Lennon Remembered

John Lennon

John Lennon

When I was 14, and I knew very little about the world of rock ‘n’ roll, John Lennon was “the weird one,” not “the smart one,” as he was known by the media. He was the one with the weird wife, with the overly earnest songs and peace and love, the one who made news headlines that caused adults to roll their eyes.

I “get” him much more now, and am constantly amazed by what an interesting chap he was, by how much he accomplished at such a young age, by his passion. (Listen to “Beautiful Boy” and try not to be moved.) Though not an ideal role model by any means, he followed his different drummer to places where few dared go, spoke his mind freely, and stumbled toward bliss. Whatever the term term “authentic voice” is supposed to mean, John was one, love him or hate him.

I hate that the anniversary of his death (30 years) is being marked by two TV productions by way of PBS (aren’t we supposed to celebrate the life and not the ending?). even so, enjoy the chance to peel back the many, many layers of Lennon and catch of glimpse of his soul.

Christopher Eccleston as John Lennon in "Lennon Naked."

Christopher Eccleston as John Lennon in "Lennon Naked."

Masterpiece Contemporary: Lennon Naked is a drama starring Christopher Eccleston in the title role. I haven’t seen it, so I’ll let Dave Shiflett offer some words:

Being a Beatle bugged John Lennon almost as much as being the son of a wayward drunk.

He also had issues with his mother, his first wife Cynthia and the bearded, babbling Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, according to “Lennon Naked.” The only person that seems to have made him happy was Yoko Ono, which made him none too popular with almost everyone else in his life, including his bandmates and Cynthia’s snarling mom.

Few days in Lennon’s life were blissful, if this 90-minute drama is to be believed. - “Lennon Rages Against Drunk Dad, Mom, Mates in New TV Drama” – Dave Shiflett, Bloomberg.com

Apologies in advance for the language in this clip. The use of space is quite good (watch how far apart John and his dad are when they talk). Eccleston doesn’t look much like John, and the acting is a bit dramatic for my taste, but the essence of John shines brightly:

If you prefer a documentary, tune into “American Masters: Lennon NYC,” which focuses on Lennon’s and Yoko Ono’s life in the Big Apple, a place where he seemed to happily forget his former lives.

From the web site:

“New York became a part of who John and I were,” said Ms. Ono. “We couldn’t have existed the same way anywhere else. We had a very special relationship with the city, which is why I continue to make this my home, and I think this film captures what that time was like for us very movingly.”

“The period that Lennon lived with his family in New York is perhaps the most tender and affecting phase of his life as a public figure,” said Susan Lacy, series creator and executive producer of American Masters as well as a producer of the Lennon film. “Just as the generation that had grown up with the Beatles was getting a little older and approaching a transitional time in their lives as they started families, they saw this reflected in Lennon as he grew from being a rock star icon into a real flesh and blood person.”

“I have long been moved by the honesty and directness of John’s music,” said Michael Epstein, LENNONYC director, producer and writer. “And, by using never-before heard studio talkback of John from this period, I think I was able to give the viewer a window into John Lennon that had not been put to film before.”

LENNONYC features never-before heard studio recordings from the Double Fantasy sessions and never-before-seen outtakes from Lennon in concert and home movies that have only recently been transferred to video. It also features exclusive interviews with Ms. Ono, who cooperated extensively with the production and offers an unprecedented level of access, as well as with artists who worked closely with Lennon during this period, including Elton John and photographer Bob Gruen (who took the iconic photograph of Lennon in front of the skyline wearing a “New York City” t-shirt).

I love this clip, especially the explanation of why Lennon always played with his D-string slightly out-of-tune. It sheds great insight into the musician; he wasn’t a great guitarist, but he knew there was more to making music than being a technical wizard:

Watch the full episode. See more American Masters.

American Masters: Lennon NYC
11/22 9:00pm WOSU TV
11/23 1:00am WOSU TV
11/23 9:00pm WOSU PLUS

Masterpiece Contemporary: Lennon Naked
11/21 9:00pm WOSU TV
11/22 1:00am WOSU TV
11/22 9:00pm WOSU PLUS
11/23 3:00am WOSU TV

– Scott