John Lennon was as mythical as he was legendary

On what would have been John Lennon’s 80th birthday, Dylan Jones writes about the legendary Beatle, ‘a man who could be as humdrum as he was remarkable’

While it would be invidious to say that John Lennon died at the wrong time, when he was fatally shot by a deranged fantasist outside Lennon’s apartment in the Dakota building, in Manhattan, on 8 December 1980, his critical standing was hardly at its peak. Double Fantasy, the comeback record he had made with Yoko Ono, had been released just a few weeks before and had been resoundingly panned by the critics. Rolling Stone hated it. The Times hated it. Everyone seemed to hate it. It was labelled weak, lame and completely bereft of cultural relevance. In one especially perceptive review, the NME’s Charles Shaar Murray wrote, “It sounds like a great life, but it makes for a lousy record,” and, “I wish Lennon had kept his big happy trap shut until he had something to say that was even vaguely relevant to those of us not married to Yoko.” 

One particularly insensitive news commentator suggested that “artistic betrayal” may have even been the motive for Lennon’s murder, although in this he was alone, as almost immediately his death not only transformed him into a martyr, it made Double Fantasy a hit. A funereal fervour helped it sell three million copies in the US alone, it was No1 in more than a dozen countries and went on to win the 1981 Grammy Award for Album Of The Year.

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