Newspaper article The Chronicle (Toowoomba, Australia)

Biography Unveils True Lennon

Newspaper article The Chronicle (Toowoomba, Australia)

Biography Unveils True Lennon

Article excerpt

MIAMI - Most people like to remember John Lennon as the dippy Utopian of Imagine.

Less remembered is the Lennon of Run For Your Life: "Well I'd rather see you dead little girl/Than to be with another man."

In Philip Norman's merciless biography, Lennon No. 2 is on full display and the picture isn't pretty.

Spiteful and selfish, miserly and misogynistic, Lennon abused his friends, cheated on his women and quarrelled with almost everyone he knew. His politics were phony and his public persona a pose, the working-class hero who never laboured a day in his life. (Personal motto: "Death before work.")

Even such details as his all-macrobiotic diet were hippie spin mastering. Norman recounts a horrified host discovering Lennon and Yoko Ono ransacking his refrigerator for bologna (prcessed sandwich meat).

John Lennon: The Life started out as a semi-authorised biography, with Norman getting full access to Ono and her family for three years' worth of interviews.

But when Ono got a look at an early version of the manuscript, she told Norman he had been "mean to John" and cut him off.

Unlike Albert Goldman's vicious The Lives of John Lennon, this book is no calculated character assassination. Norman admires Lennon's writing and musicianship and even appears to have some personal affection for Lennon. But he's undone by his reporting, which again and again butts up against the ruthlessness and self-indulgence with which Lennon conducted his life.

Manipulative from childhood, when he learned to play his troubled mother against the aunt who raised him, Lennon skated through art school on work done by his friends and then secured gigs for his band by installing the son of a club owner as the drummer. When the drummer, Pete Best, outlived his usefulness and the band got a recording contract, Lennon sent the group's manager to fire him.

"He was playing the tough guy with nothing to back it up, which was a dangerous thing to do," recalls a bar bouncer who rescued Lennon from countless brawls when the Beatles were playing seedy bars in Germany.

No one was immune from his bullying. He smacked a girlfriend for talking to another man. …

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