John Lennon: The Life


I am currently reading John Lennon: The Life by Phillip Norman. I have not had my ear to the ground re: this particular book so I am not sure what’s the buzz amongst Beatles experts on this author and the job he’s done. My own particular opinion is that I’m not sure I can trust him or his sources. I can’t quite put my finger on the exact reason but he gives off a rather biased vibe to me. It’s as though either A) he had preconceived notions about the people in John’s life, and set out to find “facts” that substantiated those notions, or, B) he formed an opinion quickly based on very little once he actually started researching the book. I am picking up that he’s injected a lot of his own opinions into the story but is stating them as fact. And the majority of his sources are not exactly A-list, either, or didn’t spend enough time with John for me to fully trust their perception of him.
The author often neglects to cite any source at all for his information, leaving me to wonder exactly where he’s getting it and how reliable it is. I have to wonder, for example, about the few women he cites in the book who had illicit relationships with John. I have little respect for, and even less trust in, women who kiss and tell in regards to the Beatles. Think about it — how many hundreds of women have stories about encounters with the Beatles? But how many do you actually hear talking about it? Most, it seems, are content to treasure their memories in private. So I do wonder about the legitimacy of the very few who have let details slip. In fact, the author seems especially fond of the more sordid or scandalous details, most of which are gleefully relayed free of cumbersome details such as source citation. It makes me wonder about his motivation, certainly.
Not only that but he has gotten several facts just plain wrong; facts that should’ve been easy to check for accuracy, or even things he would’ve already known before beginning were he even a moderately ardent fan. For example, he continually refers to “Norm” in A Hard Day’s Night as the Beatles’ “roadie.” “Norm” is absolutely NOT their roadie; he is their manager, based (in position, not personality) on Brian Epstein! That is a very elementary fact and yet he misses it entirely, leading me to wonder if he has even seen the movie at all.
Lastly he has a very irritating fascination with a series of British books featuring a character called William. According to the author, John read these books avidly as a child, and, for some reason, Phillip Norman is obsessed with drawing parallels between John and this William character even though the connection is tenuous, at best. I am only halfway through the book but if I have to read the phrase “Richmal Crompton’s William” one more time I may throw my Kindle out the window.
So, bottom line: I’m taking this one with a big ol’ grain of salt. There have been some interesting tidbits that I feel are substantiated enough as to be generally believable. And I’ve been interested to read quotes from some of the players from whom I haven’t heard much. But as for whether I buy it all as gospel? Heck no. It’s certainly not a threat to become the new definitive biography of John, that’s certain.


About msmaryb

I'm a native Californian who lives in Oklahoma. I'm a full-time student, pursuing a Bachelors in Anthropology, following which I hope to attain a Masters in Archaeology. I have three kids, one husband, no pets, and a lot of friends - most of whom live inside my computer. I love to read, write, watch tv (shut up, we can't all be brain surgeons), shop, and travel. I'm trying to set foot in all 50 states before I die. I have 38, so far. I love the Beatles and Maroon 5, and if you think those two things are incongruous, well, they are. But that's me. When I love something, I love it 100%. I don't do anything halfway. I want to know everything there is to know, so I'm trying to cram as much into my brain as I can in the short amount of time I'm allotted in this dimension.

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