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Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Lennon's Own Books

In His Own Write 1964
The two John Lennon books that he wrote at the height of Beatlesmania, "In His Own Write" (1964) and "A Spaniard In The Works" (1965) have been reissued on December 8 by the publishing house Canongate in the UK.

"In His Own Write", Lennon’s critically acclaimed debut was one of the biggest selling books of the Sixties, selling over 600,000 copies in the UK alone. Combining nonsense verse, oddball stories and stunning line drawings, it reveals a side to Lennon’s creative output that has always been overshadowed by his music.

"A Spaniard In The Works", Lennon's second collection, is every bit as witty, whimsical and wonderful as his debut. Lennon's writing style owes much to his favourite author, Englishman Lewis Carroll, while his drawings are influenced by American James Thurber.

A Spaniard in the Works 1965

Jamie Byng, Publisher at Canongate, says: “Fifty years on, these two books by Lennon remain wonderfully fresh and memorable and distinctive and it is a great honour to be publishing new editions of them which do justice to the original drawings. Lennon was an exceptional artist and there is a growing appreciation of this which is borne out by the recent, record-breaking sale at Sotheby’s.”

Byng is referring to an extensive auction of original poetry and artwork from the two books, which took place at Sotheby’s, New York earlier this month and raised $2.9M, well over double the pre-sale estimates.

It was reported in an article that an initial printing in Great Britain sold 50,000 copies the first day, and Simon & Schuster had a first printing of 90,000 in the USA. The books were also translated to other languages in the sixties, here in Scandinavia they were available in Danish, Swedish and Finnish.

The regular price of these books is £12.99 each, but they are available now from Canongate's web site for just £5.20 each, which is a pre-Christmas sale price. The books are faithful facsimile copies of the originals with hard covers, on the back cover is the legend "50th Anniversary Edition" and they do have bar codes on the back as well.

The backs of the books, click to enlarge

Originally published by Jonathan Cape in hard covers in the UK, both books have had several reprints in hard covers as well as paperback, "In His Own Write" especially so, as recent as the year 2000. And here they are again!

A Spaniard in the Works English/Swedish 1997

Back in 1997, I purchased an English and Swedish edition of "A Spaniard in the Works" from the Swedish publishing house Bakhåll. Together with that edition was a CD containing tracks with never before released Lennon pieces and interviews.

1997 CD tracks:
  1. "My Life" (Lennon) 2:30
  2. "John Meets Yoko - Teacher/Pupil" (Lennon) 1:44
  3. "Dear John" (Lennon) 4:10
  4. "Cosmic Joke Number 9 / The Future Is Ours To See" (Lennon) 1:30
  5. "Lord, Take This Makeup Off Me" (Lennon) 2:18
  6. "Do It Yourself" (unknown) 1:13
  7. "Make Love Not War" (Lennon) 3:13
  8. "Groupies" (Lennon) 1:45
  9. "Here We Go Again" (Lennon/Spector) 2:57
  10. "What Does It Mean When You're Such A Pacifist That You Get Shot?" (Lennon) 0:57
  11. "His Spirit Is Still Around" (Yoko Ono) 0:46
The book with the CD. CD notes on this page (click to enlarge).
After John Lennon's death, Yoko Ono published a third volume in the trilogy, "Skywriting by Word of Mouth". Subtitled "and Other Writings Including the Ballad of John and Yoko", it was published posthumously in 1986 and included an afterword by his widow, Yoko Ono. Like his other works, it contains miscellaneous writings and cartoons.

Skywriting by Word of Mouth 1986

The book includes Lennon's autobiography (titled "The Ballad of John and Yoko"), in which he talks about the Beatles' break-up ("I started the band. I disbanded it.") and says that he has no hard feelings against his former bandmates: "Paul, George, and It's Only Ringo. I bear them no ill will." However, he also referred to them as "avant-garde revolutionary thinkers" a statement which could be interpreted as sarcastic in intent and declared "In retrospect, the Beatles were no more an important part of my life than any other (and less than some)."

Lennon mentioned the manuscript in a 1980 Playboy interview: "At one point ... I wrote about two hundred pages of mad stuff." The manuscript was stolen from the Lennons' apartment in 1982, and later recovered in 1986, when Ono had it published.


Jeff Hitz said...

Never seen that CD before. Any chance of posting a copy?

wogew said...

Here's one I found online.

Jeff Hitz said...


BWSmythe said...

Many thanks!

Mister Mister said...

I've always loved In His Own Write, but never once did I believe that Paul actually wrote the introduction. I'd put money on it being written by Derek Taylor (except for the P.S. tag -- I'll let Paul have that one).

samia87 said...

It was awesome.