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John Lennon may have never started his first band, The Quarrymen, without best friend Pete Shotton

John Lennon Quarrymen

Sad news in the Beatles community to hear that Pete Shotton, John Lennon’s best friend growing up, died on March 24, 2017. He was 75 years old, born in 1941 – surprising that he was one year younger than John Lennon, since they were best friends in school.

Pete and John met in Sunday school when they were respectively, 6 and 7 years old. They also lived close to each other in Liverpool. They formed a small rowdy group of boys from the neighborhood which also included Nigel Whalley and Ivan Vaughn, who would play a pivotal role in Beatles history when he introduced Paul McCartney to John Lennon in 1957.

John and Pete’s childhood and teenage friendship, which lasted through high school and adulthood, was depicted in the film, Nowhere Boy, which showed how John was the instigator of the two:

John Lennon insisted on Shotton’s participation as a member of his first band, The Quarrymen skiffle group. Pete was assigned the washboard. It wasn’t so much Shotton’s musical ability (which was lacking) but more having the support of his friend in the band. In fact, without Pete, John may have never pursued starting the group.

According to Pete: “Had I categorically said no, John would almost certainly have shelved the whole idea of forming a group… I don’t mean to imply that there was anything special about me… It’s just that John and I were so inseparable at the time, it would have been inconceivable for either of us to get involved in something the other wasn’t keen on doing.”

John Lennon and Pete Shotton

Although Pete’s time with Quarrymen only lasted a year, he became an invaluable eyewitness to history. He observed John’s relationship with his birth mother, Julia, for several years before she died when John was 17. Pete was also the one who officially asked a 15-year-old Paul McCartney to join the Quarrymen.

In his insightful book about his friendship with John Lennon, Shotton recounts all the early rock and roll influences that John Lennon experienced. His book is regarded as one of the 10 best Beatles books of all time according to Rolling Stone.

Pete Shotton bookThe original title of Shotton’s book was John Lennon In My Life. It first came out in 1983 and was then re-issued a year later as The Beatles, Lennon and Me. It was co-written with Nicholas Schaffner, who was also the author of the great book, The Beatles Forever.

In his book, for example, Shotton offers behind-the-scenes truths of how The Quarrymen members evolved into The Beatles. Since Pete was one of the few people that was extremely close to John, he was able to offer insights into Lennon’s psyche.

“Neither Paul nor George would have lasted very long in John’s band… had John not come to like them so much as people,” Shotton explained. “Most of the other original members were gradually frozen out of the picture, not so much for lack of musical promise, but simply because John found them a bore.”

After Lennon became a superstar, he still maintained his friendship with Shotton, who was also there when John began his relationship with Yoko. Pete describes when the couple spent their first night together in this interview he did in the 1980s:

The last time Pete saw John was in the summer of 1976 when he visited with John and Yoko in New York City.

Reacting to John’s shocking murder in 1980, Shotton wrote in his book, “What a life.” Then on the next page which is the end of the book, he wrote: “What a fucking ending.”

Sean Lennon posted a photo on Instagram about Shotton’s passing:
https://www.instagram.com/p/BSCD_fkja2e/
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John Lennon memorial, the Imagine Peace Tower, was 40 years in the making

imaginepeacetowerIt all started with Yoko Ono’s 1964 book, Grapefruit, where she talked about her artistic concept of creating a lighthouse. Ono’s “Light House” further described in her 1965 “Architectural Works Sales List” was a “house constructed of light from prisms, which exists in accordance with the changes in the day.”

When her relationship started with John Lennon in 1967, Lennon asked Ono if she could build him a “Light House” in his garden like the one he had read about in her publication. Yoko explained to John that her idea was conceptual: “I’m convinced that one day, it could be built, but I don’t know how to do it,” she told him with a laugh.

Forty years later on October 9, 2007, a lighthouse called the Imagine Peace Tower was launched by Yoko Ono in collaboration with the city of Reykjavík, Iceland. The circular structure, located waterside on Videy Island off the north coast of Reykjavík, is a powerful ray of light that shoots up towards the sky. The wishing well shines every year between October 9, Lennon’s birthday, and December 8, the anniversary of his death and represents people’s wishes for world peace.

“Actually, this is an answered prayer because my first time in John’s house he talked about building a lighthouse. I never knew how to conceptualize that,” Yoko explained. “I never believed this could be reality.”

Due to the heavy expense and maintenance to keep the structure lit 365 days a year, Yoko decided to have the Imagine Peace Tower lit between the two most significant dates in Lennon’s life, in addition to a few other selected weeks throughout the year.

“I realized that, with contrasting the two symbolic dates, it gives an understanding of the shortness of life, and eternity of the spirit,” Ono said. “It reminds one how brief life can be and is significant even for those not into John Lennon’s life.”

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“Imagine Peace,” a phrase that symbolizes John and Yoko’s campaign for peace, is inscribed on this outdoor work of art in 24 different languages. One of the reasons Yoko chose to erect the tower in Iceland was because it is “a peaceful country with no military,” as reported by the Iceland Post.Perhaps her greatest work of art, the Imagine Peace Tower took Ono three years to develop with engineers in Iceland. As described in the official Imagine Peace Tower book, there are six mirrors “angled at 45 degrees which act as prisms” inside the wishing well, which when combined with the nine searchlights on the floor, result in a tower of light created from 15 beams.

At the 2007 unveiling on Lennon’s 67th birthday, Ono said she was convinced that John Lennon would have been pleased with the Tower. “I dedicate this light tower to John Lennon. My love for you is forever,” she said.

Yoko encourages everyone to send their wishes of peace to the Imagine Peace Tower via Twitter, e-mail or postcards. A webcam of the Tower is available for viewing at http://imaginepeacetower.com/
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Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, director Ron Howard attend 10th anniversary of The Beatles LOVE show in Las Vegas

On July 14, 2016, Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, Yoko Ono and many more celebrities gathered in Las Vegas to celebrate the 10th anniversary of The Beatles LOVE show by Cirque du Soleil. The audio and visual experience of the show has been revamped and enhanced to give the production a fresh look.

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Ringo Starr, Barbara Bach, Joe Walsh, Marjorie Bach; July 14, 2016; Photo by Trina Yannicos

Giles Martin, who serves as audio producer of the show, said that 10 years ago, “we used a lot of cutting-edge technologies to put The Beatles music into a 2,000-seat space, 7,000 speakers in the room. But the technology now has moved on so much and the actual sound bit of the show we can improve.”
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The updated version of LOVE, which features a cast of 70 performers, includes advanced projection technology, new acrobatic acts, a remixed soundtrack with a new song (“Twist and Shout”), colorful costumes, brand new speakers and state-of-the-art video panels featuring The Beatles’ images.

Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr

Paul and Ringo with the cast of The Beatles LOVE; July 14, 2016; Photo by MJ Kim

This is the fourth time in 10 years that Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr have publicly attended the show together. The first time was when the show opened in 2006, the second time was for the 1st anniversary in 2007, the third time was for the 5th anniversary in 2011, and now in 2016 for the 10th anniversary. Sadly, two members of the Beatles’ family who attended past celebrations have since passed away: George Martin and Cynthia Lennon. (see photos from the LOVE premiere in 2006)

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Paul McCartney and wife, Nancy; July 14, 2016; Photo by Trina Yannicos

Also in attendance was Ron Howard, director of the upcoming documentary, The Beatles: Eight Days a Week – The Touring Years, and he shared some insights on the making of his film which opens in September. He said he has interviewed Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr twice for the movie which documents The Beatles’ years on the road.

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Yoko Ono; July 14, 2016; Photo by Trina Yannicos

“It’s kind of an adventure/survival story in a way,” Ron Howard explained in an exclusive interview on the red carpet. “I really wanted to take the audience inside the experience a little bit. It’s not something that’s just ‘here’s where they went’, it’s how and why things worked the way they did. I hope the added value of letting audiences understand really how intense the pressures were from the outside while they were going through all of this AND continuing to grow as artists in this remarkable way.”
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Giles Martin (left) and director Ron Howard at The Beatles LOVE 10th anniversary celebration; July 14, 2016; Photo by Trina Yannicos

 

When asked if he has always been a Beatles fan, Howard remarked:
“Always a fan, not encyclopedic, not a fanatic. So in a way I’m sort of speaking for that group of people who kind of thinks they know the story, and now I can turn to that crowd, maybe the millennials in particular, and say you know the music, you know the name The Beatles, and you know they were big, but you just have no idea really what the story was and the intensity of that journey – what it meant to culture and what it meant for these guys to live through it.”

Paul and Ringo posted their own photo together on Instagram celebrating the LOVE show’s 10th anniversary:
https://www.instagram.com/p/BH30Qc7AWEX/?taken-by=paulmccartney
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In Memoriam: Cynthia Lennon dies from cancer at age 75

It was announced on Wednesday April 1 that John Lennon’s first wife, Cynthia Lennon, passed away in Mallorca, Spain after a short battle with cancer.

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Julian and Cynthia Lennon at Beatles LOVE show premiere in Las Vegas in 2006. Photo by Shelley Germeaux for Daytrippin'

Julian and Cynthia Lennon at Beatles LOVE show premiere in Las Vegas in 2006. Photo by Shelley Germeaux for Daytrippin’

Cynthia met John Lennon at the Liverpool College of Art in 1958 and they soon began dating. She wrote about their relationship in her book, A Twist of Lennon (1978). She shared intimate details of their time together:
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“John and I in those early days would just sit opposite each other, hold each other’s hands under the formica table and gaze avidly into each other’s moon-struck eyes,” Cynthia said.
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A love letter from John to Cynthia was published in the recent book, The John Lennon Letters. John wrote an 8-page letter to Cynthia at Christmastime in 1958. He was 18 years old and gushing over and over of how much he loved her:
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“You are wonderful, I adore you, I want you, I love you, I need you, Don’t go, I love you, Happy Xmas, Merry Chrimbo, I love you, I love you, I love you, Cynthia… All I Want For Christmas Is You, Cyn”.
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A few years later as John was concentrating on his career as a Beatle, he and Cynthia decided to get married when they learned she was pregnant in 1962.
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Julian Lennon was born on April 8, 1963. The demands of touring during Beatlemania and the temptations from other women resulted in their marriage becoming strained.

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In 1968, Cynthia caught John and Yoko together at the house she shared with John. The subsequent split took a toll on the Beatle family with Paul McCartney writing a song of support and encouragement for Julian called “Hey Jude.” John and Cynthia’s divorce became final in November 1968.

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Cynthia Lennon at a book signing for "John" in New York, October 2005.

Cynthia Lennon at a book signing for “John” in New York, October 2005. Photo by Trina Yannicos.

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In 2005, Cynthia published another book about Lennon called John.
She talked about her marriage to Lennon in this interview promoting the book:

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Over the years, Cynthia appeared several times in public to support her son Julian at various Beatle-related events.

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In 2006, Cynthia and Julian attend the Beatles LOVE Cirque du Soleil premiere in Las Vegas.

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In 2010, Julian and Cynthia appear at the unveiling of the John Lennon Peace Monument in Liverpool.

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Cynthia Lennon was 75 years old. Julian Lennon has set up a memorial page for his mum at cynthialennon.memorial. He also posted a touching tribute for his mother on YouTube:

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“The news of Cynthia’s passing is very sad. She was a lovely lady who I’ve known since our early days together in Liverpool. She was a good mother to Julian and will be missed by us all, but I will always have great memories of our times together.”

– Paul McCartney

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‘Montreal’ Mystery Tour: Visiting the John Lennon Suite at the Queen Elizabeth Hotel

Recreating John and Yoko’s Bed-In for Peace
(a.k.a., ‘The Ballad of Jan and Wendy’)

Story and photos by Jan Owen

Jan&WInBedMntrealSmiling

Note: This article was originally posted on Daytrippin’s website in 2005. We’re re-posting it in honor of the 44th anniversary of John and Yoko’s Bed-In in Montreal in 1969.

My birthday was on May 23, a Monday this year (2005). A few weeks prior to that, “my better half” Wendy had mysteriously told me that, instead of celebrating the birthday the weekend before (May 21 & 22), she wanted me to “keep the Memorial Day weekend (May 28-30th) open – don’t book any gigs, OK? I’m going to take you on a little Magical Mystery Birthday Trip!” I couldn’t guess what it was and where it was going to be, but eventually Wendy had accidentally dropped a few hints, and I guessed it right:

As my BIG birthday gift, she secretly booked us a very, very special room at the Fairmont Queen Elizabeth Hotel in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, for that Memorial Day weekend: the very same room where John Lennon and Yoko Ono had their most famous “Bed-In” (36 years ago, to the week) – where “Give Peace a Chance” was recorded and filmed!!!!! I couldn’t believe it! I mean, earlier in the year, we stayed in the same room in Miami’s Deauville Hotel that was occupied by Paul and Ringo, in February of ’64 when The Beatles played the Sullivan show there, and now…this! Waayyyy cool! And if the above wasn’t enough: before our trip, on my actual Birthday, she gave me 1) expensive white pajamas like the ones John wore during the bed-in, 2) the DVD John and Yoko’s Year of Peace (which has all the Montreal footage, even with that A-hole Al Crapp, er, um, I mean, Al Capp, in it), and 3) a CD called “John Lennon: Bedism”, which has a lot of their press interviews from that week in 1969. So, we hadn’t even started on our trip, and I was already in “Beatles Heaven”.

Jan-LnnonSuiteBedroom4WebNeedless to say, Wendy and I had an AMAZING time in Montreal!! On Saturday, May 28th, at 1pm, we arrived at the luxurious Fairmont Queen Elizabeth Hotel, on le Boulevard Rene Levesque. We took the elevator to the 17th floor, and approached Room 1742, named “The John Lennon Suite”, at the end of a corridor. Just below the room # on the door, there was an elegant 6″x4″ silver plaque, on which were the embossed words, “John Lennon”. We slowly opened the door with anticipation. And feeling like Dorothy, as she opened the door to find a Technicolor Oz, our jaws practically dropped to the floor in awe: what a gorgeous suite, way beyond our expectations.

In the chandelier-lit foyer, the first thing our eyes set upon was a beautifully framed photo of a bearded, 28-year old Beatle, John Lennon. He sat, in white pajamas, upon the mattress that lay on this suite’s living room floor 36 years ago this week. His knees were up and hugged tight to his chest. He looked at once as wise as the proverbial “old man in the mountain” and as vulnerable as an orphaned child (that in a certain way, he indeed once was). It was a hard-to-describe moment for us, but wonderful nonetheless. There was a warmth and presence to the entire suite. The foyer was the hub connecting the complex of rooms. As we walked in from the corridor, to our left was the bathroom, all black marble (with his-and-hers bathrobes inside!). To our right was a good-sized kitchenette. The bedroom and living room were separated from the foyer by their own French (what else?) doors. The bedroom had a magnificent mahogany framed king-sized bed, and a huge TV. (BTW: this was a corner suite, so the bedroom looked out onto one boulevard, while the living room looked out onto that as well as the boulevard crossing it – quite a view). The entire suite was in a “modern-traditional” style (for lack of a better term – hey, what do I know?) — elegance from floor to ceiling! Very classy (I’m not going to tell you how much Wendy laid out for this one-day/night stay, but let’s put it this way……I don’t deserve her!).

Jan-GPACRedWallDisplay4WebThe walls of every room were lined with beautiful, lovingly framed and matted original photos – each one personally signed and numbered by the two photographers who were there 36 years ago – of John and Yoko, together in bed, being interviewed, lounging, and ones taken during the filming of “Give Peace a Chance”, with Tommy Smothers, a tripped-out Timothy Leary, and others. Yoko had handpicked these photos personally for this suite only!

And now, the “piéce de résistance”: over the couch, on the living room wall hung a huge (maybe 5’x4′), framed, glass-enclosed and tastefully designed display, commemorating the events of both the Bed-in and “GpaC” recording/filming. On a red felt backing, was a sweet color photo of John and Yoko lounging on the mattress they had moved from their bed to the living room floor. John gives the “peace” sign with both his fingers and his upraised feet, put together in a “V”. The photo was parenthesized by gold “GpaC” singles, and below that were the lyrics to the song. Below the lyrics was a small, engraved plaque, describing those musically historic events. Quite a centerpiece to the room, and to the suite itself. This room also had a huge couch, 3 or 4 luxurious chairs, a writing table and chair and it’s own giant-screened TV. We, of course, documented about every inch of each room (including close-up shots of each framed photograph), and filmed all our activities (well, not all of them, actually) on about 5 rolls of film (B & W and color), a digital camera and a camcorder. We didn’t miss a beat.

The service at the Queen Elizabeth was lightning-quick, and the entire staff was very friendly, and they waited on us hand and foot – – this is the first time in our lives that Wendy and I felt like royalty! Within no more than 20 minutes of our being in the room, the doorbell rang (the suite even had a doorbell, can you believe it?!), and a bellman brought us champagne in a bucket of ice, and a basket of exotic fruits (mango, kiwi, papaya, bananas, etc). Wendy laughed when I said I thought they were plastic!

JanLnnonSuiteJanPlysGtrInBd

I looked around the suite and thought, “Hmmm, what’s wrong with this picture?” Of course! Wendy and I could tell, from the print-outs of the John & Yoko Bed-in photos we had brought along for reference, that they had slept not in their bedroom, but on a mattress moved into the living room, by the radiator and big picture window. Well, can you guess what happens next? That’s right – – After a gentle bout of begging and pleading with Wendy (she didn’t really mind, and warmed up to the idea quickly, actually – always an adventurer at heart, like me). I asked 2 bellmen (thanks Jacques, and especially Patrick &endash; you rule, dude!) to come up to the suite, take our very big and heavy mattress off our bed, drag it into the living room and drop it on the floor by the radiator and huge picture window, which they did with devilish glee. They put that mattress down onto the exact spot where John and Yoko slept (etc, etc), entertained reporters and guests (and suffered fools like Al Capp), and, of course, sang and filmed the monumentally important and historic “Give Peace a Chance”!! And we soon realized that the other reason why John and Yoko probably moved the mattress there (I forget what the first one was, ha ha) was that it afforded them (and us, 36 years later) a birds-eye view of the beautiful city of Montreal: the bright lights of the le Boulevard Rene Levesque, and the green basilicas of the old Roman Catholic Church below. We even witnessed the taking of the post-wedding photos of former Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau’s son and his lovely bride, complete with a white Rolls Limo, and Royal Canadian Mounties with swords raised high, as an “archway” for the bride and groom to descend the outside church steps. Pretty cool, unexpected “icing” on this already wonderful “cake”, eh?

Jan-LvngRmFullWideReszdDuring our stay, we did what J & Y did: we never ventured out to explore Montreal, we stayed in the hotel the whole time, mostly in our white PJ’s, reading newspapers, eating fruit, talking (“in our beds for a week” – well, one day, actually), watching some TV and doing other things, of course.

Now, you know that, as both a singer/guitarist and Beatles/Lennon freak, I just couldn’t pass up this opportunity: to play and sing “Give Peace a Chance” in that very room, in bed on that very spot! So, I magic-markered some peace slogans on small 16″x12″ construction paper, and scotch-taped them to the big window above the radiator behind our “bed-on-the-floor”. I also (as John had done, unbeknownst to most) wrote out the lyrics to “GPAC” onto a big piece of oak tag, and taped it to the front of the living room TV, so I could see the words from the bed (just as John had done – I always thought he had the words memorized). We set the camcorder on a table, Wendy assumed the lotus position next to me on the bed, and I whipped out my…guitar (get yer thoughts out of the gutter!).

Of course, you know what’s next, re: the singing of the song, but there was a cool little back-story twist to this. Initially, I was planning to round up strangers from other rooms, the elevator, lobby, etc, to come to our suite and sing along for our own little videotaped “happening”. But there were two problems with that: first, unfortunately, the high pollen count in Canada at the time played nasty on Wendy’s throat, making it hard to eat or drink. She was in considerable discomfort for most of the time (I felt so sorry for her. She, of all people, should have been able to enjoy every second of this trip! Soooo unfair!), and didn’t know if she was getting a cold or maybe strep throat. So I really didn’t want to drag a bunch of people into the room. Also, as she had pointed out to me, if all the folks we found didn’t know “Give Peace a Chance” by heart (or weren’t Beatles fans), the “event” could have turned into a train wreck. So she suggested this: “Why don’t you bring the CD player [the hotel provided for our room] over beside the bed, play the CD of the original song [which, being the good little Beatlles fan, I brought along on our trip, to play in the car], and you play along live with your guitar and sing – this way it’ll be like you’re singing with John, Yoko and their friends.” Perfect – we did just that! Wendy, of course, couldn’t sing because of her throat, so she mimed along and swayed with me to the primordial beat of the song. I pressed Play on the CD, and we sang our hearts out, accompanying the voices of 36 years ago – in the same city, hotel, room and upon a mattress on the exact same spot as John & Yoko & Co. Ah, what a wonderful thing to experience, a great, happy, positive vibe!!

Jan&W&LnnonSuiteDoor4WebWe had a wonderful dinner that Saturday night in the hotel’s restaurant, then checked out its shops (and a bit of the underground mall, where Wendy bought me a cool Rubber Soul-looking brown suede jacket, to go with the Liverpool-made brown suede Beatle Boots she surprised me with at the NJ Beatlefest in April! – did I mention that I am a very lucky guy, and I don’t deserve her?). Up in the mammoth hotel lobby, we tracked down a bellman that was working there back in ’69, when John and Yoko stayed there. His name is Andre, a delightful gentleman, a veritable human wellspring of stories and anecdotes (much like someone else, ha ha). Although he never had direct interaction with J & Y, he told some interesting tales of some of the other visitors to the Queen Elizabeth: like the Queen Mother herself, Tony Bennett, Charlton Heston and even Marlon Brando! And Patrick (my happy co-conspirator in “The Case of the Moved Mattress” from earlier in the day) secretly handed me the very last (a handful of about 10) of an extremely limited stock of the special commemorative “John & Yoko Bed-in Anniversary” post cards the hotel had specially printed. As I said, the people who work in the Queen Elizabeth are a cool and very special breed – this is such an honored and special job, that most of them make a lifetime career of it, if they can.

Later that night, as we prepared for bed, we turned on the TV in the living room, and were treated to a funny surprise. On TV, totally by coincidence, the local station was showing, of all things, ‘A Hard Days Night’ – but spoken in French [La Nuit D’un Jour Dur], which was a kick to watch and listen to (Paul, re his grandfather: “Il est très proper.”). The songs were sung in English, though. We had, as George said, in AHDN, “a giggle”.

The next morning a waiter rolled a white-cloth-covered table into the room and served us the absolute, most sumptuous, breakfast either of us has ever had in our lives! Everything on that table was THE freshest and finest looking/tasting thing a person could ever hope to eat: crepes, sausages, poached eggs, ham, croissants, muffins, bacon, fresh fruits, inch-thick-but-airy-and-light wheat toast (like in that Little Rascals episode with Spanky, Scotty Moore, the jar of jelly and the inch-thick bread), imported jellies, soft whipped butter, fresh-squeezed juices, coffee, tea – – we absolutely felt like Royalty! Funnily enough, that breakfast remains on both Wendy’s and my “Top Three” of the list of the 10 best things we loved about our stay in Montreal, ha ha. But, damn, the breakfast was simply that amazingly good!

Soon it was time to check out, and, to be honest, it was quite a depressing feeling for us (like what Cinderella felt, when her horse-drawn coach turned back into a pumpkin at midnight). I mean, we both wished we were millionaires and could stay in that suite of rooms forever! Wendy and I never did this before, but we actually (and pathetically, ha) waved a sad goodbye to the room, before closing the door with the silver “John Lennon” plaque on it, behind us. (The words to the chorus of Ringo’s song, “Photograph” come to mind at the moment). But in our hearts and minds, a part of us will always be there – as we knew a part of John somehow was still there the very moment we first stepped foot in that marvelous suite (and at the moment I toppled from that chair!). And I think he always will be. Thanks eternally, Wendy, for the inspiringly memorable “Magical Montreal Mystery Tour” you gave me for my birthday!!

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Jan Owen is a singer/songwriter who does a great Beatles one-man show! Jan’s highly acclaimed one-man ‘Fab Fouray’ show features songs that would be challenging enough for a four-piece band, let alone a solo guitarist. Jan has performed all over the world including Buenos Aires, Moscow, Prague, London, New York, Woodstock and of course, Liverpool. Check out his website at www.janowen.com

For more Beatles travel stories, return to our Beatles Travel page


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Review: The John Lennon Letters is a collector’s and historian’s dream book

The John Lennon Letters is a fascinating document to Beatles history. Not only does it provide entertainment for Beatles/Lennon fans, it also offers a rare insight into the mind of John Lennon unlike any biography has been able to offer. In addition, the book provides a historical account of actual letters in existence, which is valuable information for Beatles memorabilia collectors.

The John Lennon Letters, compiled and edited by Beatles biographer Hunter Davies, includes letters that Lennon wrote throughout his lifetime, spanning from his childhood years all the way up until the last years of his life. Some letters are surprising in their sentimentality like the 8-page love letter Lennon wrote to his then girlfriend, Cynthia Powell, while they were attending art school together. Not so surprising may be some sarcastic, biting letters like the typewritten letter to Todd Rundgren in 1974 or the “John rant” that was addressed to Paul and Linda McCartney in 1971.

All in all, the collection of almost 300 letters, notes and doodles compiled together in book form is a feat in itself. Davies, with permission from Yoko Ono, contacted all the people he knew of (friends of The Beatles and collectors) who had a letter from John Lennon in their possession. Each letter is reprinted in its physical form, with Lennon’s handwriting then reprinted in text format. Davies also offers historical context surrounding each of the letters in this almost 400-page volume.

While some may believe owning entertainment memorabilia is more for investment purposes, the importance of collecting and preserving personal items of famous musicians and actors adds a lot to learning the history of the performer. The downside is that these documents or artifacts are often kept hidden in private collections and are never seen by the general public. Surely many Beatles and Lennon biographers would have loved to have had access to all of these letters while they were writing their books.

In recent years, artifacts once owned by The Beatles have often been uncovered for the first time revealing new facts regarding Beatles history. That’s why The John Lennon Letters, and books like Ringo Starr’s 2004 book, Postcards from the Boys, are such a gift to Beatles historians and collectors. Davies said in a recent interview that his next book will be a compilation of original handwritten Beatles lyrics. No doubt that forthcoming book will also add to the scholarship of the Beatles legacy just like The John Lennon Letters does.

–Trina Yannicos

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Yoko Ono’s An Invisible Flower is first book offering from Sean Lennon’s Chimera Library

A new illustrated story by Yoko Ono called An Invisible Flower has been released. The story and drawings were created when Yoko was only 19 years old. By chance, son Sean Lennon discovered these drawings in his mother’s archives in her apartment. He explains in the introduction to the book that he thought this story would be “a good beginning for Chimera Library.”

Written in 1952, An Invisible Flower is a simple, yet powerful depiction of how imagination can save people during stressful times. Ono writes in the afterword that the story was inspired during her time as a child when she was evacuated to the Japanese countryside during World War II.

In the story, she is comforted by the fact that a flower that only she can see can also be seen by a mysterious friend named ‘Smelty John.’ Seems like this may have been a foreshadowing of Yoko meeting Sean’s Dad, John Lennon, 14 years later.

While the illustrations are quite childlike, the concept of imagination flows strongly through this piece, tying in with Yoko’s lifelong body of art which constantly asks people to “Imagine,” most famously inspiring John Lennon’s legendary song, now played every New Year’s Eve in Times Square before the ball drops.

Yoko Ono, now 79 years old, currently has an art exhibition, Yoko Ono: To The Light, on display in London at the Serpentine Gallery. She is encouraging everyone to contribute a picture of them smiling to her new project, #smilesfilm. You can upload your picture via Twitter or Instagram (http://www.smilesfilm.com).

Chimera is a record label and publishing company founded by Sean Lennon. For more information, visit http://chimeramusic.com/

–Trina Yannicos

You can enter to win a copy of An Invisible Flower in our Summer 2012 Beatles Giveaway through August 31.

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