Anyone interested in peering into the mind of one of the greatest songwriters of rock and roll history and arguably one of the most influential people to exist on earth, pick up a copy of “John Lennon: In His Own Write & A Spaniard In The Works”.
What made Lennon so great? He undoubtedly possessed a number of intangible traits that made him absolutely ooze with personality and far surpass the average musician in terms of songwriting mojo.
One of those traits is demonstrated in this short collection of nonsense poems and prose. That is, a lack of inhibition. A childishness. A playfulness and a curiosity toward the creative process that kept him coming back for more and more, eventually becoming—if nothing else—one of the most prolific songwriters of all time.
While other of their contemporaries relied much on cliché and reference to blues motifs—to the point of plagiarism—the Beatles were one step ahead in the creative flow, thanks in great part to the playful mind of Lennon, who could unblock the songwriting process in one fell swoop of a stream of surreal consciousness. Think songs like “Glass Onion”, “Come Together”, “I Am The Walrus”, “Mean Mr. Mustard”, and “Give Peace A Chance”, just to name a few.
“In His Write…” is a kaleidoscope vision of the stranger moments in those songs. Channeling the slithy toves and borogoves of Lewis Carroll’s “The Jabberwocky”, Lennon lets out things like:
He is putting it lithely when he says
Quobble in the Grass,
Strab he down the soddieflays
Amo amat amass;
Amonk amink a minibus,
Amikky mendip multiplus
Amighty midgey spoon.
And so I traddled onward
Careing not a cure
Onward, Onward, Onward.
Onward, my friends to victory and glory for the thirtyninth.
As Paul states eloquently at the end of his introduction to the book, “P.S. I like the drawings too.” Indeed, Paul, indeed. Lennon’s drawing hand is not honed at this stage and yet his forms are already strong and strange and arguably will play an important role in the evolution of modern illustration….
Nodding to the somewhere-between-cubist-and-surrealist forms found in paintings like “The Acrobat” by Picasso, Lennon’s figures in the book sprout limbs from strange places and come in odd proportions, bringing out the crude humor of the human body.
Lennon may have dipped his pen into a collective consciousness where ideas on surrealism were brewing (just take a look at the cover of “Mind Games” below), but his crude doodles were much more characterized by his quickness and fearlessness about getting his ideas down on paper.
Scratches, scribbles. Silly. Imperfect. Pure. His drawings became iconic, much like his music. To be referenced time and again until they become lost in the pool of contemporary consciousness, and no more direct link can be found. Yet there’s an essence to be found in a surprising number of places.
Just take a look at this drawing, one of a thousand to be found on Mrzyk and Mirceau’s website 1000dessins.com. Can I argue Lennon was cited in this drawing? Not on any logical grounds. And yet, there’s an essence. The black mess of hair recalling John’s love Yoko, the nude form, the odd proportions, the humor. In a strange way, it screams “Lennon” almost as much as a pair of circular wire framed glasses or a monotone dandy look.
Although fewer and fewer people may take the time to listen to his albums through, read his writings or enjoy his art, it’s comforting to see his influence trickle down and transcend various forms of media, sinking its way into our collective thoughts and imagery.
Reading “In His Own Write & A Spaniard In The Works” will open your eyes up to even more ways his enlightened creative spirit has managed such a feat.