A collection of Lennon interview footage comprising a DVD, audio CD and 32-page "super colour" booklet, John Lennon: The Messenger
is rather optimistically billed as the "Essential John Lennon", an impression the makers hope to consolidate through imperiously smart packaging. Be sure to read the small print on the back, however. This is an unofficial programme and as such does not contain any music or performances by either the Beatles or John Lennon. Where music does occur, it's in the form of Beatles-esque jingle-jangle courtesy of the splendidly named Dennis Pugsley and the Overtures.
One has to sympathise with the strictures imposed on those attempting an independent take on the Beatles' jealously guarded legacy. However, the crass opening to this programme--featuring a clip of Lennon explaining how safe he feels in New York, followed by a burst of shotgun fire to simulate his 1980 assassination--instantly forfeits any goodwill. Swaying back and forth in time from new footage surrounding his murder, to mid-60s Beatlemania, to Lennon explaining why he sent back his MBE, to footage of John and Yoko's "Peace and Love Bed-in", the programme feels like it has yet to go through any sort of editing process, and has been spliced together randomly from bits of available interview tape and old TV excerpts. There's no attempt to place Lennon or his utterings in any sort of context. In retrospective, his pacifist stunts and proclamations seem at once naive and ill-expressed, yet also extraordinary and inspirational compared to the inertia of subsequent rock celebs. However, these are conclusions you have to come to for yourself after rummaging through the rough ramblings here.
On the DVD: John Lennon: The Messenger consists of cobbled-together decades-old interview material that hardly benefits from DVD presentation. There are "bonus" text-only biography and discographies, as well as an additional audio CD thrown together as haphazardly as the DVD from sundry old Beatles/Lennon interviews, in which you're left to figure out for yourself where they are and what they are talking about. --David Stubbs
John Lennon - The Messenger DVD Classic Music