Lennon's 'rant' to McCartney fails to sell at Christie's pop auction

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A letter written by John Lennon to Paul McCartney and Madonna's diary from 1988 both failed to sell at auction in London yesterday.

Auctioneers expressed their disappointment after the most high-profile lots at the Christie's pop memorabilia salewere returned to their vendors, amid fears that the art market could be affected by the 11 September terrorist attacks. The letter, expected to fetch up to £80,000, only reached £52,000.

Pop memorabilia has been the fastest growing new market for auctioneers during the past decade. Yesterday's sale fetched a total of £235,464, with 87 per cent of lots sold.

The most expensive item sold was a letter written by Elvis Presley to his girlfriend Anita Wood while he was serving in the US Army in Germany. It reached £14,100, more than double the expected price.

Auction houses are not immune to economic downturns, and since the atrocities in America, the market has been holding its breath.

A Christie's spokesman said: "We're very disappointed about the letter; it is an important historical pop document. We don't know yet if it's the market. People were talking about the situation before 11 September, and the Old Masters sale we just held in New York was the most successful autumn auction ever."

Lennon's letter, littered with mistakes, deletions and expletives, revealed his conflicting emotions towards his songwriting partner, and the growing animosity between them.

Veering in content from intense anger and hurt, to disdain for Linda McCartney, and frustration and exasperation with numerous issues, he ended it on a note of palpable affection.

Lennon wrote the letter – famously known as the "rant letter" – in 1970 at his Berkshire mansion, Tittenhurst Park. Accusing Paul Mccartney of letting success go to his head, Lennon castigated him for believing that they alone sparked the youth revolution.

"Of course we changed the world – but try and follow it through – get off your gold disc and fly", he wrote, before signing off tenderly: "...inspite (sic) of it all, love to you both, from us two."

Typical entries in Madonna's frayed leather personal organiser illustrated her hectic lifestyle: "Workout, massage, leg wax, studio and photo shoot with Herb Ritts."

At the time, Madonna was attempting to reconcile her marriage with Sean Penn, illustrated in entries like: "Sep.17th: shopping for new rings w/Sean; Aug.20th: De Niro's Birthday party; Nov.24th: invite people to partie tonite... Thanxgiving at The Penns."

The Presley letter harks back to a simpler romantic age. In it he wrote: "You'll never know how much I miss you baby, and how much I want to pet you and call you "Widdle Bitty"... I haven't dated a single girl since I have been here ... I have never and never will again love anyone like I love you sweetheart."