When I'm 65: art exhibition marks Lennon's birthday

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The Independent Online

The significance of his early interpretation of footballers and native Americans may have been lost on the young John Lennon as he sat in his Aunt Mimi's porch to work on his paintings.

But the 11-year-old's creations, along with a copy of his first passport and even one of his milk teeth, form part of an intimate new exhibition to mark the 65th anniversary year of Lennon's birth and the 25 years since his death.

The exhibition, which opens officially tomorrow, is at his aunt's south Liverpool home, Mendips, where Lennon moved after his parents - Alfred Lennon, a ship's steward, and Julia Stanley - separated.

Its artefacts have been selected from the family archives and approved by his widow, Yoko Ono, who handed the semi-detached suburban house to the National Trust several years ago.

The replica paintings on display demonstrate the artistic ability Lennon shared with Paul McCartney and, particularly in the case of the footballers, will be familiar to some John Lennon enthusiasts. The football picture provided the cover for Lennon's 1974 album Walls and Bridges, which included his US number one single "Whatever Gets You Through the Night".

The players depicted on the album include a black-and-white-shirted player with a large number 9 on his back (the number fascinated Lennon all his life). He entitled the picture Football and signed it "John Lennon, June 1952, aged 11".

Lennon would have displayed the pictures in the house for his family and visitors to see, said Simon Osborne, the National Trust Liverpool properties manager. "The stories of his childhood come alive at Mendips, which captures the spirit of the young Lennon in his early years."

Other paintings include a cruel caricature of a schoolboy friend, Our Own Syky Slug, Lennon's teacher, Mr Bob, and his idea of native Americans in the Wild West.

The exhibition also includes a replica of Lennon's passport, from 1960 to 1970, which charts the Beatles' history from the early years in Hamburg, Germany, to the rest of Europe, America and later trips to Japan and India. Copies of his post-war identity card, swimming proficiency certificate and 11-plus entrance exam card to Quarry Bank Grammar School have also been made for display.

Mendips, a three-bed semi in Menlove Avenue, has become part of the Beatles heritage trail, and during the summer attracts 250 visitors a day. It is where Lennon composed "Please Please Me" and was rescued by Ono from near-oblivion after developers revealed plans to buy the house and make a honeymoon suite out of her late husband's bedroom.

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