Picks and Pans Review: Lennon

updated 07/01/1985 at 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 07/01/1985 01:00AM

by Ray Coleman

To have known John Lennon, apparently, is to have written about him. There have already been at least 15 John Lennon pictorials and biographies published in the U.S. since 1981. This 624-page illustrated volume is by the former editor of Britain's Melody Maker music magazine. We already know the broad outlines of Lennon's life—his meteoric success and acrimonious end with the Beatles, his periodic obsession with drugs and reclusive house husband days, and finally his 1980 death in New York City—all of which are minutely detailed in this book. But Coleman also provides tidbits from his personal stockpile of experiences with Lennon and the Beatles. He also had help from John's Aunt Mimi, the iron-willed woman who raised him; Cynthia Powell Lennon, his first wife; Yoko Ono and son Julian, among others. The chapters on Lennon's youth include the freshest information. They offer insights into what drove him to music in the first place (liberation from the academic flop he had become) and into the personal conflicts his songs hint at, such as My Mummy's Dead, which reflects the trauma of his mother's premature death when she was mowed down by a car. Coleman delves into the uncongenial aspects of John's personality—the lad's early penchant for fistfights, his vicious public attacks on Paul McCartney and his tendency to use and discard women. But overall he celebrates Lennon as the genius-artist with a razor wit and heart of gold. Indeed, Coleman's love and admiration for Lennon sometimes leaves his judgment open to question. If Albert (Elvis) Goldman's in-the-works Lennon biography is as iconoclastic as it's rumored to be, John will need all the friendly books he can get. (McGraw-Hill, $19.95)

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