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Richard Bacon: a John Lennon special

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Cosmo Shield | 15:50 UK time, Tuesday, 30 November 2010

The Beatles

John Lennon
would have been 70 this year, and next week it will be 30 years since Mark Chapman ended his life outside the Dakota building in New York. Richard Bacon marked these two anniversaries with a two hour show in Liverpool.

We decided to broadcast from the Beatles Story in the Albert Dock because it is the official home of Beatles memorabilia in the city, and full of rare and unseen pictures and stories that so influenced the life of arguably the most iconic Beatle.

The museum is a testament to the huge impact that Lennon and the Beatles had on pop music; it charts their career from the Quarrymen to Beatlemania; the split to Lennon's solo work, ending in the white room with the chords of "Imagine" in the air.

Once we got in the museum, we chose the replica Cavern as our venue, because it is the location that is closely associated with the band and where - dressed in black leather - John Lennon discovered the strut which would turn the Beatles into the biggest band the world had ever seen.

I'm from Liverpool, and I know that many people there want to talk about him and explain his origins. We managed to put together a great cast list of those who either knew him, studied him, or - in the case of Marcus Cahill, the official "John Lennon" at the Cavern Club - embodied him.

Philip Norman, who wrote the definitive John Lennon biography in 2008, joined Richard for the whole two hours. He used his great knowledge of Lennon to paint a picture of a man who was a genius on the outside, but inwardly someone who struggled to satisfy his own exacting standards. He was apparently always unhappy with the sound of his own singing voice, and was even critical of "Strawberry Fields Forever", which many people consider his masterpiece.

The Quarrymen was John's first band, formed as a skiffle group in 1957, and that band would eventually go through several names before settling on The Beatles. Rod Davis and Len Garry played in that first incarnation and they came to our makeshift studio in the Cavern to describe a young Lennon who - even in those early days - just "had something".

They also performed two songs from the Quarrymen days and told Richard what made them leave what would become the biggest-selling band of all time:

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The young Lennon was also the subject of Sam_Taylor-Wood's film "Nowhere Boy". She explored the relationship between Lennon and the two female figures in his childhood - his mother Julia and his Aunt Mimi. But John Lennon also had a significant impact on her own artistic life and she told Richard how nervous she was about portraying his life after visiting Liverpool and understanding his importance to scousers.

"Whispering" Bob Harris interviewed John in 1975 and told Richard that it was the most memorable three days of his career. Lennon had just found out that Yoko Ono was pregnant with Sean and seemed very relaxed and at peace with the world. John offered to record two songs for the Old Grey Whistle Test, and one of them - "Stand By Me" - was Bob's favourite.

"If you want to know anything about the Beatles then ask Tony Bramwell - he remembers more than I do." So said Sir Paul McCartney of the long-serving Apple Corps executive. Tony joined us in the second half of the show to describe life on the road with the Beatles, what it was really like at the height of Beatlemania, and how Yoko Ono was, in his opinion, definitely the one who split up the band....

Miles Kane - of Last Shadow Puppets fame - is recording a solo album at the moment and he took time out from the studio to explain the great influence that John Lennon has had on his song-writing and performance. It was great to get the perspective of a modern musician who owes so much to Lennon's legacy. Miles's praise summed up the show perfectly: that 30 years after his death he is still remembered as the great artist and innovator, whose influence spans generations.

Cosmo Shield is a producer on the Richard Bacon show.

Related links

Richard Bacon on 5 live
Daily Bacon podcast
The Beatles Story museum
BBC Comedy: a rapper's tribute to John Lennon


  • Comment number 1.

    Can't he leave 5-Lite as well as 6Music Cosmo?

  • Comment number 2.

    How about including in your Best Bits Bacon's interview of Bryan Ferry where Richard mentioned how John Lennon had praised Ferry's cover of Jealous Guy (despite being dead)?

  • Comment number 3.

    Can somebody correct me, isn't Five Live a speech radio station?

    If so why is there now so much music played during the afternoon?

    Is it because it is filler?

    This is in addition to VD’s music review

  • Comment number 4.

    I am a big John Lennon fan and hope that he is not turning in his grave at having the lightweight Richard Bacon doing a special programme on him....

  • Comment number 5.

    Peter - did you hear the programme? We had a tremendous response from Lennon/Beatles fans.

  • Comment number 6.

    Richard Bacon, Richard Bacon, Richard Bacon.

    It's this suppose to be about John Lennon.

    Why does everything related to Richard Bacon have to include Richard Bacon's name.

    It's all about me, myself and I, isn't it.

  • Comment number 7.

    ''We had a tremendous response from Lennon/Beatles fans''

    Oddly enough none have responded on this blog though, or indeed on the recent post on Coronation Street show.

    The lack of response is palpable and begs the question are these posts a waste of resources?

    The only popular blogs related to 5live are those asking for input and feedback but they are now closed, unsurprisingly.

    Where are the satisfied listeners? Where are the compliments?


  • Comment number 8.

    How I agree with you Fionn, these blogs are a complete waste of time and licence fee money and yes the only blogs that attract anykind of large response are the ones that indeed relate to criticism or feedback of 5live and those are either closed down or relentlessly moderated.Wasn't it the old BBC excuse that the old popular radio message board was closed down because it was used so infrequently and that it just wasn't worth keeping open?Well something like that or they didn't appreciate the comments.These blogs are responded too far less so god knows what the purpose of them is ?

    There is one good outcome though in the fact that I have totally given up on 5live and no longer listen.I consider a national radio that treats its listeners and blog contributors as total imbeciles is no longer worthy of my support.

  • Comment number 9.

    Binkie wheres your evidence that 5live "treats its listeners as imbecilles" take Nigels point above where he states Richard Bacons show had an excellant response from listeners, how are these people being treated as imbeciles? Or this another case of we blog contributers are not getting what we want so we will resort to petty name calling

  • Comment number 10.


    'is this another case of we blog contribuers are not getting what we want so will resort to petty name calling'

    no, all the bloggers on this site want is a person to have an on going conversation about five lives output. not to be asked for your thoughts and observations about the radio station and then be ignored, it's that basic, you ask for input and then ignore the input people arent going to be in a jolly mood, and this has been going on for a long while now.

    the reason i think the blog is mismanaged/ignored is that the great dumbing down experiment isnt going to plan, case in point, i learnt from five live about a year and a half ago the quarks a categorised by flavours, this week i learnt on the weekly moan in that someone doesnt like dog poo being left in a bag in a tree.

    if you find this sort of output interesting and fun five live is for you, myself i would rather drive my cab with the radio turned off.

    i hope it turns around because it was a good radio station, but i just cant see it.
    (and i didnt call anybody any names)

  • Comment number 11.

    An excellent post by andashark.

    I can't imagine what Fedsters problem is ? As he/she pays so much close attention to what we have to say and crops up so regularly each time I seem to post , you would have thought that he/she could have worked out the answers his/her own questions to us by now.

    Be my guest and please do enjoy the ' pure eradite ' listening of 5live Fedster, you are clearly way within its target audience.

  • Comment number 12.

    Dont flatter yourself Binkie, your posts arent that outstanding for me to as you so childishly put it "crops up so regularly each time I seem to post"

    To be fair you are the one who made the somewhat arrogant remark that "listeners are being treated like imbeciles" who are you to say this? Are you the spokesperson for all 5live listeners?

  • Comment number 13.

    he/she is for me

  • Comment number 14.

    @Nigel Smith

    Where are they all then?

    As to being on here the BBC has closed down all routes of making any comment over time. On here the only replies one gets are like the one you gave. When questions are asked they are not answered....

  • Comment number 15.

    With reference to Fedsters post 12...

    ..and he/she has the nerve to accuse others of petty name calling ?

    If this is the kind of listener 5live now attracts then my decision to give up on it has been fully vindicated.

  • Comment number 16.

    I already avoid 5live now like the plague but I'm also going to have to stop reading these posts because of the constant mention of Richard Bacon.
    I agree whole heartedly with the sentiment expressed by the vast majority of the contributors to this blog and the thought of Bacon presenting a programme about John Lennon makes me shudder.
    By the way Fedster-You are the perfect target listener for 5live these days.Poor grammar,poor spelling and an almost complete lack of punctuation.
    You're welcome to it.

  • Comment number 17.

    If anyone can be accused of arrogance, its 5live and the BBC .How have we arrived at a situation were a publicly funded organisation is so remote and distant from the people who actually pay for it and see anykind of criticism or input as hostile ? I find the whole situation quite incredible.

  • Comment number 18.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 19.

    Streaky got well and truly marmalised this PM by Julian Asange's lawyer. It was embarrassing listening in a way; Streaky was completely and utterly out of his depth (although not realising it at first). The lawyer (Mark Stephens) showed no mercy as he heaped humiliation upon Bacon. It was like men and boys - this man is ruthless. Worth a listen on iPlayer - think it was at just gone 3pm. Today.

  • Comment number 20.

    If Bacon was a Beatle (of course he's bigger than that) he'd be Ringo; after they split-up.

  • Comment number 21.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 22.

    Fionn / Binkie Huckaback - The number of comments on each blog post is not the only measure of success. Thousands of people read this blog each week so I don't think the posts are a waste of resources. Fionn asks, "Where are the satisfied listeners?". As I have posted previously 5 live receives many more texts and Twitter replies than we do blog comments. You'll just have to take my word for it that the majority of them are not negative. Interestingly when new posters do join in they are often met with suspicion by some regular contributors so I'm not that surprised that listeners might be reluctant to join in.

    mayoismyleader - Your Mark Chapman comment is not amusing. It is tasteless and offensive.

  • Comment number 23.

    thousands of people read these blogs every week. 'the silent majority'

  • Comment number 24.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 25.

    Nigel; your post smacks a bit of toeing the party line. I think the 'suspicion' concept is more than justified by those of us who post in good faith. To get people out of the woodwork who suddenly come up with some learned prose does look a bit suspicious don't you think? Remember the two folks who popped up a few weeks ago to glorify listener figures or something similar? Big silence since hen but you had a pop at 'us' at the time.

  • Comment number 26.

    Jackstumps - There are certainly posts that get attention from people who don't normally read the blog because they've followed a link from an email or another website. I'd love it if the folks who comment once and then seldom reappear stuck around! I can understand why you might be suspicious of these one-off posters but I assure you that they aren't ringers. In fact, in typical BBC fashion, there are strict guidelines for BBC staff about passing themselves off as audience members etc.

  • Comment number 27.

    Come on Stumps don’t be ridiculous, all posters post in good faith regardless of their views, to suggest otherwise is extremely patronising, as has been said time and time again, the negative, aggressive nature of the regular posters, is putting new posters of. Why is it that the comments from Twitter and text messages are on the whole positive but comments on this blog are dominated by you doom-mongers?

    It’s a shame that most threads on this blog are hijacked by debates such as this, this blog has a lot of potential, so its sad to see, that its not reaching that potential!!

  • Comment number 28.

    Nigel: thank you for your considered reply. We probably beg to differ but that is good in a free and fair world. It's good though that folks contribute to this and other blogs on a one off basis. I'll try not to be so blinkered in future

    ... unlike the author of post 27

  • Comment number 29.

    Mr Stumps reading your posts and the constant mention of me in them is akin to a Rat crawling up my trousers, its very uncomfortable, having sad that i would encourage you to carry on, i do quite like a debate with someone with a completly opposite point of view, even though your point of view is somewhat flawed.

  • Comment number 30.

    //is akin to a Rat crawling up my trousers// We'll have to take your word for it as I doubt that anyone else here has knowledge of that particular experience.

  • Comment number 31.

    ''5 live receives many more texts and Twitter replies''

    I'm not calling you a liar Nigel but believe it or not I use Twitter and there was very little @BBC5live. Texts we will never know but please don't insult us.

    I would love to hear Fedster's defence of 5live rather than picking fights.
    The dissenters aren't doing it for giggles. I'm not 'angry from Tunbridge Wells'

    I reserve the right to state my opinion on the only radio station that I could listen to. I'm done with it now.

  • Comment number 32.

    P.S Thanks for posting Nigel

  • Comment number 33.

    acres of text, unreplied to, rusting... If you're not interested in this blog Nigel then no-one else is


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