John M. Borack,
John Lennon: Life is What Happens
(Krause, 2010)

What we have here is a coffee-table book not so much about John Lennon as the John Lennon phenomenon. Organized chronologically, it covers Lennon from the beginning of the Beatles to his final days in the Dakota, relying on photographs and quotes not only from Lennon but from pretty much everyone on the planet.

There's a photo of Lennon as a pudgy-cheeked 7-year-old and as a 16-year-old with a Buddy Holly pompadour and a cheap acoustic guitar performing with the Quarrymen in 1957. A lot of the pictures are fabulous, but some seem to be chosen only for the sense of completion they provide, such as the photograph of his and Paul McCartney's autograph from 1962 or '63. We have pictures of the album covers of '50s stars that Lennon liked, such as Eddie Cochran and the Dell-Vikings, and even scraps of lyrics.

The Beatlemania material is fascinating, especially the pictures of the products that were available for purchase: a paint-by-numbers kit that enabled you to create portraits of the Beatles, coffee mugs, a calendar with space for your advertisement on it and the official Beatles Flip Your Wig game; if it could be marketed, it was.

John M. Borack provides introductory material to each section of the book and, while he mostly repeats conventional wisdom -- Rubber Soul provided a big musical step forward, or example -- his text will be useful to newer and younger Beatles fans, such as my teenaged daughter, who can't wait to snatch this book from me.

In all, the book lives up to its subtitle; it is a collection of music, memories and memorabilia. By providing that, it serves an important function and is a whole lot of fun to leaf through. For me, it's a valuable reminder. For readers my daughter's age, it's a fine overview.

book review by
Michael Scott Cain

11 December 2010

Agree? Disagree?
Send us your opinions!

what's new