Was Stuart Sutcliffe John Lennon's lover? Did Lennon inadvertently cause his death of a cerebral hemorrhage at the age of 21? Speculations abound in this biography by the subject’s sister.
Sutcliffe may have given the band its name (the Beetles, after an all-woman biker group in the movie The Wild One, later changed to the Beatles by Lennon), their haircuts, and their groovy duds, but his bass-playing wasn't up to snuff, and he had to leave the band. If Pauline Sutcliffe harbors any resentment that her brother missed the boat, she hides it well enough; Stuart, she declares, was above all that, a genius with a “fabulously promising artistic career” as a painter. He met Lennon in art school, and they became friends, close complements to each other. Here we arrive at the first crux in Pauline's story: “I have known in my heart for many years that Stuart and John had a sexual relationship.” She feints (“it was a lovely happening: two lost boys who needed and found one another”) and is quick to quip (“Stuart performed oral sex on John Lennon? I would have thought it was the other way around”), but then comes the kicker . . . literally. During a dust-up between the friends, Pauline tells us, “Stuart said John kicked him in the head, and I'm convinced that kick was what eventually led to Stuart's death.” That's the kind of comment that might sit more comfortably with more evidence, but there is none. By the author’s own account, these guys fought all the time—Paul and Stuart once went at it on stage—and the accusation is too neat a capstone on her theme that John led Stuart down the road to ruin.
Sutcliffe claims to have kept quiet about what she knew for years “out of an old-fashioned sense of propriety.” Old-fashioned or not, that sense of propriety would have been a lot more attractive than this round of mud-slinging.