What was it like to be John Lennon? What was it like to be the cast-off child, the clown at school, and the middle-class suburban boy who pretended to be a working-class hero? How did it feel to have one of the most recognisable singing voices in the world, but to dislike it so much he always wanted to disguise it? How must it have felt, when he saw the melodies of his younger songwriting partner praised so highly and his own songs, in his eyes, undervalued? And what was it like to become trapped inside a four-headed deity knowing that it would become increasingly impossible to keep feeding the desires of its worshippers?
Being John Lennon is not about the whitewashed Prince of Peace of 'Imagine' legend, because that was only a small part of him. Nor is it about the permanently angry young rebel of the movie Nowhere Boy, or even the ranting Beatles iconoclast of the Rolling Stone interviews. All three of those personae had a degree of truth in them. But the John Lennon depicted in these pages is a much more kaleidoscopic figure, sometimes almost a collision of different characters.
He was funny, often very funny. But, above everything, he had 'attitude', his impudent, plain speaking somehow personifying the aspirations of his generation to answer back to authority. Before John Lennon, entertainers and heroes to the young had almost invariably been humble, grateful young men who bestowed on their managers the respect they might have given to their bosses or headmasters.
John Lennon didn't do that. With that amused, slightly insolent lilt to his voice, and a two edged joke never far away, he met everyone - grand, authoritarian, super famous, or none of those things - on a level playing field. Rank and status didn't unnerve him. He could, and would, say the unsayable. Perhaps sometimes he shouldn't, and he would excuse himself later by saying, 'Oh, that was only me mouth talking.'
Though there were more glamorous rock stars around, even in the Beatles, it was John Lennon's attitude which caught and then defined the moment best.
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