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Julian Lennon - Interview

  by Nick Dent-Robinson

published: 23 / 10 / 2015

Julian Lennon - Interview


In this archival 1994 interview, Julian Lennon discusses with Nick Dent-Robinson his working relationship with the Beatles, his reaction to a biopic about their early days and rumours about a tabloid romance

When Julian Lennon went to the premiere of a new film about The Beatles’ early days he suddenly discovered the father he never really knew. It was an experience that shocked and moved him. It has been said before, but he does look quite like his dad: the nose, the eyes, something round the mouth. A pair of granny glasses would cause severe confusion. Julian Lennon sits sipping weak tea with lemon and two sugars in his room on the top floor of the Hilton in London’s Park Lane. His T-shirt looks a shade scruffy and tired, his jeans are amiably ripped and he’s not feeling so good – a touch of LA flu caused, he suggests, by dust from recent earthquakes. He may also be feeling the aftershocks of the night earlier his week when Julian and his mother Cynthia attended the premiere of Backbeat, the new British film about The Beatles’ early days in Hamburg. Although it is a story that Julian was too young to experience, the film has a sharp tang of reality which has obviously moved him. “I really didn’t know what to expect with this film,” he begins thoughtfully. “One of the main reasons I was intrigued was that my mum had already seen it and she said that it brought a tear to her eye and she was very impressed by it and I really must see it. And I did – and I was. I was blown away by it. I thought it was very, very moving.” The crux of the film is the three-way relationship between Lennon, Stuart Sutcliffe and Astrid Kirchherr, a beautiful German girl, and the way that it is pulled by the ambitions and emotions of the three participants. It catches the volatility of their short time together – before, respectively, one became a rock star, one died and the third stepped back into the shadows. “One thing mum said to me on the way to see the film was that tonight I was going to meet my dad. It was absolutely like that in some respects, even though I wasn’t around at that stage of his life. I found a lot of myself in him at that age; it was very much like looking in the mirror sometimes during the movie. A weird sensation.” Julian sighs. “There were some very honest and touching moments in the film to do with my mother’s relationship with dad.” It must have been quite extraordinary to have been the child of a Beatle, to watch through young eyes as the whole world went bananas for your dad. Was the film any use to Julian in helping him come to terms with his Beatles legacy? “That was the shocking thing last night.” He pauses and smiles. “Sometimes you forget about your past and what kind of history you are involved in. Before, I always tried to shove The Beatles to one side, in order to make a name for myself. That was tough. But now I have started to embrace it all. I realise that in the past I might have been more ignorant and blind than a lot of the fans were.” Initially Julian Lennon obeyed the first law of pop sons and became a musician himself. He has been doing it for 10 years with success at times, but mixed results for the most part. Being John’s son didn’t make it any easier and he still feels that he has not carved out his own niche. He is working on a new record which he says might have been finished last year, could be finished this year, might run over into 1995 … He admits to a recent “big thirty-something depression” which has hampered progress. There are other plans like writing movie soundtracks, with high hopes of being offered the theme for the next Bond film. Plus he dearly loves acting and one day aspires to being a new generation Albert Finney. But underneath all today’s endeavours and tomorrow’s hopes rolls the slow, mighty current of The Beatles’ legacy. Backbeat has somehow eased the position; “It’s a given thing that it’s around and here to stay.” There’s another Beatles film project in the news too, a history of the group compiled by the three survivors, with some new music to be composed under the supervision of the Beatles’ original producer, George Martin. There’s ample funding for this project and financial backers include Dustin Hoffman and Sylvester Stallone. So, what about Julian’s relationship with the three surviving Beatles and the persistent rumours of a reunion featuring them with the younger Lennon? He says, “Although I am seriously connected with them, it is not like one big happy family in the sense that I get on the phone and ask what they are doing today. Not that there’s tension though, not now. It’s just a weird relationship purely because dad’s not around any more. It makes things a little uncomfortable. There really was much more of a bond between the three of them and my dad than most people realised. “I know they’ve taken a couple of dad’s demos and might try to incorporate them somehow. I find that strange. But I did get a phone call from Paul McCartney and he left a message. He asked if I fancied doing some music, which totally shocked me. It’s like The Beatles’ reunion rumours. It would be anybody’s dream to be up there on stage with the three of them, but the whole idea still feels strange to me. Although, what the hell, times change. It would be a thrill-and-a-half, the biggest buzz I or anyone else in rock ‘n’ roll could ever have! “I went through quite a long stage of trying very hard not to be a fan of them. But when you have been up close and seen just how good a musician someone like George Harrison is and when you have actually witnessed Paul McCartney composing brilliant tunes on the hoof and when you have been lucky enough to watch the chemistry of the three of them jamming together at a private session, well, I defy anyone who has even the slightest interest in the medium of rock not to be completely knocked off their feet. I’ve given up trying not to be impressed now. So if I ever get the chance to play with them on stage I’ll be there; I’ll be there like a shot.” It was Easter Saturday morning and the hotel lobby had been quiet when I arrived. The receptionist, in arranging to call up to Julian’s room, had said to me that one thing I really must ask him about was “Kylie”. So, rather apologetically, I put it to him. “Of course, Julian, the thing the world really wants to know is whether you are having a romance with Kylie Minogue?” He rolled his eyes and stared out of the window across to the daffodils in Hyde Park. He turned back at me, smiling wanly in a way uncannily reminiscent of his father, and said, “That really is such a pile of shit, you know. Those buggers in the tabloids. What can I say?” There was another pause and he continued, “I met her once in a bar in LA. She is tiny, really petite and the guy I was with picked her up and whirled her around above his head – you know, the way people do on a sunny day in Santa Monica. I didn’t touch her, literally, didn’t touch her. I hardly spoke to her. I don’t want to sound unkind – and I’m sure Kylie would say the same about me, but she really wouldn’t be my type in a thousand years. Yet ever since then I get a stream of cuttings. My agent keeps them, for amusement. There’s thousands of them, from all over the world. Thousands. We’ve been to dinner. She’s moved into my house! We shower nude together. We’ve been engaged. We’ve broken it off. She’s talked about having my baby. We’re even supposed to have crashed a car together. It’s laughable – but I guess it’s fun at the same time, if you’re in the mood for that kind of thing. But, without wanting to be mean about it, I do kind of wish the stories were all about me being with someone different and more my type. But of course you won’t print that, will you?”

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