(John): “Where are we going, fellas?”
(The band): “To the top, Johnny!”
(John): “What top?”
(The band): “To the Toppermost of the Poppermost, Johnny!”-- the Beatles private cheer when things looked bleak in the early days.
October 9, 1940: John Lennon born in Liverpool, England. Deserted by father. Raised by aunt and uncle….1953: uncle dies….1956: Lennon forms a skiffle band (skiffle an ersatz American jug-band music then popular) called the Quarrymen. Meets Paul McCartney …. 1957: mother dies in automobile accident …. 1958: George Harrison joins Quarrymen, no longer a skiffle band …. 1960: name changes from Quarrymen to Johnny and the Moondogs to Silver Beatles to Beatles. Five-man unit (Stuart Sutcliffe on bass, Pete Best on drums) gigs in Hamburg, Germany and Liverpool …. 1961: Beatles cut first record (“My Bonnie”). Adopt “French-style” haircuts. Take on Brian Epstein as their manager …. 1962: Sutcliffe, who has left band, dies of brain hemorrhage. Best, who has never gotten along with band, is replaced by local drummer Ringo Starr. Lennon marries Cynthia Powell, who is pregnant with his son. A month later the band signs with EMI, and the rest is more than a Random Note…
“Please Please Me” becomes Beatles’ first number-one single in England, Beatlemania spreads. Western Civ rocked. Beatles arrive in America and perform on the Ed Sullivan Show. Western Civ rocked harder. During one week, the band has the country’s top five singles. Hard Day’s Night gains them artistic rep. Help, a step backward, doesn’t lose it. In 1965, they release Rubber Soul, their best album. In 1967, they release Sgt. Pepper, their most overrated. In 1968, they release The Beatles (instantly and universally known as the white album), their most fragmented …. Meanwhile, Lennon has published In His Own Write (1964) and A Spaniard in the Works (1965), which win him literary rep; has given the most provocative interviews (“We’re more popular than…”); and has become the first to strike out on his own, acting in Richard Lester’s How I Won the War (1966). During the same year, meets Yoko Ono.
1969: Lennon marries Ono. Changes name to John Ono Lennon. Forms Plastic Ono Band. Abbey Road, the last complete Beatles album is released. So is John and Yoko’s “Give Peace a Chance” …. 1970: Beatles disband. Lawsuits ensue. John and Yoko enter “primal therapy.” Release John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band …. 1971: Lennon interview appears in Rolling Stone (“I don’t believe in….”). Imagine released. John and Yoko appear at countless left-wing benefits (Attica, John Sinclair, Indian rights). Issue such singles as “Power to the People,” “Happy Xmas (War Is Over)” …. 1972: Lennon’s visa is revoked. Legal fight ensues. Some Time in New York City is released. John and Yoko perform charity concert for handicapped children in Madison Square Garden. Mind Games appears ….1974: Lennon separates from Ono. Moves to LA. Drinks heavily. (Kotex on forehead in bar.) Releases Walls and Bridges. Works with Elton John …. 1975: Lennon reunites with Ono. Works with David Bowie. Releases long-delayed oldies collection, Rock ‘n Roll. Sean Ono Lennon born….1976: Lennon officially wins visa fight. Disappears from public view to raise son and become, in his words, a “househusband” as Yoko oversees and expands financial empire….1980: Lennon and Ono return to public view. Release Double Fantasy….December 8, 1980: Lennon shot outside his Manhattan home.