The Beatle Bard: Read John Lennon’s Letters On Your iPad [Review]

New on the App Store, and just in time for a Christmas gift to a Beatles fan, is this rather lovely app collating 250 of John Lennon’s letters. It’s been made with affection for the great man, and provides an interesting insight into his mind.

As the app’s introduction states, the definition of “letter” had to be stretched a bit to get all of the content in. It begins with a postcard sent to his aunt when he was 10 years old, ends with one of the last things he ever signed, and along the way includes notes, scribbles, rants, cartoons, even scraps of paper with doodles on them. It’s an odd collection, but a decent summary of Lennon’s life.

Keen Beatles fans will already know a lot of the facts, but even for them there’s a handful of exclusives – notes that appear in this app for the very first time. There’s no doubt that the task of tracking down and documenting all this material must have been a huge one, requiring many years of research.

The Beatle Bard: Read John Lennon’s Letters On Your iPad [Review]

The background research goes deep

Every single document comes with extras. There are hotspots you can tap on to reveal pop-up annotations, and there’s also a separate text commentary. Some of the commentary sometimes feels a bit stretched – do we really need to know that 10-year-old John’s handwriting looks “neatly written” – but on the whole it provides useful background information.

The Beatle Bard: Read John Lennon’s Letters On Your iPad [Review]

Annotations and anecdotes

Delve deeper and you find much more interesting, juicy stuff. A typed rant sent to Paul and Linda McCartney, or a handwritten letter sent to Lennon’s UK-based chauffeur, ending his employment. The letters can be viewed in a variety of ways: chronologically, by recipient, by theme, or simply all at once. This last “View all” mode is especially nice to flick through. It’s like meddling in someone else’s private correspondence.

The Beatle Bard: Read John Lennon’s Letters On Your iPad [Review]

Browsing in View All mode

It’s a history lesson, too. Not just as a way of peeking back into life in the 1960s and 70s, but also how people communicated back then. Pre-internet, pre-cell phones, the letter and the postcard were the most ways of keeping in touch. If thinking back to those days makes you feel a bit wistful, you’re not the only one.

This is a gorgeous app built with love and care. All of John’s notes can be listened to, thanks to the excellent voiceover work of former Doctor Who actor Christopher Eccleston. Priced at $9 or £6, this isn’t a cheap app but it is a beautiful one, and has plenty to offer to Beatles fans, music lovers and social historians. Give it to someone as a festive gift. Best enjoyed on a cold winter evening, in front of a roaring fire, with a glass of something tasty in one hand, and with Abbey Road playing loud in the background. Lovely.

About the author

Giles TurnbullGiles Turnbull is a freelance writer in England. He also writes for the Press Association and The Morning News. You can find out more at his website, and follow him on Twitter @gilest.

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