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Imagine trying to buy back your childhood

Steve Boggan
Monday 30 September 1996 00:02 BST

In 1964, as the Beatles were beginning to take the world by storm, but before they had become blessed by wealth, John Lennon sang the words: "Can't buy me love."

Three decades later, the son he walked out on as a five-year- old seems to be doing just that.

In the absence of the childhood he would have had if his father had not abandoned his mother, Cynthia, Julian Lennon appears to be buying one,

He was unmasked yesterday as the secret bidder who landed a series of lots at a London auction of Beatles memorabilia two weeks ago. And the items he bought were particularly poignant.

First, and perhaps most moving, were the scribbled notes for the song "Hey Jude", written by Paul McCartney for Julian at the time of his parents' break-up and originally entitled, "Hey Jules". Julian, 33, paid pounds 25,000 for the notes as part of a pounds 55,000 haul of vicarious memories.

Among them were a series of postcards from around the world, originally addressed to Julian but lost over the intervening years. Julian's manager, John Cousins, has said that Lennon Junior had only a few meetings with his father and just "a few photographs" together with him.

Sad then, that one of the postcards, from Japan, costing pounds 4,140, should end "Lots of love to you + God bless! Daddy, Yoko and Sean."

It has been said that such a sense of exclusion led the young Julian to embark upon his self- destructive period of drinking and drug-taking in the 1980s - a binge from which he has emerged remarkably intact.

For years, he was also excluded from his father's vast wealth, given just pounds 50,000 and a $100-a-week income.

Earlier this year, however, after a 16-year wrangle, he won a court battle entitling him to a pounds 20m share of Lennon's estimated pounds 250m estate.

That is making it easy for him to join Paul McCartney as one of the biggest collectors of Beatles memorabilia.

At the London auction, Julian - whose own musical career peaked in 1984 with the top-10 hit "Too Late for Goodbyes" - bought several more postcards.

One, sent from New York in 1979, signed "love, Dad" and costing pounds 3,700, said: "Every day in every way I am getting better and better." It advised the young Julian that "the mind is a muscle and needs to be exercised."

Julian is understood to be enjoying better relations with Yoko Ono since she agreed to release the money his father originally intended for him. As executor, she had held it back because of a provision allowing her to be the judge of when he was mature enough to receive it.

And despite the inevitable sadness of his childhood, observers say Julian had made his peace with his father before Lennon was shot outside his New York apartment in 1980.

But even in that there is a kind of sadness.

"As a child, John had been abandoned by his mother, who just left him for an aunt to bring up," said Philip Norman, author of Help! The True Story of the Beatles. "Then, just as he was getting to know her, she was killed.

"Exactly the same happened with Julian. He and Lennon had not been close for years but they were really getting there when John was murdered."

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