I had just turned ten in February of 1979 when, with a gift certificate in hand that I had received for my birthday a week earlier, I strolled into Sam Goody’s at the Neshaminy Mall. I suppose I could have bought any album I wanted, but I chose The Beatles ‘Blue Album.’ I had listened to Abbey Road on 8-track and knew I loved the band and so it was decided, unilaterally, that a Beatles album would be the first record this DJ ever bought.
The Beatles have drifted in and out of my life over the last four decades. ‘Blackbird’ was the song played at my high school graduation, and in college I took a class where I learned that Paul McCartney was actually the first Beatle to pass (or so the legend went) because he didn’t wear shoes on the Abbey Road cover and ‘Strawberry Fields’ said “Paul is dead.” Over the years I was constantly learning new things about The Beatles, because they were just one of those bands that left a larger footprint then other bands.
John Lennon was forty years old at the time of his death in December of 1980, a little over a year after I purchased that first album. I think it’s somewhat strange and ironic that fate has had my Beatles journey begin again shortly after my own fortieth birthday. Somehow John and ‘the boys’ don’t seem so old to me anymore, and in looking at a photo of the former Beatle, I find myself looking into the eyes of a John Lennon the same age as myself.
So in surfing around the internet (something John Lennon would have certainly found fascinating), I stumbled upon the website of Philadelphia newsman Larry Kane. I remembered something about him being the journalist who covered The Beatles ‘invasion,’ and subsequent tours in the mid-sixties, and it was on his website that I learned what Larry had been up to lately… writing books about The Beatles. Being a creature of compulsion, I was in the car fifteen minutes later driving to the nearest bookstore to grab a copy of Larry’s ‘Lennon Revealed.’
Perhaps you need to be from Philadelphia to understand that Larry Kane was ‘our’ anchorman, and for a Philadelphia native, his words and face were as familiar and as trusted as Walter Cronkite was on the national level. I might also add that as a voracious reader, I have read biographies on scores of music artists from Elvis and Sinatra to Van Halen and Jim Morrison, but never before had the ‘who the author was’ aspect of it had as much influence on my choice to read the book. Simply put, of all the dozens of biographies written about The Beatles and John Lennon, if Larry Kane wrote it it just had to be true.
I finished the book a few days ago, and it was brilliant (but I’m not giving you any spoilers). Since reading it I have begun a new love affair with the music from the Blue Album, as well as the Red, the White, Abbey Road, Sgt. Peppers… but I digress. The book was absolutely brilliant, and it woke The Beatles fan in me from a slumber that had lasted too long. A book that does that is much more than just a book, it’s a testament. I would not only recommend it to, well, anyone who reads books, but especially to anyone who truly loved John and The Beatles.
There was one discrepancy in the book that I took issue with, which was some of the terminology that Larry Kane chose, or rather lack thereof. You see, Larry makes many references to his ‘special bond’ with John Lennon, and to John being the ‘subject of his reporting,’ but not once did he refer to John Lennon as a friend, and for the record I think that needs to be corrected.
I looked up the word ‘friend’ and found two definitions. The first was ‘a person attached to another by feelings of affection or personal regard,’ and the second was ‘a person who gives assistance; patron; supporter.’
Above all else, this book was filled with the passion and love only a friend can feel. From the emotion I felt from the author early on in the book when he referred to Lennon’s assassin as “nothing but a gutless, cold-blooded murderer who shot the dream maker in the back.” To the sentiment he expressed at the end, when he said “I vowed to keep the memory of his incredible talent and spirit alive.”
Larry, in case you are reading this, newsmen and authors do not make vows, friends do. It is the love, friendship, and immense respect gained from such a close relationship that makes this book truly great. The only bias in it was that for all John’s humanness, the author is telling the story of a dear friend. Mr. Kane also goes on to say that he hopes this book plays a small part in keeping John’s memory alive, and to that I say he has succeeded. I am grateful that this book was written by someone who truly loved John in the way that revealed John Lennon as, above all else, a human being. I have rediscovered John Lennon and The Beatles, and for that I thank you Mr. Kane.
Photo of John Lennon courtesy of © Bob Gruen (The Photographer who took it)
used with permission