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Thursday, June 2, 2022

John Lennon Series Author Jude Southerland Kessler’s Books Accepted into Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Library’s Permanent Collection

10:03 AM Posted by Nicole M

The books of world-renowned Lennon historian Jude Southerland Kessler, author of The John Lennon Series, have just been accepted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Library & Archives permanent collection in Cleveland, Ohio.

An affiliate of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, the Library is a primary resource for information on Rock Hall Inductees and Nominees, rock-related subjects, and Rock Hall education programs and exhibits. For Kessler, whose life’s work revolves around researching the life of John Lennon, having her books made part of the collection is truly an honor and thrill.

“This wonderful accolade makes the ‘eight days a week’ of work researching, writing, and editing John’s life story over the last 35 years worth the sacrifice and dedication,” she says. “If I had told that 10-year-old Lennon fan that her books would be archived in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, I’m sure she wouldn’t have believed it. As John would have it, I’m on Cloud Nine.”

The Library is available to the public online, or in-person by appointment, for popular music research and includes databases, catalogs, archival collections and more.
Jude Southerland Kessler is the leading expert on the life of John Lennon and her expanded biographies on Lennon take readers chronologically through his life. The first five volumes of the projected nine-volume series are Shoulda Been There, Shivering Inside, She Loves You, Should Have Known Better and Shades of Life (Vol. 1). With a personal library of over 500 Beatles-related books and multi-media resources, Kessler undertook seven trips to Liverpool, England to interview Lennon’s childhood friends, early band members, art college mates, and business associates before embarking on writing the series, which is told in a narrative history format and heavily documented.

Jude Southerland Kessler is represented by 910 Public Relations. To learn more about her work, visit: www.johnlennonseries.com. To learn more about the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Library & Archives, visit: https://library.rockhall.com

Tuesday, August 10, 2021

Guitarist David Jameson performs the Beatles' "Rain"

4:30 PM Posted by Nicole M

Guitarist David Jameson performs "Rain" as part of Beatles "B-sides" project

Longtime Beatles fan and musician David Jameson is working his way through performing the B-sides of all the Beatles' UK singles. Here is Jameson's recent recording of "Rain," the B-side to 1966's "Paperback Writer" and the 12th song in Jameson's series, now available on YouTube. Check it out below!

Tuesday, June 29, 2021

List of Songs Performed During the "Get Back" Sessions (Pt I)

2:13 PM Posted by Nicole M

Thursday, January 2, 1969

Don’t Let Me Down (15 versions)

‘All Things Must Pass’ (two versions)

Dig A Pony

‘Let It Down’ (Harrison; two versions)

Brown-Eyed Handsome Man (Chuck Berry)

A Case Of The Blues (Lennon)

‘Child Of Nature’ (Lennon)


I Shall Be Released (Bob Dylan)

‘Sun King’ (five versions)

‘Mailman, Bring Me No More Blues’ (Buddy Holly)

Speak To Me (Jackie Lomax)

I’ve Got A Feeling (20 versions)

The Mighty Quinn (Bob Dylan)

Well… Alright (Buddy Holly)

Two Of Us (nine versions)

Everybody Got Song* (Lennon)

The Teacher Was A-Lookin’* (group jam)

We’re Goin’ Home* (group jam)

It’s Good To See The Folks Back Home* (McCartney)

Friday, January 3, 1969

‘The Long And Winding Road

‘Oh! Darling’ (two versions)

‘Maxwell's Silver Hammer’ (11 versions)

Adagio For Strings (Samuel Barber; two versions)

Tea For Two Cha-Cha (Tommy Dorsey; two versions)

Chopsticks (Euphemia Allen)

Torchy, The Battery Boy (McCartney)

Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On (Jerry Lee Lewis)

‘Let It Be’

Taking A Trip To Carolina (Starr; two versions)

Please Mrs Henry (Bob Dylan)

Picasso (Starr)

‘Hey Jude’

‘All Things Must Pass’ (37 versions)

‘Don’t Let Me Down’ (10 versions)

‘Crackin’ Up’ (Bo Diddley; two versions)

All Shook Up (Elvis Presley)

Your True Love (Carl Perkins)

Blue Suede Shoes (Carl Perkins)

‘Three Cool Cats’ (The Coasters)

Blowin’ In The Wind (Bob Dylan)

‘Lucille’ (Little Richard)

‘I’m So Tired’

‘Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da’ (three versions)

Third Man Theme (Anton Karas)

‘Sun King’ (four versions)

‘I’ve Got A Feeling’ (six versions)

Going Up The Country (Canned Heat)

On The Road Again (Canned Heat)

‘One After 909’ (three versions)

A Pretty Girl Is Like A Melody (Irving Berlin)

Thinking Of Linking (Lennon-McCartney)

Bring It On Home To Me (Sam Cooke)

Hitch Hike (Marvin Gaye)

‘You Can’t Do That’

‘The Hippy Hippy Shake’ (Chan Romero)

All Along The Watchtower (Bob Dylan)

Short Fat Fannie (Larry Williams)

Midnight Special (Lonnie Donegan)

‘Two Of Us’

When You’re Drunk You Think Of Me (trad)

What’s The Use Of Getting Sober (When You’re Gonna Get Drunk Again) (Louis Jordan)

What Do You Want To Make Those Eyes At Me For? (Emile Ford And The Checkmates)

‘Money (That’s What I Want)’

‘Gimme Some Truth’ (Lennon)

The Weight (The Band)

I’m A Tiger (Lulu)

‘Back In The USSR’

‘Every Little Thing’

Piece Of My Heart (Erma Franklin; two versions)

Sabre Dance (Love Sculpture)

I’ve Been Good To You (The Miracles)

Ramblin’ Woman* (Harrison)

Is It Discovered* (Harrison)

Your Name Is Ted* (Beatles jam)

Get On The Phone* (Lennon-McCartney)

My Words Are In My Heart* (McCartney)

Negro In Reserve* (Lennon-McCartney)

Because I Know You Love Me So* (Lennon-McCartney)

I’ll Wait Till Tomorrow* (Lennon-McCartney)

Won’t You Please Say Goodbye* (Lennon-McCartney)

Over And Over Again* (McCartney)

Monday, January 6, 1969

‘Oh! Darling’

C’mon Marianne (The Four Seasons)

‘I’ve Got A Feeling’ (three versions)

High School Confidential (Jerry Lee Lewis)

‘Hear Me Lord’ (Harrison; eight versions)

‘For You Blue’ (two versions)

‘All Things Must Pass’ (nine versions)

‘Carry That Weight’ (four versions)

‘Octopus’s Garden’

The Palace Of The King Of The Birds (McCartney)

‘Across The Universe’ (two versions)

I Want You (Bob Dylan)

‘Don’t Let Me Down’ (28 versions)

‘One After 909’ (three versions)

‘That’s All Right (Mama)’ (Elvis Presley)

Thirty Days (Chuck Berry)

Leaning On A Lamppost (George Formby)

Annie (Lennon)

I’m Talking About You (Chuck Berry)

The Tracks Of My Tears (The Miracles)

‘Dizzy Miss Lizzy’

‘Money (That’s What I Want)’

Fools Like Me (Jerry Lee Lewis)

‘Sure To Fall (In Love With You)’ (Carl Perkins)

Right String, Wrong Yo-Yo (Carl Perkins)

Send Me Some Loving (Little Richard)

‘Two Of Us’ (20 versions)

Frère Jacques (trad)

It Ain’t Me Babe (Bob Dylan)

When The Saints Go Marching In (trad)

Loop De Loop (Johnny Thunder)

Let’s Dance (Chris Montez)

‘She Came In Through The Bathroom Window’       (seven versions)

You Wear Your Women Out* (McCartney)

My Imagination* (McCartney)

I’m Gonna Pay For His Ride* (McCartney)

They Call Me Fuzz Face* (McCartney)

Maureen* (Bob Dylan/Harrison)

Tuesday, January 7, 1969

‘The Long And Winding Road’ (two versions)

‘Golden Slumbers’

‘Carry That Weight’

The Palace Of The King Of The Birds      (McCartney; two versions)

‘Lady Madonna’

‘She Came In Through The Bathroom Window’      (four versions)

Lowdown Blues Machine (McCartney)

What’d I Say (Ray Charles; two versions)

‘Shout’ (The Isley Brothers)

‘Get Back’ (four versions)

My Back Pages (Bob Dylan)

‘I’ve Got A Feeling’ (14 versions)

Stuck Inside Of Mobile With The Memphis Blues Again      (Bob Dylan)

I Shall Be Released (Bob Dylan)

To Kingdom Come (The Band)

‘For You Blue’ (two versions)

Bo Diddley (Bo Diddley)

What The World Needs Now Is Love (Jackie DeShannon)

First Call (trad)

‘Maxwell’s Silver Hammer’ (18 versions)

‘Oh! Darling’ (two versions)

Rule Britannia (trad)

‘Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown)’

Speak To Me (Jackie Lomax)

‘When I’m Sixty-Four’

‘A Shot Of Rhythm And Blues’ (Arthur Alexander)

‘(You’re So Square) Baby I Don’t Care’ (Elvis Presley)

‘Across The Universe’ (12 versions)

‘Gimme Some Truth’ (Lennon; three versions)

A Case Of The Blues (Lennon; two versions)

Cuddle Up (McCartney)

‘From Me To You’

‘Rock And Roll Music’

‘Lucille’ (Little Richard)

Lotta Lovin’ (Gene Vincent; two versions)

Gone, Gone, Gone (Carl Perkins)

‘Dig A Pony’

‘One After 909’ (five versions)

‘Don’t Let Me Down’ (12 versions)

‘Devil In Her Heart’

Thirty Days (Chuck Berry)


‘Be-Bop-A-Lula’ (Gene Vincent)

Somethin’ Else (Eddie Cochran)

FBI (The Shadows)

Mr Epstein Said It Was White Gold* (McCartney)

Woman Where You Been So Long* (Beatles jam)

Oh Julie, Julia* (McCartney)

Wednesday, January 8, 1969

‘I Me Mine’ (41 versions)

‘I’ve Got A Feeling’ (two versions)

Honey Hush (The Johnny Burnette Trio)

Stand By Me (Ben E King)

Hare Krishna Mantra (Hindu chant; two versions)

‘Two Of Us’

You Got Me Going (McCartney)

‘Twist And Shout’

‘Don’t Let Me Down’ (two versions)

‘St Louis Blues’ (WC Handy)

‘One After 909’

Too Bad About Sorrows (Lennon-McCartney)

Just Fun (Lennon-McCartney)

‘She Said She Said’

‘She Came In Through The Bathroom Window’

One Way Out (Elmore James)

MacArthur Park (Richard Harris)

‘All Things Must Pass’ (11 versions)

‘Mean Mr Mustard’

Fools Like Me (Jerry Lee Lewis)

You Win Again (Jerry Lee Lewis)

Right String, Wrong Yo-Yo (Carl Perkins)

Boogie Woogie (Lennon)

Baa, Baa, Black Sheep (trad)

Mr Bassman (Johnny Cymbal)

‘Maxwell’s Silver Hammer’ (13 versions)

How Do You Think I Feel (Elvis Presley)

The Ballad Of Bonnie And Clyde (Georgie Fame)

Hello Mudduh, Hello Fadduh! (A Letter From Camp)      (Allan Sherman)

‘I Me Mine’

FBI (The Shadows)

‘Oh! Darling’

‘Let It Be’ (three versions)

The Fool (Sanford Clark)

Domino (Doris Day/Andy Williams)

‘The Long And Winding Road’ (six versions)

Adagio For Strings (Samuel Barber)

True Love (Elvis Presley)

‘Shout’ (The Isley Brothers)

‘Sweet Little Sixteen’ (Chuck Berry)

Malagueña (trad)

Almost Grown (Chuck Berry)

What Am I Living For (Chuck Willis)

‘Rock And Roll Music’

To Kingdom Come (The Band)

Get Your Rocks Off (Dylan)

Well, If You’re Ready* (McCartney)

Life Is What You Make It* (Beatles jam)

I’m Going To Knock Him Down Dead* (Lennon)

Tell All The Folks Back Home* (McCartney)

Thursday, January 9, 1969

Another Day (McCartney)

The Palace Of The King Of The Birds (McCartney)

‘Let It Be’ (16 versions)

‘The Long And Winding Road’ (five versions)

‘Her Majesty’

‘Golden Slumbers’

‘Carry That Weight’

‘Oh! Darling’

‘For You Blue’ (15 versions)

‘Two Of Us’ (eight versions)

Baa, Baa, Black Sheep (trad)

‘Don’t Let Me Down’

Suzy’s Parlour (Lennon)

‘I’ve Got A Feeling’ (five versions)

‘One After 909’ (four versions)

‘Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown)’

‘She Came In Through The Bathroom Window’      (seven versions)

‘Be-Bop-A-Lula’ (Gene Vincent)

‘Get Back’ (six versions)

Penina (McCartney)

‘Across The Universe’ (12 versions)

‘Teddy Boy’ (McCartney)

‘Junk’ (McCartney)

Move It (Cliff Richard and The Drifters)

‘Good Rockin’ Tonight’ (Elvis Presley)

Tennessee (Carl Perkins)

House Of The Rising Sun (The Animals)

Honey Hush (The Johnny Burnette Trio)

Hitch Hike (Marvin Gaye)

‘All Together Now’

I Threw It All Away (Bob Dylan)

Mama, You Been On My Mind (Bob Dylan)

‘That’ll Be The Day’ (Buddy Holly)

Jenny, Jenny (Little Richard)

Slippin’ And Slidin’ (Little Richard)

Shakin’ In The Sixties* (Lennon)

Commonwealth* (Lennon-McCartney)

Enoch Powell* (McCartney)

Get Off* (Lennon-McCartney)

Quit Your Messing Around* (Lennon)

Ramblin’ Woman* (Harrison)

Friday, January 10, 1969 (George Quits)

‘The Long And Winding Road’ (three versions)

‘Let It Be’

‘Don’t Let Me Down’ (two versions)

‘Maxwell’s Silver Hammer’ (four versions)

‘I’ve Got A Feeling’ (four versions)

‘Get Back’ (22 versions)

‘She’s A Woman’

Hi Heel Sneakers (Tommy Tucker; two versions)

‘Long Tall Sally’

Theme from The Beatles Cartoons

Catch A Falling Star (Perry Como)

‘Two Of Us’ (six versions)

I’m Talking About You (Chuck Berry)

A Quick One, While He’s Away      (The Who; four versions)

‘Till There Was You’

C’mon Everybody (Eddie Cochran)

Mack The Knife (Bobby Darin)

Don’t Be Cruel (Elvis Presley)

The Peanut Vendor (Louis Armstrong)

It’s Only Make Believe (Conway Twitty)

Adagio for Strings (Samuel Barber)

‘Martha My Dear’

‘Sun King’

‘Dear Prudence’

On A Sunny Island*

Through A London Window

Monday, January 13, 1969

‘Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da’ (two versions)

Otis Sleep On (Arthur Conley)

Baby, Come Back (The Equals)

Build Me Up Buttercup (The Foundations; three versions)

‘Dig A Pony’ (two versions)

‘Get Back’ (15 versions)

On The Road Again (Canned Heat)

Tuesday, January 14, 1969

‘Martha My Dear’

‘San Francisco Bay Blues’ (Jesse Fuller)

The Day I Went Back To School (McCartney)

Lady Jane (The Rolling Stones; two versions)

Talking Blues (McCartney)

Jazz Piano Song (McCartney-Starr)

Woman (McCartney; three versions)

Cocaine Blues (Johnny Cash)

Flushed From The Bathroom Of Your Heart (Johnny Cash)

On A Clear Day You Can See Forever      (Burton Lane/Alan Jay Lerner)

The Back Seat Of My Car (McCartney; two versions)

Hello, Dolly! (Louis Armstrong)

‘Mean Mr Mustard’ (two versions)

Madman (Lennon; three versions)

Watching Rainbows (Lennon; two versions)

Take This Hammer (Lonnie Donegan)

‘Johnny B Goode’ (Chuck Berry; two versions)

‘Get Back’

‘You Know My Name (Look Up The Number)’

‘Oh! Darling’ (two versions)

‘Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da’

Oh Baby I Love You* (McCartney)

Song Of Love* (McCartney)

As Clear As A Bell* (McCartney)

You Are Definitely Inclined Towards It* (Lennon)

Don’t Start Running* (Lennon)

Wednesday, March 3, 2021

Octopus' Garden Review of "The Country of Liverpool" Book

2:46 PM Posted by Nicole M

 Adapted with permission from Octopus' Garden fanzine, Volume 30, Issue #3, March 2021. Review by Tom Aguiar.

The Country of Liverpool: Nashville of the North by David Bedford.

 Fans of the Beatles are familiar with the group’s affinity for country music created in America. What many people don’t realize is that in the 1960s and up to today, country music experienced tremendous popularity in Europe as evidenced by its root in the skiffle craze that eventually developed into British rock and roll music. The interest of the Beatles and others is not as simplistic as records coming off the ships berthing in Liverpool. It is much deeper and more substantive.

 The earliest immigrants to the American colonies from Britain and Ireland brought with them folk songs, hymns, and primitive African blues. The songs told stories of love, war, legends, and more and were written with a regular rhythm generations remember and repeat easily. The early settlers came from Britain, Ireland, and Scotland, and found homes in the Appalachian Mountains. As time went on, the descendants moved to other parts of the new world and the songs began to evolve and develop into what eventually became all the splinter forms of the country music genre, from country and western to bluegrass and beyond.

Bedford expertly describes the growth of country music in the US and how it is also firmly formed in the roots of rock and roll of the early 1950s in the music of Buddy Holly, Johnny Cash, and others. Interest in the country and western genre in both America and Britain also included western movies and American cowboys and it was a regular occurrence for British youth to attend Saturday movies to revel in their interest. Many Liverpool bands took names that were reminiscent of the American cowboy, as well.

The cowboy image quickly evolved into the British rocker. Country and western music did not disappear with the advent of the Liverpool rock scene. Far from it. It had a strong following in Europe that continued to grow, despite slipping into the background. Country stars such as Phil Brady blossomed and grew in their own right and there were many, many clubs that specialized in country music.

Bedford presents the story in a way that keeps the reader interested. His research skills are deep and impeccable. He uses old photos and posters as key parts of the story with a charm that adds to the book.

David Bedford has tackled subjects, that other authors sidestep, in his books, such as Liddypool and Finding the Fourth Beatle, and presents topics that are new to readers. The Country of Liverpool is no exception and cements Bedford’s standing as one of the top Beatles historians of today. An excellent book and an excellent story told in a way that is interesting, educational, and just plain enjoyable.

Another must-have for Beatles, and music, fans.

Sunday, December 27, 2020

Lennon Tribute Song "The Man from the Lonely Hearts Club Band" by David Jameson

2:31 PM Posted by Nicole M


Guitarist David Jameson performs his tribute to John Lennon, "The Man from the Lonely Hearts Club Band"

Longtime Beatles fan and musician David Jameson originally wrote this song (along with his friend and collaborator William Hills) in 1981 to honor Lennon after the occasion of his untimely passing. Now, Jameson's recent recording of the tribute is available to watch on YouTube. Check it out below!

Sunday, December 13, 2020

"John Lennon: Why We Still Care" by Jude Southerland Kessler

2:28 PM Posted by Nicole M

 Adapted with permission from Octopus' Garden fanzine, Volume 30, Issue #2, December 2020.

John Lennon: Why We Still Care by Jude Southerland Kessler
Author of The John Lennon Series

Four decades after his passing…and still we pause, celebrating the life of John Lennon, looking back not with misty-eyed nostalgia but with clear-headed vision that embraces both his many strengths and his many weaknesses.

John Lennon was no saint…that’s for sure. He never – not even as a teen – suffered fools lightly, and when the press (in 1963-66) asked him ridiculous questions such as “What do you do with all that hair while you sleep?” he, often as not, presented a jaw-clinched, disgusted visage and threw them a sharp retort. He admitted that he had “a chip on [his] shoulder bigger than his feet,” and so his ire often flared in instances through which Paul was able to maneuver with some politically-correct response. And yes, John was often jealous and sharp-tongued…and infrequently physical with Cynthia.

But despite the faults that his latter-day detractors have hurled at him, he is still the most exceptional individual I’ve ever known. John Lennon endured a string of life tragedies that none of us could weather, and ultimately, he used them for good. He used them to create beautiful, haunting, lasting lyrical compositions…he gave us the soundtrack of our lives.

Look, John had every reason to be bitter. At age five, his parents (for very complicated reasons) surrendered him to his Aunt Mimi and Uncle George to rear – and although George Toogood Smith was truly “too good” (exceptionally kind and loving), Mimi was not. She was the soul of decorum and discipline. And when six-year-old John – begging for love – would ask her, “Mimi, why are you here every day when I come home from school?” she would only respond, “Because it’s my duty to do so.” Mimi taught John many important things: to study, go to church, mind his manners, behave…but she never taught to him to love.

As John grew into his preteen years, he “found out” that his mother, Julia, lived only about a mile from Mimi’s house. And he began to visit her frequently, getting to know his two half-sisters, Julia and Jacqui. It was a bond John cherished, but the knowledge that his mother didn’t “despise children,” after all – that she wanted her two girls and not him – was a heavy cross to bear. Alone in his bed at Mendips, he wondered what he’d done to make her push him aside. He yearned for her love and attention.

But that doubt must have been dispelled somewhat when, after the loss of John’s beloved Uncle George (when John was almost 15…a time when he needed a “father” most), Julia came back into his life as his best friend. For two years, his mother and he bonded. Julia encouraged John to skip school and hang out with her. She taught him to play banjo, told him he “had music in his bones,” played her rock’n’roll records for him, and helped him form a skiffle band, the Quarry Men. She invited the fledgling band to practice in her acoustically excellent bathroom, and many times, she banged on pots and pans, their drummer. Julia was beloved by them all, part of their group. However, on 15 July 1958, she was hit by a drunk driver and instantly killed. And once again, John lost her. But this time forever, to death.

If this had been John’s last tragedy, he would have been completely justified in being angry at the world. Even at this juncture, he had every reason to give up and quit – to become a delinquent, a criminal, a bitter hermit — withdrawn from society. And many (including Dave Bennion, the “Head Boy” or Prefect at Quarry Bank Grammar) thought Lennon would do just that.

But instead of surrendering to a life of sorrow, John began to write songs born of the pain. And over the next five years, he wailed at the microphones of Merseyside and Hamburg and then the U.K. and finally, the world, for Julia. He told us all, “If she’s gone, I can’t go on, feelin’ two foot small.” And, “I’m a loser, and I’m not what I appear to be,” and “I’ve got every reason on earth to be mad, ’cause I just lost the only girl I had. If I could get my way, I’d get myself locked up today, but I can’t so I’ll cry instead.” Using his loss to weave beauty, John Lennon created The Beatles. He relentlessly pushed them — when on many occasions, such as December of 1960, they gave up and returned to “regular jobs” — to achieve, conquer, succeed.

In his life, John did many great things. He was a talented writer, penning two award-winning books of wry, satirical poetry and prose. He was a gifted single-line artist whose gallery still tours the world to critical acclaim. He was a global advocate for peace. He was a fighter for Irish independence, writing two songs for the cause and leading the New York City march on BOAC on behalf of the Irish people. John had myriad talents.

But today, we remember him most because he left us the example of a life well-lived. He left us an example of a man who never surrendered to the lashing that the world can dole out. John never let the unending tragedies that tried to crush him snuff out his soul.

After the loss of his mother, John went on to endure the death of his soul mate, Stu Sutcliffe. And John suffered at the hands of an unfeeling press when a remark he’d made to close journalist friend Maureen Cleave was lifted by Datebook magazine, taken out of context, and used to generate a hate campaign against John and The Beatles. In later life, John suffered a messy divorce from a girl he had once loved deeply. And in his last decade, he and his second wife, Yoko Ono, lost babies to miscarriages. Even John’s solo career was rocky: his music was banned by the BBC for his support of Ireland. Life for John Lennon was never ever easy.

And yet, John never surrendered. On certain days, when I feel down or depressed or hurt or angry, when I threaten to throw up my hands and walk away…I think of John. I think of his resolve and his “toppermost of the poppermost” attitude and his unflinching determination. In a year of political vitriol and insults, serious health issues, economic distress, and personal challenges, I look to him as a life model. And researching and writing about his life with sincere admiration for 35 years, I repeat about John Winston Lennon the very best compliment that I could ever give to anyone: he never gave up.

And that…that is why we still care.   

Octopus' Garden Review of "John Lennon, 1980" Book

2:17 PM Posted by Nicole M

Adapted with permission from Octopus' Garden fanzine, Volume 30, Issue #2, December 2020. Review by Tom Aguiar.

John Lennon, 1980: The Last Days in the Life by Kenneth Womack, Omnibus Press.

Nineteen-eighty was a landmark year for John Lennon, as he was ending his self-imposed exile and rediscovering his muse in dramatic fashion with the release of his and Yoko’s most mature album to date, Double Fantasy.

John had left music behind five years earlier and dedicated himself to the role of househusband and father to his son Sean. He had missed his older son Julian’s childhood and was determined not to make the same mistake again.

He claimed that he spent his time baking bread and that was true, at least until the thrill wore off and it became routine and then he stopped. He continued to write little snippets here and there, never fully giving up his music.

During the period leading up to 1980, John and Yoko continued to work on the longform adaptation of "The Ballad of John and Yoko," and purchased El Solano in Palm Beach, Florida. Bag One Productions and Joko Films had been inactive and subsequently dissolved leaving just Lenono Music, which ended up encapsulating all of their projects. John even became interested in sailing and took lessons.

The beginning of the return of John’s muse began in Bermuda, but it was the trip aboard the Meghan Jaye that really reawakened his musical spirit. It was a trip into the unknown for John, who had always held dreams of going to sea, just like his father. A few days into the trip, the boat ran into a storm and the crew was incapacitated by illness. During the storm, John had to take the wheel. As his courage rose, he was able to sail the Meghan Jaye through the tempest, shouting and singing.

Once settled in Bermuda, John felt an onrush of songs. Visiting a garden, John viewed a plant called Double Fantasy and thought it would be a great title. John feverishly wrote and recorded songs that just came pouring out of him.

Back in New York, John and Yoko entered the studio to record the album. John was still apprehensive but as time went on, he felt more and more that the album would be a success. Encouragement from Yoko, producer Jack Douglas, and the music involved raised the excitement level within John. Soon he would begin to talk about touring.

Renowned music historian Kenneth Womack reveals in vivid detail the events of that pivotal year. John had found his muse in unforgettable moments of creative success. Womack’s skill as a researcher uncovers many incidents that contributed to John’s return to artistic success in Bermuda and the studio. John was ready to have an unprecedented year and was ready for anything. Double Fantasy was completed and a success, and John was now working on his next album, Milk and Honey, as he returned from the Record Plant recording studio on December 8, 1980.

Womack describes what happened next with one sentence, “All that changed at 10:45 PM” and the reader immediately knows. Womack deals with the aftermath by visiting the legacy that John left on the world through the eyes of Paul McCartney, George Harrison, Ringo Starr, and all of John’s fans. There were tributes such as Strawberry Fields, a statue of John in Cuba, and a memorial in Bermuda, and those are things on which Womack focuses. It’s the story of John Lennon’s life, not his death.

Womack is a renowned author, researcher, and master storyteller. and John Lennon 1980: The Last DaysIn The Life is one of his best. Where Womack surpasses himself is that he able to take the renaissance that John experienced, lift it off the pages, and place it into the soul of the reader. Yes, John had a renaissance and the reader is able to actually feel it through Womack’s writing. That is very rare for any author and it is a tribute to Kenneth Womack’s skills as a writer. He is a master and if I could give this book a grade higher than A plus, I would.