Thursday, May 16, 2013

Cynthia Lennon In The Plum Rains




I don’t have much today, but I have a little thing that has been causing me a lot of thought.

When something happens unexpectedly and some little, seemingly trivial, piece of information makes itself known all by itself, by accident even, that often gets me thinking more than if I had researched something carefully on my own initiative.

I know random stuff happens and it’s just random. I am not someone who dis-believes in coincidence or chance.

But at the same time I am one of those people who often wonder if there might be much more to some coincidences and random chance events than most of us traditionally allow.

I don’t know. But one of these little kind of random things has popped up and it’s causing me a lot of thought so I’m going to do a post about it. In fact, this may end up using two posts, today and tomorrow. I don’t know.

*

This goes back to a couple of days ago when I visited the Chicago library and wrote about my visit in my Tuesday post The Song And Sight Exactly.

When I was in the Chicago library I accidently stumbled on Pattie Boyd’s autobiography. The cover art and the sad story of that book have stayed with me for many years. So I made a little moment of the scene by photographing the Pattie Boyd book on the shelf in the library.

At the time I took the photograph, I did pay a little attention to the composition and I had noticed that at the right edge of the frame there was a book by Cynthia Lennon, her 2005 autobiography, “John.

I let that composition stay with the picture just because it seemed like a good sideways kind of reference—I was taking a picture of a book by George’s wife and there at the side of the image was a book by John’s wife.

But then I found myself thinking more about that book, Cynthia Lennon’s book. For reasons I’ll talk about below, I had never read Cynthia Lennon’s autobiography. But after I took that photograph of Pattie Boyd’s autobiography, and then found myself continuing to think about the Cynthia Lennon book, I visited a library near here and took out a copy. I read the book yesterday.

*

I’m going to post today about Cynthia Lennon’s book, but before I talk about her book I want to say something about this topic, the Beatles.

By 2005 when Cynthia Lennon wrote her autobiography I had already stopped reading about the Beatles. I have already mentioned in an old post that I find it very frustrating reading about the Beatles because almost every new book contains a slightly different narrative and it is impossible to sort out what should be believed, what should be dismissed, and what should be “interpreted” to get at something like a real truth.

That being said, I did read most of what George Martin has written because he often concentrated on the music production aspect of the Beatles. And I’ve written a few posts about the Beatles, as a group and as individuals:

Buying The Beatles Forever

Japanese Train Stations Forever

“Strictly Speaking She Harmonizes”

Marginalia And The Kennedy Assassination — 1 & 2

Nuclear Accidents, Beatles, Mean Snakes

Saturn/Books/Mean Things/Rock And Roll

A Quick Badfinger Note

“Underwear Distance Of Love” (Reprise)


Having written so many posts about the Beatles (and I’ve written one or two others that mention the Beatles just in passing), it might sound bizarre for me to say this, but: I don’t like writing about the Beatles. It’s something like “Star Wars.” It’s a topic I know, I guess, a lot about, but it’s a part of reality that has gone from being fun and exciting to being simply tragic and endlessly sad. I try to avoid such things.

But sometimes I make an exception. For the Beatles, I thought I had said everything I’d ever want to say in “Buying The Beatles Forever.” But this one last thing has sort of pushed itself into my awareness and I’m going to write about it today just for the sake of completeness or just for the sake of being responsive to the strange accidental nature of this little bit of awareness. I don’t know. But I am going to make a conscious effort for today, and possibly tomorrow, to be the last things I write about the Beatles.

*

Okay. Back to Cynthia Lennon’s autobiography, “John.”

Cynthia Lennon does something very strange at the very start of her book. Something very strange and—I’m guessing—something that to many long-time Beatles fans and followers is wildly odd and unexpected.

She begins her book with normal front-matter: There’s an “acknowledgements” page. Then a “forward” by Julian Lennon. Then an “introduction” by Cynthia herself.


Then when the actual book itself starts, the first anecdote stretching over pages 1-3 is about the death of Mal Evans.


What the hell is that about?

This book by Cynthia Lennon will contain nothing new. It will be just a review of the standard Beatles narrative from Cynthia Lennon’s very limited perspective. But she begins the book with an extended anecdote about what is certainly one of the most mysterious and most perplexing deaths of the various deaths associated with the standard Beatles narrative, the almost nonsensical death of the long-time roadie/friend/producer/musician[?]/writer[?]/confidant of all four of the Beatles, Mal Evans.

What the hell is that about?

I mean: Cynthia Lennon discusses the death of Mal Evans before she gets around to talking about John at all [!] and then she transitions directly from the death of Mal Evans in 1976 to the murder of John Lennon in 1980.

What the hell is that about?


I don't know what that’s about.

For people unfamiliar with Mal Evans, here are the first few paragraphs of his Wikipedia entry:


Malcolm Frederick "Mal" Evans (27 May 1935 – 5 January 1976) was best known as the road manager, assistant, and a friend of The Beatles.

In the early 1960s, Evans was employed as a telephone engineer, and also worked part-time as a bouncer at the Cavern Club. The Beatles' manager, Brian Epstein, later hired Evans as the group's assistant road manager, in tandem with Neil Aspinall. Peter Brown (one of Epstein's staff) later wrote that Evans was "a kindly, but menacing-looking young man". Evans contributed to recordings, and appeared in some of the films the group made. After The Beatles stopped touring in 1966, Evans carried on assisting them until their break-up in 1970. From 1969, Evans also found work as a record producer (most notably with Badfinger's top 10 hit "No Matter What").

Evans was killed by police on 5 January 1976, at his home in Los Angeles. Officers were called when his girlfriend phoned the police and told them that Evans was confused and had a gun. The police believed that the air rifle Evans was holding was a rifle and shot him dead.


When Mal Evans was killed in Los Angeles, he had been working on his autobiography, to be called, “Living the Beatles’ Legend.” His co-writer was there, as was a young woman, the night he was shot. The book was wildly anticipated by fans of the Beatles because Mal Evans was such an insider, someone who had been there from almost the very beginning. And the rumors were that he was going to be the first insider to write a tell-all book that actually told-all.

After Mal Evans was killed, the manuscript for his book became “lost.”

Surprise, surprise.

Something like ten years later material that was supposedly background notes for the book surfaced at a New York publisher. At that point—a decade after his death—who knows how complete the material was or, really, its provenance?

*

So Cynthia Lennon decided to start her autobiography with a story about Mal Evans being killed.

Here is part of what she had to say:


Mal had been a faithful friend to the boys and was especially close to John: they got on incredibly well and, with the Beatles’ other loyal roadie, Neil Aspinall, he had been on every tour, organizing, trouble-shooting, protecting and looking after them.

When the Beatles broke up Mal had been lost. He’d gone to live in Los Angeles where he began drinking and taking drugs. It was there, on January 4, 1976, that the police had been called by his girlfriend during a row. She claimed that Mal had pulled a gun on her, and when they burst into the apartment the officers found Mal holding a gun. Apparently he pointed it at them before they shot him. It was only after he died that they found the gun wasn’t loaded. It was a tragic story, and we could only imagine that Mal had been under the influence of drugs. The Mal we knew could no more have shot someone than flown to the moon. Whatever the true story, his death had shocked us all and that night, our talk around Mo’s fireplace was of what a good man he had been and how awful his premature death was. To us, the idea of being shot was almost unimaginable—how could it have happened to such a good friend?


Cynthia Lennon wrote: “Whatever the true story...”

Indeed.

*

Cynthia Lennon doesn’t add much to the standard Beatles narrative in this book. But she does tell one more story, very briefly and very late in the book, that is interesting as a kind of companion piece to the story she started her book with.

Shortly after John Lennon’s murder, a man who was a friend of both John and Cynthia confided to Cynthia that John had been keeping detailed diaries for many years. The man told Cynthia that he had been told by John Lennon himself to see that the diaries were delivered to John’s son, Julian, in the event of John’s death. When the man tried to deliver the diaries to Julian, John’s wife Yoko had the man arrested on the charge of stealing the diaries. Yoko took possession of the diaries herself. And she kept them.

Surprise, surprise.

*

That’s all I have for today. Maybe more tomorrow.




. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .


I’m Sorry The World Did This To You

Hen Politics, And Passages Between Worlds

“Now I Dream Of The Plum Rains”

























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