Revolution No. 10: John's Son Dreams of Arty Nightspot
A nightclub may not be what John Lennon had in mind when he sang, "You say you want a revolution," but that is what his son Julian plans to deliver to San Francisco.
"The Revolution," as Julian Lennon has titled his concept, will be an upstairs-downstairs club, exhibiting the works of local artists and bands along with a smattering of rock and roll artifacts to lure the tourist trade.
"There will be memorabilia from my father and the Beatles. They'll have their place, but there are a thousand other people as well," says Lennon, 32. "It's all about the past, present and future of revolution and change, turning things around for a better purpose." For six years Lennon has been framing the idea in his mind, and that is where it still mostly exists. He has no building, business plan or financial backing that he is willing to discuss, and he has recently moved to France, which is not a convenient base for running a club in San Francisco. But the long-range plan is to make the club an international chain, and his partner, Todd Meagher, 34, has relocated from New York as front man. They met 12 years ago when Meagher was a songwriter -- he's written with Eddie Money, Alice Cooper and Night Ranger.
Lennon flew up this week from one of his homes, on Mulholland Drive in Los Angeles, to scout locations.
Although he has never lived in San Francisco, he expects to get a place here, and claims to have hung out here enough to have scoped the scene.
"San Francisco has to be the best place in America to start a restaurant and bar called 'the Revolution,'"' he said before sitting down to a pizza at Eleven, South of Market.
Though Lennon still has a recording contract and jets from home to home, he has more time than he needs. "If I sit still, I fall to pieces," he says. "So this will offer me an opportunity to be back here." Lennon has invested in New York restaurants, and he helped create and owns a piece of a place called 'La Rascasse' in Monte Carlo that is a restaurant until midnight, when it magically transforms into a rocking dance hall. This is what he envisions for the Revolution.
As he sees it, the club will be "a living gallery of sorts, for photographers, sculptors and painters." Of the three versions of "Revolution" that the Beatles recorded, the namesake club should feel closest to the avant-garde, innovative spaciness of "Revolution No. 9," from "The Beatles," commonly known as the white album. "The theme is, if we're going to have memorabilia at all, it will be of men and women who have made changes," he says. The works will rotate and be sold on-site, with a percentage of the gross earmarked for charity, he says. He said the restaurant will be "without a doubt five-star," which would put it a whole solar system above the Hard Rock Cafe and Planet Hollywood tourist conveyor belts. Lennon throws around stars faster than most restaurant critics, who seldom rise above four.
Though Lennon has recorded four albums, he qualifies for one-hit wonderdom with "Too Late for Goodbyes," a single from his 1984 debut, "Valotte," that caught on mostly because the singing sounded eerily like his father's. As a rocker Julian may never amount to much more than an imitation of John, but if he can work his nightclub the way he flipped his house in Santa Monica, he'll be doing all right. Several years ago Lennon made a $450,000 profit on a 4,000-square-foot former World War II bunker after sitting on it just 10 months, and running it down, according to reports. He even had five-foot letters painted on the roof in impolite British slang for "go away" to discourage paparazzi. If he expects to make it in the glad-handing nightclub business, he'll have to perk up his disposition.
His partner, Meagher, promises "he's going to be a local," but there is one piece of local trivia Lennon did not know: that the Beatles' final concert was at Candlestick Park in 1966. They played half an hour, went straight to the airport and were gone for good.
"I'll be hanging around a lot longer," he says, displaying a hint of his father's quick wit.
© 1995 San Francisco Chronicle
'Hey Jules' © 1998 - 2002 CJ Burianek