Lennon app receives rave reviews

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A newly-released app chronicling how the late singer/songwriter/peace activist John Lennon embarked on a voyage of musical and personal self-discovery to Bermuda during the final summer of his life has received rave reviews.

The Associated Press, in a major report headlined New App Lets You Sail To Bermuda With John Lennon, said “it’s loaded with interactive features, music, photos and interviews that detail a relatively unexamined slice of the former Beatle’s life …

“Users of the app can simulate the (six-day 1980 yacht journey the former Beatle took) to Bermuda through the recollections of two crew members and Lennon himself. They can virtually visit the Bermuda disco where Lennon heard a recording of The B-52s’ Rock Lobster, which reminded him of his wife Yoko Ono’s music and coaxed him back to work. They can eavesdrop on the creative process as Lennon’s last recordings took shape.”

The Associated Press review was carried by hundreds of newspapers and websites throughout North America as well as international outlets.

And The Wall Street Journal’s John Jurgensen, who covers music, television and digital entertainment for the business newspaper, devoted a lengthy column to the Bermuda app: “In the big picture of a Beatle’s life, John Lennon’s trip to Bermuda in 1980 was a blip. But because it helped trigger his return to music — just six months before his death — the journey has taken on deeper significance in his life story.

“One of the singer’s final chapters gets a new telling with the release Thursday of an app titled John Lennon: The Bermuda Tapes. It was built around four hours worth of demo recordings, interviews and interactive features, and documents the genesis of Lennon’s final studio album, with (his wife) Yoko Ono, Double Fantasy.

“That album became coloured by his murder, which happened less than a month after its release. So on some levels I hope this app reclaims some of that music,” says Michael Epstein, who directed the creation of The Bermuda Tapes with digital artist Mark Thompson.

After developing a yen for boating, Mr. Lennon sailed to Bermuda from Newport, Rhode Island, aboard a yacht called the Megan Jaye. During the voyage, a violent storm hit. With crew members laid out with seasickness and the captain exhausted, the former Beatle took the wheel and kept the vessel afloat, his shipmates recount in the app’s audio interviews.

“Invigorated by his experience at sea, Lennon found further inspiration in Bermuda, including his discovery of the B-52s’ wacky hit Rock Lobster,” continued Mr. Jurgensen. “In the five years since the release of his previous solo album, he had embraced domestic life in New York with Yoko and son Sean, but Bermuda offered ‘the spark that moved him from house husband to rock ‘n’ roll star again’, says Mr. Epstein, who also directed LennoNYC, a documentary film about the singer’s life in the 1970s.”

Mr. Lennon remained in Bermuda for close to two months in the summer of 1980, renting a home in Fairylands where he wrote or polished the material which appeared on Double Fantasy, the posthumously released 1984 album Milk & Honey and the 1995 Beatles Anthology album and TV documentary series.

In the app, virtual cassette tapes play demo recordings of such Double Fantasy songs as Woman and Starting Over, which were in embryonic form in Bermuda as Mr. Lennon traded phone calls with Yoko in New York to get her input.

Mr. Jurgensen said users can also hear commentary by Double Fantasy producer Jack Douglas and flip through photos of Mr. Lennon aboard the yacht. The interactive features allow users to visit the Bermuda Botanical Gardens and to steer a virtual version of the Megan Jaye as they listen to the story of the voyage, as narrated by crew members and Mr. Lennon himself in extracts from his extensive 1980 Playboy interview with David Sheff.

Mr. Lennon was murdered outside his home at New York’s Dakota apartment building by a deranged fan in December, 1980, just weeks after the release of Double Fantasy.

With development costs covered by Bermuda-based businessman Andrew Banks and recordings donated by Yoko Ono, the $4.99 app is solely owned by the non-profit WhyHunger. While the benefit project extends Nr. Lennon’s legacy, it also adds to a burgeoning field that musicians including Björk, Jay Z and Lady Gaga have explored. Mr. Epstein says, “I think of this app as a 21st century record album.”

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Published Nov 18, 2013 at 8:00 am (Updated Nov 17, 2013 at 11:08 pm)

Lennon app receives rave reviews

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