The Ballad of Sean and Bijou…Friendly Fire hits Tuesday

Here’s probably more information that you all were expecting about Sean Lennon and his new release Friendly Fire.  I know we’ve posted a lot about it lately, but we’re excited to hear it.  Here’s what we’ve read.

It takes exactly 20 seconds of Sean Lennon’s new album to reveal his biggest problem in pursuing a pop career — he sings exactly like his father. The reedy, nasal vocal is pure John. The gentle rasp when he extends his range is pure John. Even the pronunciation — “loovin’ you” — suggests a Scouse upbringing. Which is weird, because Lennon was born and raised in New York City, was five when his father died, and went to boarding school in Switzerland, which is generally a Scouse-free zone.

Sitting in a room at the Beatles’ old label, Parlophone, just down the corridor from where his dad beams out from a Let It Be poster, Lennon also looks like his father. And his mother. He’s a 50-50 fusion of John and Yoko. Until he opens his mouth, when he speaks slowly and quietly in an all- American accent, choosing his words with great deliberation. His clothes seem to have been picked with a similar attention to detail. He’s wearing a pinstriped trousers and waistcoat ensemble with a smart shirt and tie, and big dark glasses. He has tousled jet-black hair that hairdressers might call “unmanageable”, and a few days’ growth of beard.


It’s been eight years since Lennon released his debut album, Into the Sun, which fused his paternally inherited pop sensibility with a maternal experimental influence, incorporating elements of hip-hop and jazz. It failed to make a lasting impact on the public, other than some headline-making comments from its author about his father having been assassinated by the American government, and having been a bit of an “asshole” and “macho pig” in his private life. Does he regret that now? “I’m sure I will regret having said most of the things you’re going to bring up,” he sighs. “I think when you’re young, you want to be provocative.”

Today, at the age of 30, he’s made a new album that is certainly provocative, though in a very different way. Friendly Fire is a collection of songs about the end of his four-year relationship with the actress and musician Bijou Phillips, after she slept with his best friend, Max LeRoy. Lennon, heartbroken at being betrayed, poured his anger into a bitter song called Dead Meat, now the opener on his album. “Dead meat,” he croons over a disarmingly sweet music-box melody. “You’re nothing but dead meat… You’re gonna get what you deserve.”

The tragic punch line to this romantic soap opera is that LeRoy is now dead. “He passed away in a motorcycle crash last November,” explains Lennon sadly. The pair had been friends since childhood, living across the hall from each other, and had often shared a room as boys. “We were like twins,” he adds. After LeRoy died, Lennon “flipped out” and threw himself into making Friendly Fire — the oxymoronic title an allusion to the truism that you always end up hurting the ones you love. “I thought I had learnt to let go of things after my dad passed away,” he says. “But this definitely tested that. I knew my friend for 30 years, as opposed to five.”

Lennon and LeRoy never made up, something that still haunts the singer: “I think the thing I regret most is that Max isn’t around for me to reconcile with him. That’s probably one of the greatest tragedies that has ever befallen me.” He is adamant that the album, which chronicles his feelings in song — anger turning to sadness, leaving the clear impression that he is still in love with Phillips — is not meant to be taken too literally. “It’s art, not life, you know. I’m mythologising my life, but ‘myth’ is the key word. It’s not a documentation of the way things actually happened.”

The album comes with a 50-minute DVD illustrating each song in vignettes. It’s not just any old home movie, either: being John Lennon’s son brings plenty of perks in Hollywood, and he called on several of his showbiz pals to take part. Thus we have a cast that includes Lindsay Lohan, Asia Argento, Carrie Fisher, Jordana Brewster — and Phillips herself. When Lennon and Phillips re-enact a scene in which her lover comes to the door of their shared home, it’s plain weird. Was it hard to get her to agree to the role? “No. She wanted to do it.” And was it hard for him to relive their separation? “Of course I’m trying to articulate the anger that one might feel in a lot of the songs, but I have a lot of love for Bijou, too. She’s an artist, and I think she understands it’s art and she wanted to be a part of it. It’s an interesting part of the emotional recovery process, to express ourselves in that way.”

There’s a bit of an am-dram feel to the film, despite its star cast, lending it something of the air of a school play. Lennon and his famous friends lark about in extravagant costumes (including a Sgt Pepper-style military tunic for Lennon), acting out capers in different styles and periods. Meanwhile, the music and lyrics, while conjuring up ghosts of his father, might unkindly be described by critics as Imagine lite. It is impossible to listen to it without making comparisons to Lennon Sr. Which is odd because, after his debut album in 1998, Lennon Jr castigated himself for making it “way too Beatles for the world” (even though it wasn’t) and vowing that his next would “make the point that I’m not trying to copy my parents”. In fact, the new album is far more Beatlesy than its predecessor and lacks his earlier experimental edge.

Lennon says that making the record didn’t bring him “closure” in terms of Phillips, but confesses: “It was definitely cathartic. It was a necessary means of surviving that period of my life because I was so… I feel I’m really… upset.” He looks unbearably melancholic. “I’m really sad about losing my best friend, and I think I’m just one of those people who need to process their emotional lives through art. I definitely didn’t solve anything. But I think if I hadn’t had that outlet, I might have gone insane or killed myself, or something crazy.”

Aware of the interest such remarks might attract, he corrects himself immediately. “I don’t want to be overly dramatic, so maybe I shouldn’t say that. But it was a really sad thing, one of the saddest things that ever happened to me. The record is just about love, and how complicated it is between friends and lovers. It’s not like I invented that topic. I’m interested in the idea of the love song, and I think to write a good one, you have to have some pain and suffering in there to make it real.”

Lennon, of course, has experienced more than his fair share of that. “Haven’t we all?” he shrugs. “From a pessimistic standpoint, from Schopenhauer’s perspective, life is suffering — and from a Buddhist perspective. But I think it’s what we make of it that matters. Right?” Right. But one cannot help feeling Lennon might have prospered more freely had he chosen a career that bore no comparison to that of his parents. “You’re right,” he agrees. “But Nabokov’s son [Dmitri] became an opera singer, and I think he still had a hard time.” He insists that he is no longer concerned about comparisons to his father or his music. “I’ve never tried to avoid the Beatles. I can’t. It’s me. It would be like trying to avoid my left foot.”

He no longer regards his father’s legacy as a millstone around his neck. “I don’t know if I ever really felt that way,” he says. “And if I did, I was wrong. It’s not my dad’s legacy that’s a millstone — it’s the disparity between who people think I am and who I really am. It’s an honour and a privilege to be part of his legacy. ”

Lennon, who dated Lizzy Jagger after the split, won’t be drawn on whether a reunion with Phillips is on the cards, saying only that they are “friends”. He doesn’t have a girlfriend at the moment, and confesses: “I’m not capable of having a relationship right now.” Because he is still wounded from that one? “Maybe. And also because I’m so busy with work. Relationships are distracting. I’m very productive when I’m on my own.”

Source: Times UK Online

Advertisements

One Response

  1. Sean calls the interviewer mean on his message board: http://www.seanonolennon.com/forum/index.php?s=&showtopic=172&view=findpost&p=1465

    Anyway, I’m getting up extra early to get the CD tomorrow…

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: