By: Luke Crampton
Publication Date: November 2009
Reviewed by: Deb Fowler
Review Date: July 2010
A child who has been abandoned at the tender age of two and subsequently dumped on his Aunt Mary and Uncle George would most likely be facing a rocky future at best. His beloved uncle passed away when he was fifteen and his mother, who did visit now and then, was struck down by a car and died. With a life seemingly filled with tragedy, his future may have seemed bleak, but there was something about John’s innate creativity and drive that would pick him up by his bootstraps and ultimately propel him to meteoritic heights in the world of music. John Winston Lennon was that young man and most of us know the rest of the story.
A pensive young Lennon peers directly into the camera as The Quarry Men skiffle Group performs at a church function in Liverpool. The young man exudes an aura of confidence, a confidence that went far beyond his years. He was sixteen and soon would meet fifteen-year-old Paul McCartney, an impressive young man who would soon be asked to join the group. It was a fortuitous beginning to “a friendship and songwriting partnership which [would] evolve into the formation of The Beatles.” (pg. 26) A few short years later The Beatles performed at the Indra Club in Hamburg, West Germany. A few months later in February of 1961 they made their debut at the Cavern Club in London. They earned five pounds for their efforts, but it was only the beginning of their “popular lunchtime gigs,” a mere portent of their explosive popularity just over the horizon.
As The Beatles popularity began to rise they sought out recording contracts to little avail until meeting with George Martin, an English record producer, who bluntly recalled for the annals of history that, “They were pretty awful. I understand why other record companies turned them down—but when I met them, I liked them.” (pg. 30) On Sunday, February 9, 1964 Ed Sullivan introduced them to the world. It was the beginning of a love relationship with the group that has remained unabated to this day with young people “rediscovering” their music, music that was never forgotten.
This astounding Taschen photobiography dwells little on the well known aspects of The Beatles, but rather chooses to follow Lennon’s personal life with Yoko Ono, a “Japanese conceptual artiste” he met in 1966. The gorgeous, touching art photography captures their life and love for one another in photographs seldom seen or even acknowledged by those who blamed her for the breakup of the band. John Winston Lennon and Yoko Ono swirl through these pages in photographs that bring memories of their life together in a touching and beautiful manner. The love, the down times, the music, the art, the peace activism, and their children are all there.
One might expect that a book simply entitled, Lennon would have scores of photographs depicting John Lennon’s work and times with The Beatles, but instead the authors chose to paint a portrait of his personal life. It was a life he chose to share with the woman of his dreams (not that of anyone else), Yoko Ono. As High Fidelity magazine once quipped, “”The Ono-Lennon marriage brings together one of the most extraordinary representatives of popular culture in the history of the world. The results are sometimes puzzling and sometimes frustrating, but almost always provocative.” (pg. 90) This astounding book will surprise the reader with its photographic portrayal of Lennon’s life. Its beauty and message are one that he most likely would have wanted to show the world. The text is in English, French, and German. The back matter has a listing of essential recordings, a bibliography, an awards and chart history. Taschen has given us a glimpse into Lennon’s life, a vision we can only imagine he would have wanted us to see.
Quill says: All those who adored John Lennon and want to know more about his life with Yoko Ono will be taken aback with the breadth of material just waiting to be discovered in this amazing portrait of their lives and their love.