Will a band ever beat the Beatles?
"Christianity will go away. I don't need to say anything about that. I'm right and it will show that I'm right Right now we are more popular than Jesus Christ."
These words by Lennon hit the USA like a bomb in the summer of 1966. For the first time in their career, the Beatles have to deal with harsh criticism and even hatred. Tensions between the members, which have been subliminal for some time, are growing rapidly.
It's the beginning of the end. Lennon is fed up with following management instructions, singing songs like "Yesterday" or performing in front of crowds that are screeching so loudly that even the band on stage doesn't even notice they're playing. Although the Beatles continued to make music together until 1969, including the albums with which they finally went down in history, Lennon is increasingly emancipating himself from the most popular and successful band of all time.
Born on October 9, 1940, he may not be the oldest of the group (drummer Ringo Starr is a few months older), but is seen as their leader - although Paul McCartney has an equal share in the Beatles' success and musical quality. While McCartney is seen as a good son-in-law, Lennon represents the edgy, rugged and unconventional. A personal attitude that comes to the fore more and more.
In the autumn of 1966 he appeared as Private Gripweed in Richard Lester's anti-war satire "How I Won The War" (filmed in Spain and the Lüneburg Heath). At the same time, he met the Japanese artist Yoko Ono, who lives in New York, at an exhibition in London - it is not love at first sight, but it is the reason to separate from his wife Cynthia (and son Julian).
In 1968 Lennon took a political stance with the song "Revolution": Yes, I am for revolutions, but against violence. Shortly afterwards he caused a stir with the album "Two Virgins," less because of the content, a collage of electronic sounds and screeching Onos created in one night, but because of the cover, on which the couple stood, hugged, looked at the camera and is photographed stark naked. After lengthy negotiations with the record company, it finally hits the market - but it's only available under the counter and wrapped in brown paper. In October 1968, the discovery of a few grams of hashish in a police search of Lennon's apartment also caused negative headlines. The court ruling is mild, but the trial negatively affects the public perception of the couple, particularly the character Onos.
Their unannounced wedding in Gibraltar in March 1969 represented the final turning point. Their honeymoon turns into a media event: Sitting in bed, they organize "bed-ins" in various cities with which they want to promote world peace. Surrounded by the press, the song "Give Peace a Chance" comes into being in Montreal, which becomes the anthem of the peace movement and Lennon chooses one of its main characters. The first appearance of the Plastic Ono Band in Toronto in September means the de facto end of the Beatles - even if the official announcement comes a few months later.
Freed from the ballast of his role, Lennon first devotes himself to himself, his childhood and his years with the Beatles. The musical result is called "Plastic Ono Band" (1970). The minimalist pieces, almost primitively produced by Phil Spector, are the best that Lennon will ever write without McCartney, a person who screams out anger and despair in order to find a new meaning in life: "I don't believe in Beatles / I just believe in me, Yoko and me / The dream is over"It says at the end of" God. "At the same time, the Dylanesque" Working Class Hero "proves with its last lines"A working class hero is something to be / If you want to be a hero then just follow me"that Lennon is too busy with himself to see what is really going on in the world.
In contrast to his former colleagues, his first solo work is received very cautiously. The follow-up project in 1971 is called "Imagine" and is much more commercial, but less meaningful. With the soapy "Imagine" and "Jealous Guy", however, it contains his two greatest solo successes.
In the same year, the couple relocated to New York - thus effectively sealing the end of Lennon's musical career. He gets lost in childish pacifist utopias, has various capitals papered with his and Ono's likeness, publishes "Happy Xmas (War is Over)", a counterpart to "Oh Tannenbaum" and sends acorns to all heads of state in the world - with the request, " To plant peace oaks. This is followed by the weak albums "Some Time in New York City" (1972, with the unspeakable "Woman is the Nigger of The World"), "Mind Games" (1973) and "Walls And Bridges" (1974).
In the autumn of the same year, he was the subject of conversation again: he fled to Los Angeles with Ono's secretary May Pang and lived for a few months with friends Harry Nielssen and Ringo Starr in a drug and alcohol intoxication. Somehow he manages to complete the "Rock'n'Roll" project with Phil Spector - an album with classics from his youth.
In 1975 he returned to his wife. After a losing bet with Elton John (who made it to first place in the charts with a cover version of "Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds"), there is a joint appearance in Madison Square Garden; shortly afterwards he wrote "Fame" with David Bowie. After that, he completely disappears from the public for five years.
There are different opinions about the time he spends in his apartment in the luxurious Dakota Building on the edge of Central Park. In an interview with Playboy in 1980, Lennon describes himself as a family man who raises their son Sean while his wife takes care of the finances. Scandal biographer Albert Goldmann, on the other hand, paints the picture of a heroin addict and chain smoker who spends so much time in the bathtub that his skin is almost peeling off his body.
According to his own statements, Lennon did not pick up the guitar again until 1980. The result is "Double Fantasy," alternating a song by him and one by Ono, which deal almost exclusively with relationships and family life.
Although it is his first sign of life in a few years, the record's success falls far short of expectations. The shock is all the greater when on the evening of December 8th the news went around the world that he was shot by a mentally deranged person in front of the Dakota Building. The moderate solo career is forgotten in no time: Lennon is finally chosen to be an icon and has since shared the highest throne with Elvis in Mount Olympus of the dead musicians.
But while the star from Memphis looks more like an embalmed corpse, the figure of the dead Lennon develops an amazing life of its own. The most daring theories arise about his death. In England he finally reached first place on the charts as a solo artist with "Imagine". Ono finished the album he was recording, "Milk and Honey," and released it in 1984 . Every few years his business-savvy widow 'finds' boxes and cardboard boxes with 'lost' material, which repeatedly turns the best-ofs and anthologies that appear on time for Christmas into bestsellers.
Lennon experienced a very special rebirth in 1995, when the rest of the Beatles got together to release three double CDs of unreleased material, which until then had only been available on bootlegs. Lennon sings with computer animation on "Free Like A Bird" and "Real Love", the headlines roll over, the Beatles are leading the singles charts again after 25 years.
The next time his ghost appears in 2000 as 'John' in the "Beatles Anthology", a lush autobiography in which the band tells itself in the form of an illustrated interview. While the rest of the members are actively involved in the project, Lennon's 'contribution' is inevitably made up of quotes from bygone times.
Even 20 years after his death, John Lennon remains one of the most influential personalities of the second half of the 20th century - not only in musical terms. Proof of this is the spontaneous gathering of hundreds of fans who meet each year on December 8th in "Strawberry Fields", an area of Central Park dedicated to him not far from the Dakota Building, where Yoko Ono had scattered his ashes. Perhaps Lennon wasn't entirely wrong in 1966 after all.
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