Jude Southerland Kessler has released her fourth entry in her exquisite biographical works entitled, ‘The John Lennon Series’ (On the Rock Books, 2018). This volume covers 1964, and is dubbed, ‘Should Have Known Better’.
We find Lennon somewhat as complex and multifaceted as a diamond, exuding a potpourri of emotions including bravado, insecurity, genius, anger, humor, and ennui. The anecdotes have the feel of sitting and listening to anecdotes of the inner circle, which is what most fans desire. This is as close as most can get to that experience.
By 1964, the Beatles lives were compartmentalized, and stifling. It feels claustrophobic simply to read the day in-day madness of frantic crowds who basically had the Beatles existing in a fishbowl. The lads would often go from plane to limos, from limos to hotels. Then they would have to brave wild throngs to get to and from shows. In between, they would perform. The pace and output in the studio were also daunting, and relied heavily on the dazzling songwriting output of Lennon and McCartney that defy belief in quality and number.
Author Kessler depicts the relationships of Lennon to his loving wife Cynthia, the other ‘Lads’, his son Julian, mother Julia, Aunt Mimi, Manager Epstein, and we still are scratching the surface of those in her purview. Kessler uses facts to flesh out depictions in the fashion akin to historical narrative. The result is readable, entertaining, thorough, and deeply insightful. Perhaps only the subject himself could have given us more of a porthole-view into his life, had he been willing. This is done across some 785 pages, before indispensable illustrations by artist Susan Derbacher, and other notes. Do not be dissuaded by the length of the tome, as each chapter is a strawberry cultivated for the pleasure of a king. We can ‘rattle our jewelry’ in appreciation (the entire project times out at 984 pages).
The coverage of the touring prior to the release of the group’s first film, ‘A Hard Day’s Night’ is perhaps unmatched. As we watch Lennon evolve, we have the gift of hindsight knowing what is to come in his life. Kessler fills in gaps in our understanding, and the results are never anything close to rote, or pedestrian. It is fascinating to view the road leading to a cessation of touring, and living as a band from the studio off the travails of the road. The pressure that the band lived under to that point cost them their nervous systems, and practically required a diving bell.
Beatle fans thrive on minutiae, and in the best possible sense there is plenty to feast on here. Previous volumes have become highly collectible, so Beatlemaniacs will want to get ‘em while they’re hot. It is a feather in the author’s cap to produce such thorough coverage of Lennon, and she has taken place a high place among all Lennon biographers.
With a little help from friends such as Bill Harry, Jim Berkenstadt (‘The Beatle Who Vanished, 2013), and others, Jude has merged the minds of some of the cream of the crop of other writers. Jude remains humble, while producing an authoritative work irreplaceable in the Lennon cannon. Roll up, and that’s an invitation for a magical tour of the life of Beatle Lennon.
Jude Southerland Kessler, author of The John Lennon Series will be addressing the White Album Conference at Monmouth University in Long Branch, New Jersey this weekend. Kessler will examine #9 factors that shaded John Lennon’s life in 1968 and made his songs on The White Album rather serious and at times, grim. On Saturday morning, 10 November, at 10:30 a.m., Kessler will share over 50 rare photos of Lennon and will play clips of his music in her discussion of “Lennon’s White: A Darker Shade of Pale.” Those who would like to “sample” the White Album Conference are invited to attend this one presentation, free of charge. It will last an hour and then be followed by a question and answer session. Kessler’s latest book in The John Lennon Series, Should Have Known Better (detailing Lennon’s life in 1964 with The Beatles) will be available to order at the conference. Attendees will enjoy free shipping. Kessler will also participate in a panel with authors Al Sussman and Bruce Spizer on Friday, 9 November, at 1:30 p.m. They will be discussing “1968: You Say You Want a Revolution.”
(Review by our Collaborator Robert Wilson)