Sunday Times (London)

29 September 1996


Lennon and son finally work it out

HEY JUDE, you have finally made it better. The recording notes for Paul McCartney's classic song, sold to an anonymous bidder at auction in London 10 days ago, have found a worthy home. Their mystery buyer stands unmasked as Julian Lennon, son of John.

He paid 25,000 for the sheet of paper covered in scribbles about the song's structure, 641 a word for the 39 words and a couple of doodles. But for Lennon the ballad, recorded in the summer of 1968, has a special resonance: it was written by McCartney for him shortly after his father and mother, Cynthia, split up. "Hey Jude, don't make it bad, take a sad song and make it better", began originally "Hey Jules".

Now 33, Lennon anonymously spent more than 55,000 at the auction attempting to rebuild a shattered childhood. He was only five when his father left Cynthia for Yoko Ono, and 17 when the Beatle was shot outside his home in New York. 

His father had left him only memories of fleeting meetings and a modest 70,000. "He has a few photographs of his father, but not very much else. He is collecting for personal reasons, these are family heirlooms if you like," said John Cousins, his manager, last week. 

Among the personal belongings Lennon recovered at the auction were three postcards written in the 1970s but "lost" in the intervening period. He paid 4,140 for one, originally costing a few pence, sent from Japan. It was signed "lots of love to you + God bless! Daddy, Yoko, Sean". 

He bought another, with an indistinct postmark, for 2,000 and one posted from New York in 1979, signed "love Dad", for nearly 3,700. It reads "Every day in every way I am getting better + better" and has the postscript "the mind is a 'muscle' it needs exercise (to strengthen it)". 

The fatherly advice was timely but went unheeded. For much of the 1980s Lennon rode an emotional roller coaster, fuelled by drink and drugs. Despite the success of his first album, Valotte, he never escaped being more famous for his accident of birth than his music. 

He struggled to reconcile John Lennon, the Beatle who had abandoned him, with John Lennon, the father whose affection he still remembered. Now he has made his peace with Ono, won a share of the Lennon estate thought to be worth 20m, and is piecing together personal items that belonged to his father. 

One item he bought in the sale neatly symbolizes his fractured childhood: a brass apple, half-eaten, which he bought for 2,300. It was a mascot that adorned his father's Austin Maxi until he crashed it in Scotland.