"He has too many of the wrong ambitions and his energy is too often misplaced," wrote the headmaster on John Lennon's report card in the summer of 1956, when Lennon was fifteen. We can agree with the headmaster only insofar as the young Lennon planned to devote his life to skiffle music. But once he devoted himself to rock & roll, he and the other Beatles overthrew the world.
Literally hundreds of books have been written about Lennon, so why would you spend forty dollars on a sixty-four-page volume? The text, by Rock & Roll Hall of Fame curator (and former Rolling Stone editor) James Henke, is fluid and well-researched but Legend was produced with help from the Lennon estate, so don't expect any album to be referred to as anything less than a triumph, except by implication, when the next one is a "return to form."
The book shines by including dozens of reproduced items from Lennon's life and career, stuck into pockets throughout; reading Legend is like flipping through a sophisticated pop-up book for Beatles fans. Some of the inventory: handwritten lyrics to "Imagine," Beatles bubblegum cards circa 1963, and a full-page 1979 ad he and Yoko Ono took out in the New York Times to explain why they had seemingly disappeared from public life. There's also an hour-long CD of Lennon interviews. Best of all the reproductions is the Daily Howl, Lennon's handmade schoolboy newspaper, filled with cartoons and humor such as "Our late editor is dead, he died of death, which killed him." This volume captures some of the ephemeral whimsy and genius of Lennon's life. -Rolling Stone Magazine
Lots of great pictures and an hour-long CD of previously unreleased Lennon interviews make this a touching biography that you'll want to touch as well.
Henke, a rock critic and v-p of exhibitions at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, provides a breezy and serviceable biography that contains few unfamiliar photos and little new information. Yet incredibly detailed reproductions of artifacts (removable on almost every other page) from Lennon's life and work make this book something many fans won't be able to pass up. These include a report card from 1955; a business card for Lennon's early group the Quarry Men, distressed for effect; a ticket for the Beatles' appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show in its original envelope; Beatle bubble gum cards; pages from a 1967 article in Rolling Stone; cards from the Yoko Ono art show that introduced her to Lennon; and handwritten lyric sheets. For any Lennon fan, this will be as close to the originals as one can get without actually owning them. Despite the splashy layout and varied materials, the book doesn't seem overdone, since Lennon himself worked in all sorts of media-such as the "War Is Over" postcards included here. An hour-long CD included with the book has Lennon talking about his work in his unmistakable combination of sly wit and engaging self-deprecation, a wonderful reminder of why Lennon is still beloved more than 20 years after his murder. (Nov.) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Adult/High School-This book documents the contours of Lennon's personal life, from childhood through marriages and career; his extraordinary accomplishments as musician, writer, and social activist; his influence on his own generation; and his continuing legacy. The story has been told before, of course-though rarely as elegantly as it is here. Archival, black-and-white and color photos appear on every page, enriching and interacting with the text. But this is more than a book; it is a production. It is slipcased; it includes a CD (an interview and a live performance of Lennon's masterful Imagine); and many of the "illustrations" add a personal, tactile dimension to readers' experience: 40 eerily realistic facsimiles of Lennon memorabilia can be removed from pockets and handled. A weathered report card from 1956 (Art: "good work this term"; Religious Instruction: "Work fair-attitude in class most unsatisfactory"; Headmaster: "He has too many of the wrong ambitions and his energy is too often misplaced"), coupled with an issue of Lennon's bizarre hand-drawn underground school newspaper, The Daily Howl, tells more about the performer's childhood than any amount of explication could do, and adds real depth to readers' understanding of the writer, artist, and activist that Lennon would become. Henke's text is thorough but economical, avoiding the sensationalism that has always dogged Lennon's press without avoiding significant issues or events. Outstanding, and it should have broad appeal.-Christine C. Menefee, Fairfax County Public Library, VA Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.