John Lennon Alfred G. Aronowitz - Essay

Richard Wootton

Alfred G. Aronowitz

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

By the weight of the crate, The Beatles is the most ambitious album of their career. It took five months to produce through a session of doubt as Paul was changing friends, John was changing wives and the four of them were trying to build a corporate Garden of Eden where they could walk naked, have their Apple and eat it, too. They were off the Maharishi but still whistling tunes they had written on the road to Rishikesh. I'd give you everything I've got for a little peace of mind! shouts John. His suffering in this album becomes as heavy as the cement that holds the Beatles together. Poor John. With his songs so patently autobiographical, how must one react to lines like, I feel so suicidal, just like Dylan's Mr. Jones? How must Paul, George and Ringo have reacted to it? With pleasure? I doubt it.

It wasn't until after they met Dylan that the Beatles realized there's more to a song than the pretty cinemascopic colors they give to its sound. They still come tumbling out of your hi-fi speakers and into your living room like old friends bringing gifts but ever since they learned they'd have to live out their lives in public their lyrics have become more like snapshots from a family album….

Many of the songs in this album were written of, by and for children. The Beatles are still trying to lead the fight against an older generation that acts as if youth has been purse-snatched from it by the kids. John's tenderest moments are when he sings to Mia Farrow's younger sister, Prudence, who kept herself locked in her room when the Beatles were meditating in Rishikesh: Dear Prudence, won't you come out to play? Or to his mother, Julia, who was killed by a car when he was 17: Half of what I say is meaningless/But I say it just to reach you, Julia.

George is right. The more songs you write, the wiser you become. The Beatles are only in their late 20s and already they're world savants. In spite of themselves, they've reached a new peak of popularity and God knows what songs they're going to write next.

Alfred G. Aronowitz, "Wisdom of Their Years," in Life (courtesy of Life Magazine; © 1969 Time Inc.; reprinted by permission of the author), January 31, 1969, p. 12.