John, by Cynthia Lennon

Money Can't Buy You Love

Liz Thomson
Friday 30 September 2005 00:00

There Have Been Countless Books About The Beatles As A Band And John Lennon As Its Avatar. Some Lacquer The Legend; Others Knock It. Paul Mccartney's Memoir And The Anthology Tv Series And Book Offered Insider Accounts Of The Beatle Years, While Lennon Famously Remembered In His Interview With Jann Wenner. Now, Cynthia Lennon, His First Wife, Finally Recalls Her Years With John In A Memoir That Is Revealing But Never Revelatory, Occasionally Critical But Never Unkind - And Ultimately Forgiving Of "An Extraordinary Man: Talented, Flawed, A Creative Genius Who Sang Movingly About Love While Often Wounding Those Close To Him".

Now Married For The Fourth Time, The Twinset-And-Pearls Girl From "Over The Water" Has Decided To "Tell The Truth" In Order That Julian, Their Son, Should Know The Real Story. In Fact, Mrs L Wrote A Short, Impressionistic Memoir In The Late Seventies, Against Her Better Judgement. There Were Many Men Who Saw This Vulnerable And Decent Woman As A Meal Ticket, Or Perhaps A Trophy. The Sad Thing Is That Cynthia, As Blinkered As She Was Short-Sighted, Never Saw Them Coming.

The Discovery Made One Day In A Lettering Class At Liverpool College Of Art That They Were Both As Blind As The Proverbial Bat, And Too Vain To Wear Their Specs, Was The Catalyst For An Attraction Of Opposites. Aware From The Outset Of Lennon's Mood-Swings, Cynthia Was Smitten, Happy To Be With Him In The Most Squalid Of Bedsits In Liverpool And Hamburg. His Formidable Auntie Mimi Thought She Wasn't Good Enough And, When Cynthia Found Herself Pregnant And John Did The Decent Thing, Left Her To Fend For Herself In Her Time Of Greatest Need, With John On The Road.

Indeed, Auntie Mimi Has A Lot To Answer For, Conspiring To Adopt John Even Though Her Wayward Sister Was Able To Provide The Loving Home She Transparently Could Not. Even When The Beatles Were Topping The Charts, She Forced John (Married But Living In Her Home) To Practise His Guitar In The Porch And Declined An Invitation To The Liverpool Premiere Of A Hard Day's Night Because It Wasn't Her Sort Of Thing. Lennon Never Stopped Trying To Win Her Approval.

It's Clear That John Did Love Cynthia But, If He Found It Difficult To Express, It's Surely Because No One Expressed Unconditional Love For Him. How, Then, Could He Lavish Love On Julian, Whom Cynthia Was Left To Bring Up As Best She Could, Even Before John Decamped With Yoko Ono? Yoko's Pursuit Of John, Her Determination To Keep Him Away From His Ex-Wife And Son, And Her Prevarication Over His Will, Doesn't Make For A Pretty Picture. As For The Domestic Bliss Celebrated In His Last Album, Double Fantasy, Julian Saw Little Of That On His Occasional Visits To New York.

Those Who Know The Story Will Find Little To Surprise, But Cynthia's Is An Engaging Memoir That Does Its Best To Tell It Like It Was. Along The Way, If Offers A Fascinating Glimpse Into An Altogether More Innocent Age, Before Star-Makers And Svengalis Began Colluding With Marketing Men And Tv Execs To Promote Talentless Wannabes To Overnight Success. For The Beatles Merely Appeared An Overnight Success - A Long Day's Journey Led To 1963. Cynthia, Pregnant And Living In Liverpool Suburbia, Had No Idea What She Had Let Herself In For. "If I'd Known As A Teenager What Falling For John Lennon Would Lead To," She Concludes, "I Would Have Turned Round... And Walked Away."

Liz Thomson Is Co-Editor, With David Gutman, Of 'The Lennon Companion' (Da Capo)

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