I can’t get an image out of my head. It’s a 90-year-old Yoko Ono holding in her arms the infant John Lennon.
Yes, this is John Winston Lennon, former Beatle, a baby in the year 2023 — less than ten years from now. This is the way he smelled, giggled, cooed, and waggled his feet in the air, when he was his mother’s newborn in the early 1940s when London was being blitzed by the Germans. This is the baby that his mother, Julia Lennon — dead now for more than 70 years — kissed goodnight.
This is baby John, yawning, blinking in the light of a day that his assassin David Chapman made sure he would never see.
But Yoko is holding him now, and she is old enough to be his great-grandmother. This is where they meet again, even though her life began in the early 20th century, and his will continue on into the 22nd.
Because he was cloned from DNA in a tooth that was purchased last year by Canadian dentist Michael Zuk for $30,000. “If there is enough DNS to sequence it,” said Dr. Zuk, “it could be basically genetic real estate.”
The tooth, a bad molar, was extracted from John sometime in the mid-60s and he gave it to his housekeeper as a macabre joke. She had it as a keepsake for years.
But now that Dr. Zuk is in possession of this morsel, he’s dead serious about replicating Lennon and raising him. “He could be looked at as my son.” Zak might give him guitar lessons, he said, and let nature take it course.
Nature will take its course, but what about nurture? That’s important. Without giving John a lifetime of memories from the previous century, he’ll just be a dead ringer of himself one day singing, “She’s Got a Ticket to Ride” in tribute bands.
Well, he could be coached as a way of keeping it real. Dr. Zak could arrange for speech lessons to make John sound like a roguish “scouser,” as they’re called, from Liverpool. Practicing with phrases like, “Bit of a giggle!” and “I’m taking me bird out later,” and “bloke” and “spot of bother.”
And then there are the films to watch for homework — A Hard Day’s Night and Help! — for getting down perfect the famous Lennon mugging for the camera, the twinkle in the eye, and slow, knowing grin.
All that. It could be done. And if John’s like his old self, he’ll be good at catching on.
But what if to his great horror (or “to his great Harold” in Liverpudlian) not many people wanted John all over again, not the same way — not like the first time. The great-children of Beatlemanics don’t scream and faint; there are no Bobbies with blue, bell-shaped helmets to hold back hysterical girls surging forward to get a glimpse of John Lennon. It’s the context that’s missing, somehow, even though everything else would be right about him — the tight-fitting dark suit, narrow tie, Beatle boots and mop-top hair.
Well, maybe he could be a docent at his childhood home, the one that’s part of the National Trust — Mendips, at 251 Menlove Avenue in Liverpool. The environment is small like an exhibit or a ride inside a theme park. Tour buses stop there several times a day. Imagine it.
The door opens, and it’s John Lennon, looking funny and mischievous. “Smashing,” he says, “Come in, come in — don’t mind the telly.” On the black-and-white screen in the living room is the Beatles’ first appearance on Ed Sullivan. “The lav Q is over there,” he says pointing, “if anyone’s in need.” And we all crowd inside feeling pleased.
“This is fantastic,” someone says, looking around.
“It ruddy is,” John agrees, and tour begins.
“This is where I did me homework a hundred years ago. Maths and so on. No thingies — computers then.”
We smile and nod sympathetically.
“And there’s the couch. Brought all my birds here for slap ‘n’ tickle when auntie wasn’t nigh, if you know what I mean,” he says, winking.
Everyone laughs appreciatively. John is a wonderful host. And as the tour continues, it really is “Smashing!” and “Fab!” just like the brochure promised.
But the best is saved for last. Because in the Beatles gift shop, behind the counter is Ringo. That’s right — Richard Starkey, cloned from a lock of hair.
“‘Aving a rave up, are ya?” he says, merrily. “Peas and luff.”
“What?” someone says.
He blushes and tries to say “peace and love” clearly but he has some kind of speech impediment and his accent isn’t as good as John’s.
Over his shoulder, out the window, is a thin, long-hair figure in a jeans and a denim shirt mowing the lawn.
“George?” asks someone, “Is that George Harrison?”
“The very same,” says John. “And let’s say hello to Paul, shall we?”
Everyone gasps and follows John out on to the patio.
Seated in a folding chair is young man in an ill-fitting dark suit having a cigarette. He turns and smiles half-heartedly.
But something’s wrong. He’s teeth are bad, and if you look closely, his feet don’t touch the ground. One eye is slightly bigger than the other, too.
“That’s not Paul McCartney,” someone says. Though it looks like him.
“Am too,” says Paul.
“Someone sneezed on his petri dish is all,” says John. “No one’s perfect,” and winks.
“I told you not to say that, you bastard,” says the Paul. He flicks his ciggy into the grass. “I warned you, I’m off.” And he hops down off the chair, and pushes past everyone. It’s embarrassing, and everyone tries not to look, though you can’t help but notice that his big Beatle head is too large for his body.
“A bobble-head, he looks like,” someone whispers, and there are snorts of laughter.
The Paul one climbs into car by the side of the house that has a special booster seat and blocks on the pedals so his legs will reach.
“Write if you get work,” John calls.
“Well,” begins John.
But by then we’re heading back out the front door toward the tour bus, wanting to go somewhere else.
“Peas and luff!” says Ringo, loudly from the shop. “Fizzy, anyone? Jelly babies? Good bonkers! Bollocks.”
“Shut up, you git,” John murmurs.
As the bus starts up, the driver positions the microphone near his mouth. ”Well, yeah, yeah, yeah, boys and girls,” he says. “We could use a bit of that eight days a week, eh?”
And he puts the bus in gear — one of those red, double-decker ones — just like, just like it was, you know, back then.
Except it isn’t, for some reason. But no one wants to spoil it.