John Borack’s John Lennon: Life is What Happens is subtitled “Music, Memories & Memorabilia,” and that’s a tidy summing-up of what this book is all about. Part social commentary, part reminiscence, part criticism, part price guide, part coffee-table book, Life is What Happens occupies a useful spot as it touches on all of those areas.
Life is What Happens doesn’t set out to replace your copy of Richie Unterberger’s The Unreleased Beatles, but Borack does weave in a bit of information about unreleased material (including a passing mention of the 83-CD set A/B Road). The book doesn’t replace historical overviews such as Bob Spitz’s book (or Hunter Davies’, or any of the Mark Lewisohn books), but Borack knows his subject well enough – and is an economical enough writer – to deliver a concise version of the Lennon story. And while it won’t take the place of Goldmine’s authoritative record pricing data (Borack has freelanced for that magazine for over a quarter century) the book is delightfully chock full of high-quality photos of old Beatles records (and Yellow Submarine lunchboxes, and Beatles Flip Your Wig board games, and bobbleheads, and…) along with info on what those items have sold for.
The book works on several levels. As a (softcover) coffee table book, it looks great: the splashy color photographs, professional eye-pleasing layout and overall professional design will make it the sort of book your houseguests will pick up and actually look at. Quite a few of the photos will be new to even the most fanatical of Beatles fans (like me, to name one example). As a look at John Lennon, Life is What Happens deftly balances those different approaches — musical criticism, personal anecdotes (by the author as well as many well-known musicians) and straightforward chronology.
In 2011 it’s difficult to say or show much about John Lennon and/or the Beatles that hasn’t been covered many, many, many times before. And while Borack (author of 2008’s Shake Some Action: The Ultimate Power Pop Guide) is recounting that familiar story, his fresh perspective on the life of John Lennon is one of the more enjoyable (and again: nice to look at) examples of this now decades-old cottage industry. Beatles and Lennon fans will be proud to add John Lennon: Life is What Happens to their bookshelves (and/or or coffee tables).
Follow “the_musoscribe” on Twitter and get notified
when new features, reviews and essays are published.
Disclosure of Material Connection: