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inkwell.vue.265 : Elizabeth Partridge, "John Lennon: All I Want Is the Truth"
permalink #0 of 69: Cynthia Dyer-Bennet (cdb) Mon 6 Feb 06 17:18
    
I'm delighted to introduce our next guest, Elizabeth Partridge, who joins us
to talk about her latest work, "John Lennon: All I Want Is the Truth," a
photobiography of a rock icon who -- along with Paul, George and Ringo --
changed the face of popular music.

Elizabeth is a San Francisco Bay Area native who grew up in a large, 
eccentric family that included five kids, a house full of dogs and cats, 
chameleons, fish, tortoises, (and even a pet tarantula). Her grandmother 
was photographer Imogen Cunningham, and her grandfather, Roi Partridge, 
was an etcher. 

In 1974, she graduated from UC Berkeley, and a year later went to Great 
Britain to study Chinese medicine, returning to the Bay Area to practice 
acupuncture and herbal medicine. 
 
In the early '90s she began writing books as well as practicing medicine. 
She says she love writing biographies on complicated, difficult, creative, 
socially involved artists. A few years ago, after more than twenty years 
as an acupuncturist, she closed her practice to write full time.

Leading the conversation with Elizabeth is Evelyn Jean Pine, who cohosts 
the <beatles.> conference on The WELL.

Evelyn was named one of the Top 25 Women on the Web in 2001 for her work 
nurturing nonprofit online communities. She was the Managing Director of 
Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility in the late '90s.
 
In 2005, she earned an Emerging Playwright Award for her short play, 
"Back." Her other plays include "Cleaning Out," which premiered in 
Charlottesville, VA in June 2005, and "Unit Cost," which will be produced 
in March as part of the Kansas City Women's Playwriting Festival.

She lives in San Francisco with her husband Doug Peckler (aka Sluggo) and
her 8-year-old son, Gabe.  She is a dead ringer for Jane Asher.

Welcome, (elizabeth) and (evy)!  
  
inkwell.vue.265 : Elizabeth Partridge, "John Lennon: All I Want Is the Truth"
permalink #1 of 69: Evelyn Pine (evy) Tue 7 Feb 06 10:21
    
Hey, Elizabeth.

Welcome to the WELL!

My response to your book is the same as my sister Janet’s when she
first pulled the collage poster of the Beatles out of the _White
Album_
in 1968:  “I just want to groove on it.”

As noted in the WELL’s Beatles conference, on February 5 there was
a wonderful interview with Paul McCartney in the _Los Angeles Times_.

The interviewer, Robert Hilburn,  describes Paul’s office:  “The walls
are lined with photographs from various points in his career,
including one from the '60s of him and a grinning Lennon shaking
hands.” 

I can’t help but wonder if this is the remarkable picture from your
book (p. 129).  It’s at the press party for the release of _Sgt.
Pepper_ at Brian 
Epstein’s house.  Paul has the album cover open — with it’s picture of
their four faces -- in his left hand.  And John is firmly shaking his
right.  They’re both laughing and have total eye contact (despite
George and Ringo standing between them.)   It’s a remarkable picture
of
two guys who know each other really really well, who loom large in
each others legends, and who, we know now, are beginning a long
descent
into disappointment, accusation, fury, and finally  some kind of
reconciliation.  

Do you think that’s the picture on Paul’s office wall? And what was it
that
inspired you to tell John’s story again? And to tell it through
photographs? 
  
inkwell.vue.265 : Elizabeth Partridge, "John Lennon: All I Want Is the Truth"
permalink #2 of 69: Elizabeth Partridge (elizabeth) Wed 8 Feb 06 07:53
    
Hey everyone,

Thanks to Cynthia for inviting me to talk about my book, John Lennon
and the Beatles. And anything else related that people want to talk
about.....and thanks to Evie for bringing her Beatle/Lennon smarts to
the discussion.

Why DID I write this book, when John's life has been gone over with a
fine tooth comb, and people have written extensively about him? Couple
reasons. He fascinated me. When I do a biography, I get to know someone
really, really well, in a way I never would otherwise. I knew I could
live with him for a few years, and never get bored.

I also knew there were great photos of Lennon and his times. I LOVE
photos -- they hit you in the gut -- very visceral. I put more than 150
photos in the book. They were an insanely hard job to track down and
get the rights to, but totally worth it. 

I wouldn't be surprised if the photo I have on page 129 is the photo
being referred to in the LA Times article on McCartney. I have mixed
feelings about the image-- Lennon is so out of control at this point,
so loaded on drugs, and his life is a mess. They've also just put out
one of the fascinating albums of the decade.

Another reason I did All I Want Is the Truth is I wanted to write a
bio on someone who could hold all the contradiction and passion and
idealism of the Sixties. I was a teenager in the Sixties, and I wanted
to look back and see -- what were we trying to accomplish? What were we
inspired by? Because Lennon was peacenik, and a feminist (thanks to
Yoko), and a brilliant singer/songwriter, and a spokesperson for
whatever cause he was on about, he could hold it all.
  
inkwell.vue.265 : Elizabeth Partridge, "John Lennon: All I Want Is the Truth"
permalink #3 of 69: Cynthia Dyer-Bennet (cdb) Wed 8 Feb 06 11:53
    

(note: offsite readers with comments or questions can email them to
 <inkwell@well.com> to have them added to this conversation)
  
inkwell.vue.265 : Elizabeth Partridge, "John Lennon: All I Want Is the Truth"
permalink #4 of 69: kayili! (kayo) Wed 8 Feb 06 12:11
    
Hi, Elizabeth. I'm curious -- did you have any issues with Yoko while you 
were working on this?
  
inkwell.vue.265 : Elizabeth Partridge, "John Lennon: All I Want Is the Truth"
permalink #5 of 69: Evelyn Pine (evy) Wed 8 Feb 06 13:34
    
Kayo is a co-host of the WELL Beatles Conference, btw.  And a terrific
photographer.

That's a good question.  Did you have any real strugggles for rights to
photograph's -- from Yoko or anyone?

Part of what I love about the photo of John and Paul shaking hands is
precisely because he looks so skinny and tired and yet the one person who he
can relax with in that moment is old Paul.

You started the book with the bed-in -- which is great emphasizing your
theme of the idealism of the 60's.  It also puts Yoko and John's
relationship front and center and made me think a lot about it.  For the
first time, I understood Yoko not as just the lost, playful mother, Julia,
but also the stern Aunt Mimi.  How do you think the bed-in and other John
and Yoko peace-nik hi-jinks looks to people who didn't live through the
sixties? Do you hear from young people who read your book about their take
on those activities?
  
inkwell.vue.265 : Elizabeth Partridge, "John Lennon: All I Want Is the Truth"
permalink #6 of 69: Elizabeth Partridge (elizabeth) Thu 9 Feb 06 07:26
    
Yoko is very careful about controlling John's image. She did read the
manuscript as I was finishing it, and via her lawyer, asked me to take
out around forty things I had said. I chose not to. She wanted to
present her version of John, I felt it was important to present mine. 

Many people have strong feelings about Yoko, some of them
astonishingly negative. I think her relationship with John was much
more complex than being all good or all bad. He was really coming apart
at the seams when he met her, and I think she held him together. When
I look back at his life, I find that he always needed someone strong to
set limits for him. He just wasn't capable of setting them himself.
His Aunt Mimi, who raised him was first, then Paul, then Yoko.

My book is an interesting new area of children's publishing. Young
adult literature is exploding as a genre. I wrote this book for young
adults, with cross over to the adult market in mind. Viking carried it
in both their adult and young adult catalogs. It made for interesting
issues as a writer. I had to present material to teenagers for whom it
was ancient history (WWII, the Sixties) and yet fill in little known
facts for adults who had grown up with the Beatles. It was a great
challenge, and actually a lot of fun. 

For example, on page 151 I put in a photo that at first glance looks
like the Beatles are just standing around outside. After a moment, as
you stare at it, you realize that they're waiting to cross Abbey Road,
and the next photo will be them on the cover of their album.
  
inkwell.vue.265 : Elizabeth Partridge, "John Lennon: All I Want Is the Truth"
permalink #7 of 69: Vote or whine (divinea) Thu 9 Feb 06 09:34
    
Elizabeth, what surprised you most while you were researching this
book? 
  
inkwell.vue.265 : Elizabeth Partridge, "John Lennon: All I Want Is the Truth"
permalink #8 of 69: Evelyn Pine (evy) Thu 9 Feb 06 09:54
    
Good question.

I love the pre-Abbey Road photo on p. 51.  Is it by Iain MacMillan who shot
the cover or by sombody else?
  
inkwell.vue.265 : Elizabeth Partridge, "John Lennon: All I Want Is the Truth"
permalink #9 of 69: (rosebud) Thu 9 Feb 06 10:01
    
I am sorry I didn't find out about this interview sooner (it pays to
read inkvue) and found a copy of the book.  Just last week my sister
gave me the John Lennon Collection CD and he has been on my mind ever
since.  I am looking forward to reading this topic.  Thanks! 
  
inkwell.vue.265 : Elizabeth Partridge, "John Lennon: All I Want Is the Truth"
permalink #10 of 69: Reva Basch (reva) Thu 9 Feb 06 12:32
    
Hi, Elizabeth. Another longtime Beatlemaniac here. I remember the day that
John's first book, In His Own Write, was scheduled for delivery to
bookstores on the East Coast. I camped outside my neighborhood bookstore in
Philly; I was that eager to get my copy.

I'm impressed by the amount of research, especially photographic research,
you did for All I Want is the Truth. I was surprised by how many of the
photos were new to me.

I'm also encouraged by its positioning as a Young Adult title. Back when I
was a librarian, most "biographies" aimed at kids were very heavily
sanitized. You've done a very good job of presenting John's dark side
without wallowing in _or_ glossing over it.

Interesting point about straddling the YA/adult markets as you were writing
the book; I wondered about that as I was reading it. If I hadn't known,
going in, that the book was aimed primarily at kids, I don't think it
would've occured to me that it was.
  
inkwell.vue.265 : Elizabeth Partridge, "John Lennon: All I Want Is the Truth"
permalink #11 of 69: Elizabeth Partridge (elizabeth) Fri 10 Feb 06 06:11
    
Many things surprised me writing this book. I was amazed how many
memories of the Sixties it brought up for me, and how much listening,
really listening, to the Beatles music and later John's music was a
constant deepening process. I was surprised how plaintive and touching
John's voice is. He really has an unusual quality to his voice. Sit
down and really listen to a few of his songs and you will see what I
mean.

I think what surprised me most about John was how emotional vulnerable
he was. I really didn't understand that before doing the book. He
talked in an interview about "trancing out" while he was still a young
teenager -- well before he was into drugs and drinking. That
vulnerability he was able to tap into to write and sing as he did.

I was also amazed how very quickly the Beatles years went by. When I
was a teenager waiting, waiting, waiting for the next album to be
released, it seemed like such a long time between albums. But they were
often released just six months apart! I was astonished how hard
working they were. 
  
inkwell.vue.265 : Elizabeth Partridge, "John Lennon: All I Want Is the Truth"
permalink #12 of 69: Elizabeth Partridge (elizabeth) Fri 10 Feb 06 07:11
    <hidden>
  
inkwell.vue.265 : Elizabeth Partridge, "John Lennon: All I Want Is the Truth"
permalink #13 of 69: Cynthia Dyer-Bennet (cdb) Fri 10 Feb 06 14:25
    
(post #12 hidden as it's a duplicate of #11)

Elizabeth, I had similar thoughts about John's vulnerability and
tenderness while reading your book. In the chapter where you're describing 
the beginning of his relationship with Cynthia Lennon, you quote a 
note he sent to her in which he wrote "I love you guitars."

I _swooned_ when I read that! I swear, if I'd known he had that romantic
side back in the spring of '64, I'd have picked him over George in a hot
second. 

So... Was John your favorite Beatle?
  
inkwell.vue.265 : Elizabeth Partridge, "John Lennon: All I Want Is the Truth"
permalink #14 of 69: Elizabeth Partridge (elizabeth) Sat 11 Feb 06 12:16
    
No, John wasn't my favorite Beatle. I was a little scared of him. That
sharp tongue he had. There was an edgy badboy-ness to him that was
compelling, but it was too much for me. I was all about George, his
spirituality, his laconic smile, his lanky build. It sounds a bit
weird, but I finally felt really ready for Doing a biography is a very
powerful relationship -- trying to really get to know a person well. So
John just kept unfolding for me -- more layers, more interesting.

Of course, I had to read extensively about all the other Beatles (and
everyone else in John's life) so I got to do quite a bit of research on
George as well!

I also love that "I love you guitars" quote. It really shows how
fixated he was on music and the guitar and rock and roll. _That_ was
his true love, and Cynthia had roused the same feelings in his heart.
It's so fervent!!
  
inkwell.vue.265 : Elizabeth Partridge, "John Lennon: All I Want Is the Truth"
permalink #15 of 69: Evelyn Pine (evy) Sat 11 Feb 06 18:33
    
There's a lot of talk (at least on the Beatles Conference on the WELL) about
who is the "fifth beatle."

Reading your book for the first time I had a strong hit that it was Astrid
Kirchherr.  Her pictures are really compelling -- capture them as scruffs
and rockers but also seem to take them seriously for the first time.

What's your take on her, her photos, her influence (and influences)?
  
inkwell.vue.265 : Elizabeth Partridge, "John Lennon: All I Want Is the Truth"
permalink #16 of 69: Phil Catalfo (philcat) Sun 12 Feb 06 20:47
    
Hi Elizabeth (and everybody), I'm really happy to be joining this
little shindig. (N.B. I'm old enough to remember having seen the
Beatles perform on the ABC-TV show "Shindig"!) I'm especially pleased
to be able to enter the dialogue with you, Elizabeth, as I'm not only
an admirer of your work, but also a near-neighbor--and our sons were
friends and schoolmates some years ago. Small world, ainnit?

Anyhow, going through your book and recalling your earlier book on
Woody Guthrie made me connect John and Woody in ways I never had
before. I'm not sure that too much connection can be made between
them--I don't even know that John was very familiar with Woody
Guthrie's work, although it's hard to imagine he didn't know at least
something about it--but they were both potent social critics, lightning
rods for socio-political foment, and of course prolific, artful,
powerful songwriters. I note from your introduction above that you
"love writing biographies [of] complicated, difficult, creative, 
socially involved artists." Lennon and Guthrie can certainly both be
described as such, but I'm wondering, how else might you compare them,
since you've spent quite a lot of time and energy in recent years
poring over their lives and careers?
  
inkwell.vue.265 : Elizabeth Partridge, "John Lennon: All I Want Is the Truth"
permalink #17 of 69: Cynthia Dyer-Bennet (cdb) Mon 13 Feb 06 08:58
    

So George was your fave as a teen too, Elizabeth? The smile and the
lanky build were big factors in what won me over also.

Excuse the backtracking but I typo'd the Lennon quote. I left out the
extremely important word, "Like." John wrote "I love you like guitars," 
which makes a lot more sense than `I love you guitars.' ack. sorry for
the gaffe.


You wrote that Chuck Berry was a big influence on Lennon. I'm intrigued 
by philcat's question re: Guthrie/Lennon similarities and am eager to see 
what you have to say about that. Do you think there were other public 
figures outside the world of rock 'n' roll who had a substantial 
influence on Lennon and his work?
  
inkwell.vue.265 : Elizabeth Partridge, "John Lennon: All I Want Is the Truth"
permalink #18 of 69: Elizabeth Partridge (elizabeth) Mon 13 Feb 06 13:00
    
Yes! The quote is "I love you LIKE guitars." funny how the mind can
just slip that extra word in, but for those people not familiar with
the quote, seeing the whole thing makes a lot more sense! 

Guthrie and Lennon. They were similar, and quite different. They both
wanted to create social change, and both loved music, writing songs,
and performing. They were both blindly selfish until forced into better
behavior by their second wives. 

Of course, the times that shaped them were different. I remember Pete
Seeger telling me someone had asked him if Woody would have been
involved in ecological issues if he had lived longer. Pete replied, "Of
course!" I wasn't as sure as Pete that the cause would have taken root
with Woody. 

John Lennon had some skills that Woody didn't have. Notable to me was
the ability to deal with reporters and the media. John was master of
the quick, funny, sharp quip, which the media loved. Woody seemed to me
to drift along thru life a little more.

Anyone else have thoughts on this? It's interesting to compare the two
musicians, which I had never stood back to do. 
  
inkwell.vue.265 : Elizabeth Partridge, "John Lennon: All I Want Is the Truth"
permalink #19 of 69: Gail Williams (gail) Mon 13 Feb 06 14:06
    

My impression was that Woody traveled and created songs that were in
many cases needed for organizing.  His songs were premiered for 
and honed with live gatherings of people.  On the other hand, John 
couldn't have done that because of the insulating and distancing side of 
international recording and global fame, even with similar core 
instincts.  However, what he could do was to get things out more 
broadly and rapidly.  Just a hunch, though. 
  
inkwell.vue.265 : Elizabeth Partridge, "John Lennon: All I Want Is the Truth"
permalink #20 of 69: Evelyn Pine (evy) Mon 13 Feb 06 14:20
    
I'm curious how John (and Woody) appear to young people in the post-bono-
geldof era?
  
inkwell.vue.265 : Elizabeth Partridge, "John Lennon: All I Want Is the Truth"
permalink #21 of 69: Elizabeth Partridge (elizabeth) Tue 14 Feb 06 07:37
    
You are right on, Gail about the difference you point out between John
and Woody. I think Woody also was more patient about sticking around
and supporting causes, and showing up repeatedly for something he
believed in. John would show up for a concert, or a meeting, but then
he was moving on to the next cause. 
  
inkwell.vue.265 : Elizabeth Partridge, "John Lennon: All I Want Is the Truth"
permalink #22 of 69: Elizabeth Partridge (elizabeth) Tue 14 Feb 06 07:43
    
The young people I meet are very aware of John Lennon's music, but
usually don't know much about him as a person. Often they don't know
the historical roots of rock and roll as it went from the field hollers
and gospel and the blues into rock and roll. Skiffle -- the uniquely
British version of young pre-rock bands -- is a mystery to the kids I
talk to. There may be young people who find Lennon very passe, but I
don't run into them!
  
inkwell.vue.265 : Elizabeth Partridge, "John Lennon: All I Want Is the Truth"
permalink #23 of 69: Carl LaFong (mcdee) Tue 14 Feb 06 08:04
    
Interesting, because it's never been easier to find out about the
history and roots of rock and roll, and to hear the actual music.  It
was a real pain back when I was growing up in the 60s and 70s.  My
11-year-old daughter has heard music I wasn't able to track down until
I was in my 30s.
  
inkwell.vue.265 : Elizabeth Partridge, "John Lennon: All I Want Is the Truth"
permalink #24 of 69: Reva Basch (reva) Tue 14 Feb 06 12:55
    
It seems to me that Woody Guthrie approached politics and social change as
an activist, and John as an artist. In fact, while reading your book,
Elizabeth, I wondered if John would have developed any political
consciousness at all had he not hooked up with Yoko. And I also wonder how
deep that political consciousness actually ran in John.
  
inkwell.vue.265 : Elizabeth Partridge, "John Lennon: All I Want Is the Truth"
permalink #25 of 69: Low and popular (rik) Tue 14 Feb 06 13:38
    
That question interests me as well.   I know john knew about protest era
Dylan, but the Dylan he met was already leaving that behind.
  

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