Monday, December 29, 2008

No longer riding on the merry-go-round

It has been merry to relax a little recently, listen to some new sounds but mainly read some new books. Since St. Stephen’s Day, I’ve been ploughing my way through a mighty tome, Philip Norman’s John Lennon biography, 800+ pages of incredibly well-researched work. There are few surprises to be met here but several telling interviews reveal Lennon to be either utterly cruel or beatifically kind with hundreds of shades of grey in between. The bulk of the book concerns The Beatles which is a shame as the last decade of Lennon’s life, his years living in New York, his up and down solo career, his politicisation, his bringing up of second son Sean merit plenty of investigation. Having read plenty of Beatles biographies, a lot of the stories are familiar but it was refreshing to encounter a revised history of Lennon’s relationship with his father Alfred, so often portrayed as a fly-by-night who rejected and walked away from his wife and young son; it appears they were eventually much closer then I previously believed and it was heartening to learn of reconciliations and forgiveness on both sides. Lennon’s childhood is covered cleverly and it was interesting to discover the self-styled Working Class Hero was brought up by his prim and proper Aunt Mimi in a large and respectable middle-class house that still had a set of servants’ bells in the kitchen. The tales of post-war Liverpool are among the most evocative in the book, the young Beatle enjoying idyllic years of Just William freedom with rascally pals. The level of detail really renders this book a success; one can really hear the harsh screams in Shea Stadium, sense the terrible heat of the packed Cavern and taste the fortified lager in the Reeperbahn nightclubs.

I must strive to publish details of this humble site’s Album of the Year prize before the end of the month. I confess I’m still unsure which way to jump and the shortlist remains worryingly long. There has been plenty of sublime music to celebrate in 2008. The music industry must hold its breath for a day or two more.

The Coles will be going to see Antony and the Johnsons in May. Tickets were obtained this evening for a recital at Bristol’s Colston Hall. I Am A Bird Now is a compelling long player and new material is promised in the spring; I look forward heartily to both the forthcoming album and concert.

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