The Beatle's son is back to singing, acting, and writing music

By David Browne
Updated February 16, 1996 at 05:00 AM EST

You probably thought you’d heard the last of Julian Lennon — in fact, Lennon himself once thought so. Blessed and cursed with a voice that eerily recalls his father’s, Lennon hit instant pay dirt with his John lite 1984 debut album Valotte and its hit ”Too Late for Goodbyes.” However, its three less distinctive follow-ups flopped, and when he found himself promoting the last (1991’s Help Yourself) at a bowling alley in Dallas, Lennon cracked. ”I was so frustrated,” he recalls. ”I was just, like, ‘F–k everything. F–k everybody. I don’t know what to do anymore.”’

In the wake of that setback, Lennon dropped out, fell into a depression and a drinking problem, and parted ways with his label, Atlantic Records, which he accuses of not supporting his post-Valotte albums. (”We worked really hard, and it just didn’t happen,” counters Atlantic co-CEO and chairman Val Azzoli. ”Maybe the music wasn’t there.”) Now 32, Lennon insists he is ”not in a hurry to get into another record deal,” but he’s slowly nudging his way back into the business. His first new song in four years, ”Cole’s Song,” is heard in Mr. Holland’s Opus, and he had his first acting role (as, ironically, a bartender) in Leaving Las Vegas. Lennon also sings the theme song for the upcoming CBS sitcom The Cube and later this year plans to open the Revolution, a combination restaurant, gallery, and nightclub in San Francisco. The gallery will include ”memorabilia from men, women, and companies that have made a positive change — people like Mother Teresa and Martin Luther King.” (One Greenpeace salad to go?)

As that project indicates, Lennon’s finances appear to be in better shape than his music career. He is part owner of a club in Monte Carlo, where he lives when not attending to business in L.A. and San Francisco. He’s in talks with Yoko Ono to finally secure a portion of his father’s estate — to date, he has received only his half of a $200,000 trust fund left to him and his half-brother Sean. And speaking of lost treasures, Lennon admits to having mixed feelings about his father’s resurrection in ”Free as a Bird.” ”It was very bizarre,” he says, ”because of the distance of his voice and the sound quality, he felt like — I hate to say it — a ghost. It upset me to a degree that as soon as Paul’s voice came in, it was loud as hell.”

Reflecting on the Julesmania of a decade ago, Lennon says, ”It was overwhelming — trying to walk out of a hotel was insane. I love music and want to continue. But looking back, I don’t know if I ever want that again.”