Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 18 December 2014

30 years on, imagine all the people talking about John Lennon

"i'm so tired, I haven’t slept a wink/I’m so tired, my mind is on the blink.” John Lennon must have been a fan of Festival, missing his sleep to make sure he caught the shows.

It’s hard to believe that it’s almost 30 years since Lennon’s death — but the calendar, like the camera, doesn’t lie. And Festival is marking the occasion with a special event at the Oh Yeah Music Centre this evening.

John Lennon: Revolutionary or Fool? asks whether the singer made a difference, or if he was just a misguided old hippy (‘Imagine no possessions’ has a hollow ring when sung by a man who had a second apartment in which he stored his fur coats, doesn't it?).

The event will be chaired by Oh Yeah music director Stuart Bailie and is presented by Amnesty International.

Stuart says he’s looking forward to an evening of passion. “I’m certainly a fan of Lennon’s music,” he said. “But I’m a bit more sceptical about his political utterings. Musicians often have feet of clay when it comes to living out their beliefs, and Lennon was no different.”

Music writer Johnny Rogan (author of John Lennon: the Albums) joins activist Eamonn McCann, journalist Gavin Martin and writer Anne Devlin to discuss Lennon’s legacy, and whether there’s much of it left today (‘Give peace a chance’ anyone?). No one’s prepared to state which side of the fence they’ll be arguing from. They’re saving it all for later. But they’ll each have plenty to say.

Rogan has already provided a close analysis of every album Lennon recorded in his solo years, as well as his posthumous work. His thoughts about Lennon the rebel are unrecorded.

Eamonn McCann — himself a bit of a radical — is also saving his opinions for the main event. I’m not sure how he feels about The Beatles, but he certainly hasn’t a lot of time for the Stones, once deriding Street Fighting Man as little more than posturing from a group of posh kids.

Gavin Martin started his career in music journalism back in the punk rock summer of 1977, when he published Alternative Ulster. He joined NME the following year, and writes for a wide range of publications. What do you reckon? Lennon sceptic, I’d guess — but who knows?

Last but not least on the panel is writer Anne Devlin, who has interesting views on Yoko Ono’s role in the Lennon story.

Stuart Bailie is looking forward to an evening of hot debate. “I’m hoping someone on the panel might change my mind. I’ve no idea who that will be. It’s all to play for,” he said.

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