The Sporadic Beaver

"Cuando yo cumplo 74"/"When I’m 74"

June 18, 2016

Tags: Nowhere Man, Los últimos días de John Lennon, Paul McCartney, Yoko Ono, diarios, e-books

Cuando los periodistas me preguntan si alguno de los Beatles ha leído alguna vez Nowhere Man: Los últimos días de John Lennon, mi respuesta es un inequívoco: “Sí, absolutamente... aunque ellos nunca lo han admitido en público.”

¿Cómo puedo yo estar tan seguro? Es fácil. Es un hecho bien establecido que yo tuve acceso a los diarios de John Lennon, y lo que he comunicado en Nowhere Man es la esencia de lo que había en esos cuadernos. Hasta que los diarios sean publicados, lo cual no sucederá en nuestro tiempo de vida, Nowhere Man es lo más cerca que puedes llegar a la autobiografía de Lennon.

Si tú fueras un Beatle, especialmente si fueras Paul McCartney, ¿no querrías saber lo que Lennon escribió sobre ti en sus diarios?

La respuesta es por sí misma evidente.

Lo que McCartney descubrió tras la lectura de Nowhere Man, fue lo que Lennon pensaba de él todo el tiempo, y que estaba locamente celoso por el éxito incesante de Paul. El espíritu de McCartney embrujaba realmente a Lennon. Él oía la música de McCartney en su cabeza cuando Paul estaba en la ciudad. Él escuchó la música de McCartney, cuando trató de salir de su mala racha creativa y compuso las canciones para el Double Fantasy. La “I Don’t Want to Face It” de Lennon —grabada para el Double Fantasy, pero lanzada en el Milk and Honey—, fue una respuesta directa a la “Coming Up” de McCartney. Además Lennon, disgustado por las demandas de McCartney sobre una reunión de los Beatles, se refirió a él como McOjodeculo, y se regocijó cuando Paul fue detenido en Japón por posesión de marihuana, dándole el crédito a Yoko Ono por causar el arresto al lanzarle un hechizo mágico. “Yo quiero a Paul como a un hermano”, escribió Lennon. “Sólo que él no me gusta.”

Hoy, el 74 cumpleaños de Paul McCartney, quedan nueve días hasta el lanzamiento mundial del e-book Nowhere Man 15 aniversario ampliado y recién traducido. Tú puedes pre-ordenar el e-book en Amazon, iTunes y Barnes & Noble. Entonces, el 27 de junio, podrás conocer aún más sobre la tormentosa relación Lennon-McCartney.

Mientras tanto, vamos todos a desearle a Paul un 74 cumpleaños feliz y saludable. Que él siga brillando.

Te invito a unirte a mí en Facebook o a seguirme en Twitter.

And for the English speakers:

“When I’m 74”

When journalists ask me if any of the Beatles have ever read Nowhere Man: The Final Days of John Lennon, my answer is an unequivocal: “Yes, absolutely… though they’d never admit it publicly.”

How can I be so sure? Easy. It’s a well-established fact that I had access to John Lennon’s diaries, and what I’ve communicated in Nowhere Man is the essence of what was in those notebooks. Until the diaries are published, which will not happen in our lifetimes, Nowhere Man is as close as you can get to Lennon’s autobiography.

If you were a Beatle, especially if you were Paul McCartney, wouldn’t you want to know what Lennon wrote about you in his journals?

The answer is self-evident.

What McCartney discovered upon reading Nowhere Man was that Lennon thought about him all the time and that he was insanely jealous of Paul’s unabated success. McCartney’s spirit veritably haunted Lennon. He heard McCartney’s music in his head when Paul has in town. He listened to McCartney’s music as he tried to break out of his creative slump and compose the songs for Double Fantasy. Lennon’s “I Don’t Want to Face It”—recorded for Double Fantasy but released on Milk and Honey—was a direct response to McCartney’s “Coming Up.” Yet Lennon, repulsed by McCartney’s demands for a Beatles reunion, referred to him as McAsshole, and rejoiced when Paul was busted in Japan for marijuana possession, crediting Yoko Ono with bringing about the arrest by casting a magic spell. “I love Paul like a brother,” Lennon wrote. “I just don’t like him.”

Today, on Paul McCartney’s 74th birthday, nine days remain until the worldwide release of the expanded and newly translated 15th Anniversary Nowhere Man e-book. You can pre-order the book on Amazon, iTunes and Barnes & Noble. Then, on June 27, you can learn even more about the stormy Lennon-McCartney relationship.

In the meantime, let’s all wish Paul a happy and healthy 74th birthday. May he continue to shine on.

I invite you to join me on Facebook or follow me on Twitter.

I Buried Paul

June 11, 2015

Tags: Beatles, John Lennon, Paul McCartney, conspiracy theories

If you get the reference in the title, then you're probably of a certain age--an age of turntables, vinyl LPs, and the Beatles as an ongoing musical enterprise.

If you're not of a certain age, you've still probably heard about a rumor that began in 1969. Some people believed that Paul McCartney was dead and the Beatles had replaced him with a look-alike so the fans wouldn't get upset. But because they were the Beatles, and couldn't resist playing Beatle games, they'd also left clues to his demise on their albums, both in the music and on the album covers.

One of the most famous clues can be found on the fadeout of John Lennon’s “Strawberry Fields Forever.” It sounds as if Lennon is saying, “I buried Paul.” (“I’m very bored,” is what he claims to have said.)


I mention this now because a site called Ranker is asking people to vote for the “most outlandish conspiracy theory” about the Beatles, and “Paul Is Dead” is among the 22 theories they’ve listed.

But so am I!

A Holocaust-denying conspiracy theorist has been insisting for years that I’m the CIA spymaster who ordered a hit on Lennon—or at least that’s what he seems to be saying if you delve deeply into his insane ramblings. It’s as if a conspiracy theorist is having my (Evil) Walter Mitty fantasies for me.

Ranker calls this theory “Robert Rosen, Author or Assassin?” And I have indeed buried Paul under a landslide of votes.

Yes, I am the #1 most outlandish Beatles conspiracy theory and Dead Paul is #2. This is like Bernie Sanders getting the nomination over Hillary Clinton.

So, I’d like to thank all the people who voted for me, and my campaign manager, Mary Lyn Maiscott. But keep in mind that this is only a fast start, and as long as Ranker exists, people can keep voting. Which means if Live Paul ever rallies his base for Dead Paul, “Robert Rosen: Author or Assassin?” will go the way of Michael Dukakis.

In the meantime, call me Jackal.

15 Years Ago Today...

May 27, 2015

Tags: The Times of London, Nigel Williamson, Nowhere Man, The Final Days of John Lennon, Uncut, Yoko Ono, Paul McCartney, Fred Seaman, Rolling Stone, Jan Wenner, Mark David Chapman, The Dakota, diaries

The author in his Washington Heights apartment, sitting in front of the IBM Selectric he used to transcribe John Lennon’s dairies. Photo by David Corio.
When Nigel Williamson interviewed me, in February 2000, he was preparing articles for both Uncut magazine and The Times of London. Though Nowhere Man had been garnering media attention for several months at this point, it was the one-two punch of these widely read British publications that set the book on a lunar trajectory; it would soon land on bestseller lists in the U.S. and U.K.

Fifteen years ago today, on May 27, 2000, this article ran in the Metro section of The Times. It marked a long-awaited turning point in my career, the moment when all the emotion and frustration I'd been carrying with me for 18 years had at last found an outlet. This was one of the first
Nowhere Man interviews I'd ever done, and I had a lot to say. Like many newspaper articles published in the early 21st century (or late 20th century, if you want to be technical), "Lennon Juice" is not available online. I’ve reproduced it word-for-word below.

The Times | May 27, 2000

BOOKS


Lennon juice

____________________________________________________
After John Lennon’s murder in 1980, Robert Rosen took brief possession of Lennon’s stolen diaries. Twenty years on, he has decided to publish a controversial new account of the legend’s final years. Nigel Williamson reports

Every fan knows the story of the last chapter of John Lennon’s life. The contented, if eccentric, days he spent in the apartment he and Yoko shared in New York’s Dakota building have become part of rock ’n’ roll legend.

While Yoko looked after business, Lennon was the happy househusband, baking bread and bringing up their son Sean. It was, Ono recalled, interviewed in Metro two years ago, “the happiest time” in their entire relationship.

At least that is the official version. As we approach the twentieth anniversary of Lennon’s death, New York journalist Robert Rosen is telling a far darker tale, an account of Lennon’s Dakota days based loosely on the intimate diaries the former Beatle kept between 1974 and 1980.

There are a series of leather-bound New Yorker desk diaries, in which Lennon recorded his every action, every private thought, every dream, even his every meal. And Rosen is one of the few people alive to have read them.

Sitting over breakfast in an East London café, Rosen admits the book is certain to cause major controversy among Lennon fans. He describes the character who emerges as “a dysfunctional, tormented superstar, disintegrating under the effects of fame and living in a high-rent purgatory of superstition and fear.”

Far from being lived in domestic bliss, Lennon’s last years, waited on by a retinue of servants whose appointments had been vetted by a tarot card reader, were characterized by “boredom and pain punctuated by microseconds of ecstasy,” he says. Rosen details a myriad of slavishly followed obsessions, from numerology to vows of silence to Billy Graham. In this account, Lennon is even responsible for Paul McCartney’s 1980 incarceration for drug possession in Tokyo, having asked Yoko to put a curse on his former partner.

Past biographies have either been uncritical eulogies (Ray Coleman’s 1984 Lennon) or have magnified Lennon’s weaknesses (Albert Goldman’s 1992 Sound Bites), Rosen states. Nowhere Man: The Final Days of John Lennon is, he says, simply the truth.

“It’s a three-dimensional portrait of John that’s as honest as I could possibly make it. I hope it tells you what the neurotic experience of being John Lennon was like. It’s a journey through his consciousness, the story of the last years of his life, as seen through his eyes.” But is it? Many, including Ono and Sean Lennon, would probably strongly dispute the accuracy of the portrait and questions Rosen’s powers of accurate recall.

They will point out that the author, by his own admission, has not read the lost diaries since 1982 and that even the notes he made at the time are no longer in his possession. For legal reasons, he is forced to declare in the preface to the book: “I have used no material from the diaries. I have used my memory of Lennon’s diaries as a roadmap to the truth.”

“I wouldn’t be human if I didn’t feel guilt. When I met Yoko my heart totally went out to her. But I’ve got a story and I’m going to tell it.”

Yet there is no dispute that the lost Lennon journals exist and that for several months in 1981 they were in Rosen’s possession. And he insists his memory is perfect. “I spent 16 hours a day for weeks on end transcribing them, and I realized that I had huge chunks of the diaries memorized. I had worked so hard on them and run them through my typewriter so many times, I had them all in my head.”

At the time of Lennon’s death at the hands of obsessive fan Mark David Chapman in December 1980, Rosen was a 28-year-old cab driver with a master’s degree in journalism. He had never met the former Beatle, but he did know Fred Seaman, the singer’s personal assistant, from college. “Twenty-four hours after Lennon’s murder, Seaman told me that while they were in Bermuda together that summer, Lennon had asked him to write the true story of his Dakota days,” Rosen recalls. “It was to be the ultimate Lennon biography and he told me, ‘It’s what John wants.’”

Six months later, in May 1981, Seaman delivered Rosen the crown jewels of the Lennon archive—six volumes of stolen personal diaries. The would-be author began transcribing them. “I’d never seen anything like it. He got it all down—every detail, every dream, every conversation, every morsel of food he put in his mouth was recorded in a perpetual stream of consciousness. I thought the story was rock ’n’ roll’s Watergate.”

When he finished, Rosen sent a detailed story based on the diaries to various publishers, including Jann Wenner, the founding editor of Rolling Stone.

Wenner alerted Yoko, who was still unaware that the diaries had been stolen. After a court case they were eventually returned to her and Seaman was convicted of grand larceny. At the same time, Ono also persuaded Rosen to join her payroll and while he was in her employment he handed over 16 of his own notebooks based on the Lennon journals. They remain in Ono’s possession to this day.

Why he has waited so many years to write the book is not entirely clear. There were legal ramifications under American copyright law, further complicated by the fact that the diaries had been stolen. “Legally, I can’t say what I would like to say,” he says. “It took me all these years to put the book together in a form that I was happy with, but I’m not allowed to say it is based upon the journals. It is a work of investigative journalism, intuition and imagination. That’s the line.”

Rosen admits to having feelings of guilt about the book and he has never taken legal steps to recover his own journals from Yoko. “I did something that wasn’t 100 per cent kosher, even though my intentions were entirely honourable. Because the diaries were stolen, I feel that I owe her something. I wouldn’t be human if I didn’t feel guilt.

“When I met Yoko my heart totally went out to her. But I’ve got a story and I’m a professional journalist. So I’m going to tell it. This is a great story that deserves to be told.”

Ask him if he thinks Lennon ever meant the diaries for public consumption and he hesitates. “I don’t know. I think it was the basis of something he wanted out. I think his diaries were a very early rough draft of what could have been the great memoir.”

What made Lennon such a compelling subject was less his money and fame and more the contradictions within his character, Rosen says. “Every facet of his life was a paradox. Part of him aspired to follow the way—Jesus, Gandhi and whoever. The other part of him just wanted sex and drugs. Part of him wanted a perfect macrobiotic diet. Another part of him wanted chocolate chip cookies.”

Gossip and cheap innuendo or the most complete and honest portrait of Lennon yet written.

Unless Yoko decides to publish the original diaries herself, perhaps we will never really know. But fiction or non-fiction, Nowhere Man is a gripping read that no Lennon fan will be able to resist.

Nowhere Man: The Final Days of John Lennon is published by Soft Skull Press on June 1, price £14.99/£11.99.

If He Were 64

October 18, 2014

Tags: John Lennon, Yoko Ono, Paul McCartney, May Pang, Nowhere Man, Mark David Chapman



I'm probably not the best audience for Lennon: Through a Glass Onion, the jukebox musical that opened this week at the Union Square Theatre, in New York. But the fault isn't with the show; it's with me, and it's strictly a case of having been marinated in Beatles music, lore, and literature for more than a half-century and having written a John Lennon bio, Nowhere Man, after transcribing and editing the personal diaries that Lennon kept from 1975 until his death in 1980. The problem is that I've heard it all before, and what I want from a show like this is to hear something new and unexpected.

John R. Waters, an Australian film and TV star, is not (thank God) a Lennon impersonator. Rather than wearing a wig and the trademark glasses, he portrays the ex-Beatle as he might have been had he lived and, at age 64 or so, decided to perform in intimate venues, singing his classic songs and explaining the inspiration behind them. Waters and Stewart D’Arrietta, whose piano playing is the musical driving force behind this stripped-down production, have been doing the show for 22 years, and, not surprisingly, they’ve got it down cold (turkey).

In this alternate Glass Onion reality, the AARP-ified Walrus—clad in a black leather jacket and black jeans, and enveloped in a mist that perhaps suggests the limbo between life and death—shares his thoughts on Mark David Chapman, his would-be assassin, suggesting that he must have listened to a lot of Beatles music, which, in fact, he did.

As Waters strums an acoustic guitar and D’Arrietta pounds on the piano (and occasionally harmonizes), the duo work their way through either snippets or complete renditions of more than 30 selections from the Lennon-solo and Lennon-McCartney songbooks, including such favorites as “A Day in the Life,” “Help,” “Imagine,” and “Watching the Wheels.”

Waters intersperses the music with wittily told stories and quips (mostly lifted from interviews, though sometimes made up) about Lennon’s rivalry with Paul McCartney, the bigger-than-Jesus blowup, his relationship with Yoko Ono, meditating with the Maharishi, the birth of his son Sean, and the so-called househusband years. And he indeed gives a good sense of what it might have been like to listen to Lennon. His performance demonstrates the absurdity of Ono’s contention that her third husband was so complex, no one actor could portray him—a notion she brought to life in the 2005 Broadway catastrophe Lennon, in which nine actors, both men and women, took turns playing Lennon and ultimately communicated no sense of who he was or what his life was like.

Just once, however, I’d like to see Lennon portrayed in a way that goes beyond retelling the most famous stories and does not totally buy into the bread-baking househusband myth. Show him in his final years as the tormented, secluded, confused, and jealous man that he was. Show him continuing his affair with May Pang after he went home to Yoko, and carrying a torch for May until the day he died. Show him as a contradictory man who longed to follow the path of Jesus but also dabbled in the occult, loved money, smoked a lot of weed, lost his muse, and then regained it after an epic creative struggle.

It would have been great to hear Waters sing some of the lesser-known Lennon songs that illuminate this reality, like “Serve Yourself,” complete with the spoken-word primal meltdown of “Youse fuckin’ kids all the fuckin’ same...” which was directed at his older son, Julian.

Apparently, though, this isn’t what most Lennon fans want. They want to hear the most famous songs, and judging by the audience reaction, Waters and D’Arrietta gave the people exactly what they wanted, straight up and with fresh energy.

Even so, it’s hard not to see Lennon: Through a Glass Onion as a poignantly sad reminder of what can never be again and what so many people, myself included, have tried so hard to keep alive throughout these ever more dispiriting times.

John Lennon's Final Voyage

January 27, 2014

Tags: John Lennon, Yoko Ono, Milk and Honey, NME, Nowhere Man, Paul McCartney, May Pang, Fred Seaman

Thirty years ago today, on January 27, 1984, Yoko Ono released Milk and Honey, the album she and John Lennon were working on the night of December 8, 1980, hours before Lennon was murdered. In commemoration of this anniversary, NME, the venerable British music mag, has run a cover story about Lennon and the LP.

Because I read, transcribed, edited, and wrote about Lennon's diaries in my book Nowhere Man, I was one of the people they interviewed for the article.

They also spoke with my former writing partner and Lennon's personal assistant Fred Seaman, photographer Bob Gruen, and three musicians who played on Milk and Honey: guitarist Earl Slick, arranger Tony Devillo, and keyboard player George Small.

Written by Barry Nicolson, “The Final Voyage” is notable for its even-handedness. Nicolson takes pains to get beyond the myth of Lennon as a content, bread-baking househusband, and instead portrays him as a contradictory, deeply flawed, three-dimensional human being—which is probably why Ono refused to talk to him.

Nicolson balances my take on Lennon’s relationships with Ono, Paul McCartney, and May Pang, and his obsession with the occult, with Gruen’s attempts to perpetuate the myth, and Seaman’s efforts to characterize Lennon as a Republican and a supporter of Ronald Reagan. (The only thing Lennon said in his diaries about Reagan was that they’d shoot him and we’d get a CIA government. He was right on both counts... eventually.)

My only complaint about the piece is that the photo identified as “Robert Rosen” isn’t me, and I’d suggest that a correction is in order.

“The Final Voyage” is a rare example of rock journalism that neither places Lennon on a pedestal (like Ray Coleman) nor tears him down to size (like Albert Goldman). Click here to read the complete story.

Hey Hey, My My (The Lennon Controversy Will Never Die)

July 13, 2011

Tags: Nowhere Man, John Lennon, Steve Hoffman Music Forums, Fred Seaman, Paul McCartney, diaries

That people continue to argue about whether or not I’m telling the truth in my John Lennon bio, Nowhere Man, 11 years after it was published, can only be seen as a good thing. Obviously, readers care about the book, even the ones who don’t believe me, and that, I dare say, is testament to Nowhere Man’s power. And even if I were to again state unequivocally that yes, I’m telling the truth—according to what I remember from reading Lennon’s diaries—it wouldn’t end the controversy.

In fact, I noticed the other day that a new online debate has erupted on the Steve Hoffman Music Forums. Between June 24 and June 29, there were 217 posts discussing the perennial question: Which book is more truthful, Nowhere Man or The Last Days of John Lennon, written by my former collaborator Fred Seaman, Lennon’s personal assistant at the time of his death?

I no longer participate in these debates because, as has been demonstrated every time I have taken part in one, even when people don’t know what they’re talking about, they believe what they want to believe, and nothing I can say will change their minds. Also, I’ve found that the most ignorant people are invariably the most abusive.

However, in this particular debate, a poster who calls himself “Matthew B” raised two interesting points that I will respond to… here, on my home turf. And in the service of freedom of expression, I invite him (or anybody else) to post their comments… here.

Referring to an old interview in which I said that in Nowhere Man, I couldn’t tell the story of Paul McCartney’s 1980 Japanese marijuana bust the way I wanted to for legal reasons, Matthew wrote, “If there’s any legal barrier to Rosen’s repeating the drug-bust rumor, it’s more likely fear of a libel suit.” (See posting 194.)

It had nothing to do with libel, Matthew. I would have liked to quote verbatim the four euphoric sentences John wrote in his diary when he learned McCartney was busted in Japan. But as I explain in the book, I don’t quote directly from the diary for copyright reasons.

And finally, Matthew raises a point that I’ve never seen mentioned anywhere else. “Rosen’s court testimony [in the Seaman trial],” he writes, “should not be looked at uncritically, but unlike Rosen’s and Seaman’s books, it was given under oath.” (See posting 206.)

Yes, Matthew, my court testimony was, indeed, given under oath. And if you were familiar with my testimony beyond what you might have read in the papers or seen online, that testimony was, pretty much, the first chapter of Nowhere Man, “John Lennon’s Diaries.”

I hope that settles it.