Unless you've been living under a yellow submarine, you've surely heard that Saturday would have been John Lennon's 70th birthday, had his life not been tragically cut short by a crazed fan in 1980, when he was just 40 years old.
There are tribute concerts, TV shows, movies and record releases going on to commemorate the event on both sides of the pond, and Thursday night I was fortunate enough to attend an advance screening of "Nowhere Boy," a docudrama about the events in 17-year-old John's life that led to the formation of the Quarrymen, which, as you know, evolved into the Beatles.
The movie was phenomenal. If you're a John fan, don't miss it. It's being released in select theaters Friday, though there hasn't been much publicity for it. If I were a film critic, I'd give it a solid 3.5 stars for remaining true to the story, depiction of characters and sheer entertainment value.
It depicts a teenage John doing teenage things, attending school, living with his Aunt Mimi and Uncle George (who raised him) hitching rides atop buses and having sex outdoors in broad daylight. Oh, John, what will we do with you?
Aunt Mimi is a stiff-upper-lip type who's kind of a cold fish, but she's done right by John and given him a solid upbringing. When Uncle George dies suddenly, she rebuffs John's emotional response, as she does all emotional responses, in stereotypical English fashion.
Shortly afterwards, John discovers that his mother, Julia, whom he hasn't seen since he moved in with his aunt and uncle at age 5, lives just a few blocks away. During the next few weeks or months -- the time frame isn't really clear -- John visits Julia often, but their relationship comes off as a bit creepy.
Julia is like a child herself, a lover of music and fun times, but not maternal by any stretch. Though it isn't mentioned, it's hinted that she has some sort of mental illness, which, judging by her highs and lows, would appear to be bipolar in nature. Despite the weirdness of their short-lived relationship, Julia does introduce John to Elvis (not personally, but in a movie) and encourages his love of music.
Throughout, John is angry, and a bit abusive of his friends, but one can't really blame him for all those raw emotions.The origin of the pain, confusion and feelings of abandonment so prevalent throughout his life and music is evident here, and it makes one wonder if his search for a mother figure who combines Julia's warmth and Mimi's caretaker qualities are what attracted him to a much-older Yoko later in life.
The film doesn't take us there. It ends just as John's fledgling Quarrymen, including a 15-year-old Paul McCartney, heads to Germany for its first foreign gig. The rest, as they say, is history.
Still on a Lennon high from the showing, I discovered this morning that Google UK has issued this Google Doodle to commemorate John's birthday. Clicking through launches a short animated video that features a bit of the tear-inducing (for me, at least) "Imagine" as a mini-soundtrack. No clue as to why the U.S. Google's homepage doesn't display it, or whether something is planned for us.