Pros: Fascinating, insightful, good backup with scores of interviews
Cons: Trashes the myth of John Lennon
The Bottom Line: Compelling, funny, sad, very insightful
This book has generated much controversy over the years it has been published. I bought it when it first came out in 1998 and have read it just about every year.
It is a well written, exhausting and painful account of the rock icon John Lennon. It does not paint a flattering portrait and it borders on mean spirited. The gist of the book is that John lived a lie and lived in seclusion afraid of the world and his image, unhappy with his home life, lives in fear of losing his fortune, unable to relate to his family, unable to reconcile with the former Beatles, in fear of his fans.
As he publically scorned Graceland and Fat Elvis - he lived isolated in his Graceland in the Sky. According to the book he was either stoned or sleeping most of his life. He had incredible rage at the world and at himself and was paralyzed by guilt and fear. His househusband days were a lie and he did nothing but watch TV and read for 5 years. He had numerous servants to indulge his every whim and he rarely left the Dakota.
Goldman even critizes his songwriting which he refers to as "3 blind mice". He claims all Lennon songs are varients of this nursery rhyme theme. He comes down hard on his guitar playing and states that most of the time, you never hear his playing on records as it was so poor. Hmmm... I happen to love John's music and disagree.
Having said all of that - isn't that the truth about all of us? We all lead lives of desperation. John was an incredibly talented man who publically decried "I don't believe in talent".
Do I believe the book - word for word? No, of course not. But a lot of it does ring morbidly true. The fact that Yoko released Imagine the movie and book to downplay "Lives of Jonn Lennon" seem to reflect that.
This book is a fascinating read. It is laid out in chronological order with the exception of the first chapter. It opens with John in his Dakota days awakening in dead silence. It goes through a typical day with John as he ponders what to do with the day, the troubles with Yoko and Seans demands. This chapter gives a good layout of the several apartments that were the Lennon's and what purpose they serve. Goldman details Lennons bedroom and kitchen to astonishing degree. Goldman describes John's old steamer trunk with "Liverpool" etched on the top. The rest of the book is straighforward childhood, family, making it, dealing with the fame, Kenwood, New York City and ends with the Dakota Years.
Many critics claim a hatchet job on someone who is dead and cannot defend himself. Yet, there are many times that one thinks Aha!
A compelling read - very hard to put down. Love it or Hate it - it's powerful stuff.
Regardless of Goldman's detractors, this is a well written, detailed and insightful look behind the glasses of John Lennon.
In hindsight, John may have loved this book as he repeatedly said he wanted the world to see him how he was....'The Beatles without their trousers" .... "no gimmicks or overdubs".... "the Emperor with no clothes"... "I've shat on rock and roll"
A reader below states, "Fact: No-one ever sued Albert Goldman. The reason? Every word was the truth." Well, no. The reason was that every subject to which Goldman seriously took his scythe (here Lennon and Epstein and elsewhere Elvis Presley) was dead. It is a principle of defamation law around the world that you can't slander the dead.The same reader also said, "Goldman took rock biography into the realms of serious literature. No other rock writer except Lester Bangs even comes close." Absolute … more
Goldman's exhaustive biography of John Lennon, based on more than 1,000 interviews and years of research, explores the former Beatle's childhood and youth, his days with the one of the world's most famous bands, and his career following their breakup.