Once upon a not so long ago, two lads from Liverpool played before an appreciative audience in Reading, Berkshire, as the Nurk Twins. One was Paul McCartney. The other was John Lennon. John WINSTON Lennon--rhythm guitarist of the four-handed Beatles.
John Lennon, brown-eyed, brown-haired, also plays harmonica, drums and tinkers on piano. Short-sighted--so much so that unhappy rumours have been circulated that he is slowly going blind. This is untrue, but John admits:
"For rehearsals, and most of the time off-stage, I do wear heavy glasses. On stage, without them, I can't see very far into the audience. Maybe this is just as well--I can't pick up any expressions on the faces of those who aren't digging our act. That helps me to feel self-confident. I only know an audience is there by their noise--the screams and all that."
At 5 ft. 11 in. ("well, let's settle for six-foot"), John is the same height as both Paul and George. He's also the heaviest--at 11 stone 5 lb. just one pound heavier than his longtime mate Paul.
John was educated via Dovedale Primary School, Quarrybank Grammar School and then Liverpool College of Art. Art, in fact, was the subject at which he really shone. "Maths and science proved my downfall on more than one occasion," he recalls. "Anything to do with figures had me baffled." John grinned. "Now I can say that figures are one of the chief interests of my life . . . !"
His interest in music really started with his mother, Julia. She, unfortunately, died before John reached stardom in the business, but she played an important part early on in his musical days by teaching him banjo. John now lives with an aunt, Aunt Mimi, who is "knocked out" at the way The Beatles have hit the top.
"My mother used to accompany her songs on banjo," said John. "Dad sang, too. But there isn't much time for family get-togethers nowadays--I've really only got Julia and Jacqueline, step sisters to me. But even if spare time is pretty sparse, I don't think I'd change anything about life at the moment--except to try and avoid that horrible business of getting up at five o'clock in the morning sometimes to go off on long-distance dates.
"People often ask what I'd do if I couldn't earn my living as a musician any more. It'd be a nightmare to me if that DID happen, but I'd definitely go on writing. I spend most of my spare time writing material and I guess my main aim is to keep on writing hit songs."
"But I must produce a stage musical one day. That's definite. It'd be a big challenge, but I'd enjoy it. I honestly enjoy writing . . . writing anything. It makes me laugh, if you see what I mean!"
John is fast with the wisecracks, speedy to pick up a new musical idea. If a radio producer asks him for the immediate ad-lib, John obliges. No hesitation, no embarrassment. An agile mind ploughs fast through several alternatives, then he picks out the right one for the right occasion.
He talks fast, always with the hint of good humour. He can deliver a crushing retort with a dead-pan face so that the full importance doesn't sink in immediately.
"This new craze for The Beatles is fantastic," he says. "I've met such a lot of interesting people in the past few months. Of course, the money is very nice to have, too. One day, maybe, I'll branch out away from the music business. Only in the sense of financing something different. Maybe some high-class clothes shops. I spend most of my money these days on clothes--so if I owned the shop I'd be able to give myself a discount."
No Bright Colours
"My own tastes in clothes run from suede to leather, or cord or denim. The only thing I don't like is anything in a really bright colour."
John's birthday is October 9. He's still only 22, a one-time art student who has now written over 100 songs with Paul McCartney. Sonny Terry is his favourite musician and he listens admiringly to discs by Little Richard, Chuck Jackson, Chuck Berry, Mary Wells--and, among the groups, The Miracles, Shirelles, Chiffons and Marvelettes. He doesn't analyse his tastes . . . "I just like that style of singing."
He sometimes relaxes by going to the cinema--specially if Brigitte Bardot is in the movie. But sleeping occupies him deeply. Driving, cars--they leave him cold.
John Lennon is uncomplicated, yet complicated. But he's determined to become a first-rate writer, maybe even to top his present "name" as singer and musician.