Part two of my interview with Lennon historian Jude Southerland Kessler

JWL As mentioned earlier this month, Jude Southerland Kessler has just released her latest book, She Loves You. It's the third volume of her expanded biography of John Lennon—well-timed to take advantage of the 50th anniversary of the Beatles’ first live appearance in the US. Jude’s project should keep her occupied for a while. She’s committed to six more Lennon books over the next twenty years.

Here’s the second half of my interview with Jude.

JOL: The goal of The Beatles, dating back at least to 1961, was to be "bigger than Elvis"—which was pretty outrageous for a band making chump change in small clubs in Liverpool and Hamburg. I know their manager, Brian Epstein, used those words a lot. That phrase was the band’s compass, wasn’t it?

JSK: Well, as you know, John had claimed he’d be “bigger’n Elvis” long before Brian picked up the mantra. John alternated it with his vow to “get to the toppermost of the poppermost.” And it was that yardstick which convinced John to choose Brian as their manager.


Random ruminations

Tree in Winter

Maybe it was the ice chopping I had to do to get to my car. (Will it ever stop snowing?) But all week I've been thinking about hacking. And how rock & rollers are essentially, fundamentally, necessarily hackers!

We’re always banging up against some limitation—while composing, arranging, recording, or gigging—trying to find a solution to a musical problem of some sort. But with enough fiddling and diddling we often discover a way out of the box. As Andrew “Boz” Bosworth of Facebook says: “A hacker is someone who finds ways around the constraints placed upon a system ultimately redefining what is possible within it.”

The great bands have “redefined what’s possible” with some amazing work-arounds—The Beatles in recording, the Grateful Dead in live performance, Walk Off The Earth in music videos. Something we can chop away at in future discussions.


She Loves You: my interview with John Lennon historian Jude Southerland Kessler—part 1


Continuing my focus on The Beatles this month (given the 50th anniversary of their first American TV appearance), I conducted an interview with my friend and Lennon biographer, Jude Southerland Kessler—on her just-released book, She Loves You.

The book—which begins in the spring of 1963 at the start of Beatlemania in the UK and ends with the conclusion of the Beatles' first visit to America in February 1964—is the third volume of her expanded biography of Lennon. Jude's two earlier books, Shoulda Been There and Shivering Inside, track Lennon's life up to that point.

Here's an edited version of the first half of our interview.

JOL: This is your third book on John Lennon. Is it still your plan to write about his life, up through the time of his death in 1980?

JSK: Yes, crazy as it may seem, I still intend to write six more Lennon books over the next 20 or so years. The project is growing in its reception with the public. We’re getting ready to print our fifth edition of "Shoulda Been There" and our second of "Shivering Inside," which has been sold out for almost a year now, but selling on Kindle.


"Ladies and gentlemen, The Beatles"

ミュージシャンOf course I have to write about The Beatles this week. February 9th marks the 50th anniversary of their appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show, which kicked off their total takeover (acquisition? expropriation?) of the US record charts—and the American pop music scene.

Given the teen hysteria they unleashed, The Beatles became the headlines in US newspapers that weekend—and frequently thereafter. The public reaction to the young Liverpool band eclipsed the frenzy once generated by Frank Sinatra and Elvis Presley—and hasn't been matched since.

When I first began writing my book (which, I'm embarrassed to admit, was over 10 years ago) I was tempted to make The Beatles my only rock reference point, because they did SO many things right as a business team. By themselves they could sell my case that for a team to be extraordinary it has to be innovative, passionate, comfortable with conflict, uniquely distinct, mission-driven, and self-determined.