Tag Archives: John Lennon

Book Review: “My Private Lennon” by Sibbie O’Sullivan

I need to be honest, I really wasn’t expecting much when I bought a copy of My Private Lennon: Explorations from a Fan Who Never Screamed by Sibbie O’Sullivan. I believe the book came up as a recommendation on Amazon while I was perusing other books. “Another fan book…”, I thought. But, it was only 165 pages long and was published February 17, 2020, making it current. Why not…I need to start reading and reviewing more books.

Reading this wasn’t like reading just another fan book. Yes, she and her friends talked endlessly about the Beatles. Yes, she had teen magazines about the Fab Four. And yes, she did see the Beatles during a dress rehearsal at the Ed Sullivan theater in August 1965, an event she has barely any memory of except for the photo she took of John Lennon on stage. And YES, this book is so much more than just another fan book.

Sibbie O’Sullivan weaves her personal life in with the stories of the Beatles, their wives and their own personal life choices. And she does it in a brutally honest way. She tells stories of the innocence of being a teenager to becoming sexually promiscuous, a shotgun wedding, divorce, friends, family, etc. She ties her stories in with the feelings of Cynthia, John & Yoko, but in a way to show how she can relate to what they must have been feeling at the time. Her stories are told so much deeper, more emotional and grown-up than other Beatle fan books that’s I’ve read. Honestly, and maybe it’s the voyeur in me, but I couldn’t put this books down. I even believe that if she had left the Beatles out of it, it still would be a great read. By the time I finish, I thought, “I hope she feels better now”. It’s a beautifully written memoir. And for that reason…

I rate this book, 4 out of 4 Beetles!

 

 

 

 

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From Hemingway to Lennon and back again…

I’ve spent the last several months slowly reading my way through The Letters of Ernest Hemingway: Volume 4. A friend of mine had sent me an article back in April 2020 that talked about some of the letters between Hemingway and his U.K. publisher, Jonathan Cape Publishing, contained in the book.

Jonathan Cape publishing was founded in London in 1921 by Herbert Jonathan Cape and his partner Wren Howard.  They would publish many notable and award winning authors, including: Robert Frost, Ian Fleming and James Joyce. The publishing house still exists today and is an imprint for Penguin/Random House.

In 1925, Jonathan Cape became Ernest Hemingway’s U.K. publisher and would publish the British editions of Hemingway’s In Our Time in 1926, followed by The Sun Also Rises, Men Without Women, A Farewell to Arms and Death in the Afternoon. But Hemingway was very open about his hatred of the publishing house’s namesake. Cape would often make edits and publish Hemingway’s works without asking the author’s permission, something Hemingway was very strict about. Once Hemingway was done writing and editing a book that was it. It was finished. Period. He hated changes of any sorts, especially when they tried to remove “dirty” works or rewrite scenes that were of the deeply intimate type. Many publishers, including his own would warn him that his books could be censored due to the questionable language, but he insisted that the words remain exactly as he wrote the or the whole story would go to hell.

On page 363 of The Letters of Ernest Hemingway dated 12 September 1930 from Ernest to Jonathan Cape, Ernest is busy discussing royalty payments & publishing details, along with his successful hunting expeditions (he was in Montana at the time) and writing his latest book. Paragraph 4 (out of 5) of the letter reads as follows:

With best wishes for the season, – it seems Christmas weather; snowing hard in the mountains – to you and to Mrs. Cape and, if you see her, to Norah James, and to Mr. Wren Howard-

Norah Cordner James worked for Jonathan Cape overseeing the advertising for his firm from 1921-1929. Though this is the only time in all the 5 volumes of Hemingway’s letters that Norah is mentioned, there is no doubt Hemingway would have known about her work at Cape, since he often would remark to his publisher how horribly Jonathan Cape was advertising his books, even insisting that certain ads were to be taken down or reworded.

Norah was born in Hampstead, England in September 1895, would go on to be famous author herself after leaving Jonathan Cape Publishing. Her first book, The Sleeveless Errand, garnered a lot of publicity when it was immediately banned in England for being obscene before it even hit the shelves in 1929.

In 1939, Norah wrote her autobiography – I Lived in a Democracy. In this book, she says her family moved to St. John’s Wood in 1912 when she was 17. They were the 5th family to occupy the house at 3 Abbey Road…or as it has come to be known – Abbey Road Studios. One particularly amusing story Norah tells about her time living in the house, goes like this: Once my father refused to leave his room for twenty-four hours and I caught Mother throwing little packages of sandwiches into his window from the window in the passage above.

The Cordner-James’ moved from Abbey Road in 1920 and there would be two more owners of 3 Abbey Road before Gramophone would purchase the 103 year old house on Friday, June 28, 1929 and turn it into a recording studio. On June 6, 1962, The Beatles – John, Paul, George and Ringo strolled through the doors for the very first time to audition for George Martin.

In 1964, while The Beatles were busy becoming the greatest band the world has ever known, their leader, John Lennon published his first book – In His Own Write. His publisher was Jonathan Cape.

 

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Book Review: “It’s All In Your Head: Get out of your way” by Russ

It’s interesting what shows up in your mailbox when you get on a major publishing company’s list of reviewers. Several weeks ago, I got an email asking if I would be interested in reviewing a digital version of It’s All In Your Head: Get out of your way by Russ. I said, “Sure. Send it on over!” I got no response and no .pdf. A couple weeks later, a hard back copy of the book showed up via the postal service! Much better…I really don’t like reading ebooks anyway.

So…who is Russ?! I had to look him up too. Turns out he’s a multi-million dollar selling rapper from Atlanta. And what does he have to do with the Beatles? Well, nothing really, but he does quote John Lennon near the end of his book.

It’s All In Your Head is a self-help book from beginning to end with Russ explaining the way he got to be the superstar that he is. But it’s not just about those looking to make it in the music world. His words and ideas go well beyond the glitz and glamour of Hollywood and the music industry. If you want to think of it in terms of the Beatles, then just remember Lennon’s words in the early days of the Beatles, “Where are we going boys?”…to the Toppermost of the Poppermost! John never let doubt sink into his head about being a rockstar. He never gave up. And that’s the same way of thinking that Russ says made him what he is today.

The one downfall to Russ’ idea, though, is that he had the financial support of his parents. After dropping out of college to pursue his music full-time, he was allowed to continue to live in their basement where he created his own beats and songs 24/7. He had a couple jobs to help him with his little expenses, but pretty much he relied on his folks to carry him while he did nothing but believe that one day he would be a worldwide phenomenon. Most people in this world don’t have that luxury. But putting that one downside aside, his words are a source of inspiration to anyone that knows what they want. This little 150 page book is a book of inspiration.

“I’m an artist, and if you give me a tuba, I’ll bring you something out of it.” – John Lennon

Never give up…never doubt what you were truly meant to do…just do it and great things will happen.

*Note: this book contains profanity, but would you expect anything different from a rapper?

I rate this book, 3 out of 4 Beetles!

 

 

 

 

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Book Review: “On the Road with Janis Joplin” by John Byrne Cooke

Several months ago, I embarked on a project that involves writing about several well-known rock stars. Not too many people know about my project, but one of my friends that I’ve been consulting and sharing with suggested I include Janis Joplin (along with a couple other women rockers). “UGH!” I thought. “I hate Janis Joplin. Why would I want to include HER of all people in my work?” Well, I couldn’t seem to shake the idea from my mind, so I did a little investigating to find out if there was a link  between Janis and my project…and lo and behold, there was! But I needed to find out more about her….

For the past several weeks, I’ve been reading On the Road with Janis Joplin by author, musician and Janis Joplin’s road manager John Byrne Cooke (son of Alistair Cooke). There are several other books about her: One by her sister and one by her lover/roommate, but I decided this one would probably be the most unbiased look at her life.

Reading this book was slow going at first because, well…she’s not one of my favorite people! I was happy to see a couple Beatles references in the early part of the book as the author tried to put her early development into perspective with what was going on in the music world at the time. Janis was originally from Texas, but moved up to the Haight Ashbury section of San Francisco in the mid 60’s to join the band Big Brother and the Holding Company. She would end up having two more bands before her death in 1970, and would tour extensively with all of them. It wasn’t until her final album (that would have to be finished without her after her sudden death) that everyone would feel that she had finally learned to control her vocals to put out her very best album.

Interesting trivia from UtimateClassicRock.com:

The last recordings Joplin completed were ‘Mercedes-Benz’ and a birthday greeting for John Lennon. On Oct. 1, 1970, Joplin recorded the old Dale Evans cowboy tune ‘Happy Trails’ for the former Beatle, which is sort of spooky given the lyrics are “Happy trails to you, ’till we meet again.” The tune was titled ‘Happy Birthday, John (Happy Trails)’ and released on the Janis box set in 1993. Lennon told talk show host Dick Cavett that her taped greeting arrived at his home after her passing.

But a strange thing happened as I read further and further into Janis’ story. I came to love and respect her for who she was. This is a young woman who was voted “The Ugliest Man on Campus” at the University of Texas at Austin in her freshman year (I was told I was the ugliest girl in the 7th grade), and it would seem that she carried the scars from her unpopularity in high school and college with her into her career. To put it bluntly…she was lonely. Very lonely…and her drug use was to comfort herself through the pain. My heart aches for her now.

If you don’t know about Janis Joplin, but want to learn more about her, this book is a good place to start (I’ll probably end up reading the books by her sister and the one by her lover/roommate). I did get a little frustrated with the author going off on his own story a little too much for my liking, but all in all, this was a fine book. And for that reason…

I rate this book, 3 out of 4 Beetles!

 

 

 

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Book Review: “The Meaning of Contentment” by Mary McGuinness

The Meaning of Contentment by Mary McGuinnessSome of you may remember me NOT reviewing a book called Mary’s Prayer several years ago because of my rule not to review books of people I do PR work for. Well, The Meaning of Contentment by Mary McGuinness is the follow-up book that was just released this past December 2018…And since Mary has been doing such a swell job of promoting her own books, she hasn’t needed my help in any way…so here’s a review of her latest book.

For those that haven’t read Mary’s Prayer yet, Mary McGuinness wrote the book to tell the story about her struggles when she developed depression and panic attacks in her mid 30s while working as an accountant in Glasgow, Scotland. She talks of being forced to drop out of the workforce and her need to make peace with the fact that things will never be the same for her. Mary talked a lot about how music, especially that of the Beatles and John Lennon, really spoke to her during this difficult time and helped her to understand what she was going through.

Now, Mary McGuinness has continued her personal story in The Meaning of Contentment. In this 256 page memoir, McGuinness continues the story of how despite her best efforts to return to the workforce after getting an Honors Degree in Psychology, the universe led her in another direction. It was though helping her elderly uncle John with his daily needs that Mary learned that sometimes life isn’t about working 9 to 5 and bringing home a paycheck and that maybe her focus should be about helping others who also struggle with the hardships of life. She learns that contentment is found in some of the most unlikely places.

It takes a brave soul to be as open as Mary McGuinness is in this new book (and in Mary’s Prayer). Combined, the books cover 20 years of her personal battle with depression and panic attacks. She also continues to tell the story of her love of The Beatles and John Lennon and how her trips to Liverpool and The Peace Tower in Iceland brought so much joy back into her life. And for that reason…

I rate this book, 3 out of 4 Beetles!

 

 

 

 

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Book Review: “Lennon vs. McCartney: The Beatles, inter-band relationships and the hidden messages to each other in their song lyrics” by Adam Thomas

Lennon vs McCartney The Beatles, inter-band relationships and the hidden messages to each other in their song lyrics Adam ThomasI guess I was browsing around Facebook (or maybe it was on Twitter) a couple weeks ago when I saw the author, Adam Thomas, of Lennon vs. McCartney: The Beatles, inter-band relationships and the hidden messages to each other in their song lyrics post about his book being half price on the publishers website, so I thought I’d give it a go since it seemed like a topic that I hadn’t fully delved into where the Fab Four are concerned.

This book was self-published in November 2014 but is able to withstand the test of time since it starts back at the very beginning of the Beatles career and because there are now only two original Beatles who are still with us here on earth. Paul and Ringo still may write songs about their heydays as Beatles, but most of it is reflective and nostalgic with very little, if any, controversy.

This book is only about 200 pages, but does a great job of pointing out the songs that Lennon and McCartney wrote about each other (both good and bad), both during their time as a writing team and after the split up of the band. The one problem that I found with Adam Thomas’ presentation of this material was that he very rarely quoted the lyrics of the songs and instead would just give his interpretation of what was contained in it. I can only guess that he did to avoid dealing with any copyright issues, but unless you know the words to every Lennon and McCartney song ever written, it can be a little trying. Still, he does do a great job explaining the meaning behind the songs. And…not only does he analyze John and Paul’s hidden messages, he also takes on Ringo and George’s work as well.

The first hundred pages of this book are about the songs in question and the second half of this book is a charted “Relationship Timeline”. I’ll admit that I haven’t read through the time-line yet, but I’ll get to it in the very near future. After reading the first half, I think it’s obvious that Adam Thomas did his homework for this book. And for that reason…

I rate this book, 4 out of 4 Beatles!

 

 

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Book Review: “Maharishi and Me: Seeking Enlightenment with the Beatles’ Guru” by Susan Shumsky

On September 3rd, I received an email asking if I’d be interesting in being part of a Blog Tour for a new book. The subject line of the email was “NEW BOOK: The Beatles’ India – sex scandals & mental breakdowns (Inside Story)”. As a publicist who works with authors, a book that was released seven months earlier is not considered a new book…but what the hell. Also, I had the pleasure of meeting the author, Susan Shumsky, last week at the Beatles’ White Album Symposium at Monmouth University in New Jersey. I introduced myself and told her I would be reviewing her book. We had a brief conversation, I attended one of her talks and then said our goodbyes at the end of the seminar.

Maharishi & Me: Seeking Enlightenment with the Beatles’ Guru by Susan Shumsky was released on February 13, 2018.  It’s a 300+ page book about the author’s experience with the same Maharishi that the Beatles spent time with in 1968. The book is very well written and an easy read. Of course, you may get tripped up on all the Hindu terminology, but not enough to distract too much from her personal story of following and living at the ashram of the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi and practicing transcendental meditation for over 20 years.

Now for the more personal side of this review…and strictly my opinion: There are many times throughout Susan’s story that the word ‘cult’ would come to my mind. Even the author herself brings up the topic along the way, but easily finds ways of dismissing it at times. It can become almost disturbing to the reader and I still haven’t come to terms with her justification of some of the things that she brings to light about the Maharishi’s organization. Even after being kicked out of the TM organization, she still supports the Maharishi to the very end.

But was John Lennon correct when he called the Maharishi a fraud? Well, this is also left open to interpretation. Ms. Shumsky spends several chapters in the middle of her book discussing the Beatles involvement and visit to India to meet with Maharishi at his ashram. She draws the stories from other sources since she wasn’t there to obtain any first hand knowledge. She also draws upon stories from people she knows who were there. In a court of law, a lot of this would all be considered hearsay. My thought is to take what she says, along with any other sources you may have read and develop your own opinion. Or…maybe not, because in the end, does any of it really matter? I think it’s up to the reader to decide what’s right for them when it comes to their personal religious beliefs and not be influenced by celebrity endorsements…or condemnations. Even Susan says in her book that you have to find the right guru for you, so you’ll either find her story about TM impressive or disturbing.

Susan Shumsky does a great job of opening the readers eyes to the making (and life) of a guru by someone who was actually there to witness it. She tells both the good and bad. The stories of her experiences are heartwarming, funny, disturbing and told with a lot of strength. Yes, I would highly recommend that you read this book if you’re a true Beatles fans or just someone considering TM or just wants a first hand experience of what it’s like inside the ashram. It’s a book that can create a lot of discussions about gurus, religion and God. And for that reason…

I rate this book, 3 out of 4 Beetles!

 

 

 

 

***For more information on Susan Shumsky, go to www.DivineRevelations.org

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Book Review: “Sticky Fingers: The Life and Times of Jann Wenner and Rolling Stone Magazine” by Joe Hagan

Sticky Fingers Jann Wenner Joe HaganFinally! A book that could hold my attention for entire week. Sticky Fingers: The Life and Times of Jann Wenner and Rolling Stone Magazine by Joe Hagan was published on October 24, 2017 and is 511 pages strong.

As the story goes (and was told to me by the guy who recommended it to me), Jann Wenner asked writer Joe Hagan to write his biography. Wenner opened up to Hagan with over 100 hours of interview time and allowed him access to all his personal archives, diaries and scrapbooks. But after Joe finished writing this very detailed tome, Jann refused to authorize it because Hagan had dug so deep (he interviewed hundreds of friends, family and colleagues about Wenner), the story was a little too intimate for Wenner’s liking.

This isn’t just the story of Jann Wenner, the narcossistic, egomaniac who drank, smoked, snorted and slept his way through the last 3 decades of 20th century. It’s also the story of his wife Jane, photographer Annie Leobovitz, writer Hunter Thompson and so many more people that were vital in the success and creation of Rolling Stone magazine. This book tells of the Wenner’s hidden homosexuality, his wife’s affairs with both men and women and all the casualties of their sometimes reckless lifestyle.

Hagan interviewed the likes of Mick Jagger, Bruce Springsteen, Paul McCartney, Elton John, Keith Richards, Pete Townshend, Yoko Ono, Billy Joel, and many more who survived a love/hate relationship with Jann Wenner, but knew the importance and success that came with not only getting interviewed for Rolling Stone, but gracing it’s cover. If you want to know why it took for more years for Paul McCartney to get into the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame after he gave the speech at John Lennon’s induction, and why Stella wore a t-shirt that said, “About Fucking Time!” to the ceremony, you’ll find out the story in this book.

This is a book that true rock n’ roll fans are not going to want to miss reading. Not only does it verify all the stories of sex, drugs and rock n’ roll of the ’70’s, it tells of the glamour, glitz and excess of the ’80’s, and the inside and personal story of Jann Wenner’s relationship with John Lennon and Yoko Ono from not only Wenner’s perspective, but that of Yoko Ono’s too (May Pang gets only a few mentions). And for that reason…

I rate this book, 4 out of 4 Beetles!

 

 

 

 

 

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Book Review: “When Life Sends You Lemons, Make LENNONAID: What John Lennon’s life did for mine” by Kaya John

When Life Sends You Lemons, Make LENNONAID: What John Lennon's life did for mine Kaya JohnWhen Life Sends You Lemons, Make LENNONAID: What John Lennon’s life did for mine by Kaya John was recommended to me by a friend. In fact, I was asked if I would be willing to interview the author for my blog. Instead, I think a review of this self-published autobiography/memoir is in order.

As a publicist for several self-published authors, I’m generally very lenient when reviewing self-published books. I believe everyone has a story to tell and should at some point in their life share their story with the world. I went into this book with the same attitude and early on came to the decision that it would be very hard to rate someone’s memoir, let alone judge their life story. Kaya’s story is that of a broken and abusive childhood and the only thing that brought her joy was the music of the Beatles and John Lennon. I could relate…until page 131.

I somehow feel quieter inside now that Cynthia has finally let it all out. That needed to happen. We needed to know that about John and Cynthia really needed to tell it. I was always so afraid of what her truth might be. I understood about the coldness and the temper but I must say I was relieved to find out he only hit her once, I was really afraid he could have been a real constant physical abuser. So he wasn’t as bad as I though he might be.

Did she really just justify all of John’s abuse because he only hit his wife Cynthia once? Is she excusing the physical abuse against May and Yoko too? I found this one paragraph incredibly disturbing. But the author didn’t stop there.

Ms. John talks excessively about her parent’s flaws, illnesses and addictions that led to her not so happy childhood, but only hints at her own flaws including addiction and a failed marriage at some point in her life. She also goes on to lecture about the importance of becoming a vegetarian or vegan, even sinking so low as to say about those who eat meat: “And I wonder what the mutilation, torture, rape, confinement and murder of conscious, intelligent animals is doing to their soul.”

The last 26 pages of this 180 page book are all about the “Beatles friends and family” that Kaya has met over the years and all of her best memories of attending all but one Fest for Beatles Fans, making this book read more like a blog than a book. In fact, I would recommend she take up blogging instead of writing books…

I couldn’t rate this book even if I wanted to…sorry.

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Book Review: “Baby’s In Black: Astrid Kirchherr, Stuart Sutcliffe, and The Beatles” by Arne Bellstorf

Baby's In Black Arne BellstorfBaby’s in Black: Astrid Kirchherr, Stuart Sutcliffe, and The Beatles a black and white graphic novel by German cartoonits Arne BellstorfThis hardcover book measures approximately 6″ x 9″ and is 195 pages long. It was originally published in Germany in 2010 under the title Baby’s In Black: The Story of Astrid Kirchherr and Stuart Sutcliffe, and later translated into English in 2011 and released in the U.S. in 2012 with its new title.

This is the latest graphic novel in my quest to find the ultimate Beatles graphic novel. I bought a used ex-library copy off of Amazon.com, so I can really comment on the cover since mine has plastic covering it. I will say that even though this book is in black & white, I enjoyed the artwork much more than the book I read last week in which I had a hard time telling the individual Beatles apart from the artist’s renditions. I believe the author of Baby’s In Black, Arne Bellstorf, was much better at pulling off the emotion of the characters much better than some other cartoonists who used more color and detailed drawings.

This book is the love story of Astrid Kirchherr and Beatles’ bassist Stuart Sutcliffe, from the moment they set eyes on each other at the Kaiserkeller club in Hamburg, Germany, until the day Astrid broke the news to John and Paul that Stu had died. George, Paul and John also play a big part in the story with barely a mention of Pete Best. Klaus Voormann also figures prominently in the story, as does Astrid’s mother. You have to give the author a lot of credit for getting the real Astrid Kirchherr to help in making the story as true as possible. It made it a real delight to read knowing that it came from source. And though I’m weary to label this as the ultimate Beatles graphic novel (since it’s really about Astrid and Stu), I really believe that any Beatle fan would truly enjoy this book. And for that reason…

I rate this book, 4 out of 4 Beetles!

 

 

 

 

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