Being John Lennon

"Being John Lennon: A Restless Life" by Ray Connolly

BEING JOHN LENNON: A Restless Life. By Ray Connolly. Pegasus Books. 448 pages. $29.95.

Author Ray Connolly, a friend of John Lennon and Yoko Ono, has written a personal and honest account of his complicated and talented friend.

In his author’s note, Connolly recalls Yoko Ono’s phone call on the afternoon of Monday, Dec. 8, 1980, asking him to come to New York right away. “The BBC has been here this weekend,” she told him, contradicting her earlier message.

Connolly booked an early flight for the next day, but never made the trip. On Dec. 9, Lennon was shot and killed outside his apartment building on Manhattan’s Upper West Side.

So much has been written about Lennon and The Beatles. Is there anything more to tell? Connolly has given us insights into Lennon’s often sharp-tongued and caustic comments, a legacy of his Liverpool upbringing.

A memorable example is Lennon’s comment to the audience at a 1963 Royal Command Performance in London: “The people in the cheaper seats, clap your hands. And the rest of you, if you’d just rattle your jewels.” The audience roared with laughter. Soon after, The Beatles would perform on “The Ed Sullivan Show.”

The touring stopped, in part, because they couldn’t hear themselves over the screaming of fans. Lennon said he felt “like a performing flea.” They concentrated on recording songs. Then things changed. Lennon insisted on Ono’s presence in the studio, and this impacted the group’s tightly knit collaborative approach.

But perhaps it was something more general that caused the breakup. Maybe the pressure, fame and expectations were too exhausting. Maybe the time had come.

Though millions of fans were disappointed, The Beatles’ legacy was secure.

Reviewer Frances Monaco is a writer in Charleston.

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