Wednesday, 18 August 2010

Please Mr Postman

There was a story in the Daily Telegraph a few days ago about a letter from John Lennon that had finally - forty years late - found its way to its rightful recipient, folksinger Steve Tilston. Here's the link (with thanks to Louise Cripps for pointing it out):

What struck me wasn't so much the lost-letter theme of the story as the fact that Lennon was so accessible during his final year or so in England. He devoured the underground press and the rock weeklies, and was quick to respond whenever something caught his imagination. (He always ended his letters to Melody Maker with "LP winner", referring to the paper's habit of awarding the writer of each week's best letter a free album.)

But his correspondence wasn't just for private consumption. He would reply to letters from fans, or write out of the blue to somebody mentioned in the press, never failing to use his home address and often (as in this instance) including his home phone number. He clearly relished the opportunity to stay in personal touch with the outside world, both as a political gesture (I'm no more important than you) and because he was fascinated by other people and their lives. Which makes it all the more tragic that he retreated from the world for so many years after his second son, Sean, was born; and even more ironic that as soon as he tried to reconnect with his public, going back to the studio and signing autographs for fans outside the Dakota, he paid the ultimate price. No contemporary star would dare to be so open; in retrospect, I suppose it's amazing that John got away with it for as long as he did.

As a final thought, it's interesting that the need to connect with the 'real' world was something that linked Lennon and McCartney - both reclusive in different ways, but at the same time desperate to retain their links with the world around them. John did it via letters and political campaigns; Paul by trying to combine being the world's most popular entertainer with being an 'average person', to use one of his song titles. You have to admire their efforts, and think one more time about the crippling price of fame.


  1. I agree with your assessment of fame. Crippling is indeed the word and the price. It certainly seems that John had a difficult time dividing his attentions. Not much of a "multi-tasker" I suppose.
    It seems that contemporary stars have the technology to be open and hide simultaneously. The social media sites (I'm not a big fan of them myself) give the artists a way to connect, but it's not real. It reminds me of Pete Townshend's explanations of the story of Lifehouse..."couch potato life, etc".

  2. Excellent book Mr Doggett, the best on the beatles since Ian MacDonalds, and that's praise!