That John Lennon, inarguably one of the rock era’s greatest creative figures and pop culture icons, had a troubled childhood is hardly a secret—he came from the broken home of Julia Lennon (née Stanley) and the husband she’d married on a lark, an itinerant sailor called Fred Lennon who may have been in jail in North Africa at the time of his son’s birth. The young Lennon was raised by his aunt Mimi, not knowing that Julia was his real mother until he was almost 10, and behavior problems showed up early. Lennon once related to Beatle biographer Hunter Davies (The Beatles, The John Lennon Letters) the following:
The sort of gang I led went in for things like shoplifting and pulling girls’ knickers down. When the bomb fell and everyone got caught, I was always the one they missed. I was scared at the time but Mimi was always the only parent who never found out.
It merits mentioning that Lennon above is describing primary school, before he even attended high school. Upon his arrival at Liverpool’s Quarry Bank High School, his grades began to plummet, except in art. Celeb biographer Jeff Burlingame, in his John Lennon: Imagine, notes that
Even the corporal punishment administered by the teachers at the all-boys school did not stop John from misbehaving. He began his first year at Quarry Bank (which is equivalent to the seventh grade in the United States) as a top student, placed in what was called the “A” class, along with his best friend, Pete Shotton. As the years wore on, Shotton recalled the pair had clowned around and neglected their studies so frequently that they were moved down to the lowest-possible class, the “C” level “among the hardcore troublemakers, deadbeats, and halfwits.”
Troublemaker. Deadbeat. Halfwit.
Burlingame quotes Lennon:
I looked at all the hundreds of new kids and thought, Christ, I’ll have to fight my way through this lot…There was some real heavies there. The first fight I got in I lost. I lost me nerve when I got really hurt. Not that there was much real fighting. I did a lot of swearing and shouting, then got a quick punch…I was aggressive because I wanted to be popular. I wanted to be the leader. I wanted everybody to do what I told them to do, to laugh at my jokes and let me be the boss.
Because of the Beatles’ seismic popularity and outsized influence, pretty much anything even remotely connected to them is basically a fucking cash forge, so a page from Lennon’s Quarry Bank High School detention log from the 1954/55 school year is up for auction, and expected to fetch up to $4,000 USD. Per the auctioneer, Julien’s (the same auction house that recently sold for charity an intimidatingly huge trove of memorabilia from Ringo Starr’s personal hoard, including White Album #1), Lennon’s infractions included “silliness,” “fooling,” “nuisance,” “noise,” and “paper dart,” and notes that Lennon seems to have been referred for discipline every day, and sometimes twice a day. To be fair, Lennon’s were hardly criminal behaviors, and Quarry Bank must have been a mighty strict school—the last item shown in one image provided by the auction house is “decorating his exercise book.” What clearer pathway to prison could there be than THAT shocking transgression?
Whether you’re a Lennon obsessive or just a really specific discipline fetishist, the auction goes live on Saturday, May 21, 2016 at 10:00 AM EDT. The auction theme is “Music Icons,” so there are other lots of interest to classic rock ‘n’ roll and Beatles fans generally, and Lennon fans specifically, including autographed photos, some of Lennon’s artwork, and White Album #2. Good luck.