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.
JOL: John wanted a professional manager like Brian. But at the same time wasn’t he resistant to Brian’s attempts to make The Beatles too polished?
JSK: At the end of “Shoulda Been There” [ed. note: Jude’s previous book], we see John fretting over Brian’s silver-spoon upbringing. John’s terrified that Brian will try to change the very nature of The Beatles. Paul reminds John that when directly questioned about changing their music, Brian had promised that he would not interfere. In fact, Brian had stated that he was “quite pleased, anyway.” But it’s not the music that John is worried about.
JOL: He was worried that Brian would try to change the band image?
JSK: John is concerned that Brian won’t allow The Beatles to be the leathered, beer-swilling, swearing, unpredictable scruffs that they’ve enjoyed being. And Brian won’t. He trades their Hamburg personas for suits, smiles, and singles. Ultimately, John capitulates. Why? Because his goal has always been to “be bigger’n Elvis,” and Brian Epstein is going to do what it takes get John and his band, The Beatles, there.
JOL: So John’s ambition trumps his concern about the band selling out.
JSK: In “She Loves You,” the beat goes on. John allows Brian to book them on The Royal Command Performance, despite his resentment at being “dancing bears” for the Queen Mother and Princess Margaret. He even agrees to go to the Embassy Party after the Washington, D.C. concert (a party which ends disastrously). John does what he needs to do in order to achieve his goal. But for John, the concession was always bittersweet.
JOL: Where should people buy your book?
JSK: Right now, “She Loves You” is only for sale on my website, http://www.johnlennonseries.com.
This is a terrific illustration of a point I love to underscore on these cyber-pages: that great business teams (and of course great bands) put a premium on setting and achieving audacious, ambitious, bold, daring, gutsy goals. The kind of slap-in-the-face objectives that REQUIRE team members to do things differently to achieve them. Like Amazon Kindle’s vision: “Every book, ever printed, in any language, all available in less than 60 seconds.” That gets your attention.
For the first half of my interview with Jude Southerland Kessler, check here.