Life is tough enough for any young musician.
Hey Jude, don't be afraid. Take a sad song and make it better...
"Jude" is John Charles Julian Lennon. Born to John and Cynthia Lennon on April 8, 1963. "Actually," Julian says, " I didn't know it was written for me until about two years ago. I was shocked. But it's nice to be connected with such a classic." Julian's own LP success, Valotte, has gone certified platinum, but Julian remains in the shadows of the ex- Beatle that he may never be able to step out of.
The trouble with being Julian Lennon began almost from the very beginning. Cynthia Powell was pregnant when she and John Lennon married in August 1962. Shortly after Julian's birth, the Beatles conquered the airwaves with "Please, Please Me." It become their first number one single. The worldwide hysteria was unprecedented. Beaflemania was born.
The Fab Four's fame-rested upon the followings of teenager fanatics who fantasized and idolized the group. Therefore, it was bad publicity for John Lennon to be married, let alone have a child. The Lennons moved to Weybridge, Surrey. It was difficult times for Julian and his mother. "I was told to keep a low profile, to put it mildly," Cynthia says. The intended anonymity beset isolation and distance between father and son. As Yoko Ono explains, "It was hard for John to give space to a child because he was more involved in growing up himself."
During Julian's formative years in Wales, father John was the original Nowhere Man. The mere idea of fatherhood "unnerved him" says May Pang, John's companion in the mid-'70s. Cynthia and John divorced in 1968. "I'd rather not think about the times when I didn't see him, and I hope I'll meet him up there for a drink or whatever when I disappear," says Julian.
"We were getting closer as I was getting older," Julian explains. "I was getting to understand him." But the attempted relationship never developed. They lost spoke in late November of 1980-the next month, John Lennon was shot to death outside his Dakota apartment in New York City.
Julian was devastated. But it convinced him to "work harder, not sit around. I felt I had to go out and do something." Voila! Valotte debuted on the British charts at No. 12 and hasn't turned back since.
John and Julian Lennon. The comparisons are inevitable but the similarities aren't contrived. "Au natural," says Julian. "I know the similarities. I also love them, and I hope I'll never lose them." That particular bemused gaze that Julian emits from the cover of Valotte could only come from one parent; and one can't ignore Julian's distinct voice that eerily, but unintentionally, imitates his father's.
Julian describes his writings as "extended fragments" much like John Lennon's Imagine years, and admits that Imagine inspired Valotte. "I'm not trying to carry on tradition, except maybe in the simplicity of Dad's writing," Julian says. "People should just appreciate the songs for what they are and not read a lot into them."
Besides, it's not as if Julian has spent years waiting for these songs. He wrote most of them in a few months at the French chateau, Valotte. "I look at people and see the mistakes they make-and I try to avoid them. I write from watching- and from a bit of self-experience."
Julian Lennon has come to terms with being a rock and roll son and now audiences must sidestep comparisons and accept him as an individual, innovative musician.
The comparisons and similarities will probably follow Julian for the rest of his life, and the trouble he says, is "...a lot of people are looking for it (similarities), dragging the dregs, saying, 'Listen, that ' note sounds...' I mean there's no need for that." Let it be.
© 1985 Rock!
'Hey Jules' © 1998 - 2002 CJ Burianek