I never got over sharing the same surname as this particular moptop. Started a brand new school that winter when he was killed. That was it for me for a lot of my school days. Having those songs sung at you as a pisstake can put you off them.

Mondo said...

No never seen it Cocktails (or that bloke who does youtube skits) - but that seems
to be the way of the heaviest hitters Lennon, Sinatra - I think Elvis is the only one
I've read (Guralnik books) about and felt sorry for.

Haven't read either Davy, (but plan to now) sometimes it's the offstage takes that
are most revealing. Michael Braun's Love Me Do and the Cavern section in Lemmy's
biog (more on that later) are well worth checking.. Ray Coleman biog, fair wound me
up. Probably because Lennon had the hot and cold personality swings of a boss of
mine at the time. Songwise A Day In the Life, Walrus, I'm a Loser, Spoil The Party,
In My Life - gems all

And Hard Day's Night album Simon surely - it's a Beatle-belter

drew said...

The Elvis Guralnick books are great and so was Sweet Soul Music

Valentine Suicide said...

That top picture looks like Piley...erm I mean Blakey.. off on the buses?

Mondo said...

*puts Sweet Soul Music in Amazon basket*

Oi Butler, get that Magical Mystery Tour out

Cocktails said...

Those Elvis books by Peter Guralnick are the best music bio's I've ever read. And you're right, they are unique in that you don't come out feeling completely contemptuous of the man (unlike a not insubstantial number of other music 'characters' around!). I've been meaning to read Sweet Soul Music too.

And don't bother with Harry and Paul - you're not missing much...

gordy said...

great blog.......thought you might like this

Mondo said...

This, is well worth adding to your Elvis library if you haven't Cocktails..and while you're at it - the Bokris Keef biog, is worth bunging in your Amazon basket

Cheers Gordy love those Cartoon Beatles

gordy said...

Piley said...

Lennon always was my favourite Beatle. Loved his solo career in parts, but always found it a bumpy ride. For someone who was such a great Rock n Roller, his solo stuff could often cross the tracks into self indulgent twaddle (I've always assumed this was the Yoko influence, and even if it wasn't, I'd prefer to carry on thinking that). Yet even a patchy album, would have more gold on it that anyone elses, and once CDs came along, forwarding a track here and there became a breeze! How about towards the end when Yoko used to get a go every other track?? Yikes!


chocolategirl64 said...

the beatles were the soundtrack to my youth:
the first film I remember seeing was yellow submarine:
when I first heard #9 dream, walls & bridges I cried:love him or hate him, I'm firmly Lennon:
{yes I like Yoko for her sentiments not her singing, which was once described by a friend ~ 'she sounds like she's got her tits caught in a mangle'}
there's a complexity to both and I think they recognised it in each other:
'but I'm not the only one':
loved revisiting the Imagine video:
that simple tune with a run of chords like a grade one piano piece:

Mondo said...

I'm with you both - there is some real magic to be found in the Lennon's solo output(perhaps not as much as Macca's, but it's there). And as you say Number Nine Dream, Look At Me, Mind Games.

Bang on Choco Walls and Bridges is head and shoulders above his other seventies albums.

Ps I'll show you my Yoko signed poster when you're round next.