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on 20 December 2014
Still doesn't explain why John was so haggard at the time of his death. In 1975 he was a full faced healthy looking young man. By 1980 he emerged a frail elderly man. Emaciated, gaunt with sunken eyes hidden by large tinted glasses. His skin on his face and neck was very loose. Large eye bags sat under his eyes and his complexion sallow, his hair dry and brittle. Most tellingly is that his nose had appeared to collapse. I fail to believe that this is the result of the normal aging process between 35 and 40 and I don't believe this is the result of being a househusband. I do think he was spending his time in a drug induced coma.
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on 12 March 2014
Let's face it, to get a complete picture of a man as complex as John Lennon you need to read several biographies. There has been everything from the vindictive to the gushing, and if this one steps a little closer to an affectionate tribute rather than an objective biography it's understandable, given Ray Coleman knew Lennon personally from the early days onwards.

After the sections dealing with Lennon's childhood and teenage years, where almost anyone who ever had a conversation with him has their input - with all believing his genius shone through even then - four voices predominate: Cynthia, Yoko, close friend Elliott Mintz and Lennon himself. Unlike the recent Tim Riley book, in which Lennon's voice disappears under a wealth of pontification, here we get to hear the man himself. And while not glossing over his undoubted faults (he said himself he was a violent man who'd learned not to be violent) this is very much a friend's affectionate tribute.

The surprising thing is the people whose views are omitted. We're treated to the views of a young woman with whom Lennon had a teenage fling, but May Pang? Not a murmur, except for one dismissive aside. As for Paul McCartney - surely the man who knew John Lennon best of all - I sometimes wondered if he'd even been spoken to!

I enjoyed the book, and it's an easy read, with a full chronology and good coverage of the years Lennon spent as a 'househusband' - though I do wonder if it was as idyllic as the time described here. He's described as being in peak condition during the recording of Starting Over, but the single photo taken just before his murder shows someone who looks tense, tired and anxious, and I'm surprised there was not a better photo available. Even so, this is an enjoyable biography that does not deserve the brickbats it's received.
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on 4 February 2002
Ray Coleman's book, while full of interesting details, is sadly written from the perspective of a John Lennon fan as opposed to a Beatles fan. He clearly does not have much time for Paul McCartney and so tries to convince the reader that John Lennon WAS the Beatles. Anything that went wrong was all McCartney's idea and he was the only one who was keen to do it, while anything that was a success was all down to John. Coleman uses any number of John Lennon quotes to back his arguments. As many of you will know, John Lennon was very bitter and talked a load of rubbish after the Beatles split up, so if you're looking for quotes of him slagging off Paul, Magical Mystery Tour, Apple etc. it's not difficult to find them. But they often do not reflect what Lennon really thought. For instance, in the song 'How do you Sleep', Lennon says that Yesterday was the only good song McCartney wrote. So you could quite easily write in a book something like: 'John never rated Paul as a songwriter. Indeed, he once said that Yesterday was the only good song that Paul ever wrote'. And while the quote would be true, that was not what John thought. That is a favourite tactic of Coleman's. Elsewhere his bias is obvious in his analysis of Revolver where he only describes the Lennon songs, giving the impression that John was the main contributor (Hello!! Taxman, Eleanor Rigby, Here, There and Everywhere, For No One?!) and his description of the Lennon-McCartney co-write 'A Day in the Life' as a 'Lennon song'. He is keen to point out John's strengths as a person, yet describes without judgement the heartless way in which he dumped Cynthia (he got someone else to tell her he wanted a divorce). That said, it's a fascinating book to read and is certainly good value for money and if you share Coleman's apparent view that John was a genius and Paul a superficial idiot then you will probably find it very enjoyable to read. I'm just fed up with the way that books like this are attempting to re-write the Beatles' history.
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on 5 September 2006
As a lifelong Beatles fan, it had taken me years to finally get around to reading Ray Coleman's book about John Lennon. I call it 'a book about John Lennon' because it hardly deserved to be called a biography at all, let alone a 'definitive biography'.

For a start, there's the confused and confusing structure of the book. Coleman constantly presents events out of the order in which they happened, and then re-presents them all over again when the main thrust of his narrative actually reaches that point in Lennon's life; the first chapter of this book flashes forward to depict Lennon at art school, but then several chapters in, there's another chapter which has him at art school all over again; why? I think he was trying to be literary, but his style is so bland and cliché-sodden that the effect is numbingly repetitious.

Then there's the hero-worship of Lennon, which is simultaneously blatant and naive. Coleman doesn't seem to realise just what a complex and in some ways unsympathetic person Lennon seems to have been, even by his (Coleman's) account; for example, he tells us about the rather fatuous Bed-Ins and Bag-Ins, with Lennon being at his most pious and sanctimonious, as if they were evidence of what a saintly guy Lennon was. Coleman clearly didn't have much time for Paul McCartney (although that didn't stop him going on to write a biography of McCartney as well), and he persistently depicts McCartney as a showy, glib, lightweight, insincere popular entertainer, as opposed to Lennon the sincere, honest, deep, tortured artist. He never points out that McCartney was the first to bring avant-garde elements into the Beatles' music, he's unable to accept that McCartney may have felt as deeply as Lennon about his own work, fails to tell us anything about what the two men brought to their creative relationship (you'd think from this book that they never even really liked each other) and his artistic judgment is clearly compromised by his abject devotion to Lennon - nothing else can explain why Coleman might agree that 'Hey Jude' ought have been the B-side to 'Revolution', a no-brainer if ever there was one. He seems to have no sense of the Beatles as a unit, which is odd since a lot of people who met them were struck by the extent to which they were a coherent unit, especially in their early years (cf. George Harrison being asked if he believed in God and answering 'We haven't decided yet'.) Coleman's Beatles are four individuals who happen to be in a band together, of whom John was infinitely the most talented one. If that were the case, then surely his solo work should have been better than the stuff he did with the Beatles; once he didn't have to compromise, he should have started making his finest work. But he didn't. Only a Lennon nut would claim that John's solo stuff is better than his Beatles work, but Coleman cannot see this, or else he has a tin ear.

If you just hate McCartney and uncritically adore everything Lennon did, then that last point won't bother you. What should bother you are the errors of fact. It's been established that the Beatles never smoked a joint in Buckingham Palace when they went to collect their MBEs, a legend that Coleman should have been more sceptical of (they did share a quick cigarette in the toilets).

There are some valuable things in here, chiefly recollections of Lennon by people who'd known him early on (such as his Aunt Mimi and his college friends). Coleman's research may one day be valuable to a biographer interested in reasonable standards of truth and objectivity. But this is the Life of a Saint, not an honest, reliable biography of a very cool, deeply fascinating, extremely complex and sometimes rather spiteful, shallow and silly human being. That book has yet to be written.
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on 24 June 2006
Certainly the best John Lennon biography I have ever read, this takes a really well researched look into the life of John Lennon. Whilst not avoiding the darker elements of John Lennon's life in any way, it handles issues sensitively and seems to be the most realistic portrayal of John Lennon that is around.

Ray Coleman deserves great credit for such a detailed look into John Lennon's life. I thoroughly enjoyed it as a John Lennon and Beatles fan, but although it is long and in-depth I feel it can be enjoyed by anyone who takes an interest in his life.
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on 5 June 2011
As a well informed Beatles fan, I was very disappointed with this book. Rather than being a balanced and objective portrait, it's a completely biased account that often marginalises or completely ignores key characters in Lennon's life. Its pro-Yoko stance prevents a more critical analysis of her impact in The Beatles and Lennon's life. And whilst I am certainly no Ono-Hater, there are plenty of first hand accounts (Tony Bramwell's excellent book for example) that demonstrate her attitude and motives in the early days were often questionable. Elliot Mintz's, (Yoko's official spokesperson) extremely biased opinion is given far too much credence and as a result Lennon's 'Lost Weekend' is completely glossed over in a couple of pages. Many people have talked about the positive impact May Pang had on Lennon's life (from Julian and Cynthia Lennon to engineer Jack Douglas), and it has even been said that Lennon was still in correspondence with her just before he died, but she is barely mentioned in the book (save for a withering put-down from Elliot Mintz, surprise surprise). Any reputable biography should cover a variety of contradictory first-hand opinions so the reader can make up their own mind. This book doesn't. It's sadly hard to get hold of, but the excellent Radio 1 ten-part series from 1990 called 'Lennon: In My Life', remains the most comprehensive and definitive Lennon analysis out there.
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on 22 March 2004
This book pefeectly depicted John Lennon's life from a young boy in Liverpool to his final days in New York. The book is emotional and you follow John through his trumoils during his life. It decribes the pressure the Beatles had during the 60's and then follows John through his years fighting for peace. I really enjoyed this book and any Lennon lover will enjoy following the tail of his whimsical life. Its a must have and i recomend it!
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on 1 December 2007
was this book about Lennon, really? 2 months since i've read it, the impression left in my memory is like it was more of Yoko!..

the book is plenty of interesting and touching details about John, which i (and i assume most of other readers) appreciate, especially on his childhood, on his relationships with his Mum, Aunt Mimi, Cynthia, Stew (whom Coleman names as John's one and only close friend), and overall it's a positive reading by all means...

nevertheless, to a long-life beatles fan, as I am, the book does not add much, unfortunately. i understand that Ray tries to be delicate about things, as he probably must be, but in my opinion the book lacks the edge...

or, lets put it this way, the edge, the case he presents and defends here is really disappointing (and quite often annoying) to a beatles MUSIC fan, to a person for whom the angle at which he/she sees the beatles and their lives (before and after the break-up) is the magic of their music, not anything else. the magic of the music which they happenned to write and play TOGETHER, the witchery which somehow vanished (or at least lost its unbeatable strength, its momentum, impact) once their partnership has fallen apart... again, i can understand and justify this for Coleman, he attemted to write a biography of a person, not a songbook, after all, not a biography of the beatles (which he wrote either), and he tries to find roots of John's music, to picture him a separate, a stand-alone distinctive self-sufficient person who happenned to be in that partnership for a while and leading it (maybe), and found its own way then as an independent artist, who, in Coleman's apparent view, would be doing fine without beatles in fact, etc... i understand the reasoning of Coleman's view, but the fact is that having read this book about Lennon i felt that i do NOT want to buy and read Coleman's biography of the beatles, despite the fact that all the right words on this partnership must be most probably there, i just don't want to know his insight into the beatles story, they must be either obvious or wrong or boring...

lexo1941 put it here correctly before me: you can't underestimate the role and the impact of any beatle into the story, left alone unmatchable Lennon-McCartney songwriting duet and their MUTUAL cross-influence. you can't simply address all the wins to John and underrate Paul's capabilities page by page. McCartney was not a puppet, Mr. Coleman, he WAS there side by side with Lennon, he posessed precisely (or at least closely) as unrepeatable personality as John's, and they BOTH sparked what became the greatest musical project in history.

i mean, i was never really into a battle between beatles' fans as to "who's better musician" or "who's buries the beatles" whatsoever, but Coleman's book made me, unexpectedly, a big fan of McCartney!

i simply couldn't stand that Coleman's total ignorance of Paul, of his input into the beatles story which, i believe, was as precious and unexchangeable as Lennon's in fact. even more importantly for this book, NEITHER CAN YOU DENY McCartney's INPUT into JOHN LENNON (success) story, indeed. why making this part distanced from John's life, development as a person?

and, while trying to make beatles and Paul far distant from Lennon, i couldn't stand that Coleman's stance on Lennon as of the sole, the explicit and the most genuine beatle... why?

the book hardly dedicates half a page to Lennon-McCartney exchange, their collaboration and cross-penetration... whereas, in my view, you can't ignore this, something so screamingly, exposedly unique and never ever repeated in pop/rock music history, speaking about either Lennon, or McCartney, or Harrison, or Starkey (the latter two, by the way, are hardly mentioned in the book at all)... Coleman, in fact, minimises that part of John's life to almost zero, makes it negligible, invisible at all.

in this book, McCartney is rather John's random and occasional contact than his closest ally (!!!), who apart from many other good things actually helped John to prove himself a talented musician...

again, maybe this is how Coleman tries to differentiate himself: maybe he purposedly wants John exposed out of the beatles, out of anything... just pure John. maybe, he thinks, there's too much about beatles by now, who cares, lets just take what is outside... maybe its just my own impression... who would have read Coleman's (and even John's!) book had beatles never existed? and, whether we want it or not, beatles and Paul is the bigger part of John's story.

and who's there in this book in Paul's stead? oh, yes - it's Yoko, who gave Ray a blessing on this book. he paid back generously, i must say: SHE takes those two-thirds of the text which originally belonged (or must have belonged) to McCartney and Co.

why? i guess, because Yoko is the perfect character in John's life to defend Coleman's take on John: of a strong, sharp, disturbed, unsettled, socially/politically unrest, but inside soft and caring person who is just fine with no music.

well, that's ok if someone takes her seriously. i can buy this point when John in Coleman's book says he's not a wim to take a dumb partner into his life and get along with her for many years. i am fine with it. what made me particularly sick of his book, is that Coleman repeatedly, consistently tries to represent John and Yoko's union as the logical partnership of the two levelled high-flying artists, and give it a credit instead of Lennon-McCartney thing which in its turn is much much more valuable to the world. Coleman finds a million details to substantiate this point, and, again, i agree that Yoko is very important part of his life, at least not at last by the mere 14 years they spent in and out with each other, but listen, Yoko would not be 10 miles close to there had there not been Paul McCartney and beatles story before. you have to give it a right stress, you know what i mean? Yoko is NOT and never has been a somewhat significant/influential/gifted/extraordinary artist somewhat close compared to or levelled with John by teir performances, results of activity, etc. she failed to became a great artist even having John backing her up with all his authority...

again and again, i understand how delicate Coleman must have been about many things writing this book, and especially to Yoko and to John himself, but buying this book i expected to find highlights of controversial points in John's life detailed and truthfully told from different angles, rather than have it smoothed, jaded, one-sided, simplified...

that poisons all of the Coleman's book. i used to be pretty sceptical of Yoko before, never sure on to whether she played positive or negative role in John's and beatles story, i was indifferent on her and her involvement i would say, whatever... now, having read this book, full of hidden and explicit appraisals to Yoko, i am now sure there was to much of her in John's life, and there remains too much of her unhealthy influence on anything connected to the memory of this outstanding person.
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on 1 March 2001
This is one of the first pieces of literature I read on the fascinating John Lennon and have to say I was spellbound by it throughout. It starts with an excellent piece where the author writes his views on what John Lennon wanted people to do, it explains how "he loathed martyrdom or too much accent on history. He prefferd to look ahead rather than over his shoulder". This sentence alone sums up the legend himself. The book goes on to explain John Lennons life from his infancy and through to his tragic death. It leaves no stone un-turned and delivers information with such accuracy and poignancy that its almost as though the author himself was inside Lennons mind, every step of the way
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VINE VOICEon 5 March 2004
This is, as it says on the cover, the definitive Lennon biography. It is written very well, and presented in a sensitive and clever way. I honestly feel like I know John, and I feel better for it.
It is a story full of some terrific highs and equally terrific lows. It is entertaining and, for the most part, will keep you reading. There were bits that I found I liked somewhat less, like the Beatles Split and the divorce, and there were bits where I stopped reading.
For the most part, however, this book was a beautiful description of the life of one of the country's treasures.
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