Friday, 2 July 2021

JUDE KESSLER'S NEW BOOK: THE JOHN LENNON SERIES, SHADES OF LIFE (INTERVIEW)

Jude Kessler's new book: Vol. 5 in The John Lennon Series, Shades of Life (Part 1)

- Jude,Shades of Life, the fifth book in The John Lennon Series, is a two-part work. Why did you decide to divide this volume into two books? And what does Shades of Life, Part 1, which is coming out on John’s birthday, 9 October, encompass?

Hi, Bob,and thanks so much for your continued interest and support of The John Lennon Series! And a huge thank you to Beatles Magazine! I sincerely appreciate you all!!

You know, Shades of Life is the first of my books in quite a while to cover a time frame longer than a year’s length. She Loves You (Vol. 3) focused on the exciting events of 1963 as The Beatles rose to world fame and acclaim! Should Have Known Better (Vol. 4) followed John and the lads through the apex of Beatlemania, 1964. But Shades of Life covers an important 20-month time span. The book opens in January 1965 as The Beatles are performing in “Another ‘Beatles’ Christmas Show,” and it concludes with those famous final bows that close the 1966 San Francisco concert in Candlestick Park. As your readers know, that 20-month period was horridly busy for the boys: tours across the globe, television specials, the MBE awards, LPs, EPs, singles, interviews, and their second United Artists film, “Help!” On top of all that, John wrote his second book of poetry and prose, A Spaniard in the Works; he was reunited with his father, Fred; he (unknowingly) tried LSD for the first time and incorporated it into his life; and sadly, Cynthia and John began to experience marital problems. That’s a very abridged summary of Shades of Life, Part 1!

A few weeks ago, while writing the chapter about The Beatles’ intricate plans for the 1965 North American Tour, I realized that I was only on-third of the way into this mammoth work, and I had already penned 650 pages…with 2,500 endnotes full of extra information! So,to avoid the unpleasantry of watching my readers contract “carpal tunnel” from what looked to be an approximately 1400-page book, I decided to break the action. Part 1 will end as The Beatles board the plane to America, ready for Shea Stadium and Elvis. Shades of Life, Part 1 takes the reader on almost a day-by-day walk with John and his mates from 1 January 1965 — mid-August 1965.                       

-Why Shades of Life? What does that title imply?

Well, that phrase, of course, is John’s…from the enchanting composition, “Across the Universe.” I saw that poignant bit of prose as perfectly apt for what John and his mates were experiencing in 1965. You see, The Beatles were living, all over again, the exact same events they’d enjoyed in 1964.But now(having done it all before)“the thrill was gone.”    

 In 1964, The Beatles had made “A Hard Day’s Night” for United Artists. In 1965, they make “Help!” for United Artists. In 1964, John had penned In His Own Write. In 1965, he writes A Spaniard in the Works. In June 1964, The Beatles embarked on a World Tour of Sweden, Hong Kong, Australia, and New Zealand. In June 1965, they embark on a European tour of France, Italy, and Spain. In 1964, The Beatles set out on their landmark North American Tour. The next year, they set out on the important 1965 North American Tour. Strangely enough, the aforementioned events occurred on almost exactly the same days in 1964 and 1965. In so many ways, 1965 turned out to be a shadowy replica of 1964. It was a duplicate…with all the vibrance and color extracted. As the press began to grow edgy toward The Beatles, drugs began to rupture the Lennons’ marital bond, and both George and John grew increasingly disenchanted with touring, 1965 and the first half of 1966 felt cheerless. It is only after the Candlestick concert — when the bedraggled, touring band retools as a studio band of artistes — that exuberance returns to The Beatles. But this mid-point in their career together was indeed a “shade of life.”

-What surprises are in store for us in Part 1 of Shades of Life?

Well, in Should Have Known Better (Vol.4 in The John Lennon Series), we saw John reunited very briefly with his father, Fred Lennon, who’d been absent from John’s life for 18 years. However, their meeting in 1964 had been a mere 20-minute chat in Brian Epstein’s office. In 1965, however, Fred unexpectedly showed up on Kenwood’s doorstep, and Cynthia invited him in for a three-day visit. That was quite an interesting turn of events!

Similarly, one of the most touching elements of Shades of Life was John’s altering relationship with his own son. By 1965, Julian was a toddler, and the sometimes-happy-and-sometimes-sad stories of John’s efforts to be a good father speak to all of us who have struggled to parent well. We also watch as John interacts with his “mother figure,” Aunt Mimi. His eagerness to please her and be validated by her — as he purchases an exquisite white bungalow for her in Poole — were very emotional. But to me, the most notable event in the book occurs on that notorious evening when John and Cynthia and George and Pattie were unwittingly given LSD in the home of their dentist, John Riley. The introduction of LSD, especially into John’s life, affected The Beatles more than any other occurrence, I think, up to 1965 — with the possible exception of Brian Epstein’s Nov. 1961 visit to the Cavern Club. In Shades of Life, Part 1, we relive the “play-by-play” of that first LSD trip and watch the varying reactions of John, Cynthia, George, and Pattie. We are watching a microcosm of the way in which LSD (and other drugs) will touch and change their lives in the months and years to come. Cynthia stated that the advent of LSD was, without a doubt, a dark turning point in her marriage. And as we relive that first encounter with LSD, we are privy to a glimpse of The Beatles’ future.

I guess the event that surprised me most in its impact, however, was The Beatles’ decision to have Paul record “Yesterday” as a solo. That one choice affected John more than I’d ever realized. And the almost simultaneous decision to transform John’s emotional ballad “Help!” into an upbeat rocker only enhanced the detrimental impact of Paul’s lovely solo number on John’s psyche. So much lurks in Shades of Life. It’s a book of complexities.

-Besides writing The John Lennon Series, you’ve been busy with other Lennon projects as well. Tell us about those, please.

Thanks for asking, Bob.You know, because it’s been so difficult being quarantined away from my Beatles family, I’ve tried to do several things that would unite us all, even though we were miles apart. And I tried to initiate activities and events that were FREE of charge, so that everyone could participate. Because I take immunosuppressants (for Lupus) that interfere with the effectiveness of the CoVid-19 vaccines, I am still quarantined…so these unique way of “being with” my friends means the world to me. For millions of immuno-compromised folks, this is still our only way to socialize with those we love. So, I’ve been busy with:

“She Said She Said” Podcast  My best friend and co-host,Lanea Stagg of The Recipe Records Series, and I have been hosting this podcast for five years, and we just celebrated our 55th show! But in 2020 and part of 2021, we decided to focus on guests who comprised “The Beatles Family.” We wanted to share the special and intimate stories — some familiar and some completely untold — of those people who had been closest to John, Paul, George, and Ringo.

And what a year it was! We chatted with Roag Best about his Liverpool Beatles Museum in Mathew Street, the Casbah renovation, and of course, his brother, Pete. Then, we talked with The Beatles’ bass player Chas Newby about the birth of Beatlemania at Litherland Hall on 27 December 1960. (Chas was there!) Lanea and I had a great time, as always, chatting with the exuberant “McCartney girls,” Angie and Ruth McCartney, about The Beatles’ time in The Bahamas during the making of “Help!” (Angie and Ruth were front and center, of course) And we got the scoop on Angie’s new book, Your Mother Should Know. Then came the highlight of our year…our visit with John’s sister, Julia Baird!! (We’re still pinching ourselves and smiling!) She shared so many unique stories about her mother, Julia, and her brother; we were perched on the edge of our chairs, listening! And last month, we concluded our “Beatles Family” theme shows with a long, wonderful talk with Helen Anderson — not only John’s dear friend in Liverpool College of Art but also a renowned artist and fashion designer in her own right. (You can sit back and enjoy all of these FAB podcasts at https://shesaidshesaid.podbean.com/ )

“Focal Points” Webinar  As Zoom became “the place to be” in 2020, my husband Rande and I initiated a monthly John Lennon webinar called “Focal Points.” I carry out the research and write the script; Rande creates the Power Points and adds great music and videos. We wanted to offer Beatles and Lennon fans something “to look forward to” during the long days and months indoors. “Focal Points” covers a wide range of Lennon-related subjects. We’ve examined John’s desire to be recognized as an Irish artist, including his work with the New York branch of the IRA in the 1970s and his songs “Luck of the Irish” and “Sunday Bloody Sunday.” In another session, we explored all of John’s tracks on the LP, A Hard Day’s Night.  And recently, we re-examined that great 1972 solo album, Some Time in New York City, with very special guest Gary Van Scyoc, Elephants Memory Band’s amazing bass man.

“Focal Points” has been a fantastic experience with great attendance! And this month, on 20 July at 7:30 p.m. Central, we’ll be sharing a “sneak peek” from Shades of Life, Part 1 as we re-enact the story of one lucky teenager who befriended John on the Bahamian set of “Help!”  Bob, your readers can enjoy that free webinar LIVE (with great photos and videos, great Beatles music, trivia games, and of course, prizes!) here: https://us02web.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_j0csripQQUi39DcURj9hbw

Fest for Beatles Fans Rubber Soul Blog Finally, since for the past 20 months, none of us could physically attend our beloved Fest for Beatles Fans,Mark and Carol Lapidos and I wanted to create a sort of an online “mini-Fest” by inviting each of the wonderful Fest authors to “come together” in a track-by-track study of the 1965 LP, Rubber Soul. Each month, I’ve joined forces with Beatles experts such as Ken Womack, Bruce Spizer, Sarah Schmidt, Robert Rodriguez, Al Sussman, Jim Berkenstadt, Janet Davis, Piers Hemmingsen, and so many others to examine the tracks from this pivotal record. This month, Jerry Hammack (of The Beatles Recording Reference Manuals, Vols. 1 and 2) and I are exploring little-known facts about “Michelle.” For example: Who really performed that lovely guitar solo??? Well,for Jerry’s intriguing answer, read our current Rubber Soul article on the Fest for Beatles Fans BLOG | The Fest for Beatles Fans | The Original & Longest Running Beatles Celebration Since 1974!

But I must say that all of these “extra-curricular events” happen on the periphery! My main focus, always, is writing The John Lennon Series. And I’m thrilled that as I continue my research for Shades of Life, Part 2, readers can soon begin enjoying the first part of that book. Shades of Life, Part 1 will ship on John’s birthday, 9 October, 2021, so the book is in pre-sale right now at https://www.johnlennonseries.com I’m signing, dating, and numbering the first 250 books. I also write to each and every person who pre-orders a book, expressing my deepest gratitude…because they are the people who make the printing possible!!! Readers of Beatles Magazine, thank you all so much for believing in The John Lennon Series, for supporting this ongoing work, and most of all, for caring about John’s life and genius. And Bob, thank you for this fun interview today. You’re a great guy, and I look forward to being on your new radio show on I-Heart Radio very soon! Shine on!

For more information about Jude Southerland Kessler and The John Lennon Series, go to: https://www.johnlennonseries.com

Interview by Bob Wilson.

See Bob Wilson here: The Beatles: Words of Love Facebook page. 

 

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