happened to Julian Lennon? After seven years away from the limelight
- a time spent getting his life back together after a disillusioning
experience with "pop stardom' - the son of a beloved rock icon
returns to the public eye and ear with his own record label and a new
album, Photograph Smile. Lennon talks to MC about his new music, his
relationships with Paul McCartney, step-brother Sean Lennon, mother
Cynthia and - above all - the influence of his legendary father.
Preconceived notions can be dangerous. Just ask Julian Lennon. The son of a Beatle, his fate was seemingly cast in stone by the time he was ten-years-old. An earlier foray into the music business began with the release of Valotte, his highly touted 1984 debut which included the hit single, 'Too Late For Goodbyes," and ended in disappointment by 1991 with the release of Help Yourself, after several other unsuccessful projects.
Treated like a prefabricated clone of his father, Lennon was pushed and prodded by corporate forces - and by Beatles fans desiring a John Lennon replacement - into being something he was not.
'I didn't have a bloody clue as to what was going on,' says Lennon, recalling that confusing time. 'I was putting too much faith and trust in other people and just sort of being carted around from one situation to another. Now, not a thing gets past me that I don't have the final say-so.'
Today, after seven years away from the industry - time spent, he says, living life to the fullest - Julian Lennon is back. Things are vastly different this time around, how- ever. For one thing, Lennon has his own label, Music From Another Room, as well as a new project, Photograph Smile, already released in Europe to glowing reviews.
Asked to define himself today, Lennon answers crisply, 'I consider myself a very courteous, respectful, kind, generous - maybe overly generous - person.' Laughing easily, he adds, "And a damned hard worker!' Nevertheless, he notes that life should be enjoyed and believes that he is finally succeeding at that, too. Moving into an introspective mood, Lennon says, "Over the last three or four years I've made some major strides forward in resolving many of life's problems, not only on a professional level, but on a personal level, too.'
When asked about the often melancholy nature of the material on Photograph Smile he explains, "We all know what it's like to feel happy. But, it's those moments of loneliness, quietness, despair, and pain that a lot of us in this world don't know how to deal with. I feel that through the work that I do it will provoke, hopefully, other people's thoughts and maybe, in the end, will help resolve some of their issues.'
As for his own issues, they, like Julian Lennon's history, will be forever intertwined with popular culture in general and the Beatles' legacy in particular. For example, his recent criticism of stepmother Yoko Ono's handling of the John Lennon estate continues to stir media attention. And, he is forever being queried about his relationship with his younger half-brother, Sean - who released a CD, Into the Sun, on the same day, May 18, 1998, as Julian's European release of Photograph Smile. A coincidence? That is doubtful. But, Julian's deep feelings for his sibling go beyond pettiness and superficial competition. 'Sean, I love very much,' he says. 'Sean is a talent. I think he's got a lot of hard work ahead of him." Changing from a somber tone to a lighter mood, the elder brother adds, 'He's not only got [our father's shadow], but me to deal with. So, as far as comparisons, twice as much trouble!" But, as Julian Lennon is now willing to admit, his own connection, and the comparisons, to John Lennon and the Beatles remains strong. For a long time Julian tried to distance himself from it. Attempting to establish a voice of his own beyond the hype, however, took a Herculean effort that could have destroyed a lesser soul.
Today, a strikingly handsome man of 35, who still possesses the intense, dark eyes of the child he once was - and who resembles his mother, Cynthia, as much as he does his iconic father - Julian Lennon has accepted his past and says quite plainly, 'That's my karma."
© 1999 Music Connection
Background/Flowers from the 'Photograph Smile'
CD inlet by Angelika Letsch.
'Hey Jules' © 1998 - 2002 CJ Burianek