All I Want is the Truth
Michael L. Printz Honor
Award-winning biographer Elizabeth Partridge dives into Lennon’s life from the night he was born in 1940 during a World War II air raid on Liverpool, deftly taking us through his turbulent childhood and his rebellious rock’n’roll teens to his celebrated life writing, recording, and performing music with the Beatles. She sheds light on the years after the Beatles, with Yoko Ono, as he struggled to make sense of his own artistic life—one that had turned from youthful angst to suffocating fame in almost a split second.
By midday when John met up with Pete, the day was already warm. Though he was still underage, John managed to pick up several bottles of light ale and guzzle them down on their way. By the time they arrived, the church grounds were decorated with flags, balloons, and bunting. In the big white refreshment tents, women were putting together sandwiches and laying out homemade cakes.
Mimi arrived just before the Quarry Men started their first set. She was having a cup of tea in one of the tents when the band started up with a loud explosion of noise. Mimi followed as everyone poured out of the tent to the far field where the band was set up. John caught sight of her as she walked toward the stage, openmouthed, staring at him. He quickly began busking, making up words to the song he was singing. “Mimi’s coming,” he sang. “Oh, oh, Mimi’s coming down the path. . . .” It was the first time Mimi had ever seen him playing with the Quarry Men. She couldn’t believe her eyes. The band moved on to their other big numbers, “Railroad Bill,” “Cumberland Gap,” and “Maggie May.” While Mimi was still reeling, a friend of Ivan’s, Paul McCartney, arrived on his bike. Paul was dressed to kill: He’d come to the garden fete hoping to pick up girls. His white sports jacket was shot through with metallic threads that sparkled in the sunlight, his black drainies were tight, his hair was carefully greased back in a “duck’s arse.”
Paul arrived in time to hear John singing the Del Vikings’ recent hit, “Come Go with Me.” Instead of singing the lyrics “Come go with me, don’t let me pray beyond the sea,” John threw in words from American rhythm and blues songs: “Come go with me, down to the penitentiary.” Paul was fascinated, amazed that John was making up his own lyrics. While the Liverpool City Police Department put its German shepherds through their obedience trials—the day’s big attraction—John and the other Quarry Men moved their equipment to the empty church hall where they were scheduled to play for the evening dance. They sat on folding chairs in the hall, drinking beer and talking.
Ivan turned up with Paul, eager to introduce him to John. John regarded Paul warily, then Paul borrowed a guitar and whipped into Eddie Cochran’s “Twenty Flight Rock.” John was incredulous. The song was too difficult for the Quarry Men. John moved in close, drunkenly hanging over Paul’s shoulder, eager to watch his fingering. Paul ripped through “Be-Bop-a-Lula” and a couple of his favorite Little Richard songs. To top it off, Paul tuned John’s guitar, showed him a couple of chords, and wrote out all the lyrics to “Twenty Flight Rock.”
John, used to making snap decisions, was faced with a dilemma. Though Paul was nearly two years younger, he had impressive musical skills. He even knew how to tune his guitar! Having him in the group would immeasurably improve their music. But John worried it might also threaten his leadership. “I half thought to myself, ‘He’s as good as me.’ Now, I thought, if I take him on, what will happen? I’d been kingpin up to then.”
"Partridge takes on another complex, prolific musical genius. The book design is drop-dead gorgeous…The chronological organization not only clarifies stages in Lennon’s life but also slips a little history to unsuspecting teenagers as they get past the mask of an iconic popular star." -The Horn Book Magazine, starred review
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