By Bill Harry
I was pleased to hear that Cynthia was writing a second autobiography. Her first had been almost sycophantic in tone regarding John and Yoko, was completely incorrect in its view of the local music scene and contained some rather naïve poems. She also
serialized her story some years ago in one of those celebrity magazines. At last, I thought, she may finally give vent to her feelings and tell it like it really was. The only problem would be if a professional biographer had helped to ghost write it for her. When this happens, these writers tend to exaggerate real events and concentrate on scandal and sensationalism, aiming for lucrative tabloid newspaper
I’d always looked on Cynthia as the Candide of the Beatles story, the girl who was left weeping on the platform as John, the Beatles and friends drew away from her on the train to Bangor. The tearful girl who the steward’s wouldn’t let back into the hotel when she was with the Beatles in Miami – until the girl fans of the Beatles came to her aid. She always seemed so vulnerable.
Early on she begins, “After my marriage to John fell apart I tried to escape the world of celebrity and the Lennon label by going off to find my own life.” Cynthia might have escaped the attention if she adopted the usual form when a person remarries: dropping the first husband’s surname and adopting that of the new husband. Cynthia’s names have been Cynthia Powell, Cynthia Lennon, Cynthia Bassanini, Cynthia Twist and now Cynthia Charles but she chose to re-adopt the Lennon name after John’s death, which upset John’s Aunt Mimi. How could she “escape the Lennon label” if she began calling herself Lennon again?
However, good luck to her in this, I say, nothing wrong with that, it’s obviously been of similar benefit to Bianca Jagger. Actually, I
sympathize with her because it has been impossible for her to escape the Lennon legend and she has as much right as Yoko in revealing her love for one of the world’s most-beloved musicians. Interesting, though, that although Yoko called herself Yoko Ono Lennon when she was married to John, she has since ditched the Lennon surname.
My first memory of Cynthia was of a young girl with mousy hair in the playground of the Junior Art School in Gambier Terrace. When she eventually enrolled at the College of Art, she was transformed into a blonde by her love of John, who was obsessed by Brigitte Bardot at the time.
On recalling the first occasion she and John made love she says it was at ‘Stuart’s place’. Actually this was the Gambier Terrace flat rented by Rod Murray and Stuart Sutcliffe. Rod was Stu’s closest friend at the college and is totally absent from Cynthia’s book as she always refers to the Gambier Terrace flat throughout as Stu’s. I remember when Cynthia and John used to sag off school to go to the Palais de Luxe cinema in Lime Street. I think Rod used to go with them sometimes, too.
However, throughout the book Cynthia doesn’t seem to name people associated with John, opting rather to refer to them in other terms i.e. “John sent Paul a message via a friend: you’re in the group.” The friend was John’s best pal Pete Shotton. There is a lack of people’s names throughout. She mentioned that John’s mother had an affair “with a young soldier.” A little research would have come up with the fact that his name was Taffy Williams. In the mention of Julia’s daughter Victoria Elizabeth she says “it was believed that she was taken to Norway by her adoptive family.” In fact she was living on Merseyside for most of her early life, in Crosby. She mentions that Julia was killed by an off duty policeman. Well, his name was Eric Clague. ‘The Scottish Professor’ who taught Stuart in Hamburg was Eduardo Paolozzi.
Does including this sort of detail matter? It does to me, but perhaps not to the average reader. There is a lack of detail in relation to names, dates and background information to numerous events throughout the book.
She states that John and his group “performed as Johnny and the Rainbows from the back of a lorry at a street party to celebrate Empire Day in May 1956”. She obviously got this inaccurate information from Julia Baird’s book. The gig actually took place in Rosebery Street on Saturday June 22 1957 and there are photographs of the event which clearly show the name Quarry Men on Colin Hanton’s drums. John didn’t form the Quarry Men until March 1957, so how could the group have been performing in May 1956?
Regarding the Quarry Men and the Casbah Club, she says “Pete had suggested to his mum that they ask one of the beat groups that were springing up all over town to come and play there. She agreed and they invited the Quarrymen.” (Incidentally ‘beat groups’ is an anachronism – the local rock and roll bands weren’t referred to as beat groups until after the launch of Mersey Beat in 1961). The Quarry Men had ceased to exist and George Harrison was in a group called the Les Stewart Quartet which had been booked for the Casbah residency. It was only after Stewart refused to accept the gig that George and fellow member Ken Brown decided to ask John and Paul, who were no longer performing, to reform the Quarry Men and ask Mrs. Best if they could take over the residency.
She also says that Mal Evans was present at their first appearance at the venue. I’d always assumed that they had first met Mal a couple of years later at the Cavern, when he became friendly with George. The Casbah was a tiny little cellar under the Best’s house, it would have been impossible for them to play “regularly, to audiences of up to four hundred” and as the Quarry Men they only appeared seven times at the club.
She writes, “Eventually Pete Best decided he wanted to be in a group, got himself a drum kit and formed the Blackjacks with Ken Brown, who left the Quarry Men.”
A distortion of the facts: When Ken Brown was ill one evening, but helped out at the door, Mrs. Best paid him his share of the Quarry Men fee. Paul, John and George disagreed with this, chucked Brown out of the group and never appeared at the Casbah again until the end of 1960 when Pete was a member of the Beatles. It was Brown who approached Pete and suggested they form a group together.
She says “The boys got an audition at the Manchester Hippodrome with a man called Carroll Levis…..they came back despondent, they had failed the audition, mainly because they lacked a drummer.” Actually, they appeared on his show at the Liverpool Empire on 8 June 1957 and, as a result, passed the audition and entered another heat in Manchester. They failed to wait until the end of the show because they had to get the last train back to Liverpool. As all entrants had to remain to the end of the show when voting took place, they automatically disqualified themselves. It had nothing to do with the lack of a drummer.