Julian Lennon the Secret Value of Daydreaming

Daydream Believer

Sounds (UK) April 5, 1986


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Julian Lennon by Peter AndersonThe boy with the fascinating, well-documented, stranger-than-fiction life story is based in New York now. He's over here for a few days' "work". "Planning never works cos everything changes. Except for Virgin promo schedules."

I find him friendly, unpretentious, knackered, and disarmingly honest. His new record bay be the most witless, willowy, wearisome and wallyish contrivance I've heard in years but he is the definitive nice guy, not unaffected by his unorthodox background but mercifully free of affectation. Affectation's great if you're a genius. Julian is not a genius.

We are instructed to watch the video for Julian's new single 'Stick Around', along with a man from Cosmopolitan, a magazine for women who need to be told why they shouldn't listen to what they are told. In this video a series of leggy moderne girls in tight, shiny skirts fall in and out of clinches with young Jules on the plush sofa of a decorative NY apartment. Enin, the man from Cosmo says, "Great, Julian. Really great", and leaves. (Memo: buy dagger.)

Julian looks at me wryly while the half of my brain which I still allow to do whatever it wants whenever it wants starts singing: We all live in a yellow submarine. A yellow submarine. A yellow submarine.

The other half says: We do not. And even if we do, pretend we don't for a while.

Er... Julian is still looking at me wryly.

When I first heard about Marc Bolan's death my dad made me a cup of tea. When I first heard about John Lennon's death my record shop boss said, "S---. We'd better order loads of copies of 'Imagine'."

You live and learn.

When Julian Lennon heard about John Lennon's death, he had just awoken to see that the chimney of his Welsh house had fallen through the roof into his bedroom. Then he saw the reporters waiting on the lawn.

Julian is getting quite good at looking at people wryly.

Your relationship with women always seem to intrigue the media.

You're not bloody kidding! The press ruined my last relationship. Now I'm... faithful. Pretty faithful. Very faithful. But when I was in America there was this girl, a rock singer - great-lookin', a really nice person. We'd hand out together in our spare time, and work together. Anyway I come back to England and the old lady says to me, What's goin' on with this girl? Come on, what's goin' on?

I said, Debbie, we're good friends. Can't you accept that I can just have a friendship with another girl? It doesn't have to be sexual. She says, Well, are you going to bed with her? I say, No, she's a friend of mine. That may happen later...

Ha, ha, ha, no I didn't say that. I said, There's no plans for that. I'm with you.

So she said we should let nature take its course. I thought that was all right; that was non-committal.

Next thing I hear some London newspaper's gone out and done an article: Julian Dumps Debbie For Rock Star Beauty. Or something. And without Debbie even calling me back to ask if it was true, she went straight to the paper, got a couple of notes in her pocket, and revealed all. After that I... y'know... lost faith. The next thing I get is a letter from her lawyer saying. You made her give up her modeling career, you did this, you did that, therefore she is entitled to this.

I said, You must be crazy. She did everything of her own free will.

Everything blew out of proportion. I haven't spoken to her since, and it's been very silly.

So I think if you start talking about relationships to the press - not being nasty, but everything gets distorted. It's not worth the trouble.

You have been described as "too shy to be a skirt-chaser, too famous to have to be..."

Ha! That sounds good actually.

Is it weird not knowing whether people are being genuine or just sucking up to your because of your celebrity?

I've learned to deal with that. I'm very perceptive these days. I try my best, as anyone would, to suss out whether somebody's trying to rip me off. Anybody can be given a backhander and do it anytime. But as least you can try and have some sort of judgment.

Have the family relationships all calmed down?

Yeah, pretty much so.

No trouble with Yoko?

I don't think there's anything I've said lately that the press could pick up on. Everything's fine. See, after the death and the whole thing, now I'm trying to get on with my own life, and so's Yoko, whatever she does, and good luck to her. We're back being normal people. We're not sittin' thinkin', God, what happened? We're allowed to relax. I pop over for a cup of tea and to see Sean if I'm in town.

No traumas?

No! There's nothing. Nothing exciting going on around my life at the moment. Except hopefully the album.

Back at the music business, Julian is still looking at me wryly, waiting for a comment on the video. I say, The flat was nice. We decide we like each other and light cigarettes.

In 80 minutes I emit 63 questions(!), nine statements, and one request for orange juice. After the first six questions and one statement concerning his new album, Julian Lennon runs his hand through his hear and says:

Er.. yeah... I dunno. I give up. I just try and enjoy myself. If people like it they like it, if they don't - well I'm sorry. Maybe next time.

He is well-built, and has sharp eyes. He lacks his father's talent for epigrams, but he is not thick. Equally, he is not shrewdly soulless like the business which harnesses him. Given the history, the context, the product, and the absence of Liza Minnelli's spitfire flair, I'm pleasantly surprised to find myself sitting with a real live human being.

A token discussion about the crap music.

So what's changed since you 'broke' in terms of image/music/aims?

In the first place, I got this sort of 'cute', very nice, relaxed, boring, image... it was good to be boring then because it meant I could do whatever I wanted later, rather than just being a hippy or a punk or anything in particular. It was easy and plain. And I still don't want an image, there's nothing to it.

And this second album is funkier, rockier, more exciting...

I'd say it is more contemporary than the first, but it's bland modern pop like Nik Kershaw or Howard Jones or one of those people...

At least one or tow of the sounds are a bit more up-to-date. I like messing around with sounds, all the electric stuff. But I'm keeping it calm at the moment. I like to be inventive but the album's straightforward. That's important. Maybe next time I'll do The Odd Album, The Bits Album, with all the junk and weird stuff. It wouldn't really be an album at all. I do write some very strange songs.

There's no evidence of that on 'Daydreaming'. Didn't you toy with the idea of surprising people?

Oh there are a couple of interesting bits. But... I still wanted to keep in favour with most of the fans, in America at least. I still wanted the parents to like me, I still wanted all age groups. But for all you weirdos, I need to be this weird stuff, just to get away from the regular. I will do one day.

Does you music appeal mainly to old Beatles fans? 40-year-olds?

Well it was, it was, yeah, but I think maybe with this album I might get a few young 'uns for a change. We'll see what happens.

You mean, like, teeny girls?

Er... yeah, I'm trying to keep them happy too. I dunno...

And this is where Julian, as previously described, shows a wisdom beyond his years and gives up pretending to care. I respect him for it because it's something a Truly Modern Pop Star, or British TV programme planners, or Julie Burchill, or 90 per cent of social-beings scum rock hacks, would never dare to do.

I'm saying the same things over and over again, there's something wrong here.

The record, actually.

I think it is good. I do like it.

Oh sweet child don't make life so easy. Let's talk about something else.
Are you very interested in art?

Um.. well if I see something that takes my fancy I'll ask about it. There's things I like. All the surrealist stuff. Like Dali. I just like them. They amuse me. It's like - where are the stairs going? It's one of those jobs.

Correction: Julian is a genius.

Pop music in the '60s was an influential wave which changed people's attitudes. Your father was a major protagonist. Do you think it retains any of that impact and power today?

It has a little bit. There was the whole Live Aid thing. But faith goes uphill and downhill, people's ideas of what's really going on change. I think you can still do things with good music and how people listen to it, but it depends what you're gonna talk about and how. If you're playing a certain type of music that's not going to reach everybody, you may get some sort of cult following, but if you want to involve the world, to change it, then you have to fit into a slot which everybody is bound to.. recieve...

Pop used to gather youth, channel its energies. I don't know whether I believe it can do that anymore, Julian.

Ah, I guess it could do if somebody really wanted it to, wanted to really challenge something. There are songs about nuclear war... but nothin' that's grabbing anybody by the balls.

No revolution y'know? Ha ha ha!

I must confess here I went, Ha ha ha! too.

In the '60s it was a whole big new thing. Everything was! Everything was new! There's nothing new around today. Music has reached a stage now where it's not really turning in any direction, it's a bit of this an' a bit of that... have you seen a new direction?

I fall back limply, unconvincingly, on the old Jesus and Mary Chain stock reply. Julian hasn't heard of them. Of the "new British bands" he's heard over the last 48 hours he likes Simply Red and It Bites. Unfortunately, I have heard of these. We both tumble off the end of the paragraph with the dignity and élan of farting locusts.

What's a typical day in the life of Julian Lennon?

Wake Up...

Good one.

Yeah, yeah... have breakfast, sit around, watch TV, play piano, phone and see who's doing what where, maybe go to a caff or see a film, sit in the garden, mess around with people and go places and do off-the-wall things. But the last time I went to a museum I was followed round by 10-year-olds, askin' for my autograph while I'm trying to look at dinosaurs. That wasn't much fun.

An' maybe a club at night, downtown, see a couple of bands, just hang out with the musos and have a couple of drinks. Then fall home about two or three. Have a bunch of friends back. Maybe five. I don't know where I get that number from.

Perhaps that's how many it was last night?

Oh no, no. I haven't been allowed out to play for a long time. Then just sit round drinkin' and listening to music until... until...

Until you can't.

Until I can't, right. There you go. A day in the life of Julian Lennon.