Working Class Hero –
The Stories Behind Every Lennon Song
By Paul Du Noyer
Carlton Books – £16.99
This is a profoundly fascinating and compelling book. It covers a period of John Lennon’s work between the years 1970 and 1980 that is all too often (surprisingly) overlooked. There has after all, been hundreds, if not thousands of books written on The Beatles – the most photographed and written about band on the planet. But when it comes to the extraordinary solo work of its initial inspiration, leader, spokesperson and all round beating heart, one has always had to delve a little deeper. Until now.
In Working Class Hero: The Stories Behind Every Lennon Song, we have a thorough investigation into Lennon’s solo work that sheds more than just a little informative light on the songs themselves. Each and every song’s description/analysis may come as a surprise to many readers, as author Paul Du Noyer not only depicts its musical setting and influence, but social background and historical trajectory.
As such, it’s possible to literally open the book at random and stumble upon something truly interesting, if not enlightening. For instance, I randomly opened the book at page 47, on which there’s a black and white photograph of the former American President Richard Nixon shaking hands with Elvis Presley. The song in question just so happens to be ‘Gimme Some Truth,’ which in itself couldn’t be more apt nor persuasive in relation to juxtaposition of pride and prejudice; let alone truth, or, in Presley’s case, myopic and xenophobic stupidity. Beneath the photograph Du Noyer has written: ‘’Richard Nixon meets Elvis at the White house on 21 December 1970. Presley advised the President that The Beatles were ‘’a real force for anti-American spirit.’’ He also offered his services as a narcotics agent, and presented Nixon with a handgun.’’
Turning elsewhere without rhyme or reason, I landed on page 59, most of which is in reference to ‘Happy Xmas (War Is Over)’ on which the author writes: ‘’With the disaster in Indo-China dragging on, John and Yoko felt their message had not lost its relevance. Most important was the ‘’If you want it’’ component, which echoes the ‘Imagine’ theme of a future depending on our collective ability to visualise it. John would re-state his belief in the ‘’projection of goals’’ in his 1980 Playboy interview. Peace, he said, was our responsibility and could not be assigned to some outside agency: ‘’We’re just as responsible as the man who pushes the button… As long as people imagine that someone is doing something to them and that they have no control, then they have no control.’’’’
In light of British soldiers dying everyday in the current un-winnable war that is Afghanistan, not to mention the inflammatory crisis in North Africa and the Middle East – how prophetic the above words are.
And how enlightening this book is.
Free of both the confinement(s) and invariable restraint(s) of The Beatles, Lennon’s work was to become ever more confessional by way of blatant soul searching. The mesmerising results of which was some great music, the considered analysis of which is herein captured magnificently.