Lennon Revealed

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Lennon Revealed, by Larry Kane

Description (from the cover leaf): “… In Lennon Revealed, Emmy Award-winning journalist Larry Kane – who had a professional relationship with [John] Lennon that spanned fifteen years – draws from personal experience and over 100 interviews with John’s friends, family, and associates to craft a portrait of Lennon that truly captures the man’s essence…. More than a list of stunning revelations, Lennon Revealed weaves together insights and recollections from those who knew Lennon best to create a picture of the artist as a man, with all his faults, strengths, desires, and demons intact.”

I purchased my copy of Lennon Revealed at the Chicago Beatles festival in 2005; the cover features this stamp:

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I was happy to meet the author, Larry Kane, again that year and to get his autograph:

120214_0057_LennonRevea3.jpgI say that I met Kane again because I had met him once before, when I got his autograph for his Ticket to Ride book at the Beatles fest in 2003. I left that meeting impressed with how personable Kane is; with each person approaching him for his autograph, Kane took a second to ask about that person. I felt that Kane appreciated our interest in his book and his experiences and opinions. Those meetings along with his presentations at the fests leads me to consider Kane a true professional who’s had some great experiences.

It was while recently rereading Ticket to Ride that I decided to start reviewing Beatles books for this blog. My main reason for this blog is to share/show off my Beatles library and the autographs I’ve acquired. But I also wonder if the opinions I develop while reading the books are shared by other Beatle fans or am I being too opinionated or even close-minded in my feelings about what I’m reading. Honestly I enjoyed most of what I read in Ticket to Ride, but I did also have some criticism and wondered what others would think of that. I also wondered if I’d feel the same way about Lennon Revealed. So, as I started rereading this second book, I also took notes about feelings, ideas, and questions that came up as I read, and they’re obviously the outline for my review.

As Kane explained, the story “begins with the end, and reveals how that fateful night shaped some of the participants in this story”. Chapter One is titled Murder at the Dakota, and, while dealing with a tragic event, it’s fascinating to read. I appreciate that Kane didn’t go overboard in describing the details of that night but did share some interesting facts, such as about the police case of the murder. It was also interesting reading about the history of the Dakota Apartments; that building has always fascinated me. What really stood out to me in this chapter are the accounts shared by Alan Weiss, Dave Sholin, Bob Gruen, May Pang, Ernie Anastos, and Larry Kane himself. I’m almost ashamed to say that I don’t recall my reaction to first hearing about John‘s death. My not remembering is probably why I’m fascinated with hearing the reactions of others, despite those accounts being so emotional.

What detracted from those accounts was Kane’s habit of recounting what was described in a way that didn’t analyze or add anything but was more of a retelling that in a way was redundant. It seemed like a journalistic technique that’s effective over radio or on television, but it didn’t fit being used in a book. I’m sorry to be kind of judgmental, but it annoyed me.

Chapter Two, titled All You Need is Love, discussed the four main loves of John’s life: Stuart Sutcliffe, Cynthia Lennon, Yoko Ono, and May Pang. It’s always interesting to read about Stuart. But it would have been nice to hear more about him and John from more than just Stuart’s sister Pauline; comments from only two other people, Yoko and Tony Bramwell, are included, but the comments are very short. And it seems like the quotes by Pauline need to be taken with a grain of salt: her comments include sensationalistic claims concerning John’s sexuality and also concerning her brother’s death. It bothers me that that these quotations are included in the book despite Kane’s asserting that the book wouldn’t stoop to that.

Chapter Seven, John and “The Boys”, discusses, obviously, John’s relationship with the other Beatles. Although skimpy on discussing George and even Ringo, it was interesting to read about John and Paul. A highlight to me was Bob Gruen’s account of a surprise visit to the Lennons at the Dakota by the McCartneys. The chapter includes the lyrics to Paul’s “Too Many People“, John’s “How Do You Sleep?” (obviously concerning the ‘feud’ between John and Paul in the early ’70s), and Paul’s “Here Today“. But I think it would have been more interesting if an explanation of the lyrics was also included, like what Paul and John might have been trying to say about each other. Maybe Kane meant to leave interpretation of the lyrics to the reader, but it still seemed to need at least some analysis.

Chapter Ten, Triumph of the Human Spirit, concentrates on John’s humanity, and it includes one of my favorite sections of the book. Kane describes his recruiting John to participate in a weekend charity event held in Philadelphia to benefit the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. Kane describes John arriving from New York by train, his participating in radio broadcasts throughout the weekend, his filling-in as weatherman for the local TV news broadcast, and his interaction with the crowds that gathered at the studios to see John. John signed autographs for fans and took donations for the charity, going so far as to auction off the socks he was wearing that day. Accounts shared by some of the attendees that day are fun to read.

Such accounts make up the last chapter of the book, The Lennon Generations Speak. Kane had arranged for Joe Johnson, of the Beatle Brunch radio program, to solicit from listeners comments about what John Lennon meant to them with a chance to be included in the book. This chapter is a highlight of the book. The fan comments seem to be presented as they were received, typos, misuse of grammar, and all. But they’re fascinating to read. I appreciate that Kane presented them as they are, without attempting to summarize or analyze them; although analysis would have been helpful with the lyrics reprinted in chapter seven, it would have been very out of place in this chapter. It’s nice to see that many of the reports are by young people. And I especially liked reading that one fan is a kindergarten schoolteacher who describes encouraging her students to appreciate The Beatles and John Lennon, even being thanked by their parents for doing so.

But the ones that most stood out to me were, again, the reports dealing with the day of John’s death. Each is emotional, and, I admit, I feel a little uncomfortable reading them, but I can’t help but be fascinated by hearing what these people experienced at this tragic time in their being fans of John. I’ve wondered if these stories interest me because of the slight guilt I feel at being a fan of John and having no recollection of my reaction to his murder. A friend once suggested that I might be kind of punishing myself by reading these emotional accounts that make me feel a little uncomfortable … I don’t know, I’m no analyst.

At the back of the book is a Bibliography. I know I’m being overly nitpicky, but I would have like to know which sources provided which details in the book. I recently read Mark Lewisohn‘s Tune In and appreciated seeing which specific sources he used; I know I’m asking for too much in wishing that Kane’s smaller book also included footnotes. What might have been nice was a list in the back of the book of the people Kane quoted in his book, with descriptions of who they are, that readers could consult when each person is referred to again in the book. I admit to being annoyed at having to be told at least three separate times who Mark Hudson is.

The DVD included with the book features footage of John during the charity weekend, Kane’s interview of John and Paul about their launch of Apple Corps, and an interview of Larry Kane about his book. The charity footage is much too short. In the interview of John and Paul, I got the sense that each was irritated and impatient and wanted it to be over soon; I’m sure I’m misinterpreting it. But I enjoyed the interview of Kane about his book. As I said before, Larry Kane is a cool man with many cool stories to share about his time with The Beatles. So, despite any criticisms I’ve made throughout my review, I found interesting what he had to say in the interview, more than my reading it in his book. I guess I appreciate his spoken word more than his written word.

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