‘Someone was thinking about you’: Julian Lennon on inspiring the Beatles’ ‘Hey Jude’

As the celebrations marking 50th anniversary of the Beatles’ arrival in America reach a fever pitch, Julian Lennon remembers their legacy — and his role in it.

Lennon, son of Beatles star John Lennon and his first wife Cynthia Powell, curated a photography show that opened this week at SoHo’s Morrison Hotel Gallery. Twenty-five images, hand selected by the younger Lennon, will be on display through the end of the month.

Most fans remember Lennon, of course, as the early inspiration for the Beatles’ 1968 smash “Hey Jude” — and he continues to be touched by the long-ago gesture.

“It’s pretty special,” Lennon tells CBS. “I certainly appreciate it — no question about that. I’ve heard it a few times now, though. (Laughs.) But one can’t not appreciate the fact that someone was thinking about you and you life, and your situation. So, there’s nothing but being grateful, really.”

One of Lennon’s youthful works of art had earlier sparked “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds,” a key album track off 1967′s Sgt. Pepper. The youngster even played drums on his father’s 1974 take on Lee Dorsey’s 1961 hit “Ya Ya,” from Walls and Bridges.

Still, Lennon didn’t exactly have a front-row seat for Beatlemania, since his parents divorced when he was very young. He’s amassed a large collection of Beatles-related memorabilia, some some of which was featured in a 2010 book, but many of those items were discovered second hand.

“When dad moved away when I was, I don’t know, three or four,” Lennon adds, “I lived with mum, and we lived a totally isolated life from the world of what was going on with the Beatles. I probably saw as much as anybody else, really — or maybe even less.”

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  • keykrazy

    I hate to say it, but i feel for the guy every time i see him. My s.o. and i kind of discovered Sean Lennon’s music together some 7 or 8 years ago and have kind of watched him develop over the years as it were, but every time i try and give Julian a fresh take i can’t help wishing there’d be another “Much Too Late for Goodbyes” as that song is tied to my memories of being a teen (i think?) when it was released. And i should’ve probably stopped typing well before now but i used to wonder whether i like that particular song so much because it’s just a damned catchy, well-crafted tune or whether it was because of those great 80′s pop production values or whatnot.

    • R Fusco

      My favorite Julian songs are the Beatle-sy ones. I particularly like “Saltwater” which is a gorgeous ballad. I don’t know if you’ve heard that one. Also “Valotte”, while the lyrics are kind of insipid, is beautiful. I loved “Stick Around” back in the 80′s but it sounds very dated now and not in a good way. “Say You’re Wrong” was a really good Beatles-sounding one too (which I now want to hear again having mentioned it-haha). He definitely inherited his father’s gift for a hooky chorus and his voice sounds eerily like John. He and his mother got the shaft though, sadly, when Yoko entered John’s consciousness. Sad story.

      • keykrazy

        Thanks for the suggestions, R Fusco! :)

        Yeah, i liked “Saltwater” best when i last checked out his stuff (though to be overly-critical i thought the lyrics a little cheesy at first). I’ll check out Valotte and SYW.

        I don’t understand why i never hear much love for Sean’s stuff. I know his voice is kind of “young” sounding(?) or not always in tune or whathaveyou, but i kind of like that quality. even though i always seem to discover these artists 5~10 years after the stuff is out there, i feel like i kinda got to see Sean blossom in a way. And i really envy him for all that vintage gear he must have inherited from his folks and the upbringing he had. Shame Julian got the short end of the stick in that regard. Yeah, John was a brilliant guy but he sure didn’t do right by Julian.

        Really do appreciate the suggestions as it can be a make-or-break thing when you don’t know what tunes/albums to check out with any given artist!

      • keykrazy

        OK, just checked ‘em out on Spotify and enjoyed “Stick Around” as it made me pine for the 80′s despite that dated sound. (And now i know why people don’t say “Oh, Bach just sounds so 1600′s to me”, LOL! Back then with more traditional instrumentation the production aspect just wasn’t a factor. One couldn’t say things were over-produced or whatnot.) Oh, and i was wondering what instrument was used for the, uh, *guitar* solo in the middle. It had a neat vocal formant quality but didn’t necessarily sound like a keyboard, either. Curious!

        “Say You’re Wrong” — not much to say here for this usually long-winded guy. ;-) Enjoyed the 80′s (90′s?) sound again and am glad we both got to live through that decade and hold on to what we like of it via Spotify, YouTube, etc..

        The expanse of “Valotte” was refreshing, meaning i enjoyed the way it was more muted and have different sorts of instrumentation/textures throughout. Also, it seems to fit in great if sequenced as a audio sandwich with it in the middle with the two obvious 80′s numbers on either side of it. (Though Spotify kept playing MTLfG right after Valotte and that worked really nicely for me, as well. :) Oooh… “O.K. for You” is playing now and it’s rather upbeat and fun!

        It’s funny how one son got the Beatle voice while the other got, well, other things… I’m guessing Sean Lennon must be an instant love-it or hate-it thing for most folks, but i kindly implore you to check him out if you haven’t already, R. F. I’d vote for “Into the Sun” and “Friendly Fire” as his best albums. His sound is more all-over-the-map, jumping from genre to genre. His stuff is more hypnotic and dreamy sounding to these ears (and a little more “hip” or “modern” since, well, it is more recent). “Bobby’s Bedroom” is another nice instrumental bit in 6/8 meter but from a film score i believe.

        • R Fusco

          Glad you checked those tunes out. I have no idea what instrument you’re referring to haha. “Want Your Body” on The Secret Value of Daydreaming is a beautiful song despite the title. He also had an album called “Photograph Smile” which kind of disappeared from the marketplace very quickly but was really good if I remember correctly. As far as Sean goes, I guess I always gave him short shrift because John lavished so much more love on him than Julian. He seems like a nice guy though. On the Brian Wilson “Imagination” video he interviews Brian and is very respectful but is also jotting down all these notes like Paul and John did when they heard Pet Sounds-hahaha. I also remember some ridiculous video on MTV when Sean was young called “Jump” or something. I couldn’t believe Yoko was indulging him like that. I will check out Sean’s stuff though since you went back and listened to Julian.

  • Kate Mc

    I hope he goes on tour since he has a new album.

  • keykrazy

    Thanks again for the Julian Lennon listening suggestions, Rob. They have permanent status in a couple of my Spotify playlists now, thanks to you. ^_^