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The Lives of John Lennon
12 May 2010
12.11pm
skye
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I borrowed this book from the library, and one chapter in, I'm not sure what to make of it. It starts with A Day In The Life of househusband John. And maybe I am a bigger John fan girl than I thought, and maybe when the cameras were gone, he handed Sean back to the prop departmant, but Goldman's John doesn't add up to the bits I've read and heard.

Anyone know of a reliable source on this time of his life? This time period is uncharted territory for me.

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12 May 2010
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Joe
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There's been a lot of controversy about the reliability of Albert Goldman's books. I think he did some thorough research, but spoke predominantly to people who has a particular axe to grind. I'm pretty sure Goldman approached the project by always intending to sling as much mud as he could.

Yoko Ono once said she wouldn't sue Goldman as it would have been a negative focus of energy (a typical Yoko response), though I guess the lingering suspicion remains that there's a basis of truth in what he says. I'd have thought there was certainly enough in there to cobble together a defamation lawsuit.

It's been so long since I read the book that I can't remember many of the details, but I do recall he wrote some quite interesting stuff on Lennon's drug use, particularly the acid years, and was the first to mention the recurring 'three blind mice' descending melodies in Lennon's music (eg "Love, love, love"; "we all shine on"). I'm glad I read it, as it was fascinating, even though the veracity of his claims is unclear.

IIRC his primary sources included Fred Seaman, the Lennons' assistant who was (I think) convicted of stealing Lennon's diaries from the Dakota after his death. Seaman himself wrote a book, which I think is out of print now. I haven't read it.

As for reliable sources for the later years… I think it's still unclear how much of that time constituted a public image, and how much of the hidden stuff leaked out. I've heard it said that Jack Douglas (producer of Double Fantasy) though John and Yoko were on the verge of divorce, and separately that the couple never truly kicked their heroin habits during the 1970s. John's interview with David Sheff for Playboy in 1980 will give you the PR version, which may or may not be the true picture. Of course, plenty of people have a private life that's different to what they reveal in public, and if John hadn't died in 1980 his probably wouldn't be discussed. I think Philip Norman's recent biog has sections on the later years, though I haven't bothered to read it yet.

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12 May 2010
3.15pm
Zig
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skye said:

I borrowed this book from the library, and one chapter in, I'm not sure what to make of it. It starts with A Day In The Life of househusband John. And maybe I am a bigger John fan girl than I thought, and maybe when the cameras were gone, he handed Sean back to the prop departmant, but Goldman's John doesn't add up to the bits I've read and heard.

Anyone know of a reliable source on this time of his life? This time period is uncharted territory for me.


 
Your question prompted me to Google the book. I read some reader reviews (which I always take with a grain of salt) and they were all over the place. Some loved it, some hated it. I didn't read all reviews but got the sense that most who hated it refused to believe what they were reading because it further tarnished the image of an idol.
I don't know who your TV provider (cable/satellite) is in Arizona, but my provider carries VH1 Classic. They have a recurring "Behind the Music" episode featuring the last years of John Lennon. It's only an hour long and left me wanting more, but featured a little of the good, the bad and the ugly – including what Joe mentioned above about the friction between John and Yoko in the studio. If you can find it, it's worth watching.

I think finding a "reliable source on this time of his life" will be difficult - we never know if any author of any biography has any hidden agendas. All I ever do is read, listen or watch the info that interests me and live with my own opinions of them.

Having said all of that, each individual Beatle may have been a saint or a bastard or a combination of both. But I have grown fond of all four as though they were my brothers. A brother may disappoint you from time to time, but at the end of the day he's still your brother.

To the fountain of perpetual mirth, Let it roll for all its worth.

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12 May 2010
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PeterWeatherby
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I'm still a big fan of Norman's book, even though I know he gets accused of being a little too pro-John at times.  I'm re-reading through it again (haven't read it since 2008), and have been posting snippets of it at my blog; I'll let you know when I get to the post-Beatles section.  I know Norman covers the "primal scream therapy" years, but I don't remember if he covers that entire period from 1970-1980.  Still – a decent book, I thought, which brings out some of the "hidden" tender side of John, but also doesn't sugar coat the bitterness that was undeniably there.

Not a bit like Cagney.
12 May 2010
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McLerristarr
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From Wikipedia ("The Lives of John Lennon"):

Criticism

Lennon's widow Yoko Ono threatened to sue for libel, claiming the book made her briefly consider suicide[13], but never pursued any legal action, later explaining that she wanted to maintain a positive attitude and that her lawyers had advised her a civil action would only draw more attention to the book.[14]

Lennon's first wife Cynthia Lennon denounced the book, stating "Every single person was annihilated. My mother was called a bulldog and a domineering woman, which was nothing—nothing—like my mother. And he called me a spaniel. I thought, I'd rather be a spaniel than a Rottweiler, which is what he was." [2]

Despite Goldman's praise of him in the book, Paul McCartney did not return the favour, and condemned Goldman's account of his old bandmate, telling fans and the press "Look, don't buy it." Singer-songwriter Harry Nilsson, whose friendship with Lennon peaked during his 1974 separation from Ono, told Rolling Stone that Goldman "got me drunk" while interviewing him, probing Nilsson for "dirt" about Lennon, and Nilsson would not cooperate. (Nilsson gets a chapter in the book, "Harry the Hustler", which credits him with having better confidence-man skills than singing talent.)

In Ray Coleman's Lennon: The Definitive Biography, there appears the following quote from The Beatles' record producer George Martin: "I think it is iniquitous that people can libel the dead. If John was alive, that book would not have come out. It is largely untrue, but, sadly, if mud is thrown it tends to stick." Martin also labeled the book as "codswallop".[15]

Other celebrities who'd known Lennon personally, including Geraldo Rivera and Tom Snyder, largely expressed an attitude of "Interesting story—who's it about? That's not the man I knew."

The October 20, 1988 issue of Rolling Stone lambasted the book in a lengthy and extensively-researched article by David Fricke and Jeffrey Ressner, "Imaginary Lennon". The reviewers described the book as "riddled with factual inaccuracies, embroidered accounts of true events that border on fiction and suspect information provided by tainted sources." Further, Fricke and Ressner stated that "Rolling Stone spoke to sources interviewed by Goldman who said that they were misquoted or that the information they provided him was used out of context. Other figures close to Lennon who refused to speak to Goldman or were not contacted by him claim that incidents in the book in which they appear either never happened or did not occur in the way Goldman recounts them." Among the factual errors listed by Rolling Stone: guitarist Danny Forchnar denies Lennon ever bit him in the nose, Goldman source Tony Monero denies Lennon ever told him to "Suck my cock!", Apple executive Tony King denies Lennon snorted cocaine before his 1974 concert appearance with Elton John, Goldman incorrectly describes the Lennon's kitchen stove as match-lit when recounting an anecdote of Lennon trying to set Ono's hair on fire, and Goldman incorrectly describes the "Love Me Do" single as a 78 instead of a 45.[16]

David Gates responded in Newsweek by reminding readers that a romantic vision of Lennon is just as much of a myth as Goldman's portrayal. Editor Jann Wenner is quoted as saying that the book "offended him at every level", suggesting that he as a personal friend of the Lennons had good reason to want to preserve an idealist version of Lennon's life. However, by stating a number of easily researched facts, the article also exposes a number of Goldman's inaccuracies and concludes with a reminder that the best way to know Lennon is through his recordings. Gates noted in the article that Goldman presents no evidence for his claim that Lennon patronized male prostitutes in Thailand or that Lennon killed a sailor in Hamburg, and only secondhand hearsay for the tale of Lennon blaming himself for Stuart Sutcliffe's death.[12]

Louis Menand in The New Republic described the sourcing of Goldman's book as "vague and unreliable". Menand wrote of Goldman's book that "The little things don't matter, of course, if the big things can be trusted. But the big things can't."[17] Luc Sante, in New York Review of Books, said about the account of Lennon's consumption of LSD in the book: "Goldman's background research was either slovenly or nonexistent."

Goldman denounced the Rolling Stone article as "a farrago of groundless or insignificant charges designed to discredit my biography of John Lennon". He also mocked what he called "the stupidity of the [Newsweek] magazine employees who were assigned the task of smearing me and my book", and concluded by saying that Sante was "a young man of no reputation in the field of popular culture." Sante good-naturedly replied that Goldman's tirade proved that the book was a gigantic, humorous "put-on".[18]

Author Phillip Norman, whose own biography of Lennon (John Lennon: The Life) was published twenty years after The Lives of John Lennon, described Goldman's book as "malevolent" and "risibly ignorant".[19]

References to the book in other media

On their 1988 album Rattle and HumU2 attacked Goldman's allegations about Lennon in the song "God Part 2", "sequel" of sorts to Lennon's song "God", with the lyrics "Don't believe in Goldman/his type is like a curse/Instant karma's gonna get him if I don't get him first."

 

The person/people who wrote this were probably bias against the book but it doesn't sound to me like a very nice book at all. Not sure I want to read it. a-hard-days-night-john-7

12 May 2010
6.12pm
GniknuS
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I've never understood how the book could have possibly come out, there are claims in that book that are seemingly unsubstantiated. I don't think anyone would claim that John Lennon was a saint, or really even anywhere near one, but it's just sad that a book could come out like this and attempt to tarnish his legacy. I suppose that was the price of being John Lennon though, of being THE Beatle, of being the most famous man in the world for almost half of his life.

I sat on a rug, biding my time, drinking her wine
12 May 2010
9.40pm
skye
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I figure this was going to be a challenge to read, I just thought I could ease into it. Oh well. a-hard-days-night-ringo-12 

Joe said:

Yoko Ono once said she wouldn't sue Goldman as it would have been a negative focus of energy (a typical Yoko response), though I guess the lingering suspicion remains that there's a basis of truth in what he says. I'd have thought there was certainly enough in there to cobble together a defamation lawsuit.


 

Hmm. So who is she trying to protect? John or herself? But on the other hand, Goldman's motives weren't exactly pure. Pissing off Paul and Yoko does sell more books. 

Joe said:

It's been so long since I read the book that I can't remember many of the details, but I do recall he wrote some quite interesting stuff on Lennon's drug use, particularly the acid years, and was the first to mention the recurring 'three blind mice' descending melodies in Lennon's music (eg "Love, love, love"; "we all shine on"). I'm glad I read it, as it was fascinating, even though the veracity of his claims is unclear.


 

So there is something to look forward to! I'll give it until June 1st. 

Zig said:

I don't know who your TV provider (cable/satellite) is in Arizona, but my provider carries VH1 Classic. They have a recurring "Behind the Music" episode featuring the last years of John Lennon. It's only an hour long and left me wanting more, but featured a little of the good, the bad and the ugly – including what Joe mentioned above about the friction between John and Yoko in the studio. If you can find it, it's worth watching.
 


 

We have that here too. It was good and I'm glad that they included Julian. I really don't care about his relationship with Yoko – they loved eachother or not, whatever. How he treated his sons, that's a different matter. He screwed up with Julian, I know that. I just wanted him to do right by Sean at least. a-hard-days-night-john-4

McLerristarr: I read that wikipedia entry too. If weren't for Joe's recommendation and the discussion I was a part of over here, I wouldn't have picked it up either.

Anyway, thank you everyone for your input!

All of this has inspired me to make an avatar. Just for fun. a-hard-days-night-john-1

Ad hoc, ad loc, and quid pro quo! So little time! So much to know!
13 May 2010
2.45am
Alissa
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In al honesty, I was just about to create a thread just like this!

A teacher of mine gave me this book, knowing I'm in to the Beatles like a typewriter is into paper. I started reading it, the first few chapters, and I have to say, my jaw was on the ground the whole time. Goldman made John sound like a wicked psychopath! I mean, honestly, I'm well aware that the man had flaws, but this seemed too out of proportion. He seemed to say Yoko and John were constantly hostile towards each other, I recall a passage that had to do with pranking Yoko with cat droppings…

I haven't had the heart to pick it up again. I don't know if I will at all, it seems too unreal a-hard-days-night-john-7

Tongue, lose thy light. Moon, take thy flight… see ya, George!
13 May 2010
3.01am
skye
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Unreal, huh? My first thought was, "Crap, he's a proto-Michael Jackson!" (no lie). Perhaps I'll try chapter 2 tonight. a-hard-days-night-paul-10

Ad hoc, ad loc, and quid pro quo! So little time! So much to know!
13 May 2010
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Celebrated_Mr_K
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Trashing dead people was Goldman's stock-in-trade.  Before John Lennon, he trashed the late Elvis Presley.  After Lennon, he was in the process of trashing Jim Morrison.  Fortunately, he died before he could smear again.

People who knew John Lennon say that the monster Goldman portrays is nothing like the man they knew. 

Don't waste your time or money on Goldman's hatchet job.  If you take any of our little quirks or diatribes or episodes out of context, you could make any of us seem like a horrible person. 

 

 

13 May 2010
4.17am
mithveaen
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Zig said:


Having said all of that, each individual Beatle may have been a saint or a bastard or a combination of both. But I have grown fond of all four as though they were my brothers. A brother may disappoint you from time to time, but at the end of the day he's still your brother.
 

 

I think that I read somewhere, I think it's John's quote, that you need to be a bastard to make it in the show business, and that they were the greatest bastards.

 

So I have never thought of them as saints. Now after reading this thread I feel like reading a book about the Beatles. I'm going to start a new topic.

Here comes the sun….. Scoobie-doobie…… Something in the way she moves…..attracts me like a cauliflower… Bop. Bop, cat bop. Go, Johnny, Go. Beware of Darkness…  I believe in SH...
16 May 2010
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skye
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I've read a little farther, and it's a pretty standard summary of John's childhood. Naturally, there's a negative spin to everything, i.e. near-sightedness makes a person myopic. My optomitrist never told me that.

I got to the three blind mice part, and I still don't understand it. Help?

Ad hoc, ad loc, and quid pro quo! So little time! So much to know!
16 May 2010
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Joe
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Think of the first three notes of Three Blind Mice, and the way they descend. Goldman noted that a similar pattern occurs in a number of Lennon's songs (eg the "Love, love, love" intro to All You Need Is Love, and the "all shine on" bit in Instant Karma; I can't remember if there were any others).

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16 May 2010
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skye
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Ok, I get it now. I was thinking of the whole song and couldn't make the connection.

Ad hoc, ad loc, and quid pro quo! So little time! So much to know!
17 May 2010
1.54am
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Joe said:

Think of the first three notes of Three Blind Mice, and the way they descend. Goldman noted that a similar pattern occurs in a number of Lennon's songs (eg the "Love, love, love" intro to All You Need Is Love, and the "all shine on" bit in Instant Karma; I can't remember if there were any others).


 

Hahaha!

Is Goldman really criticizing John for that? Now I want to read that crap too!

I'd like to say "thank you" on behalf of the group and ourselves and I hope we passed the audition. John Lennon
17 May 2010
10.31am
Joe
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My Mummy's Dead was another one. I don't know if Goldman claimed that Three Blind Mice was a particular influence on Lennon's songwriting (which would be pretty laughable); only that those descending notes recur in a few of his songs.

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Can buy me love! Please consider using these links to support the Beatles Bible: Amazon | iTunes

17 May 2010
4.56pm
mithveaen
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Marcelo said:

Joe said:

Think of the first three notes of Three Blind Mice, and the way they descend. Goldman noted that a similar pattern occurs in a number of Lennon's songs (eg the "Love, love, love" intro to All You Need Is Love, and the "all shine on" bit in Instant Karma; I can't remember if there were any others).


 

Hahaha!

Is Goldman really criticizing John for that? Now I want to read that crap too!


 

Actually that makes me cross that book from my to-read list.

Here comes the sun….. Scoobie-doobie…… Something in the way she moves…..attracts me like a cauliflower… Bop. Bop, cat bop. Go, Johnny, Go. Beware of Darkness…  I believe in SH...
17 May 2010
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mithveaen
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Now I feel frustrated. I want to read a good biography of John Lennon!!

 

God knows I love John…. and now after learning so many things I want to read a bio. Marcelo, you are a fan.. can you recommend me one? Thank you…

Here comes the sun….. Scoobie-doobie…… Something in the way she moves…..attracts me like a cauliflower… Bop. Bop, cat bop. Go, Johnny, Go. Beware of Darkness…  I believe in SH...
17 May 2010
5.23pm
PeterWeatherby
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mithveaen said:

Now I feel frustrated. I want to read a good biography of John Lennon!!

 

God knows I love John…. and now after learning so many things I want to read a bio. Marcelo, you are a fan.. can you recommend me one? Thank you…


 

I've said it before, but I'll pimp it again: I really liked Philip Norman's John Lennon: The Life.  I'm also currently reading Lennon Revealed by Larry Kane.  I've heard that Kane is pretty solid, reputable source (he knew John personally from 1964-ish onward), and the advantage of his book (as opposed to Norman's) is that it's shorter and more condensed.  Norman's book is quite good, but I realize that the 700+ pages might seem a bit daunting for a lot of readers, who might look at this gigantic slab of bound paper and think, "It's all too much."

Not a bit like Cagney.
17 May 2010
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PeterWeatherby
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Oh, right, and PS to Alissa: "I'm in to the Beatles like a typewriter is into paper" may just be my new favorite phrase (mostly because you said "typewriter", and for God's sakes, who even knows what a typewriter is these days, except for us old souls who somehow managed to find The Beatles even though we missed their original life-cycle). :)

Not a bit like Cagney.
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