Two sides of Lennon reflected in his sons

 

Names: Sean/Julian Lennon

Born: 1976/1963

Occupation: Musicians

Live: New York/northern Italy

Famous for: Being the sons of the late John Lennon

Why in the news: Have released albums simultaneously

Most likely to say: Here comes the son

Perhaps, as Sean Lennon asserted, it was nothing more than a spooky coincidence that his album was released on the same day last week as that of big brother Julian. Or maybe, as Julian has hinted, there was something more sinister afoot.

Either scenario is possible. The offspring of murdered exBeatle John Lennon are well used to both the fickle hand of fate and curious conspiracy theories. Sean recently put forward another one. His claim that his father was assassinated by the US government came on the same day that Julian introduced his first songs for seven years at a press conference in Germany. Media diversion or mere coincidence? Just "weird", commented a diplomatic Julian.

The largely media-inspired hyperbole which pitted brother against half-brother has not so far succeeded in shifting units for the Lennons. Both have yet to register in the US Billboard top 200, and neither has crashed through the top 75 barrier in the UK. Here in Ireland, those who compile the charts say the pair have sold only "a handful" of records.

Sean, with his eclectic, gentle and in parts jazzy first album Into the Sun, has been praised and derided for naivety. "It's daring of me to be so sensitive and sweet," reckons Sean. "Everyone else is, `Yo, I'm the baddest'."

Into the Sun received one out of 10 in the music bible NME.

Meanwhile, Julian, with Photograph Smile, has once again been accused of trying too hard to sound like his dad.

The 35-year-old has in the past acknowledged not being able to separate himself from his famous father. He has spent much of his life coming to terms with a father who preached peace and love to the world but eschewed it when it came to his first wife, Cynthia, and Julian, his first-born son.

Sean (22), on the other hand, has branched out musically, liberated creatively perhaps by the security of love lavished upon him by John and his mother, Yoko, in the five years he spent with his father before he was shot.

"Sean was the product of love," John Lennon is reported to have once told a young Julian. "You were the product of a whiskey bottle."

It is a comment suffused with three of John Lennon's most infamous traits, cruelty, wit and brutal honesty.

Cynthia Powell was in John Lennon's class in art college. She dyed her hair blond because John fancied sex symbol Brigitte Bardot. John was promoting the Beatles' Please, Please Me when Cynthia was rushed to Sefton General Hospital in Liverpool, where she gave birth to a healthy boy. He was absent when the baby, John Charles Julian Lennon, was christened.

Paul McCartney taught Julian, as he became known, how to play guitar and wrote Hey Jude for him. John would turn up sporadically but, said Paul, "he never really knew how to be a dad".

"There were times when being John Lennon's son was very difficult," Julian has said. He spent his early life with his mother, moving from Liverpool to Surrey to Wales to escape the invasions of Beatles fans.

"Older boys wanted to beat my head in because I was a Beatle's son and others would force me to play the guitar and then poke fun at me because it sounded awful," he said.

No one had ever told him that his parents were splitting up. He saw Yoko Ono for the first time in the house she shared with Lennon in Ascot. "She was wearing a very short black skirt, black thigh-length boots, a black shirt and a black floppy hat, all topped off with this long black hair.

"I think I was scared of her. But she kept cuddling me and eventually in my little mind I somehow knew that if I wanted to keep my dad, I had to like her. It wasn't until years later that I began to understand their relationship and suddenly stopped seeing her as the weird lady," he has said.

John moved to New York with "the weird lady", known also as "the woman who broke up the Beatles".

Sean was a very much wanted child who turned a more mature and settled John Lennon to the joys of fatherhood.

Writing in Melody Maker, Jennifer Nine says that in terms of music "it matters less who your dad was than what version of your dad you got".

Julian got the pop star whose priorities lay not with his child but with sex and drugs and rock`n'roll.

Sean got John Lennon, the new man. Able to change nappies and pen touching songs to his child like Beautiful Boy.

So Sean studied in Switzerland and grew up surrounded by friends such as David Bowie and Michael Jackson. He became musically adept from an early age. He enjoys a close, protective relationship with his mother. Yoko holds the purse strings and Sean is set to inherit the bulk of Lennon's £220 million estate.

Julian was just getting to know his father again when he was shot. The 1980s saw him careering through a haze of alcohol and cocaine and emerging with a successful album, Valotte. His other offerings have failed to excite.

He has only recently negotiated an estimated £20 million slice of his father's fortune with Yoko, who thought her step-son too immature to deal with such a fortune before. He lives on the shores of Lake Como, northern Italy, and enjoys sailing, cooking and riding horses.

The Lennon boys look like their dad. They also sing like him, Julian more competently than Sean.

Sean's life now mirrors his father's to a degree. His oriental girlfriend, 37-year-old Yuka Honda, of New York band Cibo Matto, was his collaborator on his album. They apparently write songs together in the bath. The ballads of Sean and Yuka. Very Lennonesque.