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on 23 May 2017
Bought this for my husband and he loves it
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on 6 June 2005
I'm quoting one of the reviews on the back of this book and it is a warning to some of the sort of Beatles fans who frequent fan clubs and Web forums. I know this from bitter previous experience of trying to start a debate on this and getting utterly cold-shouldered because the book trashed the reputation of 'our John'. I would tend to agree with the other reviewers in this section. It is a highly interesting and provocative read and is certainly in line with many other books that have subsequently been published. Of course, it is impossible for someone born in 1975 to have an inkling of whether any of this is true, i was 5 when he died,you can only go on gut feelings and other things you've read or heard.
So let me deal with a few points.
'Our John' trashed his own reputation repeatedly in interviews as he admitted to hitting women and massive LSD use. Ray Coleman's book, good as it was, didn't go into hardly any detail about drugs and seemed to suggest Lennon gave up everything by the mid 70's. So could he suggest why John looked so painfully thin at the end of his life? and why his nostrils were caving in more and more ( a very large clue to cocaine use). I think Goldman does overdo it though as he does on other points. He says Lennon was so weak from drug use by 1978 he could barely hold a guitar and he also suggests the Beatles were taking cocaine/heroin cocktails during Sgt Pepper. He also suggests Lennon was in a trance during Pepper and would snap out of it with an outburst. Where did these ideas come from? And how was Pepper so good and cohesive under these circumstances?
As far as sex goes, Pete Shotton's affectionate book revealed a lot about the Spanish holiday but again Goldman went over the top. On the Bob WOoler episode, Goldman suggests he nearly killed him but i actually asked Wooler himself at the Liverpool convention one year and he told me the incident was overblown. Goldman actually doesn't mention the idea that John and Stu Sutcliffe may have been intimate, which is mentioned in Pauline Sutcliffe's book, but he suggests that John and Epstein were intimate for years. I wonder why Peter Brown didn't mention this in his 'sensational' book, published in 1982?
There are numerous points, i fully suggest reading this book with an open mind and making your own mind up.
Musically of course, we have all the Beatles songs and outtakes to listen to so we can judge the music and on this i believe Goldman is harsh. He criticizes Lennon's guitar playing and uses the Toronto concert in 1969 to judge his performing. Well as a guitarist of 15 years, i can tell you John was a good rhythm guitarist. He wasn't a viruoso guitarist as wasn't George Harrison but he used the guitar effectively to back someone up while he sang. If you see the video of the Toronto concert, Lennon and Clapton both look sick and in the grip of drug addiction (as well as the band having minimal rehearsal)so it's hardly fair to criticize his singing and say his singing had lost its power. why not judge on the 1972 Madison Square Garden concert, he seemed to have got his powerful voice back then. He also slags off 'Imagine' but can so many millions of people who adore that song be wrong?
I could write about numerous other things but if you compare this book and Ray COleman's, i think the truth is in the middle but more to Goldman's side.
Hope this helps
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on 20 July 2006
I am a Lennon fan. So much so, that at the time of this books publication, I refused to read it on the grounds that Albert Goldman trashed the great man's reputation. 26 years after his murder and as a middle-aged man myself, still trying to make sense of Lennon's life and what he meant to me, and that of generations of fans, I realised that I had to read this and other such works to obtain a truly rounded picture of the great Beatle. What you have to put into context is that this book is the summation of over 1000 contributions.

Everyone has his or her own unique take on an event. How many times have you shared an experience, even with close friends and yet you find that each of you has a different recollection of the event?

The fact that Cynthia Lennon refused to be interviewed for this book only means that she had vested interest in publishing her own work. Had she collaborated with this book, it would surely have diluted her own sales.

Goldman makes some quite stunning revelations; He claims that Lennon was uncontrollably violent, rages that climaxed in near murder, and yet one such victim speaks of gross exaggeration; that Lennon was so uncoordinated that he could barely drive nor play the guitar well, a claim I put down more to the drink and drug abuse, rather than a physical affliction. Goldman also makes some blatant mistakes notably referring to The Magical Mystery tour movie as Sgt Pepper's lonely-hearts club band, to name but one.

Goldman doesn't really discuss the music in great depth, nor does he appear to try to understand Lennon.

By reading this and other works, you are able to get a better perspective, which enables you to make your own conclusion. Mine was very different to how I started out, the man that I thought of as a likeable, self assured and loving individual as portrayed by the Dakota PR machine, turned out reclusive, self loathing, drug imbibing, often cruel and indifferent of the feelings of those that loved him most.

Like most people rocketed to fame, Lennon found few people he could really trust, behaved childishly and sometimes an outrageous drunken thug. He could be completely out of touch with reality (the gaff in the "Imagine" video where John sings of "No possessions" whilst being surrounded by opulent wealth is one such example) and he wasn't really the "working class hero" that he set himself up to be. But that aside, John was immensely talented, intelligent and above all he entertained, and I for one loved the music. Yoko Ono completely exploited and used that talent to her own ends, even using his death to bolster sales of her record and "Career". Yoko comes off the worse in all this and rightfully so. You can't help thinking that if only John had stayed with May Pang, maybe he would still be alive and making music. Maybe the ex-Beatles may have been reconciled...imagine...

Upon finishing this book, I truly felt that John Lennon was very much the victim.

Goldman doesn't make enough of Lennon's talent, and it's not a feel-good book,

If you want that, read Ray Coleman's offering, but in doing so, you'll only get one side of the coin. The true value of this book was to re-acquaint me with the genius that was John Lennon, the greatest Rock star ever.
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on 10 April 2014
First off, I am a huge John Lennon fan and had avoided this book for years due to its vile reputation among Beatles and Lennon fans. I finally succumbed and sort of wish I hadn't. To be honest, this is a well written and entertaining book. However, to John's fans it's extremely hard to read. Some 'facts' I cannot see how they were verified as they seem like pure speculation. In this way it seems almost like reading a fiction novel. Something else to bear in mind is that only the negative seems to be focused on and grossly exaggerated. Any good points about John's character (which surely exist as he was much loved by those close to him) are so my glossed over or not mentioned at all. If we are to believe Goldman's versions of events John was borderline psychotic from a young age and a monster by the end. Goldman seems to have been digging for dirt and found those with an axe to grind only to happy to oblige (and, dare I say it, willing to stretch the truth somewhat) I am NOT one of those fanatical fans who thinks John was some kind of saint. He clearly was a troubled man with a vile temper who did many questionable and down right bad things. But he was also intelligent, capable of enormous kindness and compassion and incredibly honest. I refuse to believe the ogre portrayed by Goldman is anything like the real John.
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on 1 August 2002
It is with some irony that this biography of John Lennon, when it was published in 1988, created such unease, it led to death threats to the author and its ritual burning at Beatles conventions. The book's subject, had he still been living may have sympathised. He provoked similar displays of hatred from Christian groups after he commented to an American journalist in 1966, that the Beatles were now more popular than Jesus Christ.
Such was the hatred for Goldman following its publication that he was virtually excommunicated from the music and publishing world. The case for the prosecution having now been drawn up in detail, the defence (backed by the rock establishment's heavyweights) went into action; McCartney called it a piece of trash (although it s unlikely that he read it). Elliot Mintz (Yoko Ono s Spin Doctor), then produced a rebuttal using evidence (at first convincing) that two of the sources were unreliable as they axes to grind, having fallen out of favour with John and Yoko.
Fourteen years on, maybe it is time for a reappraisal of this Satanic Verses of rock biography. Criticisms of the book have been well documented and are not without substance. It is often factually incorrect, the authoratorial tone appears excessively one-sided in his portrayal of both John and Yoko. Sometimes it is not clear if it is supposed to be read as a black comedy (although if it is, it succeeds; some of the passages are hilarious)and it is hard to imagine two living people that are alternatively, so twisted and so Maciavellian as the John and Yoko that are portrayed here.
However, there are many reasons why this book should be read. Unlike, say Ray Coleman s semi-official biography of Lennon, Goldman did not just take what John and Yoko said in public at face value. Nor did he rely on the co-operation and support of those who had a vested in keeping the Lennon image in the saintly realms (partly because he was denied access by those people). Instead, he drew on 1,200 interviews of various friends, helpers, musicians and aids who had known Lennon at certain stages of his life. Most of what is said in the book is attributed to one of these sources.
The book deals with huge chunks of Lennon s life that have otherwise been left uninvestigated (or conveniently ignored, as they deal with the less than godlike side of Lennon and Ono ) by biographers; the attempts to retrieve Kyoko, his meetings with Jerry Rubin, the lost weekend and Yoko s growing infatuation with numerology and acquisition of wealth.
On the music, Goldman is keen to give Lennon his praise where he feels it is due. For example, of Working Class Hero he writes, "What makes the song so radical is not its politics but rather the singer's determination to smash through politics in order to come to grips with the unchanging human condition".

Elsewhere he is sometimes rather too intent on dissecting in order to make a point. Nevertheless he is also often poignantly accurate as is comments on the Imagine film sequence show;
"..there is one momentary gaffe when John, seated in his lavish mansion, sings the joy of owning nothing, but as the room grows brighter and brighter, the effect of emergence from the gloom of the present into the light of a utopian future is gracefully conveyed".
By far the most exploratory (and entertaining) work on Lennon, The Lives Of John Lennon is a devils advocate of a book. John was not around to defend himself over its allegations and neither is Goldman here to answer any more of his hate-mail. Before his death he replied to a damning review in the New York Times and its assertion that he had deliberately set out to give Lennon a literary second assignation.
He fiercely condemned this, stressing that when he started he was a Lennon fan but when he started delving, he became appalled by what he was finding.
After Goldman filed his prosecution papers he was soon to be the one to stand on trial in the defence box. Now it is time for the case to be reopened. Let the debate continue.
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on 30 November 2015
Albert Goldman was already infamous for his biographies of Lenny Bruce and Elvis Presley, so the scene was set for outrage amongst Beatles fans when, in 1988 he published his latest tome "The Lives of John Lennon". So much so that none other than Paul McCartney urged fans not to buy it, ( he probably didn't read it himself, but was aware of it I'm sure). I did read this book, all 699 pages of it and found it to be an incredible work of fiction. The synopsis was from what I read, a once famous rock star, living in seclusion and indulging his mood swings, depression and drug taking e.t.c and this is his life story from cradle to grave. Trouble was this was the story of John Lennon's life and he called it a biography. The blurb on the book claims some six years research and some twelve hundred interviews. Well there are numerous errors in the telling of John's time with the fab four and the "interviews" were conducted with some characters of dubious origin who had a particular axe to grind. It's interesting to note that people who knew and were close to the man at varying stages of his life refused to have any involvement in this project, people such as Cynthia Lennon for example. Goldman was not a fan of rock/pop music and did not approach this book with any objectivity when writing it. Having said all that John Lennon was no saint, he'd be the first to admit that was he still here, but this was the same man that gave the world "all you need is love" and "give peace a chance" and he deserved better than this exercise in sensational muck raking. If you feel the need to read this book, then that's up to you, if you do then do so with a very hefty pinch of salt.
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on 17 October 2016
Albert makes some very stupid mistakes, saying that John had a "twenty two rifle" when he should have said .22 rifle. He calls the famous "Maggie Mae" just "Maggie" and so far I've only got to page 155. Because it is written for American audiences it talks about local dances being held in village halls costing only "a quarter" to get into. Blow me, we didn't have quarters in England! If he'd said a "couple of bob" or "half a crown" Albert would have been a bit more authentic.
It is a very well researched book (and I've read more than a few). I was introduced to John at my auntie Marjorie's wedding. "This is your uncle John he's in a group and they've made a record" My auntie Marjorie witnessed John's wedding to Cynthia along with Paul McCartney. For that reason I've been a Beatles fan since before "Love me do" was released.
I will continue reading the book because I've paid £1.50 for it in a charity shop and want my money's worth. However, even at almost 700 pages long I don't think that Albert has managed to get the full picture.
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on 1 August 2002
It is with some irony that this biography of John Lennon, when it was published in 1988, created such unease, it led to death threats to the author and its ritual burning at Beatles conventions. The book's subject, had he still been living may have sympathised. He had provoked similar displays of hatred from Christian groups after his comments to an American journalist in 1966, that the Beatles were now more popular than Jesus Christ.
Such was the hatred for Goldman following its publication that he was virtually excommunicated from the music and publishing world...
Fourteen years on, maybe it is time for a reappraisal of this Satanic Verses of rock biography. Criticisms of the book have been well documented and are not without substance. It is often factually incorrect, the authoratorial tone appears excessively one-sided in his portrayal of both John and Yoko. Sometimes it is not clear if it is supposed to be read as a black comedy (although if it is, it succeeds; some of the passages are hilarious) and it is hard to imagine two living people that are alternatively, so twisted and so Maciavellian as the John and Yoko that are portrayed here.
However, there are many reasons why this book should be read. Unlike, say Ray Coleman s semi-official biography of Lennon, Goldman did not just take what John and Yoko said in public at face value. Nor did he rely on the co-operation and support of those who had a vested in keeping the Lennon image in the saintly realms (partly because he was denied access by those people). Instead, he drew on 1,200 interviews of various friends, helpers, musicians and aids who had known Lennon at certain stages of his life. Most of what is said in the book is attributed to one of these sources.
The book deals with huge chunks of Lennon s life that have otherwise been left uninvestigated (or conveniently ignored, as they deal with the less than godlike side of Lennon and Ono ) by biographers; the attempts to retrieve Kyoko, his meetings with Jerry Rubin, the lost weekend and Yoko s growing infatuation with numerology and acquisition of wealth.
On the music, Goldman is keen to give Lennon his praise where he feels it is due. For example, of Working Class Hero he writes, "What makes the song so radical is not its politics but rather the singer's determination to smash through politics in order to come to grips with the unchanging human condition".

Elsewhere he is sometimes rather too intent on dissecting in order to make a point. Nevertheless he is also often poignantly accurate. Goldman wrote of the pre-video film sequence to Imagine;
"..there is one momentary gaffe when John, seated in his lavish mansion, sings the joy of owning nothing, but as the room grows brighter and brighter, the effect of emergence from the gloom of the present into the light of a utopian future is gracefully conveyed".
By far the most exploratory (and entertaining) work on Lennon, The Lives Of John Lennon is a devils advocate of a book. John was not around to defend himself over its allegations and neither is Goldman here to answer any more of his hate-mail. Before his death he replied to a damning review in the New York Times and its assertion that he had deliberately set out to give Lennon a literary second assignation.
He fiercely condemned this, stressing that when he started he was a Lennon fan but when he started delving, he became appalled by what he was finding.
After Goldman filed his prosecution papers he was soon to be the one to stand on trial in the defence box. Now it is time for the case to be reopened. Let the debate continue.
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on 12 June 2014
Albert Goldman has long been reviled, and there may be some shaky things in this (depending on who Goldman was speaking to at the time), but it's stood the test of time because of Goldman's exhaustive research and intelligent if gossipy treatment. I don't think it's as mean spirited as lots of critics would have you believe.

I've long been a fan of Lennon, and I still am despite having read this twice. Lennon himself said "We're all Christ and we're all Hitler." Goldman shows him to be true to his word (if you know what I mean). But even with that, this is more of a hatchet job on Yoko than John Lennon.
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on 18 June 2013
i thought that this book had been forced out of print as a result of litigation. i am glad i was wrong,
it is a remarkable book.
no matter if you take the facts as gospel (always dangerous) ,or with a nip of salt, well advised, it is a fine example of a biographical nature, and not at all as demeaning as the less discerning folk who write for a living would have you believe:, my goodness how can one exist on white bread and black tea
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