Imagine: Julian Lennon his own man

By Laurie Werner
September 8-10, 1989 "USA Weekend"


The Lennon File

Born: April 8, 1963, in Liverpool, England, to John and Cynthia Lennon. Named John Charles Julian - Charles for Cynthia's father, Julian for Julia, John's mother.

Lives: In an L.A. house, once an early-warning bomb station, with 15-inch-thick walls. "I can't afford to fix it up. I can sell it for twice what I paid, though, so I think I will."

Finances: A trust fund of reportedly $250,000 that he refuses to touch.

Listens to: David Bowie, Keith Jarrett, Edic Brickell and the New Bohemians.

Hobbies: Riding dirt bikes along the California coast.

He cooks a terrific: pasta with meat sauce.

Julian Lennon's luggage is lost, so he doesn't have his favorite '50s leatherjacket. He doesn't have his contact lens solution, so he's squinting. He's also rasping, due to a long night at New York's China Club.

After a cup of wake-up tea and a couple of Winstons, though, he begins to come to life. As he does, the voice is eerily familiar - he sounds just like his father, John Lennon. Even when he sings, he sounds like his father. And as anyone can see, he looks like him, too.

Such similarities have made it even tougher for Julian Lennon, 26, than for the average Famous Person's child to carve out his own career without being compared. But he's determined.

His first album, Valotte, released in 1985, sold well and got good reviews. But 1986's The Secret Value of Daydreaming flopped. Now, he hopes to prove he's not just a flash in the pan with his third album, Mr. Jordan.

One memorable scene on his recent tour took place in New York, where the girls screamed as they once did for the Liverpool lads. Positively beaming, Julian played to them, seductively lying down on stage to sing a ballad.

The biggest screams, though, were for a surprise performer - his half-brother, Sean, John and Yoko Ono's son. Wearing ripped jeans, Sean, 13, gamely played guitar and sang a few lines of Stand By Me. All the while, Julian hugged him as if he'd never let go.

You obviously did not have a normal childhood. When did you first realize that your father was a little different?

When I was about 3, 1 think. I used to toddle back from school and find 100 people standing in front of the house. So it dawned on me that we were different. But it became normal after awhile.

Your father's life must have been difficult for you, though. He left your mother when you were 5, married Yoko Ono, moved here from England.

Well, yes, it was difficult. He wasn't around very much. And being at school was rough. It was tough making friends.

People knew that you and he were finally becoming close when he was killed. That must have made his death even more painful. Did you go for help to get over it?

No, no, no.... It's a question of sitting down and working it out in your head. You have to face facts and get on with your life. And I don't think about it much these days. I really don't. Only because it hurts to. But I get a constant reminder from the public.

They can't help it. Besides the obvious, do you take after him?

In many ways. I'm very short-tempered and cynical, as he was. I have the same wit, the same sense of humor. And I'm very aggressive and opinionated, I have very strong beliefs, as he did.

You seem to be very quiet and polite.

One side is. But I'm like a bull in a china shop in my head. This world is frustrating - the ways people act toward each other, toward the environment, the way governments behave. At some time and place I'll shout my head off about it. But the time isn't right now. It will be soon.

Do you discuss these events with Yoko? She's concerned with world issues.

No, we stick to day-to-day things, nothing too intense. Actually, we don't get to see a lot of each other. When I'm in New York I'll go over for a cup of tea.

So you don't get to see Sean much.

Yeah, and I miss him a lot. But he knows that I'll always be there. I see him growing up in the same position that I did, without a father and dealing with the public, and I want to be his big brother. I'm waiting until he's a little older so we can spend more time together.

Doesn't Yoko want you to see him?

She's very protective of him and she still thinks I'm, well, one of the lads who gets around and out on the town. I am. But, obviously, if it involved Sean, I wouldn't keep him out all night. He's only 13 years old. But Yoko hasn't seen the responsible side of me yet.

You're pretty responsible when it comes to your music. Is that what you've always wanted to do?

No, I thought about going into music, indirectly, maybe as an engineer. And I loved acting and painting and design. I also love to cook so I thought I might become a gourmet chef.

When did you decide on performing?

When I realized I could compose songs. I've been fiddling around since I was 12. At 16, 1 started putting decent songs together. People liked them.

Some think that it was easier for you to get a recording deal because of your name, but that doesn't always sell records. Your last album, for example, flopped. is that why you took more time with this one?

I wanted to be in charge, so I've been learning about the business. I didn't even know what my manager was doing in the beginning - and that cost me. He spent all of my money, which I found out when I called my lawyer to get a plane ticket and was told that I didn't have a cent.

This album is pretty important for you.

Every album is important and the second album is really important - it shows whether you're a one-shot or a serious musician. Not getting the chance to prove myself on the second one really knocked me for seven. So I feel that I have to prove myself all over again. But this album turned out exactly the way I wanted. This is how I sound.