For those that don’t know Albert Goldman was an “academic” and author who wrote biographies of Lenny Bruce, Elvis Presley and John Lennon. Well, ok, some people call them biographies, but the people at Rolling Stone like David Fricke (Dude, the Ramones have been has beens for over 25 years change your goddamn hairstyle) and Jan Wenner refer to them as “character assassination garbage” at least as far as the book on Lennon goes. But then Wenner literally sucked Lennon off during his famous interview sessions back in the 1970’s, so that’s his water carrying isn’t really that surprising. But there has been the intimation that Goldman lied about everything in the books. Is this true or did he embellish somewhat? I’ve only read the Lennon book and that was 15 years ago. I knew Lennon was a dick and Goldman merely reinforced that. Strike that, turns out Lennon was a colossal bag of shit.
But back then John Lennon was still being held up as some sort of saint. A man who’d chased demons and changed course. He’d been killed less than a decade before just as a big comeback album was out there.
U2 got in the act in God, Part 2
“Don’t believe in Goldman
His type like a curse
Instant Karma’s gonna get him
If I don’t get him first”
Now, of course, we know Lennon as a much more self-involved and complex person than we knew at the time. But it certainly painted Goldman in the public mind as a bad guy who was prone to making money with hit pieces.
Goldman’s reputation as an author of biographical hit pieces was well-earned. For one thing, he hated rock n’ roll and thus went into his biographies of Elvis and John Lennon with some pre-existing contempt toward his subjects. As for the Lenny Bruce bio, I haven’t read it so I don’t know if he used the same bash-and-trash approach toward him as he did toward Presley and Lennon.
Also, I don’t if anyone has seen it but in the late 80s, PBS aired a documentary about Phil Spector (this was obviously before Spector went to jail for murder). Most of the focus of the show was on the music Spector produced and among the various experts interviewed was Albert Goldman who, for most of the program, provides occasional quotes about the various techniques Spector used to create his “Wall of Sound”. It’s pretty much what you would expect a musical documentary until his last segment when Goldman lets loose with a caustic assessment of Spector’s music as kitschy maudlin garbage inadvertently undermining nearly everything in the program. His appearance in that documentary was Goldman in a nutshell.
I knew Lennon was an asshole long before I read The Lives of John Lennon. A genius, but an asshole. Goldman claimed that much of Lennon’s repertoire was based on the three-chord progression in “Three Blind Mice”.
“Albert Goldman, kiss my butt!”
I don’t think this (literally) true, is it?
His book about Elvis was horribly mean-spirited and had tons of inaccuracies. I believe Goldman even implied that Presley was a closeted homosexual. Like someone wrote upthread, Goldman went into his books about Presley and Lennon with contempt for his subjects. His goal was to portray both men as negatively as possible.
It’s very telling “Rolling Stone” actually published a chapter from Goldman’s Presley biography. Only when the Lennon biography came out did “Rolling Stone” go all out to discredit Goldman. After all if Lennon was brought down to earth, pretty much the whole mythology of the sixties go–and what’s the point of “Rolling Stone” then?
I remember that, and the hate mail that magazine got exceeded any they had received up to that time. The one thing I remember about it, that has been quoted many times elsewhere, was that Elvis was uncircumcised and hated that fact, and that was about the least derogatory (not the optimal word, but it’s the best I can think of right now) thing about the excerpt.
ETA: These books could best have been described as anti-hagiographies.
I think at least part of it had to do with his established pattern of only ever choosing biography subjects who were dead and unable to defend themselves (his next book was going to be about Jim Morrison). As mentioned his books were also full of inaccuracies from sloppy research.
Here’s a contemporary negative review from Rolling Stone of the Lennon book; if that source isn’t acceptable, here’s a shorter one from the L.A. Times with some of the same criticisms about factual inaccuracies and relying on less-than-trustworthy people as key sources.
Just for clarification, when you mentioned the hate mail “Rolling Stone” received, you were referring to the response they received when they published part of the Goldman’s Elvis bio? In any case, after RS blasted Goldman’s Lennon biography, they did get a number of letters pointing out Goldman’s book on Elvis was also a sloppily-researched hatchet job but RS chose to publish part of it instead of calling Goldman out on its errors.
Goldman’s main reference for the Lennon book was a former servant of the family who was suing Yoko Ono because her son Sean bit her son. And he did nothing to verify what the woman said, and did not even say that she said it. This woman claimed Yoko as her source, but Yoko denied telling her these things.
So none of these “facts” were verified.
Well, at the time of the interview with Lennon Wenner was married to his wife Jane, but had been “experimenting” with the queer lifestyle. He was known to cruise the Castro late at night occasionally and he clearly adored Lennon. Also Lennon was a bit unstable mentally at the time and it seems Wenner tried to comfort Lennon and that ended up with Lennon’s dong in Wenners mouth. There was also a fair amount of booze and cocaine involved.
Do you have any cites at all for this?