Up-to-date Music
Fascination in the Retro

By Cristina Moles Kaupp
This is a translation of an article from Spiegel Magazine

Special thanks to Nina whose help was invaluable in making sense of this article

Photograph Smile

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After a seven year break,  Julian Lennon wants back in the music business. With beautiful melodies and good lyrics.

No, Julian Lennon does not wear nickel eyeglasses.  Probably in order to not take after him even more. Him - it's over-father that 1980 murdered genius of the Pop music: John Lennon. He left Julian and his mother Cynthia in the past to nozzle around the world with Yoko Ono. Hard food for a boy who sees the light of the world at the height of the Beatlemania - in between the first hit parade success "Please Please Me" and the second Beatles number one hit "From Me To You". For a long time Julian looked for his father and never really found him. Now he is 35 and understandably hates nothing more than constantly being compared with Big-John.

But it is obvious, visually and in music. " I see, why the people make comparisons. There's certain tones in my voice which sound like his. My face reminds of him. All things, which I can not change," he explains not without humor at   his recent interview route in Hamburg's "Four Seasons"  hotels. On the other hand he does little to prevent these impressions, apart from the black-sharp-edged eyeglasses with the yellow lenses.

He has not made his former childhood desire to become a cook true, nor is he set on rebellion with punk-rock. That would fit from his age, but it is not his style. So sensitively, as he gives himself, he does not need a valve for any aggressions. Rich men have different hobbies.  Julian Lennon likes to paint, to tinker at sculptures, to puzzle over  computer software and offers his services for minor parts in films. "I  don't see myself as a screen star, rather as a quacking small character   somewhere at the side" - such as the barkeeper in "Leaving Las Vegas".

Julian Lennon has published four albums so far. Successfully, of course. However, he fell out with his record company and had had enough of the music business. "I was so frustrated by the people with I had to work with. Manager, advisers, producer. They dictated what I had to say in interviews and what not and they  pushed me and my music into their compartments, there were too many broken promises." A time-out had to come - it took seven years. Of course he went on writing songs, but they never quite pleased him. " They were scrap metal, too poppy, **** it,"  he grumbles.   "I just want to publish songs which are a hundred percent genuine. Emotional. I write because of the writing itself, because of the music itself and the lyrics itself. I had neglected that at that time ".

So Julian Lennon is pure now. On "Photograph Smile" one should stick a sticker certifying one  hundred percent authenticity, so emphatically the sensitive British man tries to prove his honesty and authenticity.  All values which mean less and less in pop culture. .

It's the renaissance of lost values, feelings and roots on "Photograph Smile" that he and producer Bob Rose are interested in. So the album is published on his own label  "From Another Room, " (actually Music From Another Room - CJ)   so the control correct and the family feeling. Also the planned European tour has a spectacular target: Proceeds of the sold tickets are to go exclusively to charitable purposes. Julian Lennon believes in Karma and feels reborn. He finally wants to be perceived/noticed as an independent person with all his ability and feelings. If he builds nevertheless on musical bridges, which remind of passed times and of the Fab Four, this isn't done without sense: "In the past, Beatles fans asked me again and again whether I could write any more Beatle or Lennon -ish songs. Now, this this time I did it with humor. One or two songs sound like the Beatles and a few like dad. But the songs are not less significant, not less me." Julian Lennon calls "Walls" his most important song. " It has to do with how I grew up, how other people built up walls around them and around me. I did also. But for each relationship, whiter it is business or private, these barrier must fall. " Thus he dedicated "Photograph Smile" to a quite different one - to his first stepfather who came from the north of Italy and showed him how life is.

Retro-fascinated people will fall in love with the beautiful melodies and worked out arrangements on "Photograph Smile". But despite the brilliant production the songs seem to be dusty. What is missing is what the winners of the widespread Britpop euphoria make themselves: the quite banal reference to everyday life, the snoddy tone. Where as Julian Lennon focuses on himself.  His references and quotations have a deeper meaning, on which Oasis and Co. couldn't give a damn about. But the medium sized, slim man with half-long smooth hair means it seriously. Two charms decorate his neck, a dark suit packs the rest. Actually he seems rather inconspicuous. If those eyeglasses weren't there.