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.
JOL: It sounds like you’re using crowdsourcing to get the facts right in these books.
JSK: I have quite a few kind people who are writing to me with corrections and suggestions, and I thank them and invite them on board The John Lennon Series team to help make this nine-volume set the definitive John Lennon biography. I certainly couldn’t do this alone. It’s accomplished with the assistance of many, many people in Liverpool who were close friends with John. It’s accomplished with the help of my readers who check and double check facts. It’s a gift to John from the people who still love and remember him so well.
JOL: How long is "She Loves You"?
JSK: "She Loves You" is an epic! It’s 950 pages, but it includes an Appendix of articles written about the composition of the single, “She Loves You,” an essay on who really opened the Washington, D.C. concert in February 1964, and an interview with the late Bob Wooler [ed. note: host of the Cavern Club in Liverpool]. It also has a Scouse Glossary [ed. note: Scouse is a Liverpool accent/dialect of English], copious footnotes—over 4000—and an extensive bibliography which will be of significant value to researchers.
JOL: What are the major events you cover in detail?
JSK: It begins on the Spanish Riviera in 1963 as Brian and John holiday there. So the book spans the Roy Orbison Tour, the writing and recording of "With the Beatles," the long tour of the UK in the fall of 1963, the tour of Sweden, the first and second London Palladium shows, the Royal Command Performance, the making of "The Beatles’ Christmas Record," the trip to Paris, and the trip to America, encompassing appearances on three Ed Sullivan shows, the Washington, D.C. concert, and the performance at Carnegie Hall.
JOL: Why did you choose to title the book "She Loves You"?
JSK: One very important aspect of this book is the focus on the relationship between John and the women in his life: Mimi, Cynthia, and the fans—hence the title. You will also experience John and Cynthia’s honeymoon in Paris, Cynthia’s move to London to live with John in early January 1964, and her perspective on the trip to America as well.
JOL: In your last book, "Shivering Inside," you mentioned Paul's attempts to assert his primacy in the band. Does that power struggle continue in the 1963-64 period you cover?
JSK: Of course, Paul continues to be Paul, and John continues to be John…closely-linked but in some ways, poles apart. Any time that two geniuses work together, you can expect a power-struggle. However, in "She Loves You," they work together quite well. Once John and Brian return from The Spanish Riviera with the news that it’s going to be Lennon-McCartney—something John went to Spain to establish—the power struggle subsides for a spell. [Ed. note: Paul had wanted the song credits to be McCartney-Lennon.] John and Paul work together to compose "With The Beatles," and the whole team has to fall in step to accomplish the UK Tours of 1963. It takes teamwork and humor to endure their mad, mad, mad, mad schedule; pressing ever onward, the boys barely have time to breathe. But they do it with real finesse. Friendship is the watchword for "She Loves You." They need it to survive.
When it comes to gathering team lessons from rock, The Beatles offer the richest harvest of any band I know—as we've explored in previous posts. Jude's books certainly confirm that.
I'll post the second half of my interview with Jude in the weeks ahead.