Monday, 5 August 2013

John Lennon - An Author In His Own Write

There is a huge obstacle to get over when writing of John Lennon’s ability as an author. In fact there are several. The first of course is The Beatles. No shabby act themselves but they do tend, by virtue of their accomplishments, to block all paths to much else. Then there is Lennon himself. A man loved for being one of the 20th century’s greatest songwriters but also that beacon of love, peace and the ending of war. The last bit, without being deliberately obtuse, or willfully provocative , is the least of my concerns or interests. Peace and love are all admirable aims but when dealing with the human race such lofty aspirations are bound to fail even though I applaud Lennon's sentiment and hold the lyrics of 'Imagine' in high regard. It is the Fabs and Lennon’s career in music that get in the way of his authorial attempts. So lets deal with them first. 

John Lennon was a Beatle, in fact he was the one that started the whole thing rolling. They broke up and he then had his own successful career as a solo artist. He made a brilliant first album which he followed up with a host of indifferent stuff. There, that is it and now I can talk about the other thing he did rather well – writing nonsense verse.

At age eleven, having saved my two and six pocket money for several years, or so it seemed, I, along with my dad, went into Rooms Stores in Upminster whereupon I purchased my copy of ‘A Spaniard in the Works.’ It was Lennon’s second book. It was 1965. The first had been bought for me by a kindly aunt who also enjoyed the madcap style that the Liverpudlian employed. It wasn't rubbish but it was nonsense. In other words, of which Lennon uses with consummate skill, it was heavily influenced by the likes of Lear, Carroll, Spike Milligan and of course Stanley Unwin.

Lennon had an uncanny knack for tacking on words that played havoc with humour, bent meaning back on itself and ran with the flow of his considerable imagination. Often it was free association based on whatever word had begun the sentence. It was surreal and bonkers at times and laugh out loud contagious.
In total John Lennon wrote three books. They were ‘In His Own Write,’ ‘ A Spaniard in the Works’ and the posthumous ‘Skywriting By Word of Mouth.’ The last book was published in 1986. The other two were published in 1964 and 1965 respectively. The first two sparkle with wit and the joy of word play. They sometimes accelerate into fantasy but always riddled with a keen sense of humour. The final book is spoiled by the inclusion of ‘The Ballad of John and Yoko.' Not bad itself but the two genres do not mix well. It is a shame that the nonsense stuff wasn’t kept separate to the autobiographical aside.

The greatest tragedy of all though is the fact that Lennon didn’t write more between ’65 and his unfortunate death. It will seem almost sacrilegious to suggest that it may have been better had Lennon given up the music, perhaps at the time of Sean’s birth, and written more books of nonsense. If he was a genius at song writing then I would suggest he was equally as good at writing. I would even go so far to say that he should occupy the same shelf space as Edward Lear, Lewis Carroll and Spike Milligan.


     I sat belonely down a tree,
     humbled fat and small.
     A little lady sing to me
     I couldn't see at all.

     I'm looking up and at the sky,
     to find such wondrous voice.
     Puzzly puzzle, wonder why,
     I hear but have no choice.

     'Speak up, come forth, you ravel me',
     I potty menthol shout.
     'I know you hiddy by this tree'.
     Dut still she won't come out.

     Such softly singing lulled me sleep,
     an hour or two or so
     I wakeny slow and took a peep
     and still no lady show.

     Then suddy on a little twig
     I thought I see a sight,
     A tiny little tiny pig,
     that sing with all it's might.

     'I thought you were a lady'.
     I giggle,- well I may,
     To my surprise the lady,
     got up - and flew away.

Russell Cuts the Corn From The Brewers Whiskers.


LeeKwo said...

Great work Russell/ I unfortunately only like a couple of Beatles songs and John Lennon well the Yoko thing short of put me off/As for the writing well its interesting in its own way/Yr article was great/Usual laconic style/Regards and affection Lee Kwo/

Russell C.J. Duffy said...

Don't apolgise mate, you are not alone. I enjoyed his books more than much of the music and was simply writing about that.

Ming Seiko said...

Lennon was a smart man, and, as you pointed out, one of the finest rock poets (or poets in general) ever. I haven't actually encountered his other writing, and won't be likely to find the time in the near future. He obviously had a fascinating imagination--might even be a good fit for the Netherworld! Thanks for the review!

Perfect Virgo said...

Interesting, I had no idea Lennon wrote nonsense verse. Coincidentally I watched the Johnny Depp film, Alice in Wonderland with the girls yesterday. A visual feast but somewhat flat acting.

I know The Beatles' early pop opened the door for a host of other acts, but they benefited out of proportion, simply by being first.

Russell C.J. Duffy said...

Ming Seiko>>>Without Lennon's acerbic wit and intelligence there would have been no John Lydon or (gods help us) Liam Gallagher. He was a remarkable man as were the Beatles a remarkable group and not just for the music. People tend to forget how funny they were. How like forerunners to Monty Python (who loved them) they were. They were far more than just a band even though there musical experimentation leaves most modern bands eating dirt.
I felt Lennon, like all the ex-Beatles, was less good when solo. Not that he didn't write some incredible, down and raw songs for he did.
His books were massive in the sixties and had all and sundry, including the literary intelligentsia, claiming him a genius. Spike Milligan and his mate Peter Sellers were much impressed.
Thanks for popping in.

Russell C.J. Duffy said...

PV>>>Don't tell Buddy Holly and The Crickets, of whom The Fabs were influenced by, or The Shadows that as they may have something to say on that score!
You are right though, without the Beatles coming first all the other bands who followed would not have existed.
Your fav band even went on BBC in front of millions to pay a debt of thanks to them.
I saw that film and agree. I think though that Tim Burton wanted that performance from the usually excellent Depp and Mrs Burton as it profiled the bizarre quality of the tale.

Vanessa V Kilmer said...

I'm another of those Beatles non-fans, but that poem tickled me.

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