John Winston Lennon was born in Liverpool on October 9, 1940, during the
height of WWII, his father, Fred Lennon, off at sea. His father didn't
turn up again until five years later, and when he did he tried to take
john away from his mother, Julia, when she refused to restart her life
with him. Instead, he grew up in the Liverpool suburb of Woolton, with his
Aunt Mimi and Uncle George Smith, at 251 Menlove Ave, which became
nicknamed Mendips. Julia died in 1958, in an automobile accident
practically in front of Mendips, when John was seventeen.
Aunt Mimi ran a very strict household. John very quickly became bored
at school, preferring drawing and writing about his classmates and
teachers rather than his studies. Rebellious at an early age, he had a
very rough school history, sagging off from school (going AWOL from
classes) and petty stealing. His future looked bleak until Mimi got the
headmaster of the Quarrybank school to write a letter of recommendation
for John to the Liverpool Art College, because of his drawings.
It was at Liverpool Art College, in 1956, a friend played him Elvis'
Heartbreak Hotel, and John's musical interest was piqued. Then he
heard Lonnie Donegan's Rock Island Line on Radio Luxembourg, and
became part of the new Skiffle craze by begging his Aunt Mimi until she
broke down and bought him a guitar, although she forever told him he would
never get anywhere with it. He had already learned to play the harmonica
during his childhood, and he taught himself the guitar by applying banjo
chords that his mother had taught him.
In 1955 he started his own band, the Quarrymen, with his long time pal
and fellow troublemaker Pete Shotton, singing all the popular songs,
sometimes making up the words when he couldn't get them all off the radio.
Also in the Quarrymen were Nigel Walley and Ivan Vaughan, the rest of
John's gang. It was Ivan Vaughan who introduced John to his friend, Paul
McCartney, in 1957.
John married his girlfriend of four years, Cynthia Powell, in 1962. She
was pregnant with their son Julian at the time, who was born in April,
In His Own Words
About his time in art school, John said:
"My whole school life was a case of 'I couldn't care less'. It was
just a joke as far as I was concerned. Art was the only thing I could
do, and my headmaster told me that if I didn't go to art school I might
as well give up life. I wasn't really keen. I thought it would be a
crowd of old men, but I should make the effort and make something of
myself. I stayed for five years doing commercial art. Frankly, I found
it all as bad as maths and science. And I loathed those. The funny thing
was I didn't even pass art in the GCE. I spent the exam time doing daft
cartoons. I got into art school by doing some decent stuff and taking it
along to show them."
On musical differences:
"From our earliest days in Liverpool, George and I on the one hand
and Paul on the other had different musical tastes. Paul preferred 'pop
type' music and we preferred what is now called 'underground'. This may
have led to arguments, particularly between Paul and George, but the
contrast in tastes, I'm sure, did more good than harm, musically
speaking, and contributed to our success."
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