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2Is John Lennon the most important figure in rock history? Hard to disagree that the musician, activist, author and film star has every right to hold that title. He is certainly Britain’s most iconic rock star, and this in a field that includes his songwriting partner Sir Paul McCartney, Mick Jagger and David Bowie. Born in Liverpool in 1940 and taken away from us so tragically in December 1980, we will never know what else John would have offered as he left his 40th year, but his discography pays testimony to his talent just as his list of extraneous achievements would fill careers of dozens of other artists and bands. Lennon’s significance, both with and without The Beatles, was so vast that in hindsight it’s hard to believe that he was patronised and filed under light entertainment at the beginning of his fame: this being a time, the early 1960s no less, when the establishment wanted youth culture regulated and homogenised. John was a rebel and an iconoclast and also a highly intelligent and complex songwriter who brought sexual nuance to the standard boy meets girl fare and then introduced a level of autobiography into his early period songs “I’m A Loser”, “Help”,  “In My Life” are obvious examples - that threw the conventional idea of pop’s Tin Pan Alley idealism out the door. His writing took on a solo bent even when he was in collaboration with McCartney and their dual genius spilled over into the complex albums, Beatles For Sale, Rubber Soul, Revolver et al, and then grabbed a global generation by introducing them to the concept of psychedelia on Sgt. Pepper and the avant garde on the double album The Beatles. Household names pretty much from the off once Beatlemania kicked in 1963 – just the mention of their Christian names was enough to make the nation salivate – The Beatles grew up and broke down in public and Lennon would relish the chance to put across his political and religious ideas while he grew sick of being viewed as a spokesman. Once he’d moved away from the cosy concept of the group and fallen in love with Yoko Ono his solo career began in earnest. His first few outings with Yoko were mind-boggling affairs but then he entered his second commercially viable phase with the Plastic Ono Band and the hugely influential Imagine era. His move to New York coincided with the chance to enjoy an element of anonymity but his music flourished under the crucible of attention nonetheless. In his case there is little point in detailing sales figures, The Beatles broke all records in store and at the box office and since everything Lennon did was scrutinized to the nineth degree there are hundreds of important books to read on the subject. His own authorship was quite amazing. He topped the best seller lists with his first two surrealistic and humorous efforts – In His Own Write and A Spaniard in the Works – while the posthumous Skywriting By Word of Mouth is heartily recommended, if only because it is generally less well known. But without further ado, as he might have said, let’s see where he began and where he ended up.
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