This week on #askNat I have pulled up another inquiry from Stacia Marlett from Minneapolis who says:
Your John Lennon harmonica #askNat sparked one for me: What about John Lennon and the piano? Did Paul McCartney teach him some basic stuff in Hamburg? He didn’t seem comfortable with it until after The Beatles broke up.
Stacia is referring to the #askNat from a few months back where someone asked who taught John how to play the harmonica (addressed here). Good question Stacia and I’ll admit that I recruited a little help to come up with an answer since there is not much info out there about this. You’ll see what I mean as you read on.
John, primarily a rhythm guitarist, did play piano or organ in numerous songs during his stint with The Beatles and afterwards during his solo/Plastic Ono Band years to include “I’m Down,” “We Can Work It Out,” “You Like Me Too Much,” “Baby, You’re A Rich Man,” “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da,” “Cry Baby Cry,” “God,” “Imagine,” and “Oh My Love” just to name very few. On October 18th, 1964, The Beatles recorded Chuck Berry’s “Rock ‘N’ Roll Music” for their Beatles For Sale album in only one take during which time John, Paul McCartney and producer George Martin all banged on the keys of the studio Steinway piano simultaneously trying to recreate Johnnie Johnston’s original piano part. George Martin incidentally played a considerable bit of piano on early Beatles recordings.
Yet John did not have a piano in his home when he was growing up. Reading through Hunter Davies’ recent John Lennon Letters we learn that John’s Aunt Mimi, who raised him, felt that pianos were “too common” to have in a home. John’s mother Julia didn’t have one in her home either. However, Paul McCartney had a piano at home that John must have been around from time to time after they met in 1957 but this was during a time when he was still mainly learning how to master his guitar. My friend/John Lennon-expert and author Jude Southerland Kessler who has already written two (almost three, as of this writing) of a nine volume Lennon biopic series pointed out to me that The Beatles first manager Allan Williams opened up a Liverpool coffee bar in September 1958 called the Jacaranda Club, which had an old piano that John likely banged around on. By May of 1960, John’s band The Silver Beetles were booked as the entertainment at the establishment for a short while.
As far as John picking up piano tips from Paul, I would not doubt it for a minute as The Beatles were always helping each other with their instrument skills – John honing his piano talent with the help of Paul, George Martin or others would be a safe bet.
Thank you Jude for helping me with this one (for more about Jude’s incredibly informative books visit here) and thank you Stacia for a great question! If anyone reading has anything to add, feel free to do just that in the comments section below.
Thank you to everyone who has sent in their questions! Keep #askNat going by sending your questions to me in any of the following ways:
1) There is a designated form that you fill out right on the website where you can give your name, location, email address and submit your question. The form is right here and is the same form used to submit requests for BROWs (Beatles Rarity Of The Weeks), but modfied to do both BROW requests and #askNat questions.
2) If you are a Facebook user, you can submit your question right on TheBeatlesRarity FB wall at www.facebook.com/beatlesrarity. If you think about it, try to remember to flag your question with “#askNat”.
3) Similarly, if you are a Google+ user, you can submit your question on TheBeatlesRarity Google+ page at www.gplus.to/beatlesrarity. Google+ supports hashtag searchability so it will be helpful if you preface your question with “#askNat” here too.
4) For you Twitter users, www.twitter.com/beatlesrarity gets you to the right place. Post your question and be sure to add “#askNat” somewhere in the tweet.
Here are some Amazon links to read more on, or purchase music related to this post:
Book: The John Lennon Letters – a fascinating and enlightening compilation of letters written by John Lennon to others throughout his lifetime that includes much of his artwork (available as hardback or paperback).