Sean Lennon Explores Love's 'Friendly Fire' On his new CD, Friendly Fire, Sean Lennon tells the story of love, friendship and betrayal. The singer and songwriter talks about how he's able to express such personal feelings in his art and music — and what it's like to be John Lennon's son.
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Sean Lennon Explores Love's 'Friendly Fire'

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Sean Lennon Explores Love's 'Friendly Fire'

Sean Lennon Explores Love's 'Friendly Fire'

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  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block.


And I'm Michele Norris.

Sean Lennon, son of Yoko Ono and John Lennon, has just released his second album, called Friendly Fire. It's a tale of love, friendship and betrayal.

(Soundbite of Sean Lennon)

Mr. SEAN LENNON (Musician): (Singing) Debbie, don't you know you're dead meat. You just messed with the wrong teen, better not try to fall asleep now.

NORRIS: The 10-song CD is accompanied by a DVD of short films, one for each song. Celebrities such as Lindsay Lohan and Carrie Fisher are featured along with Sean Lennon, playing himself and a cast of fantastical characters ranging from a ringmaster to a fisherman who discovers a city undersea.

(Soundbite of Sean Lennon)

Mr. LENNON: (Singing) Get what you deserve.

NORRIS: I recently spoke with Sean Lennon about his family, the films and his album. The project is largely autobiographical, and it's dedicated to his lifelong friend Max LeRoy, who died last year in a motorcycle accident.

Mr. LENNON: We'd grown up together. He was my best friend. I'll never have a friend like him again and, you know, we had this kind of Shakespearean tragedy happen, where there was this love triangle, and he and my girlfriend and I just had this kind of terrible drama.

And I really kind of felt betrayed and stopped being his friend, and then he out of nowhere just passed away. It was an accident, and it just really affected me profoundly because I realized that holding on to my anger and not reconciling with him was really silly, you know? It just made me realize that my perspective on what was important was completely wrong and that I should be prioritizing and appreciate the things that I have.

(Soundbite of Sean Lennon)

Mr. LENNON: (Singing) I don't want to hear another word from you now. I'd rather be wrong. Life is mostly what you don't see, anyway, so just look away.

NORRIS: For someone who was thrust into public life at such an early age because of your parents and then a little bit later because of tragedy, I was a little surprised that you would provide this kind of open window into your private life.

Mr. LENNON: Yeah, that's interesting. A couple of people have actually asked me, just in terms of don't you feel uncomfortable being so exposed in terms of, you know, your feelings. But that actually never occurs to me, because I grew up just kind of making art, writing songs and drawing,and all that stuff was just kind of part of, like, our daily language with my mom, and that's just how she operates. And I think I just kind of was imitating her. And so to me, it's the most natural thing, to do that.

What feels unnatural is actually when people - when I'm in the public and I feel that people don't have an intimate understanding of who I am. When I feel like I'm a sort of cardboard figure that represents some projected idea of John Lennon's son that they might have about me, that feels very uncomfortable. But when they can actually listen to my songs, hear actually what I feel and who I am and what I think, that makes me feel comfortable, actually, and that is, in fact, my intention in releasing music.

(Soundbite of Sean Lennon)

Mr. LENNON: (Singing) Better get down, down to the wire - this friendly fire.

NORRIS: The Beatles were one of the first bands to incorporate visuals in their music and in their art long before, you know, MTV burst on the scene.

Mr. LENNON: Yeah, I know.

NORRIS: Was that part of your thinking here?

Mr. LENNON: Well, you know what's funny is it wasn't until I realized that it was. I was well into the project and editing it, actually, when I was like wow, this is kind of like a magical Friendly Fire tour or something, you know?

And then I was thinking wow, I was really impacted by those films when I was younger, and I must be kind of regurgitating that as well. I mean, you know, you don't always realize what your influences are until the product is done, and then you're like oh, I see. I must've been kind of inspired by this or that. Also, I mean, I don't even want to bring this up, because it's embarrassing, but I was in this film called Moonwalker when I was like 9 years old. It's a Michael Jackson kind of semi-featurette or something.

And it actually occurred to the director and I after we filmed this scene where I was wearing this white hat, and that's the same that Michael wears in Moonwalker. And I said oh my God, Jung is right. You know, Jung says that we recreate the experiences of our childhood, whether they're bad or good, you know?

And I said I must be recreating the Moonwalker experience, which was actually good, because I'm wearing this white hat, and I'm doing this sort of epic featurette about my record. I mean, basically I'm trying to be Michael Jackson, which is embarrassing. I mean, I'm not actually trying to do that, but it just felt that somehow I had subconsciously gone there, and I don't really know why, but I guess, you know, I believe that we try to recreate our early experiences unconsciously the rest of our lives. I do believe what Jung said about that.

(Soundbite of Sean Lennon)

Mr. LENNON: (Singing) I'm a believer, (unintelligible) things when you dream (unintelligible) invisible dreams. I'd never leave her in any other circumstance. Today I'm going to take my chance.

NORRIS: Sean, most people who have lost a parent will tell you that they just pine for the ability to have one last conversation, to hear that parent's voice again. And I think of how often I walk into a store or a restaurant and hear a Beatles song on the speaker, and I wonder how often that happens to you and if that - how you handle that, if that feels like a gift in some way.

Mr. LENNON: I mean, it fundamentally is a really nice thing. I've had uncanny experiences with that. There was one moment where I was having a really difficult day and I was driving around and I just went into my car and I turned the ignition, and as soon as the ignition went on, the radio blasted, and all I heard was - (singing) Darling Sean.

That was it, and then it just, the song was over, which is the last line of Beautiful Boy. And I just thought it was uncanny that I didn't just turn on the radio when Beautiful Boy was on, I actually turned it on exactly, you know, as if someone edited it as if, you know, some divine, you know, force had said, you're just going to hear that one two word phrase.

I'm not sure about the way the universe works, and I don't know if there's any, you know, mystical kind of connection between the web of nonsense of the universe, but it felt kind of comforting. It was a nice moment. Let's put it that way.

NORRIS: Sean, it's been good to talk to you.

Mr. LENNON: Thank you.

(Soundbite of Sean Lennon)

Mr. LENNON: (Singing) Please, I'll forget you, never let you into my heart unless you're standing, standing in the dark. It's all falling apart.

NORRIS: You can hear more music from Sean Lennon and see one of the short films from the Friendly Fire DVD on our Web site,

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