Before you reach for your Revolver, let us explain. The title of "Biggest Bastards on Earth" was bestowed on The Beatles by none other than John Lennon in an interview conducted months after the legendary band's 1969 breakup. It has since resurfaced in Philip Norman's massive biography John Lennon: The Life, out now from Ecco Books.
"Things are left out, about what bastards we were," Lennon explained in the interview. "You have to be a bastard to make it. That's a fact. And the Beatles were the biggest bastards on Earth."
To be sure, Norman's book takes a critical look at Lennon's influential if short time on our planet for over 850 pages, charting the trajectory of his ego and creativity as it escaped Liverpool for the world-at-large. And it is a given that few among us are true innocents. But do you really have to be a bastard to make it in music? And was the quartet really that bad?
From optimistic classics like "We Can Work It Out" to arresting compositions like "Day in the Life" and all the way the band's calls for social and economic justice, before and after its disintegration, I would argue that the Beatles did more than most to pull humankind's head out of its collective ass.
John Lennon: The Life
By Philip Norman
For more than a quarter century, Philip Norman's internationally bestselling Shout! has been unchallenged as the definitive biography of the Beatles. Now, at last, Norman turns his formidable talent to the Beatle for whom belonging to the world's most beloved pop group was never enough. Drawing on previously untapped sources, and with unprecedented access to all the major characters, here is the comprehensive and most revealing portrait of John Lennon that is ever likely to be published.
This masterly biography takes a fresh and penetrating look at every aspect of Lennon's much-chronicled life, including the songs that have turned him, posthumously, into a near-secular saint. In three years of research, Norman has turned up an extraordinary amount of new information about even the best-known episodes of Lennon folklore—his upbringing by his strict Aunt Mimi; his allegedly wasted school and student days; the evolution of his peerless creative partnership with Paul McCartney; his Beatle-busting love affair with a Japanese performance artist; his forays into painting and literature; his experiments with Transcendental Meditation, primal scream therapy, and drugs. The book's numerous key informants and interviewees include Sir Paul McCartney, Sir George Martin, Sean Lennon—whose moving reminiscence reveals his father as never before—and Yoko Ono, who speaks with sometimes shocking candor about the inner workings of her marriage to John.
Honest and unflinching, as John himself would wish, Norman gives us the whole man in all his endless contradictions—tough and cynical, hilariously funny but also naive, vulnerable and insecure—and reveals how the mother who gave him away as a toddler haunted his mind and his music for the rest of his days.
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