Sunday, December 26, 2010

Review: Starting Over by Ken Sharp

Learning that I rarely read celebrity biographies will come as a surprise to some. Having traveled that turbulent road myself, and being cognizant of the perils a chronology offers its historians, while at the same time finding myself horrified by the banality of most celebrity biographies, I have distanced myself from that quagmire of hacks, know-it-alls and snide commentators. I made an exception for Ken Sharp’s Starting Over: The Making of John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s ‘Double Fantasy’ which turned out to be every bit as good as I had hoped. This book is constructed as an oral biography that documents the events from August through December 8th, 1980. The book is illustrated with previously unpublished photographs by David M. Spindel and Roger Farrington of John and Yoko during their historic recording session. These photographs are priceless.

The book’s many first hand accounts and reminisces by the musicians, production team, friends and employees at the Hit Factory where the album was recorded offer remarkable insight into John and Yoko’s life. What stands out is the depth of Lennon’s creative genius, his passion for the creative art of songwriting, his intelligence, and the love he had for Yoko. This is, quite frankly, a heartbreaking love story.

Lennon’s assassination at the hands of a deranged fan is a grim reminder at how far our society has slunk into the darkness. A recent issue of Rolling Stone magazine offered his “lost interview” where Lennon states emphatically his dislike for “dead messiahs” which is sadly what he has become for far too many people. Ken Sharp’s Starting Over offers us a true-life glimpse of a working class lad with an extraordinary musical talent. Here is the real John Lennon, a hard-working rock and roller, devoted father and loving husband at the moment he re-visited his creative soul.

I remember listening to Double Fantasy not long before Lennon was murdered. I liked it and Yoko’s edgy songs, including her now famous “Yokorgasm” on the track “Kiss, Kiss, Kiss” elicited  collegiate debates in the university town between cornfields where I lived. It wasn’t too long afterward when late one evening I heard “Imagine” playing from someone’s dormitory room and we learned that Lennon had been killed. After that Double Fantasy became a bittersweet reminder of Lennon’s lost talent, and songs like “Beautiful Boy” and Yoko’s “Hard Times Are Over” sounded like laments. After reading Ken Sharp’s Starting Over I listened to the album again and it sounded just as fresh as the first time I heard it; it’s a solid musical experience with a dash of avant garde performance that made it unique. I have no doubt that if Lennon had lived and toured with Yoko they would have changed the minds of those critics who were initially harsh in their first reviews. Ken Sharp’s Starting Over is the only celebrity biography I have read this past year and I highly recommend it.

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