For more than a quarter century, biographer Philip Norman's internationally bestselling Shout! has been unchallenged as the definitive biography of the Beatles. Now, at last, Norman turns his formidable talent to the Beatle for whom being a Beatle was never enough. Drawing on previously untapped sources, and with unprecedented access to all the major characters, Norman presents the comprehensive and most revealing portrait of John Lennon ever published.
This masterly biography takes a fresh and penetrating look at every aspect of Lennon's much-chronicled life, including the songs that have turned him, posthumously, into a near-secular saint. In three years of research, Norman has turned up an extraordinary amount of new information about even the best-known episodes of Lennon folklore—his upbringing by his strict Aunt Mimi; his allegedly wasted school and student days; the evolution of his peerless creative partnership with Paul McCartney; his Beatle-busting love affair with a Japanese performance artist; his forays into painting and literature; his experiments with Transcendental Meditation, primal scream therapy, and drugs. The book's numerous key informants and interviewees include Sir Paul McCartney, Sir George Martin, Sean Lennon—whose moving reminiscence reveals his father as never seen before—and Yoko Ono, who speaks with sometimes shocking candor about the inner workings of her marriage to John.
“[A] haunting, mammoth, terrific piece of work.” -New York Times
Honest and unflinching, as John himself would wish, Norman gives us the whole man in all his endless contradictions—tough and cynical, hilariously funny but also naive, vulnerable and insecure—and reveals how the mother who gave him away as a toddler haunted his mind and his music for the rest of his days.
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About the Author
Philip Norman is a novelist, biographer, journalist, and playwright. He is the author of the bestselling biography John Lennon: The Life and the history of The Beatles Shout!: The Beatles in Their Generation. Norman has also published biographies of Buddy Holly, the Rolling Stones, and Elton John, as well as six works of fiction and two plays, The Man That Got Away and Words of Love. He lives in London.
Read an Excerpt
Before leaving London for the Sweet Toronto Peace Festival in September 1969, John had finally made up his mind to resign from the Beatles. But the whirl of departure had left no time to break it to the other three.
On September 20, Klein called a meeting in Apple’s boardroom for the formal signing of the Capitol contract. For the first time in months that John had all his fellow Beatles on hand to hear his news. But initially he held back, confining himself to a generalized complaint about Paul’s dominance of the band since the Magical Mystery Tour album. “I didn’t write any of that except Walrus . . . ” His tone was more hurt than accusatory. “So I didn’t bother, you know, and I thought I don’t really care whether I was on or not, I convinced myself it didn’t matter, and so for a period if you didn’t invite me to be on an album personally, if you three didn’t say, ‘Write some more songs ’cause we like your work,’ I wasn’t going to fight.”
The insecurity and fatalism revealed in this outburst were surprising enough. But John did not stop there. Warming to his theme – though still wounded rather than angry – he accused Paul of always having overshadowed him, not only by writing more songs but also by inveigling the lion’s share of studio time. It was not a row, more like the airing of mutual grievances before a marriage counselor. Surprised, and not a little hurt himself, Paul conceded that he might have “come out stronger” on recent albums, but pointed out that often when they went into the studio, John would have only a couple of songs ready to record. John agreed his inertia had been a factor: “There was no point in turning ’em out – I didn’t have the energy to turn ’em out and get ’em on as well.”
Paul was all for burying hatchets and pressing forward, convinced all would be well if they could free themselves from balance sheets and office politics. “When we get in a studio, even on the worst day, I’m still playing bass, Ringo’s still drumming, we're still there, you know. . . .”
It was the cue for John’s bombshell. “He hadn’t even told me he was going to do it,” Yoko remembers. “John said, ‘You don’t seem to understand, do you? The group is over. I’m leaving’ “
“I started the band, I disbanded it. It’s as simple as that,” John himself would recollect. “I must say I felt guilty at springing it on them at such short notice. After all, I had Yoko; they only had each other.”
According to music-industry wisdom in 1969, not even the Beatles could split up and expect to continue selling records in significant quantity. It was therefore vital that no word of John’s resignation should leak out until the Abbey Road album had realized its full market potential. “Paul and Klein convinced him to keep quiet,” Yoko remembers. “We went off in the car, and he turned to me and said, ‘That’s it with the Beatles. From now on, it’s just you – okay?’ I thought, ‘My God, those three guys were the ones entertaining him for so long. Now I have to be the one to take the load.’ ”
From the Hardcover edition.