inkwell.vue.434 : Tim Riley, Lennon
permalink #0 of 70: Ed Ward (captward) Tue 14 Feb 12 05:40
    
Inkwell welcomes Tim Riley, author of a mammoth and comprehensive new
biography of John Lennon. Interviewing him will be the Well's own Phil
Catalfo. 


NPR critic, Emerson College professor and author Tim Riley reviews pop
and classical music for NPR's Here And Now, and has written for the
Huffington Post, the Washington Post, Slate.com and Salon.com. He was
trained as a classical pianist at Oberlin and Eastman. 

Since 2009, he has taught digital journalism at Emerson College in
Boston. Brown University sponsored Riley as Critic-In Residence in
2008, and his first book, Tell Me Why: A Beatles Commentary
(Knopf/Vintage 1988), was hailed by the New York Times as bringing
"new insight to the act we've known for all these years..." His
television appearances include the PBS Newshour, CBS Morning and
Evening News, MTV, and the History Channel. 

Riley gave a keynote address at BEATLES 2000, the first international
academic conference in Jyvaskyla, Finland. Since then, he's given
hundreds of lively multi-media lectures on "Censorship in the Arts,"
and "Rock History." His current projects include the music metaportal,
the RILEY ROCK INDEX.com, and a major new biography of John Ono Lennon
(Hyperion, 2011). 

For a schedule of current appearances see <http://timrileyauthor.com>

* * * 

For more than 20 years, writer-editor Phil Catalfo has covered a wide
range of topics, including parenting, health, ecology, spirituality,
popular culture, and more, for a host of national magazines, including
Parenting, Sesame Street Parents, New Age Journal, Body+Soul, Whole
Earth Review, Tricycle, Wondertime, Natural Health, and others. From
1998 to 2005, he was a Senior Editor at Yoga Journal; from January
2006
through June 2007, he was the Editor of Acoustic Guitar magazine. He
is the author of one book ("Raising Spiritual Children in a Material
World," 1997) and coauthor of another ("The Whole Parenting Guide,"
1999).

Phil has been an active member of The WELL since 1986 and has
previously been both an interviewer and an interviewee in Inkwell.

An avid singer and guitarist (and member of two bands--one acoustic,
the other electric) and lifelong Beatlemaniac, Phil is still unpacking
the treasures found in the Beatles canon and believes that "Rubber
Soul" is The Best Frickin' Album of All Time (although he described it
in slightly different language in the WELL's Beatles conference).
 
  
inkwell.vue.434 : Tim Riley, Lennon
permalink #1 of 70: Phil Catalfo (philcat) Wed 15 Feb 12 11:23
    
Hi Tim! Delighted to have the opportunity to interview you here.

The first question that came up for me was: "Why this book, and why
now?" I don't mean that to be off-putting; I'm curious about the
process that led you, as the author of a very well known and highly
regarded book about the Beatles' ouevre, to dive into an exhaustive
biography of John Lennon all these years later. (Corollary question:
Are you thinking of doing any other Beatles biographies, 

Right behind it, though, came another question, stemming from my
reflections about my own lifelong relationship with the Beatles' music
and my understanding of who they were and are--individually,
collectively, and culturally/politically. Back in the Sixties, when I
became besotted with their music, I was influenced to the point of
taking up the guitar (at age 15, in 1966), and literally learned my
first chords and songs from a Beatles songbook. For years I saw them as
demigods, and Lennon in particular was, to me, at a level even higher
than the others: brilliant, fearless, a cultural groundbreaker (not
just in his music), etc. It would be many years before I began to see
him as a human being--after reading lengthy interviews with him,
articles and books about him and the other Beatles (and their
relationships), seeing films and videos, etc. In my view of him, he
went from being an icon, a kind of avatar, to being a complicated,
biting, wounded (not to say tortured), and, yes, brilliant person (who
still had a profound influence on me). And I began to appreciate the
other Beatles more than I had before, in terms of their musicianship,
their personalities, and every bit as innovative as Lennon.

So my question (sorry for the long buildup) is: How did your view of
John Lennon--as a musician and songwriter, as a cultural figure, and as
a person--change in the course of writing this book? 
  
inkwell.vue.434 : Tim Riley, Lennon
permalink #2 of 70: Phil Catalfo (philcat) Wed 15 Feb 12 11:25
    
["...every bit as innovative..." should read, of course, "...their
being every bit as innovative..."]
  
inkwell.vue.434 : Tim Riley, Lennon
permalink #3 of 70: Tim Riley (lennonbio12) Wed 15 Feb 12 14:40
    
Thanks Phil, I identify with a lot of what you say. My first strong
hunch that we needed a new, more expansive treatment of Lennon came
while reading Peter Guralnick's Presley volumes. I found myself so
enthralled with PG's detail, and his knowledge of Presley sessions, the
quotes from all the musicians and producers who worked with him. And
every Beatle book I kept reading always left me feeling hungry for more
detail, more nuance, more thoughtful ideas about the music, and a
larger narrative about how the British experience of the man seemed so
different from our American sense of him. 

I contracted for the project back in 2003, and promptly got buried in
research and the outsized scope of it all. I still can't believe he
lived a mere forty years, he packed in many lifetimes of creativity and
ideas; it feels surreal to outlive Lennon, that's my strongest feeling
after finishing. Then we had the Bob Spitz Beatles bio, and Philip
Norman's Lennon biography, so I had the spooky thrill of reading books
on my topic as I was busy finishing and making key decisions about
emphasis. I tried to work alongside these projects, so that if you only
read a single book, mine works well for that, but if you read all
three of these, you won't find as much overlap. I took stuff out of my
narratrive once Spitz and Norman covered certain things, and tried to
make sure I had new spins on familiar things. 

The impressive thing about the Beatles story, and Lennon's in
particular, is how well it lends itself to many differing points of
view. The Beatles taught me so much about music history, I wanted to
try to get inside Lennon's head and approximate what it might have
sounded like to absorb rock history as he did, present American readers
with that angle. I don't have any plans for further Beatle books. 
  
inkwell.vue.434 : Tim Riley, Lennon
permalink #4 of 70: Tim Riley (lennonbio12) Wed 15 Feb 12 17:29
    
And do I feel differently about Lennon after writing his life? Very
much, but not in ways I had expected. He had been a childhood hero of
mine, and the process of learning his drug habit, the way he treated
Cynthia and Julian, and many other things, took him off that pedestal.
In other ways, however, I remain astounded at the traumas he lived
through, the loss he carried with him, and the sheer amount of work he
turned in both in terms of material and studio time at the height of
his fame. My overall impression turned out to be of a man who invented
this huge public persona and yet in private remained as insecure and
timid as could be about intimate conflicts. Yes, complete celebrity
cliche, and yet carried to extremes I never anticipated even for
Lennon. 

The other thing that struck me was about what a difficult partner he
must have been to work with so much of the time, and how much
sensitivity and understanding McCartney brought to the situation. I
think it was crucial that he met John before his mother Julia died, and
that that particular loss of the mother was an early bonding point for
both of them, they would have almost had to have such a unique
connection to survive and thrive as they did in the midst of what they
went through. 
  
inkwell.vue.434 : Tim Riley, Lennon
permalink #5 of 70: Phil Catalfo (philcat) Wed 15 Feb 12 17:42
    
Thanks for that illuminating answer. My own view of Lennon has evolved
in much the same way--and continued to evolve that way due to what I
read in your book--but you put it very well. And although I knew
broadly of some of the traumas he experienced (mainly his experience of
having been abandoned by both his parents), you presented much more
detail and much more compelling material than I'd encountered before.

I also appreciated your observation, in the book, along the lines of
what you wrote above, about McCartney's "sensitivity and understanding"
in dealing with Lennon. I don't think he gets enough credit for that.
He has had to live in the shadow of the reverence with which John has
been regarded for more than 30 years now, and yet almost no one on the
planet who cherishes John's memory knew him as well as Paul did. (Of
course, Paul's doing just fine; still.)

Re the other Beatle books, such as Bob Spitz's book: I don't know how
you navigated your way around all the other material out there; there's
so much of it I'd think it'd be like trying to avoid rush-hour traffic
in midtown Manhattan. My hat is off to you.
  
inkwell.vue.434 : Tim Riley, Lennon
permalink #6 of 70: Phil Catalfo (philcat) Wed 15 Feb 12 17:43
    
By the way, it seems like we should provide the full title of your
book. It's LENNON: The Man, the Myth, the Music--The Definitive Life,
and it's published by Hyperion.

Tim, I want to ask you about some of the contradictions inherent in
John Lennon's personality and life story. The one I keep returning to
is the duality that consisted of his tendency to be acerbic, even
cruel, on the one hand, and optimistic, even idealistic (at one point
he's quoted as describing himself as cynical but not a cynic),
promoting of peace and discouraging of violence, on the other hand. I
found two passages that seemed to speak to that paradox in his makeup:

1) on page 35, in reporting on his boyhood, you write: "Former
schoolmates remember him as a troublemaker, the ringleader in planning
pranks, with a cruel streak. His caricatures were particularly abusive
to cripples and the mentally retarded; he had a troubling impulse to
strike out at people weaker than him." Now, this passage refers to his
pre-teen years, but it's in keeping with glimpses of his personality
that we can see in footage from various eras of his career: early clips
of him mugging for the camera as if he were a "spastic"; studio
footage from the recording sessions for one of his early solo albums (I
think it was "Imagine"), in which he rips into the engineer with
acutely vulgar language; and I'm sure there are other examples one
could cite.

2) on page 468, you quote from Lennon's December 1969 interview with
zoologist Desmond Morris (best known for his book "The Naked Ape"), for
a TV series Morris was doing for  the BBC. In your narrative, Morris
has just described Lennon's radical sensibility to his audience as
"more than a mere anti-establishment device," saying that "it also
represents a plea for fantasy--if you like--in an unromantic age, a
plea for the unofficial and the inconsequential in an age of
officialment over organisation, a plea for unsophisticated fun in an
age of sophisticated weapons. Above all--it's a plea for optimism." To
which Lennon's adds: "This is only the beginning--this sixties bit was
just a sniff, the sixties were just waking up in the morning and we
haven't even got to dinner time yet and I can't wait, I just can't wait
I'm so glad to be around and it's just going to be great and there's
going to be more and more of us, and whatever you're thinking there
Mrs. Grundy of South Birmingham on toast, you don't stand a chance. (A)
You're not going to be there when we're running it and (B) you're
gonna like it when you get less frightened of it."

Leaving aside the question of whether the Sixties were "just a
sniff,...just waking up in the morning," and whether or not the
subsequent decades fulfilled the dreams and possibilities that many of
us imagined would ensue from that decade of social foment and creative
flowering, I'm struck by the irony of someone who could lash out at
others so easily and hurtfully also having the perspective to envision,
and promote, the kind of grand-scale social progress that, well, a
song like "Imagine" clearly conveys. Lennon himself often talked about
how each of us contains contradictory facets, that we're all capable of
both good and bad; but this seems particularly pointed. And it speaks
to me, as an unreconstructed Child of the Sixties!

So anyway, what do you make of that paradox in Lennon's makeup? Was
that one of the enigmas you sought to unravel in researching and
writing this book? And if so, how do you regard it now, at the end of
your long journey with this project?
  
inkwell.vue.434 : Tim Riley, Lennon
permalink #7 of 70: Tim Riley (lennonbio12) Thu 16 Feb 12 11:33
    
Well you've hit upon one of the key topics of the book, about how
Lennon embodies these contradictory elements. This makes him a
fascinating character, obviously: mercurial, unpredictable, capable of
great generosity and acid mean-spiritedness, benevolence and
selfishness. As repugnant as some of his behavior can be, and as harsh
some of his putdowns were (I think he "secretly" identified with his
lames and cripples, ie, they enacted his emotional disabilities, and
enjoyed ribbing Epstein as "Queer Jew"), he remains irresistible for
the power of his songs and the transcendent focus of his singing voice.
Anybody who wants to paint him as primarily one or the other misses
this key aspect of who he is. This would be my main comment on Goldman:
his loathes his own subject so much it eats his narrative.Lennon is
rock's macho shithead with a heart of gold, the loner in his own
idealized band. He seems ultimately unknowable, I think, slippery even
to himself. Although I do draw him as ultimately sympathetic in his
final years. 

My favorite irony of "Imagine," perhaps his defining song, remains
that on the flip side of that album lies "How Do You Sleep," the
vicious attack on McCartney. On the title track he's the ultimate
hippy, in the same song set he burns with revenge. And he seems
blithely unaware of the inherent contradiction in important ways. This
paradox is the mystery of the man, it keeps us continuously fascinated.
My immersion in this material only made my appreciation of this
conundrum greater, as its extremes seeped out from every source. 
  
inkwell.vue.434 : Tim Riley, Lennon
permalink #8 of 70: Phil Catalfo (philcat) Thu 16 Feb 12 12:08
    
Very insightful, Tim, thanks for that. I'm especially struck by your
observation that Lennon may have secretly identified with those he
lampooned, ribbed, or otherwise was unduly harsh to. And I think you're
right that in his later years, when he realized a degree and kind of
personal happiness he'd never had before, he became more centered, more
at peace with himself, and more empathetic.
  
inkwell.vue.434 : Tim Riley, Lennon
permalink #9 of 70: Phil Catalfo (philcat) Thu 16 Feb 12 12:57
    
I'd like to talk about the music for a bit. I have another one of my
long-in-developing questions that I'm cooking over a slow fire, but
before I ask that one I have another one I'd like to toss out. I was
just looking over my lovingly dog-eared copy of TELL ME WHY, and
noticed that, in the Selected Bibliography, you commented about Milt
Okun's two-volume songbook THE COMPLEAT BEATLES that "Okun's
piano-minded approach cheats guitarists of the goods," adding the
lament/question, "Anyone else out there for full-score transcriptions?"


So, all these years later, we do have just such a wonder: THE BEATLES
COMPLETE SCORES (Hal Leonard, 1993; originally published in Japan in
1993). It's a pretty amazing piece of work, transcribing every part and
even providing guitar tablature for those who don't read standard
notation. I have both the two-volume Okun set and the Complete Scores;
I used to consider Okun's the best reference available (long ago), but
now the latter is my Beatles bible. I assume you've seen it? What do
you think of it?
  
inkwell.vue.434 : Tim Riley, Lennon
permalink #10 of 70: Phil Catalfo (philcat) Thu 16 Feb 12 15:09
    
Here's my other question about music; it concerns the middle period of
the Beatles' recording career, and what I see as its pivot point.

In TELL ME WHY (on page 137 of the paperback edition), you say that
their album Help! "points more forward than backward--Rubber Soul
couldn't exist without it." Fair enough; I hadn't thought of it that
way, but I think you're right. What I *have* long thought was that
Rubber Soul served the same function, only writ large. People tend to
think of Revolver and, especially, Sgt. Pepper as the Beatles' landmark
albums, the ones that shattered all preconceptions about rock/pop
music, the ones that made everything that followed possible. And I
can't argue with those notions. But I do think that neither album would
have been possible without Rubber Soul.

In LENNON, you write about Rubber Soul: "Having conquered the rock 'n'
roll ideal, [the Beatles] leaned back into the beat and delivered an
adult record--dance was secondary on this album in a way it had never
been before. This was not music you made sense of by making out or
moving along with it; it was all shadows and subtext, an experiment in
suggestion and elliptical gestures that was at once nervy and guarded,
extroverted yet discreet." True that. I also think that, purely as
music, it was a much more mature, expansive, protean work: the
compositions, the arrangements, the instrumentation, the vocal
parts--they were all entering a new territory compared to what they'd
done before (although we can see glimpses of it in the recordings done
a few months earlier, which appear on Help!).

Of course, the Beatles were a few years older at that point than
they'd been when they began their recording career; they were now in or
entering their mid-20s. They also had been around the world a couple
of times and were no longer striving for success; they were the #1 act
in the world. They also had taken a breather and had begun to own the
recording process as never before. (Just before the passage I quoted
above, you quote Lennon as saying, of Rubber Soul: "Finally we took
over the studio.")

But beyond circumstance, looking at the Beatles' psychological
termperaments, what else can we attribute the creative flowering of
this seminal work to? It wasn't just the drugs they were now taking,
and it wasn't things like George's interest in Indian music, either (as
revolutionary as his use of sitar on "Norwegian Wood" was). In terms
of John and his songwriting, what allowed (or *compelled*) him to
graduate from straightforward, poppy love songs, move through early
confessionals like "Help!", and come up with songs like "Nowhere Man,"
"The Word," and "Girl"? 
  
inkwell.vue.434 : Tim Riley, Lennon
permalink #11 of 70: David Gans (tnf) Thu 16 Feb 12 16:17
    

> I'm especially struck by your observation that Lennon may have secretly
> identified with those he lampooned, ribbed, or otherwise was unduly harsh
> to.

I think that is fairly common among abusers: a bit of "there but for for-
tune."
  
inkwell.vue.434 : Tim Riley, Lennon
permalink #12 of 70: those Andropovian bongs (rik) Thu 16 Feb 12 17:56
    
Makes complete sense to me.    

Of course, now I have two damned books to buy.  Tim's, and "The Complete 
Scores".   Carry on, gentlemen.   I'm enjoying this.
  
inkwell.vue.434 : Tim Riley, Lennon
permalink #13 of 70: David Gans (tnf) Thu 16 Feb 12 18:33
    
I have "The Complete Scores," and it is a tremendously useful document.
Despite the fact that it has a WRONG CHORD in "You're Gonna Lose That Girl."
  
inkwell.vue.434 : Tim Riley, Lennon
permalink #14 of 70: Tim Riley (lennonbio12) Thu 16 Feb 12 19:23
    
Well of course I love hanging out with those COMPLETE BEATLE SCORES
almost as much for the subtleties as the mistakes. The project was like
an answered prayer, and my impression is that those four Japanese
dudes divvied up the duties between a guiartist, bassist, keyboardist
and drummer. And for the amount of details it packs it's a wonder to
behold. But I've also taken it into theory classes and played the
recordings as we watch the notation go by and caught mistakes, and
that's a completely new kind of fun since it forces you to listen
harder and EXPAND your understanding of how detail-conscious the
Beatles were. I remember one passage where the band went into a repeat
and McCartney varied his bass line and the scores just indicated a
literal repeat and it was BOOM -- he never stops. And varying repeats
is lesson one in how to keep the ears tickled. 

I want to spend some more time on RUBBER SOUL, but let me start by
saying I think of that middle period flourish as a long stretch, three
distinct entries in a larger mosaic. As you can tell from the new book,
I've completely rethought PEPPER, and upped it several notches in my
pantheon, but I want to be very clear: not at the expense of the other
two. I maintain a deep sentimental attachment to every moment on
RUBBERT SOUL, and REVOLVER was an early mind bomb in my ten-year-old
head. It sounds to me like the palette just gets bigger and bigger
throughout those three records. Promise to write more soon... 
  
inkwell.vue.434 : Tim Riley, Lennon
permalink #15 of 70: David Gans (tnf) Thu 16 Feb 12 20:28
    
I haven't gotten to the Pepper part yet.  Can't wait!

One of the things about the beatles that impresses me the most is that I was
blown away by their music when I was a kid, and as I grew up and became a
working musician and occasional record producer - and acquired a deep
understanding of how those records were made - I am still blown away.
  
inkwell.vue.434 : Tim Riley, Lennon
permalink #16 of 70: Phil Catalfo (philcat) Fri 17 Feb 12 01:30
    
I look forward to reading more from you about Rubber Soul, Tim. The
thing about that album that gets me--well, one of the things that gets
me, but perhaps this sums up all the things that get me about it--is
that, 46 years later, I'm still unpacking it. And that's without any
tricks or experiments like running the tape backwards (a la "Rain" or
"I'm Only Sleeping") or cutting up the tape and splicing it back
together in random order (a la "Tomorrow Never Knows")! Well, ok, there
is one trick: George Martin's piano solo on "In My Life," which was
recorded at half speed and played back at normal speed. But other than
that it's just great songs, great arrangements, great performances, and
it never wears out. Even "Run For Your Life," which has a lyric that
could be considered execrable (and John, for one, always hated), is a
wonderfully listenable track. My friends here on the WELL know this
because I've said it about 10,000 times over the years, but if I had to
get rid of all the several thousand CDs and LPs in my collection but
one, Rubber Soul would be the one I'd keep.

Here's another thing about Rubber Soul, that I didn't even realize
until the Anthology series came out. It has to do with "I'm Looking
Through You." The Anthology set included an early version of that song
that was completely, but utterly, different from the one that was
released on Rubber Soul: same lyrics (but no "middle eight" at all; and
it may not have had all its eventual verses, I don't recall exactly
now) but different tempo, different setting/instrumentation (the lead
instrument was a nylon-string acoustic guitar), different feel
altogether. It was labeled "Master" (or something) and was considered
finished. But they came back to it some time later and realized it
wasn't yet what it could become, what it was *wanted* to become. Anyone
else in the music business would have given their left nut to say they
had created that track, but these guys weren't satisfied. And so they
re-arranged it, double-tracked the vocal, added the middle eight,
punched it up with those little Hammond organ stings stapled to brief,
frenetic electric guitar licks, and created the little masterpiece we
came to know as that track. How the hell did they know it could evolve
that much from where it had already gotten to? Fookin' geniuses, I tell
ya.

David, you'll be pleased to know that I have surrendered on the matter
of the second chord in the verse of "You're Going to Lose That Girl."
We're now playing it in the acoustic band I'm in, and we play G# major
(or G#7), not G#m. I apologize for not having notified you formally. To
whom should I make reparations?
  
inkwell.vue.434 : Tim Riley, Lennon
permalink #17 of 70: David Gans (tnf) Fri 17 Feb 12 06:39
    
All is forgiven, Phil.
  
inkwell.vue.434 : Tim Riley, Lennon
permalink #18 of 70: Phil Catalfo (philcat) Fri 17 Feb 12 09:41
    
<sigh of relief>
  
inkwell.vue.434 : Tim Riley, Lennon
permalink #19 of 70: Ed Ward (captward) Fri 17 Feb 12 11:03
    
While we wait for the hordes to show up from the Well's own <beatles.>
conference, I should note that anyone not on the Well who's out there
reading this can send us an e-mail at inkwell[at]well.com and we'll
post it. 
  
inkwell.vue.434 : Tim Riley, Lennon
permalink #20 of 70: David Wilson (dlwilson) Fri 17 Feb 12 17:42
    
Hi Tim

An artist like John Lennon caused seismic shifts not only in the music
but also in the popular culture through his creative output and
personal charisma.  You write about him and the others here talk about
him with a great deal of enthusiasm, all deserved. Then there's the
fact that he died so young and tragically.  Given all that, how did you
approach writing his biography without turning it into hagiography?  
  
inkwell.vue.434 : Tim Riley, Lennon
permalink #21 of 70: Evelyn Pine (evy) Fri 17 Feb 12 21:13
    
Hi, Tim, Phil, g beatniks, welltrons, and all Beatlemaniacs far and near.

Just so you can be clear I'm not opinionated about this, the luckiest thing
that ever happened to Paul McCartney was that he met John Lennon --
otherwise it would have been news in Welsh -- for live.  And I do think your
book is wonderful for demonstrating what a hideously difficult and -- well
-- just plain mean person Lennon was, put our Paulie is also an ass-licking,
people pleasing manipulator -- so what can you do.

I'm a great admirer of your book _Tell Me Why_, Tim.  I'm curious about how
you as an artist and critic could analyze this music so deeply twice, what
your process was in writing the book -- how when in what contexts you
listened to the music and what moments in Beatles and John's music suddenly
seemed brand new to you -- if any.

I'm also curious if you think how this mother as sister dynamic plays out in
John and other musicians -- isn't Eric Clapton's story somewhat similar? And
how does that relate to John's desire for -- and then disappointment in
business managers as father figures?

Thanks for coming on the WELL. I for one grovel at your feet.
  
inkwell.vue.434 : Tim Riley, Lennon
permalink #22 of 70: Phil Catalfo (philcat) Fri 17 Feb 12 22:09
    
Great questions, David and Evy! 
  
inkwell.vue.434 : Tim Riley, Lennon
permalink #23 of 70: Tim Riley (lennonbio12) Sat 18 Feb 12 05:57
    
I'm off for the wkd but will stew on these questions and make a big
post early next week... really lively, interesting things to consider
here... thanks for all the feedback, peeps. TR
  
inkwell.vue.434 : Tim Riley, Lennon
permalink #24 of 70: Dave Waite (dwaite) Sun 19 Feb 12 18:38
    
Please remember upon your return to talk/write more about Rubber Soul.
I consider myself fortunate to have been a 5 year old when it was
released, grew up on this amazing album whose stylings are still
contemporary and remain remarkable even today.  
It is my island record (if I could only bring one).
  
inkwell.vue.434 : Tim Riley, Lennon
permalink #25 of 70: Dan Flanery (sunspot) Mon 20 Feb 12 23:18
    
I was an infant when The Beatles split up, and Lennon was a recluse
when I started buying records.  I became a huge fan after - and likely
in no small part because of - his death, but a lot of what I know about
his formative years (and of what went on behind the scenes in The
Beatles) came from Pete Shotton's book, The Beatles, Lennon & Me, which
I picked up at a grocery store when I was a college freshman.  Have
you read it, and how accurate was it?  I recall being absolutely
fascinated by some of the scenes it painted (like Brian Epstein's
death).
  

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