In the lobby of a Miami hotel in 1964, a security guard wouldn’t let through the pretty young blonde who claimed she was the wife of a rock star staying upstairs with his band and entourage. All the girls, he told her—swarms hovered right there—insisted that they were married to a Beatle. But the fans recognized Cynthia Lennon. They hollered to let her pass, she recalls in
her new memoir John. “They even produced photos of me with John, and eventually the guard was convinced.”
“You think you know me but you haven’t got a clue,” John sneers on “Hey Bulldog,” released in December 1968, a month after he had divorced Cyn. In truth, she knew the Walrus before the Walrus was Paul. She had met John at art school, where the sullen teddy boy from the wrong side of the Mersey never brought a pencil to class. He would borrow her materials, then insult her, “calling me ‘Miss Prim’ or ‘Miss Powell’ and taking the mickey out of my smart clothes and posh accent.” John’s greaser airs were his way of rebelling against his Aunt Mimi. His absentee mother, Julia, may have gotten all the haunting songs written about her, but Cynthia intimates that it was the stern, controlling Mimi who determined the fractious path of his adult relationships with women.
The existing literature already suggests John was a selfish git, and Cynthia has every right to sour grapes here (shared by their son, Julian, who contributes a foreword). Throughout she applies a fresh gloss to Liverpool chestnuts, but also regularly lapses into Fab Four clichés, as when she blames Yoko for splitting up the group. Motives aside, Cynthia’s actually very sympathetic insider guide has anecdotes to burn (e.g., John sampling fake tan cream). This is a maudlin tale, but essential reading for Beatles nerds.