At the bottom of my street – really, barely a hundred yards from my front door – a bunch of puffy-jacketed types are spending most of today filming ‘Nowhere Boy’, a biography of the young John Lennon. It’s Sam Taylor Wood’s first feature directing gig. Kristin Scott Thomas is playing Aunt Mimi, and newbie Aaron Johnson shoulders the Lennon burden, while I’m not even allowed to park my 2002 VW Golf in my own driveway goddammit!
It’s adapted, from the memoirs of Lennon’s half-sister, by Matt Greenhalgh, who also adapted the Joy Division biopic ‘Control’, and it features dependable ol’ David Morrissey and James McAvoy’s missus, Anne-Marie Duff, as John’s mum. Anyway, here’s the synopsis from IMDB:
Imagine [ha!] John Lennon’s childhood. A spirited teenager, curious, sharp and funny, growing up in the shattered city of Liverpool. Two extraordinary sisters tussle for his love – Mimi, the formidable aunt who raised him from the age of 5, and Julia, the spirited mother who gave him up to Mimi’s care. Yearning for a normal family, John escapes into art and the new music flooding in from the US. His fledgling genius finds a kindred spirit in the young Paul McCartney. But just as John’s new life begins, the truth about his past leads to a tragedy he would never escape.
I don’t suppose anyone could enlighten me as to what this tragedy is so I don’t have to see the film when it comes out next Spring? Does Aunt Mimi induct the nascent Beatle into the dark art of Extreme Knitting? Does she hire a long black-haired Japanese nutjob housemaid, who, apart from being prone to smashing her head against a tambourine while wailing antiwar dogma, takes it upon herself to pop the Lennon cherry?
I really can’t think of any other reason for seeing it. Lennon’s life is a fascinating one, but ‘Backbeat’ was a great movie about The Beatles’ Hamburg life and it was also a great starting point. ‘Nowhere Boy’ ends at the moment ‘Backbeat’ begins, so I suppose it could be a nice companion piece. I also suppose a lot of how Mimi raised him left Lennon vulnerable to the maternal charms of certain ladies, but that aside, it all just seems like a pretty bog standard domestic period drama to me.
The man now in charge of this enterprise is Harvey Weinstein, who, as a teenager, got a dream job as a Gofer at Apple Records. This involved him picking up Beatles from airports, lugging boxes backstage at the Concert for Bangladesh, running dipshit errands for Macca, and generally grooming George’s ‘tache, so he does at least have some third or fourth hand knowledge of the subject matter. One blogger has read the script and posted a couple of exchanges:
When Lennon and Paul McCartney first meet, at a Quarrymen rehearsal at the St. Peter’s Church Hall, a friend shows up with Paul, who’s come armed with a guitar. The friend says, “Paul plays too.” Lennon immediately responds: “With himself?” After he gets a round of giggles, John takes the edge off it, adding “I do. All the time. Good for the wrist muscles.”
I’m not sure I want to know about John Lennon’s early onanistic experiments, but here’s another snippet:
Lennon and McCartney are appearing on stage for the first time as the Quarrymen. Introducing their version of a Chuck Berry song, Lennon says, “I present to you … Mr. Paul McCartney!” Relieved, since he never knows what Lennon might say next, McCartney says, “Thanks, John. Kind words.” Lennon’s reply: “I didn’t mean them.”
Whether this dialogue encourages you to go see it or not depends on how much of a John Lennon fanboy you are, but if you do go, please let me know if there’s a scene where John plays pocket billiards while staring out of his bedroom window at a curvacious neighbour hanging out her washing to the tune of ‘Good Golly Miss Molly’.
I’ll be very disappointed if there isn’t one.
ps) Here’s the bus shelter they’ve constructed at the bottom of my street. Mmmmm, I wonder. Could this shelter play a significant part in the ‘tragedy he would never escape’? Does John fail to provide an appropriate ticket when requested by the conductor, thus leading to abject humiliation and a lifetime of being wildly embarrassed around bus conductors? Does John give a passing toad a knee-trembler against the shelter’s flimsy wooden walls, henceforth giving him a phobia about spontaneous sex with amphibians in prefabricated municiple buildings? Or does he accidentally get a splinter in his ass from the rough hewn bench, a splinter that, over the decades, works its way from his ass to his chest and is instrumental, on that fateful November night, in fatally deflecting Mark Chapman’s bullets toward the ex-Beatle’s doomed heart?
Answers on a postcard please to .
I’ve read bits of the script and can’t remember a lot about it. There’s an odd animated sequence which just reads as Sam Taylor-Wood flexing her muscles with arty stuff and ting. She does seem wrong for this sort of story, but we’ll see. I think the tragedy is his Mum dying just after their reconciliation and the script only goes up to them naming the band the Beatles, not as far as Hamburg. It’s really a kitchen sink drama as young John goes from pillar to post. Anyway, better get ready for more rock biopics and steel yourself for Andy Serkis playing Ian Dury, Elijah Wood as Iggy Pop, Kirsten (Twilight) Stewart as Joan Jett! and a Keith Moon movie. Control was good though wasn’t it?
Thanks for the extra info Marcus. Andy Serkis as Ian Dury sounds fantastic and is easily pictured, but Elijah Wood as Iggy Pop is a bit more of a stretch. I don’t see how he has the physique, or even how he could acquire it, they’re just such different builds. Not that that matters, I suppose.
I don’t think Joan Jett warrants a biopic, to be honest. Her Wikibiog is a bit lacking in dramatic revelations to say the least, unless you focus on her kickstarting Blackheart Records with her producer Kenny Laguna, who used his daughter’s college savings to finance the deal (what a heel)
I did think Control was great, but I think a Keith Moon picture would be even better.
Nowhere Boy? Terrible title. It will be pants. John Lennon only got interesting about a year before he died. Why do people make films about ‘the early days’. Is it about understanding the mind of the genius (which Lennon wasn’t btw)? The Quarry Men days and all that guff is a dull tale. The Beatles only got interesting (I think) when they all started getting fed up with themselves. However, Here is a video of John Lennon and Paul McCartney sharing a cab with the extremely stoned Bob Dylan. Watch Lennon as he witnesses his hero crumble into a dullard in front of his very eyes. It’s tough viewing:
Or this. Just to illustrate how magnificently inspiring The Beatles were …here is ‘I Dig A Pony’ taken from the gig in 1969 recorded on top of Apple HQ in Saville Row. I just gaze at this in awe.
(Wish I knew how to ‘embed’ in comments)
Woah, hold on there roundcat rerererereeeeeeeeeeeeewind: John Lennon not a genius? He only re-wrote the book on what a pop star should be & do, wrote dozens of songs that remain peerless half a century down the line and significantly changed Western culture for the better. Doesn’t that qualify?
And who else would be a musical genius then? Dylan? He’s written albums n’ albums that will never be surpassed and never die, but unfortunately he was also ripped to the tits on something exotic in the back of that cab because it is pitiful to watch, but you can’t call him a dullard just because he’s ridiculously off his face to the point of rambling incoherence. We’ve all been there (well, actually, I haven’t. I just tend to fall asleep in such circumstances, but I’m sure many of you have.)
As for ‘I Dig A Pony’…I knew I’d missed a trick when it came to naming podcast 9.
Actually, if you read the transcript of that cab conversation, Bob doesn’t come across too badly. Apart from this bit…
Dylan: (Looking increasingly tired and distressed) I wanna go back home. I wanna go back home, man, see a baseball game, all-night TV. I come from a land of paradise, man.
Lennon: (In thick Northern accent, very sarcastically) Sounds great.
Dylan: Well, I could make it sound so great that you wouldn’t have the capacity to speak.
…where he sounds like an asshole.
I’ve seen Dylan in concert. He is a dullard.
Nope I would not say Lennon was a genius. If he was a genius he would not give the nod to so many awful Yoko songs and ‘art’. I think Eistein was a genius and Hawking but not the man who wrote “Whatever gets You Through The Night” or “[insert another song by lenon and clearly NOT a genius]. To ay he was a genius means he never wrote a bad song right? Or am I wrong. If I’m wrong that means geniuses write bad songs too. So what dos that make people who JUST wrote GOOD songs? Like Mozart. Are there gradations of genius. If there are then I’ll shut up as its clearly an argument spiraling down a plughole. When Lennon & McCartney were working together I think there was ‘genius’ there but it needed the two of them. Apart, they were a bit hit and miss in my view. Because Lennon was gunned down just as he was sprouting out of his pretentions we all adore him and adorned him with ‘Legend’. His last two albums were not great. There was no musical breakthroughs there. The sentiments were refreshing and showed a knew John but there was no real genius that i could see/hear. Hendrix was a genius tho!
…Oh and it was probably Ravi Shanker and his ilk who rewrote what a pop star should be and do. In fact, of all the Beatles, George was the first to really embrace shrugging off his celebrity. John loved to be adored and it never changed. He pretended he didn’t but he did. George was happy being in the shadows and probably wrote at least two of the best Beatles songs ever. the musicians loved George, the egos loved John. Simple.
Don’t get me stared on The Beatles my friend I AM AN EXPERT!
OHHHH! And ANOTHER THING!!
Look at the ‘I Dig A Pony’ video once more. Notice the man on his knees in front of John holding up the genius clipboard of genius lyrics to the genius songwriter.
John Lennon – awesome, but no genius.
Oh and and and and right, Watch Paul. Macca does what’s called a ‘walking baseline’ when he plays. I’ve seen him on the studio play stuff on his base guitar that would make your jaw drop. He is amazing. He plays it without thinking. John was not as offay using instruments. Macca is hugely superior to Lennon tune wise, Lennon superior lyric wise, Macca is more musically versatile. There.
Again go buy ‘McCartney’ – his first solo album. It’s a winner as Macca plays al the instruments.
Oh and Macca aint a genius either.
there. I’m done on this matter.
How dare you challenge me on the Beatles.
Oh and I know base is spelt Bass.
Don’t get me started on basses.
ditto re baseline — bassline.
Shat aaaap!! leave me alone. Maybe IM A GENIUS?
So wait a minute, genius only applies to scientists and the flawless? Didn’t the greater scientific community consider Einstein’s later quest to perfect a Unified Field Theory a folly and a waste of a great mind? Did Mozart, at his peak, piss all over his admittedly gifted noodlings as a five-year-old? Did Picasso ever have an off day? The answer to all these questions is yes, so I think you have to look at the overall impact of the individual in their sphere. Did they fundamentally change their respective worlds? Yes, they did. Einstein in science, Picasso in art, Mozart in classical, and Lennon in pop. Geniuses, evey man jack.
And why does George get a special nod just because he was more mature than John? George may have been among the first to inject Indian music into the mainstream, but most folk couldn’t give a toss about Ravi Shankar so how can you call him a pop star? And if you don’t think Lennon was a genius why do you know so much about him eh? Eh?
Christ almighty by the time I’ve finished writing one reply you;ve written six! I’m well behind…
Craig, have you read “Roomful of Mirrors’ The Hendrix biography? It’s really good.
Yeah, I think people can have moments of genius, we all can, but it’s hard to call who is a genius because so often it’s mixed up with success. I really think the majority of true genui are obscure or we’ll never hear of them because they don’t have the other stuff needed to get that sort of fame or have no interest in it. I was thinking about posting an mp3 of musician Roy Budd at some point. He did a lot of soundtracks, not all great, but I love stuff like “Get Carter” and his music for a long forgotten Michael caine film “The Black Windmill” I know, me neither. I wiki’ed him and he fits a lot of genius criteria:
He was sticking sound FX and bits of dialogue into his soundtrack albums, back in the early seventies, to make them part of the music and even died young, so he importantly isn’t around to be crap. I think he had definite moments of musical genius, but who cares about it, outside of anal, movie geeks like me? Not saying people should care, but I think he’s a good example of how tricky it is to pin genius down. Unless it’s Steven Hawking and then it’s a piece of piss to pin him down, just tip him out of his chair.
There’s a quote by somebody I can’t remember, so they can’t have been a genius, but it was along the lines of ‘We’ll never hear greatest Violin player who ever lived because they’re part of a tribe in the amazon and don’t even know what a violin is” I like that.
I wasn’t calling Shanker a popstar I said he changed pop stars should be and do. I disagree, as I have just yelled to you on the phone, that geniuses affect the world around them as i said that makes Thatcher a genius and she wasn’t. Lennon used his popularity and fame to try and get some peace in the world – that’s not genius. That’s just stopping writing Okish songs for a bit so he can be on TV doing what Jesus supposedly did years before. It’s no genius.
We all know the true geniuses in life reside in Apple Stores. I know so coz its says so on their t-shirts.
RE your last comment I know so much about John coz you gave me his biography. I know a lot of things about people who are not geniuses. I know that you suck cock for example.
John and Paul wrote some genius songs together, but to my ginger ears the best Beatle solo album is George’s “All Things Must Pass”
Marcus. Thanks for pointing out the plural of genius. Appreciated. Nice quote too. See, Roomy? Marcus is on my side. So you MUST be wrong.
All This Must pass? Are you having a Giraffe?
I love that album, the remixed, reissue it’s gene…er really good.
Ringo did a solo album and on this song entitled “I Am The Greatest” all the Beatles play together So it’s really ‘The Beatles’. I think it was written by John ironically and puts our whole arguments into a little bit of perspective and (if anything) supports Marcus’ (Marci?) POV.
I bet Ringo thinks he’s genius.
Well I can’t let this ‘cock sucking’ comment pass. My cock sucking days are long over sir, and I advise that you retract your inaccuracy immediately. As for Thatcher I think she was a genius, albeit an evil one, and well done Mr M for bringing Roy Budd to my attention and for humourously suggesting we pin Hawking down. Let’s do it.
Mike for future reference, do you prefer to addressed as “former cock sucker” and re: Hawking, he can time travel right? Won’t he know we’re coming?
Former cock sucker Mike, I’ll send you some Budd stuff later
A man gets a gravatar and suddenly he’s a comedian.
Enjoyed that. Like the swivel chair between three different keyboards!