Thursday, April 09, 2015

Songs Cynthia Lennon Sang

You know Cynthia Lennon, who passed on last week at 75. Her son is famous, and here's a happy marriage photo with her husband.

Well, it didn't end in divorce, now, did it? No, it didn't. It ended the way marriages are supposed to end.

Most Beatle fans at least own a copy of "A Twist of Lennon" (a reference to two of Cyn's other hubbies). Just why the slightly limp-wristed group The Sinceros bothered to name-check it with anemic venom, I have no idea. It wasn't a bad book, or much of a cash-in. It was just her story if you wanted it. A blonde marries, too young, because of child on the way, and it didn't last. So far it might make for the McCartney soundtrack to a mediocre working class movie. Only, Cynthia was in the family way with John Lennon, so his subsequent treks around the world, and his discovery of Yoko Ono after he'd been with dozens of groupies...well, it didn't make "A Twist of Lennon" (or her subsequent tomes) too successful, did they?

Aside from feuding with Yoko a bit and getting married a few more times, she was out of the spotlight.

This included 1995, when she was persuaded to issue a single, which quickly disappeared the way of Fred Lennon's single. And most of Julian's, come to think of it. And all of Sean's.

By all accounts, Cyn was a nice lady, and late in life she even reconciled, at least for a public photograph, with the dreaded Yoko.

Anyone who has some first hand experience with Cynthia is welcome to comment below. What survives, besides the books and photos, is the curiosity of a few songs Cynthia Lennon sang.

The three examples of her recorded work reflect three fairly different directions her musical career could've gone.

"Those Were The Days" is an unfortunate if obvious choice. Recorded in 1995, out of nowhere (somebody apparently asked and she agreed), it doesn't erase the memory of Mary Hopkin's icky schoolgirl version. Cyn doesn't quite give the producer what he probably wanted, which was some kind of pathos-ridden mope about the past. Marianne Faithful she isn't, and the tempo really doesn't let Cynthia do much besides gallop by the mythical tavern (er, "Cavern") and shrug that life goes on.

Not an actress (neither a Marianne nor an Honor Blackman), Cyn ends up with a fairly enigmatic reading of her ex-husband's "In My Life." At times she sounds like she's under contractual obligation, but towards the end, when she actually sings the final chorus or two, she seems to have more than come to terms with her place in rock history, and in John's past. No, she doesn't read it badly, but it's an uncomfortable idea, for a lot of reasons.

Which is why ultimately the best direction Cynthia could've chosen was to leave the more overt, obvious Beatlemania stuff alone, and do something that simply reflected her current artistic mood. "Walking in the Rain" isn't bad at all, a distant cousin to Yoko's "Walking on Thin Ice." Who knows, with more of a poofter butt-thump beat, she could've joined Yoko on the disco charts.

Imagine...Cynthia being another Yoko, and instead of a few singles, literally dozens of expensive albums you need "for the collection." Now you're appreciating Cynthia on a whole different level, aren't you. "Thanks, Cyn, for not being Yoko...Ringo...Sean..." Go ahead, add those Paul albums you never play, and "Wonderwall" and probably John's rock and roll album and the Black Dyke Mills Band and...and...

One thing about the mp3 era is that you don't have to embarrass yourself by having shelves loaded up with Beatles-related music that points out how deeply into Pepperland you still are. A lot of fans aren't sure whether to feel proud or pathetic owning Fred Lennon's single, or all the albums by Beatles cash-in groups (with Liverpool or insect names). How about the stacks of 45's including stuff like "My Boyfriend Got a Beatle Haircut?"

After a while, as Ringo began knocking out all those albums and singles (whoops, there's a new one just come out) was really beginning to be a case of "I'm spending a lot of money on stuff that I never listen to...JUST because it's Beatles related."

Now, you can own the stuff, and proudly point to that 2TB drive "FULL of BEATLES AUDIO MEMORABILIA" and it doesn't take up much space. To which, you now have three additions, via married-a-Beatle Cyn.

To quote a more obscure Beatles song, "It's All too Much." Sean stuff. Julian stuff. Even John and Yoko stuff (how ofte have you flashed the nude "Two Virgins" cover out of "pride of ownership" or some more nefarious reason?) "It's All Too Much."

In a way, Cynthia Lennon's left us wanting more. These three will probably have you listening more than a few times, and reflecting on that special era. Imagine there's a heaven...and she's there with the husband of her choice now. Or, imagine there's one hell of a heaven...and she's there with more than just one of 'em.

Cynthia Lennon Walking in the Rain

Cynthia Lennon In My Life

Cynthia Lennon Those Were the Days


Brian Prebble said...

I do remember when Cynthia released her single back in 1995 - it got a one paragraph mention in Record Collector and probably a mention in "The Beatles Book" magazine that was still being published in the UK, but otherwise, it was totally ignored and even I totally forgot about it until it was mentioned when she died.

The interesting thing about Cynthia (apart from the obvious one) is how graceful and accepting she was about John getting it together with Yoko. It was her mother who John loathed with a passion who did all the bitching whilst Cynthia just accepted it was over and moved on.

"Those Were The Days" was a peculiar choice for Cynthia to sing since Mary Hopkin's ghastly trilly version became the number one smash just as John had started to go public with Yoko and the divorce began so I doubt she'd have had happy memories of that, but then again, one listen to Mary chirping away is enough to hire an assassin for Macca given he produced that damn thing and took control of Mary's career for a while before she ended up with... ulp... Mickie Most who fortunately like he had with The Yardbirds and The Seekers helped kill her career dead in the water! Unfortunately, Cynthia (multi-tracked to death to hide her vocal shortcomings)can't rescue what is a piece of slop no matter who sings it. No wonder Macca loved it... he used it as a template for many horrors he would later spring upon the world.

You're right about "Walking In The Rain" - she just about pulls it off and "remixed" might have stood a chance.

"In My Life" is certainly an enigmatic reading... shades of Sean Connery at first with her reciting the lyric. There's a genuine sincerity and sadness in her voice that makes it sad and uncomfortable in equal measures especially the teary stained sung lines.

To be honest, this trio of recordings aren't as embarrassing as a great many Beatles related product, including tons of stuff by actual ex-Beatles. Maybe Cynthia should had recorded these back in 1970 for others to learn that all important lesson she understood - less is more, and more is less. Not that I doubt it would had made much difference for Ringo...

Christ, I know a photographer who actually saw Sean Lennon live in Liverpool in the late 90's... and no, she didn't buy his records either... who has?

Timmy said...

Where are all those Maureen Starkey & George Harrison demos that were secretly recorded in Brian Epstein's bathroom (for effect)?

I'm not a robot, am I?