John Lennon: In My Life

John Lennon: In My Life

Mark McGann In My Life

There are places I’ll remember
All my life though some have changed
Some forever not for better
Some have gone and some remain
All these places have their moments
With lovers and friends I still can recall
Some are dead and some are living
In my life I’ve loved them all.

Went to the Phil with S to see Mark McGann’s In My Life: A celebration of the music of John Lennon. Backed by Swedish band Pepperland, McGann reprised the role he first performed in Ken Cambell’s 1981 Everyman production, Lennon. The show told John’s story deftly, with McGann utilising apt Lennon quotations in his narration and he and the band performing equally well-chosen songs very professionally.

That said, there were some downsides to the evening. There was a terrible, unexpected support act – some guy doing karaoke to George Harrison songs. It was truly awful,  like being dragged kicking and screaming into the X-Factor. The slideshow during In My Life was amateurish and throughout both sets the sound was bad.  I think Pepperland brought along rather substandard speakers that were pushed beyond their limit, especially on the high notes. A bit like shards of glass being hurled into the audience.

It was in Liverpool in 1981 that Mark started his career, aged 20, in the Everyman’s original production Lennon. Last night I misinformed S that it was in the 1974 Everyman production John, Paul, George, Ringo and Bert that I had first seen him play Lennon. Googling today, I realised I was quite wrong – McGann would only have been 13 at the time.

In fact, the play, which was Willy Russell’s first success, it was Bernard Hill who played John (while Paul was played by Trevor Eve and Ringo by Antony Sher!) Commissioned and directed by Alan Dosser for the Everyman Theatre where it opened in May 1974,  the production transferred to the Lyric Theatre, Shaftesbury Avenue in August.  The show was a major box office success for the Everyman Theatre. Nearly fifteen thousand people attended during its eight week run – record at the time.  The show also starred also starred Barbara Dickson just starting out as a singer.

The Liverpool Everyman was a creative powerhouse in the 1970s:

‘Even at the time and without the benefit of hindsight one knew just what an extraordinary company of actors Alan Dossor had assembled. As well as Bernard Hill and Tony Sher there was Johnathan Price, Alison Steadman, George Costigan, Trevor Eve, Liz Estensen, Philip Joseph, Matthew Kelly, Pete Postlethwaite, Julie Walters, Bill Nighy ….. awesome really’ – Willy Russell.

I thought I’d round off this post with two classic photos – bookends to John Lennon’s career. The first is the wonderful one of  The Quarry Men on 6 July 1957 performing at St. Peter’s Parish Church Fete, Woolton. This was, of course, the day that Paul met John. After this afternoon show, as The Quarry Men were setting up for an evening performance inside the church hall, John was introduced to Paul by mutual friend, Ivan Vaughn (leaning in towards John in the photo). Paul played Eddie Cochran’s Twenty Flight Rock for John and he knew the words to Be-Bop-A-Lula. John was impressed and a friendship began. On 18 October 1957, Paul made his debut with The Quarry Men at New Clubmoor Hall.

The other night I was watching the Imagine documentary on photographer Annie Leibovitz, in which the story of this – just about the last photo of John – was told:

The session took place in a bright, sunny room overlooking the park,” says Yoko Ono of her and John Lennon’s photo shoot at the Dakota, their New York apartment building, on December 8th, 1980. “We were feeling comfortable because it was Annie [Leibovitz], whom we respected and trusted, so John seemed not to have any problem taking off his clothes. John and I were hugging each other, feeling a bit giggly and up.”

“I was thinking that they had never been embarrassed to take their clothes off, that they could do a nude embrace,” says Leibovitz, who was photographing them for a Rolling Stone cover to mark the release of Double Fantasy, their first album in five years. “John took his clothes off in a few seconds, but Yoko was very reluctant. She said, ‘I’ll take my shirt off but not my pants.’ I was kinda disappointed, and I said, ‘Just leave everything on.’ We took one Polaroid, and the three of us knew it was profound right away.”

Yoko Ono & John Lennon Annie Leibovitz

That evening, returning to the Dakota on his way home from the recording studio, Lennon was shot and killed by a deranged fan. The photo would become the cover of Rolling Stone’s commemorative issue – no additional text was felt necessary.