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Page last updated at 11:59 GMT, Tuesday, 17 August 2010 12:59 UK
John Lennon's lost advice to folk hero Steve Tilston
Letter from John Lennon to Steve Tilston
John Lennon sent the letter in 1971, but was not read by Steve Tilston until 2005

A Hebden Bridge musician has revealed the contents of a letter John Lennon sent him in 1971, but which he didn't actually receive for another 34 years.

Ex-Beatle Lennon sent the letter to Steve Tilston, now a well-known singer and songwriter in his own right.

Steve only got to read the letter - which includes Lennon's phone number - in 2005.

Steve says: "When I finally got it my first reaction was to reach for the telephone and ring him."

John Lennon
John Lennon had only recently become an ex-Beatle when he wrote to Steve

Steve, who has been a big name on the folk circuit for four decades and who lives in Hebden Bridge, discovered the letter's existence after an American Beatles fan contacted him.

Steve explains: "I got an e-mail from the man who now owns it. I don't know how he came upon it.

"He bought it in America and he asked me to verify if I was the Steve Tilston who the letter was addressed to."

The origins of the Lennon letter go back to an interview Steve, then just an aspiring folk musician, gave to rock magazine ZigZag in 1971 - an interview which clearly caught the former Beatle's attention.

Steve says: "The journalist asked me whether, if I received untold wealth and fortune, it would have a detrimental effect on my songwriting.

"I thought it was bound to, but obviously John Lennon disagreed and he wrote to me to point out the error of my ways.

"He said he had been poor and was now rich, but was still engaged with songwriting and life was still throwing up interesting things."

In the letter, Lennon writes: "Being rich doesn't change your experience in the way you think.

"The only difference, basically, is that you don't have to worry about money - food, roof etc.

"But all other experiences - emotions, relationships - are the same as anybody's.

Letter from John Lennon to Steve Tilston
The letter to Steve even features one of Lennon's famous self-portraits

"I know. I've been rich and poor. So has Yoko (rich - poor - rich)

"So whadya think of that."

The letter to Steve is signed, "Love John and Yoko", and it even features a small self-portrait by Lennon depicting the famous couple.

Steve says that it makes sense for Lennon to have wanted to get in touch at that point in time. The Beatles had only recently broken up and Lennon was on the search for a new direction.

Steve explains: "By then, he had a different sort of credibility. He'd ceased to be one of the 'loveable moptops', in fact he was quite the opposite really.

"He was getting into the folkie kind of guitar style. He had learned from [1960s folk musician] Donovan in India so he was going that way.

"I could have shown him a thing or two!"

Sadly, Steve never even knew of the letter until it was too late to contact the former Beatle. John Lennon was, of course, murdered in New York in December 1980.

Steve says if he had received the letter when it had originally been sent, he would have been very excited.

He says: "I would have had no compunction about giving him a ring and if he invited me over I would have gone there like a shot."

Steve Tilston
Steve Tilston is celebrating 40 years on the music scene in 2010

As a successful guitarist, singer and songwriter - and now a published novelist too - Steve admits he has not done too badly in the music business even without the advice from John Lennon.

However, he says he would have liked to have received the letter from the legendary Lennon back in 1971.

But, with it now in a collector's hands on the other side of the Atlantic, Steve says he has to make do with a copy.

He admits he has no hope of ever owning the original: "I don't know how much he paid for it but he's a real Beatles freak.

"I don't think anything would make him part with it. I've not even asked him."


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