Tag Archives: yoko ono

Book Review: “Hold On World: The Lasting Impact of John Lennon & Yoko Ono’s Plastic Ono Band – 50 Years On” by John Kruth

Hold On World: The Lasting Impact of John Lennon & Yoko Ono’s Plastic Ono Band – 50 Years On John Kruth

If for no other reason to obtain this book, I will say with enthusiasm that author John Kruth has given the most extensive read on Yoko Ono and HER version/release of 1970’s ‘Plastic Ono Band.’

The preview of Hold On World: The Lasting Impact of John Lennon & Yoko Ono’s Plastic Ono Band – 50 Years On (Backbeat Books, 2021) had my eyesight focused on the recording, release and retrospective narrative of Lennon’s ‘Plastic Ono Band,’ released in 1970. The cathartic nature, stark production and legacy of this watershed album cannot be lost on those who know Lennon and this soul-baring work.

However, I cannot tread too heavily on how Kruth chose to structure the chapters in regards to context and explanation of influences – past and present. While showcasing a view of Lennon and Ono in that time period, he also dives around in many corners, explaining and expanding on various historical incidents – both in The Beatles and solo Lennon that defies sequencing – and also wades into a good portion of the times that propelled ‘POB,’ some political and some personal. It makes for a challenging, non-chronological read.

Kruth’s own voice is quite unique in that he opines on how various family, ‘characters’ and associates influenced the Lennons’ life story and how and why it drove them to extremes, most notably the time spent with Arthur Janov with his Primal Scream therapy. The narrative here is primitive and raw but what most benefits the reader in “Hold On World”’ is not John Lennon’s transformation from his years in one of the most influential bands of the 1960s to stomach-churning, searing early-70s provocateur. It’s the insightful and haunting life of Ono and how her version of ‘POB’ came to fruition.

Most listeners know that an album takes months to conceive and record. Ono’s ‘POB’ was done in one day. You read it right. Recorded and mixed with the same musicians – Lennon, Ringo Starr, Klaus Voorman and George Harrison – Ono’s shrieking “like a giant radioactive insect from a 1950s horror movie” had the desired effect: it one fell swoop she was able to stand alongside Lennon as both a collaborator and artist… and also managed to sustain the pure energy needed to keep up with Lennon as a musical supernova.

Ono’s unconventional upbringing – bookended by World War II and her meeting with Lennon – is ripe for dissertation within these pages. As Lennon was channeling his painful past (the abandonment issues brought on by his parents’ separation) into a commercially-acceptable package, Ono was dealing with her private demons, most notably the miscarriages she suffered which were couched in the standout song from ‘POB,’ ‘Greenfield Morning I Pushed An Empty Baby Carriage All Over The City.’

Moved at a 180-degree angle from her accepted distorted keening, ‘Greenfield’ has a haunting, mesmerizing backbeat (enhanced by Harrison’s sitar contribution), while Ono’s mono-symbolic vocals give way to iridescent bird calls – not unlike Lennon’s ‘Across The Universe.’ Kruth also gives over several pages to the performance of trumpeter Ornette Coleman and Ono’s collaboration ‘AOS,’ recorded in 1968. While Coleman had already embraced free-form jazz, the inclusion of Ono’s vocals helped propel this style beyond what would be musically and culturally ‘acceptable.’

What remains is a final critique on the “Lennon Remembers” interview, first published in Rolling Stone in 1971. The caustic wit, the deep-seated pain he levied against McCartney and producer George Martin and the circus atmosphere known as The Beatles came down like a sledgehammer. While Wenner published the interview in book form (costing him his friendship with the Lennons), the myth-busting conversation contained contradictions that Lennon later regretted. The dovetailing into more political ground with the release of ‘Sometime In New York City,’ a loose collaboration with Frank Zappa, the continuing paranoia and battles with immigration effectively eroded the Lennons high profile prophesying.

Lennon/Ono shared a great love and however their messages came across to the public during Lennon’s lifetime was both unifying and divisive. Kruth has painted a rich mural, which can be a little demanding on the senses, given the textural background that this complex couple projected. While I highly recommend this read for those who would appreciate a deeper delve into Ono, I will say that overall it can be a tricky read.

I tentatively give this book 4 out of 4 beetles.

 

 

 

 

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Guest Review: “A Women’s History of The Beatles” by Christine Feldman-Barrett

This is a guest review by Amy McGrath Hughes for a new Beatles book that is being released today – February 11, 2021.

A Women's History of the beatles Christine Feldman-Barrett

For all the terminology associated with being a female fan of The Beatles, I’m happy to say that “aca-fan” is one I believe needs more press. Accordingly, Dr. Christine Feldman-Barrett’s newly published ‘A Women’s History of The Beatles’ (Bloomsbury, 2021) seeks to inform a wide, multi-generational audience that may not wholly understand the role of women in ‘Beatlefandom.’

The definition of “aca-fan” or academic fan stems from Feldman-Barrett’s research into how we define the span of women (either first generation or beyond) who were deeply affected by The Beatles impact on their lives. Through countless interviews that range from women who saw the band during their brief lifespan or who discovered them through recordings and film or from family members, Feldman-Barrett brings into focus the multi-layered emotions felt by each discovery and life-changing course of action.

However, Feldman-Barrett begins by discussing The Beatles unique understanding of the female fan, especially those they befriended in Liverpool. These girls were their stalwart supporters at a time when ‘young women’ were still expected to finish school, get married and raise a family. Although many did go down that avenue, so too did many seek to break out of the norm, establish an identity and pursue a career. The Beatles in many respects, through their performances or correspondences, helped them to achieve what was considered a fairly lofty, nearly unattainable goal. In return, these working girls from Liverpool (who the group considered friends) set the pattern for years to come: whether they were fan club secretaries (like Liverpudlian Freda Kelly) or journalists (such as the Evening Standard’s Maureen Cleave), these smart women were there from the start and stayed the course helping to spread The Word.

The Beatles also broke rank with how they chose to interact with an audience and the choices of songs they played. While there is considerable knowledge about their upbringing and how their generation viewed women’s role in society (as noted above), the stage presence they achieved through showcasing ‘girl group’ songs (The Shirelles, The Cookies, The Marvelettes) gave them a devoted female following amidst the perception of the rough and tumble atmosphere of club-going, heretofore thought to be a taboo ritual. Although these perceptions proved to be barrier-breaking, Feldman-Barrett ironically notes that although The Beatles showcased these songs to a wide audience, their eventual stratospheric rise in effect caused the demise of this genre.

Another interesting angle that Feldman-Barrett explores is the internal relationships of The Beatles: most notably with Astrid Kirchherr in Hamburg and then their early pairings (Cynthia Powell, Maureen Cox, Pattie Boyd, Jane Asher) and consequently as the band starts to disintegrate, the rise of the two most prominent partners: Yoko Ono and Linda Eastman. How these two strong female personalities become inextricably tied to their spouses’ outlook on women’s role in society as the 70s begin is examined in detail. Ono in particular was and has been unfairly portrayed in the media and Feldman-Barrett seeks to rectify that trope in these pages.

The dominant narrative that permeates this history though, are the multi-generational women who Feldman-Barrett interviewed; as either a first generation fan (one who was there during The Beatles lifespan) or into later years and even past the death of John Lennon, what comes across is the same passionate involvement they all have: whether they became professional musicians during the 60s (such as the all-girl Nursery Rhymes and The Pleasure Seekers who fought against stereotypical male-dominated ‘rock bands’) or parlayed their interest in The Beatles into a professional vocation (as tour guides in Hamburg, Liverpool and New York City) or as Feldman-Barrett points out, pursued higher education in the actual study of The Beatles, via university courses devoted to their cultural impact on society, and pop culture in particular.

These women gained tremendous insight into what had been up to that time (and even into the 70s, 80s and 90s) a love of The Beatles that moved past the mislabeling of ‘hysterical screaming teenager’ or ‘obsessed fan’ and have turned it into their life’s work. ‘A Women’s History of The Beatles’ is a deep dive scholarly approach that is informative, thought-provoking and should create more open dialogue not only for academia-minded individuals, but also for those who seek unique perspectives on how The Beatles shaped their (and our) generation.

I rate this book: 4 out of 4 beetles!

 

 

 

 

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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: “Lennon in America” by Geoffrey Giuliano

Lennon in America Geoffrey GiulianoA couple weeks ago, I was digging through a box of books about the Beatles that I had in search of something to read when I stumbled upon Lennon in America , written by Geoffrey Giuliano and published in 2000. I was surprised to find this book because the author is quite controversial especially in one of the Facebook groups I belong to – Beatles Book Collectors. Though I haven’t kept up with exactly why people don’t like his books, I decided to take a look-see for myself and hoped that I could read this book without prejudice and write a fair review. Here it goes:

According to the subtitle of this book, 1971-1980, Based in Part on the Lost Lennon Diaries, Mr. Giuliano was at some point in time in possession of some of John Lennon’s written and audio diaries which he used extensively in writing this book. I tried to contact a friend to see if I could find out what diaries these were since I had heard of the diaries that were in Fred Seaman’s possession for a short time after John’s death. And… there are the diaries that were stolen that in the past several years that recently turn up in Berlin, Germany. I’m sure someone who reads my blog will be able to clear this all up.

This book, though easy to read, can be a bit choppy. I got the impression that the author was taking information from the diaries and other people’s books and just rewriting it. In fact, the bibliography reads like a Who’s Who of the most popular books about John Lennon, including books by May Pang, Fred Seaman, Cynthia Lennon, Julia Baird, Pete Shotton, John Green, Albert Goldman, etc.. What made me come to this realization was the continual contradiction of events, even within the same paragraph without explanation. I can only guess that without actually researching the events, the author was just trying to cover all bases by including all the stories from everyone who was there. Mr. Giuliano also writes heavily about John’s sex life. In fact, the entire 21 page prologue of this book is about every story ever told about John’s homosexual tendencies. I guess sex sells, doesn’t it?

I kinda left this book not knowing what to believe and more confused about John’s life than I ever was before. And for that reason…

I rate this book, 2 out 4 Beetles!

 

 

 

 

 

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Book Review: “Imagine” by John Lennon

Imagine my surprise when I got a 20% off coupon in the mail for one item at Barnes & Noble. All I could think was, “How generous of them considering you usually don’t get any discount unless you PAY to join their club!” So I headed off to my local Barnes & Noble store, but I didn’t have to walk far before I found exactly what I wanted!

Imagine was published in partnership with Amnesty International by Clarion Books and released in the U.S., Canada, the United Kingdom and Australia on September 21, 2017, the International Day of Peace and in 10 other countries at later dates. The Foreword is by Yoko Ono and it’s illustrated by French artist Jean Jullien.

“In Partnership” – interesting terminology, but what exactly does it mean? The back cover says, “Published in partnership with Amnesty International in support of their work to protect human rights.” So does that mean that Amnesty is getting all the profits from this book? 50% of the profits? Some articles I’ve read talk about this book drawing attention to human rights. Does that mean Amnesty is getting nothing but their name associated with this book? These are all questions I can’t answer because no one at Amnesty, Clarion Books or at the Dakota will answer the emails I sent them asking (this explains why I’m late posting this review). Does it matter? Yes…

This book is beautiful! With it’s iridescent feathers on the a pigeon on the cover and the gorgeous artwork inside, it would make a great addition to any Beatles book collector’s bookshelf…for $18.99 for 32 pages of the lyrics to the song Imagine. When it comes to being a children’s book, I feel it’s a bit pricey (unless you have money to burn for such things) and it may be a hard lesson to children when you say to them, “Imagine there’s no heaven…” We as adults understand the meaning behind those words, but a small child may not. At the same time, the book would make a great easy reader for a young child.

It’s a tough call. I probably won’t be reading this to my grand-daughters, but it will make a nice addition to my collection. I’d love to know that all the profits are going to Amnesty. The last page of the book is a thank you from Amnesty to the illustrator and Yoko for letting them use John’s song, so one could ass.u.me that they get the proceeds. And for that reason…or until I hear otherwise…

I rate this book, 2 out of 4 Beetles!

 

 

 

 

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Book Review & Giveaway: “John Lennon: The Stories Behind Every Song 1970-1980” by Paul Du Noyer

John Lennon: The Stories Behind Every Song 1970-1980 is written by Paul Du Noyer – a rock journalist from Liverpool. I picked up this book off the 75% off rack at Barnes & Noble. When I realized it was only going to cost me $1.98, I went back and bought the other three copies to give away to my readers. (But then again, maybe after reading my review you might not want a copy!)

The Stories Behind Every Song 1970-1980 is now in it’s 4th edition. I’m not sure why it takes four tries and 20 years to get a book about John Lennon’s songs right, but obviously it wasn’t to fix the few minor typos throughout. Yet, despite my head scratching moment of confusion over the reprinting, I did find this book really well written and informative.

Du Noyer tells John’s life story while telling what motivated John to write each of his solo albums and songs. Like many other Beatles experts, he believes that when it came to John’s music, he wore his heart on his sleeve. John only knew how to write about his own life experiences…no made up story lines. So I’m happy to report that Du Noyer does include John’s lost weekend years in this book along with his time with May Pang. But I’m also sad to report that the author believes that the lost weekend was also a very dark, drunken time in John’s life where he pined endlessly for 18 months for Yoko to take him back.

Still a great book for those who want to delve deeper into Lennon’s music and the meaning and story behind the albums and songs. And for that reason…

I rate this book, 3 out of 4 Beetles!

 

 

 

GIVEAWAY: I have three copies of this book to give to three of my readers. Just leave a comment below and you’re entered. It’s that simple. Rules: Only one entry per person. I will pick the winners next Sunday morning (September 3, 2017) and announce them in my blog.

 

 

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Book Review: “Lennon: The New York Years” by Foenkinos/Corbeyran/Horne

Well, Amazon got me again! While browsing online at Amazon.com, this book appeared as a Recommendations….

Lennon: The New York Years was written by David Foenkinos and Eric Corbeyran, illustrated by Horne and published on May 30, 2017. According to an article on NME.com, this graphic novel is adapted from a 2010 novel “Lennon” by French author David Foenkinos. After reading this book, there is a part of me that wants to see what the original was like.

This book is touted as “true biographical fiction”, as the setting is John Lennon laying on a psychiatrist’s couch talking about the ups, downs, joys and pains of his life. There are 18 sessions (chapters) in all. Now, I get that when they termed it ‘true biographical fiction’ they were probably referring to his regularly seeing a therapist that happened to also live in the Dakota so Lennon wouldn’t have to go out in public, but unfortunately, some of the fiction seems to have leaked out into Lennon’s life. Starting off with the tall tale that seems to still keep popping up, after long having been dismissed, that John was born during an air raid in Liverpool with the whistling and boom of bombs going off all around the hospital. You be the judge…

“The night I was born it was to the deafening sound of Liverpool being bombed by the Germans. I didn’t come into a life, I came into chaos. And I spent my whole life frightened. That night everything shook. Things fell from the shelves. A building fell down near us. Things had to happen fast so my mother had a cesarean.”

Artistically speaking, this book is actually a pretty nice book. The artist’s interpretation of this story is done in black and white in a 150 page hardcover edition. Comparatively speaking, I personally like the B&W rendition in this graphic novel better than Vivek J. Tiwary’s The Fifth Beatle, but I prefer the linen texture Tiwary cover over the smooth, scratch prone cover of this book. Your mileage may vary…

I leave you with the trailer to this book…

I rate this book, 2 out of 4 Beetles!

 

 

 

 

 

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NAMM 2017: The John Lennon Educational Tour Bus

I know it’s been several weeks since I last posted a blog, but a friend of mine kind of lit a fire under my ass and so here it is. I need to apologize ahead of time for the lack of audio in this video. That’ll teach me not to preview the video before leaving NAMM 2017! Yes, I’m really embarrassed that this didn’t come out right. I believe the mic wasn’t properly plugged into my iPad. Also, the initial feedback you’ll hear fades away…so bear with it.

20170119_1339501The John Lennon Educational Tour Bus is absolutely amazing! From the outside, there is no clue as to how extensive the inside is. This is an entire recording studio on wheels! The bus travels to schools from coast to coast in the U.S., teaching kids how to record music, engineer and make videos. And this is its 20th anniversary doing so!

As the video opens, our host Ryan sits at the main console and to his right, you’ll see his image on a computer screen. That’s because the bus is filled with video cameras. Not just for security reasons, but for also recording music videos. After a few minutes, Ryan gets up and goes into the second section of the bus and closes the door behind him to demonstrate that each of the three sections of the bus are sound proof. In the second section are the drums. In the third section of the bus you’ll notice a lot of curtains are hung. When they are all fully spread out, they become a green screen for shooting videos with any background the artist my choose to use. The third section is also where the the employees sleep while traveling all year round with the bus. The bus sleeps three and Ryan at one point spent over 4.5 years traveling on the bus. (note: every other night they sleep in a hotel so they can shower and get a proper meal!) 20170119_1055521

There are a lot of corporate sponsors that make this bus what it is, but you can also donate to help keep it on the road. Yoko Ono has donated to the bus and Sean Lennon has visited the bus (Julian has not…yet.) There’s even a John Lennon Educational Tour Bus in England now.

For more information on the bus and it’s schedule, go to: www.LennonBus.org. If you’re an educator, you can also request that the bus visit your school.

You can also Follow and LIKE them on Facebook!

 

 

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Book Review: “At John Lennon’s house” by Rosaura Lopez Lorenzo

At John Lennon’s house by Rosaura Lopez Lorenzo was recommended to me by a friend and fellow Beatle Freak, Thom Donovan. The book was originally written in Spanish (En casa de John Lennon) in 2005. Rosaura died several months after it’s publication, but it was translated to English and released as an e-book in 2013.

Rosaura in front of the Dakota in New York, NY

Rosaura in front of the Dakota in New York, NY

From 1976 until 1980, Rosaura Lopez Lorenzo worked for John Lennon and Yoko Ono as their housekeeper. According to the book, in June 2001, two reporters from TVG (Galician Television in Spain) were covering the annual Galician celebration in Newark, NJ when they stumbled upon a tambourine player. While interviewing her about when she came to America and her life here, she admitted to having previously been the housekeeper to John Lennon at one time. It was then that these two crafty reporters decided that Rosaura needed to write a book about her time with the Ono-Lennons!

The first thing to catch my eye in the book was Rosaura’s admission that this book in Yoko Ono approved. That immediately sets off bells and whistles in my skeptical head. It tells me that every word was scrutinized by Yoko and her lawyers. And in fact, both Yoko and her lawyer are mentioned in the dedication for “their exquisite attention”.

Rosaura says early on that this book was written to right all the wrongs that have been written about John and Yoko. She glosses over her daily 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. chores around the house while talking extensively about how apartment 72 is laid out, what color the rooms are painted and the contents of Sean’s bedroom and playroom.

In her story, John is a happy go lucky doting father who spends much of his time in his room playing guitar when he’s not sitting around smiling at his son, baking bread with Rosaura or asking her about her life in Spain. Sean is a happy child who loves her more than his own nanny and professes that she is his favorite. All the while, Yoko is happily conducting the family business during her days. But there are evil people working for them, including John Green, Fred Seaman and a nanny she called Lupa who would eventually get Rosaura fired.

Besides being hard to swallow, this book is poorly translated and edited. The typos and grammatical errors abound, which let me know that this was hastily edited for e-book format to squeeze out as many doubloons as possible from Rosaura’s rosy stories of the swell world inside the Dakota with the Ono-Lennon. There are many pages of photos included at the end of the book which some may find a bonus, but all in all, I found them just another way to capitalize on this tale. And for that reason…

I rate this boo, 1 out of 4 Beetles!

4beetle

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Imagine Peace holiday giveaway

20161211_0805041Well folks, I got nothing this week when it comes to a review. I am currently reading a very good book (non-Beatles related), just nothing to write about this week. But since it’s the holiday season, I decided to give something away to my loyal followers and readers since you’re the ones that keep me going week after week.

During our trip to the Imagine Peace Tower last month, the boat tour company offered us our pick of buttons from a basket as a souvenir of your trip to the tower. The basket was filled with buttons that said IMAGINE PEACE in the 24 different languages that are on the Peace Tower. Being a little greedy I picked out two in Italian. 14591671_212499435841158_2426614261419048137_n

So lucky readers, I’m going to give away one of my Italian Imagine Peace Tower buttons AND a $10 Amazon gift card to one lucky person who leaves a comment on this post. The only thing I ask is that you write something either holiday or Peace related.

One entry per person and I will pick a winner on Sunday, December 18, 2016.

Best of luck and happy holidays!

 

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