Hey Jude, Get A Clue
Julian Lennon on the Web -- what's the point?

You can sum up the contents of John Charles Julian Lennon's Web site in one word: boring. Like many celebrity sites, it serves no purpose but to further its namesake's career. It is purely record-label marketing copy tweaked for the Web.

See also...
... by Jenn Shreve
... in the Dirt section
... from September 21, 1999

When Julian Lennon first launched his musical career over a decade ago, his record label relied heavily on his father's namesake to promote his career. But as we know -- and poor Julian knows -- junior ain't no John Lennon. So with his latest musical efforts, the folks in marketing are taking a different tack. They are trying to convey a depth and spirituality that is uniquely Julian's. It's an obvious facade. Peel back the layers and you're back to "Buy this record!" "Attend a concert!" And occasionally, "Remember 'Hey Jude'?"

Take the opening page. The words "Water" "Earth" "Air" "Fire" greet you beneath Julian's initials, stylized in a font we'll call New Hieroglyph Roman. Why this nod to the elements and ancient, simpler times? "Water Earth Air Fire" is not the name of any record he's recorded. To my knowledge, Julian hasn't delved into any alchemical pursuits. No, these words, unexplained, are there simply to give Julian a mysterious aura of spirituality.

Click past this ornamentation, and the content is slightly more predictable and self-explanatory. Julian's last concert: a smashing success! Download MP3 samples of Julian's music! Join the mailing list! Buy a photo! Want it autographed? Too bad, the demand is too great. The demand is too great? What planet do these people think we live on?

Julian Lennon's musical career has never stirred much interest in and of itself. On the rare event that he releases an album, a few aging music critics get wet with excitement because they think they can ask the poor guy questions about his father, who is the sole reason Lennon Jr. has a musical career at all.

To be fair to Julian, there was intense pressure to carry the torch after his father's assassination. But it seems to me that trying to follow in the footsteps of a great, when you're a mediocre talent, is kind of like chopping off a toe before running in a marathon. Rejecting his father's legacy would have been perfectly acceptable, considering that John cut Julian out of his will. (He had to challenge his stepmother Yoko for his rightful portion of the estate.) But no. Like an arranged marriage or an 8 a.m. conference call, music was a duty.

Understandably, Julian wants to prove that he's a good musician in his own right. Hence his Web site purposely overlooks his history. His bio begins sometime around 1991, when he decided to take a break from music. His "Family Tree" page ponders the Irish origins of the name Lennon: "Julian's great-great-grandfather John (Jack) Lennon travelled to Liverpool, England in search of work." Wow. That's exciting. Photo gallery? All Julian and his band. No family portraits. If you had just his Web site to go on, you could almost believe that Julian was just some average, guitar-strumming wannabe.

Almost. On the "Quotes" page, we get some sense of the family trauma. Yoko is not mentioned once. Of Sean, he says coldly, "I have a lot of love and respect for Sean, whatever he does." And Papa? "I didn't hate him, but I was scared of him. I didn't know this man at all, and trying to rebuild a relationship that was never there made him as frightened of me as I was of him."

Let's face it. Julian Lennon's true mystique lies with his father's legacy. John Lennon is why people buy Julian Lennon's records, attend his concerts -- and, of course, click on his Web site. If he didn't want to live in his father's shadow, Julian might have chosen a different career -- like chemistry, or Web development.

Jenn Shreve is a freelance writer in San Francisco and a media columnist for Salon.com.