Top 10 unpleasant facts about John Lennon

I’ve never worshipped John Lennon, and generally regarded The Beatles as overrated. I find Imagine dull and mawkish with horrible lyrics. I’ll give The Beatles their due as composers of a dozen or so truly great songs, though – and that’s taking into account my belief that their finest moments were “all in the production”. Certainly I Am The Walrus (about the Lewis Carroll poem, apparently) and Strawberry Fields Forever are triumphs of arrangement over mediocre songwriting. I’d generally rank them somewhere above the Everly Brothers and below The Kinks.

That said, I was sceptical when I saw Listverse’s fascinating article, Top 10 Unpleasant Facts About John Lennon, because I do think it would be easy to hop on a bandwagon of iconoclasm in the week when so many “national treasures” are being stripped of their crowns. Sir Jimmy Savile was a child molester who, according to his nephew, used to “borrow” kids from the local orphanage. I read that in a tabloid newspaper, so it’s easy to dismiss that as lurid nonsense, except that now police are investigating 120 allegations against the icon. Julie Burchill accused John Peel of exploiting under-aged girls, which would be too easy to ignore as the ramblings of an attention-seeking hack who lost her way a decade ago, but now news of his misconduct is everywhere. It’s not the same thing – the encounters were consensual – but it’s misconduct nonetheless. Whether or not we over-idolise them and hold them to impossible standards, it’s always upsetting when our heroes disappoint us, especially if they do so spectacularly. Perhaps that’s why we’re so eager to delve – to uncover those nightmarish secrets – before we become too attached to the people we admire.

As I said, I wasn’t much of a Lennon fan to start with, but I was appalled and intrigued by Listverse’s article, and before passing it on, I wanted to know one simple thing: was it true

It wasn’t hard to substantiate the “wife-beater” accusation with a couple of quick searches. Cynthia Lennon’s biography John alleges that he hit her in a fit of jealousy when they first started dating. She told Radio Times that John was “violent and aggressive at times”. The John book also contains a quote by Julian Lennon that he ‘found it very hard to show any peace and love to his first family — my mother and me”.’ From the info on Wikipedia, it looks as though John had a strained relationship with Julian until John’s temporary split from Yoko in 1973. John’s girlfriend May Pang encouraged him to see the boy, and their relationship improved.

It would be harder to tell if the “pathological liar” accusation was true, but that doesn’t really bother me anyway. A lot of the more amusing people I know are compulsive liars and I just view it as part of their larger-than-life personalities. Did John Lennon’s rampant heroin addiction break up the band? He was certainly addicted to the drug (as the songs Cold Turkey and Happiness Is A Warm Gun attest). He was said to have been annoyed at the idea of Paul being blamed for breaking up The Beatles: “I started the band. I disbanded it. It’s as simple as that.”

Politically clueless? He was a hippy, so that’s that covered. I think “talentless” is overstating it – you could write off any fog-of-drugs lyrics as being “silly”, but it’s easy to persuade me that McCartney was the better songwriter. A bandwagon-hopping conformist with a hunger for fame? That covers just about every pop star of note. A hypocrite? Ditto. You’d have to be fairly naive to think that he was some kind of saint.

But people are naive, I guess.

Ultimately, the only thing on the list that really bothers me is that he beat his wife. It would make me a hypocrite to forgive him that while being sickened and disgusted by Chris Brown. The article intrigued me, but it’s lessened my already fairly low opinion of a long-dead overhyped rock star. Make of that what you will.

As for the rest of it, the money-grubbing-hypocrite stuff, that doesn’t really make him any worse than Bono, does it? But then, I never liked Bono much, either.

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>>Read Listverse’s article here>>

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12 comments on “Top 10 unpleasant facts about John Lennon

  1. I have odd feelings about that song Imagine.If I was to analyse what it is about it, I’d say it was the key it’s played in. It’s the sound of resignation not the sound of inspiration. The lyrics I think are beautiful in their intention… it’s a utopian world view he’s encouraging us to imagine at the end of the day… but why does it sound so depressing? Is it because J Lennon knew just as much then as we do now, that it wasn’t going to happen like that, especially not in his lifetime. Human nature is against it for some stupid reason. But the key a song is played in is much like the role of the tone of voice in speech. You can say the same words and convey vastly different meanings with a different tone of voice. I find the song Imagine depressing, but good. It’s a good song. I think it really isn’t easy to convey pure joy and happiness in a song anyway, often songs that sound upbeat have downer lyrics or vice versa… funny that. I am writing a song at the moment and struggling to keep the tone happy sounding now that I’ve translated the dubstep song to acoustic guitar. Anyway… I’ve gone off on one. Interesting piece though.

    • I dunno, but I imagine starving to death from having no possessions while being berated for being greedy, with no Heaven to look forward to after my inevitable horrible death, no other country to escape to, no hope of overthrowing the tyrannical Communist government because there are no more wars, and not even faith to sustain me … that’s pretty much my idea of Hell!

      • You make an interesting point. I thought he was saying that if there is no heaven there’s motivation to make life on earth heavenly… I guess the song is an embodiment of the contradictions of life then in itself and perhaps that’s one of the things people respond to in it. I don’t think he was suggesting that a government could not be overthrown, more that war was not the way to bring about change, the idea of peaceful protest. Living peacefully bringing about that change… radical ideas for the times it was done in. Mother Theresa was all about peaceful protest… actually she didn’t believe in protest, she believed in promotion of positive ideas… pro peace walks not anti-war protests. She was someone who was close to being a saint on earth and I once heard in passing that she was a bit of a bitch, which if true, would not have surprised me, because we are not born or made to be perfect and neither is this world. We are born to be balanced as is the world. I talk about that on my blog from the point of view of inspiring people to make positive changes for themselves, but not with the idea of becoming paragons of perfection… more from the idea of accepting both sides of the coin and doing our best.

  2. I think it’s a curiosity about famous people… I got obsessed with Courtney love and kurt cobain as a teen and wanted to know everything about them, everything. So I get that side of it. I also think that when a person has a large audience, keen to read about that person, who will read anything with that person’s face or name on it, then people need to keep generating new stuff to read… and that means new stories. The man is gone, so he’s no longer making new stories to read, so that leaves writers looking for new ways to tell old stories for the people who wish to read more about that person. Then there’s the other thing, the Saintly icon thing that on some level tends to make other people feel less good about themselves- it’s one thing to choose to put someone on a pedestal, but it’s another thing for someone to seem to be looking down on you with a holier than though thing going on… so these people need to be taken down to appease those feelings. I don’t think J Lennon was trying to appear to be better than he was, I actually think he was pretty radical in publicly BEING who he was, nude and all… think that’s why there were so many contradictions- because real life human beings rather than tabloid cartoon characters are full of contradictions. I don’t think he was a hypocrite, I think he was a human and that he actually made an effort to sell the west a better society and a better world, which even if he was not capable of it himself, other people could have been and that’s valid. In France they don’t judge their politicians so much on their private lives as on their ability to carry out their work effectively. At the end of the day there’s a saying that “a plumber’s pipes are never fixed” so John could well have been the most talented of plumbers with a reputation for fixing everyone else’s pipes to a high standard and still gone home to floods… and that would not have changed the good work he did elsewhere.
    I do not extend any such concessions to Jimmy Savile though. I don’t know what went on there but if it all turns out to be as true as my instincts tell me, it does seem to very much undo his good work in other areas of his life. At least John Lennon got out of the abusive relationship, so the abuse would have stopped. It seemed like Yoko had a lot of power in her relationship with John, so I am more able to forgive him if he did change and stop being an abuser.

    • From what I’ve read, he beat Yoko too, so I think that was just a part of who he was. I do get the curiosity about famous people, though, and that’s a large part of why I started writing because I do have to know everything, all the time, about everything – even if it’s none of my business and not really good for me to know. I’m just extremely bloody nosy!

      That said, I do draw lines such as thinking those naked Prince Harry pics were bang out of order and refusing to buy tabloid magazines that indulge in that kind of intrusiveness. I’m not going to lie and say that I never read tabloid gossip because it’s all online and too easy to see, but I do try to avoid what I think is damaging and unfair.

      The charge of hypocrisy depends on what’s being “sold”. I don’t give a crap if a politician enjoys dressing up as a baby and being spanked – that’s up to him/her – but if a politician was making a big deal about green issues while flying around in a private jet (and a lot do), then I’d call them up on it. I call Al Gore up on it. I call Bono up on making the jet turn around because he forgot his hat (!). I call John Lennon out on bleating on about peace while funding terrorism.

      Like I said, the latter stuff on the list – the hypocrisy and bandwagon hopping – just makes him a common-or-garden tw*t, so it doesn’t annoy me so much as the more serious allegations of domestic violence do. Then again, while we’re on the subject, Kurt and Courtney aren’t exactly ideal role models, either. I guess that’s why I tend to be very critical of the people I DO admire, because I’d rather know now than be disappointed later.

      • John Lennon funding terrorist organizations? Were the Black Panthers terrorists? I thought of them as radical, but not as terrorist. If he beat up Yoko, then that changes things. I have read about domestic violence and it does seem that people tend to be that way no matter who they are with unless they get some therapy and intervention to change, so I am less surprised that he beat Yoko in light of that, but I will say that it is curious that Yoko has always been presented as a controller of John, and he defended her against that opinion, but it was rife… and the whole beating thing is about control, so that’s not adding up just yet… but Yoko being shown as being controlling could have been sexism at work. She certainly seemed to be in control of herself. She even picked John’s girlfriend for him to have an affair, so that doesn’t fit with being beaten up by him… unless they swapped roles from time to time so she controlled him at times and then it was the other way around… who knows. Interesting though.
        I think aside from how gorgeous Kurt Cobain was and how powerfully inspiring Nirvana’s music, I think it was the fact that unlike other celebrities he seemed more human, more real, him and Courtney were INTERESTING because they flaunted their flaws. Everyone else was pretending to be Barbie and Ken and they were defying that whole way of doing business in the public eye… I think people can make out Kurt to be a saint after he’s gone and to make Courtney the devil… but neither is the truth obviously. I think it’s easy to forget that even though compared to Courtney he seemed easy company, the man was on drugs and had issues and was grumpy and probably difficult to be around at times. And so he should have been too… I loved them as a celeb couple as they were INTERESTING and no one else was as willing to be interesting as they were in public. I think Courtney is probably a lot nicer than people think, I think with her it’s a lot of put on drama queen antics and yes she is obnoxious and falls out with people a lot… but I wouldn’t be surprised if she wasn’t quite sensitive, caring and sweet behind closed doors… at least on more occasions than people would expect.

    • Oh, I do get what he was TRYING to say, but I just had a more cynical reading. :p
      Yeah, even Mother Teresa was no saint, even if she was beatified. No human being is perfect, but often the more a person is admired, the more glaring their flaws appear. Or, more probably, the person most likely to live in the spotlight has the qualities most likely to lead them into trouble. The best quote I read: it’s not that power corrupts so much as those who seek it are the most easily corrupted.

      • Disagree about the power corrupting quote. You can look at it that way, but you can also look at power as being synonymous with corruption. The simple thing is that people use their opportunities in life, some of the ways they use them are virtuous and some ways they use them are frowned upon. Give someone the opportunity and they may take that opportunity. What some would see as ‘perks’ others would see as ‘corruption’. Some people are principled, but the thing with them is that they may attempt to always live up to their principles but there are always mistakes, exceptions to the rule, lapses in judgement, giving in to temptation or whatever else. People like to see the principled people fail, even though perhaps they ought to be given encouragement for their efforts to be better people by having principles in the first place. But that’s not the way of the world. I’m not sure about the people who live in the spotlight thing either… I can see a lot of evidence to support that idea and it’s surely true in many cases, but if you go to a primary school and ask the kids what they want to be when they grow up, most of them say ‘famous’ because that’s our culture… are these all likely to be people with problems or is there something about fame that is unhealthy? Famous people are usually exceptional in some way, hence the fame, but I don’t agree that they are exceptional in every way, I think they are human and some do good things and some do bad, some do a mixture. I think famous people become Totems in our society and it comes as some weird revelation when they show signs of stepping out of the parameters of the role we assign them. But that is our mistake not theirs. Though they do put out an image to market, but if we’re daft enough to think that they are as simple as a bitesized image then we can expect to be routinely surprised to have our illusions shattered. I do wonder though what happened to support certain people doing wrong and illegal things. You have to remember that the people surrounding Jimmy Savile were not famous people, they were all behind the scenes people who were out of the spotlight and if they colluded with wrongdoing like that, then it says something about human nature, social dynamics and how those people wouldn’t risk their own position or jobs to do the right thing or whatever the situation was. Are they less to blame? A lot less, for sure… but didn’t they have a responsibility to help? In my opinion they did. In that case it was a Lack of Power corrupting them,

  3. “Terrorists” might be the wrong word for the Black Panthers, but in 1969 alone, 348 Black Panthers were arrested for a variety of crimes including murder, torture and other violent acts. At least one biography alleges that John was physically abusive towards Yoko – she denounced the book as “too mean”, but I don’t think she disputed its contents. As for Kurt and Courtney, they definitely had an extremely unhealthy relationship, with domestic rows that became violent (though I’m not sure if that was from both sides or just Courtney). I don’t think he was all that good and I don’t think she was all that bad, though I wouldn’t want either for neighbours. Good music, though, from both (at times).

  4. I think the trouble with fame and “positions of power” is that you have to be slightly screwed in the head to want that. Anyone else, in the glare of the spotlight, would be intimidated. They don’t want the attention, let alone NEED the attention. The people who do crave that tend to be very, very damaged. Look at Madonna – she’s probably the most miserable person I know of, because nothing is enough for her. She wants everyone in the world to love her, and that is impossible, so she’s (apparently) very unhappy. People with that desperate, pathological need for attention will do ANYTHING for the approval they’re seeking, and that’s what leads to the corruption. If it’s a certain group whose approval they’re seeking, then they’ll readily agree to things they wouldn’t otherwise sanction, hence the corruption seeping in.

    The Jimmy Savile thing (assuming that, in all probability, the allegations are true) is a sad mixture of the culture of the time (in which teenage girls were basically there to be abused), and institutional corruption in which everyone who did not speak out is equally to blame. People had everything to lose and nothing to gain by taking the claims seriously, so they just buried them and pretended it didn’t exist. The only people for whom lack of power was a problem were the victims. Everyone else was just cowardly, greedy, and caught up in the same approval-seeking behaviour that enabled them to sanction anything rather than get on the wrong side of those they were trying to impress. Just watch any episode of Revenge to see how that works.

  5. All I can do is chuckle at this post. First I wonder who in the heck this person is who wrote it! I’m at a complete loss when trying to figure out how low their IQ is! Well, maybe there is some smarts there but there is absolutely no knowledge of the arts or any taste for true, passionate music. Probably a youngster, Beiber or Gaga fan….

    Anyhoo, the author and most of the commentators give amusing descriptions of celebrities personalities as if they’re close relatives and know them first hand! lol! The hard truth is that I don’t KNOW Madonna more than I know John Lennon, esp. given the fact he was murdered when I was 5 years old…. but it’s interesting to see how these everyday Joes are celebrity experts. Perhaps they passed with flying colors during their celebrity profiling certification in Hollywood??? Nonetheless, thank you for keeping me entertained!

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