John and Mimi

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Sometime in the mid-70’s, John wrote a letter to his Aunt Mimi asking her for information about the family genealogy. Mimi replied in the form of a recording. I found this little gem on Amoralto’s excellent tumblr blog and wanted to share it with fellow dullbloggers.

But first, a little background on the lady who played such a significant role shaping the personality of one of the biggest rock artists in history.

Bob Spitz, in his book The Beatles, describes Mimi Smith thusly:

a sharp-tongued, high-principled, duty-bound young woman….There was nothing, no situation or dilemma, that Mimi was unequipped to handle. Her method was very simple: everything operated on the axis of decorum and honesty. It was all black-and-white: either you measured up or you didn’t. Where the younger girls dreamed of starting families, Mimi dreamed of challenges and adventure—the kind that demanded an unusually stubborn independence. “I had no intention of getting married,” she told a curious admirer, dreading the prospect of “being tied to a kitchen or a sink.”

But marry she did, after a seven-year courtship and an ultimatum from her suitor, a milkman by the name of George Smith (“Look here! I’ve had enough of you! Either marry me, or nothing at all!”). They never had children of their own, which didn’t come as a surprise to the family, since Mary had always claimed she wasn’t the mothering type.  However, by all accounts Mimi was enamoured of John and ultimately took charge of him after placing several calls to child protective services, when she learned that the boy was sleeping in the same bed as his mother and her new boyfriend, Bobby Dykins.

As a retired practitioner in child and family mental health, I’ve always found Mimi Smith a fascinating character, and perhaps, ultimately a tragic one. For, in spite of her intelligence and common sense, I think Mimi was ill-equipped to raise a child who came with as much emotional baggage as John. Parenting a child like this–particularly one who so resembled her in temperament–required a certain kind of emotional and intellectual flexibility that Mimi simply didn’t possess.  While she knew her nephew extraordinarily well, she never really understood him. That lack of understanding, I think, hurt them both deeply in the end.

Without further ado, then, here’s the transcribed recording.

(p.s. I would NOT want to be on this lady’s bad side. 🙂 )

 Now, you needn’t, for a start, send any B. S. genealogist down here, giving him a fine old holiday tramping around graveyards. What a good old time he must have had! This thing must have cost you a fortune.

Now, it’s in front of me, and I’m going to read it out to you, and you can’t deny it because every word in it is true: Alfred Lennon married Julia Stanley. He was born the 14th of December, 1912, and Julia was born on the 12th of March, 1914. And of course, they produced John Winston Lennon, who married Cynthia, daughter of Charles Edwin Powell. Married the 23rd of August, 1962, at South Liverpool.

What’s this rubbish you’re talking about? “You wouldn’t mind donating your money to a real socialist government?” For heaven’s sake. Use your nut. There’s no such thing. None at all. Not where money’s concerned. Money corrupts.

You watch yourself, my lad. You’re digging your own grave, and in no uncertain manner. Idealism is not the exclusive prerogative of English, Welsh, Irish, or any other nationality. It just happens. And you will wake up one of these days disillusioned and sad. You’ll be the tool of unscrupulous people who’ll exploit your idealism. And it will be a sad day for you, I’m telling you.

My dear boy, you are not the second Messiah. You are never likely to be. And that’s the way you’re behaving these last few years. Would you please understand that you are a speck in the ocean, and the only possible importance you can be is to people who are trying to get money out of you. And that’s perhaps why they’re – they’re around you. There’s no other reason, John. [laughs; bleak] None whatever. Do wake up, John. And remember the old saying: “The cobbler should stick to his last.” And your last is music.

And get out of this little – circle, that you’re in. It bodes no good for you, I’m telling you. Why do you think you’re having such trouble trying to get this permit to stay in America? It’s not for smoking a bit of cannabis. George Harrison smoked cannabis, but he was allowed in. It’s your activities there, boy, and you’re digging your own grave. And it makes me very very sad, because I know, in the end, you’re going to be hurt. Bitterly hurt.

For years, I’ve heard you yelling and shouting about love, but it seemed to me your heart was full of hate. And it showed in your face. I had an American reporter here about three months ago, and he was telling me that you had put it out that you were never wanted, that you were never loved. And this newspaper were willing to pay me to give my opinion of you – my personal opinion of you and your behavior over these years – and told me I would be well paid for it. Since when has money healed wounds? I soon sent him packing.

I’ve been hurt. Cut to the quick. What do you think I felt like, when I’ve been with those Beatle parents, and have heard what they’ve done, for them? I was foolish enough to think, as I had you, and waited for you to be born, that I was father and mother to you. But my goodness, John, you didn’t want me. [laughs; bleak] You didn’t want anything to do with me. And a lifetime’s work was just thrown on one side as nothing.

And you say The Beatles were dumb. They may have been… but in many respects, they could’ve taught you a thing or two. The first thing they did was to make their parents secure. Forever. Knowing very well that they would always get it back. But oh no, you, right, left, center – anyone could have in. And then I had to ask you, this year, to help me out – a terrible thing for me, I’m telling you, it nearly killed me. I’d had the same money from 1962, and anybody with a little thought would have known that what I had was melting away, during that eleven years.

And it seems as though you hated the sight of me. You couldn’t bear the sight of me, and you never missed an opportunity to cut me down dead – in front of other people as well, which was even worse. But it didn’t do you any good, for people noticed. But you were very kind to Alfred Lennon, taking him round the West End and having him in your home. I don’t suppose it ever once crossed your mind that that would hurt me. Especially when you couldn’t stand the sight of me.

In your teens, I was hard to live with, and if I had to go through it again, I would still be hard. And you know why, too. You were determined to do things which you knew were wrong, and I was determined that you wouldn’t, and if I hadn’t been interested, I would have let you do exactly as you liked – and you know how those children turn out.

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85 Comments

  1. Avatar Hologram Sam wrote:

    .
    Whew!
    .
    This reminds me of the old George Carlin joke about the ungrateful child:
    .
    “I have tried to be both a mother and father to you.”
    “Then go fuck yourself!”
    .
    I honestly thought John had taken care of Mimi once he got rich. I thought he bought her a nice house and kept sending her money. I didn’t know it was one lump sum in 1962. How embarrassing it must have been to see the other Beatles parents taken better care of.
    .
    In the 1970s, I think John needed to be told what she told him. I wonder how much of it he absorbed. By 1980, he sounded like he WAS waking up, if only a little bit.

  2. Avatar Chantal wrote:

    All I can say is: she was right. Absolutely right. She may have been difficult, but she sure was wise.

    • Nancy Carr Nancy Carr wrote:

      I agree that Mimi’s advice to John is basically sound. These two remarks especially stand out to me:
      .
      “. . . you will wake up one of these days disillusioned and sad. You’ll be the tool of unscrupulous people who’ll exploit your idealism.”
      .
      “Do wake up, John. And remember the old saying: “The cobbler should stick to his last.” And your last is music.”
      .
      Her comment that “For years, I’ve heard you yelling and shouting about love, but it seemed to me your heart was full of hate” strikes me as too harsh but containing a kernel of truth. The whole situation is terribly sad.

  3. Karen Hooper Karen Hooper wrote:

    (John did purchase a home for Mimi, where she resided until her death. I also recall however, that she was quite angry to learn that Cynthia’s mother received the same stipend as she did. 🙂 )
    .
    Mimi’s perceptions about the whole money issue is interesting. John was hopeless when it came to money and it’s probably not a leap to conclude that his lack of oversight regarding Mimi’s finances were a function of that, rather than a lack of concern. Mimi apparently could not make that connection, and instead defaults to her pattern of critical thinking. (I suspect that John may have been similarly clueless about Mimi’s anger, thinking that this proud lady could just phone him for money and wondered what the big deal was). I imagine that this exchange was typical of many of their interactions. Maybe they were too much alike.
    .
    Reading this transcript and thinking about all the other stuff I’ve read about Mimi and John, I’m reminded of that old Dorothy Law Nolte passage, called Children Learn What They Live:
    .
    If children live with criticism, they learn to condemn.
    If children live with hostility, they learn to fight.
    If children live with fear, they learn to be apprehensive.
    If children live with pity, they learn to feel sorry for themselves.
    If children live with ridicule, they learn to feel shy.
    If children live with jealousy, they learn to feel envy.
    If children live with shame, they learn to feel guilty.
    If children live with encouragement, they learn confidence.
    If children live with tolerance, they learn patience.
    If children live with praise, they learn appreciation.
    If children live with acceptance, they learn to love.
    If children live with approval, they learn to like themselves.
    If children live with recognition, they learn it is good to have a goal.
    If children live with sharing, they learn generosity.
    If children live with honesty, they learn truthfulness.
    If children live with fairness, they learn justice.
    If children live with kindness and consideration, they learn respect.
    If children live with security, they learn to have faith in themselves and in those about them.
    If children live with friendliness, they learn the world is a nice place in which to live.

  4. Avatar Hologram Sam wrote:

    John was hopeless when it came to money and it’s probably not a leap to conclude that his lack of oversight regarding Mimi’s finances were a function of that, rather than a lack of concern…
    .
    That was my first reaction, as well. John bought the house for Mimi, gave her some cash in 1962, and then probably figured “okay, she’s set.” I don’t think there was a lack of concern. More of an example of John’s cluelessness around finances.
    .
    My first reaction to Mimi’s comments was total agreement. John needed more people like Mimi in his life to cut through the fog of bullshit he’d shrouded himself in. But then the more I thought about it… Holy shit! Her comments go a long way to explain his famous Insecurity. What a thing to tell a child, or a grown ward: “All those people hanging around you? They don’t care about you. They only want your money!”
    .
    She’s basically stomping on his self esteem. “You have nothing of value as a person to offer anyone. If anyone LIKES YOU, it’s your money they’re after. Remember that.”

    • Karen Hooper Karen Hooper wrote:

      My first reaction to Mimi’s comments was total agreement. John needed more people like Mimi in his life to cut through the fog of bullshit he’d shrouded himself in. But then the more I thought about it… Holy shit! Her comments go a long way to explain his famous Insecurity.
      .
      Precisely my thoughts too. When you read the transcript, your first reaction is how acutely she knew John’s weaknesses. But then you think: it’s all about the weaknesses. And then you read the letter again, and try to imagine them together: a bright, take-no-nonsense hypercritical guardian parenting a very troubled little boy. It wasn’t the best arrangement in the world, that’s for sure.

      • @Karen, I wouldn’t call John a “very troubled” little boy; I would call him a very bright, very sensitive, probably dyslexic little boy with terrible eyesight, who was surrounded by particularly screwed up adults. Whenever John was put into stable, loving arrangements (like with Uncle George, or on his trips to Scotland), he seems to have thrived. Alf, Julia, and Mimi created/exacerbated his troubles.

        • Avatar ChelseaQW wrote:

          Sure, but by the time Mimi “adopted” him, he had troubles, wouldn’t you say? I guess it depends on what you think those first 5 years were like. I assume they weren’t idyllic. I’m not the expert here, of course. But I suspect major trauma in those formative years, either experienced or witnessed.

          • A parent would know better than I, @Chelsea. But I think a more typical, more loving, less severe family arrangement (like Paul’s, or George’s, or even Ringo’s) would’ve muted a lot of John’s bigger issues. To me, John’s a perfect example of how material comfort is not as important as good parenting. P/G/R have had much happier adulthoods than John did — though his was short, and seemed to be improving.

          • Karen Hooper Karen Hooper wrote:

            Yup @ Chelsea (see my long-winded and hopefully not boring explanation below. 🙂 ).

            You mentioned traumas, and what popped into my head was John’s account of witnessing his mother giving her lover a blow job at age 13, and also of laying on a bed with his mother, around the same age, with his hand on her breast. John’s description of both events are remarkable in their flippancy, but I always detected a hint of horror, too.
            .

        • Karen Hooper Karen Hooper wrote:

          @Michael said: “@Karen, I wouldn’t call John a “very troubled” little boy; I would call him a very bright, very sensitive, probably dyslexic little boy with terrible eyesight, who was surrounded by particularly screwed up adults.”

          .
          I say that John was troubled, MG, because his early years behaviour indicates it. Let’s start from the beginning: John experienced splintered attachments with his primary caregiver(s)–not once, but several times, over the crucial age period between birth to five. This age period is critical not only for the development of ego but also for brain development. Contemporary research in the field of childhood development is very clear about the necessity of maintaining secure attachments during this crucial time.
          .
          John’s behaviour during his early years (aggression, fighting, the need for dominance) have all the earmarks of a child reeling from the insecurity and confusion resulting from broken attachments. The other thing we typically see in these children are problems in cognitive and language development. While I don’t necessarily think that John was dyslexic, per se, (dyslexics typically have a huge aversion to reading, and John was a voracious reader) he did have trouble with spelling and memory. Whether this was just idiosyncratic, or indicative of a larger problem we’ll never know, but it’s interesting nonetheless.
          .

          The behavioural difficulties we see in these children quite often manifest in environments other than the home, either because the caregiver is used to them and doesn’t recognize them as troublesome, or the new environment presents less security and the child acts out. When John was placed into Mimi’s care, for example, the first thing she did was take him out of the nursery school his mother had him in and move him to one nearer to Mendips. Within short order, John’s behaviour escalated and ultimately he was suspended. At our agency, we saw this happen so many times that we developed a program specifically for these children.
          .
          Children with attachment issues place a special demand upon their caregivers–particularly ones who don’t have a natural sense of empathy or emotional flexibility. In later interviews, John said that as much as he fought and acted the bully, he also cried in his bed at night because he didn’t have parents. I have a hunch that Mimi overreacted to John’s issues because she interpreted them as a challenge–and in later years, a colossal insult. If Mimi and John were referred to our agency, we would likely begin work both individually and as a family to re-build the attachment bond, and assist Mimi in better understanding John’s issues and needs.

        • Avatar linda a. wrote:

          Michael, personally I don’t think John suffered from Dyslexia. I taught special needs children for many years and the Dyslexia theory doesn’t quite fit IMO. I think he had ADHD. To me, ADHD fits the profile ( or whatever we can discern of the profile decades later, on someone we never met). But for what it’s worth, both my sons have ADHD and I’ve taught many, many children with ADHD. My older son although his I.Q. is in the high average range, has a severe form of ADHD that severely affected his school success and because of his frustration, eventually led to other problems, with self esteem and depression. Also perhaps John didn’t have ADHD, or anything else. Maybe his failure in school and acting out was caused by his emotional confusion and feelings of shame over his family situation. So hard to say so many years after the fact, but with John’s love of books and reading, and creative writing, it’s hard for me to understand how Goldman came up with his dyslexia theory. John started out in the A stream at school, also he passed the 11 Plus exam. This indicates that he was probably a very good reader and had a lot of ability in that area.

          • Karen Hooper Karen Hooper wrote:

            So hard to say so many years after the fact, but with John’s love of books and reading, and creative writing, it’s hard for me to understand how Goldman came up with his dyslexia theory.
            .
            For sure. John never fit the profile.

          • OK, I’m convinced.

            I don’t think John had to have any form of mental illness, but then again his almost compulsive wordplay, and extremely restless — not to say relentless — nature, suggests that there was something afoot. Plus his love of absolutely bludgeoning his consciousness with drugs beginning at about age 16.

            Of course, I just saw the movie “Touched With Fire,” so everybody looks bipolar today. 🙂

            The other thing is — and this was my primary insight into Lennon after years of research for a novel — John pre-acid and John post-acid are really different in texture. It’s difficult to look at the John we know a lot about (perhaps even too much), John aged 30 or 40, and reliably see John aged 5 or 10 or 15. As stated in this thread, I think fame and fortune had a profound effect on him, plus the drugs. How could they not? Plus the tendency to self-mythologize, and blame others. In stuff like “Lennon Remembers” and the 1980 interviews, Lennon is ret-conning as hard as he can.

      • Avatar ChelseaQW wrote:

        @Karen, I knew about the tit-clutching but not the blowjob. Or maybe I did and blocked it out. 😉
        I love hearing your perspectives as a psychologist! John is such an interesting, beautiful mess of a human being…
        My pet theory is that John witnessed some domestic violence in those early years. That’s based on nothing, really, other than random observations (of his own behavior with women and children) and pop psychology.

        • Karen Hooper Karen Hooper wrote:

          “@Karen, I knew about the tit-clutching but not the blowjob. Or maybe I did and blocked it out. ”.
          .
          I hear that. 😉 And I wonder too if John witnessed domestic violence of some sort. He told Hunter Davies that on one occasion Julia came over to Mimi’s house “with blood all over her face”, and that he couldn’t handle it and left. I’ve no idea the circumstances he was referring to but, given Julia’s lifestyle before Bobby, it wouldn’t be hard to imagine that maybe sometimes Julia got together with some unsavory characters. As much as we do know, there’s even more that we don’t know, regarding John’s early life experiences.
          ,
          (and I would be remiss if I didn’t clarify that, where I live, a psychologist is someone with a Ph.D. I just have a lowly Masters Degree so hence the ‘practitioner’ moniker. 🙂 )

    • Avatar linda a. wrote:

      She’s basically stomping on his self esteem. “You have nothing of value as a person to offer anyone. If anyone LIKES YOU, it’s your money they’re after. Remember that.”

      This reminds me of something my mother would have said to me. Not in these words of course but a similar sentiment as Mimi’s to John in her letter. Which brings me to , I don’t think she meant it that way. I don’t think she meant to imply that John had no value. Rather, I think she was expressing her criticism toward, not John but others. Especially the types of people who she knew were attracted to successful people like her nephew. She was in her own way, trying to caution him but sadly she ended up damaging him instead. Mimi was quite damaged herself.

      I just finished reading The Private Life of John Lennon by his sister Julia Baird. If anyone hasn’t read it yet I highly recommend it. It’s about the Stanley family; a toxic group of people with extremely reactionary views of the world and the tragic emotional damage those views caused for John and his sisters. It’s about family tragedy and how this toxic family operated in the face of it, with Mimi and John’s grandfather as the ring leaders. Excellent book.

      • I’d look at a review of that if you wanted to do one, @Linda.

        Why were they toxic, does the author have a theory? And btw, I met Julia Baird a couple of years ago, and she was very nice. It was a weird experience; there I am at the hotel’s business center, posting to Dullblog, and “my god, that woman over there looks just like John Lennon.” Only little. Delicate. (Actually I’ve heard people describe John as surprisingly delicate.)

        • Avatar linda a. wrote:

          Why were they toxic, does the author have a theory?

          First let me say that I think the author is actually Julia herself. No ghost writer as far as I can tell. This book is a memoir of Julia’s childhood with her mother and father, and the aftermath of her death and her, Jackie’s, and John’s emotional damage, not only over the death itself but the treatment she and Jackie received at the hands of the Stanley’s after and even before Julia died. Her original purpose for writing it was because she was seething…livid…over the portrayal of her mother in biographies and the generalized impression of her mother among Beatles fandom and Beatles ‘experts’. Funny that, because most of our negative impressions of Julia come from John himself; his interviews and the lyrics to Mother on the Plastic Ono Band album. They don’t necessarily originate with Beatles authors. Yet Julia never mentions this and never directs her anger toward John himself. In any case Julia’s recounting of the Stanley’s toxic behavior (my word, not hers) starts with Mimi’s crusade to have John removed from his mother’s home because she wasn’t married to John Dykins. She was backed by John’s grandfather who encouraged the eventual court order that declared Julia “unfit” to parent her own son simply because she was living common law with John Dykins. Some will say that I’m viewing Mimi’s and Grandfather’s behavior through a modern lense so calling it toxic is inappropriate. But what is toxic to me is the way these people manipulated members of their famly, and their envy and resentment of each other. Julia implies that Mimi’s behavior stemmed from envy because Julia was their father’s favorite, but she (Mimi) always butted heads with him and he didn’t much care for her. So the court order to get John out of the house was the only time Mimi was able to enjoy her father being in agreement with her for a change.

          As for Julia, Ms. Baird describes a perfect childhood growing up with her mother and her father. Her parents “adored each other” and were model parents to Julia and Jackie…and John for that matter. Julia began seeing John around the house when she was about 4 and he was about 11. She claims John was wanted by both her mother and Dykins, and from the beginning was part of the family. So from the time he was 11 until her death, John spent a lot of time with his mother, half sisters and step father. In that regard Julia was incensed by the portrayals in Nowhere Boy which she says are complete fiction.

          • Avatar Rose Decatur wrote:

            I have a different opinion than Linda about Julia Baird (her book, I haven’t met her).

            Julia B. is the leader of the St. Julia brigade. While that may be understandable from an emotional perspective, it makes bad history. What’s most galling to me is that Julia B. insists she knows the truth about events that happened either long before she was born, or that she wasn’t present for. While it may be possible that Julia Sr. talked about her past to her children, I find it unlikely. Julia B. was 11 when her mother died and the odds of a woman talking about unsavory or traumatic things from her past to her young child are very slim.

            Anything that might paint Julia Sr. or her behavior as anything other than perfect is disregarded by Julia B. Like I said, understandable idealization, perhaps, considering she lost her mother so young, but it also requires Julia B. to paint others as the villain to her hero parents. Quite simply, there are facts that show Julia B.’s idealistic version her parents as saints and her home as nothing but happy isn’t the truth. Not only comments from other people (namely John himself) but records, such as Bobby Dykins being enough of a drinker to lose his license to DUI not long before Julia’s death. It’s convenient for Julia B. to erase or deny things like that, or why John was taken away. It was not because Julia and Bobby Dykins were a happy couple, just unmarried. It was because Julia (in a house apparently owned by Mimi and George, no less) often went out leaving a young John unattended, and had John sleeping in the same bed as her and her boyfriend.

            John was much older than Julia B., and knew what he had gone through. Even in his bitterness, I think he had a better perspective on Julia and Dykins than Julia B.’s portrayal of them as the Ward and June of Liverpool, persecuted by their family and everyone else. Not least because if Julia’s B.’s version is the truth, why would John be so bitter? There would be no traumatic memories of his time in Julia’s care. If John had been happily embraced in his mother’s new home from age 11, we wouldn’t have all the resentment regarding her not wanting him in his teen years. There would be no vocal dislike of Bobby Dykins and basically disregarding of his younger half-sisters after Julia’s death (while meanwhile he remained fairly close to the Stanley, Mimi as well as his other aunts).

          • Avatar linda a. wrote:

            What’s most galling to me is that Julia B. insists she knows the truth about events that happened either long before she was born, or that she wasn’t present for.

            All excellent points Rose. As for your comment that I pasted to the top of this reply; All of the information Julia B. relates in her book that either happened before she was born or that she couldn’t have known otherwise was told to her by her aunt ‘Nanny’, one of the five Stanley sisters. Nanny was there for all of the events and even better, was an uninvolved bystander, observing the events as they unfolded. She wasn’t partial ( as far as I can remember) to any one family member involved in these events..not Julia, not Mimi, and certainly not her father whom she couldn’t stand. Regarding her father, because she didn’t like him and he didn’t like her, she may have exaggerated his negative part in the events involving Mimi and Julia. But she didn’t have an affinity or particular dislike for either Julia or Mimi. In fact if anything she probably would have felt closer to Mimi than to Julia because they were both disliked by their father while Julia was his favorite daughter. However she paints Julia as a victim whose only sin was to live common law, while Mimi is cast as manipulative and self serving in Nanny’s eyes.

            I also wondered about Goldman’s claim that Julia left John alone at night. I can’t remember the source of this incident as I don’t have Goldman’s book, but if it is true I don’t know if the Stanley’s even knew about it. If Mimi knew about it I think she would have tried to get John away from Julia then instead of after she was in a stable relationship with Dykins. The incidents of leaving John alone occurred long before Julia met Dykins and maybe even before she met “Victoria”s father. She was single and going out every night to try to find a new relationship. If Mimi did know about leaving John alone my question is why didn’t she do something then? The fact that she sprung to action when Julia began living with “Bobby” suggests to me that she viewed living common law as a worse sin than leaving a baby home alone with the windows open and the door unlocked so the neighbors could tend to him if he cried. Of course this is a very different time we’re discussing to say the least! As for the claim that John was sleeping with Julia and Bobby, Nanny said this was false. She told Baird that her parents had purchased a cot for John. Ok in England a cot is actually a crib, so how would John have fit? He was five at this point. Maybe she means a junior sized bed?

            Anyway I agree that Baird is definitely in a position to idealize her dead mother. I thought of that constantly while reading the book. And yes John was older and probably saw things that neither Baird or Nanny would have known. Certainly his recollections are often at odds with Baird’s. Was he lying or exaggerating because he couldn’t get past his bitterness? He was no stranger to that type of behavior with others so why not his mother? As we’ve discussed endlessly, John did have a victim mentality. And Baird recounts an incident in the 70’s when she told John that she had several photos of their mother blown up and framed, which hung on the wall above the stairs in her house. John became agitated and demanded that she remove every one of them and send them to him, because he had “nothing” and Baird got “everything”. Oh well this reply is getting too long. I’ll end by saying, everything you say is food for thought. I agree completely but can’t resist playing devil’s advocate. Because who knows what the complete truth is? I have a feeling there is a grain of truth to everyone’s point of view. After all, with these people even the truth is nuanced and endlessly complicated.

        • Avatar linda a. wrote:

          And btw, I met Julia Baird a couple of years ago, and she was very nice

          I almost met her. A friend of mine is a freelance journalist so she gets invited to a lot of events. This was some sort of event commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Beatles first trip to the U.S. . I was supposed to go but I went to the hospital instead, with a bad gallbladder. Anyway Julia Baird was there and I was told the event was a lot of fun. Yes she is very nice according to my friend. And yes she does look a lot like John.

          • Avatar Rose Decatur wrote:

            “Was he lying or exaggerating because he couldn’t get past his bitterness? He was no stranger to that type of behavior with others so why not his mother?”

            It’s possible, but if we allow that John might have exaggerated the negatives, then certainly Julia B. could have exaggerated the positives.

            As for Nanny being an impartial observer, I disagree. By the fact that she was their sister, she could not have been an unbiased observer. Why would she have a positive view of Julia and not resent her when Julia was the “favorite sister,” but have ire towards Mimi? Well, siblings dynamics are interesting things. I’ve seen it before in personal cases (friends) where one sibling (particularly the youngest) is let “off the hook” for bad behavior while the sibling they’re closest to in age or temperament (and IIRC, Nanny was the second oldest after Mimi) gets the brunt of the resentment, even for doing nothing wrong.

            We’re discussed it here, with the Beatles. Why was Paul the object of so many of George’s resentments, especially during the breakup? Paul was not only the one trying to keep it all together, but he was often the one most supportive of George and his music. Meanwhile John, who argued with George, belittled George, couldn’t be bothered to show up to George’s recording sessions half the time, and casually mentioned replacing George in the band after he walked out – he got George’s loyalty, while Paul bore the brunt of George’s ire. It’s because, as a commenter here so aptly noted, Paul was George’s equal – while John was the cool older brother and idol. P&G were the closest in age, in socioeconomic class, and the two band members who knew each the longest.

            “If Mimi did know about leaving John alone my question is why didn’t she do something then?”

            I don’t know if the timeline is as clear cut as all that. Remember that John went to live with Mimi and George at age 5, so that is pretty soon.

            According to Bob Spitz, when John was a young baby and toddler, Freddie Lennon went off to war while Julia stayed home to take care of both the baby and her infirm parents. Her mother then died in 1945, leaving her with just her elderly father to care for. A nephew quoted in the book said that Mimi would help out, but as she was a nurse and it was wartime she was working a lot, so the bulk of it fell to Julia.

            Either because of the pressures of caring for an infant and an elderly father – or because, as Freddie claimed, he encouraged Julia by letter to “go out and have some fun” – Julia began an affair with a soldier named “Taffy” Williams. She fell pregnant by him, which caused a scandal at home, especially when Freddie returned from abroad and found out. Julia claimed Taffy had raped her, but the story fell apart when Freddie and his brother went to beat up Taffy. Julia and Freddie then broke up permanently.

            Anyway, up until that point Julia and baby John were apparently living in her parents’ house, but Papa Stanley threw Julia out when she got pregnant. Mimi then took Julia and helped her get into a “nursing home” (not the kind for elderly people, obviously) where Julia gave birth to a baby girl, Victoria. There’s no mention of where John was during this time.

            Julia then returned home, this time to apparently lodging owned by Mimi and George Smith, where she lived with John. She returned to “the social scene” but apparently there’s some haziness as to when she and Bobby Dykins hooked up. They had known each other some time prior before becoming a couple, while dating other people.

            Now this is where Spitz diverts heavily from Julia Baird’s version. While Julia B. portrays both her parents as saintly, in a happy relationship and devoted to toddler John, Spitz writes that the family and friends he spoke to potray Dykins as an alcoholic prone to rages and beating Julia. Their volatile relationship took a toll on young John, and it’s claimed he would often run out of the home during those domestic indicents and going a nearby relative’s, usually Mimi and George’s house nearby. Mimi would walk John back home, but grew increasingly angry at Julia. Spitz quotes a niece as remembering Mimi and Julia having a loud argument over that. (There were also concerns apparently about John’s hygiene and nutrition in the house.)

            Anyway, in 1946 Freddie returned again and the Blackpool Incident occurred. After Julia and Bobby Dykins took John from Freddie and returned to Liverpool, Spitz writes, John then went to live with Mimi and George permanently, though it’s unclear how that happened. (Spitz suggests that Dykins might have finally gotten fed up with his girlfriend’s child.)

            My question would be, if Mimi was so intent on “snatching” John, why wouldn’t she have done it sooner? It seems like she had opportunity, especially when Julia was away giving birth to the daughter she placed for adoption. Yet even when Julia was single with John, Mimi seems to have offered support in one form or another. The answer seems to be that the catalyst was Bobby Dykins, somehow. If you believe Julia Baird’s version, it’s because her parents were so happily unmarried that others were jealous. If you believe Spitz and his sources, it was because either because Dykins was a violent drunk and their home was becoming so volatile and so traumatic to John, that the family finally said enough and gave Julia an ultimatum – or Dykins was tired of the drama surrounding his girlfriend’s kid by another man, and gave her an “it’s him or me” ultimatum.

          • Avatar linda a. wrote:

            Wow, a lot to think about here @Rose….
            if we allow that John might have exaggerated the negatives, then certainly Julia B. could have exaggerated the positives.

            Absolutely and she certainly had a lot of reasons to exaggerate the positives because she’s obviously upset about the way her mother has been portrayed.

            While Julia B. portrays both her parents as saintly,

            She really does and I have to say it’s quite convincing. She claims her mother devoted the majority of her time on stimulating childhood activities. Baird claims that she started primary school already knowing how to read and write. Julia had spent hours with her in this area, making story books with her that included Baird’s original writings and drawings. When Julia realized how unstimulating the school curriculum was for her advanced daughter she requested a meeting with the teacher and stressed that her daughter was way ahead of what was being taught. They also spent their days doing art projects, painting especially, which mom Julia as very talented at. When they weren’t doing intellectually stimulating projects together, Julia stressed outdoor play with the neighborhood children, and Baird says that she never had to come in early on summer nights. She was allowed to stay outside with her friends until it got dark. She called this “summer elastic time”. Baird was also a tomboy and quite the dare devil, which her mother seemed to encourage no matter how many cuts and bruises this entailed. To me Baird seems to paint a picture of a woman who knew exactly what a child needed to grow up with confidence and intellectual curiosity. She says that her father was a wonderful baker and used to allow her to help him bake all the time. There are no mentions of her father’s drinking and DWIs. No mention of domestic violence. In fact she really does paint her parents as perfect. Pretty hard to believe especially in the face of what Spitz reports. Could Baird have blocked out the violence and drunkenness? I wonder though, if her father was a violent drunk who didn’t want John, why did she feel compelled to write books that dispute the commonly held belief about her parents? If the drunkenness and violence are true, why didn’t she just ignore it, distance herself from it and try to live her life? Why does she spend so much energy disputing everything? I’m not saying Spitz’s reports are wrong, I’m just wondering how the stories surrounding this subject could be so completely at odds depending on who the source is. It’s mind boggling. She also claims that she witnessed an incident when John was about 15. He was crying because he didn’t want to leave his mother’s house and go back to Mimi’s. He couldn’t understand why he couldn’t just live with his own mother like Baird and Jackie could. Baird reports that she witnessed her father take John into his arms and tell him that he could stay if he wanted to, that they wanted him to stay. Again why is Baird’s version of events so ridiculously at odds with everyone else’s? God these people are complicated.

          • Avatar Rose Decatur wrote:

            Well, Linda, the positive description of Julia’s good traits does seem to be in line what others (including John) said, though I disagree that they were “exactly” what a child needs. Julia seems to have been creative and enjoyed having lots of fun with her kids, especially with their hobbies – I don’t recall anyone ever doubting that. But where her family and friends did apparently call her into question is regarding the OTHER things children need: a stable home, a non-violent home, boundaries, supervision, good food, cleanliness, etc. John’s criticism precisely revolved around Julia acting like “the fun aunt” to him when she was actually her mother.

            I don’t believe Julia B.’s account of a crying 15 year old John falling into Dykins’ arms. I just don’t – I MIGHT be able to believe it if were a 5 year old, but that doesn’t sound like any 15 year old boy I know. It certainly doesn’t sound like teenage John Lennon, who according to everyone who knew him then hid his emotions behind a tough exterior. John also never had a good word to say about Dykins, and I never got the sense it was in a jealous sense, but rather in a way that John never really knew him, and found Dykins vaguely creepy.

            As to why Julia B. would gloss over her parents’ faults, I think that’s natural, at least to some extent. It’s also entirely possible Dykins enjoyed his biological children more than John, and never laid a hand on them, nor laid a hand on Julia ever again. Other things, like his drinking, aren’t so easily explained away. Dykins did lose his license to drinking (as Michael once said, in Liverpool! In the 1950’s!) when Julia B. was a child – either she didn’t know it, or she blocked it out. Or she knows about such things, but denies them, or does not want the public know about them.

            There’s also another thing regarding the Beatles – everyone wants a piece of them. Everyone, no matter how slightly connected, wants to write themselves a bigger part in the Beatles story. Quite frankly, a memoir of “the much older half-brother who I saw occasionally during childhood, and then basically lost all contact with” does not sell the way “my brother the Beatle, who basically lived with me” does.

          • Avatar linda a. wrote:

            the OTHER things children need: a stable home, a non-violent home, boundaries, supervision, good food, cleanliness, etc

            Well that’s just it, Baird doesn’t indicate that anything was less than perfect and just what a child needs. There’s no mention or even a small implication that anything at home was unstable, violent, or unsupervised. As for food she mentioned more than once that food was plentiful and her father did most of the cooking because he was really good at it. Cleanliness well…She does mention that her mother didn’t enjoy housework and preferred playing with and teaching her children over housework. Her father offered to buy Julia a washing machine but she refused, preferring to take the clothes to the cleaners instead. I found that odd. My first thought was, ‘What did she do with the underwear, socks, sheets and towels’ etc? The things that normally aren’t sent to the cleaners?? Not to mention the cleaning bill they must have had.

            don’t believe Julia B.’s account of a crying 15 year old John falling into Dykins’ arms. I just don’t – I MIGHT be able to believe it if were a 5 year old, but that doesn’t sound like any 15 year old boy I know. It certainly doesn’t sound like teenage John Lennon,

            It’s hard to believe in light of what we know of John’s apparent attitude toward Dykins.However I don’t have a problem believing that John could have cried if he was upset and frustrated enough. John may have cultivated a tough boy swagger but the wall had to come down some time. He was human after all and although he was 15, that’s still a child, and John was a sensitive child. Hence the tough act. I do believe this could have happened but perhaps not exactly the way Baird is remembering it. John spent practically his entire life frustrated over his family situation. Maybe on this day he was feeling particularly vulnerable and depressed, provoking his emotional outburst. Maybe Dykins put his arms around him out of guilt and begrudgingly told him he could stay. Baird’s memory could be tricking her because she wants to see her father as caring and sensitive with John.

            It’s also entirely possible Dykins enjoyed his biological children more than John, and never laid a hand on them, nor laid a hand on Julia ever again.

            I believe this. Baird’s story is too much at odds with the accepted wisdom …It’s practically 360% in the other direction. That means she’s either a pathological liar, completely in denial (which is fine except why write several books about it? Who is she trying to convince?) or it’s the truth. Her truth. Maybe she’s idealizing her mother to a certain extent. It’s common for children who lost a parent in childhood to idealize that parent. But I think her childhood experience with her parents was different from John’s experience with her father. And I think that her memories are real. If her childhood had been different than what she writes I don’t know why she would have needed to write these books. It’s as if she’s trying to get something off her chest. She seems to want people to know her version of life with Julia. I also believe that if Dykins did hit Julia (and do we know for sure it was Dykins? I can’t remember now) that it could have been an isolated incident or incidents and it could have happened before the kids were born. As for the DWIs it’s possible that the kids didn’t know about their father’s drinking. He probably drank after work but perhaps not much at home. Maybe he had two personas, one for his daughters and one for other people Were there actually incidents of abuse? For some reason I’m drawing a blank on everything. It’s been a long time since I’ve read the bios.

  5. Avatar Ruth wrote:

    I think the tragedy is that much of what Mimi, as other posters have said, is *sound* and *right,* but she conveys it in a terribly unhealthy way. “Would you please understand that you are a speck in the ocean, and the only possible importance you can be is to people who are trying to get money out of you. And that’s perhaps why they’re – they’re around you. There’s no other reason, John.” Her overall argument — that people were using John for his money — is sound. But the way its packaged: The *only* reason anyone would ever want to be around you is because of your money — couldn’t have done much for John’s already fragile ego, given that, according to May Pang, he had repeatedly yelled “Why doesn’t anyone love me?” during one of his Lost-weekend era breakdowns.

    Reading this, I see where John got much of his own sense of victimization and his lack of empathy; they appear to be learned behaviors. As is the tendency to go right for the gut; neither Mimi nor John appeared interested in restraining their words. I agree with Nancy that this line, in particular — “For years, I’ve heard you yelling and shouting about love, but it seemed to me your heart was full of hate” — is apt. It reminds me of something Cynthia claims Julian said as a child, around this same time period, when he saw John on TV “Dad’s always talking about how everyone should love each other; how come he doesn’t love me?”

    I read a memoir recently, “The Guitar’s all right as a Hobby, John” — by a fan who corresponded with and stayed occasionally with Mimi, and while the portrait is overall complimentary, there’s no ignoring Mimi’s obvious lack of empathy, her tendency to blame everyone else for John’s mistakes (she was still claiming that John had to divorce Cynthia because of Cynthia’s infidelity years later) and a feeling of contempt for those individuals she had no use for, including Julian, Cynthia, Yoko, etc. Interestingly enough, the author argues multiple times that, in spite of what numerous authors have said, Mimi loved Paul, at least by the mid-60’s, although she never felt any affection for George, and didn’t know Ringo very well.

    • Avatar amoralto wrote:

      Her overall argument — that people were using John for his money — is sound. But the way its packaged: The *only* reason anyone would ever want to be around you is because of your money — couldn’t have done much for John’s already fragile ego, given that, according to May Pang, he had repeatedly yelled “Why doesn’t anyone love me?” during one of his Lost-weekend era breakdowns.

      .

      Not to mention Mimi’s claim that John inviting Alfred Lennon into his home was unequivocal proof of his lack of concern for her – a self-serving and debilitating pattern of thought which had its echoes in John’s own view of relationships as a zero-sum game where the love of one means (or is qualified by) the abandonment of the other. It reminds me of John’s hurt and embittered “I was going through murder, and I knew Paul wasn’t” quote to Barry Miles in 1969 about his own creative drought and isolation in Kenwood in contrast to Paul’s productivity and active social life in London in 1966-67, the logic of which is basically: “I’m miserable and suffering from a writer’s block, and if Paul cared about me he would be miserable and not be able to write songs either. But Paul is happy and productive, which must mean he doesn’t care about me. Maybe the reason why I’m miserable is because I’m now finding out that Paul has only ever cared about himself and has never cared about me at all. Which makes it entirely Paul’s fault that I’m miserable.”

      • Karen Hooper Karen Hooper wrote:

        @almorato said: “Not to mention Mimi’s claim that John inviting Alfred Lennon into his home was unequivocal proof of his lack of concern for her – a self-serving and debilitating pattern of thought which had its echoes in John’s own view of relationships as a zero-sum game where the love of one means (or is qualified by) the abandonment of the other. “
        .
        A thousand times THIS. This maladaptive pattern was repeated in the Julia/John/Mimi triad as well.

      • Avatar Ruth wrote:

        I found the “I was going through murder” accusation from John particularly interesting, especially after I read Shenk’s “Powers of Two”. He argues that this tendency — one member of a partnership descending into depression, while the other seems to gain in strength/ability — is actually a survival mechanism of the partnership, allowing the stable partner to throw a life preserver to the drowning one. Its obvious that John didn’t view it that way, but it would seem that, with John and Paul, in turned into to be a self-perpetuating destructive cycle; John starts to drown in depression and LSD; Paul writes more songs and gains more control in the studio to compensate/cover for John’s absence; John takes more LSD and becomes more depressed due to Paul’s greater productivity/status; Paul responds by … writing more songs and becoming more dominant in the studio. John eventually responds with Yoko and Klein.

        • Avatar amoralto wrote:

          Its obvious that John didn’t view it that way, but it would seem that, with John and Paul, in turned into to be a self-perpetuating destructive cycle; John starts to drown in depression and LSD; Paul writes more songs and gains more control in the studio to compensate/cover for John’s absence; John takes more LSD and becomes more depressed due to Paul’s greater productivity/status; Paul responds by … writing more songs and becoming more dominant in the studio.

          Yes, it’s apparent John perceived of his relationship with Paul as essentially symbiotic, which at its glorious zenith was an osmosis of creativity and inspiration and in its darkest and saddest iteration was not just a seesaw of control and emotional possession but actually parasitical. John’s “If I feel weak, I think he must feel strong” quote to Jann Wenner in Lennon Remembrs comes to mind, as does the account of John and Yoko’s “spiritual consultant” Fred Green (whose voice is far from reliable and objective, mind) that John felt Paul’s frequent visits to the Dakota during the househusband years was because “twenty-five kids and a million records out” Paul derived strength from seeing John comparatively idle and not working.)

          • Avatar ChelseaQW wrote:

            That is so… warped. Wonderful analysis, guys. Thank you.
            My question is… was this merely a learned neurosis from John’s own family upbringing, as mentioned upthread (specifically Mimi and how she related to Julia and Fred)? Or was this fed through some kind of pre-packaged philosophy? (numerology? New Age BS? I-ching? Kama Sutra? Astrology? As you can tell, I’m quite the philosophy expert!) Or maybe one of these just provided confirmation bias? I know John believed a LOT of dumb things, on and off…

  6. Nancy Carr Nancy Carr wrote:

    Karen, Sam, and Ruth, good point about the unrelenting focus in Mimi’s comments on John’s weaknesses (real and perceived). Rereading her remarks, I see what you mean. She has some good points, but she’s expressing them in a way that’s bound to trigger all John’s insecurities, and heaping blame on him is highly unlikely to get him to listen to the potentially useful things she has to say.
    .
    And Ruth, I agree that Mimi and John both seem to “go right for the gut” without worrying about how much damage their words may cause. That bit about John’s being “full of hate” — to the extent that that was true, he needed compassion and help so he could stop hurting himself and others with it. As Sam says, maybe John was starting to wake up and be able to deal with some of this in 1980.

  7. Avatar ChelseaQW wrote:

    Thank you so much for posting this! This is just…. I mean, there’s SO MUCH in here. I think this rant/lecture/whatever of Mimi’s pretty much explains John Lennon more than any single thing I’ve ever read.

  8. Avatar Hologram Sam wrote:

    And here are the lyrics to the flip side of Alf Lennon’s 1965 non-hit record “That’s My Life”
    .
    The next time you feel important
    Look up and watch the evening sky
    Next to ten million stars
    Over this world of ours
    How tiny are you and I
    .
    The next time you feel important
    Look out upon the end of sea
    As the tides come and go
    How can you help but know
    How humble a man should be
    .
    The world may make you a king
    But just remember one thing
    There have been kings before
    And there will be more
    .
    The next time you feel important
    Get down upon your knees and pray
    And when you think of who
    Will be listening to you
    Your glory will fade away
    .
    The next time you feel important
    Get down upon your knees and pray
    And when you think of who
    Will be listening to you
    Your glory will fade away
    .
    I wonder if it was in John’s genetic makeup to feel worthless, and then overcompensate for those feelings with cruelty and delusions of grandeur?

    • Karen Hooper Karen Hooper wrote:

      One does wonder, for sure. Part of my armchair quarterbacking, psychologically speaking, relates to my other hypothesis that John suffered from bipolar disorder. As late as 1980 he was bemoaning his moodiness and worried about the effect it would have on Sean. I tend to think the genetic predisposition was there, perhaps coming from Julia.

      • FWIW, @Karen, I saw last night’s film on bipolar with a woman who works in a psychiatric hospital, and she is adamant about the malign effects recreational drugs (some seemingly benign) have played in the lives of many of her clients. I bring this up because John doesn’t really exhibit periods of depression until 1966 or so; from 1957 through 1965, he’s a machine; then all the sudden, the wheels come off after the end of touring — which had to also coincide with the beginning of his really serious drug-taking. John on tour had to be functional, had to show up, had to be coherent. John in Weybridge filled with hangers-on didn’t. I think the chronology is just too persuasive to ignore the role that drugs played in exacerbating, or perhaps even causing, John’s mental difficulties.

        This matches up with the average age of onset for bipolar (according to the internet, it’s 25); and Lennon’s depression in late ’64 and ’65. But heck — compare Lennon to Brian Wilson of this time and, while Brian’s behavior clearly indicates someone with mental illness, John’s really doesn’t. If John had died in a plane crash on the way to India (perish the thought, would anybody be suggesting he was mentally ill? I doubt it. It’s his post-touring behavior that causes concern, and the major change post-touring was drug intake.

        Pending real evidence to the contrary, I think one has to conclude that heavy, reckless drug use was the determining factor in John’s mental problems after touring — and they also explain his worsening in the 70s. Could he have been borderline bipolar, or genetically predisposed to bipolarity? Sure. But where are the manic phases? When he’s productive, he’s productive — but he’s not repainting all the rooms of his house, or having trouble sleeping. McCartney was more productive musically. Lennon’s not releasing triple albums; he’s not described as “hyper” anywhere that I’ve read. Even his volubility in interviews seems more like cocaine than excessive, pressured speech.

        I’m just a layperson, so I could be way off here. But it seems likely to me that, had John Lennon lived on spring water and saltine crackers, he would’ve exhibited a lot less of the behaviors that we discuss in threads like this. Maybe not none — and maybe I’m wrong, we can’t know — but it seems like we’re looking past the obvious culprit here. With Lennon, the chronology suggests that it’s not just genes. Maybe it’s genes and drugs, or maybe even just drugs.

        • Karen Hooper Karen Hooper wrote:

          “FWIW, @Karen, I saw last night’s film on bipolar with a woman who works in a psychiatric hospital, and she is adamant about the malign effects recreational drugs (some seemingly benign) have played in the lives of many of her clients.”
          .
          For sure, the worst thing for a person with bipolar disorder is to self-medicate with alcohol or recreational drugs. Those drugs wreak havoc on the neurotransmitters which regulate mood.
          .
          “I think one has to conclude that heavy, reckless drug use was the determining factor in John’s mental problems after touring.”
          .
          Notwithstanding the above, the onset mechanisms of bipolar disorder and other mental illnesses are not that clear. Researchers have hypothesized that it has something to do something called ‘kindling.’ Kindling refers to the process whereby “patients who have had a number of affective episodes are more vulnerable to future episodes, and that later episodes are less likely to require an environmental trigger than earlier episodes.” In other words, short-lasting, relatively manageable depressive or manic episodes build on each other time, ultimately leading to the type of illness that sends a person running to the doctor. This may mean that John’s “soft signs” early on were triggers for the full-blown episodes later in life, exacerbated of course by his drug-taking, etc.
          .
          “Could he have been borderline bipolar, or genetically predisposed to bipolarity? Sure. But where are the manic phases? When he’s productive, he’s productive — but he’s not repainting all the rooms of his house, or having trouble sleeping.”
          .
          You don’t always paint the house or act crazy in a manic phase. I never did. 🙂 Mania takes many forms. It’s often feels like a thousand tvs playing in your head at the same time. And there’s something called Mixed Episode, where the main symptoms are depression and extreme irritability. And John did suffer from strange sleep habits–either sleeping weeks at a time or not sleeping at all. Now, this isn’t to say that we know with any certainty that John had BP; just goes to show you what kind of a moving target a BP diagnosis is.

          • You’ve convinced me, @karen — bipolar has been my own thought for years (albeit from a layperson’s ignorance), but I guess I want to emphasize over and over the malign effect of drugs on John, because the counterculture and its defenders (of which I am one) has been so naive about this.

          • Karen Hooper Karen Hooper wrote:

            “but I guess I want to emphasize over and over the malign effect of drugs on John, because the counterculture and its defenders (of which I am one) has been so naive about this.”
            .
            Oh absolutely. That PSA using a fried egg to demonstrate what happens to the brain after long-term drug use wasn’t lying.

          • And keep in mind that John’s indiscriminate hoovering surely meant he was ingesting a lot of impure stuff.

        • Avatar linda a. wrote:

          she is adamant about the malign effects recreational drugs (some seemingly benign) have played in the lives of many of her clients

          Glad you mentioned this Michael. Throughout this thread and others I’ve been thinking the same thing. John may have suffered from a low level depression when he was young due to his dubious, confusing family situation, then his mother’s tragic death, but he really seemed to go absolutely insane after the heavy drug use escalated, especially after the heavy use of acid. I wonder how much of his seeming mental illness was either caused by, or at the very least exacerbated by his heavy drug use? Of course there are stories from Klaus Vormann that John was talking about “Offing himself,” as early as 1965. If this is true then maybe he did suffer from a burgeoning mental illness. Either way the drugs would have magnified the problem.

  9. “When you read the transcript, your first reaction is how acutely she knew John’s weaknesses.”
    .
    John was famous for sensing people’s insecurities and sticking the knife in. I think we know now where he got that from.

  10. Karen Hooper Karen Hooper wrote:

    @ Michael said: “But I think a more typical, more loving, less severe family arrangement (like Paul’s, or George’s, or even Ringo’s) would’ve muted a lot of John’s bigger issues.”
    .

    Great point MG. We call it ‘building resilience.’ You can’t undo the past but the idea is to not make it worse, either. (p.s. I didn’t realize how long winded my other response was, geesh. You get me going on this and I can’t shut up. 🙂 )

  11. Avatar Dan wrote:

    It would be great to find out more about Uncle George, who was apparently much closer to John than Mimi was, but he’s always a very faint presence in biographies. I’m sure there’s a lot more to be learned about him. I was told once by a local Woolton resident that both George and his brother (‘Sissy’ Smith, who taught Paul and George at the Liverpool Institute) were gay, and that their father killed himself out of shame. Also that he might have sexually abused John. It may be just sensationalist gossip, but when you read about George and Mimi’s sexless marriage, and George bathing John and giving him kisses all over his body, it makes you wonder. What’s certain is that John grew up with a strong, dominant mother figure and a weak, passive father figure. I was also told that when George’s father killed himself and they found out that he had cut George out of his will, Mimi lost all interest in him. She had been hoping for a slice of the Smith family dairy business. It’s interesting that the nurse who looked after Mimi in the last two years of her life said she would talk about everything except George. And that his gravestone doesn’t include any information about his marriage.

    • Michael Michael wrote:

      @Dan, where is the bathing John/kisses story? I recall reading that somewhere, but I forget the source.

      Not to make too much of rumors, but I have always wondered what was up with George and Mimi. Their relationship seemed peculiarly affectionless, and to me, it seems very possible that George was indeed gay and closeted—nothing too surprising for middle class Liverpool in those days. As I think I’ve mentioned in another thread, it also explains John’s reliance on Epstein as a father figure a little more if Uncle George was also closeted.

      God, I hope for John’s sake that he wasn’t sexually abused. How we’d ever find that out is beyond me. The incidents with Julia—sharing a bed with her and her lover, and seeing her fellate a man—are already sexual abuse, I think.

      As for the Mimi letter, I was astonished by how dead-on she was, and also how cruel. As I was reading it, my first reaction was “YES!” And then I stopped and remembered this is the woman who raised him. Lennon’s “hurt everyone first” mentality between him and everyone else in his life (sans, maybe, Yoko) is much clearer when you see the same dynamic between him and Mimi.

      • Not to say it didn’t happen, @Michael, but my sense is if John Lennon had been sexually abused, we would’ve heard about it from him. There’s no indication that John perceived Uncle George as anything but a loving and affectionate presence — especially in contrast to Mimi. My own feeling is we might have had a very different John if George Smith had lived. One a lot more like Paul. And maybe one a lot less likely to create the Beatles. There’s a RAGE in John that was IMHO required for the Beatles to happen, and George’s death was definitely a part of that.

  12. Avatar Another Nancy wrote:

    I tried to find the actual recording but wasn’t successful. In the process I found some other interviews with Mimi on You Tube. I was surprised to find that she did not have a posh accent a la Kristin Scott Thomas’ portrayal of her in Nowhere Boy. Although she didn’t possess a broad Liverpool accent, she sounded pretty lower middle class (well, to these American ears, anyway) to me. This observation probably adds little to this interesting conversation, but it runs counter to what a lot of fans think they know about the woman who raised John.

  13. Avatar Drew wrote:

    Mimi’s letter makes a lot of sense. In hindsight, she said things here that John needed to hear. And it’s a misleading to completely extrapolate the nature of her and John’s relationship based on a letter she wrote AFTER he said unkind things about her and AFTER he basically abandoned her financially. She’s clearly hurt and angry. And Beatles fans tend to always make allowances for John’s cruel comments when he was feeling hurt and angry, and say things like “He didn’t really mean it.” So maybe Mimi “didn’t really mean it” either.

    She had a right to be pissed off. She was publicly insulted and abandoned financially. We’ll never know if she’d have written a much less critical letter if she hadn’t been so hurt herself by John’s treatment of her. This letter is just one piece of the puzzle that tells us more about Mimi & John’s late-period relationship than anything about their early years.

    • Avatar ChelseaQW wrote:

      “And Beatles fans tend to always make allowances for John’s cruel comments when he was feeling hurt and angry, and say things like “He didn’t really mean it.” So maybe Mimi “didn’t really mean it” either.”

      Drew, I think the difference is the power differential here and the fact that Mimi was a parental figure rather than a friend (or even say, a best friend). While John gets a LOT of slack for his shitty comments/behavior in general, I don’t think people (even Beatle fans) cut John the same slack when it comes to his treatment of Julian.

      • Karen Hooper Karen Hooper wrote:

        I think the difference is the power differential here and the fact that Mimi was a parental figure rather than a friend (or even say, a best friend).
        .
        This is an important point. Particularly in families, people relate to one another in fairly predictable ways; patterns of interacting and communicating become concretized over time. Given that we know the characters involved in the Mimi letter and have other data to inform our understanding, we can reasonably extrapolate meaning from the letter to further our understanding about the nature of John and Mimi’s relationship.

        • Avatar Drew wrote:

          “Particularly in families, people relate to one another in fairly predictable ways; patterns of interacting and communicating become concretized over time.”

          That’s not necessarily the case — especially when the “child” becomes a massively famous and rich celebrity who is totally independent of the parent. The relationship between parent and child — and especially the power dynamic between the two — can change dramatically when the child is no longer looking to the parent for money or advice. John wasn’t worried about getting anything from Mimi’s will. And he had long since stopped looking to her for advice.

          In this case it was Mimi who had become the needy child by the time she wrote this letter — angry and abandoned. It seems odd, and not particularly instructive, to ignore Mimi’s emotions and the context it which it was written and only consider John’s emotional well-being. She wrote this letter as a result of his treatment of her. We don’t know if she’d have written the same letter had John not publicly criticized her and ignored her financial needs. This letter helps us understand the final years of their relationship but not necessarily the early years when the power dynamic was flipped and Mimi held all the cards and John was the angry (financially) dependent child.

          • Karen Hooper Karen Hooper wrote:

            “It seems odd, and not particularly instructive, to ignore Mimi’s emotions and the context it which it was written and only consider John’s emotional well-being.”
            .

            No one is ignoring it; we’re trying to understand it. All of the available evidence spanning 50 years of Beatle authorship underscores the hypercritical relationship between Mimi and John. This letter isn’t the exception to that evidence, it supports it. Did Mimi have the right to be pissed off? Sure. And probably her anger was also a reflection of her unreasonable personality. John bought her a house, gave her money when she needed it, and called her every week. He hardly abandoned her. And I’ve read countless interviews where he would always be sure to state that Mimi did her best and was a good guardian. But did he also criticize her in the context of talking about his childhood? Yes. But my hunch is that Mimi’s expressed reaction–ie., the letter, is more a function of her critical personality than anything else. And parents and children, regardless of fame and money and everything else, establish patterns of communication that lasts a lifetime.

          • Avatar Drew wrote:

            “And parents and children, regardless of fame and money and everything else, establish patterns of communication that lasts a lifetime.”

            Karen: I don’t agree. Lots of factors — especially money and success — change parent-child communication patterns. Paul’s relationship with his Dad, for example, changed markedly when Paul became the one paying his father’s bills, and there are plenty of examples of that.The power dynamic of any parent-child relationship changes when the child becomes more successful and financially stronger than the parent.

            Whether or not you think John took good enough care of Mimi, SHE clearly felt abandoned and angry in this letter. She knows her financial situation better than we do. And who knows if John was even paying attention to how much money he gave her. She makes clear it was a stagnant amount, in her view. I doubt John was even writing the checks himself. At any rate, her motivations for writing this letter in this way are current, which is why I think the tone here says more about where her head was at when she wrote it. It doesn’t tell us all that much about how she and John interacted when he was a child.

            John rebelled against any and all authority — not just Mimi. He rebelled against teachers and other adult authority figures. I just think we should be careful about presuming that the “hypercritical relationship” between Mimi and John flowed in only one direction, with Mimi as the ranting villain with the “unreasonable” personality when he wasn’t exactly Mr. Reasonable. He was clearly a tough kid to parent.

            By the time she’s writing this letter, John is the one with all the power. Her only power would be talking to the press — something she makes clear here that she would never do.

          • Karen Hooper Karen Hooper wrote:

            Drew, if I were to put myself in John’s place and my parents in Mimi’s place, they would not have chosen to communicate with me in a style anywhere NEAR the way in which Mimi communicated with John, regardless of what I said or did. Mimi’s communication and interpersonal style is well documented in the literature. Also well documented is John’s fear of pissing Mimi off, and his resentment of her relentless criticism. John may have had the money, but money doesn’t give you emotional power. In my view, the emotional power in that relationship belonged to Mimi.

            .
            I think we can agree, though, that the relationship was both loving but very complex. As outsiders, maybe it all comes down to our best guesses.

      • Avatar amoralto wrote:

        Interestingly, that may be in part how John came to codify (and to some degree justify) the writing of ‘How Do You Sleep’, which Felix Dennis, who was there for the writing process and recording session, described as a schoolboy taking the piss out of a headmaster: “It’s quite obvious that Paul must have been some sort of figure of authority in Lennon’s life, because you don’t take the piss out of somebody that isn’t a figure of authority.”
        .
        (There’s also John projecting Aunt Mimi onto Paul in his Lennon Remembers interview, saying that Paul, “like a parent”, thought the other Beatles should feel grateful for Paul organising projects like Magical Mystery Tour to keep the group together, and that even if Paul did try to keep the group together he was really only thinking about himself and not John the others: “Not for my sake did Paul struggle”.)

        • Avatar amoralto wrote:

          Please excuse me for the HTML slip! Corrected: …and that even if Paul did try to keep the group together he was really only thinking about himself and not John the others: “Not for my sake did John struggle.”

        • Avatar Ruth wrote:

          I’m somewhat diverging off onto a tangent, here, but your discussion of Authority figures (particularly Paul on HDYS) and our recent discussion of Klein brought up an interesting thought. In addition to Klein’s personal appeal to John by courting his ego, another of Klein’s key pitches to both John and Yoko was his status as an ‘outsider,’ and ‘anti-establishment’ rebel, rather than an authority figure.

          So long as Klein could portray himself, to John and George, as a fellow rebel fighting back against the “straights” — The Eastman’s and Paul — Klein’s authority as Apple’s business manager is acceptable, because he was protecting J&G from their common enemy; the Eastman’s. Klein’s illegitimate business practices and confrontational attitude regarding the Eastman’s (such as not sharing necessary legal documents with them) is literally laughed off by John and George in “Apple to the Core,” when Klein proudly admits that he refused to share necessary legal documents with the Eastman’s, well before the lawsuit. Their anti-establishment, anti-authority behavior is adolescent in its application. You get the impression from their behavior during the breakup that the specifics of the legality or honesty concerning numerous issues mattered less to them then their genuine belief in the moral and ideological superiority of their position. Given the evidence, I believe that John and George and, perhaps, Klein, justified their less than honorable, and legal, behavior — such as attempting to trick Paul into recording with them again in order to nullify his lawsuit, or handing the “Let it Be” tapes over to Phil Spector — by reasoning that, while their specific actions were underhanded, the overall supremacy of their struggle against the establishment, personified by the Eastman’s, justified using such tactics. Which is a very long winded way of saying that I believe that John and George were so convinced of the righteousness of their argument in the breakup-era that they could, and did, justify any number of morally dubious actions, because they believed they all for the greater good.

          But once the bogeyman of the Eastman’s is legally removed from the mix, via the trial, Klein was no longer capable of identifying himself as an anti-authority figure, and had no one else to pin the blame on and use as a figure to deflect John and George’s instinctive anti-authoritarian sentiment. By 1972, Klein is becoming the authority figure — criticizing Yoko’s performance at the “One to One” concert, trying to persuade John to move away from his more radical political campaigning and produce more commercial material, and distributing money to them, much as Brian did in the early days. He’s being investigated on the finances concerning “The Concert For Bangladesh.” He’s now the authority figure, which, in John and George’s mind, will eventually lead to his displacement.

          • John and George’s attitudes towards authority, and the role of honesty and legality in subverting/supplanting it, is emblematic of the post-1968 counterculture. Law and honesty — dismissed as a set of arbitrary bourgeois customs — were viewed as constructs which propped up “the Man,” and so hewing to them would not only doom one to fail, but also end up strengthening what you were fighting against.

            But who were John and George (and Yoko!) they fighting against? EMI?

            Even with the shitty royalty deal at the beginning of their careers, it’s difficult to see how John and George (both of whom owned mansions in 1971, and literally every other luxury money could buy) had been more ill-treated by EMI than they were by Allen Klein. Did they want to buy the vinyl and press the records and stick on the labels and manage the publicity, and and and…? EMI’s connections and infrastructure made the Beatles possible. Allen Klein was simply a middleman — a late-stage capitalist parasite, in the parlance of the time. (Not that someone like him doesn’t also have his legitimate uses, but only when honest and legal.)

            The New Left’s attitude towards authority is perhaps its most callow feature, where its convenient obsession with conceptual thinking comes out most odiously, and where the post-Summer of Love turn towards violence and separatism is revealed as woefully foolish. John and George’s infatuation and disillusionment with Klein was replayed innumerable times to millions of young people during that period. When someone asks you, “What are you rebelling against?” “Whaddaya got?” really only works in the movies. The revolution is in the specifics, and one based on youthful defiance of Mr. Pobjoy isn’t a revolution at all, only a pose before cashing in.

  14. Avatar Dan wrote:

    @Michael, sorry I can’t remember where the bath story was from, possibly Goldman? Every book on Lennon seems to mention something about George giving him ‘squeakers’, their word for kisses, and Mimi feeling left out, but that sounds pretty innocent.

    On the subject of Mimi, John’s cousin said that Mimi had John’s childhood pet dog put down, because she didn’t like it barking.

    • Avatar ChelseaQW wrote:

      “Every book on Lennon seems to mention something about George giving him ‘squeakers’, their word for kisses, and Mimi feeling left out, but that sounds pretty innocent.”

      Yeah. I think it’s likely that whoever extrapolated the above into “George molested John” was employing a combination of homophobia and armchair psychology. That interpretation probably reflects the era in which it was made more than anything else.

  15. Avatar Hologram Sam wrote:

    How was George portrayed in “Nowhere Boy”? I confess I haven’t seen the whole film, just scenes here and there on youtube. Did they attempt to dramatize the squeakers?

    • Avatar ChelseaQW wrote:

      I can answer that. He was basically sweet and drunk. 🙂 No squeakers, as John was too old. But it’s implied their relationship was loving and basically healthy.

  16. Karen Hooper Karen Hooper wrote:

    @ Michael Gerber said: ” Lennon is ret-conning as hard as he can”.
    .
    Could you define ret-conning MG? I don’t think I’ve ever heard that expression.

  17. Avatar Hologram Sam wrote:

    ret·con
    ˈretkän/
    verb
    gerund or present participle: retconning
    revise (an aspect of a fictional work) retrospectively, typically by introducing a piece of new information that imposes a different interpretation on previously described events.
    “I think fans get more upset when characters act blatantly out of established type, or when things get retconned”

  18. Avatar ODIrony wrote:

    This is one of the most profound conversations yet on Hey Dullblog.
    I’m curious as to the actual time when this tape/letter was composed. Here it’s listed as “mid-Seventies” but at @Amoralto it’s i.d.’d as “early Seventies.” On the one hand, it would make sense if it is from the Sometime in New York City period as there we have “Luck of the Irish.” On the other hand, Walls and Bridges included a little note on the origin of the name “Lennon,” which, if I recall correctly, made the Ireland connection.
    The reason for my curiosity, though, is to wonder about it’s possible influence on John’s retirement from public life in 1975. If it comes around “NYC” his sudden abandonment of public politics could tie in. At the same time, one could guess about a possible influence on his separation from Yoko and the whole lost weekend debacle. If it came around the time of W&B could it not have contributed to his decision to drop out of public life.
    Regarding Mimi’s tone in the piece I have several questions/observations/speculations. Firstly, who here in the conversation is British? I ask because to my Yank ears it strikes me as a very, almost stereotypical, UK matron’s way of communicating. Whether listening to the snippets of it or just reading it has that ring to it.
    In addition, regarding the potential for it to have wounded John emotionally, I would speculate that given their many years together when John was young, they probably had a well understood pattern of dialogue. Recall the stories that when he was young she could, and would often, crack him up by jumping into an impromptu Charleston. And if the stories of them both reading the same books and discussing them are true, it’s hard to consider John not having some insight beneath her “stiff upper lip” mannerisms. Remember, too, him calling her the “best of the sisters” after Uncle George’s death.
    And as to the speculation of Uncle George abusing him, given that John never so much as hinted at it, as noted above, I seriously doubt it ever happened. The whole Uncle George as closeted speculation also strikes me as off. There are couples who just don’t have children for one reason or another and to accuse one or the other of being gay as the reason seems awfully homophobic to me. Do we have any reliable sources to substantiate such speculation? Just because a mid-twentieth century man showed some affection to a child doesn’t necessarily mean there was anything untoward about it, whether the man was gay or straight. (Not meaning to sound strident here, so forgive me if comes off that way.)

    • Avatar linda a. wrote:

      “There are couples who just don’t have children for one reason or another and to accuse one or the other of being gay as the reason seems awfully homophobic to me. Do we have any reliable sources to substantiate such speculation?”

      ODIrony, the only so called ‘evidence’ that George might have been gay, is Michael Fishwick, Mimi’s lover, saying that 53 year old Mimi was still a virgin when they began their affair. So for whatever reason, Mimi and George never consumated their marriage. This could be where the speculation started among the fandom that George might have been gay. There could have been many reasons though, why they never consumated the marriage. That alone does not prove whether or not George was gay. It does however imply that theirs seemed to be a marriage of convenience.

    • Avatar amoralto wrote:

      I don’t know much more than what Elliot Mintz informs In the Lost Lennon Tapes, unfortunately – that it was recorded in the early 1970s in response to a letter from John requesting information about their family genealogy. Good note by @Karen Hooper on the Walls and Bridges liner notes – it includes an entry on the Lennon name from Irish Families, Their Names, Arms and Origins by Edward MacLysaght, which may well have been provided for him by Mimi. It seems to have been recorded when John was in the cross-section of political activism and immigration troubles, so if one would like to make an educated guess: anywhere from mid-1972 to early-1974?

  19. Avatar amoralto wrote:

    @ChelseaQW: My question is… was this merely a learned neurosis from John’s own family upbringing, as mentioned upthread (specifically Mimi and how she related to Julia and Fred)? Or was this fed through some kind of pre-packaged philosophy?

    .

    I’d say those patterns of thought and behaviour were part of the make-up of John as developed through the nature of his upbringing, his childhood, and his relationships (particularly with parental figures), and the drugs, indulgences with pseudosciences, bright but brief infatuations with gurus and potential father figures (and subsequent debunking and rejection of same), and so forth were outlets/instruments to alternately explore, articulate, dismantle, or indeed validate and compound them.

    .

    So, the culmination of all these dizzying needs and paradoxes probably resonated most clearly in his self-proclaimed two real partnerships, with Paul and with Yoko, both of whom had had to simultaneously fulfil creative partner/barometer/competitor and emotional caregiver/authority figure roles with John. What do you do when you are convinced the people you love best need you less than you need them and will eventually leave you? Act in ways that will enable and prove that precisely so – by withdrawing from them and watching them thrive and continue being productive and creative without your collaboration and input, or by behaving spitefully and appallingly enough to compel them to leave for the sake of their own integrity and wellbeing.

    .

    Example: an interesting parallel to Paul’s creative productivity in 1966-67 and John’s hurt and resentment of such is Yoko’s creative productivity in 1972-3 in comparison to John’s dwindling output, when she was releasing a double-album (Approximately Infinite Universe) to critical acclaim while John received sour reviews for Some Time In New York City, was insane/enough in a bind to ask Paul to join him on stage for the One to One concert, and would in the days leading up to the Lost Weekend, as Peter Doggett reported in You Never Give Me Your Money, throw out lines like “I wish I was back with Paul” in arguments and have (ostentatious) sex with a woman at a party with Yoko in the next room listening.

    .

    (I do think John ultimately put himself in a position to be the “child” in the relationship, though, and simultaneously resented and needed to be taken care of. On one hand Paul and Yoko, and on the other Cynthia and Julian, who did actually need him more than he needed them, to whom John responded by ignoring or rejecting them out of guilt and perhaps an awareness that he was not in an adequate frame of mind to be depended on.)

  20. Avatar Dan wrote:

    I wish I hadn’t mentioned the abuse thing now, it was just some gossip I got from someone who lived in Woolton, near Lennon’s family. Probably bullshit. As for George being gay, the lodger who says he had a sexual relationship with Mimi claimed she was a virgin when he first slept with her. A man who has no girlfriends, gets married in his late 30s and apparently never consummates it, is probably asexual. But who knows?

    Here’s what I know about Uncle George – he grew up on a farm in the countryside near Woolton, was expelled from school at 15 for some reason, went to work in the family dairy business as a milkman, met Mimi whose workplace was on his round, tried to court her but she wasn’t interested, then after years of waiting gave her an ultimatum, which she accepted. They took in John and he became very close to him, to the point where Mimi got jealous. Later he left the milk business and became a bookmaker, before dying of an apparently alcohol-related illness. Does anyone know any more?

    • @Dan, if you heard it, it was fine to mention.

      “Alcohol-related illness” — liver hemorrhage at age 52, that’s drinking with a goddamn will.

      My sense is that there’s more to this story. Maybe George was gay, but I do think if John had been molested, he’d have said so — or somebody would have discovered it; Coleman, Norman, Goldman certainly. There’s simply no indication that John felt anything but tender feelings towards Uncle George, and how many people can you say that about?

  21. Avatar Rose Decatur wrote:

    I agree with Drew and ODIrony’s comments.

    It’s so hard to look at one isolated letter as representative of an entire parental/child relationship. How do we measure tone? Mimi sounds harsh here to some people, but the letter actually made me smile, it sounds typical of what my grandmother might’ve written. It is certainly blunt, but maybe that’s what John needed to hear. I remember Paul’s comments about an early draft of Nowhere Boy, how nobody could understand now that Mimi said things “with a twinkle in her eye.”

    And it’s so often difficult to judge people from another culture and another time through our modern eyes. Mimi was not a modern parent, she was a woman in Liverpool whose formative years occurred during the Depression and WWII, who was apparently saddled all her live with familial burdens (taking care of her infirm father, her younger sisters, including the wayward Julia and her son). If Mimi shared much of John’s personality (as she apparently did), what was it like for her? What was it like for a woman, in her time and class, to be uninterested in being “tied to to the kitchen sink” but who was whip smart, funny, a voracious reader, etc.? What were her dreams? Were they really to be forced to be a parent to her siblings? Was it to be a dairyman’s wife, raising her sister’s son? To be a widow and single parent to a difficult yet gifted teenager?

    In terms of John, I think sometimes we (including myself) go overboard in concluding what a “mess” he was. Yes, he had major faults, including drug addiction, co-dependency, occasional cruelty to his loved ones, being a shitty father to Julian, and on and on. But he was also a brilliant mind, a quick wit, incredibly intelligent, sensitive, and could be so incredibly loving and dynamic in his relationships that even those he was sometimes cruelest to (George, Paul, George Martin, Cynthia, etc.) forgave him and still loved him. He became a star rich and famous beyond his wildest dreams, who made many people very happy. He did not die a penniless drunk down by the Liverpool docks. Who do we credit with that? Certainly John himself, but I think also Mimi. She was one of the few people who gave him boundaries in his life, who helped direct him to healthy outlets. Did she grumble about his guitar playing or make cheeky comments about Paul? Yes, but she also allowed John and Paul to practice often at Mendips. Was she front and center at Cavern shows? No, but she fed, clothed and housed John while he pursued his dream.

    When looking to John’s childhood to explain his faults, I think people tend to forgot the biggest drug of all: fame. The tabloids are littered with people who couldn’t handle even 1/100th of the pressures of celebrity that the Beatles dealt with. Many of John’s downfalls, such as his drug addiction, can be traced to the dizzying, completely disorienting experience of fame. And what is the commonality between so many of those stars who crumble under the pressure? From Elvis to Michael Jackson to Whitney Houston, it’s because eventually they get the point where they’re too big and too powerful for anyone to say no to them. Mimi was not writing to a child John, she was writing to an adult John who had fame and wealth beyond imaging, and who was surrounded much of the time by sycophants. Mimi was one of the few people who knew John before he was a Beatle, who could speak to him bluntly and, most importantly, who he might listen to – at a time in his life when John had driven away most other people who could serve that role in his life.

  22. Karen Hooper Karen Hooper wrote:

    “I’m curious as to the actual time when this tape/letter was composed. Here it’s listed as “mid-Seventies” but at @Amoralto it’s i.d.’d as “early Seventies.” On the one hand, it would make sense if it is from the Sometime in New York City period as there we have “Luck of the Irish.” On the other hand, Walls and Bridges included a little note on the origin of the name “Lennon,” which, if I recall correctly, made the Ireland connection.”
    .
    John’s immigration battle spanned four years, from 1971 to 1975, so it’s hard to pinpoint the exact date ( I don’t recall if Elliot Mintz, whose ‘The Lost Lennon Tapes’ program this came from, specified the date. Maybe Amoralto knows more.)
    .

  23. Avatar Hologram Sam wrote:

    .
    From wikipedia:
    .
    Mimi died on 6 December 1991, at the age of 85, while being cared for at home by Lynne Varcoe, an auxiliary nurse. According to Varcoe, her last words were, “Hello, John”.

  24. Avatar J.R. Clark wrote:

    John Lennon was a machine from 1957 until late 1964 because he was taking Preludin and other amphetamine-type drugs; he abruptly moved to cannabis, and later in 1965, the dreaded lysergic.

    • Agreed, J.R. — but where are the crashes? I don’t see ’em. Especially if he’s speeding, which I agree he was — when does he break down?

      To me, Lennon looks like a guy with an addictive personality using speed to work; and even so, the lack of any crash is notable. Could he have been manic, then used speed to cover the downs? Anybody know if that’s possible?

      • Karen Hooper Karen Hooper wrote:

        ” Could he have been manic, then used speed to cover the downs? Anybody know if that’s possible?”
        .
        Are you asking specifically about bipolar disorder MG, or about the highs and lows of addiction? About the former, a typical course would be mania followed by depression followed by euthymia (or normal mood). How long you stay in each varies; sometimes for months. The crash after mania is pretty awful, and I could see someone (John) using speed to get feeling functional again.

      • Michael Michael wrote:

        It sure seems like John had up/down cycles after he stopped taking that much speed, doesn’t it? I don’t know offhand what happens when you take speed the way John took…well, all drugs he encountered. It’s an interesting theory. But didn’t John keep taking lots of speed after ’64? I know there are stories about him guzzling pills to keep tripping acid, and taking them indiscriminately every day after India. Maybe when the Beatles finally got some breaks in ’65 and ’66, the amphetamine use slowed down? If so, it’s also worth looking at the depressions that followed as being withdrawl-influenced. Effects of amphetamine withdrawal may include:

        Cravings for the drug
        Anxiety
        Extreme depression
        Extreme fatigue
        Increased hunger

        That sounds like someone we know.

        • This comment is so interesting I made a post. Let’s move this part of the discussion over there.

          (BTW, I am experimenting here; our long comment threads often split into multiple lines of argument simultaneously — for example, John and Mimi; John and His Parents; John and mental illness/trauma; Paul as a substitute for, or opposite to, Mimi/Yoko. I’d like new visitors to be able to click on a post with each of these titles, and get a full discussion. So if we branch off, suggest to me or one of the other mods that we start a named post to collect that info.

          Maybe this will work? If not, no harm.

  25. Karen Hooper Karen Hooper wrote:

    There’s been a few posts here about Julia Baird’s book and I thought I’d weigh in. My first impression of the book was how terribly sad it was. Julia strikes me as kind, honest person who wrote her story as she experienced it. I did think she may have had blinders on when it came to her mum, but that didn’t bother me. She wasn’t writing a definitive biography; she was sharing her life, and she’s going to share it in a way that reflects her personal truth.

    • Avatar linda a. wrote:

      My first impression of the book was how terribly sad it was. Julia strikes me as kind, honest person who wrote her story as she experienced it. I did think she may have had blinders on when it came to her mum, but that didn’t bother me. She wasn’t writing a definitive biography; she was sharing her life, and she’s going to share it in a way that reflects her personal truth.

      I agree completely Karen.

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