Julian Lennon
(Just Like) Starting Over

Guitar World Acoustic
Issue 30 - Spring 1999  

Photograph Smile

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Guitar World Acoustic Spring 1999Whatever happened to Julian Lennon? Apart from a blink-and-you'll-miss-him cameo in the 1995 film 'Leaving Las Vegas' (he played a bartender), the singer-songwriter has been incommunicado since 1991, when his fourth record, 'Help Yourself,' sank without a trace on the U.S. charts. 

"I worked my backside off on 'Help Yourself,' with little or no support from my label (Atlantic), and I just thought, I've had enough," says Lennon, explaining his lengthy absence. "I didn't have a good relationship with Atlantic or the management team I was working with. Their perception of who I was and what I should do was far different from my goals. I thought, I've got to stop and think about this whole situation."

Seven reflective years later, Lennon has returned with 'Photograph Smile' (Fuel 2000), an album brimming with clever melodies and impeccable pop chops. Driven by his tart vocals and deft acoustic guitar playing, the songs on 'Photograph Smile' (which include the single 'Day After Day') are noticeably stronger and more focused than his previous efforts.

"My songwriting hasn't really changed a great deal," says Lennon, who writes and records with the help of his 1957 Gibson acoustic. "It's just that I've given myself enough time to do what I felt was right with every song. To me, the songwriting process consists of the music, the lyrics, the melody and the performance, as well as a link among those elements that is the essence or the emotion of the material. When those elements join up, they create a bond, a magic. Which is when I get goose bumps - when everything fits absolutely right."

Asserting his singular musical vision hasn't been easy for Lennon. Although his career took off in 1984 with the album Valotte and it's hit, "Too Late for Goodbyes," listeners and critics over the years have felt compelled to compare him to his celebrated dad, John Lennon. "It's always been difficult dealing with people who say I sound like him, or my music sounds like the Beatles," says Lennon. "But, you know, in retrospect, knowing his importance to people and knowing the Beatles were one of the best bands in the world, the comparison doesn't bother me. In fact - "Thank you very much!"

As if to prove the point, Lennon has included on Photograph Smile the song "I Don't Wanna Know," a deliberately Beatlesque rocker he wrote in response to his critics. Says Lennon, "The next time they say, "You sound just like the Beatles," or "You sound just like your dad," I can say, "Well, yes - I agree. Now can we move on from this subject, which is boring the pants off me? There's more to me than that."

Christopher Scapelliti