Today on Tablet, Liel Leibovitz finds enlightenment from Albert Goodman’s controversial biography of John Lennon, who was cut down 22 years ago this Saturday.
Lennon didn’t just want to be a pop star; he wanted to be a deity, and deities obeyed no laws. Not even the laws of music: By 1968, on The White Album, Lennon’s determination to do violence to traditional song structures was burning brighter than ever. “Happiness Is a Warm Gun,” arguably his best song, begins in 4/4 time, the standard for pop songs, but then implodes: 5/4, 6/4, 9/8, 12/8, part acid trip, part doo-wop harmony, all restless energy. If you doubt Albert Goldman’s claim that Lennon was a maniacal nut whose mind was too jittery to do much but rapidly spit out puns, gags, and quips—a tendency he demonstrated nicely when he came out with that bit about being bigger than Jesus—just take another listen to the song.
Enjoy the rest here.