Music Express June 1989

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Feels Like Starting Over
To Julian Lennon, the choice of sentimental movie classic (Here Comes) Mr. Jordan as the title of his crucial third album has a rich resonance.

By Kerry Doole

Click for the full size picture"The subjects of the film (on which Warren Beatty's Heaven Can Wait was based) are life, love, death, dreams, hopes, beliefs and confusion, and the album deals with all those themes. Mr. Jordan was the guy in the film - God's associate, as it were - who lets the musician have a second chance to fulfill his dream in life, which he set out to do in the first place, but had that chance taken away.

"This was literally a second chance, a fresh start, to do what he wanted to do first. That's where I tie myself in: I look at the album, really, as a fresh start", explains Julian earnestly.

Just imagine being born as Julian Lennon; rock's equivalent of being born into rock's royal family. With a surname like that, it is rather a no-win situation to then decide to pursue a musical career, and, in fact, the five years since Julian released his debut album Valotte have been tempestuous ones.

What if the son of the spokesman for a generation doesn't actually have much to say, but remains driven to try anyway?

To this observer, that is the Julian Lennon dilemma in a nutshell. The incredible goodwill generated by the life and work of his father and the shock of his senseless death saw the younger Lennon the recipient of serious public and industry support, but the inflated hopes held for Julian's budding career have yet to be fully realized.

The platinum-plated Valotte proved that he possessed a certain touch with a melody (as on the hit Too Late For Goodbyes), but 1986's follow-up, The Secret Value Of Daydreaming, turned into a nightmare, creatively, commercially, and personally, for its creator.

After a couple of years spent wrestling private and business demons, Julian Lennon has emerged determined to capitalize on his "fresh start". So what happened, lad?

"I felt very let down by the second album, because I felt a lot of pressure from the record company and the business people I was working with. I wasn't confident about it, and didn't think it would do well.

"I felt that the people I was working with were taking me for a ride in one way or another. So I said, literally, 'Thanks guys, been nice working with you (a sarcastic chuckle), but it is time for me to disappear'." 

"So I sat down and started re-thinking the situation. I decided it was time to get in control, to take charge of my career, as I felt some decisions made before had not been in my interest. Now I'm very much in control. Mr. Jordan is very important to me as it feels like my first LP. I did exactly what I wanted to do this time."

 

The jury is still out as to whether his new approach has paid off. Certainly, his first single, Now You're In Heaven (yes, the one you thought was by David Bowie) has scored lots of airplay, but the album isn't racing into chart heaven.

"I'm going for a slow, steady, strong build. I need for the public to know I am setting down a strong foundation so I can continue working the right way and just keep producing albums that are good in the future."

Julian credits a change in the writing and recording process with what he sees as a creative rejuvenation.

"This time I made a conscious effort to finish 95 or 100% of the songs before I said Hi to a producer or even saw a studio - right down to the finest details.

"So when I was looking for a producer, it was basically to find someone who could transfer what I had done in demo form and put it into a live recording situation that sounded great.

"I met quite a few 'interesting' producers (another sarcastic chuckle) whom I played my tape to. They'd stop it and say 'We can do this,' or 'We'll change that'. I'd go, 'Wait a minute, thank you, but the work has been done.'

"They had their perceptions of how I should be or sound, and I said 'listen - no more'."

Then came Pat Leonard, the young studio whiz kid who is currently hotter than a Madonna video via work with the likes of Bryan Ferry, Michael Jackson and the heavenly navelled one, herself.

"Before I played Pat the tape, I said 'So, tell me your feelings on my career and what you've seen in the past. And he said 'Well, I think you should come out with a slightly harder edge, the lyrics need to be a little stronger. You need to get tough all over, and get your ass out there to play and show them what you're made of!'

"I said, 'Listen to the tape'. He says, 'That's what I mean'. So it took a relatively short time to put it together - basically two weeks of live rehearsals, then we cut it live the third week. It went very quickly and smoothly, and it made me very happy about how albums should be made in the first place."