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Julian Lennon

Between a rock (star) and a hard place, the son of iconic Beatle John, JULIAN LENNON (born John Charles Julian Lennon, 8th April 1963 in Liverpool, England) has nevertheless produced a handful of acceptable records from his musical inception in the latter half of the 80s, at times eerily evoking the ghost of his dad.
The offspring from John’s first marriage to wife Cynthia, Julian grew up in the estates of Liverpool whilst his father was out carving a career as one of the world’s most adored songwriting rock’n’rollers. Julian was said to be the main inspiration for songs such as `Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds’ – themed around his psychedelic class painting at age three (but regarded by the media as rooted from some other substance! – and PAUL McCARTNEY’s seminal break-up song `Hey Jude’. The young LENNON developed a passion for music at an early age, and became very fond of playing the piano, as well as the guitar and drums. Aged ten, he debuted on his father’s `Ya Ya’ track from the `Walls And Bridges’ album, banging along reasonably tunefully on the skins side by side with his pater’s enlightened lyrics. Long after his father’s tragic assassination in December 1980, and hoping to pursue a career in his own right, Julian finally signed a deal with Atlantic Records (Charisma in the UK). Julian enlisted the help of YOKO ONO (his dad’s second wife!) for plans to release a lost JOHN LENNON song from the vaults, although this was thankfully dismissed as the contract fell through.
However, now in his twenties, Julian sprung into action with his debut album VALOTTE (1984) {*7}, named so after the French chateau it was recorded in. The set spawned four singles, two of which were Top 10 signature hits (`Too Late For Goodbyes’ in Britain and `Valotte’ in America). Despite Julian’s demurral, he was to many older fans, the long-awaited musical reincarnation of his father; the similarities in looks were almost spooky, and Julian’s style of singing, phrasing and playing were almost identical. The album earned LENNON a nomination for Best New Artist at the subsequent Grammy awards, although he knew that riding on the coat-tails of – or uncannily sounding like – his great father, would be a hard act or pill to swallow. Ten years later, it was acceptable for Mancunians Noel and Liam to step in and er… give their impressions on the matter.
High on a resurgent wave of enthusiasm from pop fans of all ages and keen to spread the word that there was a new LENNON in town, Julian chose the route of Brit musicals through his contributions to DAVE CLARK’s `Time’. This was without much added success as only one single `Because’ scraped into the UK Top 40. On the back of this venture and some hedonistic nights out on the town (so to speak), his overtly-polished sophomore set THE SECRET VALUE OF DAYDREAMING (1986) {*5} failed to impress everyone but an American audience. Personal demons and lack of attention to detail were put down to its lack of bite and consistency, although like its parent set, `Stick Around’, reached the US Top 40.
What seemed like a very promising career ahead of him seemed to have gone belly-up in only a matter of a few years. It was time for an overhaul – or was it?
MR. JORDAN (1989) {*4} was certainly not the answer. It was also his least successful set as he tried in vain to veer away from his paternal connections, creating a dark and brooding raucous atmosphere similar to 70s LOU REED and DAVID BOWIE in the process. Written with John McCurry (and not so much Justin Clayton this time around), the set was saved by a handful of tracks including minor hit `Now You’re In Heaven’, a cover of his dad’s `Mother Mary’; flop 45 `You’re The One’ also featured his step-brother SEAN ONO LENNON on a bonus live (at the Beacon Theatre, NY) take of BEN E. KING’s `Stand By Me’ (a one-time staple of their dad).
1991’s Top 50 return HELP YOURSELF {*5} was perhaps more promising, the touching ballad `Saltwater’ entering the British Top 10, although the jury was still out on his reinvigorated BEATLES-like constructions. Outside writers The BLUE NILE (on `Other Side Of Town’), GLENN TILBROOK (`Get A Life’), Clayton and producer Bob Ezrin would make some difference to the guest alumni, but it lacked something; unlike his B-side revamp of The ROLLING STONES’ `Ruby Tuesday’.
Despite this newfound minor success and dropped by his bosses, Julian made himself scarce for the next seven years, issuing bits and bobs and contributing to film soundtracks such as 1993’s `The Addams Family Values’.
His long-awaited fourth set, PHOTOGRAPH SMILE (1998) {*6} was delivered to an audience that had moved on in leaps and bounds from the balladry Brit-pop of the mid-90s. An indie album by all intents and purposes, its release was only supplied to Europe and Japan, but due to popular demand (and a minor UK hit `Day After Day’), it pursued its Stateside calling the following year; co-songwriter Mark Spiro was again at the helm, as was Gregory Darling.
Concentrating on setting up various charities (the White Feather Foundation was one), while also finding his niche through photography, the 00s were something of misnomer musically, but in the autumn of 2011, Julian was back in the limelight once again via EVERYTHING CHANGES {*6} – a nice set of strait-laced songs and piano-driven ballads that proved worthy of some tout from the critics.
© MC Strong 1994/GRD // rev-up MCS Dec2011

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