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Photograph Smile

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Familiar Refrain - Julian Lennon issues more futile denials
by Thor Christensen
Dallas Morning News 
August 25, 1999

Julian LennonJulian Lennon closed his show Monday night at Deep Ellum Live with rousing versions of two old rock gems his dad recorded in the mid-'70s, 'Stand By Me' and "Slippin' and Slidin'.'

But he really should have ended with 'The Ballad of John and Yoko.'  The recurring theme of the concert was a variation of that song's chorus - "You know it ain't easy/You know how hard it can be/The way things are going/They're gonna crucify me."

It seems the 36-year-old singer is still livid after all these years about being compared to you-know-who.

"The critics always say: 'You sound just like the Beatles. You sound just like your dad,'" he said in mocking tone. "Let's move on already."

But instead of moving on, Mr. Lennon harped on the subject. In the lovely, Indian-tinged 'Crucified,' he complained about being "crucified on a cross of innuendo."

Still carping at his critics, he described his dazzling new power-pop tune 'I Don't Wanna Know' as "a mid-'60s Beatle-esque-sounding song that I'm gonna sing in Daddy's nasal tone." Later, with his tongue firmly planted in cheek, he introduced guitarist Matt Backer as the man behind all the "[George] Harrison-esque solos."

It was almost as if Mr. Lennon thought if he ridiculed the comparisons long enough, they'd simply go away. But his comments only focused the spotlight even more on the sizable debt his music and his vocals owe to his father.

Which was a shame, because aside from the father/son issues, Mr. Lennon put on a fine show based largely on songs from Photograph Smile, his first album in seven years.

Unlike half-brother Sean Lennon, who explores the avant-garde side of rock on this own and with the group Cibo Matto, Mr. Lennon is a traditionalist. From the melancholy piano balladry of 'Photograph Smile' to the radio-friendly hooks of '80s hits such as 'Too Late For Goodbyes' and 'Valotte,' he cranked out one well-crafted pop tune after another with solid backing from his black-clad quintet.

Mr. Backer was particularly impressive as he coaxed exotic string parts from his guitar-synthesizer in 'Crucified' and played liquid guitar solos that - as much as Mr. Lennon would like to think otherwise - recalled Mr. Harrison. In fact, rare was the song without a Beatles or John Lennon reference - be it the 'Fool on the Hill' vibe of 'Day After Day' or the 'I'm Losing You' melody of the new, unrecorded 'No One But You.'

Despite all of Mr. Lennon's protests, there's nothing wrong with sounding "Beatle-esque." If Oasis, XTC and a thousand other bands can make careers out of rewriting John Lennon, why not his own son?

1999 Dallas Morning News

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Please! Julian Lennon is an original

Re: "Familiar Refrain - Julian Lennon trying to unload heavy cross," Pop Music Review, Aug. 25.

The only one harping on comparisons between Julian Lennon and his father at the show was reviewer Thor Christensen. Julian has had to deal with comparisons to his father his whole career, and they all came from the press. Julian has now accepted it, dealt with it and has moved on. Now he makes light of it and jabs the critics like Mr. Christensen who can't move past the fact that he is not his father.

Isn't it about time that the press accept the fact that he is not his father? The fans (even Beatles fans) have, and Julian has. Of course, as his fan club president, I am biased. Along with his great music, Julian is John Lennon's greatest legacy, but he is not a clone or replacement for him. I am disappointed that The Dallas Morning News could not be original and refreshing and actually do an article or review of Julian Lennon that does not mention his father, but I guess that was hoping for too much.

LAURA DEVER, Dallas, Texas