Monday, 23 January 2017

John Lennon in Bermuda

Scott Neil and Graham Foster
ISBN 978-1927750-02-5 Softcover. 120 pp.

The summer before his death, John Lennon hired a 43-foot yacht and, with a small crew, sailed to Bermuda for a little R&R. Arriving after a storm-tossed passage, he rented a house on the island and reconnected with his muse. The result was his final album, Double Fantasy, named after a freesia he spotted on a visit to the local botanical gardens.

It’s hard to believe there’s any cranny of Lennon’s life that hasn’t been picked over, but journalist Scott Neil has found one of the less-explored and tracked down those he met in Bermuda. The Lennon recalled by islanders was not the self-obsessed star they expected. He was polite, laid-back, into healthy eating and clean living. A generous, companionable man who returned favours and remembered kindnesses shown him. After five years out of the limelight, he relished going incognito as ‘John Greene’ and rewarded those who respected his privacy.

The book’s style is a little feverish at the outset, as the “former Beatle” battles crashing waves, alone at the helm against a “storm of Shakespearean proportions”. But once the prose settles down, the story is well-told and the reminiscences deftly woven into a highly readable narrative. It’s a tale about negotiating celebrity and finding the quietude to write. Songs like ‘Beautiful Boy’ and ‘Watching The Wheels’ – Neil shows how both were inspired by events in Bermuda – may not be Lennon’s greatest but they fulfil his aim of writing for people of his own age group.

The sensitive artwork is by Bermudian artist Graham Foster, who also designed the memorial sculpture to Lennon in the Bermuda Botanical Gardens. Best of all are the scattered photos of the singer, some with son Sean in tow. He looks relaxed, like a man ‘starting over’ (another song-title), blissfully unaware of what lay ahead.

First published in R2 (Rock'n'Reel)