11 May 2011
The Christian Science Monitor
September 22, 2011
Who was John Lennon? Interview with biographer Tim Riley
Lennon biographer Tim Riley talks about John, his relationships with Yoko Ono and Paul McCartney, and the mystique that surrounds them all. Tim Riley has been a music critic for nearly three decades now. His first book, "Tell Me Why" examines the music of the Beatles, song by song. This month his latest book, Lennon: The Man, the Myth, the Music – the Definitive Life, a 700-plus page biography of John Lennon, is being released. I recently had a chance to talk to Riley about his book and his lifelong fascination with the Beatles. Here are excerpts of our conversation:
13 November 2009
1 May 2010
Can anyone explain this to me?
Is that part of the Lennon mystique?
It’s a big part of the Lennon mystique. He plays it every which way. But it’s also true that Liverpool is a very parochial town. One of the British critics that I engaged with pointed out how important this was when he meets Yoko Ono. [John] meets Yoko Ono at this art show and he thinks that she is just the grooviest, funniest, spaciest thing he’s ever met. He can’t imagine anyone more spaced out than Yoko Ono. And then he falls for her. Well, that just shows his parochialism. He hadn’t been around the block. He hasn’t hung out in New York. He hasn’t interacted with other modern, wacky artists. To him it’s just this great new world that she opens up to him.
He’s really kind of like an American stuck in a British body. He was the most American member of the band.
Now, I've been to Liverpool and it's a pretty big place. Lennon knew artists and musicians, he'd first played in Hamburg at the age of 19, he'd travelled the world with The Beatles by the age of 23. The Beatles were hardly stuck in the corner. In what way was he parochial? I know he felt hemmed in by domestic life in Weybridge, but it's not as though The Beatles never went anywhere or did anything. They were in the crow's nest throughout the 1960s.
And that last bit really is baffling. I'm a Brit, but I don't think deep down we're all that different from anyone else, beyond superficial mannerisms etc. I know Riley is American, so can someone explain to me what he might be thinking?
19 September 2010
He must have meant Lennon was the most at home in America, I guess? I find it quite baffling. I mean, I doubt Liverpool had the same type of out there art, but I agree with your general point.
1 May 2010
I didn't get that part of the interview either. It sounds like this guy tries to elaborate in what John said that Yoko was his "teacher".. maybe?
14 April 2010
I agree with skye that the article was interesting. I just did not find it enlightening.
As for Joe's question, I don't know what he means either. I get the part about John never having met anyone as "out there" as Yoko. After all, who had? Sure, John knew artisits from art college. And we all know about the relationships with Astrid, Jürgen and Klaus. But up to that point, you'll have to admit, he had never met anyone who could sit down on a stage while she let people snip off pieces of her clothing and call it "art". I wouldn't consider that parochial. If it is, then I guess we are all parochial.
I don't get the part about John being an American stuck in a British body, either. Maybe mr. S is on to something with his explanation.
At least, the article did feature this little gem…
I think that the urge to look for the new Beatles is kind of a mistaken urge. There is a degree of originality and chemistry there that by its nature is unrepeatable.
To me, this is the perfect way to put an end to the "next Beatles" discussions.
To the fountain of perpetual mirth, Let it roll for all its worth.
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