Richard Bacon: a John Lennon special
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:
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.