Revelations: Julian Lennon, Barbados, Christmas 1997 - I had to grasp the mantle
Wednesday 26 August 1998
I decided to quit the music business and get off the treadmill of writing, recording and the promo tour. For the first time in my adult life I was really living; I could indulge in my hobbies, like sailing and photography. But with time to reflect, all my problems from the past came to light: on the one hand, I've had such a normal upbringing with my mum, who has kept me grounded; but on the other, the wild experiences through my dad. At the age of four you don't understand why there are fans standing at the gate.
People don't understand that, yes, John Lennon was my biological father, but he left when I was five years old and I may have seen him 10 times in my life after that. With little or no contact, other people have had to stand in, like my stepfather. My real dad's music was a great inspiration to me, both with the Beatles and solo, but as a father he was a totally different kettle of fish. That has always been tough to deal with; it can never be resolved because he is no longer around. The only thing I can do is look at his life and try to understand where he came from. There is no rule book, and I have nobody to look up to who has been in a similar situation. But these are the cards I've been dealt.
Away from the music business, I learnt to enjoy myself without worrying about whether people were looking at me. When I first came back from the States I lived in the countryside in France. It was probably the first time in my life that I felt anonymity. Although strange at first, it was a wonderful feeling. In America my guard was up, not because of what happened to Dad, but how fans approached me. If I was in a diner or a bar I could always sense movement behind me. Instead of confronting me head on and speaking, they would put on a Beatles tape and watch for my reaction - disturbing. Eventually I learned to be stone-faced about it, not react at all. I became over-aware, which was not healthy. If I heard Beatles music on the radio, anywhere, in a shop or a lift, I would immediately start looking around wondering if they were trying to wind me up again. I got to the point where I was so sick of hearing Beatles music. It was a curse.
Last Christmas I rented a beautiful house on the west coast of Barbados, just a couple of hundred yards from the water, with its own gardens and swimming-pool. The architecture was almost Greek-style, with the soft, white-washed walls, very simple, chilled, and peaceful; which was just as well because I had a big decision to make. I'd just finished an album of new songs. Having financed it myself, it was the first time I had the opportunity to work as I wanted to without someone knocking on the door and saying it's not up-tempo enough, or the chorus isn't commercial enough. But I was still unsure about getting back into the business; it was high risk to my sanity.
I'd invited several friends to join me in the Caribbean, many I hadn't seen for a long time. I have this tendency to try to look after people a lot. With different guests coming every other week, airport runs and island tours (I've been going there for 15 years) I was beginning to feel as if I was running a hotel, and needed a holiday myself. Slowly I realised I was making myself too busy to think.
I've always been bad at decision-making. During my childhood plans would be made for me to see my father and then they'd have to be altered - most probably by managers, not him - so I was brought up expecting there to be changes. Therefore my answer has always been: maybe. I've always found it very hard to say: we'll do it. Finally, I realised I could no longer put off the decision, so I drove round the island on my own. On the east coast it is very rocky with rugged terrain and there is a part in the north called Little Scotland, because it is so mountainous - it made me feel grounded.
I might have enjoyed the last seven years being just Julian Lennon - private citizen and nobody's son, but finally I knew I had to grasp the mantle again. At least this time I would do everything on my own terms.
In the back of my mind I'd always thought of starting my own record company - now I would eventually do it. Not wasting any time, I started finding out the logistics. I seemed to be for ever on the phone and finally a week later I sat down with my business manager and we started the company. It was very quick. I haven't regretted the decision - yet!
This time around it's different. I'm in control personally and professionally. But, most important, I've found my own self-worth as a writer. For me, composing songs is like self-help therapy. Not being able to speak out, I had bottled everything up inside: shut down and shut up. It was a very depressing and sad existence. Now, when times become a little too overwhelming, one of the best ways to resolve them is to get a pen and paper out and say to myself: how do I fix this and become a happier person? Finally, I've found constancy and a balance between creativity and normality. If we're all set a task by our childhoods, this has certainly been mine.
Julian Lennon's new single `I Don't Wanna Know', released this week, is taken from the album `Photograph Smile'
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