After the death of John Lennon a myriad of quickie Beatles and John Lennon paperbacks hit the shops and many older books were reprinted. I was devastated by the news of John’s death as I had only “discovered” the music of the Beatles, formally, in May of 1980 and I was still riding a wave of aural excitement and discovery. However in late 1980 I only had a paper route for money and my meagre wage was not enough to buy up every book or commemorative magazine on the market. I remember buying most of these Lennon biographies at newsstands versus bookstores. In my older years I look back and wonder why this was so and can imagine that these paperbacks were probably of such poor quality they were deliberately intended as impulse buys and excluded from the cachet of being stocked by major bookstores.
When I was fourteen and fifteen I bought and read many of these Lennon paperbacks yet not Lennon: What Happened! It remained unread on my bookshelves in three different residences for the past 39 years. Its publication year was 1980, so it came out within the final three weeks of that year since John was murdered on December 8. I remember buying this book and I also recall a twin publication, with similar cover art, Lennon: Up Close & Personal, which unfortunately at the time I could not buy. I regretted that I couldn’t get it but then I didn’t have the money for it. Maybe now that I have read Lennon: What Happened! I shouldn’t be so upset that I couldn’t buy the other one. I might be at the same stage as I am now: near forty years later and I want to get rid of it.
Since Lennon: What Happened! came out only weeks after John was killed, details about the murderer and especially his motive were still unknown. This book, which has an editor and three “reporters”, offer their conjectures, some of which border on the supernatural. What puzzled me throughout the book was why Yoko was constantly referred to as “Miss Ono”. Did the writer(s) feel that now as a widow Ono should be referred to as a single woman? Granted, even married women sometimes are addressed as “Miss” in cases of haute politesse but in this case the constant references to “Miss Ono” seemed trite and disrespectful. For a tabloid paperback I was prepared for a load of spelling and factual errors but fortunately the reporters got their facts right. I won’t list any of the typos (as I usually do) but the years in the photo captions were often incorrect. For example, some shots of the Beatles were identified as from 1964 (when they were obviously taken much later) and some John and Yoko protest photos were definitely not from 1969.
There is no need for me to keep this paperback. Thirty-nine years after I purchased it–which must be a personal record–I finally read it.