The Last Day in the Life

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John Lennon grew up on Penny Lane, and after a time he moved to a house outside Liverpool, hard by a boys' reformatory. There was another house in the neighborhood where John and his pals would go to a party and sell lemonade bottles for a penny. The house was called Strawberry Fields. His boyhood was neither as roughly working-class as early Beatles p.r. indicated, nor quite as benign as the magical association of those place names might suggest. But John's adolescence in the suburbs, the garden outside the back door and the warm ministrations of his Auntie Mimi did not diminish either the pain or the sense of separateness that was already stirring.

His father, a seaman named Alfred, left home shortly after John was born, and his mother Julia sent him to her sister Mimi because, it was said, she could not support her child. John was 4½ when he was farmed out to the suburbs All the sorrow, rage and confusion of this early boyhood were taken up again and again in songs like Julia and Mother. These early years were not an unhealed wound for Lennon, but more nearly a root, a deep psychic wellspring from which he could draw reserves of hard truth.

Reserves of another sort gave him trouble even early on. "In one way, I was always hip," Lennon remarked recently in Playboy, during an interview that could stand as lively proof that some of the best Lennon/Ono art was their life. "I was hip in kindergarten. I was different from the others. There was something wrong with me, I thought, because I seemed to see things other people didn't see. I was always seeing things in a hallucinatory way." Lennon's songs made peace with those hallucinations and expanded them —whether with psychedelics, psyschiatry or a sort of domestic mysticism—while keeping them always within reach, as a man might keep a flashlight on a nightstand in case he had to get up in the dark Lennon was already well into his teens, living 15 minutes away from his mother but seldom seeing her, when rock 'n' roll grabbed hold of him and never let loose. All the raw glories of Elvis Presley, Little Richard, Chuck Berry and Jerry Lee Lewis shook him to his shoes. He responded with the rowdiness of spirit and emotional restlessness that already set him apart from his peers and caused their parents concern. Paul McCartney's father warned his son to steer clear of John, which amounted to an open if inadvertent invitation to friendship.

By his 16th year, John had formed his first band, the Quarrymen, and Paul McCartney had enlisted as guitar player. John and Paul began to write songs together almost as soon as they had finished tuning up, and they played any gig the band could get. By the end of 1956, though he had his first group and a best friend, Lennon suffered a lasting wound His mother was killed in an accident while she stood waiting for a bus. As he said, "I lost her twice."

Two years later, George Harrison had joined the Quarrymen, and the band was actually earning some money They had their own fans, and a growing reputation that took them to club dates in the gritty seaport of Hamburg, West Germany, where they eventually changed their name to the Beatles and got a double dose of the seamier side of rock life Lennon, who like the rest of the boys favored black leather jackets, pegged pants and stomper boots, was sending long

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